Tag Archives: celiac disease

Celiac in DC? Don’t eat here.

I typically try to put a positive spin on living and eating out with celiac disease. But there’s nothing that gets my blood boiling more than a restaurant trying to take advantage of the gluten free trend by offering a gluten free menu without putting in place the proper measures needed to make the meal actually gluten free.

These restaurants have all either gotten me sick, have told me about practices I believe are dangerous, or have been negatively reviewed multiple times for their mistakes or bad service. While they may be okay for those trying out the gluten free “trend,” I wouldn’t recommend them for anyone with celiac disease or a serious need to avoid gluten.

  1. Pizzeria Paradiso - While Pizzeria Paradiso offers gluten free pizza, they have told me that none of their ingredients or preparation is separate from the regular pizzas. That means shared utensils and surfaces. I’ve voiced my concerns to their manager and walked out of their restaurant.
  2. Jackson’s 20 – It saddens me to add this place to the list, but they were misinformed and rude when I asked for a simple brunch meal of scrambled eggs and grits. They claimed that flour in the air would get me sick just sitting in the restaurant (?), and that real celiacs just shouldn’t eat out. A comment on Facebook confirmed this attitude for me.
  3. Masa 14 – A lot of people pat Masa 14 on the back for their gluten free menu, so this might just be my experience. Not only did I feel like a burden to my server, but they brought out a sauce containing gluten on my plate. I ate the sauce before the server came over to inform me that it had gluten, and that was the reason they had put it on the side. I got sick and won’t eat there again.
  4. Ping Pong Dim Sum - This place is widely known for being on DC’s most wanted list for bad gluten free menus. Actually, their menu isn’t gluten free, it’s “gluten friendly,” meaning that it’s only about 75% gluten free, and you have to grill the server for what is actually in everything. I wound up ordering the most plain things I could in an effort to not get glutened. See reviews on Yelp confirming.
  5. Domino’s – Another confirmed no-no for celiacs. Because they use the same ingredients, pans, and utensils as the regular pizzas you can bet there will be gluten all up in your pizza. Check out the FAQs from the NFCA for more information.

While Yelp and other online reviews aren’t always to be trusted, here are a few that I have put on my radar.

  1. Nature’s Table“I explained to her that I asked for it as a bowl as I have a gluten intolerance. So what does she do? She tries to pour the contents of the burrito into a container rather than making it again!”
  2. Silver Diner - “Be very careful with their GF breakfast options. No separate griddle.” “Staff didn’t get the cross-contamination piece of things. Brought me my GF meal with a biscuit on the plate.”

Do you have any restaurants on your “never again” list? Tell me about them!

Stop saying cross-contamination – I beg of you.

I’ve had this topic on my list of things to write about, but I just can’t take it any more. As a community, us celiacs need to stop saying the phrase “cross-contamination when we’re referring to a gluten free food coming into contact with gluten, thereby rendering it unsafe to eat.

That’s called cross-contact, people!

It’s not just semantics, it’s a matter of communicating in an accurate way what we’re trying to prevent. Using the wrong word can confuse kitchen staff, waiters, and anyone else cooking for you.

Any trained cook or chef is taught that cross-contamination refers to food borne bacteria and diseases. They are taught to properly handle foods like raw meats by storing them correctly and heating them to a high temperature to prevent food-borne illness.

So if you ask a cook, “You know how to prevent cross-contamination, right?” They might think that as long as they wash their hands and cook your food enough, they’re all set.  If they use the same tongs/utensils, they might think it won’t matter if they used it for something with gluten in it as long as they cook it enough then the gluten will “burn off” or something.

Cross-contact occurs when a residue or trace amount of an allergenic or gluten-containing becomes incorporated into another food not intended to contain it, according to the FDA.

You’re probably thinking, “Fine, that’s the correct definition, but everyone says cross-contamination!” I thought that myself at one point as well.

I’d venture a guess that we are getting glutened more for that very reason. You have to talk the talk to be taken seriously. Being able to explain the difference between cross-contamination and cross-contact can help clear up people’s questions about how to safely prepare meals, and can help keep you from getting sick.

So, get with the program – start saying cross-contact. Even if it’s just to make me happy.

Celiac Disease: At Least it’s Not a Food Allergy

This weekend I’ll be attending the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference in Las Vegas, so I thought it was about time that I wrote about a topic I spend a good portion of my day thinking about: the intersection of celiac disease and food allergies.

versus

Is one harder to manage? More severe? Easier to diagnose? It seems like the celiac and food allergy communities are caught in a constant back-and-forth over who’s got it worse.

First, let me say that having celiac disease is some serious business. No one knows that better than me. On average it takes 6-10 years for a person with celiac disease to be diagnosed. I was lucky to get a diagnosis soon after I started recognizing symptoms, but I still suffer health consequences on a regular basis even seven years later.

But, if I had to choose – I’d take celiac disease over a life-threatening food allergy any day.

Yep, I said it. While celiac disease can lead to serious health implications like infertility, certain forms of cancer, etc.

Food allergies can kill you. Like, today. Right now. At your next meal.

My mom and little sister both have life-threatening peanut allergies (my mom is also allergic to peas). If I could trade in their allergies for celiac disease, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Short anecdote: Growing up, I knew that no peanut dare cross the threshold of our front door. I didn’t have a peanut myself until I was about 8-years-old, when I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a friend’s house. I don’t know if I was sick, or why what happened next happened, but when I got home I threw up that sandwich all over our living room floor. My mom had me rinse out my mouth and hop in the car to go to the doctor, all without cleaning up the mess so she didn’t have a reaction herself.

So, back to my mom and sister – I would choose for them to have celiac disease over a food allergy because of what it would mean for their day-to-day: no more trips to the ER, no more expensive epinephrine prescriptions, no more fear while entering the lunchroom. No chance that a bite of a cookie could send them into anaphylaxis and kill them. 

Because, let’s be real – if I had a bite of a cookie that had gluten in it, I’m not going to die. Not a chance, not today. And I’m grateful that I don’t have to bear that burden.

There is still much more work to be done to bring awareness to celiac disease and food allergies – they are both widely misunderstood, under-diagnosed, and under-funded. More than anything, I’d like to see both communities focus on their similarities over their differences. We both got the short end of the stick when it comes to food, so we’ll need to work together to expand our options and move towards cures.

Thoughts? If you had to choose, which would you rather have: celiac disease, or a food allergy?

Seeing a Celiac specialist for the first time

Recently I decided that it was high time for me to get a check up on how my poor ole intestines and body are doing. The last time I got blood work /a physical done was about two years ago and it was normal, but I have never been to a Celiac specialist since my diagnosis in 2007, so I figured they would be much more helpful. Awhile back I decided to give up the majority of dairy products, which seems to have helped, but I have ongoing symptoms that I’m hoping this new doc can help with.

I went to the George Washington Medical Center, and my experience couldn’t have been better. The doctor (a gastroenterologist) was extremely knowledgable, and presented me with a few options for a course of treatment.

One option included eating gluten for two months to test my diagnosis. While it was tempting to have a doctor-approved gluten binge, I declined and went with the other option: a endoscopy and colonoscopy to see what damage there is to my intestines and if I have IBS or something else on top of my Celiac Disease.

celiac blood test results

Good news is I got my blood work back and the Celiac Disease Comprehensive was clean!

Bad news is (see above) I have to get an endoscopy/colonoscopy, which sounds like just about the least pleasant thing I can imagine. But, if there’s something I can do to get my health back in top form, I’ll just have to power through it.

I’d love tips/advice on my upcoming procedure – I plan on stocking up on jello and tea for the day of fasting, but any help is appreciated!

And a resource for those of you in the DC area – the DC Celiac Support Group keeps a list of favorite doctors in the area if you’re looking for one! Find it here.

Why I ate turkey: How celiac disease drove me to give up vegetarianism

This picture of me shocked my friends and family. That food on my fork? That’s turkey. Not tofurkey, but real, bonafide animal meat.

The shocking part? I haven’t eaten meat in over seven years.

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So why start eating it again now? Because I reached my breaking point.

I reached a point where my moral stance against the meat industry and overall disinterest in eating meat filled with hormones and other nasty things was outweighed by my frustration with celiac disease. There were so many times when I would go to a restaurant or party and think, “If I only ate meat my life would be so much simpler right now.” I never actually had the urge to eat it because the thought grossed me out, but I sure thought about it. I made the decision to start eating seafood when I was diagnosed because I felt like I couldn’t anything at all (plus I love the taste of seafood and have fewer qualms with eating it). 

However, lately I’ve been thinking about eating meat more and more. Thinking that a little bit of organic, humanely-treated turkey or chicken every once in awhile isn’t going to kill me. It actually could make me feel better and more satisfied with my diet. It could simplify my life and take some of the pressure off of me when dining with others. And it’s probably healthier than eating so many soy protein-based foods (which I’ve tried to cut down on).

So, I used Thanksgiving as a test run and had a little turkey with my meal. I’ll admit, the first bite was kind of hard to get down because I wasn’t used to the texture. But after that initial few chews, I was fine. Since then I’ve had a couple of bites of turkey in a salad and on a sandwich, and it’s been…nice. It fills me up, and I don’t mind the taste.

Now, I don’t plan on becoming a huge carnivore, or eating pigs and cows any time in the foreseeable future. But I’ve realized that eating a little white meat every so often doesn’t diminish my beliefs about vegetarianism. It’s just helping keep me sane! Voluntarily limiting my options in my gluten-free diet was always a struggle, so now I’ll have a few more things I will eat.

I’ll make it a point to get quality meat, so I feel good about my decision each time I cross the aisle to the carnivore side, but I’m loving the feeling of having more options open to me.

What do you think? Have you ever tried something new or something you didn’t think you like in order to expand your palette on a gluten free diet? 

My Chocolate Toffee Cracker Bark is a winner!

My recipe for Chocolate Toffee Cracker Bark will be published in the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness‘ Online Holiday Cookbook! The recipe contest stipulated that you had to use Crunchmaster gluten free crackers in your recipe. I decided to try a sweet dish, since it seemed like the majority of people would be making something savory. This bark would be a great option to bring to a holiday party, or give as a gift. I’m still chipping away at mine, and it will keep in the fridge for a couple weeks.


Chocolate Toffee Cracker Bark
IMG_1155
Ingredients:

3/4 package Crunchmaster original crackers
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
a few pinches of sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips (I used milk, but you could use any kind)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup raisins

Directions

1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil
2. Preheat the oven to 350F
3. Line the bottom of the sheet with crackers, filling about 2/3 of the sheet

crunchmaster

4. In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar, cook until the mixture boils and thickens.
5. Remove from heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over crackers. Spread in a thin layer to cover.
5. Bake for 15 minutes
6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with a spatula.
6. Sprinkle with pecans and raisins, push into the chocolate lightly with spatula.

Place pan in refrigerator to cool completely. Break into pieces and keep in the fridge.

So excited to see the rest of the winners’ recipes!

Why I’m Omission Beer’s biggest fan

If you follow me on Twitter, you can probably tell that I’m slightly…ok completely, obsessed with Omission Beer. I love it so much I actually bought stock in the company. Craft Brew Alliance (BREW) owns the popular beer Redhook, as well as all of the Widmer Brother’s and Kona Brewing Company beers. Currently Omission makes up only a small part of their sales, but if the rapid increase in availability in DC is any indication, it will continue to grow as demand for great-tasting gluten free beer increases. You heard it here first people: Omission is the new Redbridge. Only better.

A few weeks ago I was invited to an event at Churchkey hosted by the great folks at Omission. Churchkey provided some great gluten free appetizers (tater tots!) and the beer was flowing as I got the chance to talk to the passionate staff (many who are celiac’s themselves) at Omission. I even spent 20 minutes talking to Rob Widmer himself (star shock). He was so gracious, and listened to me jabber about gluten free beer.

So, why is Omission my favorite gluten free beer? A few reasons:

  1. Taste: Most importantly, this beer tastes great. It doesn’t have an aftertaste like sorghum beers do, it’s not too light like a cider, and everyone who has tried it has loved it – gluten free or not.
  2. Tested: Something truly unique about Omission is that every single batch is tested by an independent lab using the R5 Competitive ELISA for gluten content. You can actually go to their website and look up your beer using a serial number on the bottle to see the test results. That is real commitment to the celiac community.
  3. Availability: I swear I’m seeing Omission pop up in a new store every week. It’s now in three stores right by my apartment. Since Redhook is such a popular brand, if you request it at your local liquor or grocery store, it’s fairly likely that they should be able to order it for you. Picture below is from Sherry’s Liquor in Woodley Park. which just got it in.

Where to find Omission in Washington DC: 

  1. Churchkey (Logan Circle)
  2. Bier Baron (Dupont)
  3. Whole Foods P Street (I’m guessing most Whole Foods carry it)
  4. Fuel Pizza and Wings (multiple locations)
  5. Madhatter (Dupont)
  6. Mellow Mushroom (Adam’s Morgan)
  7. Thunder Burger (Georgetown)
  8. Old Dominion Brew House
  9. Cleveland Park Wine and Liquors (Cleveland Park)
  10. Sherry’s Liquor (Woodley Park)
  11. Manhattan Market (Woodley Park)

Check out the interactive map on their website for updates.

In conclusion, I love Omission beer. I will drink it in a house; I will drink it with a mouse; I will drink it in a box; I will drink it with a fox. 

Get some.

Cheers!

Boston gluten free eats

I was recently in Boston for the weekend, and I was able to find some great gluten free food, especially in the semi-crunchy Cambridge area. In no particular order, my favorite places were:

1. Tavern in the Square

I went here to watch the Michigan football game, since it’s the local alumni bar. They also happen to serve Bard’s and have a gluten free menu (winning!) I got a huge plate of nachos, and it was the perfect way to watch a Michigan victory!

2. Stone Hearth Pizza

This place is right up my alley: local ingredients, unique gluten free beer, and great gluten free pizza. Their menu is marked with what items are gluten free. The beer I tried is called Celia, brewed by The Alchemist Brewery. Not my favorite, as it’s a sorghum beer, and therefore tastes a bit like grass. But it wasn’t horrible.

The pizza was stellar though – chewy with that stone-fired taste. Although the crust was a bit burnt, I kind of liked it better that way. Mine was topped with a butternut squash sauce, fontina, and sage.

4. Veggie Planet

This place served me the best lunch I’ve had in quite awhile. You can take any of their entrees and put it on top of brown rice or coconut rice, giving us celiacs tons of options. I had the weekly special, which was butternut squash, beets, feta cheese, basil, and a fennel apple puree (the real star). It came out piping hot and I scarfed it down.

5. Violette Bakery 

While walking around Harvard’s campus, I happened upon Violette Bakery at a farmer’s market. They had so many sweet and savory options, but I just had to have a gluten free danish with homemade blueberry preserves. I haven’t eaten anything like this in six years: heaven.

How good does this look?

6. Uno Due Go

Move over Panera, there is finally a fast/fresh lunch place that is celiac-safe! Gluten free sandwiches, pizza, and soups are all on the menu. The staff was very knowledgable and took my sandwich to a separate area to make it. I can’t say that it was the best sandwich I’ve ever had (the roll was a bit dry), but it was nice to have so many options.

I also got a Congo Bar, which was superbly buttery and riddled with chewy, chocolatey, coconutty yummies.

And thus concludes the story of how I ate my way through Boston. So much fun to try out new places! Any other recommendations of places to check out in Beantown? 

French Meadow Bakery breakfast pizza two ways

This week I had the opportunity to try out the gluten free pizza crust from French Meadow Bakery as a part of a recipe campaign run by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. French Meadow has a variety of gluten free products available on their website, and their products come shipped to you packed in dry ice and totally frozen (even after a FedEx delay mine was solid as a rock!).

The recipe that I was testing out was for “Breakfast Pizza”. Besides my patented hangover pizza, this isn’t something that I would normally make, so it was great to try something new!

Since the gluten free pizza crusts come in a package of two, I made one with more traditional toppings, and another one with a healthier spin.

Classic breakfast pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 French Meadow Bakery Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
  • 1/2 medium potato, shredded and squeezed in a towel to remove moisture (or use 1/2 cup of frozen hashbrowns)
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Topping of your choice (most would love bacon, I added spinach to half)

Instructions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Bake crust for 5 minutes on the bottom rack, set aside.
  • Cook hashbrowns over medium heat in buttered pan for about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown.
  • Layer crust with hashbrowns, egg, cheese and toppings.
  • Bake for another 10 minutes on the middle or top rack, until cheese has melted.

Sweet potato and pesto breakfast pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 French Meadow Bakery Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
  • 1/2 medium sweet potato, mashed
  • 1/2 cup liquid egg whites (or 3 egg whites), scrambled
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 T. pesto
  • red onions, thinly sliced

Instructions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Bake crust for 5 minutes on the bottom rack, set aside.
  • Scramble eggs, mixing in pesto at the end.
  • Layer crust with mashed sweet potato, egg, cheese and onions.
  • Bake for another 10 minutes on the middle or top rack, until cheese has melted.

I had a slice of the sweet potato one for breakfast this morning at the office and the crust held up great in the fridge over night. The crust is about 1/4 inch thick and a bready and chewy consistency. It kind of reminds me of the crusts that were included in the pizza lunchables that I loved as a kid. Because they’re made with rice flour they have a bit of sweetness to them. It also took me 20 minutes from start to finish to make both of these pizzas, so you can’t beat the convenience of having the crust pre-made!

As a part of the recipe campaign, French Meadow is giving away  two gluten-free prize packs! You can enter to win by submitting the form on the NFCA website. They will announce the first winner on Friday, October 26, and the second on Friday, November 2.

Enter the giveaway here.

You can also find more recipes using French Meadow pizza crusts on celiaccentral.org. I’m so excited to see what the other bloggers tried out!

DC Gluten Free News Round Up

1. Bier Baron now carrying Omission beer

After a glorious Michigan victory over Michigan State this weekend, I headed to Bier Baron in Dupont for a gluten free beer. Watching your friends drink beer all day at a bar while you have mixed drinks can sure make a girl thirsty!

I was psyched to see that Bier Baron now has Omission pale ale on their menu. However, they were out when I went :(

But, our awesome waiter was kind enough to bring me all three of the other gluten free beers they have, on the house! After passing them around the table, my friends confirmed that the New Planet Off Grid is kind of funky. I’ve never been a fan of New Grist, but when you have them side-by-side, it actually tastes quite like the St. Peter’s (both are sorghum based and light beers, so it makes sense).

2. Vace Italian Deli in Cleveland Park has a crap ton of gluten free pasta

Even though I live about a five minute walk from Vace Italian Deli, I only went in once before since I only ever saw people buying pizza there. A reader tipped me off (thanks, Fede!) that they have a bunch of authentic Italian pastas that are gluten free!

They have corn riccioli, rice gigli, and one pasta made with squid ink (plus the naturally gluten free risotto). Pair one of these with a homemade sauce (they carry them fresh and frozen), and you’ve got yourself a meal! One more win for my neighborhood!

3. The Maryland crab soup at Clyde’s is gluten free

I went to the last game in the NLDS series (heartbreaker), and was freezing cold and standing up for about six hours. So when I got to Clyde’s in Chinatown and found out that their Maryland crab soup is gluten free, I was overjoyed. Two bowls later and I was feeling slightly better about the Nats losing, and much warmer.

Just a few things happening around this great city in the gluten free realm!