Tag Archives: gluten free

Cruising Gluten-Free: Top 5 Tips for Gluten-Free Dining on Cruise Ships

3 Jan

I recently travelled on the Regal Princess cruise ship for an 11 day trip to the Eastern Caribbean. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of gluten-free options on the ship and the level of knowledge about cross-contamination and gluten-based ingredients by the cruise crew.

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This trip was a delayed honeymoon to accommodate the demands of medical school (me) and law school (my husband). Our main criterion for vacation planning: ease of booking. With finals coming up, we wanted to limit the number of decisions we had to make and a cruise seemed perfect for that! We called before booking to inquire about gluten-free options and were assured there would be plenty of gluten-free options (no need to pack three dozen Kind bars!).

Of note, some information online says that Princess cruise line need to be notified greater than one month before embarking of any special dietary requirements. We booked this trip about 3 weeks before our set travel date and there were no issues. I was also given information/instructions on multiple occasions about “making myself known to the Maitre d’ Hotel” and “contacting the head waiter” to receive “daily menus.” A note was left in my cruise ship room about my “dietary request” and that someone would be in touch to plan meals but this never happened. Honestly, the idea of planning each meal a day ahead of time did not sound fun to me at all. Isn’t the point of vacation to just go with the flow and be free of to-do lists and plans? I opted not to contact the “Maitre d’ Hotel” and not to plan meals ahead of time. Luckily, I had no issues finding gluten-free options on board and was able to relax without making the focus of every day planning the next day’s food. I got to live in the moment and be successfully gluten-free.

Now for those 5 tips…

1. Get a lay of the land:

The cruise ship is huge. There are two buffet areas (Horizon Court, or HoCo according to the crew, and Horizon Bistro), two sit down restaurants (Symphony and Concerto), and a number of restaurants that were not included in the cost of the cruise ship like Crown Grill and a sushi bar.

Once you figure out where the food options are located you should figure out where the gluten-free options within each restaurant/buffet are. For example, in Horizon Court there is a section that has all the gluten-free substitution items like bread, pancakes, waffles, etc. In the Pastry/Dessert section located between the two buffets, there is a section that has a daily gluten-free dessert.

On my ship there was a cafe that sold coffee and pastries in the center of the ship. This little cafe had two gluten-free desserts/pastries out per day that were different from the buffet options.

Each cruise ship will likely be different but asking the chefs that stand in the buffet area where to find gluten-free options should get you pointed in the right direction.

Pro tip: pancakes over waffles. Gluten-free waffles on Princess are made ahead of the breakfast rush and stored in the back kitchen. You have to specifically request for them to be brought out to you (they won’t be displayed or advertised anywhere!). Gluten-free waffles are also an option but those are made to order and take about 15 minutes.

Pro tip: Don’t order Alfredo! The ship has gluten-free pasta (corn-based spaghetti) on board. The Alfredo pasta is one of the ship’s most popular dishes but it is NOT gluten-free. There is wheat flour in the Alfredo sauce (not super common to have flour in Alfredo which is why I am including this here!).

2. Pre-ordering

The benefit to pre-ordering is that you can often get something made gluten-free that otherwise could not have been. For example, the one time I used pre-ordering was to order fried chicken. I’ve only ever had fried chicken once before in my life (at Disney World!) and I was super excited to try it again (#glutenfreelife). Gluten-free fried chicken is very hard to come by because restaurants don’t offer it or, if they do, they likely don’t have a dedicated fryer. Furthermore, fried chicken is really hard to make at home despite several very messy past attempts on my part!

If you are a scheduled diner then this is a simple option for you. Each day you eat at one of the sit-down restaurants at a pre-set time. You know when and where you will be eating each day so you might as well pre-order your meal.

If you are an anytime diner (like me!) then pre-ordering doesn’t make as much sense unless you know for sure where you want to eat the next day. Like I said earlier, I did not want to plan ahead for meals so I would usually just order on the day of while at the restaurant. This means less gluten-free choices, but there were still PLENTY of options. Trust me, I never went hungry.

3. Double check

When in doubt, double check, particularly when at the buffet. The chefs (white coats, white hats) tend to stand outside in the hallways of the buffet to answer questions. They are a great resource for a gluten-free diner. The cooks (no white hats, behind the buffet) know the ingredients of the dishes they make but may not know what is in the other dishes in the buffet. Just because someone is standing near a dish or refilling a dish that is running low, does not mean that is the person who made it back in the kitchen. I saw “sautéed mushrooms” on the buffet one day and ask the cook if they were gluten-free. He said “Probably.!” I followed up with “Do you know if any soy sauce was used when cooking them?” to which he replied “Oh, yea. There is soy sauce, so I guess it is not gluten-free.” I would have been super bummer to get glutened over some sautéed mushrooms!

Cruise ship crew are really nice and helpful. Cruise ships are known for their great “customer service” so don’t be shy about asking questions and double checking things. As an aside, a little courtesy, something that seemed to me to be lacking from a lot of cruise ship guests (especially in the dining areas), goes a long way, in my experience. If you are pleasant/polite/respectful people will happily answer your questions.

4. Eat the bread!

The gluten-free sandwich bread on Regal Princess was amazing. I ate it with butter, I used it to make sandwiches, and, some nights, I just ate it plain. The bread is not listed of advertised in the buffet, you have to request it. Not all the cruise crew know where it is so you may have to tell them (thus, tip #1, get the lay of the land ahead of time!).

Funny story,  I showed one crew member the fridge where the gluten-free bread was stored. He had never seen the fridge before and did not know the buffet offered GF bread. He handed me two slices of frozen bread with the most confused facial expression ever, as if to say, “Do you really want frozen bread?????”. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I asked if he could heat it up and he said “I think so? Maybe?” I had been through the gluten-free bread drill several days in a row by this point so I told him how usually someone takes the bread back to the kitchen behind the buffet to heat it up on a stove top. He heated it and returned with perfectly plump, warm bread. I used it to make a cuban-style sandwich with roasted pork, swiss cheese, mustard, and pickle!

5. You do you

Some people like to pre-order. The cruise certainly prefers it because it is much faster than having wait staff have to inquire about GF ingredients to the chef during dinner service. Ultimately, it is your vacation and the fact that you have to eat gluten-free shouldn’t get in your way or limit you. Constant vigilance when dining is inevitable when you are gluten-free so do what you can on your own terms.

If you are in doubt about a dish that you are told is gluten-free, ask the wait staff to double check. I had a bowl of muscles in a white wine sauce that was suspiciously opaque and thick, as if it was made with a roux. I was really stressed even though the waiter told me it was gluten-free. My plan (I am embarrassed to admit) was to push the food around on the plate and just not eat it but my husband (the best person ever!) unabashedly asked the waiter to triple check with the chef. He said “Hey, I know you said this was gluten-free but it looks too good to be true. Would you mind asking the chef one more time specifically about if the sauce has flour in it or not?” Turns out, it was made with rice flour. I have a good eye and a good husband and Princess cruise line has great wait staff.

If you want reassurance ask for it. If you don’t want to pre-order, then don’t. If you want gluten-free pancakes every single day ask for them (even though it feels awkward around day 8 when you invariably show up with your empty plate and the buffet guy says before you have a chance to ask “Two pancakes! I know!” while laughing just a little)!

Happy cruising!

-CC

 

 

Quick Guide: Gluten-Free Green Drinks

17 Mar

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Forgot to wear a green shirt? Why not try a new way to go green on St. Patrick’s Day this year!   Here is a list of my favorite gluten-free green drinks that you could enjoy today, or, really, any day!

1. Kale and associates from Blueprint Juice

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Readily available at most Whole Foods Stores, this juice is sweet, tart and has the perfect level of spice from the added fresh ginger. Here is a healthful way to help you squeeze in a serving of vegetables and get some green in on St. Patrick’s Day!

 

 

 

2. Spa Water

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You can find filtered water with various fresh fruits, veggies and herbs in them at some Whole Foods markets or you can easily make this yourself at home. Take any fresh greens you have at home and throw them into your water bottle or into your next glass of water. I love adding cucumber, lemon and thyme to my water giving it an incredibly refreshing taste and smell. This is a simple way to add a little bit of green into your day.

 

 

 

3. CC Gluten Freed’s Dirty Martini Recipe

dmI never had much of a sweet tooth so savory cocktails are usually my go-to. Smirnof may not be the fanciest of vodkas but I know it is gluten-free so I opt for safe option when stocking my bar for a party. The trick to a perfect dirty martini is finding great olives. I use Jose Andres’s Spicy Gordal Olives. Want my recipe? olives

Combine the following in a shaker with ice:

2 oz of Smirnoff Vodka

1 oz of Dry Vermouth

1/2 oz of Olive juice

– shake vigorously – pour – garnish with 2 olives – enjoy-

 

 

There are plenty of ways to go green and gluten-free for St. Patrick’s Day! Enjoy!

-CC

Gluten-Free Wedding Cake Guide

26 Feb

—-Originally printed in Celebrate Gluten Free – a quarterly magazine by the Gluten Intolerance Group—-

Weddings come in many shapes and sizes but virtually any wedding occasion includes food. So, what about planning a gluten-free wedding event?  If you’re doing the planning, setting a gluten-free menu with a caterer is relatively easy to do. But what about the cake? There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing entrées whereas the cake may seem more limiting for someone looking to accommodate dietary needs. Whether you have a gluten-free bride/groom or gluten-free guests, the big question remains the same: what do I do about the cake?

I have a distinct memory of walking by a table promoting gluten-free wedding cakes during my first visit to a gluten-free conference. Despite not having any wedding plans, the table caught my eye. To my shock, I felt my eyes fill with tears. When told by my physician that I must adhere to a gluten-free diet it took me a few weeks to really process the complexity of what it meant to live gluten-free. When I realized that a wedding cake was probably not in my future, I was not particularly bothered by the idea. Cake was out. I could accept that. Regardless, when I saw that wedding cake booth I felt so happy and sentimental. Even at a young age, the idea of a wedding cake was special to me and was a tradition I thought would elude me. So, now that you know you can have a gluten-free wedding cake, the question is how to find one.

If you are planning a wedding you have a variety of options for the gluten-free wedding cake. You should choose the option that best suits your needs and your budget. If you want an entirely gluten-free wedding then I suggest finding a dedicated gluten-free bakery in your area and ordering a wedding cake from them. However, if you are not looking for an exclusively gluten-free wedding then you have many options on the table.

Living in our nation’s capital, I stumbled across a gem of a bakery: Sticky Fingers. Two-time winner of the show Cupcake Wars, Sticky Fingers Bakery has made quite a name for itself. They pride themselves on offering delicious cupcakes and goodies that are vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), peanut-free and gluten-free. I stopped by their storefront for an official wedding cake tasting, one of the perks of writing an article about wedding cakes! When I arrived there was a small table reserved with a sign that read “Wedding Cake Tasting.” Kamber, the baker, brought out four options for me to try. Even though they make full-size wedding cakes, the cake tasting is done using cupcakes! My personal favorite was the chocolate cake with buttercream frosting and fresh raspberry puree. The sweetness of the frosting was cut so perfectly by the tart berries that it left me wanting bite after bite.

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Kamber explained that her customers have a lot of say when it comes to designing the perfect wedding cake. Depending on the bakery, you will need to request your cake pretty far in advance. During busy wedding months like May, June, August and September bakeries like Sticky Fingers may need at least a month’s notice, if not more. The amount of time it takes to make your personalized gluten-free wedding cake also depends on the complexity of your design. Kamber also had some great tips on how to save on your gluten-free wedding. Keep reading to see how you can make your wedding delectable and affordable.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of wedding cake planning: the cost. Wedding cakes are expensive. They are usually sold on a “per-slice” basis ranging (on average) from $8-$15 per slice. A typical 3-tier wedding cake serves 82 resulting in a cost of around $900. In addition to that already seemingly staggering number, gluten-free cakes are often priced on the higher end of the spectrum. Sticky Fingers charge $2 more per slice when making a gluten-free cake, adding up to $12 per slice.

There is no denying that gluten-free options are usually more expensive than their gluten-containing doppelgangers. Luckily, there are plenty of relatively easy ways you can cut down on cost!

  1. Dual-Cake: If you are a gluten-free bride or groom without many gluten-free guests you can cut down on costs by ordering the top-tier of your wedding cake from a dedicated gluten-free bakery and the rest of the cake from a traditional bakery. If you opt for this make sure you clearly communicate your plan to both bakeries. You will need to separate the top tier from the rest of the cake with cardboard or styrofoam covered in fondant but the cake decorators should be able to do this without any trouble!
  2. Go for cupcakes: With the national popularizing of cupcakes, gluten-free options have become fairly common at most cupcakeries across the nation. You can order a traditional looking top-tier then place the cupcakes in lower tiers. You may find that cupcakes are cheaper than ordering an entire personalized wedding cake.IMG_0341
  1. Play it up: You can make your cake appear larger by separating the tiers with non-cake layers that are decorated in fondant. If you want the appearance of a grand cake but do not need a huge cake to accommodate your guests this is an affordable way to get the effect you are looking for. You can also use this trick to separate gluten-free tiers from gluten-containing tiers if you opt for cost-savings trick #1.
  2. Be Square: when designing your cake, choose a design that allows the tiers to be square-shaped. Squares are easier to cut in a grid pattern so you will be able to cut more slices per tier, cutting down on costs!
  3. Bottomless cake: In addition to ordering a small three-tiered wedding cake for wedding pictures, order a few large sheet cakes made with the same type of cake and frosting. The chefs or caterers can cut up the slices in the back and no one will know the difference. The sheet cakes will save you a bundle while you still get the glamorous and traditional wedding cake to display and eventually serve to guests.

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The most important thing to keep in mind when planning for a gluten-free wedding is to enjoy the process! Weddings are so fun and so special. You may feel like the cake is a gluten-free bump in the road but there are so many options out there for people living gluten-free! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and definitely do your research! Prices will probably vary from bakery to bakery so call around and enjoy the gluten-free cake tastings while you plan your big day!

Gluten-Free Superbowl Party Ideas

27 Jan

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Gearing up to watch the Seahawks battle the Patriots on the field of Arizona Stadium? You might be feeling stressed at the thought of heading to a 3-5 hour long Superbowl party to watch the game while sitting across from a coffee table covered with snacks and party foods that may or may not be gluten-free.  Set that stress aside because below are some fun tips to prepare for and enjoy the big game!

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On game day there is no such thing as too many snacks. No host will complain about having an extra addition added to the buffet table or coffee table for guests to enjoy during the game.

I suggest bringing chips (corn tortilla chips are the easiest, maybe try buying Scoops!) and an assortment of dips. You don’t want to be limited to one option while watching the game so bring more than one dip in case there aren’t many other options for you at the party.

If you are worried about going hungry then try for a dip that is heartier than onion dip or salsa. Earlier this football season I hosted people for a game and made a hearty Mediterranean dip, inspired by the multi layer dips I have seen at grocery stores.

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Ingredients:

1 lb ground lamb

Spices: garlic, onion, dried basil, salt and pepper

1 cucumber

1 carton of Greek yogurt

4 tablespoons of dill

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

Feta cheese crumbles

Instructions:

  1. Season the ground lamb with the spices listed above. Cook in a pan on high heat until browned. Pour meat onto a plate lined with multiple paper towels to collect grease. Set aside
  2. Dice cucumber and chop the dill. Mix cucumber and dill with yogurt and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste
  3. In a small glass dish put a layer of yogurt-mix then add lamb meat then feta crumbles – repeat layering until dish is filled to the top

This recipe is quick, east and more creative than a traditional multi-layer dip! Enjoy with tortilla chips! Note, although this is a Mediterranean inspired dish do not buy pita chips at the store because they are unlikely to be gluten-free.

Don’t feel like making dip? You can easily find premade dips at your local grocery store. Try guacamole, salsa, hummus, onion dip or multi-layer bean dip for quick purchases that will still be a crowd pleaser. If you buy onion powder mix be sure to read the ingredients label just in case!

Feel like being ambitious? Try my spin on stuffed jalapeno poppers! Whenever I see stuff jalapenos at parties I usually stay clear for fear of the heat. You won’t know how cooked/roasted the jalapenos are before biting down and an undercooked jalapeno can wreck havoc on your palate and leave you running to the fridge for milk to cool off. If you want a crowd-pleasing twist on a classic then make my Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Poblano Peppers instead!

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Ingredients:

Poblano Peppers (5)

8 ounces of cream cheese

1 cup of extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon of the following spices: paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder

1 package of bacon

20 toothpicks

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil (for easy clean up) then set aside.
  2. Cut the poblano peppers in half lengthwise; remove the seeds and center membrane
  3. In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and spices. Add salt and pepper to taste
  4. Using a spoon (or your hands) to spoon the filling equally among the 10 poblano pepper halves.
  5. Wrap each stuffed pepper with one slice of bacon (if too long feel free to cut the bacon strips in half as needed) then stick a toothpick through the center to hold the bacon in place
  6. Place the stuffed peppers on the tin-foil lined baking sheet and bake for 28 minutes or until bacon is crisp

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You can refrigerate these and reheat at the party in the oven or eat at room temperature. The poblano peppers have less heat than the traditional jalapeno so your guests will find it easy to eat without burning out their palates. Want to spice things up? Try buying flavored cream cheese like garden vegetable, chive and onion, jalapeno or chipotle flavors (check ingredients before purchasing to double check)!

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The last component of attending a Superbowl Party? BYOB. Many people associate beer with watching football and there is no reason you cannot partake in the tradition. Try bringing a 6 pack of hard cider or Redbridge beer. My favorite cider right now is Angry Orchard but there are a lot of brands out there that should be easy to find at the supermarket.

If all else fails you can now order gluten-free pizza at Pizza Hut at select locations! You can expect a CC Gluten Freed blog post dedicated to the new gluten-free Pizza Hut option – the latest development in the gluten-free world! Starting TODAY, Jnauary 26th, Pizza Hut has started rolling out their gluten-free pizza option. Unlike Domino’s it is certified gluten-free. Details to come in my next post. PS thank you Udi’s for working with Pizza Hut to support the gluten free community!

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Regardless of whether you are rooting for the Patriots, the Seahawks or are just watching for the commercials you should enjoy all of what Superbowl Sunday has to offer – including the food!

-CC

Gluten-Free Food Network Fan?

1 Dec

Is it possible to truly be a fan of the Food Network when living gluten-free? The short answer is yes!

I learned a large portion of my culinary skills and kitchen tricks from watching Chopped on the Food Network. Although the shows on Food Network do not often highlight gluten-free recipes, dishes or restaurants,I find their shows, recipes and cooking advice fairly easy to adapt to suit my gluten-free needs. I enjoy watching the shows, browsing their recipes online and following their chefs on Twitter and Facebook. The one aspect of being a Food Network fan I was uncertain of was whether or not I could dine at the restaurants of the chefs who had taught me so much about cooking!

This Fall I took a trip up to New York to test out the restaurants of two of my favorite Food Network Stars: Iron Chef and Chopped Judge Alex Guarnaschelli and Iron Chef and Chopped Judge Geoffrey Zakarian.

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First stop: Butter Midtown, Alex Guarnaschelli’s, restaurant for a lovely dinner with my significant other

For our first course we ordered from the Raw menu, opting for the Hawaiian Yellowtail. Beautifully plated, this dish consisted of raw yellowtail fish with olive oil, birdseye chillies and lime. Each bite was both refreshing and velvety. When I took a picture of my dish and tweeted it Alex Guarnaschelli tweeted back at me! This was absolutely the highlight of my night!

IMG_5206 IMG_5205 For my main course I ordered the Long Island Duck Breast A L’Orange. I had just seen Chef CJ Jacobson make Duck A L’Orange on Top Chef Duels the week before my trip to New York and was curious what it would taste like. Chef Guarnaschelli’s dish did not disappoint!

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The duck was the perfect mix of crispy and succulent. The sauce provided just the right amount of sweetness to balance the zesty orange flavors. It was served with a puree of buttered Northshire rutabaga, reminiscent of side of mashed potatoes but with more flare.

Of course, I couldn’t help but order dessert and ordered the Crem Brulee (sans lavender shortbread cookie)IMG_5225

This dish was a bit too savory for my taste but was still a nice end to a wonderful meal. The creme brulee desserts I have previously experienced were very sweet with a vanilla flavor. Guanraschelli’s version was a bit more tame with a very subtle corn custard capped with caramelized sugar.

After a great night in New York I had certainly worked up an appetite by the time brunch rolled around on Sunday morning. My friends and I went to Geoffrey Zakarian’s restaurant, The National Bar and Dining Room. Greeted by a beautiful decor I was ready to try out another Food Network Star’s culinary creations.

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I ordered the Bacon and Mushroom Omelet served with spinach, cremini mushrooms and asiago. I am a huge fan of breakfast coming with side salad so I was pleasantly surprised when my dish arrived with a plateful of fresh greens! I also ordered a side of the cheese grits which had an intense savory cheese flavor countered by the subtle flavor of the grits that just left me going in for bite after bite. 
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Ultimately, the trip to New York was a success! I found that if you want to be a hardcore Food Network fan and travel to the restaurants of the stars then by all means don’t let being gluten-free stop you! Although both menus were incredibly tasty, refined and delicious, Alex Guarnaschelli’s restaurant definitely beat out Zakarian’s when it came to hospitality. Guarnaschelli’s staff was not only well informed about the gluten-free options on the menu but they were also courteous, friendly and helpful. Zakarian’s restaurant, though offering great food, had a waitstaff that was somewhat unhelpful and difficult to interact with for both gluten-free and non gluten-free diners.  That being said I had a great time in New York and look forward to my next gluten-free food adventure in the Big Apple!

-CC

Gluten-Free Crumble Cake Recipe

30 May

Last weekend I made 6 sandwiches using Udi’s gluten-free whole grain bread for a picnic with friends. One of my friends mid-meal asked “CC, how are you eating this?!” When I explained the bread was gluten-free, she was shocked! Although there are a ton of great gluten-free options out there, sometimes I find myself craving something from back in my gluten-eating days that I just can’t satisfy with gluten-free alternatives. What do you do when you crave something that doesn’t have a gluten-free equivalent?

 You make it happen!

 Before going gluten-free one of my favorite pastries was the Crumble Cake at Starbucks. I haven’t seen any pre-made products out there that even come close to this glorious baked delicacy. Last weekend I decided to try and make it and to my surprise, it turned out to be a totally satisfying gluten-free replica! Starbucks-Crumb-Cake-540x432 Here is my recipe for gluten-free crumble cake. Enjoy! Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (1.5 for cake, 0.5 for crumble)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Phase 1: The cake

Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees, butter a 9×12 inch pan with canola oil Step 2: Whisk egg, milk, canola oil and vanilla extract Step 3: In a separate bowl mix together GF flour, sugar, baking powder and salt

    Use a sifter for easy and complete mixing

Step 4: Fold dry ingredients into liquid mixture

    I used my Kitchen Aid mixer!

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Step 5: Spread batter evenly in the baking pan ny-crumb-cake-5_thumb

Phase 2: The crumble

Step 1: Mix together brown sugar, ½ cup of GF flour and cinnamon

    I used the bowl I used to mix the dry ingredients earlier

Step 2: Combine melted butter and sugar/flour mix. Use a spatula to mix the dry ingreidnets with butter until clumps start to form

    I used my hands to mix together instead of a spatula

Step: 3 Sprinkle sugar crumbs over the cake batter

You can control how sweet/sugary your dessert is by adding more/less crumb topping to your pan – the picture below is on the heavier side in terms of sugar:cake ratio 

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Phase 3: Bake!

Let the Crumble Cake bake for 20 minutes then let it cool before serving!

vanilla-crumb-cake-cl-l Enjoy! This crumble cake makes a great addition to a brunch or can serve as a dessert!     -CC

Celiac Awareness Month: Midway Mid-May

12 May

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With the rush of newsletters and e-blasts that reached our inboxes on May 1st you may have been overwhelmed by the abundance of information about ways to participate in Celiac Awareness Month (CAM). Maybe you told yourself you would read them later or pick an activity to celebrate Celiac Awareness Month when you had a free moment.

For those of you who feel like May has been slipping away at lightning speed, fear not! Here is CC Gluten Freed’s guide to participating in Celiac Awareness month mid-May.

If these options do not appeal to your interests check out CC Gluten Freed’s suggestion for May 2013! 

Whether you want to do something BIG and involved or just a small act to participate in Celiac Awareness Month, this guide will help you find an activity that fits your needs!

1. Be an advocate!

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The best way I can think to celebrate Celiac Awareness Month is by advocating for yourself and making concrete change to improve your community. Be an activist this month by persuading a local business to start offering gluten-free options or receive training by NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program, GIG’s Chef-To-Plate program or simply talk to the manager about what changes s/he could implement to make the restaurant a safer experience for you!

You can read about the class I taught at UC Berkeley about how to train local restaurants by clicking here.

In a couple of weeks I will post my experience talking to a local restaurant about gluten-free options and post resources for you do try it yourself! If you are going to talk to a local restaurant I suggest printing out materials with specific suggestions and information about gluten-free cooking practices and cross-contamination.

2. Attend a Webinar

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A great way to celebrate CAM is to educate yourself about your diagnosis or your gluten-free lifestyle. Webinars are a useful and free way to learn new information! The National Foundation For Celiac Awareness offers webinars regularly that will keep you informed about the most up to date information about celiac disease. Don’t see one that interests you coming up? No worries! NFCA keeps an archive of their webinars that you can watch! Check it out here.

Their next webinar is Thursday, May 15th at 2:00pm (eastern) and will be discussing best practices in celiac disease diagnosis. Register for the webinar by clicking here.

3. Tweet!

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Connect with the gluten-free community on twitter! This is an easy and fun way to participate in CAM. Start using #glutenfree or #celiac when tweeting and see how engaged and connected the gluten-free community really is. Members in the GF community will retweet you or respond to the tweets you blast off.

New to Twitter? Don’t know many gluten-free groups on Twitter? No problem. Tomorrow night (May 13th at 8:00pm (EST) NFCA is hosting a Twitter Chat! NFCA will be discussing risk factors and diagnosis process for celiac disease. You can share your experiences with others and connect online! Tweeet @CeliacAwareness and use #NFCAchat to join in the conversation!

4. Make plans to go to an event:

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Check out CC Gluten Freed’s Calendar for May and June. Start planning now and you can make it out to the CDF’s Annual National Conference and Gluten-Free Expo on June 7th and 8th. Washington DC also has a gluten-free expo on June 8th! These events are super fun and delicious (you will be stuffed after sampling all of the amazing products from the vendors at these events).

You can also rely on resources from NFCA and CDF to participate in Celiac Awareness Month.

Celiac Disease Foundation:

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CDF encourages members of the gluten-free/celiac community to join Team Gluten-Free’s Week Without Wheat Challenge to raise funds for CDF’s awareness efforts! By joining Team Gluten-Free you aim to raise $100 by getting people to donate to you! The format is similar to the way funds are raised for marathon running/walking teams.

By signing up you receive a Team Gluten-Free t-shirt and a Team fundraising page. You can post updates about your 7-day gluten-free meal plan on your page as well as on other social media sites (use#tgfchallenge on Twitter!)

CCGF twist? Have a friend or family member sign up for the challenge! This gets more people involved in CAM and spreads the word. This is a great way to educate a friend or family member. In my experience, the only way to fully understand what it takes to live gluten-free is to try it out! If you feel like friends or family don’t understand you or lack empathy this is a perfect, non-confrontational way to ask them to test out being gluten-free!

National Foundation For Celiac Awareness:

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NFCA will send you a CAM toolkit that has weekly themes for the month of May focused on increasing awareness about celiac disease via education! The toolkit is a great resource for educating yourself as well as friends or family. You also receive some great recipes as an added bonus!

NFCA also posts a gluten-free product of the day on their awareness month page! Keep track of this site if you are curious about new gluten-free products on the market.

 

One of the silver-linings of living gluten-free is the amazing community you become a part of. May is an opportunity to really engage with the gluten-free community! No matter what you decide to do, every small action made by members of the gluten-free community aggregate to form a united, important impact!

 

Happy Celiac Awareness Month!

 

-CC

 

 

Gluten-Free Tax Deduction Guide

7 Mar

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Taxes got you down? Do all of the rules, regulations, codes, exemptions and forms have your head spinning? This is my guide to dissecting gluten-free tax guidelines.

Here is a compilation of all of the resources I found online for gluten-free deductions in comprehensive and comprehendible post.

People diagnosed with celiac disease are entitled to making deductions for the extra costs associated with living gluten-free! If you want to take advantage of the tax benefits associated with celiacs then read below for some tips.

 In the interest of saving time, don’t break out the calculator until you are sure that you qualify for the deductions!

1.First things first: are you entitled to deducting medical expenses?

In order to qualify for medical expense deductions your medical expenses must exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income.

Your adjusted gross income is your taxable income minus any adjustments to income such as deductions, contributions to a traditional IRA and student loan interest.

“For example, if you have a modified adjusted gross income of $45,000 and $5,475 of medical expenses, you would multiply $45,000 by 0.10 (10 percent) to find that only expenses exceeding $4,500 can be deducted. This leaves you with a medical expense deduction of $975 (5,475 – 4,500)” (IRS).

NOTE: it is your TOTAL medical expenses that must exceed 10% of your income, not just your celiac-related expenses.

If your situation meets this criteria the next step is to get an official written diagnosis of celiac disease from your physician. Once you have this you can send it in with the rest of your paperwork.

2. Find out what can be deducted 

You cannot deduct the full price of gluten-free products but you can deduct the cost of gluten-free products that is in EXCESS of the cost of their gluten-containing counterparts.

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For example, if a loaf of gluten-free bread costs $6.00 and a comparable loaf of glutinous bread costs $3.00, you may include in your medical expenses the excess cost of $3.00.

You can deduct the full cost of special gluten-free items like Xanthum Gum which is used in baking GF products.

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Have you been to Pam MacD’s or Whole Foods lately? The transportation costs (gas, parking, tolls) you incur from making  special trips to grocery stores for gluten-free products are deductible.

Have you ordered some gluten-free soy sauce packets from Amazon like I did last week? If so, the full cost of postage or other delivery expenses for GF foods made by mail order are deductible.

3. Fill out the right form!

You report medical expense deductions on Schedule A, Form 1040 which is different from the Form 1040 (US Individual Income Tax Return). Use the Schedule A 1040 form to figure out itemized deductions.

4. FILE!

Send in your Schedule A 1040 form and official written diagnosis from a physician with your other tax documents.

If you are audited: 

Although you do not need to send these documents in when you file your taxes, you will want them on hand in case of an audit.

1. If needed, get a letter from your physician indicating that you have celiac disease and must adhere to a gluten-free diet for life.

2. Substantiation of the expenses in the form of receipts, cash register tapes or cancelled checks for your GF purchases.

3. A schedule showing how you computed your deductions for the GF foods.

(From the Celiac Disease Foundation’s Website)

Here are some fantastic resources:

NFCA’s Gluten-Free Tax Guide

CDF’s Gluten-Free Tax Guide

The best advice I can offer is to do your homework and check out multiple sources for tax information. Filing your taxes may be a pain but in the event of an audit it is better to be prepared and organized than caught off guard. Put in the work to get your taxes done correctly, benefit from the deductions and enjoy another gluten-free fiscal year.

-CC

Gluten-Free Valentine’s Day

11 Feb

Whether it is your first Valentine’s Day living gluten-free or your millionth attempt at keeping things GF on our Hallmark Holiday of love you can always find new, safe and sexy ways to have a great gluten-free February 14th.


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Here are my favorite romantic (and gluten-free) ideas for the 14th! You will definitely enjoy these whether you are looking to share them with your beau or simply want to eat some yummy desserts Friday night!

French Macarons: There is something about a French macaron that just seems romantic. Maybe it is the extensive spectrum of colors they come in, the eccentric flavors or their delicate texture; whatever the reason they are a great option for Valentine’s day. French macarons are traditionally made with almond flour and thus are gluten-free.

I’ve never made French macaroons but they are on my baking bucket list. Here is a recipe for French macarons (I haven’t tested this recipe myself just yet  but here it is  in case you are curious how they are made.)

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Don’t feel like breaking out the mixing bowl? Search around for a bakery that has macarons! There are many bakeries and restaurants  like Olivia Macaron in Georgetown that sell macarons. Wherever you decide to pick up your macarons, check with the bakery to make sure their recipes are GF. Don’t forget to ask about the risk of cross-contamination! Macarons are not only beautiful, they are delicious and come in so many flavors that making a theme for Valentine’s day will be a cinch.

Flourless Chocolate Cake: believe it or not, flourless chocolate cake is actually a pretty classic dessert even outside the gluten-free community! Flourless chocolate cake is very, very rich. This is  kind of dish  is perfect for sharing because you can’t “chow down” on such a rich dessert; it is more of a nibbling culinary experience. Regardless, it is so delicious I cannot guarantee that you won’t fight over who gets the last bite. Here is the Food Network’s recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cake. Want to make yours special? Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for an extra kick.

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Candy: Don’t feel like cooking or questing for bakeries? Go for classic Valentine’s Day candies! When I first went gluten-free I didn’t realize that many of my traditions would no longer be an option for me (eg Italian Christmas Eve!).

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Luckily, one of my favorite Valentine’s Day traditions is safely marked gluten-free: Sweethearts by Necco. I don’t know what it is about these cute little candies but for whatever reason, I look forward to them every single year! The texture is chewy yet crunchy, sweet yet a bit sedate and those little messages…so fun!

Many other gluten-free candies make V-day versions of themselves: m&m’s, Nerds, Dove Chocolate and the like!

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Gluten-free Valentine’s Day Challenges?

Not surprisingly, there are some uniquely challenging situations that potentially  arise on V-day due to being gluten-free.

1. Choices/Planning — if your significant other has opted to take the reins for V-day planning you may feel a bit anxious about whether or not they will get the gluten-free thing right.  For some, their better-halves have mastered the art of all things gluten-free. To the Non-GFBFs and Non-GFGFs (non-gluten-free boyfriend/girlfriend…shout out to Erica Dermer!) out there, knowing all things gluten is a pretty sexy quality in a beau.

If your special someone doesn’t fully get the gluten-free thing just yet then  explain you’d be more comfortable planning Valentine’s Day. You should have the whole “I’m not sure if you planning Valetnine’s Day is such a good idea” talk sooner rather than later so get a move on!

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If you want your special someone to plan the big day then consider offering them a list of guidelines/tips for planning a gluten-free date. Obviously, you don’t want to kill the romance with logistics but the details are important so just be light hearted, patient and funny about it. Have them download “Find Me Gluten Free” on their phones and use that to pick the restaurant.

If he/she wants to cook for you, remind them about cross-contamination (clean the stove, don’t use a shared toaster etc.)  and ask them about the ingredients (they can tell you the ingredients without totally spoiling what the dish will be!)

PS this is not a hint for my valentine: I know you got the gf thing on lock 😉

2. Prix Fixe Menus – You may want to go to a hot new restaurant downtown on Valentine’s day but may encounter prix fixe menus at a lot of nicer places. You may not be aware that a restaurant is doing a special menu on V-day so call ahead and check if they have a set menu or if the regular menu is open to customers.  A lot of restaurants will make changes to the pre-fixed menu to accommodate a gluten-free customer but you should call ahead to confirm they can make the changes.

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3. Dessert — A lot of restaurants will not have a GF option for dessert so maybe plan on having dessert at home using one of the ideas listed above or call ahead and check about gluten-free dessert options!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

-CC

5 Great Things To Do With KIND Bars

26 Jun

Gluten free, great-tasting yet filling snacks can be hard to come by. Luckily, KIND Healthy Snacks offers fruit and nut bars that hit the spot every time.  When you are living gluten free, being hungry is a common and frequent concern.  If you miss lunch at the office, you can’t exactly ask around to see if anyone has anything in the office for you to snack on because chances are it wont be gluten free! There are a thousand other scenarios where being hungry yet out of reach of anything GF can come up; KIND Bars may be your answer!

Here are 5 great things to do with KIND Bars:

1. Put a few bars in your desk drawer

There is nothing worse than that creeping feeling of hunger that sometimes strikes at around 4:00pm. You have to stay at the office for at least two more hours but your stomach just isn’t having it. If you have a store of KIND Bars you can easily snack on one of these nutritious and filing bars while you finish out the day.

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Bar suggestion: Almond Cashew + Flax (Omega-3). This bar has a lot of nutritional value and is very filling. It is lower in sugar so it won’t leave you craving more. The flax seeds in the bar give you a nice dose of omega-3s that you might not otherwise fit into your diet during the day.

2. Keep them in your car

Keeping a few KIND bars in the car can be a real life saver. Whether you have a gluten free kid and always need to be able to send him off with a snack or you just get hungry while stuck in traffic, having healthy and filling GF snacks available is always a plus.  Winner’s tip: don’t keep the bars with chocolate in them in your because they will melt and be very messy!

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Bar suggestion: Blueberry vanilla cashew bars are great for the car because they are not very messy and, when heated by the sun, are actually pretty delicious and reminiscent of blueberry pie.

3. Emergency Kits

In my emergency kit at home I have gluten free emergency food.  I have a mix of protein bars and KIND Bars. In DC, roads were blocked and my neighborhood lost power a few times this year due to inclement weather. It was comforting knowing I had a store of pretty yummy emergency food in my closet!

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Bar suggestion: Almond Walnut Macadamia with Peanuts + Protein. This bar has 10 grams of protein (the highest protein count for a KIND Bar) which will keep you full and give you some energy back to weather out a storm.

4. Substitute for a candy bar to curb a craving

Ever crave a candy bar but dread the nutritionally challenged calories? KIND Bars offer several varieties of fruit and nut bars that incorporate chocolate. They are great because they taste like candy but have nutritional value!  You get to curb your craving while eating a nourishing snack.  Better yet, while some candy bars can leave you craving more food, KIND Bars have protein and fiber (among other nutrients) in them which will help you feel full and energized.

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Bar suggestion: Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew bars are insanely delicious and chewy. In addition to actually tasting like a candy bar they are high in potassium, fiber and protein!

5. Store them at your relatives’ homes

Are you the only GF person in your family? Ever get hungry at family dinners or events?  Next time you head to the in-laws bring a box of KIND bars to keep in their pantry. It will be a relief during future visits knowing that you don’t have to worry about bringing snacks to the house. If you have a gluten free kid it is really important to make sure that family members’ houses are stocked with gluten free options because we don’t want the child to feel left out or hungry.  The last thing grandpa and grandma need when they offer to babysit for you is a hungry kid on their hands without any GF food to fix it so just make it a point to drop off GF snacks the next time you go over.

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Bar suggestion: Apple Cinnamon and Pecan. This bar is great at any time of day. It kind of has a breakfast vibe going on but really can be enjoyed any time.  Whether you are visiting family for Sunday brunch of Christmas dinner, having some bars on hand can never hurt!

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