Summertime Gluten Free Orzo

I love summertime! The vegetables are fresh and there’s nothing better than enjoying a healthy gluten free meal outside a warm night.

I came across Delallo gluten free orzo this weekend at the grocery store and decided to pair it with some sautéed vegetables. It was perfectly al dente (kudos to my husband for preparing it well!) which was a nice change from the typical GF pasta consistency. The freshly shredded parmesan was the perfect topping for this creamy and filling dish.

Summertime gluten free orzo

I was so excited to try it that my photo turned out blurry, sorry!

Hope you give this recipe a try. Cheers to summertime!

Summertime Gluten Free Orzo
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Feel free to substitue summer veggies you have on hand.
Ingredients
  • 1 package gluten free orzo (I recommend Delallo's)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut each spear into thirds
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, finely shredded
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Prepare orzo according to package directions
  2. Heat olive oil in large sautee pan
  3. Add vegetables and basil and cook on medium for 8-10 minutes or until asparagus is bright green in color
  4. Drain orzo and reserve one cup cooking liquid
  5. Combine orzo and vegetables, add liquid if it's too stiff to mix
  6. Top with parmesan cheese and season with salt as needed
  7. Serve immediately

 

 

Avoiding the Allergy Itch While Traveling

If you have sensitive skin like me, traveling can be an itchy proposition. Sometimes different laundry detergents irritate my eczema. And who likes to be uncomfortable when you’re away from home?

One way I combat this is with a cocoon. It’s a silk sheet that keeps you from irritating hotel sheets. My sister gave it to me as a gift a few years ago and I haven’t traveled without since.

cocoon for allergy travel

Folds up nicely and small enough for a carry on

This post isn’t sponsored; it’s just a quick tip I wanted to pass along to my fellow itchy readers.

Happy travels!

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

We had our new neighbors over this weekend for a cookout. When I entertain, especially people who don’t know I have Celiac disease, I like to make naturally gluten free foods. My gluten free loaded baked potato casserole (based on this recipe) was a big hit and simple to make. Serve it with burgers on gluten free buns and baked beans for a great summertime meal. Enjoy!

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6-8 Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced with a mandolin
  • 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup crumbled gluten free bacon
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ cup skim milk
Instructions
  1. Prepare bacon.
  2. Slice and dice vegetables.
  3. Prepare a large casserole dish with non-stick spray.
  4. Add potatoes, onions, peppers, bacon, garlic powder and cheese and combine.
  5. Gently pour skim milk over all ingredients.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for 60 minutes covered and an additional 30 uncovered or until potatoes are tender.

IMG_2228

 

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.

peanuts_tree-nuts-actually-decrease-child-allergy-risk-in-pregnancy-2

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
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9x12 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
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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