Navigating the wheat free, gluten free diet

Archive for October, 2010

Celiac Savannah, GA: Conquering Queen Deen, Y’all


Forsyth Fountain. Savannah, GA

Some non-gf friends and I took a weekend trip to Savannah, GA, a lovely 3.5 hour drive from our Gainesville homes.  Curiosity and a strange sense of obligation led us to a 9:15 reservation at the flagship restaurant of Savannah’s reigning butter queen, Paula Deen.

First, let me say that there is no shortage of adorable cafes in Historic Savannah.  In  general, everywhere we ate, with the exception of the Lady herself, came as the result of aimless wander.

Second, Savannah is beautiful inside and out. After we were forced to vacate the city bus due to unforeseen motion  sickness issues, a young woman dressed as a referee drove us about 40 blocks, even taking a detour to show us the landmark fountain pictured above.  Having little else to offer her in return (other than my friend not puking on her seat), we gave her a $4.99 bottle of wine. Hope she likes Malbec.

But let’s rewind a bit.  Upon arriving in Savannah around lunch time, we strolled past about 30 potentially GF-friendly eateries before settling on Soho South , a sandwich-happy cafe situated in an old warehouse and decorated with local artistry.  The salads seemed like more Bibb than bacon for your buck so I picked up the special: a ginger-soy-lime marinated tuna steak sandwich, minus the sandwich.  Add to that a spicy southwest potato salad and I was good to go until dinner. The house that Paula built awaited.

Half a football game and a few bottles of wine (between the 4 of us) later we bussed, hitchhiked and stumbled our way  to the Lady and Sons. I was wary. The last and only meal I’d had here could very well have been the end of my glutenous existence, with its smorgasbord of fried everything, biscuits and hoe-cakes (like little dinner pancakes).

After browsing the menu for all of 30 seconds, all of us who felt like eating ordered the buffet.  I did this knowing the immense amount of gluten it was comprised of, but made my decision off the fact that whatever I could eat off the buffet was still a better deal than the one or two entrées I could order.  Within minutes I had in front of me a plate full of pot roast, buttery mashed potatoes, buttery rice, buttery green beans and buttery salad…wait.


My GF dinner, sans pot roast. This was my third plate. Unidentified white stuff = not cottage cheese.

Half of the buffet may have been off limits, but I  was still able to get full. Really full.  But when the waitress came back to announce that dessert was included in the buffet and that, in fact, there was a gluten-free chocolate torte on the menu, I somehow forgot this detail. I managed to eat half before I threw in the towel.


GF Torte

The final blow.

After dinner, we stumbled along the river in a food-drunk stupor, our hearts and minds wanting to explore the city (and its lenient open-container policy), our stomachs wanting to taxi it back to the Extended Stay and slip into a coma.  All told, we lasted about an hour before doing just that.


Savannah Riverfront

The river at night. Blurred perception accurate.

The next morning we found a diner on Abercorn St., Clary’s, your typical neighborhood dive with a high-end twist: sourdough stuffed French toast, poached eggs, Scallop omelets.  But none of us could really finish our greasy, buttery breakfasts.

I longed for a grapefruit.

So, Paula conquered, y’all. Sort of, anyway.  But I did enter the Mecca of glutenful food and stuff myself to excess.  And in my mind, that’s a win.  My stomach agrees.


Gluten-free Entertaining: Halloween Edition Part 2

Dare you to try eating this with braces.

Remember those horrid high school years when braces were so ingrained in your existence that some of your friends couldn’t tell what was different about you the day after you got them taken off?  Let’s not dwell on that for too long.  But back in those days, I longed to get my braces off so I could run out and get a caramel apple into which I would sink my straightened-to-perfection teeth.  When that day came, it was…not as glorious as I wanted it to be.  The apple was a Granny Smith, my least favorite of apples, and the caramel was tough to chew, even by caramel’s standards.  I haven’t paid for a caramel apple since. 

Caramel apples, whether they be plain-old-caramel or topped with chocolate or white chocolate swirl or even walnuts, are the perfect gluten-free indulgence come Fall.  Plus it’s really funny to watch your friends try to eat them with class.

What you’ll need:

1 package Brach’s Milk Maid caramels (they just happen to come with apple-stickin sticks)

1 bag of Mott’s apples (if you’re making a lot, otherwise you can buy by the pound.) These can be whatever apples you fancy.

2 tbsp. water

Toppings optional: melted chocolate, melted white chocolate, crushed walnuts, red hots, sprinkles

What you’ll do:

Melt the caramels in a medium sauce pan with 2 tbsp. water.

Stick your apples through the top so they can stand up on their own during the cooling process.

Dip 1 apple into the caramel, submerging it. Lift the apple out, allowing the extra caramel to drip back into the sauce pan. Turn the apple up and hold it for several seconds to help set the caramel around the apple. Place this coated apple on parchment paper or greased foil. Repeat with remaining apples and caramel, spacing apples apart (caramel will pool on foil).

Let the apples cool for about 5 minutes. Push the caramel that has pooled around the apple back up against the apple.

Before the caramel cools completely, top with your favorite topping.

Let cool for an hour, then sink your braces-free teeth into the caramely goodness. Or chop it into pieces and eat it the un-fun way.  Or chill for up to a week.


Gluten-free Dining: University of Florida has it

One of my MMC 2100 Writing for Mass Communication students, Miss Sara Kaner, wrote for one of her class assignments an article about food allergy and intolerance-friendly eateries and convenience stores on the University of Florida campus.  Today, a shortened version of the article ran in today’s Independent Florida Alligator.

I’m a proud little Mama Duck.

Turns out, living without a car (as many Freshmen do) and with Celiac Disease at UF is a lot easier than I thought.  Here’s the full article she wrote:

Gator Dining Services now offers gluten-free items on campus

Pizza, pasta and bread of all varieties are staples in the American diet. Most individuals take these food items for granted on a daily basis, but for people living with Celiac disease, not being able to eat wheat is something that they think about every day.

Individuals living with Celiac disease are not able to ingest any food product containing gluten, for it causes an immune-related toxic reaction that damages the small intestine, according to This means that people living with this disease cannot eat any form of the gluten proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and other specific grains.

This disease is prevalent in 1 percent of healthy American citizens, according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, and there are a number of students on the University of Florida campus living with this disease. These students must find ways to eat gluten-free products every day.

Luckily, Gator Dining Services (GDS) has made some changes this year to the food products offered on campus and in the dining halls in an effort to accommodate students with food allergies.

“We do offer gluten-free items in the residential dining halls,” said Marketing Program Manager for Gator Dining Services Jill Rodriguez. “We have bread, pizza dough and pasta noodles that are gluten-free and available upon request.”

“We are able to offer many items in our convenience stores that are gluten-free, including pizza dough, frozen and microwaveable meals, brownies, cookies, muffins, tortillas and breads,” said Rodriquez. “We have a vendor that offers gluten-free items, and we asked them to provide a full inventory of products as well as their top 25 items.”

These items in the convenience stores on campus are in coolers that carry alternative dietary options, and they are labeled as gluten-free.

Inspiration for these changes came from families at Preview who inquired about gluten-free food options for their students, and the changes seem to be well-received by students on campus.

“We have seen increased participation of some of the gluten-free items in the convenience store,” said Rodriguez. “There have been only few requests for these options in the dining halls.”

Freshman Meaghan Renkey was diagnosed with Celiac disease at age four. The disease completely changed the way her family eats and what food they buy at the grocery store. Adjusting to college life with special dietary needs has been a challenge for her, but GDS has made it possible for Renkey to find gluten-free food options on campus.

“I have a meal plan because we talked to Gator Dining Services during Preview and they said they offered gluten-free dishes in the dining halls,” said Meaghan Renkey. “I am able to eat whatever dishes they already have made, or I can special request a dish, but that takes a little bit more time.”

Renkey appreciates the changes GDS has made, and hopes that there will one day be a few more items in each convenience store as well as a gluten-free section in the dining halls.

“Over-all, I think Gator Dining Services is helpful with accommodating food needs,” said Renkey.

Sophomore Emily Keeter did not know that she had Celiac disease until high school. Being diagnosed with the disease forced her to learn more about food, read the labels and ingredients in products and be more aware of what she puts in her body.

“Having Celiac disease makes you think about food a lot more,” said Emily Keeter. “You either have to pack your own food or starve, and I eat at my sorority house, so I have to bring my own gluten-free food items there and leave them in the pantry.”

Keeter was excited to learn about the new changes that GDS has made this year to accommodate students like her.

“I think the changes are on track with the rest of the country because accommodating food allergies is pretty big on the west coast, so I think it’s great that Gator Dining Services is doing this now,” said Keeter.

GDS is currently looking to update Graham Oasis and Beaty Market for fall 2011. But for right now, Jill Rodriguez says that Gator Dining Services hopes that they are “meeting the needs of students who have specific dietary needs.”

Gluten-free Entertaining: Halloween Edition

Even corn of the candy variety is GF

Even corn of the candy variety is GF

Whether you’re GF and throwing a party or throwing a party with GF guests, gluten-free entertaining is kind of a no-brainer.  I’m not going to list every Celiac-friendly candy on the market as of Sept. 2010 because a million other people have done so already, but here are some highlights :

Nestle: Butterfinger (original only), Sno-caps, Raisinets and WONKA products (excluding Oompas and Wonka Bar)

Hershey’s  does not publish a gluten-free candy list because “the ingredients can change at any time.”


Mars: All M&Ms except pretzel (and crispy if you live in Holland), Snickers, and Dove products

In the fruit sector, Skittles and Starbursts are safe.

Oh, and Peeps, for those of you who just can’t wait until normal Peep-season, which is Easter by the way.

If you really want your Halloween party to last, you probably don’t want to stuff your guests full of candy or else the sugar crash is going to kick in before the Oregon vs. USC game is even over.  Supplement the overflowing bowls of October goodness with some tasty, somewhat nutritionally valuable snacks:

Original Chex Mix

What you’ll need:

1 Big-ass baking sheet (maybe 2 if you’re really popular)

1 box of Rice Chex

1 box of Corn Chex

1 and a half cups of mixed nuts

1 package GF pretzels

A stick and a half of butter

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

3/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to a tepid 250 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together (Add M&Ms and whatever the heck else you want).

Melt the butter stir in the seasonings.

Pour butter mix over the dry mix.

Pour Chex Mix onto baking sheet and bake for 1 hour – stirring every 15 minutes.

Your house will smell awesome.

Puppy Chow (not actual Puppy Chow)

Probably shouldn't feed this to your dog.

What you’ll need:

1-2 boxes of Rice Chex (again, this can vary depending on how cool you are)

1-2 cups chocolate chips (I prefer Semi-sweet, as it accurately reflects my personality)

1/2 to 1 cup peanut butter (Moms like yours chose Jif)

1/4 to 1/2 cup butter (let’s shoot for 1/3)

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar (You can eyeball this. If your kitchen is covered with powdered sugar, you’ve done your job right)

What you’ll do:

Put cereal in a large bowl.

Melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour over Chex cereal, put into a large plastic bag with powdered sugar and shake well to coat. If you have little ones, feel free to let them do the shaking.

Spread mixture evenly on wax paper (or newspaper. Go ahead, buy one for old times sake) and allow to cool.

Obviously this doesn’t have to be a Halloween-only snackfood. It’s good for pretty much any occasion, up to andincluding being alone in your house all weekend in your pajamas watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls.

Check back tomorrow for more (dare I say healthier?) goodies.


A Celiac Love Song

As posted by Afrobutterfly (check out his blogs Anablog and SC in my blog roll) in the comments section of this very blog, a lovely little band of lady hipsters named after a particularly comforting potent potable have written a Celiac Love Song.  The quality is horrible and I’ve yet to find an mp3 to embed here, so I’m not sure whether it’s a love song between two Celiacs, a love song to Celiac, both, neither, or what have you.  But if you use your imagination it’s a lovely tune, not unlike the other lovely tunes comprising the band’s debut.

Chelsea Clinton Goes Gluten-Free for Wedding

When the details started to emerge about former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton’s top secret yet highly publicized nuptials, I, like any girl, picked up the People in the checkout line and browsed its pages, looking for wedding pictures and maybe a cute quote from Proud Papa Bill.  But what may have seemed like an insignificant detail in the article about her wedding was a large and pleasantly surprising detail to me: Chelsea’s gorgeous eight-tiered wedding cake (seen below) was completely gluten-free.

Chelsea's Cake

Photo source: Entertainment Tonight.

The Today Show article points toward a “trickle-down effect” Chelsea’s menu choices will have on average weddings, empowering those with special dietary needs to ask caterers and bakers to tend to their needs better and, on the flipside, inspiring caterers to come up with more vegan and gluten-free options.

I know I’m not the only girl who, after being diagnosed with Celiac or a gluten allergy, had the thought of what my now-gluten-free wedding would be like when the time came.  Chelsea’s GF cake is great news for the GF community.  If It’s cool to be GF, those of us who have to be that way get to sit back and reap the benefits of higher demands and lower cost.  How sweet it is.


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