Stories


I have a very gracious friend who is also a chef (I know, lucky me, right?) and decided to take an interest in what I can and cannot eat. So this gentleman whipped up a recipe that rivals the most aggravatingly splendid “normal” mac and cheese dish… this takes a little bit of work, but its a gourmet treat and completely dairy and gluten-free!

 Friendly Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup rice milk

6 egg yolks

4 oz tofutti “better than cream cheese”

2 T parmesan-flavored grated soy topping

1 bag brown rice pasta elbows

salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Bring large pot of water to boil (and cook pasta according to instructions whilst making the rest of the recipe, but do NOT rinse…)

2. Whisk milk/yolks in medium saucepot and heat mixture gradually over medium heat while whisking until yolks barely begin to scramble

3. Place mixture into blender, add cheese topping, salt, pepper, and blend

4. Drain pasta and combine with mixture

5. Add more topping, if desired!

Thank you, Jason! 🙂

If you are new to the gluten-free lifestyle, you either know by now, or you don’t.

If you do, you’ve probably replaced your attractive little handbag or masculine leather wallet with a fanny pouch (does anyone actually where those anymore?), a diaper bag (minus diapers or baby in tow), a backpack, and a small duffle… just in case of emergencies. And this isn’t for your trip to Hawaii, this is just to get around town during the day, right?

In all honesty, eating out gluten-free is tough. I pack a lot of food (you thought I was joking about the diaper bag, right?) and have to always think ahead concerning what or where I will eat. If I travel, I like to do one of the following things (or all of them!)

1. Go online and check out the hotel or location I am visiting for gluten-free food availability or nearby organic foodstores/restaurants that serve gluten-free foods

2. Mail a box to myself at the hotel with a supply of gluten-free (dairy-free, sugar-free) foods

3. Pack a box with said foods and check it onto the plane/other travel medium along with my luggage

4. Pack an extra box, cooler, or bag with food and bring it with me in the car.

So yes, it’s tough being gluten-free and traveling… or just living life, even. When your boss orders everyone bagels for that 9:30 meeting and you’re stuck sipping gallons of flavored water and chowing down your fourth lara bar, it doesn’t feel so great.

Luckily, because of the growing number of food allergy diagnoses nowadays, along with the growing awareness of food sensitivity or intolerance, more and more food stores and restaurants are making gluten-free (dairy-free is less available at present) an option!

So, aren’t you glad you’re dealing with it in this day and age? I sure am!

A lot of folks, however, are not aware of which restaurants are gluten-friendly (or I suppose it would be the opposite of that… lets say celiac-friendly and anti-gluten :)) and find it very difficult to travel, go on a date with a friend (or special someone), or order in when you don’t feel like cooking or you’ve got friends coming over rather last-minute…

Well, here are a few options. I’ve included the classier ones as well as your typical chain foodstores that you should be able to find pretty much anywhere…

Austin Grill has a gluten-free menu that looks pretty darn good (check it out online)

Bonefish Grill is one incredibly delicious option… it’s definitely on the pricier side, but well worth it in my opinion. Just make sure (with all of the higher end restaurants) that you ask that your selection be cooked with olive oil, not butter (if you are dairy-free) – they were quite accommodating when I made this request! I was very impressed with the service. You can download their gluten-free menu ahead of time by clicking the link provided.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill now includes a gluten-free menu! (Also available online)

Outback Steakhouse went gluten-free long before any restaurant that I know of. Rumor has it that the owner’s daughter was diagnosed with Celiacs several years ago, and he proceeded to create a gluten-free menu. I’ve heard great and glorious things about their selections, too! (Also available online)

Uno Chicago Grill also has a link on their webpage with available gluten-free menu options.

As long as you aren’t calling your local McDonalds, you should always be able to call in to a restaurant or look them up online to see what they have available for you to eat. Don’t be afraid of calling in and asking if they can cater to your needs! It’s become a normal thing for individuals to speak with the manager or chef about the increasingly complicated needs of those with food allergies.

I was at a company party recently, and the catered food was nothing I could eat. I mentioned something to one of the waitresses, and she promptly asked me for a list of my food allergies (which I gave her) and took it to the chef, who created an entire meal for me sans-gluten, dairy, or sugar! I was in awe, and so thrilled!

So don’t be afraid – if you need to ask, go for it!

Oh yes – as for the restaurants frequented by the less health-conscious (or possibly just on-the-go), here are some options that you can look for: *note: this is the gluten-free list – diary-free you will have to check out on your own…

McDonalds

Breakfast: The good news about McDonald’s breakfast items is that the scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, sausage, cheese, and hashbrowns are all gluten-free. The bad news is that most of the above come as part of a McGriddle sandwich, bagel, or biscuit – none of which are gluten-free. So, those with gluten intolerance need to order breakfast sandwiches without the bun-like item. Another good option, according to my sources, is the regular “big breakfast” without the side biscuit: it’s a plate of scrambled eggs, sausage, and a hashbrown.

Lunch and Dinner: Lunch and dinner under the Golden Arches are harder to manage because all of the buns and all of the chicken products either contain, or could have come into contact with, the forbidden gluten. French fries with ketchup and side salads with dressing thus become the focus on a meal – not very substantial. While it’s possible to order a hamburger without the bun, it proves to be a little trickier and messier than the breakfast sandwiches because of all the condiments. For a semi-filling meal, it has been suggested that you order a side salad with dressing, a heaping order of fries, and a fruit and yogurt parfait (without granola).

Wendys

Wendy’s proves to be somewhat easier than McDonald’s for the gluten-free eater despite the fact that their fries aren’t considered gluten-free. While there’s still the same issue with ordering bunless burgers, there are far more sides from which to choose, including the famous chili, baked potatoes with multiple toppings, strawberry yogurt (sans granola), side garden salad, side Caesar salad, and mandarin oranges. There’s also the meal-sized southwest taco salad that includes beef, cheese, veggies, chips, and sour cream.

Taco Bell

There are only a handful of choices at Taco Bell – four to be exact – for the gluten-intolerant. Luckily, there’s just enough to make a meal, provided the eater isn’t too picky. The two more substantial items are the tostada and the Southwest steak bowl, and the two side items are the pintos-n-cheese and the Mexican rice.

KFC

KFC provides a chart on their website for food allergens and sensitivities. Gluten is one of the allergens listed. Pull down the menu under ” Nutrition” and then choose “Allergies and Sensitivities”.

Panera Bread

Panera was always one of my favorite restaurants. Unfortunately, I don’t get a chance to eat much their anymore! (It is Panera BREAD…) However, this is partially because of my multiple food allergies. If you’ve only got gluten to worry about, they actually have a number of choices! (And I do eat there, on occasion. I think the smell of fresh bread is enough to drive me up a wall, however…)

Salads: (including salad dressing… FYI source of modified food starch is corn) Greek Salad, Fandango Salad, Ceasar Salad (minus croutons), Asian Sesame Chicken Salad (minus Won Ton noodles), Classic Cafe Salad, Strawberry Poppyseed Salad (w/without chicken), Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, California Mission Chicken Salad, Orchard Harvest Chicken Salad (my favorite!)

Salad Dressings: Balsamic Vinaigrette, Ceasar, Greek, Poppyseed, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Asian Sesame Vinaigrette, White Balsamic Vinaigrette, Roasted Garlic & Meyer’s Lemon Vinaigrette

Soups: Moroccan Tomato Lentil, Santa Fe Roasted Corn, Vegetable and Sirloin Beef, Vegetarian Black Bean, Vegetarian Lentil, Mesa Bean and Vegetable, Cuban Black Bean, Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper and Lentil, Vegetarian Butternut Squash, Creamy Tomato, Spring Vegetable with Chicken and Rice, Low-fat Vegetarian Southwest Tomato and Roasted Corn

Beverages: Coffee; Juice, both apple and orange; Lemonade; Milk; Soda, fountain and bottled; Tea, regular and Chai Tea; All lattes & IC beverages; Strawberry Smoothie

That’s all for now – if you have any questions, I’ve got lots more info up my sleeve…

All of this talk of food probably made you hungry. So go ahead and make some reservations – dine out gluten-free tonight!

From there followed months of doctor visit after doctor visit.It all began when the Dr. examining my elbow (turns out I had a chip off the bone) remarked that I looked anemic.Mom and I took this seriously, because for weeks following the accident I had been sleeping all the time and had become progressively pale and ashen looking.I was afraid at the thought of bleeding inside or some strange disease as an alternative… but all tests showed up negative. I wasn’t anemic, I wasn’t experiencing internal bleeding, and the exhaustion wasn’t from Mono or Lyme Disease.

What was it? We decided it must simply be a phase I was going through… some trauma related to the accident which would eventually disappear.

But it didn’t… I was still falling asleep anywhere and at any time… after struggling to keep my eyes open in school, even on 9-12 hours of sleep, I would come home and fall asleep on our hardwood floor. There was definitely something wrong – but what? I had no other symptoms.

Then, about 3 months after the accident, I became horribly sick – I couldn’t keep anything in my stomach. I felt worse on certain days, and the migraines I had started having after the accident got so bad that I would often lie in bed for hours. I couldn’t sit at a computer for long without either falling asleep or getting a headache, and I was so sick that I stopped running (if you know me, you understand why that is significant :))

What was wrong? Was it a virus? Something that couldn’t be diagnosed?

The answer came through God’s sovereign intervention in the form of my dear friend, Beth. Through a set of circumstances, we began discussing a condition she had – something I had never heard of – Celiac’s disease/gluten sensitivity.

An allergy to bread that gives you headaches, makes you sleepy, and messes up your digestive system? I’d never heard of anything like that. And I loved bread! But… after recent and frightening episodes of falling asleep driving, being sick to my stomach all the time, frequent headaches and two serious incidents where I was so sick that I lay in bed for entire days, I was ready to try anything.

So I cut bread from my diet.
And felt better. Not all the way healed by any means, but better.
Then I found out that Celiac’s disease or gluten sensitivity includes way more than bread…

I stopped eating all oat, rye, barley, whole grain, spelt, kamut, wheat, and so much more. I stopped licking envelopes, threw out my facewash (made with wheat extract), checked labels on toothpaste and mouthwash and salad dressing…

I felt so much better – it was incredible. I was almost back to healthy sleep patterns, I had no vomiting episodes and few headaches – no migraines – but I still had some digestive issues. I discovered that if the villi in your stomach have been blunted in relation to a gluten sensitivity, you can’t process lactose.

So I gave it a try. I cut all milk products from my diet. And I felt incredible. I was rarely sick or nauseous and the headaches were almost gone. (At this point I had already realized I was additionally hypoglycemic – which entailed eating every 3 hours to keep my blood sugar levels correct and not eating sugar, which would spike my blood sugar, give me a headache, and send me cold and shaking to bed where I would sleep it off.)

I began to read up a little bit more on the triggers and complexities of gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, and hypoglycemia. I discovered a wealth of information hidden beneath a serious public ignorance concerning these issues.

And that’s only one of my reasons for beginning this blog.

The sovereignty of God never ceases to amaze me.On December 24, 2005, my alarm went off at 8:07 a.m.
I like setting my alarm at random, odd-digit times to wake up.
It’s a habit.
I stretched; got out of bed; put on my gray sweatsuit workout clothes; ate a little piece of homemade whole wheat toast with peanut butter (resisting the dozens of peanut butter kiss cookies lining the counter, awaiting our family Christmas Eve decorating of the tree/cookie-consuming tradition); read my favorite passage of Romans; loaded my new Matt Kearney CD onto my computer and thence to my Ipod nano; stuck my water bottle, purse, headphones, and gym bag in our white Toyota previa; called out a “g’bye!” to my mom, and – cell phone in hand – left my driveway for the 6 minute drive up to Fitness First, as I’d done a million times before.As I drove past the drainage pond, Gardenia, the school… I thought through my day.
I’ve always been a scheduler. I love to know – hour by hour – exactly what I’m going to do with my time. Today was no exception.
“Hmmm.. gym from 9-10, shower… maybe starbucks, home, finish my quiet time, double-check my gift list to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything (or anyone), munch a few cookies and finish wrapping… hide the baby jesus…”
my cell phone buzzed harshly, and I groped around in my purse with a free hand, keeping my eyes on the road as I checked the caller ID.
It was dad. “Hey big girl, what’s your plan for the day?”
“Hey dadio man… wellll I’m on my way to the gym, should be home by 9. If mom…”
Out of the corner of my left eye, through the window, I saw for one split second something large and black… and then time and perception swung into a chaotic hyperspeed of sound, pain, and motion.The cell phone was flung from my hand as the Toyota Sequoia barreled into the driver’s side, sending both cars flying over the 15 mph speed bump.
The large black car barreled through the nose of the previa, whipping my body up against the left window, wrenching the wheel from my grip as my van spun a full 360 degrees and headed for the sidewalk, a brick community sign, and the trees.I didn’t even know her car had rolled twice after knocking my engine through the right side of the car, twisting the body into a distorted moon-shape before what was left of the nose of the minivan connected with a tree and flung me – left arm upraised to shield my face – into the airbag; scorching my forearm with the chemical and friction, it sent a dense, smoky cloud into the air around me.
The stench caught me off guard, and the dust made me cough. Trying not to breathe in through my nose, I unbuckled my seat belt and – frantic and disoriented – tried to discern whether the car was on fire or not. I didn’t know… but I wasn’t gong to wait to find out.

Coughing and choking, I grabbed my purse and phone from the floor, and attempted to open my door. It wouldn’t budge.
The initial impact of the Sequoia on the door had wrapped the metal around the hinges, blocking my attempts to get out.
I climbed through to the passenger side door and forced it open.
When I stepped out, I saw the black car, immediately on my right, not 100 yards from where the Previa had jumped the sidewalk, missing the brick sign but colliding with the tree. The car was upright, and although shattered glass from both vehicles lay everywhere, both seemed relatively intact.
I didn’t see any movement… “O Lord,” I thought, “Let them be alive… whoever they are…”

I stepped cautiously forward.
The door opened, and a young girl with a blonde ponytail, tear-stained face, dark hoodie and pink, plaid pajama pants stepped shakily out.
I looked at her for a second, and all anxiety and fear drained from me. I stopped shaking, and although I suddenly became aware of the sharp, biting pain in my left arm, I felt the peace of God and walked over to her, put my arms around her, and let her cry into my shoulder.

After establishing that she was feeling fine, I realized I should call 911 – but simultaneously remembered that I had been on the phone with Dad at the time of the accident. I decided to call Dad first.

As I walked back towards my car, clutching my left arm to my chest and punching redial with my right, police sirens blared and two squad cars, an ambulance, and a fire truck pulled up; someone had observed and reported the accident already.
My dad’s voice cut through the melee, and while the young girl sobbed out the story to a gruff policewoman, I chokingly reassured my daddy. He was actually on his way, with my mom. They had guessed what happened from what my dad heard on his end, and would be there shortly.

Still calm, I went and explained my side of the story to the officers; firmly turning down the request that I accompany them to the hospital in the ambulance.
“My mom is a nurse. I’ll be fine.”

The girl’s parents pulled up only a few minutes after mine. Following a shaky and prolonged hug with my daddy, we all went over and tried to discuss the practicals.
However, with the woman (who turned out to be the girl’s stepmom) smoking and crying while the daughter sobbed into her dad’s arms, we didn’t do a whole lot of problem-solving.

A few things were clear: first; she was speeding and had also completely disregarded the stop sign, and secondly; it was a miracle we were both alive, but particularly me. If I had been traveling a little bit faster, she would have hit less of the front left portion of the car and much more of my shoulder area – possibly causing a severe head injury or killing me.

She left, with her parents, in the ambulance.
I showed mom my arm, and, after ensuring no bones were broken and no head damage had occurred, we decided to go home.
I was so grateful to be alive – the entire incident had been so surreal, but I knew the Lord had protected me.
I’d not only walked away with my life – I was relatively unscathed.
True, my left side was already bruising, I had a bit of a headache, all of my back muscles were tense, and my left arm throbbed like crazy, but there were no severe injuries… right?

How little did I know then how much that day would change my life.