Archive | June, 2012

GF New Year’s Resolution: Have you kept it up?

29 Jun

How many of you have followed through with your New Year’s Resolutions?

I have and, as promised, I am following up with my readers regarding my gluten free New Year’s Resolutions!  On December 30, 2011, I decided I would come up with 3 New Year’s Resolutions that would improve my gluten free life, making it easier and more enjoyable.

NYR #1

As most seasoned Celiacs know, there are various levels of “gluten freeness.” You have the people who are comfortable scraping the cheese/toppings off of a pizza or the icing off of a cake, the people who avoid gluten but don’t ask questions about cross contamination and, finally, the people who avoid gluten as if it is the plague and we are living in 1349.  Though I strive to be the latter, I do find that on occasion I just don’t feel like doing the gluten free dance when ordering, so I order something I am pretty sure is safe.  My NYR was to STOP DOING THAT!  I am happy to report that I have been super gluten free since January 1st.

Results?  I find that I am much less stressed at restaurants, though not always as pleased with my meal.  For example, instead of ordering the burger on the “specials menu” at Red Robin (now offering GF buns!), I chose the classic cheese burger that was listed on the “gluten free menu.” In my head, I know that the specials aren’t on the GF menu because they are new and are probably GF but I stuck with the simpler and safer choice.  Not only is dining out less stressful but I do believe that I have been “glutened” fewer times this year compared to previous years.

NYR #2

Though very active in the GF blogosphere as a writer, my second NYR aimed to increase my activity in the GF blogosphere as a reader.  I have started following a couple GF blogs and have discovered that not only are there many GF blogs out there but they are all very different. If you started following one or two blogs and simply felt it was not meant for you, I encourage you try one more time!  I realized that there were some blogs that I really liked in terms of content, frequency of updates, visual style and writing style and others that just weren’t a good fit for me.

You can check out my post Which Gluten Free Blogs Should I Follow? for a list of suggested blogs to check out.  The GF blogosphere is, with all due respect, cluttered.  There are tons and tons of blogs out there.  I suggest picking three to follow: CC Gluten Freed, for updates about the social aspects of being gluten free and how to manage tricky social situations, Simply Gluten Free, for close-to-daily recipe posts, and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) newsletter for monthly email updates about Celiac Disease and the Gluten Free Diet.



Steps to being GF literate:

1. Follow CC Gluten Freed by submitting your email in the box on the right hand side of the screen

2. Follow or bookmark Simply Gluten Free for GF recipes

3. Sign up for the NFCA newsletter

 NYR #3

 My third and final NYR was to start using my iPhone (Androids work for this as well) to help with being gluten free.  This has been a huge success for me.  I used Find Me Gluten Free to choose where to eat.  Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I ate at a restaurant NOT listed on this phone app.  It is great for finding a quick place to eat when out with friends in an area that I am not familiar with.  The app takes your GPS location and then tells you where the closest GF friendly restaurants are, how to get there and what they offer.  I highly recommend downloading this app.  I actually bought my first smart phone for the sole purpose of downloading this app. It was the best, strategic phone decision I have ever made.

What was your New Year’s Resolution? Have you been true to it?  We are officially half way through the year!  If you haven’t been following your NYR, it isn’t too late — get started now.  Either create a new NYR’s for the mid-point of the year or choose to follow mine.  Either way, I find that the New Year gives us an opportunity to better ourselves and reaffirm our commitment to health.  I look at the mid-point of the year as a great opportunity to renew my commitment to my health and make being GF easier and more enjoyable.

-CC

Glutened.

24 Jun

It happens to the best of us: we get glutened.  In my four years as a diagnosed Celiac I have been glutened by cross-contamination via oil, cutting boards and pasta water, by oats (hiding in a chili recipe) and by barley (in a rice dish)  but never by straight up wheat or “wheat-gluten.”   Though I don’t know if it is because of smarts of obsessiveness,  I have been fairly successful at avoiding gluten ever since my diagnosis. Today was an exception.

I went to a dinner reception where the host was serving a BBQ buffet.  I was very careful about cross-contamination and very verbal about my needs.  I pulled a plate from the bottom of the stack (which was located next to a huge plate of cornbread) and used a fork to grab the “gluten free option” from its pan, despite the objections from the server.  Where did I go wrong?  Well, I didn’t.  The buffet staff told me explicitly that the GF option was the veggie burger, string beans and coleslaw, so that is what I put on my plate.

A few minutes after biting into my veggie burger (bunless), my throat started to feel, for lack of a better word, “ouchie.”  I don’t have a gluten allergy e.g. anaphylactic response to gluten, so I knew my throat wasn’t closing.  Nonetheless, it was hurting, there was a burning sensation.  I got up and double checked with the buffet staff that the burger was GF, they confirmed but I asked to see the ingredient list anyways.  The second ingredient on the list?  “Wheat Gluten.”

This experience was uniquely bad for two reasons:

1. Ingredients are listed in order of relative quantity e.g. if a recipe has just a hint of cinnamon in it, cinnamon will be one of the last ingredients listed.  This means I consumed a pretty substantial amount of gluten.  Additionally, this exposure was to “wheat gluten” one of the worst thing you can make a Celiac eat.  Wheat gluten is wheat that is stripped of the bran and the starch, leaving just the gluten protein.  Its consumption results in an incredibly pure and potent dosing.

2.  Normally, if someone glutens me, I chalk it up to the lack of awareness about Celiac Disease and its complex components e.g. weird ingredients and dangerous kitchen practices.  If I say “I am allergic to gluten” and someone thinks that “malt flavoring” isn’t glutinous,  I consider it an understandable  mistake for someone completely unfamiliar with the issue of gluten.  If I say “I am allergic to gluten” and the ingredient list literally has the word “GLUTEN” in it,  then it is a completely unreasonable mistake!

What I regret most about what has happened tonight is actually my reaction to the experience.  For the past few weeks I have been focused on and working on how I manage complicated Celiac situations. Tonight I realized that I have a long way to go.  When I realized I had eaten wheat, my eyes immediately filled with tears.  I did tell the waitstaff immediately so that they would stop serving the GF kids wheat burgers but after that, I fell to pieces.  Instead of staying at the party and seeing how I felt, I immediately called my brother and asked him to pick me up.  I left without saying goodbye to anyone.

In the future, I want to try and stick it out.  I felt so much anxiety after I left the dinner reception because I felt like I had been severely victimized.  Not only was I anticipating pain and illness but I was isolated from my peers, separated from normalcy, forced to confront the fact that I am different.

 

I am sitting here, frustrated, because I let Celiacs get me down.  I am sitting here, struggling, because I can’t focus very well on writing this post due to the fuzzy-brain-effect that gluten has on me.  Regardless of the fuzziness, I wanted to write this before I forgot how I am feeling tonight. When I am gltuened, I feel like the world stops.  It reminds me of how a politician must feel after just hearing she has lost the election.  You put in constant work, make sacrifices and, sometimes, go hungry, all for the sake of remaining gluten free.  Despite the work and effort, you don’t always win.  I imagine that a politician would want to be left alone after the news, to go into her room and just process.  This is how I felt tonight.  I let those feelings dictate my reaction and I left a celebratory party as a result. After I got home from the party, I realized that I felt pretty ok.  Certainly not great, but I felt well enough to be mildly social. If I had just remained calm and stayed at the party my experience would not have been so negative!

When you are glutened, take action.  Alert the restaurant, confide in your friends and family, stay calm and do not let yourself be a victim.  People face and overcome obstacles every single day.  I did not need to retreat today.  Next time, I won’t.

 

 

-CC

 

 

 

Wheatless in Seattle

19 Jun

I travelled north to Seattle, Washington to promote CC Gluten Freed at the  The Gluten Intolerance Group’s Health and Wellness Event on June 16th.  Seattle is incredibly gluten-free-friendly (GFF).  I experienced a lot of great food and great customer service.  I have been to many of these GF conferences in the past and, I must say, the GIG’s Health and Wellness Event was one of the best gluten free conferences I have ever attended.

Even for people with Celiacs, the gluten free diet is only one, of many, components to a healthy lifestyle.  The GIG event really brought this point to the forefront of their conference by providing all attendees with free health screenings including Bone Density, Blood Pressure, Type I Diabetes Testing, Spinal Health Screenings and more.

My Dad prepping for the conference

In addition to the free health screenings, GIG also had a ton of great vendors at the conference including brands like Udi’s, Triumph Dining, Glutino, Canyon Bakehouse amongst many, many others (including CC Gluten Freed!!).  I was lucky enough to be in a booth next to Brazi Bites, a company that makes a Brazilian cheese bread that is naturally gluten free.  Before the conference, I had never encountered Brazi Bites before.  They are one of the best GF snack foods I have ever had!  Check them out online.  They have the taste of Cheez-its and a dual texture: crispy, crunchy on the outside and gooey and light on the inside.

In addition to the great vendors, there were some very interesting people there including Mrs. Alaska (Brandy Wendler), promoting her pageant platform for Celiac Awareness and Kyra Bussanich,a gluten free baker and the winner of the Food network Channel’s Cupcake Wars!

My favorite part of the conference was definitely talking with the local Seattle gluten free community.  What a smart city!  I had incredibly interesting conversations with almost everyone who stopped by to chat at my booth.  For example, Junea and Cameron (creators of Brazi Bites/my conference neighbors) and I discussed the important distinction between foods that are naturally gluten free and foods that are created to replace glutinous foods e.g. Brazi Bites vs. GF penne or GF sandwich bread.  You can expect a future post about the issue but, in short, I really do prefer foods that are naturally gluten free like Brazi Bites both in a philosophical sense and from a culinary perspective.  Another chat I had with a local was about how to get groups to adapt to the GF diet.  For example, the person I spoke to is part of a group at her church and always has trouble when they have their monthly potluck.  I also heard that Doritos are going gluten free!  I always learn so much at these conferences.

Many people asked about where to buy CC Gluten Freed t-shirts, so I created a webpage to order the shirts.  From what people said at the conference, they just love the logo!  My grandfather, Ernest Marquez, was a cartoonist for years.  When I created CC Gluten Freed, he drew this logo for me and had it framed (and put on a jump drive) for me for Christmas.

I will definitely be attending the conference next year and I encourage my readers to make the trip out to Seattle as well!  For more information about GIG go to http://www.gluten.net

What else did I do other than attend an all-day GF conference?

A lot.

My Dad and I went to the Mariners Vs Giants game for Safeco Field’s Gluten Free Awareness Night!  I had a hotdog.  My dad asked me why I didn’t wear my CC Gluten Freed t-shirt to the game since we were sitting in the “gluten free zone.”  I told him that I wanted to watch some  baseball, eat a hotdog  and  just enjoy the work of great nonprofits like GIG.  It was a relaxing experience, something I rarely say about dining out!

My Dad and me at the baseball game

We also went to the Flying Apron bakery, a 100% gluten-free, vegan bakery in Seattle.  Pike Place Market  was a great experience too!  I stopped over at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, a famous cheese shop, that sells a GF version of their “world famous Mac N’ Cheese.”  We didn’t just dine around the town, we also checked out the tribute to the movie Avatar and the Jimi Hendrix exhibit at the EMP Museum.  This museum was really fun and interactive!  They have a whole section of the museum for making music: my dad and I took advantage of the practice rooms.  He played guitar and I played drums.

No trip to Seattle would complete without a trip to the Space Needle.  We had a great lunch up at the top.  I enjoyed both the food and the view.  The waitstaff was pretty good about making GF accommodations but their menu items are somewhat limited.  If you are in the mood for a great salad (like I was), head up to the top of the Space Needle but if you are super hungry, I’d stop somewhere else for lunch!

The view from the Space Needle. We were able to see Mt. Rainier 

My Seafood Cobb Salad from the Space Needle, 100% GF

The highlight of my trip was going on the radio with KZOK during their morning show.  I was a little nervous going on air, considering it is a live show with Seattle, literally, listening but I had a great time.  In fact, Im quite jealous of my Uncle Danny’s job.  Danny chatted with my dad and me for a bit on air then, during the news section, Danny let me make an announcement about the GIG’s Health and Wellness Event.

After my jam-packed trip to Seattle, I am quite tired but I am so happy that I went. The conference, like I said, was one of the best I have ever attended and the people I met at the conference were so interesting, dedicated to their health and fun to chat with.  In fact, many of the people that I met at the conference are checking out CC Gluten Freed for the first time right now!  I just sent out the “invitation to follow” email and I hope that some of my new GF acquaintances sign up!

-CC

Which GF Blogs Should I Follow?

7 Jun

Deciding to follow a gluten free blog is much easier said than done. The vast amount of diverse information on the web makes finding a blog that fits your needs and interests somewhat tricky. As many of my readers may recall, one of my New Year’s Resolutions (NYR) for 2012 was to start following some GF blogs.

Though very active in the GF blogosphere as a writer, my second NYR aimed to increase my activity as a reader. I have started following a couple GF blogs and have discovered that not only are there many GF blogs out there but they are all very different. If you started following one or two blogs and simply felt it was not meant for you, I encourage you try one more time!

What to look for?

1. Content — are you interested in cooking? music? traveling? education? No matter what your interest, you can probably find a blog out there that is a great mash up for your interest in ________ and the gluten free diet. My interests are mostly focused around the social aspects of the gluten free diet, food policy and restaurant guides for cities. With a little bit of digging, I found blogs that matched those interests fairly easily. Are you interested in traveling? Though not one of my interests, I know there are a ton of avid GF travelers out there who would appreciate a blog that updates about being gluten free while traveling. If this is you, click here for posts by Erin Smith.

2. Frequency — check out how frequently the blogger posts. If you like frequent posts in your email inbox then the blog is a great match. If you are quasi spam-conservative (like myself) you may want to find a blog that posts less frequently e.g. ~once every 3 weeks like CC Gluten Freed!

3. Visuals — reading on your laptop, phone or tablet can be hard on your eyes. Try to find a blog that is pleasant to look at and easy to read. When I created CC Gluten Freed, I chose an off-white/cream for the background of the site so that overwhelming brightness would not discourage readers. You may also want to check out the mobile phone format of the blog before committing if you do most of your reading on the go.

4. Writing Style — bloggers write in various styles. For example, some may write in the third person while others may have a more personal/testimonial blog written in the first person. Some may post updates using journalistic techniques you would encounter when reading the LA Times while others may write more colloquially (like CC Gluten Freed!).

What are my preferences?

I try to make CC Gluten Freed representative of what I want to see in other GF blogs. This many be painfully obvious but I write about what interests me about being gluten free. If you enjoy reading about the social aspects of the gluten free diet then I encourage you follow my blog. I update, on average, every 3 weeks and have very diverse topics ranging from holiday survival guides, going to the spa, moving to a new city, commenting on new developments in the GF world and much more.

The blogs I follow:

1. Accidental Celiac – I love this blog. The frequency of posting is perfect. Posting too frequently can make followers feel like they are being spammed but the Accidental Celiac posts at a great frequency. I am always happy to see a new email from her in my inbox. If anything, I wish she would post more! The Accidental Celiac is a blog that emphasizes the realities of being gluten free. In her first post she writes “If you have Celiac and it has been a complete dream for you, then this blog probably isn’t for you.”

Check out her post about the new pizza at Chuck E. Cheese. This is the kind of blogging that I am talking about when I say I care about the social aspects of being gluten free. She admits that the pizza offered at Chuck E Cheese is, let’s just say, far from gourmet. The great thing about the pizza isn’t its taste but what it did for her kid: it let her daughter have a great time at Chuck E Cheese with all the other kids!

2. Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom - Although the name makes it seem like this blog only applies to people with kids: this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I find this blog very interesting and helpful. The blog “represents what all of us following the gluten-free LIFESTYLE are seeking: a place to find answers to some of the deeper questions.” The blog has a mix of posts about living gluten free as well as cooking gluten free.

3. Gluten Dude - This blog is candid, funny and informative. In particular, I love his post “13 reasons to be thankful you have Celiac Disease.” He also does some pretty interesting bits on his blog. For example, in honor of Celiac Awareness month and “to help raise awareness of our disease, [Gluten Dude] will be attempting 31 blog posts in 31 days.”

4. Gluten Free Mom – It is crazy to me that I love all the GF mom blogs so much considering the fact that I am not a mom. Nonetheless, these blogs are great! I find that moms seems to understand the fact that Celiac Disease and the gluten free diet has some serious effects on your social life. In addition, the moms are such great advocates. It is very hard to advocate for yourself but when it is your kid, I believe it becomes natural to advocate for their needs. Gluten Free Mom has fantastic restaurant guides for a bunch of different cities. I exclusively used her suggestions for where to dine in NYC and had a great experience.

5. NFCA — Though not a blog, I find that the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has the best monthly newsletter and website in terms of content and accessibility. The content is applicable to anyone on the gluten free diet, not simply people with Celiacs. NFCA goes out of its way to capture audiences of every generation/age group. Your, your kids, your grandparents and friends can all find interesting things to read that are geared towards their age group. Sign up for their monthly newsletter! Here is an article that I wrote for the NFCA newsletter about how to make a difference in local communities.

In addition to follow these blogs, I also follow all of these bloggers on twitter which is very fun and interactive!

Being engaged in the gluten free blogosphere is incredibly useful for leading a healthy, gluten free life. The constant updates about news in the GF community keeps you up to date with the most current information, the ability to comment on posts or use twitter gives you the chance to interact with people in the GF community and, finally, the blogs are a great source for information about being gluten free.

Get involved today!

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to follow CC Gluten Freed! You can sign up easily by typing your email address into the box on the right-hand side of the screen.

Follow me on Twitter

Like me on Facebook

Check out the other GF bloggers I recommended on Twitter and Facebook.

For Travel: https://twitter.com/#!/gfglobetrotter

For Fun: https://twitter.com/#!/GlutenDude

For Great Information: https://twitter.com/#!/CeliacCentral

For Moms and Dads: https://twitter.com/#!/adventuresgfmom

-CC

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