Monday, December 31, 2012

BOPS GF Potato Chips - On the Road Find #1

Visiting family is stressful but sometimes helpful.  The stress of cooking in a non-GF kitchen and finding restaurants that can cater to a GF diner is difficult.  Finding GF products that you are accustom to using is hard.

We usually pack some staples (pasta, snacks, oatmeal, etc) and send stuff.  This week we were visiting my parents in Florida and we sent down a box ahead of time with our favorites - peanut butter, risotto rice, GF quinoa, rice pasta and my pre-made flour blends.

Like all mothers with a son visiting - she felt the inner need to feed her child.

She did some shopping and understood how difficult it can be for someone who has to eat gluten free.  She visiting 6 different shopping markets and found some new items.  Some were good, some not so good.

First up.

BOPS oven baked Potato Snacks.  They are made by their parent company Good Boy Organics out of New York.  They produce non-GMO, organic, GF products.

They has an Organicasaurus cheddar snack that we will have to find for my kids.

We tried their BOBP potato snacks.  This looked and tasted like a ruffled baked potato.  It was made with potato starch, potato flakes, corn flour, sunflower oil, sea salt, sugar and yeast.  Sort of a GF Pringle.

We just arrived after a day of traveling and we were hungry.  The grill was on and we had steaks and baked potatoes cooking for dinner.  This bag of sea salt BOPS did not stand a chance.  It was devoured in record time and the kids and the adults wanted more.

We tried them again a few days later after visiting the shop where she bought them.  When we weren't starving they were not that special.  We picked up a bag of Cheddar flavor - and it tasted like cheddar flavor, not cheddar cheese.  It had a strange taste is all I can say - chemical-like.

If you are interested you can find them at Wegman's and Whole Foods Northeast.  As for the west coast I think I'll have to order them.  We'll order the Organicasauraus to give it a try but I'll stick with my Kettle chips when I crave a potato chip.

Crunch away,

The Un-Gluten Guy

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vitamin D and Osteoporosis in Celiac Disease

Osteoporosis can be a deadly disease.  Osteoporosis related fractures (hip, spine, wrist) may be preventable but currently account for 1.5 million fractures per year in the US in patients over the age of 65.  Many patients admitted to the hospital with a hip fracture may die or suffer medical complications in the year following their fracture, and many have a life-long deterioration in function.

So what does this have to do with Celiac Disease?

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease I had my vitamin D level checked.   It was low.   After going GF, allowing my GI tract to heal, and supplementing my diet with calcium and vitamin D I was able to bring my levels back into the normal range.

Some Signs/Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficieny

Muscle weakness or soreness
Joint Pain

Our body stores calcium in our bones and if we do not have sufficient stores of vitamin D we can not absorb the calcium from our GI tract.  When the small intestines are damaged due to celiac disease you can not absorb nutrients normally.  One of the nutrients that is not absorbed is vitamin D.  Vitamin D is absorb from food, supplements and the sun but must pass through the liver and kidney to become biologically active.

Foods that contain Vitamin D

Some fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
Egg yolks
fortified foods (cereals, milk and even some juice is fortified with vitamin D)

Kemppainen et al in Bone in 1999 stated that vitamin D deficiency occurs in 64% of men and 71% of women.  They also found the prevalence of osteoporosis to be 26%.

We absorb vitamin D from our diet, supplements and the sun.  Although the sun does play a role in vitamin D production (but I won't bore you with the physiology) sunscreen blocks about 95% or more of the rays needed to convert vitamin D.  I did a study looking at one years worth of patients undergoing total hip or total knee replacement in San Diego (lots of sun, right?) and almost 50% of patients were deficient in vitamin D.

Daily Recommendations

Current recommendations state that if you are less than 50 years old that you take 1,000 mg of calcium per day and increase it to 1,200 mg if you are a woman over 50 or a man over 70.  You should also take 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D per day.

The NIH has a good resource here.

I tell patients to assume your bones are a bank.  Instead of storing money, your bones store calcium.  Unfortunately, you can only make deposits for a period of time.  As we age we start to pull calcium out of the bones - we start making withdrawals on our investment.  So your goal as a child and young adult is to make sure you consume calcium, vitamin D, don't smoke, exercise and avoid excessive alcohol to maximize your investment and develop healthy, strong bones.

I take a daily vitamin (Centrum) every morning and at night I take an Os-Cal (400 IU vitamin D and 500 mg calcium).  This has brought me into the normal range.

Consult your doctor.  More is not always better.  You can overdose on vitamin D and there are side effects.   Before taking a high volume of supplements you should check with your physician and follow their advice.

Eat well,

The Un-Gluten Guy

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gluten Free Vegetable Soup

Come fall and winter, as the leaves change and the weather turns cold, nothing goes down as nice as a hot bowl of soup.  Soup can be a snack, side dish or a whole meal.  It is  great for leftovers (stored in the freezer) and is usually welcomed by neighbors (I always make a big pot which is more than we can eat).

This soup is super easy to make.  It can be tweaked many ways by changing what vegetables you use.


garlic - 2-3 cloves crushed and finely chopped
large yellow onion - about 2 cups of diced (diced is going to be equal size of all ingredients)
celery ribs - 1 cup of diced celery
large carrots - 1 cup of diced carrots
bell pepper - 1 cup de-ribbed and diced
new potatoes - 1 cup diced, peeled potatoes
1 baby zucchini (optional but it was in my fridge and fresh) - diced but before to cut out the inner white part and leave the green skin and tougher meat underneath otherwise it will be mushy in the soup
beans - 1 cup cooked beans (slightly undercooked or undersoaked, canned beans work but may get mushy)
28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (I use San Marzano) - pour off and reserve the liquid (you'll add it with the broth) and then take the tomatoes cut off the hard ends, clean out the seeds and then rough chop
1 tsp each of GF dried oregano and thyme
64 oz of GF broth (homemade, vegetable or chicken)
2 bay leaves
kosher salt and pepper


Take the time to wash and dice all of the vegetables.  By putting them out on the counter you make the cooking easy and more enjoyable.

Time to cook:

1.  Heat a large stock pot over medium to medium high heat.  Add about 2 tbsp of EVOO (enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot).  Add the onions, carrots and celery.  Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Don't cook very long because we don't want to overcook the vegetables - about 45 - 60 seconds.

2.  Next, add the garlic and the potatoes.  Stir.  Add in the peppers (I used 1/2 of a yellow and 1/2 of a red because that's what was left in my fridge.  Add the optional zucchini.

3.  Add the rough chopped deseeded tomatoes.  Pour in the broth and the reserved tomato juice.  Add the beans.

4.  Add the bay leaves.  Add oregano and thyme.

5.  Cover and let simmer about an hour.  Taste, taste, taste.  The difference between a good soup and a great soup is the seasoning.  Your tomatoes and broth with determine the amount of salt you need.  Add a bit of salt and pepper at a time and keep tasting.

6.  Remove the bay leaves and serve.

This goes great with a salad or sandwich.  It is even good on its own with all of the fresh veg and the added protein and fiber of the beans.


The Un-Gluten Guy

Friday, December 14, 2012

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Mac & Cheese

What American kid does not grow up eating Mac & Cheese?  Well, my daughter did eat it and love it.  One of the big concerns we had early on was what were we going to do about her Mac & Cheese now that she had to be GF.

We tried many different brands - Amy's, Pastaristo and Namaste.  But after many different attempts to find one that she liked we found Trader Joe's GF Rice Pasta & Cheddar

In a box just like Kraft (which used to be her favorite).  It comes with the same packet of bright yellow powder.  The pasta is rice pasta and the flavoring contains milk but no other allergens.  Its easy to make and fills a small shelf in our pantry.

Me, I prefer a homemade mac & cheese with cheddar and blue and gruyere topped with GF bread crumbs that are toasted.  But what my little one wants, she gets (sometimes).

Put on some water to boil and cook up some TJ's GF M&C,

The Un-Gluten Guy

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Latkes - Gluten Free Potato Pancakes

Potato latkes are a favorite food during Hannukkah.  Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights and although they only had enough oil to burn their candles for one night it magically lasted 8 nights.  In addition to lighting the menorah and eating sufganiyot (jelly donuts) we eat potato pancakes or latkes.

These are great anytime of year and at anytime.  Make them for breakfast, have for a snack, this time of year they become a dinner time appetizer.  There are numerous ways to make them.  Many people add flour, some add eggs, some add cornstarch.  I have made them every way and I like them best made simple - potatoes, onions and salt.  Cornstarch or eggs are a simple GF binding agents and if you want to use eggs add 1 beaten egg for 3 large potatoes big.  But for a nice size, tasty latka you can get by with out it.

For this batch I grated 3 large russet potatoes after pealing them.  I also grated in 1/2 of a large yellow onion.  Next take it all and place into a heavy dish cloth, or cheesecloth and twist it into a ball.  You will wring out about a cup or two of water and potato starch.  Add to a bowl and add salt (pinch for each potato - for the 3 potatoes I used I added 3 pinches of kosher salt).

Next, get a deep pan and add oil.  Choose an oil that has a high flash point (olive oil is a no no); I usually use peanut oil or grapeseed oil.  Tonight I choose peanut, heat over medium to med-high.  Turn on your kitchen vents - the house will smell like oil.  Take you mixture (shredded potatoes, onions & salt) and pat and mold into little cakes.  Gently place in the hot oil.

Cook until the bottom is nice and crisp and then flip.

As I make the batch I place them on a sheet pan lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.  Alternatively, you can place on a rack and let the oil drop below onto paper towel.

Usually I lose a few as people walk by and eat them off the pan.  Once the batch is done I remove the paper towels and heat the batch in the oven at 350 degrees before serving.

These are good enough to eat plain.  Having something to dip them in adds some flavor.  My favorite is apple sauce.  A good runner up is sour cream.  I like to mix a finely cut bunch of fresh chives with about 1 cup of sour cream, alternatively you can use plain sour cream.


The Un-Gluten Guy

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Gluten Free Lunch Box

What's in your lunch box.  Lunch is one of those things that I constantly deal with.  At work there are no safe food items at the cafeteria and if a company brings in lunch from a restaurant there is never a GF item on table.

So I bring my lunch - every day.  When I decide what I will bring for lunch it usually depends on how much time I have the night before to prepare my food for the next day.

Factors include - do you have a refrigerator, microwave or toaster at work?  Is there a risk of cross contamination?(such as in the toaster)  I luckily have a personal refrigerator and microwave in my office.

I decided to keep track of what I brought to work for lunch for two weeks.  Hopefully this helps you and gives you some ideas for lunch.  Please comment on what you bring for lunch.  We may all learn some new packable GF lunches.

Week One

Monday - Turkey salad (the last of Thanksgiving leftovers).  I brought GF Matzo crackers to eat the turkey salad with (since I do not have a toaster I try to avoid GF bread at work - doesn't taste as good).  I also brought in turkey vegetable soup (that I made with the turkey) and heated it in the microwave.

Tuesday - Red curry with chicken and vegetables over rice.  This was leftovers from Monday's dinner.

Wednesday - Risotto with vegetables (leftover from Tuesday night)

Thursday - Large salad with vegetables and beans.  I added a can of tuna fish that I pour over and mix into the salad.  I make a simple vinaigrette for the dressing (1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 4 tbsp EVOO)

Friday - Cold Quinoa Salad (quinoa is leftover from dinner thursday).  I add carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sometimes nuts but not today.  Add feta cheese and a vinaigrette (3 tbsp red wine vinegar, 4 tbsp EVOO with a pinch of oregano)

Week Two

Monday - Pulled Pork Sandwich.  Left over pulled pork from Sunday.  Udi's hamburger roll reheated in microwave and topped with Bone Suckin' BBQ sauce.

Tuesday - Soup and Salad.  I made vegetable soup over the weekend.  Salad was topped with carrots, cucumbers and beans topped with vinaigrette.

Wednesday - Spaghetti and meatballs.  Leftovers from Tuesday night.

Thursday - Sweet and sour chicken over rice.  Leftovers from Wednesday night.

Friday - Salad with fresh vegetables and tuna fish.

There you have it.  Two weeks of me eating lunch.  You can see I try to make sure that our dinner has enough for me to pack leftovers for lunch.

Add your lunch ideas.

The Un-Gluten Guy

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pamela's Gluten Free Baking Mix

A friend introduced me to Pamela's a while back.  I am not a believer that any one blend is perfect for everything, but this is good for many recipes.  I have tried many commercial blends and mixed up blends from various cookbook authors.  I have found I use my own blends for very specific recipes but sometimes you want something handy that you can go to quickly.

Her blend contains brown, white and sweet white rice flour, cultured buttermilk, almond meal, tapioca starch, potato starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum.  So obviously you need to avoid it if you have dairy or nut allergies.

Pamela's baking mix is one that we keep handy in the large size.  We routinely make pancakes and her recipe of her mix plus egg, water and oil is very simple and produces breakfast quickly.  We usually make a large batch on the weekend and the kids reheat them during the week for breakfast.  They have the appearance of a pancake (some GF I tried in the early phases were quite flat), they are light and fluffy and disappear quickly.  The waffles turn out great in our waffle maker.  Not only do they make a great breakfast but I put some in the freezer and reheat them at night, cover it with ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate chips.

We also make her recipe for Sour Cream Coffee Cake.  When I don't have time to make a blend and bake this is a fairly simple preparation and produces a light, fluffy cake with cinnamon goodness.  The glaze is not our style (very thin) and the cake is good all alone.  Occasionally we make up a cream cheese glaze or confectioners sugar glaze like you would have on a cinnamon roll.

As for muffins - not so good.  I like to try many recipes because sometimes I find something I like but this recipe was something we will not make again.

She offers other baking mixes: cakes, cookies, brownies and pizza crust.  My kids prefer my cookies and brownies, but her mixes are easy to use.

Definitely consider having some of this around.  Her website offers many recipe variations and you can always use it as a base for your own creations.

Get Cooking,

The Un-Gluten Guy

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gluten Free Spices

When it comes to spices you have many options.  We initially went through our spice cabinet and threw out many things when I was first diagnosed.  We have found some things that were okay and technically did not contain any gluten ingredients.  But when you look into many companies that produce many products and state that they clean lines but do not test batches to verify that they are GF.

Then I ran across Spicely.  They are a company out of Fremont, California that produces spices and extracts.  They are certified organic, vegan, kosher and GF.  Yes, certified GF.  This always reduces my anxiety level, especially if I am making a dish and adding a lot of spice.

It was time to clean out our spices anyway - they all tend to lose flavor over time so we picked up a bunch of things that I commonly use.

I have used the chili powder and smoked paprika on chili and taco seasoning.  The dry chili flakes are great on pasta and pizza.  Garlic and oregano on garlic bread.  Herbs de Provence is a great blend if you have never tried it before - try it on chicken - you'll really like it.

I will definitely continue to support this local California company. Their seasoning are really good and certified GF.  I just made up a rub because I'm making pulled pork tomorrow so I'll rub the butt tonight.

Spice up your food,

The Un-Gluten Guy