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Gluten free German meat rubs

Last night we got to taste the first batch of Opa Helmut’s Rub recipe for German Bratwurst ever made in the US by his granddaughter, Astrid, a friend of ours.  After eating ourselves silly, I need to tell you those sausages were the best sausages of any kind that I have ever tasted, and we have travelled and eaten Bratwurst in Germany.  Never before have I tasted such freshness and clarity.  With no nitrates and no curing, the sausages did not have that “I’m-going-to–last-forever quality that I don’t like in cured meats. Thus, the fresh, pure taste.  I could actually distinguish the ground pork (with no bits of bone or cartilage) etc., mixed with the spices and herbs.  Outstanding!

Of course, Astrid used her family’s secret Bratwurst spice rub, of the Thuringer style Bratwurst, which you will be able to buy soon, along with her other outstanding spice rub mixes, on the website www.opahelmutsrub.com.  Her meat rubs have been a wild hit here in the South Bay Area.  I highly recommend them, not only because they are Gluten Free and MSG free, but are made without weird, unpronounceable ingredients, simply the pure herbs and spices.  What a gift Astrid is giving the United States by sharing her family’s exclusive meat rubs with us.  The best of the German butcher/craftsman has come to America.  Lucky us!

Again, go to www.opahelmutsrub.com to try these amazing, exclusive Gluten Free and MSG free spice rubs.

History Lives On

Just when you get used to the limitations of the living gluten free;

just when you realize that in the grand scheme of your life, the dietary limitations are a small thing, especially in the face of millions who can’t see, hear, walk, think clearly;

just when you figure out which parental bloodline the Celiac disease came from;

just when you  release the irrational guilt of being the DNA carrier that passed the disease to your daughter,

you find out her 17 month old son has the genetic marker for Celiac disease.

History lives on.

Honestly, every time the gene I carry gets transferred through my family, I literally feel like a horse has just kicked me, hard, in the stomach.  The angst and sorrow I felt as the one who caused and would continue to cause my daughter extra hardship in her life lived in me like a continual flagellating whip for months. Because of this disease, I watched her lose nine inches of her colon in a desperate last ditch surgery to find out why she was so sick and in so much pain.   (No mother wants to hear the word MASS from the surgeon after a surgery has taken twice as long as he estimated.)  Then, I watched her go through a horrific two year recovery process of not being able to eat much followed by a scary I-am-starving weight loss.  Guilt, guilt, guilt.  Gradually, as she recovered and regained not only weight, but her normal happy disposition and an ability to handle the gluten free diet and lifestyle with a sense of ease, I let go of my guilt.  I finally realized that no family gene structure is perfect.

“Hey, we all have genes, right?” to put it more glibly.

Now, this.  My grandson, a tiny, laughter-filled, run-around-the-house-screaming-with-delight-over-just-about-everything innocent has this disease overlaid on his journey through life.  It saddens me.

And yet…the world is much more aware of gluten in foods and the environment than 15 years ago when I was diagnosed.  The grocery stores carry more GF products than ever before.  Most restaurants have gluten free  options, if not a whole gluten free menu.  The government has recognized gluten as an official food allergen.  Food labeling will reflect this new status.  So…this delightful little boy is coming into a world where it is much easier to navigate through a gluten free lifestyle. Plus, when he comes to visit Grandma, he will be entering a no gluten zone, a worry-free environment.  Everyone, gluten free or not, gets gluten free food here.

I make it my pledge, here and now, to help and support his GF journey in any way I am capable.

Entry is dedicated to my youngest daughter.

Vacation Dietary Cheating

What I know about chronic conditions is that it is every day, every minute…no days off!

One of my dear friends, who is extremely careful and conscientious about following her diet, just went on a four day romantic, bed and breakfast getaway with her husband.  Of course, she wanted a vacation from her daily routines.  That is the fun of vacation.  However, just a tiny bit of deviating from her rigid dietary restrictions in the name of “I can’t take it any more;  I need a couple of days off” landed her in bed for four days after her four day vacation…in misery.

Was it worth it?  No one can judge.  The relentlessness of scrutinizing every single bite that goes into your mouth, can wear a person down emotionally.  Sometimes we all just need to cheat, be a little sinful, or simply relax the rigidity.  Yes, we pay, but sometimes in the name of our emotional health, the cost  may be worth it.

My solution, because I have been sick more days of my life than well, is to try to find foods that feel outside of my regular diet that are still gluten free.  I try to get that vacation feeling without actually cheating.  Because I do not include these foods in my everyday diet, I am going to share a couple of my favorite sinful foods that I indulge in on vacations:

Mixed rum drinks

GF caramels, especially the ones with a little extra salt

Very dark GF chocolate

S’Mores with GF graham crackers

Maragaritas

GF Dessert.

S’More recipe

GF Marshmallows

GF graham crackers

GF milk chocolate

Apples

Roast two GF marshmallows over a campfire gone to coals until golden brown.  Core and slice an apple in 1/8 to ¼ inch slices, horizontally with the core hole in the center.  Put a slice of the apple and a square or three of chocolate on one graham cracker.  Grab the marshmallows off the roasting stick onto the cracker, chocolate, apple combo with another graham cracker.  Squish and eat.  Yum!

A GF Comfort Food Recipe to Celebrate FALL

After an intense September filled with…life, I just wanted to share one of my favorite gluten free comfort food recipes with you, even though there is nothing sleuthish about it.   After a successful backyard Merlot and Cab grape harvest with the juice happily starting to ferment in the barn, some overnight company, and one family medical crisis, I needed something chewy, a bit sweet, and a teensy sinful to help me slide into the unwinding process.  For me, that something is a batch of my GF Rum Scones.

My GF Rum Scones

½ to ¾ package (about ½ cup) of Trader Joe’s dried blueberries (I  particularly like these because they are small like currants, although those would work too, and because they are semi soft.  I have also used cut up dried cherries, about ½ cup.

1/3 cup dark rum

Put the dried fruit in a small bowl and pour the dark rum over them to let them soak up that rum goodness while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

1 package Gluten Free Pantry’s Scone Mix

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

1 stick of real butter (butter substitute works fine, if dairy intolerant)

Cut the stick of butter into the dry Scone Mix and spice mixture until the bits are a little smaller than baby peas.

1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork

1 tsp sour cream (optional)

1 tsp GF vanilla

Up to 1/3 cup milk (works fine with a milk substitute)

Add all of the above to the dry ingredients, including the rum/fruit mixture, except the milk.  Mix together with a wooden spoon.  If the mixture is too dry after this to form a ball that sticks together, start adding the milk, a little at a time, until you have the pastry ball.

Don’t over mix.   I squish the ball on a parchment-lined cookie sheet until it is about 1 to 1 ¼  inches high.  At this point, you can make an egg wash to brush on top, but I am too lazy for that.  What sits on the sheet is one large, thick circle of potential scone goodness.

Bake in 400* oven for 15-20 minutes.   Cut into pie shaped wedges after cooling for 8-10 minutes (a serrated knife seems the least shape disturbing)

Then, sit back, legs tucked under you with an ultra soft blanket-throw over your lap; put a chunk of savory cheese and this warm wedge of scone on a beautiful breakfast plate; pour a hot cup of tea, mocha coffee, or other delightful beverage, and RELAX!

Aaaah….

Will I Ever Learn

Will I ever learn?

(Written on a Friday night about a week ago.)

I just had a fantastic dinner at an authentic Mexican restaurant with our visiting daughter and her little 15 month old son.  I had the Molcajete, a sizzling mixture of shrimp, chicken, beef, and some kind of cacti, in a hot, green chili sauce.  The three previous times I ordered this dish, I grilled the staff and cook relentlessly about the ingredients to make sure I would not be blindsided by a gluten reaction.  Tonight, I was so confident in the knowledge of this dish being gluten free that I did not ask one question about the ingredients when ordering.  Being able to freely order is a treat for me.  There was another dish my husband wanted to try of grilled skirt steak.  When it came to the table, the steak looked harmless.  However, I did notice that the green chili sauce in the molcahete looked a bit thick and wondered briefly about its safety, but the sauce had been thick before, and I had had no problems.

Half an hour after eating, my intestines felt a little off, but I simply knew the meal had been safe because of my past good experiences.  One hour later, as I was splashing water around the bath with my little grandson, intense gas cramps shot up my right shoulder and down throughout my entire front torso.  Unable to ignore the pain that literally took my breath away, I had to call to my daughter for help with the remainder of little guy’s bath.

She was so alarmed by my doubled over pain, she wanted to call 911.  Of course, I knew this old friend of pain roaming around my stomach and intestines.  I hobbled, bent over, to my bottle of charcoal tablets; took four, which I knew would help absorb the gas and relieve the pain.  I did have to get into a semi downward dog position on my hands and knees, rear end in the air…the only pain free position at that moment.   Oh, and lots of moaning always helps me.  I have never understood why making noise or releasing sounds helps so much.

Once the symptoms eased, about 20 minutes later, the self berating began.  When will I ever learn?  I can never, ever make assumptions about food in a restaurant, even about dishes that have previously been safe. There might have been a substitute cook tonight that took a shortcut with the green chili sauce and threw in a bit of flour to thicken the sauce.  There might have been a bit of hidden gluten in the rub on the skirt steak, or it may have been dredged in a smidgen of flour, even though it didn’t look like it when it came to the table.  Did I actually ask about it?  Noooo.  Not a good move, ever…apparently. The minute I let my guard down for one instant…boom…I get hit with a reaction.  The worst part is knowing that ultimately it is my own darned fault.

Now that the worst of the pain is over, all that remains is a low rumbling every once in a while.   I am wondering if my lack of diligence will cause that horrible tiredness tomorrow.  I have a full house of company for the whole weekend.  I just cannot afford to be tired.  I have a double birthday dinner party to put on tomorrow night with a house full of people spending the night.  Usually the tiredness takes me all the way down to the couch for most of the day; the effects wearing off around 4pm.  I can feel the tiredness lifting like a fog slowly burning off.  Dinner is at 5:30.  Wish me luck.

Note to self:

never assume any dish is gluten free in a restaurant even if you have had that exact dish with no reaction in the past;

always double check the ingredients of the meal with the staff;

always carry a sentence in your wallet asking if there is flour in the meal in whatever language appropriate for the restaurant. In this case the sentence should have been, according to my iTranslate app, “Hay alguna harina en este plato?”

With a few precautions and constant, unrelenting vigilance, eating in restaurants can and will continue to be a joy in my life.

Happy nights out to all of you!  GF Sleuth

Glutenfree Health Drink Alert

Health Drinks labelled Glutenfree

I just spent three days at this amazing eco farm called Lodestar in Arizona, visiting friends. The hostess had been giving her aging mother this wonderful health drink filled with nearly all the nutrients a human body needs to thrive.   And…the mother’s health was responding beautifully.

Of course, when she offered me some, I responded with my usual, “Could I see the container, please?”  In big, bold letters on the outside label were the words, VEGAN, GLUTENFREE.

“Cool!” I carefully dipped a teaspoon into an already made shake to try the flavor. After all my years as a health food nut, I have ingested some foul tasting health drinks, trying to increase my stamina and immune system health. Thus, the teaspoon sized taste.  Crazy what you will swallow to heal yourself!

“Hmmm! This tastes really good.” I have also learned to suspect good tasting health drinks, because they usually have too much sugar or something not necessarily “good” for a body.   I like to read the label to ferret out the unhealthy ingredients that are making it taste so good.

Surprisingly, about halfway down a monstrously long list of ingredients, I see the words “barley” and “wheat.”

“WHAT? No. That can’t be right!” I read it again. “Barley and Wheat” were definitely still in the list of ingredients. I flipped the jar over to make sure I saw the big bold GLUTENFREE  tag on the bottom of the label. Yes.  It was still there.  GLUTENFREE.

“Crazy,” I’m thinking. “Who wrote this label? How could this be marketed as glutenfree, when it clearly was not?” I had no answers to this. However, I now know that even if a product says Glutenfree on the label, I need to ALWAYS read the actual ingredient list. We, Celiacs, can never get a rest from ingredient scrutiny, can we?

NEWSFLASH– READ THE WHOLE  “INGREDIENT LIST” EVEN IF A BIG, BOLD GLUTENFREE IS WRITTEN ON THE LABEL!

As a disclaimer, the drink did have wonderful, nourishing ingredients for any body not plagued with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance.  The good taste was not caused by any non healthy ingredients that I could see.  There was a bit of stevia powder as a sweetener.  However, that is good in my mind, because it does not set off any insulin reactions.

I cannot stress enough the shock I had over this inaccurate label. Even with today’s better GF labelling overall, buying products is still a land mine.  Beware!

Cosmetics Too?

Cosmetics Too?

Don’t even talk to me about cosmetics! Just when I finally felt I’d mastered the intricacies of hidden glutens…purged the kitchen of all things wheat and gluten…just when I’d achieved a fair level of confidence converting regular recipes to gluten free, I happened to look at the ingredients in my lip gloss.

“Oh brother!” There it was. Wheat germ oil. “I never dreamed I’d have to check cosmetics!”

I had spent months putting out heroic effort to convert the kitchen, my diet, family recipes into safe foods. “There’s more?” When will this conversion be done? The pervasiveness of wheat in our lives is simply unbelievable!” I railed, running down the hallway to our bathroom medicine cabinet. There ensued a morning of ripping one bottle after another off the shelves, out of the shower stall cubby…reading ingredient lists. “Wheat germ oil is in everything,” I mused as I dropped yet another bottle in the almost full, black plastic trash can. “I need a bigger trash can! This is crazy!” Shampoos, conditioner, bar soap, bath gel, shaving cream, lip sticks, toothpaste, deodorant, body lotion, self tanning lotion, toner, face powder, liquid make-up, mascara, eye shadow. “How harmful can a bit of absorption through the skin be?” I wondered. “Clearly, mouth items are dangerous: toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. But skin products? I better not chance it. I have come too far to muck up my recovery now.”

Of course, after the product purge, came the necessary trip to the store to replace my toiletries. Thirteen years ago, gluten was not the buzz word it is now. Consequently, I spent three hours in the nearest Whole Foods (a 45 minute drive from my house) reading cosmetic labels and scouring the shelves for safe products without successfully replacing all I needed. “Now what I am supposed to do?” I wondered about the irreplaceable items.

Luckily, in the coursework for my Master’s Degree in Natural Healing, I had to take a class on natural cosmetics. I had a textbook on how to make all kinds of skin care products from common household ingredients. After the Whole Foods cosmetics shopping disaster, I went home and started creating my own lotions, lip glosses, toners, etc. The problem with homemade lotions and skin care products, I soon found out, was not the effectiveness and luxuriousness of the products on the skin, but the spoilage. Most of the products only kept a maximum of two weeks and putting them in the refrigerator to extend the shelf life sometimes changed the consistency of the product or made the product ingredients separate. At the time, there were no gluten free products on the market for some skin care items, so… I was working hard every two weeks turning my kitchen into a cosmetic laboratory. Even though there are lots of companies making gluten free skin care products now, I still make my lip gloss…simply because I like it better than anything on the market. Plus, it is so easy to make. I have included the recipe at the end of today’s blog.

Today, with readily available online research, I found that the current AMA physician opinion on the safety of gluten in skin absorbed products is that it is most likely, safe. Their logic is that gluten intolerance involves the digestive tract, so anything absorbed through the skin, bypassing the digestion, should be okay.
However, I still do not buy any product containing gluten that either goes into or touches my body. I figure with my ultra sensitive system this practice is just safer for me. I may be overly careful, but until the gluten skin rash and its relationship to the blood stream and a possible adverse immune system reaction is addressed in more detail, I am going to continue to use only gluten free products. I do not want to be a casualty of further research. Until more in depth research is completed, I will be using gluten free skin care products.

Kitchen Kosmetic’s Lip Gloss
1 part beeswax
1 part olive oil
1-3 drops of GF vanilla extract or GF flavoring of choice

I melt the beeswax in a non stick pan. Turn off the heat. Add the olive oil and flavoring. (I do not heat the olive oil with the beeswax, because heated olive oil loses some of its healing properties. If heated to too high a temperature, the oil can be a bit toxic to your system, as I understand.)

Then I quickly pour the mixture carefully into lip gloss tubes. Although you can buy empty, new lip gloss tubes online in bulk, I just buy regular lip gloss at the store, scrape out the product, sterilize the empty container in boiling water, and then refill with my simple concoction. I only need a few containers, so doing it this way is easier for me than ordering bulk items online.

As the mixture cools in the tube, sometimes it settles, and I have to top it off a bit before putting on the lid.

Voila! A creamy lip gloss.

This mixture seems to keep much longer than two weeks. I have kept it up to two months. If it ever starts to smell like rancid oil, it has spoiled. Empty your tubes and make a fresh batch.

Safety of oaked wine

Wine too?

These last fourteen GF years, I reveled in the knowledge that I still had the joy of wine and chocolate in my diet. Then, the whole controversy about the safety of oak aged wine surfaced and made me howl to the moon, “Noooooooo!”

And yet when I think back, every time my husband and I grilled some grass fed steak and opened a bottle of red wine to go with it, I had wondered why I got a gluten reaction about two am the following morning. I thought maybe the particular grass the beef grazed on was the culprit. Could it have been the wine? Either way, I can tell you it was frustrating to get a gluten reaction from my own meal preparation!

After some research calling actual coopers in the Napa area, I found out they do use wheat paste to seal the barrel lids to the staves and have been doing so for over 100 years. They all assured me that after the wheat paste dried, they thoroughly washed the inside of the barrels. However, none of the coopers using this practice would guarantee that the wine made in these barrels would be completely gluten free. Theoretically, there should be no wheat molecules left in the barrels after the cleaning. “Cool!” I thought. That next Saturday night I retested the theory by having the grass fed steak dinner with a great red wine. Again, the two am reaction woke me from a sound sleep. “Oh, no! Please don’t let this be true! Red wine is one of the joys left to me on this crazy diet!”

More research ensued. Some coopers admitted to spraying the whole inside of the barrel with wheat dust to help seal the staves. This allows the wine maker to use the barrels immediately without having to worry about leakage. The vintners, in this case, save time, because they don’t have to soak the barrels, which swells the wood and prevents leakage. “Okay, that would definitely be a problem for all gluten intolerants.”

When I talked to other gluten intolerants about their reaction to oak aged wine, some had reactions and some didn’t. For those not experiencing adverse reactions, I wondered if there was, in fact, some damage happening to their systems on such a minute level that their sensitivity was simply not picking it up. No answers to that one, yet.

Because I live in the SF Bay Area where wine tasting and wine drinking is nearly an art form and have grown up surrounded by the viticulture industry, the possibility of having to eliminate oak aged wine from my diet seemed particularly unbearable. Of course, I made it my mission to test and retest the steak dinner/red wine theory. Eventually, I had to concede defeat. My ultra sensitive body had a wild gluten reaction every single time I drank any oak aged wine. When I had the same dinner with no oaked wine…Voila, no two am misery!

This is my reward for being as faithful as possible to a GF diet for fourteen years. Over time, my body has gotten cleaner and purer. The result has been that I have become more and more sensitive to hidden glutens. Any molecule that accidentally enters my system gives me a reaction. “Great!”

Mystery solved? According to my research and my body’s reaction, oak aged wine is definitely and sadly a new forbidden item for me.

The good news…I am having fun exploring champagnes, unoaked chardonays, dry rieslings, and sauvignon blancs!

Take-out cups and containers

I just recently read that many of the paper/cardboard based take-out containers are being made with wheat paste. Many…what does that mean? Because my research on the topic did not identify how to differentiate between different take-out products, I have to assume that all cardboard/paper food containers have gluten. Otherwise, I could be blind-sided with a gluten reaction. Doesn’t this game of finding the hidden glutens get more and more fun?

What this means to me:
take-out coffee cups are suspect;
cardboard ice-cream cups are suspect;
cardboard take-out meals from restaurants are suspect;
etc., etc., etc.

I now keep a ceramic coffee mug in the trunk of each car. The problem for me is not remembering to use it, but remembering to put it back in the trunk after cleaning it. If I have forgotten to restock my mug, it means ordering an iced drink, which comes in a plastic container. Usually this happens in the dead of winter. Don’t even get my health-food consciousness started about plastic containers. However, it’s the lesser of two evils. At least with plastic, I am not going to have immediate pain. I’ll take my chances with possible cancer down the road.

As for restaurant take-out containers…after a wonderful meal in a poshy restaurant where I do not want to let any uneaten portion left behind, I now have one more thing about which to grill a waiter at the end of a meal. (Just what the wait staff loves after the extensive menu discussion before ordering.) Yes, I am quite popular in restaurants! It is amazing that any of my family and friends will still eat out with me. Luckily, they are so used to my myriad of questions, that if I forget to ask the wait staff something important, they fill in the gaps.

Sometimes I get to feeling cocky and think, “Oh, I am doing so well lately, I am just not going to worry about that cardboard box they just put my left-overs in.” This has come back to haunt me a few hours after reheating and eating that meal. “Umm! Okay, I won’t do that again.”

However, there is always the meal where you forget to question the wait person about the take-out container, cringing inside when it comes out in cardboard. But… the meal has been so lovely, I do not want to make a scene. Besides, the food has already touched the container, so I smile and decide to deal with it at home. The next day as I tentatively open the top flaps and peek inside to see if any of that fabulous meal is savable, I end up grabbing a fork and oh so carefully stab bits and bites from the top that look like they have never touched any part of the box. Sick, right? I feel like a middle of the night food sneaker. Obviously, it is a hit and miss proposition with a possible impending gluten reaction, but in I go for just another wee bite.

Okay, this is the relationship I have with food…love, love, love it. It does not always love me.

The bottom line is it is nearly impossible to remember to ask the wait staff every single question to minimize and, hopefully, eliminate a future gluten attack. I am human, so I do the very best I can, but sometimes I suffer from some hidden gluten issue I have forgotten to check on during the dining experience.

Why the search for hidden glutens?

Glutenfree Sleuth
With truly tasty GF treats flooding the market place, life as a gluten intolerant becomes easier every day.  Or does it?  I am amazed, after fourteen years on a supposedly GF diet how often I get whammied by some hidden gluten resulting in violent cramping in the middle of the night,  mad sprints to the bathroom with unpredictable diarrhea, and a matching-limbed rash up and down the insides of my legs.

As a health food, organic fruits- of-the-land foodie kind of gal with a nutrition background, how do these surprises continue to happen?

Two words–hidden glutens.

I am talking about things we normally think of as safe: red wine, hairspray, foods labeled GF, and on and on.

With a full blown case of Celiac disease, not a mere sensitivity, I seem to be vulnerable to even one molecule of gluten.  After fourteen years of religiously adhering to the diet, my body has become more pure and more sensitive to even one hidden gluten molecule.  I am on a mission to ferret out those hidden glutens that take me down, accidentally, even when I am doing my own cooking and trying desperately hard NOT to ingest one molecule of gluten or let one molecule of gluten be absorbed through my skin.

Ironic, how someone that loves the sensuality of food, someone who blasts Il Divo while chopping onions, someone who  savors every smell, texture, and taste of each bite can have a disease where that very food can be her demise.

So…yes, I am on a hunt to find the hidden glutens wherever they reside, so that I can enthusiastically continue to enjoy one of the true delights of living in a human body…food!