When you clear out your pantry, you will cry a little.

Right before I got diagnosed with Celiac we had bought pasta…a lot of pasta…and not the dried pasta that you get in the aisle with the pasta sauces, the kind that needs to be refrigerated. We had gotten then at a steep discount (thank you Safeway) and stuck them in our freezer. The first thing that needed to leave the house were those and bread and ice creams and soups and…well you get the drift. There are things that you never expected to have gluten that you have to start to avoid (thank you Doritos) and things that you totally expected to avoid that you can have (like Cheetoes for some random reason.) I’m not just talking about super processed food, but things like couscous. I never thought of couscous as anything bad for me, but there it is on all of the wheat lists. We had a lot of things like that, and they all went into the goodbye pile.

Then you come to things from the bulk bins. Bulk bins where you can get rice flour and oatmeal. Bulk bins that suffer from the same lack of consciousness of other people as salad bars. These are the cross contamination nightmares. Honestly, I think Celiacs should be more scared of bulk bins than they are of any processed foods. Processed food have to let you know that they’re made in a facility where someone might have possibly eaten a sandwich because that is part of the FDA rules. Bulk bins don’t have to tell you that they once contained flour or that Bob over there used the same scoop for the rice flour as he did for his whole wheat flour. Yup, they are the silent threat of double dipping, sneaking up on you, like in ninja. And therefore our wild rice and dates other such lovely things were also out.

We had a handy app (Gluten Free Food Finder that I mentioned a few weeks ago) that we used to scan everything in our pantry. My husband sifted through everything while I googled anything that we had no idea what it was. Things were dropping like flies. Cans of refried bean, in to goodbye pile. Canned soups…goodbye pile. Jars of pasta sauce…goodbye pile. It was also Girl Scout cookie season, so half eaten boxes of samosa and thin mints went to the goodbye pile (well they went to the husband pile because only a monster will give away half eaten boxes of cookies.) We got to pretty slim pickings in our pantry, and a large pile on our kitchen table. It was this Shrine of No. All of them sitting there, waiting for me to sacrifice my intestines to worship at their feet.

Yup, my relationship with food is really kind of abusive. Seriously abusive. Cheese and I have these cycles we go through where I get super clingy and it makes me feel terrible about myself. And I won’t even get into chips…oh boy. And here were all of these food that were literally poisoning me, sitting on the table taunting me. Staring at me and daring me to eat them. There were all of these things that I like to eat, things that made my life easy. There were the bases for comfort food or things that I ate when I was younger. There would be no more blue boxes of mac and cheese with ketchup (apparently it’s a Canadian thing I adopted somehow). No more yellow boxes of crackers with cheese and apples. No more red and white cans of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches on snowy days. Yup, this was a Shrine to No in my new normal. A towering monument of negativity.

If that’s not enough to make someone cry…look at the sad Doctor in the rain.

doctor

Yup, it’s that sad.

I’m a pretty positive person normally, cynical yes, but I’m a positive cynical. That’s what I get for being born in that transition from Gen X to Millennial. I cannot rest in the doldrums at the foot of the Shrine of No, it’s just not in my nature. I also like to help people (I know it seems shocking coming from someone who is writing a blog to give all of the advice that she never got). So here’s my surefire way to beat those doldrums:

  1. Get a box.
  2. Put all of the food you cannot have into the box.
  3. Put the box in your car
  4. Drive to the closest food bank
  5. Donate that food.

Yup, give it to someone who can and will appreciate it. You’re not only getting that Shrine of No out of your house, but you’re giving it to people who can use it. I mean, we all give to food banks, but it’s always to stuff that we bought and don’t really want to eat. Now you can give them something that they might really appreciate. Yup, you get to be the nice person at the food bank that doesn’t just give dried beans or canned beets.

And, here’s the best part, now that you have all of that room in your pantry you get to fill it again! Besides you’re going to need room for all of the different flours that you need just to bake a damn loaf of bread. But there’s so many great foods out there that you can try, and should try. Don’t rest on your laurels! Sure you like the Sniders Gluten Free Pretzels, but if you don’t try the Trader Joe’s brand or the Gluteno band you won’t really know. And here’s a big secret. You know how all of the different brands of wheat flour is pretty much all the same (it’s ground wheat people), gluten free flour brands are all different. You get a GF AP from King Arthur, it’s different from the GF AP from Bob’s Red Mill. They each are a different mix of “alternative” flours. So you got to experiment with all of those to find what you like. And every GF cook has a brand that they like more than others.

You’ll also find yourself picking up things that you never liked just because there’s a gluten free version of it. Oh look, gluten free peanut butter cookies. I hate peanut butter, but I need to try this. So in the next few weeks you’ll be picking up things that you’ll eat a couple of, and discover that you don’t like. I still have a couple of those kinds of things in my pantry. I don’t know why, but I have an aversion to throwing out food.

emoji_wish-eyeroll

I have no idea why…

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Rice Noodles Don’t Float

When I first got diagnosed, my best friend dropped off some rice pasta at our house, in that super helpful kind of way that people do after you get diagnosed. It is just something that will happen, along with people telling you about all of the great places that you can find gluten free food and cook books. It’s all good stuff, and mostly helpful. (I’ll revisit that in another post.) So this rice pasta was 100% white rice, and my husband, who does the cooking, decided to make mac and cheese with it. He started cooking it like he would pasta: salty water brought to a boil, drop the pasta in, and stir for a minute. After he started cooking and stirring he said , “did you know that rice pasta doesn’t float? Not only that, I can’t see it, the water is completely white. You should come and see it.”

So I go over and peek into the pot. It looked like non-fat milk and there was not a single floating piece of pasta. It looked like we were cooking rice, and I suppose it made sense. We were cooking rice, it just was in the shape of pasta. We went into this thinking, “we’re cooking pasta” instead of thinking “we’re cooking rice that looks like pasta.” Let me help you with this…

YOU ARE COOKING RICE THAT LOOKS LIKE PASTA.

Now, anyone that has ever cooked rice knows that rice released its starch into the water, this is because rice is missing gluten. It’s missing the basic building blocks that cause the tiny starch molecules to stick together, and all of the starch is released into the cooking water. That is why we wash our rice before we cook. And also why we get all of that sticky stuff in our rice cookers. And, most importantly, why risotto is so creamy. Since starch is part of a sugar molecule it’s also sticky, and that’s why we add starch to our gluten free flour mixes. It’s sticky so it holds it together, like candy.

Yup, it’s much ado about starch.

You also notice that rice doesn’t float in water. Wheat floats in water. You know what else floats in water…WITCHES!

burn the witch

Yup, I went there.

So, why is this news worthy…well, it’s an explanation or apology, that it for what you will, because after I went back to sit down and play video games, my husband says to me. “You know, I feel like I need to write a blog about learning to be gluten free and name it ‘Rice Pasta Doesn’t Float.’”

Yup, that’s why the blog is called what it’s called.

So here’s the lesson we have here.

Rice pasta= Rice.

Rice doesn’t float. Witches float in water. Therefore rice isn’t a witch.

Wheat pasta= Wheat.

Wheat pasta floats. Witches float in water. Therefore wheat is a witch.

burn the witch

Day one: so now what?

Congratulations! You have now been officially diagnosed as a mutant! Honestly, I expected to find out I was a mutant because Professor X came to my house to offer me a place on the X-men, but I’ll place that dream into the same box as getting my letter to Hogwarts. If it was going to happen it would have happened before now.

Seriously though, Celiac Disease is a genetic mutation. There is a gene that pre-disposes us to have it. It exists in most of your family too, but it doesn’t always trigger. That’s the same as the mutant gene in the X-men comics. It’s passed genetically through families, but it only gets triggered occasionally. And just like the comic book mutant gene, the Celiac mutant gene get triggered by stress, usually in childhood.Unlike the comic book mutants, Celiacs don’t get awesome powers.

So, now what?

Well, since you don’t get to jet off to the X Mansion, you kind of have to make your house safe. For day one, you just need to clean. Don’t worry about getting rid of all of the food you can’t eat anymore, that is best for another day. Trust me when I say this, over the next two to three days you will feel so much better that you won’t even be tempted to eat it.  No for today, you clean and read and eat.

There’s a lot of things you can read, and today you’ll be tempted to read them all. THIS IS A BAD IDEA! There’s a lot of misinformation out there that makes gluten sound like it’s a bacteria that can spread or breed. Yes, it makes you sick, but it’s not some sort of globulous monster that is out to get you. It’s a protein. It can’t multiply, because it’s not alive! It can spread, but only like crumbs spread when you cut bread or flour spreads when you scoop it.

One of the best descriptions that I heard, is that gluten spreads like cocoa powder. This isn’t the stuff that you hot cocoa with (that is cocoa mix) it’s the things that you add to cake or muffins that make them chocolate. If you’ve never worked with cocoa powder before. I made a couple of visual aids for you.

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Cocoa power, like gluten, likes to cling to things. It’s not that it breeds, it’s that it spreads. So you can’t just sweep the crumbs off of your counter, you need to actually clean it. Run you cutting boards and silver wear through the dish washer. Basically, anything that could have been in contact with bread or flour should be cleaned. You need to really thing about all of the things that you use, even on a rare basis. Here’s a list to get you started, but ever household is different:

Cutting boards, cookie sheets, butter dish, toaster, oven racks (you can use the cleaning cycle of your oven), stove top, sink, dishrags, sponges, cleaning brushes, knifes, wooden spoons (just replace these), plates, silver wear, silver wear tray, cupboard surfaces and doors, drawers, floors, cookie jars, bread boxes, tupperwear.

You kind of get the jist at this point in time. Think about baking. Think about cooking. Think about making toast. You need to clean all of these things. We moved from a toaster to a toaster oven years ago, so there was a lot less cleaning to do (if you have a toaster I suggest making the switch now because you can’t save that toaster) and it’s much easier to have a mix gluten household with a toaster oven. Plus it is the best for re-heating pizza.

You’ll probably need to go the store and buy something to eat too, make sure you keep yourself fed. I know, food is now a frienemy, but you still need to intake calories. Keep it simple tonight. Don’t do anything too hard, just something that you can throw together and be relatively certain is gluten free. You’re going to have enough stress tonight, don’t worry about reading labels. Meat is, generally, gluten free. Potatoes are safe. Vegetables are safe, keep yourself to the outside of the store, skipping the bakery, and maybe the gluten free aisle, if your store has one. Tinkyada does a pretty good rice pasta that you can grab and make spaghetti, just avoid pre-made vodka sauce. Don’t go hog wild and buy out everything in the gluten free aisle. Just keep it simple.

The first gluten free meal that we made was gumbo. My husband, being the wonderful caring human being he is, wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss out on anything. I was lamenting that gumbo was going to be out, because roux is made out of flour. We grabbed some rice flour and he tried to make a gluten gumbo. It wasn’t a bad first attempt, and it did make me feel better about life. It was a bit of normalcy, and that was comforting. Cajun food is one of our 4 major food groups (Cajun, Mexican, Italian, and Ice Cream), so having that moment of normalcy was good. But that meal taught us one important lesson, we are going to need to learn to cook again. So don’t worry about making something amazing, just make something you can eat.

Now for the reading. I spent a lot of time going through Pinterest and found a lot of things that scared the crap out of me. Most if it made gluten sound like a monster. Here’s a couple of rational places you can go looking for information. Most of the gluten free magazines out there will be good too, pick up one or two.

University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center: They have great gluten free gift baskets for the newly diagnosed. Check out that program!

Celiac.com: the forums have a ton of great information, and they tend to call BS when something is untrue.

Gluten Free Dietitian: I went to a dietitian that suggested this website. Tricia Thompson has been on the leading edge of Celiac avocation, and almost everything that she’s worked with has become a leader in the regulation. You can trust what she says.

There’s also a couple of apps I suggest you download. They’re free, so if you don’t like them you won’t be out any money.

Find Me Gluten Free: This is like Yelp for the gluten free. There’s a lot of great reviews and, because it’s crowd sourced, you get personal information on dining and buying experiences. You can even sort for Celiac friendly restaurants. And, of course, if you add your experiences to the app or website, you will make the experience better.

Gluten Free Food Finder: You can use this to scan a bar code  in the supermarket and find out if a produce is gluten free. It’s usually about 99.9% correct, but that .1% of the time is an error on the side of caution. Again, this is crowd sourced, so the more you contribute, the better the product gets. Plus, if you report an error it gives you a picture of a monkey. It’s enough to make you giggle.

So, there’s my road map to make you survive day one. Arm yourself with information. Clean your kitchen. Don’t try to be too normal. You have a whole new routine to learn, it’s time to explore!

Oh, and don’t feel bad if you get glutened every once in a while. You’re learning. Just think yourself like a toddler learning to walk, even if you fall down, it’ll hurt for a bit, but that too will pass. And hey, you can laugh about it later.

baby-walking-flipfail

 

The 52 Things I Learned Going Gluten Free

With my gluten-freeiversary looming over the horizon (on Pi day of all days), it’s time to reveal the list to end all lists. The list of the 52 things that I learned over the last year.
Warning: I’m not pulling punches on these things…also I tend to talk in ellipsis…
1. Rice pasta doesn’t float.
2. Day one: so now what?
3. When you clear out your pantry, you will cry a little.
4. Life can continue, there is good gluten free beer
5. Everyone will have well-meaning advice for you. Most of it is total crap.
6. You are your own gatekeeper (aka how to avoid GIGO)
7. No one will be as careful as you, and you will probably be more careful then you need to be.
8. When you find a server who “knows”, tip them well. They will be your best friend.
9. Cat food is not gluten free.
10. Gluten free playdough
11. You cannot catch gluten through the toilet seat
12. Liar, liar intestines on fire.
13. Screw you guys, I’m going home.
14. People will be okay with you being gluten free a human being.
15. Do Celiacs dream of McDonald’s French Fries?
16. Be open to try new things.
17. Vodka: not just potatoes anymore
18. Don’t trust a brand, read a label.
19. You have a whole new reason to dread the holidays
20. Be a guest, not a hurricane.
21. Don’t be a food Sherpa.
22. The food of our people is not cheap.
23. Fuck you Food Network.
24. If he loves you, he won’t eat McDonalds in front of you (or at least apologize for it)
25. Pinterest, you dear frienimy.
26. Gluten free bread is good for one thing…
27. Not all “bulger” is created equal.
28. You can’t always eat what you want…
29. You can bake your own bread without being a Basic Bitch.
30. A good gluten-free bakery is like a unicorn, magical and special
31. You cannot control where other people’s hands go
32. I already gave up enough…
33. Potlucks and buffets share the same pitfall…other people
34. All Celiacs should retire to Italy.
35. Dear Diary, I stopped dreaming of bagels today.
36. A good husband will wash his hands before going to the bathroom
37. Semen is gluten free
38. Always serve yourself first.
39. Gluten free does not mean science free
40. Oh crumbs…
41. No, Benadryl doesn’t help with gluten
42. If you don’t say something, it’s your own fault
43. You will literally get the barley flu.
44. And you thought the perfect roux was hard before.
45. Mo’ ingredients, mo’ problems
46. But if it’s not healthier, why would anyone eat gluten free
47. Does paranoia annoy ya?
48. Bulking up is hard to do.
59. It’s my party, and I’ll cook if I want to
50. I need a hero (sandwich)
51. Wait, how is sushi not gluten free
52.Life is still nummy.
So there you go. Some may seem vague. Some may seem ridiculous, but here’s my hard fought wisdom laid out for you. Of course in the coming weeks I will be expanding on all of these thing, hopefully some of them will make a lot more sense. I also don’t promise do to these in order, but I will cover them all. So, if you’re just starting on your gluten free journey, or have been on it for years and need a good laugh, enjoy! We will have a great year together!

Gluten Free Oscars

Sorry, I haven’t been posting the past few weeks, but I’m a geek and I started playing this video game…not an excuse, but it’s the truth.

Anyway, LAST WEEKEND WAS THE OSCARS. I love the Oscars. The gowns. The movies. Literally it’s my one big event of the year. I don’t do the Superbowl (I actively avoid it if I can) and I never watch the world series. I have the Oscars and Comic Con/E3 coverage. Usually we have a group of people over for the Oscar, lots of finger food, lots of booze, and a running commentary of what we thought should win.

This year was our first year hosting the even gluten free.

I’ve found gluten free entertaining is easier than I would have through.There’s two ways we do it, mixed gluten dishes (flour tortillas and GF tortillas) or straight gluten free. Most of our friends don’t seem to mind eating gluten free. It’s the mixed gluten dishes that get dangerous. I go first on those nights, getting my food before anyone else, and never go back for more. It’s one of the best diets I could ask for.

One of our Oscar traditions is Bastilla (a Moroccan meat pie with chicken and eggs and nuts.) Bastilla is covered in phyllo dough (light a fluffy phyllo dough), and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. It’s super amazing tasting. The problem is light and fluffly phyllo gluten free. We tried making it on our own. We found recipes that called for modified tapioca starch. After much googling to figure out what it is and why we need it, my husband broke out the pasta roller and tried it.

Well, the filling tasted really good. Like super amazingly good. We might need to work some more on the phyllo.

Anyway, other than that our first gluten free Oscars Party was a success. And we got to hear the first installment of our ever talented friend’s new Podcast. If you have a really sick sense of humor and want a laugh, go over to S and A and give it a listen.