It’s not delivery, it’s D’UDI’s!

I first want to say that I don’t work for and don’t get any kickbacks from UDI’s when writing reviews.  I just really like their products and can’t help but promote them to the GF-masses.  My wife and I had a hankering for pizza this week, and we had all the fixings including a package of UDI’s pizza crust in the freezer.  I had bought them a while back with just this situation in mind.  We went out to the garden, clipped some fresh basil, slathered on some great sauce, mushrooms, cheese, and spinach and put it in the oven.  (I want to note that my wife doesn’t always eat my GF food, especially when it comes to pizza, so she had a nice fluffy Boboli crust on the side!)

The smell wafted through the air and made its way around the house.  We were giving my daughter her evening bath as I pulled them out of the oven.  Ahh … pizza.  Nothing like it.  Picture yourself at the local joint folding your pizza, taking down piece after piece.  Yum!

I couldn’t help myself, and dug right in.  It was great.  No complaints, other than I had to make it!  Which I never mind since I know it’s GF!  The crust held up nicely and was easily folded to my liking.  I was licking my chops as I went back to the bathroom to finish up bath-time.

I put my daughter down to sleep and tip-toed down the stairs.  I proceeded to pretty much inhale the rest of the pizza, which, mind you, is really only 8 inches round – so, it’s not saying too much.  Every bite was great.  Hats off to my wife’s topping choices – she’s a fantastic cook.

To wrap up my raving … go out and get some UDI’s pizza crusts, make it at home, get a movie, maybe even some GF beer – and breathe.  It’s all good.

Living with Malnutrition

So again, sorry that it has been a crazy couple of weeks and the posts have been far and few between.  Both us yoda’s have been swamped at work and I haven’t been feeling all that well.  So to catch you up, the reason that they found out that I did in fact have Celiac Disease was that my vitamins and minerals tanked, landing me in the hospital for what they called a “heart incident.”  Some of my levels were the lowest that my Personal Care Physician had ever seen ( my Vitamin D was 4 should be at least 133 on the low end). So a couple of days in the hospital with some IV bags and Potassium drinks got be back to a decent place.

For a while after this I was feeling great, I had tons of energy, the aches and pains were less, my mind was clear.  I thought I was on the road to recovery.  I was following my diet to the T, asking the right questions and living the gluten free life.

Fast forward to today….

I am not feeling so great, I am still living the gluten free life, but now I have to be even stricter.  If it is not certified or made on a dedicated line in a dedicated factory then I shouldn’t eat it.  My numbers are still showing that I am getting hidden gluten and my vitamin and mineral levels are still not where they should be.  So now I am taking:

  • Multivitamin
  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Calcium

Along with my other daily meds; this is pretty much breakfast on some days.  I wish I could tell you  that I was feeling 100% better on all these supplements but I am not there yet.

We are still trying to search out the hidden gluten in things like my toothpaste, shampoo, and  in my wife care products like her lipstick (if it touches your mouth you could be getting gluten from it).  Somedays it can be a little disheartening, but as I have said before, I am not giving up and I will keep battling this until I find out what is wrong and get back to the place where I was when I got out of the hospital.

I am doing this with the help of the great people over at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess so I am being treated by some of the best.  So we will keep plugging away.

Sorry for the Debby Downer post, but I think it is important for people with Celiac to know that it’s now always going to be easy.  There are going to be plenty of ups and downs and you just have to stick in there.  In the end I am sure it will be worth it.

Happy July 4th…go enjoy your family and friends; and like Jason I also wholeheartedly endorse the Udi’s Hamburg and Hot Dog Buns for your family BBQ.  They are so goood!!

BBQ Season Opens with UDI’s Buns!

I can’t even remember the last time I ate a hamburger without a fork and knife.  Growing up hamburgers were always being made in our house.  A little ketchup, maybe a pickle on a nice bun – yum!  We’d hang out poolside eating and swimming, then eating more and swimming more.  Those were the days!

Fast forward to today … as I mentioned in my previous UDI’s post, it’s very hard to come by a good bread for anything, let alone a good bun.  Most of the ones I’ve either made at home or bought crumble in my hands before even making it to my mouth.  It’s like trying to pick up sandcastle!  It just can’t be done. 

This past weekend – yes, the weekend before Memorial Day, I had the privaledge of sampling UDI’s new hambuger buns!  The weather was great, and my sister-in-law was visiting (also GF), so I knew it was a great time to grill up some burgers and give them a go. 

Well … without sounding to gushing – they were fantastic.  Both of us cheers’d as we began to bite into our burgers – sans fork and knife – for the first time in ages.  The buns held up amazingly to the juice of the burger and the condiments.  They didn’t crumble, get soggy, or fall apart even as we progressed through dinner.  We didn’t even toast them either! 

The texture of the bun was great.  Unlike other brands I’ve tasted, UDIs buns are not grainy and hold up to their gluten-filled cousins.  The flavor was spot on as well.  It just tasted like a bun – nothing more to it, really.

So … in short, to all you summer-grilling, beach-going, crab salads eating folks out there – turn on the heat and let summer begin – and leave the forks and knives at home!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game…Gluten Free Style!

As I write this post, the Red Sox, my home team, sit in the cellar of the American League East with a record of 2-9,  not such a good start to the season.  A season where they are predicted to win 100 games and make the World Series.  Right now, you might be asking yourself, “When did the Yoda’s change this into a sports blog, I wanted to learn about gluten free living.”  Well we didn’t so don’t worry.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend two Red Sox games this week, unfortunately they lost both games, which is now why they sit in the cellar.  OK, that is enough complaining.

Here is the information that you came here for!

As they are finding that Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are far more prevalent than they thought, many ball parks that are now offering gluten free options.

Here are just a few of them with some examples of what they are offering:

  • Citi Field : Hot dog and hamburger on gluten-free bun, gluten-free snacks, gluten-free beer
  • Citizens Bank Park : Hot dog on gluten-free bun, gluten-free beer
  • Coors Field : Hot dog, hamburger and chicken sandwich on gluten-free bun, potato chips, cookies and brownies, gluten-free beer
  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards : Gluten-free crab cake, Asian noodle salad, hummus and vegetables, hot dog and sausage on gluten-free bun, gluten-free beer
  • Turner Field : Grilled sirloin burger served on tapioca-organic rice roll, hot dog on gluten-free bun, potato chips and popcorn, cookies and brownies, gluten-free beer

You will notice that Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, is not on this list.  Needless to say I was a little nervous about what I was going to eat and I didn’t have time to grab something at the house so I knew that I would be hungry.  The park does advertise that they have a selection of gluten free snacks which basically consisted of  a brownie, a chocolate chip cookie and two kinds of chips that are gluten free.

The funniest thing about their gluten free section is the woman who works there who tries to talk you out of anything that you try to buy because they are expensive ($5 for the cookie, $3 for the chips).  I actually asked her jokingly if it was part of her job to talk people out of buying this stuff! 

Since I was a little anxious about not being able to eat, I talked to my “Yoda” Jason about his experiences and he told me that popcorn was OK, and that he has asked for hot dogs and burgers without rolls.  Where I was not thrilled that I had to ask this at the concession stand, I gave it a go anyway.  He was also reminding me to watch out for cross-contamination, of course.

I was lucky enough to find someone from the company that operates the concessions in the park and he explained that asking to have it “your way” was perfectly OK.  He also explained to me that there are concession stands throughout the park that sell only fries so their fryers are dedicated and their french fries are not battered and therefore ok.  When I say they sell only fries I mean they do not prepare chicken fingers or fried dough at that stand.  So things were definitely looking up.

I did order a burger without the bun the first night.  The second night I brought two pieces of Udi’s bread and put the burger on that - very delicious!  I also had french fries, and the best thing was I didn’t have a bad reaction to any of it.  The only bad reaction was from a woman sitting a row in front of me who looked at me a little funny for eating a burger with my fingers (trust me I could not find a fork or knife anywhere, I searched and searched).  So other than that one thing…no problems.  Watch the game lady, not me!

If you go to Fenway, the concession stand I was told about can be found under the bleachers between sections 37-42.  The best way I can describe it is that it is to the left of the “big” men’s room.  Don’t be scared that it says Fried Dough on the sign, they prepare that separately in a different fryer.  So where Fenway Park does not scream “gluten free” there are things availble that you can make gluten free just by asking a couple of questions.

My advice to newbies (like me) who are going to any sporting venue would be to go a little early, take a walk around, survey the situation and see what they have to offer.  They may, like Fenway, have a few gluten free options, but as you walk around you may find many more options that you can make gluten free just by asking.

So its root, root for the the home team, they have to starting winning sometime, don’t they?  I wonder if any of the players are gluten free?

Hitting a Wall– So soon?

My story is a little different than Jason’s.  As I mentioned in my last post, Jason has been living gluten free for quite a while.   I, on the other hand, am just approaching my third month.  I have definitely gotten used to eating gluten free, the texture of the food doesn’t really bother me anymore, and the taste of most things is fine.  I have found a pasta I like, Bi-Aglut corn pasta.  Udi’s makes bread and plain bagels that I love.  I am now a big fan of Mi-Del Chocolate chip cookies.  These are just some of my absolute favorites; of course I could list many more things, but most of them are on Jason’s list from one of our first posts.    So what would I have to complain about?

To be quite honest with you, I feel like I am hitting a wall.  I am starting to miss some of the stuff that I ate before I was diagnosed.  I now understand why people cheat.  Those Pillsbury Bunny cookies for Easter look and smell really, really good.  Worst of all, Twinkies are now in three packs for a limited time only.   We have been so busy that we have not really had the time to try to cook new things.  Being a creature of habit, I find myself eating a lot of the same stuff and right now I am kind of feeling like “how much longer can I keep this up?”  My brain and stomach are screaming “no mas!” We want something different and we want what we used to eat.  Remember the Twinkies, remember the #9 with Crab Rangoon and fried rice, remember (and this hurts the most) the chicken teriyaki from the mall food court.

I can’t tell you how many times in the past week or so that I have almost mistakenly bit into things that were not gluten free, in fact I almost just ate a piece of a Bunny cookie that was stuck on my finger a few minutes ago.

Oh how easy it would be to just say to myself “come on, what is one non-gluten free meal going to do to you?  Really Bill, just go ahead and have just one Twinkie”….STOP!!!!

A few things that you should know about this yoda:

  1. I knew that I would hit a wall sooner or later- I didn’t think it was going to be this soon, but I fully expected it to happen.
  2. I am not going to cheat- I have Celiac disease, even the littlest bit of gluten can make me very sick and could reverse the healing of the villi in my intestines (I know, TMI)
  3. I am not even going to be less diligent about cross contamination; I will still ask all the questions that I need to ask to maintain my strict diet.

I am looking at this “Wall Hitting” as a challenge. I am challenging myself to find the time to cook different things, find new recipes to try, look for different restaurants that I can try, and keep on the course that I have been undertaking successfully for the last three months.

So, if you find yourself careening towards that wall at a great rate of speed, step on the brakes and make sure that you remember why you are taking this course of action in the first place.  Take a breath and realize how much better you feel.

I have a personal Gluten Free Chef…and it isn’t my wife????

…And to be honest with you she’s OK with it.

Time is just not something that I think anyone has a lot of these days.  Especially with two teenage boys who go to school miles away from our home and a wife who works full-time.  So when I was diagnosed I thought OK, I will go out and buy whatever I can get my hands on and my wife and I can start baking/cooking gluten free, WRONG!!!

With limited time, there never seems to be those few extra minutes to try to figure out how to make the best GFree brownies, or how to work with GFree flour, never mind sit down and create a gluten free meal plan for the week.  Therefore, I have relied on a lot of gluten free prepackaged food from one of my favorite local places Allcaneat Foods.  (I promise to review them sometime in the near future-they’re awesome and if you’re in the area you need to check them out).  I must also confess that I believed that once I was diagnosed that we (my wife and boys) were in this alone. I thought we would deal with this as a family, much like we did when our youngest son was diagnosed with a milk protein allergy as a baby and a red dye allergy as a toddler.  We weren’t thinking about all the supporting cast members in our journey.

In my case, people like my sister who saw GFree bread and boxed Mac & Cheese; and picked them up for me.  Or my mother-in-law who instantly started thinking about how my favorite meals at her house could be adjusted to make them GFree.  And, of course, my Mom (you may remember from an earlier post I told you I am kind of a mama’s boy) who immediately went online to look for GFree cookbooks and magazines.  She even spent a whole afternoon watching GFree day on QVC and was texting me the whole time asking if I wanted her to buy this or that!

apple-pie-ck-709820-l But I think everyone (yup that includes my wife and my Mother!) pales in comparison to who I now refer to as “my personal gluten free chef.”  For the sake of protecting the innocent we’ll just call her Eliot.  Eliot is one of our family’s closest friends and she has been more “into” my diet than me.  On one of my first visits to her house, I was greeted with boneless chicken breaded with mash potato flakes accompanied with white rice, so yummy.  Another time it was GFree risotto and for dessert GFree brownies made with sour cream to make them super moist.  Most recently it was a homemade apple pie, completely gluten free!  This put me right over the top and provided the muse to write this post.  On top of all this, she has a list of items containing gluten on her refrigerator so that when we are planning our next “pizza night” she can make sure there is always something there just for me-and yes she even found a local place that has GFree pizza!  She always has a new type of cracker for me to try along with her homemade hummus that is gluten free for me to snack on.

You are probably saying to yourself, you are so lucky to have an Eliot in your life, and how I wish I had an Eliot too.  And that is exactly my point-I had no idea when I was diagnosed that I would have the supporting cast members I now have to help me figure my way through this new GFree world in which I now find myself.  But, as I am learning to navigate my new GFree existence; I have found that the people who love me really are willing to go the extra mile so that I continue happily on my “crazy” diet.

Just take a good look around and you will find that you too have this support system waiting to help you in any way they can.  And lastly my hope for you is that you too will find yourself an Eliot in your life.

 

 

No toasting required: A review of UDI’s gluten free bread – Yummy!

udisgflogoMy sister-in-law (who is also gluten free) mentioned a brand called Rudi’s to me – she said that their bread was incredible.  “You don’t even need to toast it!” she said.  That’s a big deal when it comes to gluten free bread.  Most of the brands on the market fall short on that point and don’t really taste good or hold up well unless they come straight from the toaster.  So … I went a-lookin’ for Rudi’s bread, but found Udi’s instead (no relation).  Since I didn’t see Rudi’s, I thought, well, maybe I just heard wrong (yes, it does happen), so I bought the loaf of Udi’s.   Come to find out – Udi’s bread is incredible, and equally holds up to the no-toaster-required test.

Bread is very specific in quality and texture.  You need the right combination of yeast, wheat and a bunch of other things to hold it together, get those nice air pockets that burst in the oven, and to have it rise just the right amount.  This is a big cunundrum on the side of gluten free.  The yeast can be there, but the wheat can’t – and the gluten can’t either (which tends to hold a lot of things together).  So … when I pulled a piece of bread from the package and felt it’s spungy texture and quality, I was amazed.  I don’t know what they did, but I’m sure someone in that bakery spent A LOT of time, effort, and money (because GF ingredients don’t come cheap) to come up with just the right balance to make such a clone of its gluten-filled brother bread.

udisbreadI slathered on some jelly and some peanut butter and went to town.  YUM!  No toasting, just right out of the package.  Like a kid pulling a couple slices of wonderbread for his PB&J, I was in heaven.  It had been a long, long time since I had a non-toasted sandwich that I enjoyed.  I handed it to my wife for a bite and she was impressed too.  That week I finished 2 loaves of bread – PB&J, deli sandwiches, grilled cheese (dunked in tomato soup, of course), the list goes on…

Here’s the thing (and I think this applies to a lot of GF foods), I hadn’t even heard of UDI’s until about a month ago – crazy as it seems – because it wasn’t in my local health food store yet.  I’m always hesitant to try any new breads party because they are expensive and partly because nothing really holds up.  I’m glad UDI’s products are now local to me.  It’s interesting how our gluten free world becomes limited by what’s in our local grocery store or health food market.  I’ve not tried to by GF foods online because I like to read the package, smell it if I can, and look at the product, otherwise, perhaps my GF world would grow.  On the other hand, I really like giving my business to my local health food store – the Health Food Corner whenever possible.

One last thing about UDI’s – I really like their GF philosophy.  They are great artisans who want to make sure that even those of us with gluten intolerance can enjoy the simplest of things in life – a good piece of bread.  (My mouth is watering for some bread and butter now!)

So … now you know why I list UDI’s bread on my GF starter’s list.  It’s the best I have had – and I don’t have to bake it myself!  You can buy UDI’s bread all over the place.  Click here to find out where you can find a loaf near you, or you can buy some online at UDI’s Online Store.

P.S.  I still haven’t had Rudi’s yet … at some point I’m going to try it though.  My sister-in-law has good GF taste – so I trust her when it comes to these things!

Ahh!, Gluten Free! Now What?! – A starter guide to the best gluten free products

Ok, so you just got home from the doctor’s office and are now frantically searching the internet for ‘gluten-free’ and wondering what the heck to do.  You may even have plans next weekend to go out and you’re wondering, ‘what will I be able to eat?’.  Then, it dawns on you … ‘holy crap!  I can’t have bread.  I can’t have beer. I can’t have cookies, cakes, or pasta!’

Calm down!  You can eat plenty!  For instance, potato chips are ok. You can still have a steak.  And, you can probably still have coffee.

It took me a long time and a lot of money to figure out what tasted good, and what I may want to pass over during my next grocery trip.  Gluten-free products have come a long way in the past ten years.  It was rare back then to see anything prepackaged, and mostly I just went without, or tried to make something at home that ended up tasting sandy, lifeless, and fell apart before making it to my mouth.  So, if you’re just starting out gluten-free, print out this list before your next shopping trip – you won’t be disappointed.  (Disclaimer: Read the labels in case there’s other things you can’t have!! )

  1. There are a few gluten free product reviews on a site called Qwowi.com, you may recognize the author.  Look for more of these types of reviews here at GFY.
  2. Celiac.com is another very good site for tips on how to keep on a gluten free diet – recipes, links and shopping can all be found there.
  3. Most local grocery stores how have natural food sections – this is where you can find gluten free products.  Here’s a few brands to stick with:
    1. Udi’s – they make the best GF bread out there.  (I’ve been told that Rudi’s is very similar, but I have yet to try it).  This bread doesn’t need to be toasted like other GF brands.  You can just plop your ham and cheese on it and go.  They make a really good cinnamon raisin too!
    2. Glutino – very good brand.  They make the closest thing you’re going to get to an Oreo.  Christine has even tried them and agrees.  As with all GF things, the difference often comes in texture, not taste.  I noticed that over time, I don’t even notice anymore.
    3. Mi-Del makes decent cookies as well – ginger snaps and oreo-like, both are good.
    4. DeBoles and other past brands make decent corn & rice pastas.  The best way to go with pasta is corn.  If you can find corn spaghetti or other pasta, go with it.  It holds up like wheat when boiled and baked.  The rice can be finicky and fall apart.
    5. Amy’s is another brand that has gluten-free options.  They make frozen dinners and such.  They also have a pretty decent pizza crust too.
    6. Foods by George is very good as well.  They make a really good brownie!  Put it out when company is over and no-one will know the difference.  They make really good muffins too.  Be sure to heat the muffins up for better results – again, without the gluten things are either really dry or really moist.
    7. Pamela’s is best for their pancake and baking mix.  The pancakes are great.  I make them every weekend.  The cookies that they sell are a bit dry, so it depends on what you like.  Get the pancake mix though!!
    8. Bob’s Red Mill makes GF oatmeal.  Oatmeal doesn’t contain gluten as wheat and all.  The reason why some celiac and GF folks stay away from oats is because they are processed in the same facilities as wheat and all.  Bob’s isn’t and it’s good.  I eat it and so does my 9 month old daughter (who must remain gluten free her first year).
    9. Cherrybrook Kitchen is another maker of baking goods.  Cake mixes, etc. – they’re all good.
    10. Believe it or not, Betty Crocker has GF stuff now too – right in the same aisle as the other baking goods.  The cake and cookies are great.
    11. EnjoyLife has come very good cookies – snickerdoodles, ginger, oatmeal raisin, etc.  They are all pretty good and they don’t have a lot of other common allergens in them either
    12. Liz Lovely has a GF line of cookies – very, very good.  We get these a lot.  My wife eats these instead of the gluten-filled ones too.  Any of the ones they make are great.  (More on these in future posts!)
    13. Chex cereals are now GF.  They’ve been advertising and all too.
    14. Fruity Pebbles is GF too!  Check the box and you’ll see.
    15. Aleia’s almond horn cookies – really good.
    16. Kinnikinick makes excellent donuts – the cinnamon sugar are great.
    17. Larabars are great on-the-go type bars.  They are gluten free.
  4. Read up on what has gluten and what doesn’t, and be sure to read labels.  Depending on how sensitive (or strict) you want to be, there are many folks who would argue that most store-bought, prepackaged things have some sort of wheat or oat-based product in them, including things like red-dye #9 and all those other fillers.  Wheat is a common filler to a lot of products, even some over the counter medicines and vitamins.  Again, be careful or as cautious as you need to be.
  5. Remember, there are A LOT of things you can still eat – potatoes, rice, corn, buckwheat (actually a seed, not a grain and no relation to wheat at all), nuts, soy etc.  All of these can still be consumed without worry of gluten.  All fruits and vegetables too.  There’s no gluten in meats either.
  6. For breading things for cooking – either crush up corn flakes or potato chips.  They both work well when breading chicken or creating some sort of beer-batter for frying.  In my opinion, they sometimes taste better anyway.
  7. Beer – there are a lot of beers out there now that are gluten free.  Bud makes a beer called Red Bridge.  It’s very good.  It’s made with sorghum instead of barley and wheat.  Sorghum beer has been being brewed for centuries in Germany and other countries, so it’s not anything novel, other than it’s gluten free and you can still have a beer with friends.  As for other alcohol, you just have to do your homework – some vodkas are, as well as some whiskey’s and scotch.

Good luck and stay tuned for more from two guys who live gluten free!

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