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Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

9 Apr

Before I get going on my latest rant, let me just say that it is very likely that this post will directly contradict my last post. I’m noticing that my thoughts on being gluten-free are not very consistent and are directly related to how desperate I’m feeling.

There is a new gluten-free girl in town. I’m not going to mention her by name because I know she means well. And I don’t fault her for trying. It’s just that most of what she makes is not that good. Not even by gluten-free standards. And the thing is, I’ve had decent, even good gluten-free, so I know it can be done. But this post isn’t about her. It’s about me. It’s about how I never learn.

This woman, let’s call her Glinda, makes bread and pizza and pie, oh my! She makes muffins and cookies and scones. She even makes donuts. She was featured in an article in our local paper. I’d heard it all before, but still I got excited. It didn’t even dawn on me in that moment that it might be bad. It was in the paper. It was in black and white. And I was in denial as usual.


I took a friend who eats gluten every day without even noticing what she’s doing or how lucky she is, to try Glinda’s goods.  The case was full of gluten-free items. I had never had so many choices in one place. It felt good to linger over the possibilities. Would I have pizza or a sandwich? If I have a sandwich, what kind will it be? And the dessert choices, well if I were someone who gets giddy, I would have. We decided on a tuna sandwich and a cupcake to share. It looked promising as it arrived at our table. The bread was big, like a baguette and was all  brown and crunchy looking. It looked like a real sandwich. I picked it up but before I took a bite my fantasy and the bread began to fall apart. I tried to put it back together and took a bite. It was bad. Just like gluten-free bread always is. My friend tried to make the best of it. She said it wasn’t that bad. I’ve noticed my husband does this too and I have a theory, gluten-free doesn’t taste that bad when you know you aren’t condemned to eat it for the rest of your life. It just a theory.

The cupcake was meant to be a hostess cupcake, complete the with loopy white frosting design on the top and white filling in the middle. It wasn’t horrible; a little on the dense side. But the thing is, I never really liked hostess cupcakes in the first place. So the question I am now asking myself is why do I need a gluten-free version of something I don’t even miss?hostess

Two days later I went back to the same bakery. I bought an oatmeal cookie, a coconut cookie and a chocolate glazed donut, each one worse than the last. Why did I do this, you ask. I did it because I could.


Donuts are Magic

15 Sep

sprinkle donutThere are things I remember about donuts and there are things I don’t.  I remember the smell of coffee and Dunkin Donuts from my childhood.  I remember going to the local donut shop with my boyfriend late at night when the donuts were fresh out of the oven. I vaguely remember how that warm glazed buttermilk bar tasted. I remember stopping at the Quick Mart for gas and a package of miniature powdered sugar donuts  on the three-hour drive to my best friend’s house. I remember taking my kids for donuts once in a while on a Sunday morning. I remember how much fun they had picking out which one they wanted.   The thing I remember most about donuts is that they delivered what I was looking for.  There is something so satisfying about a donut. At least that’s how I remember it.

donutWhat I don’t remember are the details. I don’t remember exactly what that red jelly-like substance in the middle of the donut tasted like when it mixed with the fluffy dough and the powdered sugar, or the unique cakiness of a glazed old fashioned, or whether or not I felt sick or bad about myself after eating all six of those mini powdered delights (okay, I might remember that).

jelly donutNot remembering is what makes being gluten-free tolerable. If I go long enough without a thing, if I let myself get desperate enough for the idea of something, like a Dunkin Donut or a Krispy Kreme, then I find that the pathetic and poor substitute of the thing is entirely satisfying.  If you want to further ensure this outcome, give up more things first. Don’t stop at gluten. Deprive yourself of sugar too. That way when you are standing in front of the gluten-free section of your local grocery store, you will be so  utterly tempted by the frozen donuts staring back at you that you won’t care how much they cost or that you have to microwave them to eat them or that they have  names like Kinnikinnick and Glutino , you will only care that they are called donuts and you can eat them.

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My Road Trip

27 Jul

I will never be lost or found on the Pacific Crest Trail, or sail around the world, or jump out of an airplane. For me, life is an extreme sport. Why would I invent more challenges for myself? Why would anyone?

Every day we put ourselves in the path of danger. Who knows what lurks around the corner? A distracted driver, a slippery floor, a tumor. Why add a bear or a rattlesnake, or a faulty parachute to the mix on purpose?

Every day that I don’t hike up and down a mountain is a day of aching, stabbing, throbbing pain. The mountain would kill me, I’m certain of that. So it’s kind of a no brainer.

I might survive skydiving but why risk it? For me just getting on an airplane is an act of bravery, but once I’m up in the air I prefer to stay there until we have reached our final destination.

Hiking boot plant pots

It’s not that I don’t challenge myself. I do it all the time, in little ways. And sometimes in big ways. Not the kind of things you can write a book about. At least not a book that would be made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. But challenges none the less.

The thing about mundane, everyday challenges is that I don’t usually think of them as challenges, so I don’t prepare for them in the way that one would prepare for say, sailing around the world.

My most recent challenge was a ten day road trip to Montana. For some people the biggest challenge of a road trip is the endless hours in the car, staring out the window, bored. That’s the easy part for me. That’s the part I love.

But I hadn’t been on a road trip in years. I forgot that my body has gotten older and less resilient, or that my ability to digest food or relax in any position is grossly impaired, and that my talent for obsessive thinking has blossomed into a full grown mental illness. In short, I forgot who I am.

Also, I did not give enough weight to the fact that I would be driving through Nevada, Idaho and Montana. I didn’t take in to account how awkward it would feel to ask the waiter at the restaurant attached to the Comfort Inn in Winnemucca, if the French fries were gluten-free. It just felt so completely pointless to ask. Like why would I even go Winnemucca, if gluten is a problem for me?

The road trip was a series of small disasters, minor inconveniences and gorgeous scenery. But as with all good challenges, I learned a valuable lesson; gluten, it turns out, is the least of my problems.

My Brain Tumor (now that I have your attention…)

21 May

I vowed that I would not use this blog as an educational platform,  but you’ll have to bear with me just this once.

You see I’m not just a girl with celiac disease, I have lots of other issues too. I’m told they might all be related. But who knows, because when I google my symptoms, they are the symptoms of all sorts of conditions and illnesses. Recently, after an hour on the internet, I talked myself into a brain tumor on my hypothalamus gland. In my defense I was having some bizarre symptoms. I have been hungry for the past four months. I mean all the time. I mean waking up in the middle of the night hungry. No matter how much I ate, no matter what I ate I was always hungry. All I could think about was food. I started to feel like I was going crazy. The symptoms progressed into a gnawing sensation in my stomach. It turns out the brain tumor was an stomach ulcer, probably caused by the prescription anti-inflammatory medicine I had been taking for another symptom called PAIN.  Any who, now there are a whole bunch of other things I can’t eat besides gluten and some new things I should eat, yummy things like raw cabbage juice and probiotics.


So for the last two weeks I’ve been popping a lot of probiotics, trying to get my digestive system back on track. Coincidently, yesterday a article showed up on my Facebook page about probiotics. Intrigued, I did an internet search about celiac and probiotics. It turns out that there is research going on about the role they play in celiac disease. I won’t bore you with the details, or provide you with another link to the research, I’m not that kind of a girl. If you’re interested, look it up yourself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go juice a cabbage.

Call Me Old Fashioned

8 May

Being a gluten-free bitch is one thing. Being a high maintenance gluten-free bitch  (HMG-FB) is another thing entirely.  Maybe I’m deluding myself but I think it’s possible to be a charming, witty, adorable, low key gluten-free bitch (CWALKG-FB). Okay, I  probably definitely am deluding myself, but can’t we get our needs met the old-fashioned way? Without anyone knowing?

For those of you who are unclear on the concept, here is an example of a HMG-FB trying to order something at an easy going local coffee shop that occasionally carries some gluten-free goodies (Goodies, is perhaps, too strong a word.) Lets call her Harmony:  Harmony is your typical groovy, skinny, yoga pant wearing, messenger bag yielding type of a HMG-FB. I don’t know for a fact, but I’m guessing that Harmony is gluten-free by choice. So we are already off to a bad start.

Harmony is at the front of the line. There are five people in line behind Harmony. And they need coffee.  Harmony ponders the lack of gluten-free choices, asking detailed questions about each item. There are long thoughtful pauses in between the questions. Harmony expresses her dissatisfaction with the choices, explaining that she was in last week and they had other, better options. The very patient barista explains to Harmony that they make a certain amount of G-F baked foods every day but that they often run out of them quickly and they have a small kitchen and only one baker and they can only bake so many mediocre sweets a day. Harmony will not let it go. Harmony then explains that she had considered going to a different coffee shop that also carries G-F goods, however she has chosen THIS coffee shop. The still patient barista restates his defense. Harmony undaunted, says that she guesses she should call ahead the next time she is considering which coffee shop she should give her business to.  The barista does not say “Knock yourself out,” but those of us standing in line behind Harmony are wishing he would.  She decides to order a drink instead and spends the next several minutes inquiring about the non dairy options. There is a lengthy conversation about what lactose-free milk is.  Another employee is called in to take over. No body seems to know the answer. I do but I keep my mouth shut. Finally Harmony makes a decision.

The line begins to move. When it is my turn I consider apologizing on behalf of gluten-free people everywhere, but I don’t. I consider ordering the gluten free sandwich in the case, but the bread looks a little funny. I could get the soup, but it might have flour in it. I could ask, but I don’t. I just suck it up, and order a latte4039771527_bc92bc479c_z.

Apparently You Cannot Have Your Pie and Eat it Too.

29 Nov

I know Thanksgiving is probably a distant memory for most of you. Visions of sugar plums are replacing sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, but I’m still processing Thanksgiving, or at least my intestines are. I haven’t had a chance to talk to my gluten-free friend, Enid (hey I think I just invented “GFF” or maybe it’s ” GFFF”) Any who, I’m hoping that her gluten-free pies were better than my homemade pie fillings contained in store-bought gluten-free frozen pie crusts, which I actually put in pretty pie plates to make it look like I made them myself (big mistake). Yes, in a moment of weakness, I decided to forgo repeating the agony of trying to make a gluten-free pie crust from scratch. Truth be told I was never good at the pie crusts with gluten. But the gluten-free involved a lot of patchwork and recalibrating. They were ok, but the filling stole the show and any flaws in the crust were forgiven. This year I decided to “go for it” and ALL the pies were gluten-free. I have apologized to all my guests, but I still don’t have closure. If I could remember the name of the company who produces this product, I would send them a letter that would just say “why?”  It was too good to be true of course, and it was my own fault for falling for the perfect frozen texture, the glossy packaging promising me a regular, normal, easy-breezy Thanksgiving. In the end it was my own fault. I should have known better, but I let myself believe that I could have my pie and eat it too. I wish I had taken a picture of it, the pie shell that could not be cut with the sharpest knife in the house; the pie shell with all of the filling scooped out of it; the children  bending it this way and that. It never broke. Then there were the comments…”on the bright side you’ve discovered a new roofing material.”

Three Guys and a Gluten-Free Girl

13 Nov

Two weeks ago in Oakland, California I had a fabulous gluten-free dining experience. It went something like this:

My husband , myself and another couple were in Oakland to see Grace Potter and The Nocturnals at the Fox Theater (which was amazing, by the way). We had dinner reservations at Pican, a Southern inspired restaurant. I had mentioned that I was gluten-free  when I made the reservation.

Our waiter, Trevor began the evening by asking which one of us was gluten-free.

“Me,” I replied, proudly.

“Gluten- intolerant or celiac?” Trevor asked, looking at me as if he really cared.

“Celiac.” I replied, practically giddy.

“I’m gluten intolerant.” He said, in a tone that made it  clear he understood that I outranked him. Then he went on to  say, “We are not a gluten-free kitchen, we do clean all surfaces and utensils when preparing gluten-free dishes, but there could be some cross-contamination.”

“You had me at ‘Celiac,’  I thought to myself, still taking in the conversation. In all my gluten-free years, I have never had an experience like this at a restaurant. He asked the others if they had any questions about the menu but it was really just an after thought.

We all proceeded to order drinks, The bourbons of Kentucky and Tennessee were well represented. I ordered the Pican Old Fashioned. An Old Fashion with a new twist. The twist involved bacon and maple syrup. I know what your thinking, but you’re wrong. George Dickle No. 8, bacon infused bourbon, is quite tasty it turns out. Trevor and I shared a joke or too regarding our love of bacon and thank God, it’s gluten-free.

My dinner was tasty. Dessert was the only disappointment. Buttermilk ice cream being the only GF option. I could tell Trevor was embarrassed by the situation. But I told him not to worry and ordered a coffee with alcohol in it. And a bowl of buttermilk ice cream.

Once home, I could not get Trevor or the bacon infused bourbon out of my head, and having never heard of George Dickle No. 8, I decided to google him.  This is what I found in bold letters at the top of the website. If you only know Jack, you don’t know dickle.  I searched the website for bacon infused Dickle No. 8 but there is no such thing. I would have to make it myself. It turns out there are hundreds of search results for how to infuse bourbon with bacon. What on earth did we do before the internet? The recipe follows, but I should warn you that, like sausage and laws, you may not want to know how it’s made.

  • Cook a pound of bacon.
  • Pour .33 cups of hot fat into a jar and fill the rest with bourbon George Dickle No. 8, or similar (They don’t specify the size of the jar, which seems important, but just use your best judgment on the bacon to bourbon ratio).
  • Seal and let stand until the mixture reaches room temperature.
  • Freeze for 24 hours. The fat will solidify. The bourbon will not.
  • Pour off the bourbon and strain through a coffee filter or cheese cloth to remove any lose fat particles. (yum)

To make the Pican Old Fashion, mix bacon Bourbon with maple syrup, orange (not sure what kind as I just copied this from the Pican menu) cherries (the cherries appeared to be a darker version of the maraschino variety) and bitters. I have no idea what the proportions are but I’m pretty sure no one is going make this drink, so I’m not going to worry my pretty little head about it.)

In case you’re wondering who the three guys are:

  1. Trevor
  2. George Dickle
  3. Jack  Daniels

A Piece of Cake

31 Oct

The last thing I want to do is to start posting yummy gluten -free recipes. That’s just not me. Complaining about the gluten-free lifestyle is much more me. But once in a while a really good recipe comes along. And even more rare, a really good recipe with a story.  I have made this cake three times. I remember each time I’ve made it because it’s so good!  But before I give you the recipe, I must give you some important information.

  • The recipe is from a retreat center in Santa Barbara, CA, called Immaculate Heart Center for Spiritual Renewal. They have a great recipe book, called A Place at the Table that you should buy. (You are probably wondering what a bitch like me was doing at a spiritual retreat center, but I’ll never tell.)
  • If you make this cake for yourself you will want to eat it at every meal (see my previous post)
  • If you make this cake for a group of people, there will not be any left, so make two.
  • If you do not have a heavy-duty food processor, you may not want to make this recipe.
  • I suggest you invest in a heavy-duty food processor just so you can make this recipe.

A Cake Story

My daughter just returned from a cross-country road trip with her friend. I made a delicious dinner, pork tenderloin with fig sauce (also from A Place at the Table) mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. Yum! And flourless chocolate cake with goat cheese-whipped cream on the side. Double yum!

The recipe calls for 8 oz of dark chocolate, which you break up into littleish pieces and process in the food processor with some of the sugar. What they don’t tell you is that your food processor will shake violently as it tries to pulse that chocolate into a semi-fine powder. I was a little a worried about the shaking but I kept on with the processing, and turned out the most delicious cake. There were only two pieces left in the morning. I was tempted to eat a piece for breakfast but decided to practice restraint and ate it an hour later when I got to work.

When I came home there was a note from my daughter, with a tiny screw next to it, explaining that the screw was in the piece of cake. I checked the mixer, no missing screws. Then I remembered the shaking food processor. I checked the blade. Sure enough, two little screws missing. My first thought, who ate the other screw?

The moral of this story: THIS CAKE IS DANGEROUS

Flourless Chocolate Cake

For Cake

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cup whole raw almonds

8 oz. dark chocolate

5 eggs separated

1/2 tsp. orange or lemon zest

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

6 oz. butter, melted

powered cocoa or sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour the sides.

In a food processor; process about 1/3 cup sugar with the almonds, pulsing until fine. Remove to a medium bowl. Process about another 1/3 cup of the sugar with the chocolate, pulsing until fine. Check for screws.  Add to the bowl of almonds, mix, and  set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix egg yolks with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar for a few minutes, until thick and pale. Mix in zest and extracts. Fold in almond/chocolate mixture and melted butter.

Whip eggs (with clean dry beaters) until they hold stiff peaks. Gently and completely fold egg whites into cake mixture (this takes patience as the dough may be quite stiff). My dough was not that stiff, so patience was not an issue, but I appreciated the warning.

Pour mixture into prepared cake pan, leveling the top. Back until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist bits, 45-55 minutes.

Let rest on cooling rack for a few minutes; then remove from pan and cool completely. Dust with sugar or cocoa and serve with whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

3-5 Tbls fresh goat cheese (chevre)

1-3 tsp sugar

1/2-1 cup whipping cream

You can experiment with the proportions on this. I like it more goaty so I use more goat cheese and less whipped cream. You can sweeten to taste, but remember the cake is already sweet.

The Ugly Truth

27 Sep

I recently overheard a woman telling another woman that she had lost a lot of weight by eliminating gluten from her diet. I am skeptical about such claims and I wanted to set the record straight. Also I am jealous and annoyed by people who lose weight easily by eliminating anything. And it appears that I have become the kind of person who enjoys bursting people’s bubbles. That’s what celiac disease has done to me. So here it is, the ugly truth: The gluten-free diet that people lose weight on is simply a no or low carb diet. I know I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating. To illustrate my point I present you with two meal plans. The first plan is for someone (me) who can never again eat gluten anything, ever; the second is for someone (not me) who wants to lose weight, and be cool ( gluten-free is a lot hipper than weight watchers).

my gluten-free diet plan:

The basis of my plan is this flourless chocolate cake. I made enough so that I could incorporate it into my meals during the week.

Breakfast: 2 pieces of flourless chocolate cake and on cup of strong black tea with lots of milk and honey

Lunch: 1 piece of flourless chocolate  cake and a V-8 juice

Dinner:  hashbrowns and a half a bottle of white wine (because it was the only GF thing around) and for dessert, you guessed it, flourless chocolate cake

Bed time snack: flourless chocolate cake

Someone else’s gluten-free diet plan:

The basis of this plan is eliminating all carbohydrates.

Breakfast: fruit and yogurt, instead of the usual bagel with cream cheese.

Lunch: A gigantic salad, instead of the usual Panini

Dinner: Chicken, asparagus and greens with lemon water, instead of the usual large pepperoni pizza

Dessert: ice chips

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

10 May

As a person with celiac disease I find that there is a fine line between things I want to know and things I don’t want to know. For example: I frequently eat at a local restaurant whose menu consists of paninis, soup and salad. They have a very yummy, naturally gluten-free tomato red pepper soup that I always order, but it’s still feels like a consolation prize when I look around at the buttery sandwiches oozing with cheese, onions and turkey.  One day when I couldn’t take it anymore I casually asked the chef if he would consider a gluten-free panini option. He replied that they could make any of the sandwiches with gluten- free bread. I asked him if this was something new. “No”, he said, “We’ve been doing it for several years”. “Does the menu say anything about this option?” I asked. The answer was no.  I don’t know why it took me so long to ask but why should I have to? Gluten-free, as far as know, and especially in Santa Cruz, is not on the down low. It seems like a small thing, but I find many of life’s greatest pleasures are simple; like the joy of looking at a menu and ordering from it without having to ask a zillion questions.

On the other hand, I was at another local restaurant where I asked if the French fries were gluten-free (I’ve taken to ordering fries before I even sit down so that I don’t have to watch my dining companions tear apart soft pieces of bread and dip them in oil or generously slather them in butter while I patiently wait for the main course. Maybe this is why I’ve also recently gained five pounds.) Anyway, the waitress went to check with the cook and came back to cheerfully tell me YES, they’re gluten-free…but they are fried in the same oil that we fry our breaded calamari in.  Here’s the thing, if I am going to eat at a restaurant I know there is a chance of “cross contamination” a fancy term for getting unintentionally “glutened”, a made up term, for accidentally eating gluten. The only way around this is not to think about it, because if I think about the fact that even one crumb of gluten that comes in contact with my small intestine will set off an auto-immune reaction in my body that may take weeks to repair, I will go crazy. Not the kind of crazy that I already am, the real kind of crazy.

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