Gluten Freedom: A Book Review

When Dr. Fasano’s  publisher offered me an advanced copy of his new book, Gluten Freedom, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. (Read about how Dr. Fasano treated me here.) He is the founder and director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and his knowledge of Celiac disease will blow your mind!

Gluten Freedom By Dr. Alessio Fasano

While Gluten Freedom is the most comprehensive book I’ve read about Celiac (and I’ve ready many), his personal touches and the patient vignettes, allowed me to fly right through it. The pages were packed with new information about gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease.

Gluten Freedom is broken into five parts. The beginning of the book provides an expansive overview of the history of Celiac and explains how the Center for Celiac Research discovered that 1 in 133 people have Celiac. Section one also explains the different types of gluten disorders, including wheat allergies and gluten sensitivity, and explores the connection between gluten and the autism spectrum and schizophrenia.

Section two is light-hearted and provides many great tips for living without gluten. My favorite part was Dinner with Dr. Fasano; a chapter with some of his own Southern Italian recipes that are naturally gluten free.

You’ll read about navigating a gluten free life from conception to retirement in part three. Several of Dr. Fasano’s patients tell their stories and explain how they manage their gluten free diets. While I’ve read a lot of personal stories online, I found these examples particularly helpful. If you have a child with Celiac do not miss this section as it has loads of helpful information about dietary accommodations at school.

The final two sections of Gluten Freedom dive deep into the prevention of gluten disorders and potential treatments for Celiac disease. While I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy a wheat baguette without problems in my lifetime, Dr. Fasano covers some promising treatments that may make cross contamination less of a concern.

Overall, Gluten Freedom is a comprehensive resource guide that’s appropriate for people new to a gluten free lifestyle and old pros like me. I highly recommend getting a copy when it comes out later this month (April 2014).

Food Allergies & Disney

As a child, my dad played an April Fool’s trick on me where he pretended that I won a Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes. My two prize options were one million dollars or a trip to Disney World. I forfeited the money in the prank and my love for Disney World hasn’t changed much since!

selfie with mickey mouse

I was lucky enough to spend last week with Mickey. Disney parks and properties do a great job accommodating food allergies, but after some deliberation, I chose not to change my stance about food allergies and restaurants. If you have less severe allergies, I encourage you to read about Disney’s food allergy policies here.

One great thing about Disney World is that they let you bring food into the parks. My strategy was simple; pack a snack and lunch in a small insulated bag and keep it cool with a frozen water bottle. It worked wonderfully!

Here’s what I packed each day at the parks.

  • Turkey and cheese roll ups (Hormel’s prepackaged turkey with cracked pepper says GF on the label)
  • Lay’s plain potato chips
  • Craisins
  • Frozen Yoplait Go-Gurt

food allergies at disney

Because I didn’t want to carry around my dinner too, we got to the park opening (or rope drop as the Disney fanatics call it) and took a break around 4 p.m.  so I could have dinner and then we returned in the evening for fireworks. The strategy worked great and I highly recommend it whether you chose to eat at the parks or not.

I’d love to hear about how you safely eat at Disney. Please leave comments below about restaurants you trust or snacks you like to pack.

Lessening the risk of nut allergies

Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot in the media about a research study regarding eating nuts during pregnancy. The study (published in JAMA) followed just over 8,000 babies born in the the early 1990s. By 2006, the children reported diagnosed food allergies and the result was that children whose mothers ate tree nuts and peanuts five or more times a month shortly before, during and shortly after pregnancy had less incidences of peanut and tree nut allergies than those mothers who ate nuts less than one time a month.


The stats are that, but I’d like to know your experience.

My mom says she ate lots of nuts during her pregnancy with me and didn’t with my sister who is not allergic. When my sister was pregnant, her doctor suggested that she avoid nuts of all kinds because of family history. Ironically my nephew doesn’t have any food allergies.

Tell me your story. If you have an allergic child, I’d like to know about what you ate during pregnancy.

Gluten and Allergy Free Freezer Cooking

While I love to cook I don’t love doing from scratch cooking every day. A friend recently suggested that I buy an extra freezer and cook less often. So that’s my new plan!

I got a great deal on a 7 cubic foot chest freezer on Thanksgiving. It became an even better deal when the overzealous Home Depot delivery men dropped in down the stairs. I was so eager to get cooking that I took the damaged goods credit they offered :).

gluten free freezer cooking

Some of the ingredients for freezer meals

So in my first attempt of freezer cooking, here’s what I made:

Cincinnati (Skyline) Chili - Once the chili cooled, I ladled it into gallon size freezer bags and layed them flat in the freezer.

Southwestern Chicken Chili - I used the same freezer bag trick to optimize space in my freezer.

Spinach Artichoke Chicken Lasagna - This recipe link isn’t gluten free (GF) but I made it GF by using gluten free lasagna noodles and Meijer brand alfredo sauce. I doubled the recipe and put it in four half size aluminum dollar store pans.

Chocolate White Chip Cookies – Must have these around for the holidays and beyond!

Gallon sized freezer bags are great for chili.

Gallon sized freezer bags are great for chili.

Hope these recipes help you save some time with meal prep! More freezer cooking recipes to come.

Gluten Free Apple Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

While I don’t eat at restaurants due to cross contamination, you may catch me browsing a menu while accompanying friends and family for meals. For me, they’re a great source of culinary inspiration. This recipe for gluten free apple bread pudding with caramel sauce is a copycat from a local steakhouse menu. My husband ordered and raved about the gluten-filled version so I wanted to make my own “safe” version.

My husband did a little taste test and was impressed with the gluten free version! It’s full of tender apples, bready goodness and sweet caramel.

gluten free bread pudding

Also, I should mention the simple to make caramel sauce. It’s made from sweetened condensed milk. It’s really fun to watch the texture change as it’s heated. Plus, it’s free of peanuts, tree nuts soy and gluten. Can’t say that about packaged caramels!

Gluten Free Apple Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce
  • Bread Pudding
  • 1 loaf of Udi’s gluten free white sandwich bread
  • 3 medium baking apples, peeled and chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c GF vanilla yogurt
  • 1 c milk
  • 2 tsp GF cinnamon, divided
  • ½ c sugar
  • pinch salt
  • Caramel sauce
  • 1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9×12 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Whisk in the yogurt, milk, cinnamon, sugar and pinch of salt. Stir in the apples, then gently fold in the bread cubes and pour into prepared pan.
  3. To prepare caramel sauce, pour sweetened condensed milk into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 10-12 minutes at 50% power. Stir every 2 minutes until thickened and lightly browned.
  4. Lightly fold caramel sauce into bread pudding and bake for 30-40 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

gluten free bread pudding udi'sGive it a try and let me know what you think!

Food Allergy Accommodations at Work

While food allergies are prevalent with the school-age set, there are many of us adults out there who have been dealing with the potential of an anaphylactic reaction for 20+ years. While we’re used to asking for accommodations at school, asking for an allergy free workplace can be a different challenge.

This year, I found myself for the first time ever working in a cubicle. I was down a little when I entered the cubicle farm thinking about how I like my privacy, but didn’t realize that this change in working environment had the potential to put my health at risk. You see, after a few weeks I discovered that two of my cubicle-mates (who are not in my department) had a fondness for nuts of all kinds. I kept quiet for a week but then the smell got too much for me. I feared that sitting this close to nut eaters might lead to a reaction.

nut allergy accommodations at work

I brought the subject up with my manager and she was very respectful of my concern. She’s in another state so she and her manager worked with the facilities people at my building to come up with a plan. A workplace physician actually called me and asked about my accommodation preferences. He shared that at a large company like ours, they run into food allergies issues from time to time.

In the meantime, while we worked out the details, I was able to work from home. Because no private offices were available, the physician talked to my cubicle-mates’ manager and he said that his team wanted to the option to eat nuts. I never thought we’d have to come up with a nut eating schedule, but we did! My preference was to work from home three days a week and let my cubicle-mates eat nuts on those days. The days I’m in the office, they don’t eat nuts. I love the outcome of this and I’m so happy that my company was able to accommodate my severe food allergies.

If you face a similar situation in your professional career, here are some tips for workplace accommodations.

1. Alert human resources of your food allergies and any accommodations you require. This way you’re covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

2. Educate your collegues about the seriousness of your allergy if they show interest. Just be careful not to be annoying about it.

3. Post an anaphylactic action plan in your workspace and give your manager a copy.

I’m eager to hear about how you manage your food allergies at work. Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Chewy Gluten Free Ginger Cookies

One of my favorite blogs is called Six Sister’s Stuff and last Christmas I found a recipe for ginger cookies there. These were such a hit when I baked them last year that I’ve added them to my annual cookie repertoire. The original recipes wasn’t for gluten free bakers, so I’ve converted it and recommend using Jules gluten free flour in it. Happy Holiday baking!

gluten free ginger cookies

Chewy Gluten Free Ginger Cookies
  • 2¼ cup gluten free flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temp
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • ¼ c molasses
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Cream butter then add 1 cup white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Chill dough for at least one hour. Place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake 8-10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack.

The result is a complex, chewy cookie with just the right amount of spice.

cookies dry ingredients

Gluten Free Cincinnati Chili

As an Ohio native, nothing sounds strange to me about putting cocoa and cinnamon in chili. If you’ve never had Cincinnati style chili, it may take a time or two to acquire a taste for it, but after a few attempts I bet you’ll start craving it. And nothing is better than the mound of finely shredded cheddar that it’s garnished with.

I’ve been a Skyline fan since I was little, but stopped eating there a few years ago due to cross contamination concerns (although they have a helpful note about food allergies on their website). This slightly modified recipe comes from What’s Cooking, Chicago?, and I serve it over gluten free spaghetti noodles whenever I get a Skyline craving. Here’s to three ways!IMG_0951

Gluten Free Cincinnati Chili
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Traditional Skyline chili has beans as a garnish but this recipe incorporates it into the chili. If you’d rather have it on top, just reserve and heat the beans before garnishing with the cheddar cheese. Also, this recipe freezes really well. Just thaw and heat when you have a craving for Cincinnati chili.
  • Chili:
  • 1½ pounds 80 percent lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons GF chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon GF cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons GF dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon GF ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon GF ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon GF ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (Dei Fratelli is GF)
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth (Swanson Natural Goodness is GF)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 15oz can red kidney beans (rinsed, drained, warmed)
  • Accompaniments:
  • 1 pound GF spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  1. In a large dutch oven, add the oil along with the onions and cook until they soften. Add the ground beef to the pot. Saute the beef and break up the meat with a potato masher (this is very important because Cincinnati chili should not be chunky at all).
  2. Once the beef has browned and is broken up, add the garlic, followed by the spices – chili powder, cayenne, dried oregano, cocoa powder, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground black pepper and one teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, water, vinegar, sugar, and drained beans scraping the pan bottom to remove any browned bits. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer. Stir occasionally until the chili is deep red in color and has thickened slightly, roughly an hour. Season with salt.
  4. To serve, plate up spaghetti and top with chili and cheese.



Be Thankful

As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us (including me) get caught up in the preparations and spend little time about thinking about the true meaning of the holiday. Rather than pondering what gluten or allergy free dishes you’ll be able to eat, I encourage you to take a minute to reflect on everything you’re thankful for. Although life with food allergies/Celiac can be challenging, when it’s put into perspective I think there’s so much in life to be appreciative of! To get you started here are some things that I’m thankful for this year.

1. Past challenges that have made me a stronger person.

2. A supportive, healthy spouse who makes me laugh all the time.

3. Kind, wise and generous family members.

4. Honest, fun and thoughtful friends – new and longtime.

5. Career opportunities.

6. A happy, lovable dog named Banjo.

7. Good fortune of selling an old house and buying a new one.

8. Access to great medical care for me and my husband.

9. Past opportunities to travel the world.

10. A great education and no student loans.

Now it’s your turn, what are you thankful for this year? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Flu Shots and Food Allergies

If you’re like me, you hate everything about being sick, especially with the flu. Vomiting–yuck, fever–no thanks, sore throat–:( and the list goes on. The flu is nothing to mess with; especially if you are someone who is at higher risk of developing complications from the flu.

Because I work in health care, I’ve always been offered a free flu shot through work. The first few times I received the flu vaccine, I was nervous about a potential allergic reaction because the vaccine is grown in fertilized chicken eggs. While thankfully I’ve outgrown my childhood allergy to eggs, anytime food allergies come up, I like to be extra cautious. So, I like to follow the advice a nurse gave me several years ago.

1. Tell the person giving you the shot that you have food allergies. (If you have an egg allergy, check out the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations.)

2. Have two Epi-Pens with you when you get the shot.

3. Hang out at the pharmacy or flu shot clinic for 15 minutes after receiving the injection to make sure you don’t have a reaction.

I got my flu shot last week and it didn’t hurt at all (and no reaction!). My arm was a little sore for a day or two but knowing that I’m well protected against the flu was worth the minor discomfort.

This post is in no way medical advice. It’s  just about my personal experience as a person with multiple food allergies (but not an egg allergy) who gets a yearly flu shot. Please talk to your doctor to make sure you should get a flu shot.