Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Quest for Bread

Here are some things I’ve learned about gluten-free products:

  • Pasta - I like the quinoa and corn better than the rice-based noodles. Ancient Harvest spaghetti is my favorite so far. They don’t have too many shapes so I haven’t been able to try the other varieties. I have elbow noodles in my cupboard but haven’t used them yet. The next best is Annie’s macaroni and cheese. It’s nearly as good as regular boxed mac-n-cheese, despite being rice-based noodles. They’re much larger in size than the typical blue box but they taste great and hold their texture as leftovers. My least favorite is Tinkyada. Maybe it’s just their asinine “energy-saving” cooking method (boil for 2 minutes then let sit, covered, for 20) but the texture was awful, they fell apart when mixed with other ingredients, they were mushy in the casserole, and worse as leftovers. We threw out half a pan.

  • Snacks & Desserts - I haven’t actually tried that many crackers. The Glutino table crackers are underwhelming so I’ve been sticking with Nut Thins. I genuinely like them and I keep trying new flavors. They’re really great with spreadable cheeses like port wine and cream cheese. Tortilla chips are of course a standard, as they have been all along. Frito Lay has a marvelous list of all their GF snacks, which include Cheetos! Unfortunately not Nacho Cheese Doritos; Cool Ranch just aren’t as good. I’ve also tried a few different bars. Bakery on Main has some nice granola bars and I like that you can actually buy a whole box. KIND bars and Lärabars are individual only. I was underwhelmed with the one flavor of KIND bar I’ve tried but plan to sample others. So far I like the chocolate coconut Lärabar best but it’s only the second flavor I’ve gotten around to sampling. I made some homemade Monster Cookies using a recipe from General Mills’ They used a box mix for Betty Crocker GF chocolate chip cookies. The finished product was OK, not great. They were actually better the second day but then got quite dry as they aged. I do like the idea of using more baking mixes though, instead of having to have 80 different weird flours on hand. A co-worker brought in a French Meadow GF brownie and a GF chocolate chip cookie for me earlier this week. They were both good but the cookie was actually pretty great. I’ve also had the local co-op’s GF brownie, which I liked though it was day old and so a bit stale.

  • Breakfast - Mostly I’ve been eating Corn Chex or Rice Chex. Or combining them into the same bowl for “Crispix”. I’ve tried one actual GF cereal, Sunrise Harvest, and it was good but weird. There were like six different shapes of things in there so it was like eating suicide cereal. Seriously. Like if someone poured Kix and Rice Krispies and Wheaties and Grape Nuts and Special K into the same bowl and mixed it all together. Odd. I’ve also gone through a box of Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal. I tried the variety pack which had apple-cinnamon, maple-raisin, and maple-banana. The maple-banana is best. But I would like to find just regular instant oats. Like a big container that I can choose how much to pour and flavor myself instead of the packets. I’m also curious about the quinoa flakes (like Malt-o-Meal?) but haven’t tried them yet. I have some actual quinoa that I used to make a delicious pilaf the other night. I think I have a recipe to make a hearty breakfast bowl with quinoa that I’ll have to dig up. I’ve also been buying Amy’s frozen GF burritos, which are awesome, and having those for brekkie. But that gets spendy.

  • Pizza - Pizza has been tricky. Mr. b found an Amy’s frozen rice crust pizza and it was awful. The flavor was ok I guess but the texture was all kinds of wrong. We threw out the leftovers. Since that disaster, I tried an Udi’s frozen pizza crust. It was great. Good texture, good flavor, and really only a little bit more effort to have to spread my own sauce and toppings. It was a two-pack so I’ve got a second one to decorate. They’re fairly small crusts though so I can eat like 2/3 myself. Something for a night when the kids are having Spaghettios. We had a pizza lunch at work the other day and the admin was kind enough to order several GF along with the massive order she called in from Pizza Luce. It was great. I even got to snatch the leftovers so I’ve had some leftover pizza for breakfast. There are a couple of other pizza joints I want to try that have GF crusts. It’s nice living in such a hippie organic bean sprout city because there really are a lot of restaurant options. I just need to remember all the places we used to go back in the 90s…

  • Bread - This is the biggie. I haven’t found anything that’s *that* good yet. Udi’s plain bagels were fine. They weren’t great but they were acceptable. I’m a bagel snob and nothing is ever going to compare to Bruegger’s for me so I just have to accept that. Udi’s were as good as non-Bruegger’s and that’s as good as it’s going to get. I also tried some brown rice tortillas. They were pretty passable as naan for scooping up Indian food. But they didn’t wrap well for burritos. I haven’t tried them as quesadillas yet but my fingers are crossed. Corn tortillas, though good for pretty much anything (seriously, I eat most leftovers in them; you can make anything into a taco), just don’t work for quesadillas. Regular bread though, haven’t hit on it yet. First I tried a loaf of Schär. The first two sandwiches I made for Mr. b and I – grilled ham and cheese – were excellent. But small. The loaf is little. But after it was frozen and I had to defrost in the microwave I was completely disillusioned. I choked down my grilled cheese and figured I’d have to try another brand. So next up was French Meadow. They’re local and their tag line is that it’s so good you won’t miss the wheat. Bullshit. I missed the wheat. It was not good. I choked down the tuna melt but was very unhappy. Then I decided to try toasting the old frozen Schär in the oven. It’s a bit weird and slow but it was good! I had it with cream cheese and it was better than the bagel. I tried the same oven technique with the French Meadow and again, it totally worked! My salami and provolone sandwich was dry but delicious. So I guess toasting is the key. I still want to try Udi’s and see if that’s universal but I suspect it is. I covet the soft pillowy direct-from-the bag slices when I make the kids’ PBJs. And croissants. I haven’t even attempted a hunt for GF croissants.
  • Friday, July 22, 2011

    It's Genetic

    Good News Everyone! Kirk and Veronica do NOT have celiac disease.

    I took them in last week to have blood taken for testing. Since it's genetic, they say that anyone with a confirmed-by-endoscopy diagnosis (me!) should have their first degree relatives tested. My parents and my siblings will have to take care of themselves. My kids are cleared. And they were so well-behaved at the lab that they got taken off grounding for the running away from home incident.

    It’s a big relief to know they don’t have it. I mean, I know it must be easier to deal with than parents of young kids that aren’t actually celiac themselves. I already am learning the ways of gluten-free living. But this way they don’t have to worry about getting contaminated out there in the world, at daycare or school or birthday parties or hell, even taking samples in the grocery store. It’s just simpler. And I was worried. Not about Kirk. I was quite confident he’d be cleared. But Ronnie’s always had a poopie butt. She has blows outs even still and her poo just isn’t as solidified as her brother’s was coming into potty training age. So it’s good to know that’s just her system, and not an underlying issue.

    My mom and I wonder if perhaps her father didn’t have celiac. He died when I was less than a year old so I don’t have any memory of him. But Mom says that Grandpa was always, her entire life, experimenting with his diet to try to solve his constant digestive issues. And since gluten wasn’t determined as the cause of celiac disease until WWII, and even then it wasn’t common knowledge outside of specialists in Europe, I can see it being highly unlikely that he would have stumbled upon eliminating wheat from his diet as a cure. I must admit, it’s kind of neat having a speculative link to a man I’ll never know.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011


    Saturday we took Kirk to see the King Tut exhibit at the Science Museum. He loved it. Of course. We looked at some of the other permanent exhibits, mainly the dinosaurs, and played out in the Big Backyard and by that time, it was nearly 7 o’clock. The snacks I had packed us all were quickly devoured in the car so Mr. b and I thought we’d hit a drive-thru. Taco Bell seemed easiest. Little did I know it was about to be a gluten fiesta.

    Taco Bell has gluten in everything. I am not making this up. There’s wheat in the Fire sauce. In the meat for the corn shell tacos. Even the frickin’ mango strawberry Fruitista Freeze has it! I was shocked. And...had already started eating by the time I made this discovery. I said fuck it and kept eating. Mr. b figures it was my chance to say good bye to Taco Bell. But then I had to wait for the sick to kick in. I knew it would be about a day and a half delay to get deep enough into my guts to do damage.

    I knew it would take that long because last week I got “poisoned” by toaster crumbs. I made myself a gluten-free bagel and used our regular toaster, not thinking anything of it. I met with the dietician that afternoon and found out: Bad Idea. Apparently I need to get my own toaster. I’ve been toasting my bagels in a dry frying pan in the meantime. Now that the gluten is out of my system and my intestines are beginning to heal, even the smallest amount will make me sick. But it took about 30 hours to hit. It wasn’t until following afternoon that I started to feel icky and needed to run to the bathroom repeatedly. I guess each instance will be different though because the Taco Bell fiasco manifested as gas and bloating instead. I’m keeping up my food log so at least I’ll be able to track the culprits now that I have a general timeline. Hopefully that’ll help me fine tune this radical diet change.

    Monday, July 11, 2011


    Even when I was in high school I knew the line from The Little Mermaid "Betcha on land they understand that they don’t reprimand their daughters" was hilarious. It’s even funnier now with a daughter of my own. Who needs to be reprimanded quite frequently in fact. For instance last night, when she and her brother ran away from home. At bedtime. In their jammies. To the neighbor’s house.

    I’m not entirely sure what they thought they were doing. We had been over to the neighbor’s that evening, splashing around in their wading pool in the backyard. Neither Kirk nor Veronica wanted to leave, despite it being bedtime. Thankfully the neighbor helped get them out of there by deflating the pool and dumping out the water. We all went home, got dried off, and into pajamas. While I was gathering wet clothes for the laundry I realized they had gone outside. Which, strictly speaking, was enough to get them into trouble but I was going to let it slide, thinking they were just in the backyard. I stepped outside to shoo them in and realized they weren’t actually in our yard. I started calling for them and noticed they were two houses over, about to go through the back gate to the neighbor’s that we had just left. They hustled over so fast when they saw and heard how mad I was. Mr. b yelled at them big time and Kirk blamed Ronnie, of course, and Ronnie was in tears and they were sent straight to bed and they’re grounded from TV. Kirk tried to suggest they get grounded from going outside. Yeah right. Nice try buddy.

    The ironic thing is that just that afternoon, we got set up with cameras to record Ronnie’s temper tantrums. When the kids were born I signed each of them up to be participants in various child development studies with the University. Kirk’s gone in a few times to do various cognitive development tests, like play with blocks and look at pictures. Simple stuff, quick and easy and fun. A couple of months ago they called about one for Veronica. Initially it was just a survey about how she reacts during a tantrum and how frequently they happen and how long they last. I knew she’d get picked for the larger study and sure enough, she did. They’re researching aggression and using toddlers as their human baseline, because they don’t yet have societal pressure altering their behavior. Obviously they need a lot of raw data for such a complicated statistical model so they’re taping 100 toddlers having three tantrums each. The research assistant came by yesterday and got the cameras in place and walked us through the paperwork. I already have a tantrum for her to come and download. Ronnie freaked out about a) fruit snacks [she’s only allowed one packet a day] and b) not coming to the grocery store with Mama. It’s not even the biggest, baddest one she’s ever had. But it certainly had many of the unique behaviors they’re cataloging – stomping, crying, hitting, yelling, walking away, reaching for comfort – so it definitely qualifies. I think we’re going to get our allotted three tantrums filled up in a hurry. I wonder what’s the fastest any family has completed the inventory? We’re just excited to have witnesses.

    Tuesday, July 05, 2011

    I Miss Carbs

    I’m having a hard time adjusting to the lack of carbohydrates in my diet. I’m a carb kind of gal and I’m noticing an increase in dizziness, floaters in my vision, headaches, and other things like that. Things that I’ve long associated with low blood sugar. That I used to be able to take care of by just eating a granola bar or some peanut butter toast. Now I’m filling myself with cheap carbs like soda and potato chips. Just to try to feel full for a minute. But it never lasts. No matter how much protein I try to add. My meeting with the medical nutritionist is tomorrow.

    Yes, the celiac diagnosis is official. I briefly met with the GI docs again last week. Basically the diagnosis is two-fold: outright celiac disease and a bunch of medical bullshit that boils down to “manifestation of celiac disease”. I’ve been doing the gluten-free thing, more or less, for two weeks now and I’ve definitely noticed a difference…in my poop. I’m very excited that I’m no longer having daily diarrhea. I keep joking that the only time you’re excited about poop is with your infant, or if you’ve had diarrhea for four months.

    I haven’t noticed any other differences yet. I’m exhausted but that’s likely from a non-stop weekend of Kirk’s birthday party, my dad’s BBQ reunion, and blowing shit up with neighbors in the alley. I’m supposed to keep taking my daily iron supplement for the next couple of months before trying to cut that off and see if I still need it. Other than that, I don’t know what else to look for.

    I’m trying to keep track of what I’m eating so I can tell what makes me sick. Apparently very small amounts of gluten will have a big effect once I’ve fully transitioned. I had icky poo again two mornings in a row, once after Red Lobster and once after homemade gluten-free macaroni and cheese. Initially I thought maybe there was cross-contamination in my steak and baked potato. I tried to be careful with what I ordered at the restaurant. But then when I felt icky the second morning I looked to rum as the potential culprit – I had a Bahama Mama while out and a glass of homemade rum punch the following night. Mr. b told me to try rum a third time before cutting it out and sure enough, that wasn’t a problem. So now I’m back to wondering about cross-contamination and reviewing my food log to see what might have been the issue the second time.

    Meanwhile, I’m not sure I like gluten-free bread. We bought a loaf of Schär multi-grain last week and I made us some grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Both Mr. b and I liked them a lot. But when I made myself a grilled cheese this weekend, it wasn’t very good. The bread has to be used very quickly or else frozen so I’m thinking the defrosting and then grilling was the problem. We’ll see if I can come up with another method of cooking it. I found a double corn tortilla to be a very excellent substitute for a hot dog bun!