Deciphering Labels

If you ask anyone who has a food allergy or sensitivity what the hardest part is and they will say that making sure what they eat doesn’t have the ingredient they are sensitive to in it. Thankfully, there are now labeling laws for the top 8 allergens (milk, eggs, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts). Unfortunately for those who have Celiac or are sensitive to gluten, companies are not required to call out gluten on the label. Gluten can be hidden in natural flavors, spices, etc. There is a lot to be said for companies that won’t hide gluten in spices or natural flavors. I will gladly spend extra money to make sure that the product that I am eating is free of gluten and is easily verified over one that I have to call to verify or wonder about. Here is a list of companies that will clearly mark gluten on the labels:

These are companies that say they will clearly list gluten in the
ingredients. I have not included companies that are specifically GF or
smaller specialty companies. I know this list is not complete. Some of
these are actually subsidiaries of some of the others, but I have not tried
to sort that out.

When a company says it will clearly list gluten, you might still see things
like “modified food starch” or “natural flavor.” In this case, the suspect
ingredient does not have gluten if gluten is not plainly listed. I cannot
tell you about any policies regarding cross contamination.

Act II
Aunt Nelly’s
Balance Oasis (Balance bars)
Ball Park
Baskin Robbins
Ben & Jerry
Betty Crocker
Blue Bunny
Cascadian Farms
Celestial Seasonings
Con Agra
Country Crock
Crunch & Munch
Egg Beater’s
Fiddle Faddle
General Mills
Good Humor
Green Giant
Haagen Daz
Healthy Choice
Hebrew National
Hershey~ Update (Just issued a new statement this year (2009); call per each item to verify GF status)
Hillshire Farms
Jiffy Pop
Jimmy Dean
Kozy Shack
La Choy
Marie Callender’s
Martha White
Old El Paso
Orville Redenbacher
Peter Pan
Ranch Style
Reddi Whip
Russell Stover
Sara Lee
Seneca Foods
Slim Jim
Sunny Delight
Swiss Miss
T Marzetti
Van Camp’s

For the first 6 months or so after I was gluten-free, I carried this list around with me every time I went to the store. I also had a huge notebook full of lists of individual foods that I could safely purchase and eat. I no longer need the notebook or lists. For the most part I can either remember the brands or stick with what I know. We also tend to buy very few processed foods so there really isn’t the issue of what is in it if it is a natural, whole food.

King's Island

So, yesterday we went to Aaron’s company picnic at King’s Island amusement park. We had a great time. We left home early, about 8:10 AM. Surprisingly that is only 10 minutes after the time we planned on leaving. Not bad! I packed a cooler for lunch for Jon and I and made sure to have a doctor’s note in order to bring the cooler in (rules per King’s Island are that no food is to be brought in). We arrived right as the rides were starting to run at 10:00 AM. We had no trouble at all getting in with the cooler, as a matter of fact I could have had anything written on that doctor’s note. I am not complaining, I would rather have it be easy to get in with the food then hard. Jon and his friend, Grant, were eager to take off and ride the roller coasters, so we set them free. We took Hannah and headed to Nickelodeon Land, the area for all of the little kids. She immediately rode the kiddie bumper cars and had a blast. Then we met up with our neighbors, who have 2 kids, their little girl is Hannah’s age. We spent some time with them and the girls got their faces painted. Hannah chose a “mask”. Here she is in all her glory:

Around noon we headed over to the picnic grove for lunch. Aaron, Grant and Hannah were able to enjoy the food provided by King’s Island. They feasted on chicken fingers, pototo chips and salad. I packed myself a turkey & muenster cheese sandwich on Pamela’s bread, a fruit bowl and blue corn chips. Jon had a roast beef & cheese sandwich, Cool Ranch Doritos and a Yoplait yogurt. We buy Oscar Meyer lunch meats, as they are a Kraft company and will label any gluten indgredients. Yoplait yogurt has started to label their yogurts “gluten-free” on the side. They also won’t hide any ingredients on their labels.

After lunch we headed back out into the park. The boys headed to the water park area, Boomerang Bay. They didn’t stay there for long, they wanted to go back and ride more coasters. Aaron and I took Hannah over to the area where they have the Scrambler, Spider (which they call the Monster) and some crazy ride called “Shake, Rattle & Roll”. It was nuts. Hannah loved them all. Mommy, not so much. I rode them for Hannah. Those round & round rides make me want to vomit. Before heading home we headed to Graeter’s from some ice cream. I indulged in the strawberry, it was amazing. Jon had chocolate. Hannah had a vanilla scoop on a cone. YUM!! After stuffing our ice cream down, we headed home. I couldn’t wait to go to bed! LOL! I had gone to the gym at 5:00 AM and after working out and then walking all day, I was whooped!

Chinese Take Out

Gotta love being able to call and get Chinese take out. That is one thing I have really missed since going gluten-free. I still have yet to find a GF egg roll, but I will take what I can get. Last night on the way home from King’s Island I was really tired and couldn’t fathom cooking & cleaning up, so I suggested Pei Wei Asian Diner for dinner. Pei Wei is run by P.F. Changs. Convenienty I keep a carry-out menu in my glovebox. I love the Pei Wei Spicy Chicken or the Pei Wei Spicy Chicken salad. Jon really likes the Pei Wei Sweet & Sour. Some locations even carry gluten-free soy sauce, you just need to ask for it. I keep La Choy Soy Sauce at home for when we get Chinese take out. It is like heaven on earth.

We really like P.F. Chang’s too, but there really isn’t one close by to our house. Not only do they have a pretty extensive GF menu, they have an amazing dessert too. It is a flourless chocolate dome. Whenever we go we have to get more than one b/c Jon doesn’t really like to share his dome. 🙂 I don’t blame him. It is one of the few places he can safely order dessert out. I have tried many of the items on P.F. Chang’s menu, but really like the Singapore Street Noodles the best. Some of the other good dishes are Philip’s Better Lemon Chicken, Ginger Broccoli, Chang’s Spicy Chicken and don’t forget the lettuce wraps. They also have gluten-free soy sauce, just make sure to ask your server to get it from the back, the soy on the table is not GF.

The Gluten Wish List

Every once in a while when Jon and I get frustrated with eating gluten-free, we will make a list of all of the things that we would eat if we had one day to eat gluten. We both realize that unless there is some major medical/pharmaceutical development, this will never happen, but it is fun to daydream. So with our upcoming King’s Island trip, I began to think about what I would eat if I could. My list is not going to be limited to what I can find at King’s Island, KI just inspired me to daydream about gluten. Here is my list….let’s see how long it is:

Charley’s Chicken Philly & Fries
Pizza Hut Pan Pizza & Boneless Spicy BBQ wings
Whole grain bread (weird, I know, but once you have eaten GF bread, this sounds gread)
Sourdough bread (never knew how much I would miss this one…..when we go out to eat and the server places a nice, hot, fresh basket of sourdough on the table, I will pick it up and just let the wonderful aroma drift upwards towards my face)
Cheesecake (yes, I know I can make it GF and it is excellent, but I miss ordering it out)
Hot Soft Pretzel (have yet to find a replacement)
Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich with cheese & mayo
McD’s Filet-O-Fish Sandwich
Egg McMuffin
Flour Tortillas (love Chipotle burritos)
Kringle (the pasty filled with fruit, topped with icing that you eat around the Holidays)
Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts
Panera Bread Bagels or a good bagel in general
Amstel Light Beer
Nathan’s Hot Dogs

Jon’s List:

Pizza (in all shapes and forms)
Chicken Fingers
Charley’s Fries & Philly
Did I mention Pop-Tarts?

Now, I am sure you are catching a theme by now. None of the above is healthy, except maybe the whole grain bread. So, if there is a silver lining in our gluten-free cloud, it is that we eat pretty healthy now.

I like mine with lettuce and tomato…..

Ah…Cheeseburger in Paradise. One of my favorite songs and one of my favorite restaraunts to eat at. I loved this place even before I had to eat gluten-free. The burgers rock! Imagine my surprise the first time I went in there after starting the gluten-free diet and they handed me a gluten-free menu. I swear that I almost fainted. I had gone months without french fries. Yes, I had fries at home, but they weren’t the deep fried yummy potato goodness that you get from a restaraunt. I was in french fry heaven! We started to make CIP a weekly treat, after my daughter’s ice skating class and now, 2+ years later, we are still going at least once per week. I have had the burgers (love the bacon and cheddar burger and fries), Carribean chicken sandwich, Son of a Sailor salad with grilled shrimp, Parrot Beach Salmon and Blackbeard’s Shrimp. I am on a salmon kick now, so I start with the side sald with citrus vinaigrette and then have the blackened salmon and steamed broccoli. I got to know the staff very well at the location we visit. They even went as far as to order in the gluten-free beer, Red Bridge! Jon loves to eat here too. He gets a plain cheeseburger, fries and house salad with the house vinaigrette, which he loves so much he gets extra to take home! He will occasionally get the Jamaican Root Beer sans coconut as a treat. When we go to CIP, we usually have the same server and she knows what we want without us having to tell her. She knows what to watch for and makes sure our food comes out properly. It is so nice to be able to eat out regularly without having to worry about getting sick. Jon is really sensitive and seems to get sick every time we eat at Bonefish, though he still begs to go back. We have yet to have a problem with CIP (knocking on wood). I know it is risky to eat out due to cross contamination issues, but I don’t want to live in a bubble either.

Speaking of eating out. In a few days we are heading to Kings Island for Aaron’s company picnic. They provide lunch, very scary for anyone with any kind of food sensitivity or issue. We plan on brining in a cooler with lunch for Jon and I and a doctor’s note so that we are allowed to bring food in, as it says right on the website that no food or drink may be brought into the park. The kids are really looking forward to going. Let’s hope we don’t have any issues getting the cooler in or Jon and I will be having an awful lot of Graeter’s Ice Cream and Starbucks coffees during the day! LOL! Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? I plan on packing roast beef sandwiches on the bread that I made yesterday, along with some fresh fruit, baby carrots and chips (either Cool Ranch Doritos or Blue Corn Chips). Maybe I will make the brownie mix I have sitting in the pantry from Trader Joe’s. Ooooh……I bet I can top one of those with a big scoop of ice cream from Graeter’s…..I think I just might! I will probably pack some Lara Bars for snack. Jon’s favorites are chocolate mint, lemon, key lime pie and peanut butter cookie. I love the chocolate coffee, cashew cookie, chocolate, pecan pie, cinnamon roll and gingersnap. I love they are a whole serving of fruit! It is helpful to disguise fruit in any way possible for picky eaters like Jon. 🙂

School is so close, I can smell it!

Today was schedule pick-up for my soon-to-be 7th grade son. I received a bunch of paperwork last week in the mail. I sat and took the time to fill out all this paperwork, including the medical release form that I was required to turn in in order to receive his schedule. I completed picture forms and every other kind of form you can imagine. So this morning I am rushing around getting things ready, making bottles for sweet baby E (my best friend’s little girl that I watch during the day), brushing hair and sucking down some coffee because I stayed up too late watching the US Women’s gymnastic team miss their chance to win the gold. Talk about heartbreak, but that is another story. Anyway, in all the madness, guess who forgot all the carefully filled out paperwork? That’s right. Me. UGH. If you could have only seen the look of frustration on my face, as the nice gentleman manning the schedule station asked me for the emergency medical form, I realized in all my caffeine induced craziness that I didn’t have it. That is okay, you can go over to that round table over there (pointing across the gym) and fill out one. So, I had to fill out all his paperwork again. So much for being on top of things.

So, off to the food service station we go next. I fill out a form for depositing money onto a debit card that will allow my child to purchase lunch, drinks or snacks without carrying cash with him. Now, being gluten-free, there is not much he can eat in the way of lunch in the school cafeteria. Yes, they said last year that they would be happy to make accommodations for him and serve him a gluten-free meal, but I am not sure I trust that. It really isn’t that hard for me to pack him lunch, he just gets tired of it and wants to have what his friends are having. Anyway, they have “gluten-free” marked on his card/account so that when he checks out and uses his debit card, an allergy allert comes up. I am not really sure what this does. Does someone come check to make sure his food is GF? I highly doubt it. Maybe it just prompts the cashier to remind the student to check their food? Who knows. Anyway, he just uses the debit card to purchase fruit (yeah, right) or drinks or yogurt on occasion.

So, the smell of school. The smell of school is the aroma of home baked bread coming from my Zo (my Zojirushi Breadmaker). This is one of my first purchases when I learned I had to eat gluten-free. I had never made homemade bread before in my life, though I used to watch my Grandmother make Challah bread years ago. Something told me that first time I made bread in my new machine that it wouldn’t taste anything like what Grandma used to make. Glad I didn’t set my hopes too high b/c I believe I threw away the first loaf that I made. Many mixes later I came to love Pamela’s Amazing Wheat Free bread and that is the smell I know and love! This is the bread that we make our sandwiches with. It is not necessary to toast this bread, like a lot of gluten-free bread out there, but Jon prefers it toasted. I keep it in the fridge after the first day to keep it fresh, so toasting warms it up and lets me add PB or deli meat & cheese and then pack for him to have for lunch. So when I walked in the house from picking up Jon’s schedule, I was met with the wonderful aroma of bread waiting for me. I had to slice some and have a sandwich for lunch. Yum!

While I am here and blogging, I might as well share what Jon likes to take for lunch. He has been packing lunch now for 2 school years straight. He used to buy lunch a couple days a week before he was diagnosed with Celiac. One of the first things I did was buy him a thermos that could keep his food warm until lunch time. I found it at Wal-Mart for under $10. I fill it with hot water about a half-hour before I put the warm food in and it will keep the food warm for approximately 5 hours. The only thing that stinks about this (literally) is that when your child forgets to bring it home and it sits in his locker all weekend, it is tough to clean. You can only hand wash these and it is close to impossible to get the smell and stains from chili or spaghetti out of white plastic that has been hiding out in a locker for a few days. Here are some of the things I pack for Jon on a rotating basis:

~Deli Roll-ups – meat with American cheese rolled up inside. You could use cream cheese too, Jon is not a fan.
~Tacos in a bag – Taco meat in the thermos. Bag of Fritos or GF Doritos (we use Cool Ranch) and shredded cheese on the side. I also pack a small container of taco sauce (Ortega Mild).
~ PB Sandwich – Simple..PB on Pamela’s bread. Jelly makes the bread soggy, so I either put PB on both sides and then add jelly or pack it for him to add.
~ Macaroni & Cheese – Tinkyada pasta made with the Kraft cheese powder (comes in a can…whoever thought that up is SUPER clever!). I have also made Mac & Cheese with Velveeta cheese. Jon likes it either way.
~ Chili – He likes Hormel chili with beans. (Not all Hormel Chilis are GF, so make sure to check Hormel’s list or only buy the regular with beans). I pack tortilla chips, cheese and taco sauce on the side.
~ Cold pizza – I make homemade pizza out of Pamela’s Wheat Free bread mix and then he will take it cold for lunch the next day. He loves this!
~ Pepperoni & cheese – Hormel Pepperoni and American cheese. He will make little meat sandwiches out of these. Fun and easy, too!
~ Spaghetti & Meat Sauce – Usually left over from the night before. Tinkyada pasta and Prego 3-Cheese sauce with ground turkey or beef.

I alternate side items for him. I do fresh fruit in season. He is picky about fruit, so I have to pack something I know won’t end up in the trash. Bananas or apples, forget it. In the trash can. He will eat cantaloupe or grapes. In the winter I will do Mott’s Natural Applesauce with cinnamon on top for him. He seems to enjoy that. He usually gets Cool Ranch Doritos with sandwiches. He won’t eat raw veggies, so that is out. I will sometimes put in baby carrots with Italian dressing to dip in, but I have to wonder how often he really eats that. He used to tell on himself when he didn’t eat something, now I am not so sure. He may have wisened up in his old years. Desserts are either homebaked cookies or brownies. I do buy Trader Joe’s Gingersnaps (very good) or the occasional box of Enjoy Life cookies (he really likes the Snickerdoodle flavor).

So the summer is coming to an end. It is bittersweet. I really enjoyed spending the summer with my kids, but it is time for them to go back and join their friends.

Brownies and Cake, how in the world?

How in the world do I forget the 2 most important desserts on earth? Seriously. I must have had some serious brain freeze or something to forget my 2 most favorite things in the world (besides my husband and children, of course).

Kim & Jon ~ Once again, Pamela’s, hands down. Love, love, love the chocolate cake mix. There is a modified version on the side of the package that uses sour cream and it is the most heavenly thing since GF sliced bread (haha…..we all know that GF sliced bread is anything but heavenly). No, seriously, this cake is so moist and yummy….you just want to cry! I frost it with chocolate frosting made from butter or shortening, cocoa, powdered sugar and vanilla.

Kim & Jon ~ There are several very good mixes out there. My Mom has also made them from a gluten-free flour mix made from rice flour, potato starch (not potato flour) and tapioca starch flour (adding xanthan gum, of course). Again, after discussing this with Jon, we vote Pamela’s. I don’t work for Pamela’s or have any interest in the company other than the fact that I love their products and want them to stay in business. 😉

Ice Cream:
Kim ~ Edy’s (this company, also called Dreyer’s, will not hide gluten on their labels). I like the Slow-Churned (lower in fat & calories, still super yummy) Cappucino Chip, Raspberry Chip, Coffee the best.

Jon ~ Edy’s Vanilla Bean, Mint Chocolate Chip, Take the Cake (yes, I am sure there is no gluten), Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cup. If we are going out for ice cream, we love Cold Stone. They are very good about food allergies there and will mix the ice cream in a bowl rather than on the marble stone.

Now, of course, I must make some sweet treats.

So, here I go!

So this is my first post on my new blog!  How fun!  I posted info about me in my profile, which leads me to what I am doing here.  I am blogging about navigating through a gluten-filled world on a gluten-free diet.  Both my son and I must adhere to a strict gluten-free diet.  I find it easier than him, as I had years and years of Pop-Tarts before I found out that gluten was like poison to my body.  He isn’t convinced yet that Pop-Tarts are gross and frequently boo hoos because his little sister can eat them and he can’t.   Of course there is plenty of delicious, gluten-free food to be had, but sometimes it just isn’t the same.  I would love to say that I create all of my gluten-free recipes myself, but a chef I am not.  I do a lot of searching online, using various GF blogs and recipe sites.  I frequent a couple of different Celiac forums for reviews, recommendations and must avoid foods or eateries.  I do my best to try to offer a variety of healthy food, while indulging some too.  One can’t live without chocolate and there is no gluten in it!!  I use pre-made mixes for some of my treats, but also have experimented from scratch.  I have found that I can make gluten-free chocolate chip cookies that taste really no different from the Tollhouse cookies I made in the past.  They don’t last long when I make them, that is for sure. 

Okay.  There it is.  My first post.  I hope to be back later with some favorites of mine & Jon’s.

Let's Talk Favorites

Now that I am 2.5 years into the gluten-free diet, I don’t see my diet as limited at all.  When I first started it was as if the world had ended.  I worshipped bagels, pan pizza, flour tortillas, hot soft pretzels and basically anything made with bread.  It quickly became clear that I was going to have to make some changes and very quickly.  I was going to have to quit eating fast food as much as I was and eat at home and actually cook.  I went to some of the local specialty health food stores and bought breads, cereals, pizza doughs, bagels, etc.  I even found GF donuts!  I have my favorites though.  I will list them below.  Then, I will do Jon’s list.  His is going to differ from mine a bit, but his priorities are also different. 


Kim ~ Pamela’s Amazing Wheat Free Bread

Jon ~ He is with me on this one. It also makes wonderful pizza that we tend to have every Friday night. I top mine with veggies, he prefers plain cheese or pepperoni (Hormel says GF right on the package). I use Prego 3 Cheese spaghetti sauce for the sauce.

Kim ~ Kinnikinnick Plain Tapioca Bagels. There is a recipe on the Pamela’s Amazing Wheat Free Bread for bagels that I have been meaning to try. I guess I’ll give it a go when I get some spare time next year. 😉

Jon ~ He isn’t really a bagel kid. He never had the chance to get hooked on them. Good for him!

Kim ~ I like the Blue Diamond Pecan Nut Thins They are great with Harvarti Cheese or any cheese spread. Reasonably priced at local mainstream grocery stores.

Jon ~ He likes these, but prefers the Glutino Crackers These are not cheap and I find they fall apart easily. The taste is close to a Townhouse or Ritz cracker.

Kim ~ Now DH makes a mean doughnut hole out of Pamela’s Ultimate Baking Mix , but as far as ready made, Kinnikinnick is the only way to go. They come frozen and in many flavors. I personally love the chocolate covered chocolate doughnut.

Jon ~ He feels much like I do here. He likes the cinnamon sugar that comes frosted. I don’t know where to buy these online. I am fortunate enough to find them at our local health food store, one of the largest Gluten-free food sources in the state and those surrounding us.

Rolls, Foccacia, Buns:
Kim & Jon ~ Chebe mixes by a mile. We love the foccacia mix. I use the roll mix for rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns. Even our non-gluten-free family members like these mixes. They are very nicely priced right at $3/each or under. It looks as if these are about to be sold on Amazon (nice for the subscription service and buying in bulk). I tried to find them there a few months back and they weren’t even listed.

Flour Mixes:
Kim ~ I use Pamela’s Ultimate Baking Mix cup for cup in my recipes now. It is easy and I can get the mix in bulk and with the subscription service on Amazon (free shipping and less per case). I use this mix for pancakes, cakes, muffins, cookies, quick breads, you name it. **There is already guar gum (like Xanthan Gum) in this mix, so you don’t need to add Xanthan gum. There is also some baking soda, baking powder & salt in the mix. Pamela’s website says “The leavening in Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix is equal to approximately 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per cup.”.

Jon ~ He doesn’t really care as long as he gets his goodies. He really likes his pancakes for breakfast, and I use the Pamela’s Baking Mix for those. I do sub buttermilk for the water and he seems to like those better.

Pie Crust:
Kim ~ Whole Foods Bakehouse Frozen, hands down. If you have a Whole Foods close, or heck, take a road trip, this pie crust is so good. I have served it to many finicky relatives over the past 2 years with no complaints and tons of compliments. I even passed off some leftover Banana Cream Pie to my neighbors last week and they were amazed when I told them it was GF!

Jon ~ Once again, he is on board. There is sugar and whip cream and more sugar. That is all he cares about here.

Kim ~ Tinkyada or Trader Joe’s. I like them both. Tinkyada does seem to fair better when re-heating a meal. I have used Debole’s for Lasagna before and it worked well too.

Jon ~ I happened to buy Bi-Aglut one time from the health food store ($8 for a tiny pkg). He loved it and begged for it. No chance. It was good, but so is Tinkyada or TJ’s. Not worth the extra $5/pkg.

Hot Soft Pretzels:
Kim & Jon ~ I have not been brave enough to try to make these from scratch yet. I have not heard of a decent recipe to even try. I really, really miss these. Funny thing is I never ate them that often when I could. I think the idea that I CAN’T have them is making my craving worse. If anyone knows a good recipe, I am game.

Kim ~ Rice Chex! Woohoo!!! It is about time! They even have recipes on their website for GF treats! **If you buy these, make sure the box says “Gluten-Free” on it. There are still some older boxes in circulation.

Jon ~ The boy loves his Fruity & Cocoa Pebbles. He will eat Amazon Flakes (Envirokidz) and Peanut Butter Panda Puffs. He likes the Rice Chex, but wants to pour sugar on them!

I think that is it for now. If I come up with any more favorites, I will make sure to add them or post a new list.

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