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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas with Celiac #7 - The Christmas Party

I love my friends. I have really really great friends. I am now going to talk about my friends. Remember, I love my friends.

I went to my first Christmas party last weekend. We had food, there was music, we did the white elephant exchange game, we had food, we made fun of each other, there was this great punch, and did I mention the food? I love food. I shamelessly ate most of the shrimp. Twice.

What's great: I had plenty to eat. What's not great: There were three tables of food, and only five things I could eat:

A cream cheese and cranberry cookie topping, sans cookie (foreground)
A bowl of kisses and Snickers (background)

A chicken salad for sandwiches, sans sandwich (foreground)
Some tasty shrimp (not pictured)

and the stuff I brought: yogurt and granola

I didn't take a picture of the third table: it was just baked goods. It was pretty easy to pick out what I could eat; I only had to ask for ingredients on a few things. I ended up with a nice plateful of food, and was very happy with it. Sure I wanted to eat everything else, too, but like I said, I shamelessly loaded up on the shrimp! (Twice!)

Note to self: yogurt on a plate does not photograph well! (Sorry 'bout that!)

The hardest part of the night was listening to the comments people made when (a) they saw what I brought or (b) I asked for ingredients. Here are some of the things I overheard:
  • Yogurt? Yeah, it's Christmas! Let's eat healthy! (sarcastic laugh)
  • Man, I would hate to have to figure out what I couldn't eat.
  • Who brings yogurt to a party?
  • What a pain. I'm glad I don't have any food restrictions!
None of these comments were directed at me. When I asked for ingredients, the lists were happily given, but you know how you always chatter when you're at a buffet? No one talked to me this time. So, I felt uncomfortable, and conspicuous. So I waited until everyone was done, just stayed out of the way, and then got my food and went and sat down.

It was weird. (Don't forget - I love my friends!)

Once I was seated with my plate, it was totally normal, sorta. It helped that I sat with close friends, ones who know that I can't eat the yummy gluten-filled holiday goodies, but we still ended up talking about it.

I felt defined by the food missing from my plate.

It was weird.

The party was fun. I got brass candlesticks. I ate a pile of shrimp and yogurt. (Not at the same time! Ew) I hung out with my buddies. I took home my yogurt and granola and ate it every day for lunch this week. And thought about Christmas. I love Christmas. And I love my friends.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas with Celiac #6 - Cream Cheese Cookies

One of the few cookies that we're committed to each year at Christmas is the cream cheese cookie. This is Jim's favorite and SUPER easy to make.

All I did to make this a GF recipe was to substitute a GF cake mix for the regular cake mix. Ta-da!

The cookie ingredients:
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1 box yellow cake mix

The icing ingredients:
Powdered sugar
Ice water

The process:
1. Cream together butter and cream cheese
2. Add egg yolk and vanilla, mix well
3. Add cake mix, about 1/3 of the mix at a time to help with mixing
4. Chill for 1 hour or so
5. Bake 10-12 minutes at 375
6. Cool and ice

If you don't have a heavy duty mixer, you'll end up struggling to mix by hand - it's a dense dough. I often lay the dough and last of the cake mix in a big sheet of plastic wrap and knead the final bit of mix in by hand instead of trying to stir.

Keep the icing a little thick. You want it to be thick enough to stay on top of the cookie, but thin enough to drizzle a little bit. Play with it if you're unfamiliar: if it all drips/runs off the cookie right away, it's too thin.

You shouldn't be able to see through it after it settles/hardens. Add sugar or sprinkles if you like.

Cookies will fluff a little as they bake, but won't really change shape. You'll pretty much get out of the oven what you put in. I did notice that the GF batch was a little spikier...

...while the regular batch was a little smoother in appearance.

Happy baking!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas with CD #5 - PIE!

Today was pie day.

I looked at a bunch of recipes and finally settled on one that was not too complicated, but seemed promising.

I made a pumpkin pie with half of the recipe and I am planning to make cranberry pecan tassies with the other half, tomorrow probably.

The pie turned out super yummy, and I liked the crust, too. So did the kids and my mother-in-law. Pumpkin pie is her favorite, so I am encouraged.

Jim, my husband did not try it. He hates pumpkin. Perhaps next time. :)

I found the recipe through a link at, and could probably find it again for you if you want the original link, but here's the ingredient list.

1 C tapioca flour
1 C white rice flour
1 t xanthan gum
1 T powdered milk
6 T butter (or cream cheese)
6 T shortening
1/3 C water

Step one. Mix dry ingredients
Step two. Cut in butter and shortening
Step three. Add water and mix so dough forms a large ball
Step four. Divide in half
Step five. Place each half between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll out to 8-9in pie crust

Bake as needed based on your filling.

A few notes:
- The dough is super white. Surprisingly so.
- The crust is also very forgiving. If you need to form it with your hands once in the pie plate, you can do it with no problem.
- The edges will probably burn so have tin foil or a protective crust ring on hand.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Christmas with CD #4 - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is part of Christmas, right? Right?! Yeah, that's what I thought.

My dad called yesterday, and after the shame of being asked if my answering machine is broken... (it's not: I'm a slacker), we talked about the big T-Day. We're getting together for Christma-giving Day, and he called to talk menus. What a sweetie. We talked about salad dressings and salad toppings and desserts and all kinds of yummies. As he put it, "I just want to make sure that we don't bring something bad."

On the bright side, many of my blogging buddies who are also Celiacs have started posting their favorite holiday recipes for everything bready, from pie crusts to stuffings. Yum. (It's nice not to feel all alone in this holiday endeavor.)

This is gonna be a great holiday season after all. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Christmas with CD#3 - The trials begin

Before I could do anything, I had to shop and setup a prep area. As I don't have a lot of space, but I DO have a Costco membership, the results were a bit, um, overwhelming.

This is what happens when I wander Costco with baking on my mind...

And here is my prep area.

Had to have Christmas tunes, too, of course!

Once prepared, I made regular oatmeal raisin cookies to bribe my taste testers! (just in case!)

Ready to go! I have started with something simple: peanut butter. It's really hard to make a bad peanut butter cookie.

Cookie #1 was a flourless PB cookie. It's something I'd never heard of before, but apparently it's fairly popular. They turned out crisp and tasty. The recipe I used is at Lea's Gluten Free Blog. I made them without the chocolate chips that you see in her picture, and I flattened them with a fork first, too.
Yummy and delicious, but I wanted kiss cookies, so I dug out another recipe. One that uses flour.

Cookie #2 uses a combination of GF flours, and I found it at Recipe Zaar.

This is a very good cookie. It's not terribly soft, though. Once it cools, it's crisp like cookie#1, but it still has a great taste. A couple of tips for this recipe:
1. Below the recipe (follow the link above) you'll find some substitution comments and suggestions.
2. You may find it helpful to chill the dough for a few minutes so that it's a little more workable.
3. Make the dough balls much smaller than you would think you need for the kiss cookies. Otherwise you may end up with the oddly proportioned results you see on the right in the picture below!

The dough ball in the picture below is the size I used for the cookie on the left above. It's about 1", maybe a little smaller

4. Let the cookies set on the sheet. If you remove them too soon, it won't work well.

Overall, Saturday was a pretty good cookie-making day. Up next: pie crusts!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Christmas with CD #2

Guess what?! My ever-fabulous hubby has found me a good resource for cookie-ing. (I don't think that's a word....)

Here it is!

I am very excited. I've already started a (mini)batch of peanut butter cookies, and he's agreed to be my guinea pig. I'm going to try to find some good recipe substitutions, too, so that I can keep making my favorites and not have to find ALL new recipes.

To the oven! AWAAAAAAY!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Christmas with celiac disease #1

I love tag. I've always loved tag. In fact, I was rather excited to get tagged again since I missed out on the first one. (Sorry, Mom!)


I was about to start a new train of thought on thishere blog. So, take 2, here we go.

Christmas is coming. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Christmas. But I have been worried lately about how I will deal with Christmas and family dinners and hors d'ouvers and especially how I will deal with Christmas cookies.

If you don't know me, you need to realize that Christmas cookies are the BEST part of the whole year. No exaggeration there...we even have special aprons that we wear once a year when we bake. It's a 2 week operation at least, from planning to shopping to baking to feasting to gifting. Let me tell you something. When I realized that I could no longer have Christmas cookies, I put my head down on the table and cried. (It was at work, and my friend who mentioned them felt really bad. Sorry again, Sam! I luv u! I'm coming to your cookie party anyway!)

I have decided that there is no reason to give up on the tradition of the past years. I will still make my family's favorite cookies, and my personal mission for this year is to find good ways to make MY favorites gluten-free.

So, if you're out there reading this and you have tips, tricks, or recipes to share, please do so! And, have a very merry Christmas.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Save me from this STUPID c.d.!

I have a new job.


On my first day, Beth, a neighboring teacher, brought me a cookie. I didn't have the heart to tell her I couldn't eat it. Of course I did tell her about my celiac disease eventually. She showed up about 10 minutes later with a grin on her face and handed me an apple. Beth's pretty awesome.

What's most difficult about my new job is having to re-explain my medical condition. Most people will just brush off my strange eating habits as part of some crash diet, but once in a while someone will catch me reading a label on something like whipped cream - something that you don't normally read - and they start asking questions.

It gets a little easier to explain every time, but it's hard. No one's heard of it, so they're confused and ask more questions, and then I have to see the look of confusion change to pity. The only ones who don't ask questions are the ones who are already dealing with c.d. in their lives.

I don't care so much anymore that it's a part of my life...I just want to be done explaining it over and over again. Maybe I'll just pass out informational 3x5 cards. :)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Testing out the oats

Well, today is a big day in my world. I ate oats for the first time since April.

It's Jim's birthday today, and he wanted meatloaf and cheesy potatoes for his birthday dinner. He tried to take it back after he asked for it because he realized that those are pretty much off the menu for me, but I wouldn't let him. It is his birthday, after all. The cheesy potatoes are out: they have wheat in the sauce, so I made mashed potatoes for Annie and me (she HATES the cheesy potatoes). But I don't make meatloaf with bread crumbs, I make it with oats. Always have. That's the family recipe.

I decided then and there that today I would take the plunge and eat the meatloaf. I had checked the Quaker Oats website right away when I was diagnosed with celiac to see if they considered their product gluten free. They were careful to point out that they only work with oats and that their plain old-fashioned oats are run on a gf line, but that each person should decide whether oats were a smart choice for their diet.

So far, so good! It seems that I will be able to eat the Quaker Oats after all. Only time will tell, I suppose, but I can usually feel the beginning ill effects of eating gluten within 15 minutes, and right now, I feel fine. I am very happy about this! I love meatloaf, so this is a very very good thing.

In case you're curious (and you can eat oats), here is my recipe. But, be warned. As my husband put it so delicately last month: "Mikki doesn't use recipes. She cooks like a grandma!"

Mikki's family's meatloaf recipe:
This can be doubled or trebled depending on the size of your family, of course. I usually use 2 lbs of meat.

1 lb hamburger (85-90% lean has the best flavor)
a handful of oats
one egg
a liberal dose of ketchup (perhaps 1/4 cup?)
a splash of milk (perhaps 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup?)
a heavy sprinkling of dried chopped onion - or a small, finely diced sauteed onion

Other occasional add-ins: (not all at once, though!)
If you use these, reduce the amount of ketchup or add a few more oats to keep the moisture level well-balanced. You want the resulting loaf to be moldable, but not mushy, not crumbly.
Worchestershire sauce
A1 sauce

1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well. Tip: I've started using a potato masher to mix my meatloaf. It's quite handy. I used to just wash my hands and use those, but the fun has worn off of that method. (I am getting pretty old, you know.)
2. Bake low and slow. Schools of thought vary on this, but usually somewhere around 300 for an hour is good. Don't go above 350 or below 250, though. Higher heat=crumblier; lower heat=more solid


No, really, that's it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My first gluten-free trip

Well, so much for this being a daily blog. I guess I'll have to get to it as often as possible, and be happy with that. :)

Tonight we leave for our big summer trip, and I am looking forward to it, but I am also a bit hesitant. I guess I'm just not sure what I'll find to eat. Oh, well. It'll be fun, even if I eat nothing but fruit and french fries. yummm, french fries.


Last night I was bad. We have a new Little Ceasar's. Jim picked some up for his dinner; unfortunately, he got home before I had a chance to eat my dinner. Long story short, I had a killer tummy-ache yesterday. It was worth it. I adore Little Ceasar's. I don't think I'll be doing that again, though.

If nothing else, it laid to rest the thought that perhaps even this diagnosis was all in my head: trust me, I couldn't have faked that gastric reaction through mental power alone!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Today was a hard day to be gluten free

For breakfast, I lost my appetite. I got a bowl of cherries and a bag of pistachios instead, but still didn't really eat much.

For lunch, I split a little bit of leftovers with Jimmy, then later on for a snack I finished off the cherries.

I finally got my appetite back for dinner, and was all prepared for burgers and fries. BUT I forgot that I had no more fries. So while everybody else ate their burgers and mac and cheese, I ate my burger salad and some canned yams. Mm-mm-canned. Blech. Stupid hamburger salad and stupid canned yams. I feel like binging on carbs. Bad, evil, nasty, gluten-filled carbs.

The night wasn't a total loss, though. My hamburger salad is actually quite yummy. It's just that sometimes different isn't that fun. I don't want different, not today, no matter how yummy. I just want to be "normal".

In case you feel like trying something bizzare, but quite tasty, here's my recipe for hamburger salad. It's tangy and sweet. YUM.

On a bed of assorted greens (I use a spring lettuce and spinach mix), place a scattering of...
grilled onions,
green olives,
burger patty with provolone cheese (2 slices, with grilled onions between), and
top with balsamic viniagrette dressing, and eat!

Last time I made the salad with different toppings.
grilled onions,
grilled mushrooms,
bacon crumbles,
burger with colby jack cheese, and
raspberry viniagrette dressing.

This version was sweeter and heartier. I liked it, too.


Cheer up! Bread is for chumps!

PS You can also check out this hamburger salad and dressing recipe:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Celiac Disease

Today marks 2 weeks since my doctor called and told me that I have Celiac disease.

I was pretty sure that he was going to say the tests were positive, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking that he was going to be like the rest of the doctors and tell me that there really wasn't anything wrong with me. That the tests were negative. That I should get some exercise, drink more water. That it, once again, was all in my head, and didn't I want to go talk to go talk to my psychiatrist?

But he didn't. He said that both antibodies tested positive, and that I'd best come see him to make some diet changes. Fortunately, I'd been reading up on celiac disease and was ready(ish) to do so.

So these two weeks have been quite the learning experience. I've thrown a few tantrums. I've made myself sick a couple times. I've even tried some really horrible gluten-free products. (There have been some really good ones, too, though!) I've spent a lot of time online finding a celiac listserv, facebook groups, recipe and product websites, and I've been checking out books from the library, too.

I'm being careful and getting the hang of the new dietary restrictions. I even went to a "fresh-squeezed lemonade" stand at King's Dominion yesterday and asked if it was really fresh or not. (It's not. It's Minute Maid with a half a lemon dropped in.) And at dinner, I remembered to ask about ingredients in the marinade on the chicken in my salad.

In the books and blogs and things that I've been reading, it seems like dealing with celiac and going gluten-free is the hardest thing in the world. So many people seem so angry and negative! I have found others who are positive, but because of the sheer volume of negativity, it feels like I must be doing something wrong by not being more upset or having a harder time with the gf issues.

I'm not trying to say that it's been a breeze finding gf foods, but it hasn't been impossible. And there are a lot of things I can't eat now. Jimmy (my son) keeps offering me food, and then saying, "oh, wait... Does it have wheat in it?" He seems so sad for me. But, honestly, I'm doing Ok. I have found new foods to eat and new ways to eat old foods, and the rest... I guess I just don't mind not eating them.

When I look at the stuff that I've always really, really craved and enjoyed (like bread or funnel cakes or pasta) it just doesn't have the same appeal to me now. Yes, I want to eat them still, yes, I've been tempted to take just one bite, but I know what it'll do to me later. It's the whole beautiful-but-deadly syndrome. Even just one bite of poison is still poisonous, right? So why do something that will be harmful? If there's something that I want that badly, I'll find a way to have it safely. If there's no way to do that, then I just skip it. There's no point in getting all hang-dog about it.

I guess what it comes down to is that there are so many things that I CAN eat. There's no reason to focus on the "can'ts". I've decided to have a positive attitude; I've always enjoyed trying new foods. I like to bake, so I'm making my own breads as I want them. My family is very supportive, too.

There really are a lot of gf foods out there, once you start looking. I felt at the beginning of these two weeks like gluten was the boogey-man, lurking where I least expected, ready to cause injury when I wasn't paying attention. What I'm finding instead is that there are oodles of foods, dressings, and sauces that I can have.

I guess that the food industries have caught on to the needs of us celiacs, because some of the books I have constantly talk about how difficult it is to deal with corporations and restaurants. I haven't really had those troubles, though. Hopefully, when we go on our trip later this month, that will continue. I think that the trip will be the true test of how accessible food is. I haven't been eating out much yet.

This disease has actually brought a lot of benefits with it. It has forced me to make a lot of healthy changes. Yes, there are still many junk foods and cookies that I can have, but it's easy to say no, especially when gf foods cost at least twice what regular does or when I'm just not sure yet what's gf and what's not.

As a result of all this, I'm eating better, I'm losing weight, and my family is eating better, too. I have more energy, and I'm not sick. I didn't even realize that I felt so sick. The symptoms had gradually built up over time, and I was just attributing them to aging, I guess. I eventually felt that something must be wrong; that's what sent me to another new doctor. I just didn't expect such dramatic changes to happen.

The physical changes that I have felt in the last month and a half, first simply going without wheat, dairy, and corn; then just without wheat; then totally gluten free are astounding. I just can't get over how amazing I feel in comparison to what I had taken for normalcy.

Here's to many more positive, healthy weeks!

Here are a few resource links for you other new celiacs out there (more to follow in the weeks to come):
A US pizza restaurant chain that offers gf foods
To satisfy your sweet tooth
Information and resources
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