Navigating the wheat free, gluten free diet

Archive for the ‘Celiacs’ Category

Atlanta’s Yeah! Burger is Celiac Heaven

Last week  I spent 8 hours in Atlanta, Georgia (and 10 on the road), and man did I make the most of it.  I had heard about a burger joint called Yeah! Burger from a snippet in another blog, and I didn’t even give my travel companions a choice: we were going.

Yeah Burger! offers two things I really thought I would never order at a restaurant again: a hamburger with a bun and, wait for it…

Onion Rings.

Both gluten-free.

Here’s a quick break down of this gluten-free diner’s dream:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Yeah! Burger has two locations in Atlanta, one in the Virginia Highlands area and one on the west side. We hit up the west side, which was in a gentrified area just outside downtown.  It was packed with young urban professionals.
  • All of the meat (you have your choice of beef, bison, chicken, turkey, or veggie) is all-natural or grass-fed.
  • The fries are homemade and hand cut. And even the fifty-fifty (half fries, half onion-rings) is available gluten-free
  • The buns are locally made, and provide that old burger-eating experience you remember, without taking away any of the taste. It’s nothing special, but it’s a good bun.
  • The GF onion rings seem to be made primarily with rice flour, as the breading tended to dissolve in my mouth rather quickly.  Again, not out-of-this-world, but more than satisfactory.
  • The place is a little pricey, but think about what you’re getting. It’s gourmet food with the feel of a down-home burger joint.
  • They also have a full bar.

Here’s the disclaimer from the menu:

Our gluten-free buns are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization and are toasted in a dedicated toaster. Our gluten-free fries, onion rings and wedges are made in a separate, dedicated fryer to maintain purity. Our gluten-free onion rings are made with gluten-free flour. Please note, however, that trace amounts of gluten may exist due to the proximity of the dedicated fryer to our other fryers. If you have severe reactions to trace amounts of gluten, we recommend you skip the fries, onion rings and wedges.

All I know is the staff was highly educated on all things gluten-free, and I didn’t  feel one bit glutened.

Now I just wish I didn’t have to drive five hours to eat there.



Living Without Magazine discusses the “Celiac Pill”

If you, like me, have settled into the gluten free diet, have learned (or are starting to learn) to navigate its healthy highs and frustrating lows, then an alternative treatment to Celiac Disease might not be at your top list of priorities.  But for some celiacs (and, studies have shown, maybe for all celiacs), a GF diet isn’t good enough.  Luckily, according to the December/January issue of Living Without magazine, there is a hope for supplementary treatment for CD and a full-on cure may not be too far in the future.

celiac pill

Photo from Living Without

Here’s some interesting tidbits of the article (in purple).  To read it in its entirety, subscribe to Living Without here.

“‘There’s growing evidence in the medical literature and in clinical experience that if a repeat endoscopy is performed, many adults on the gluten-free diet have persistent damage to the small intestine,’ reports Alessio Fasano, MD, medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.

“A 2007 study found that some degree of intestinal damage was observed in approximately 25 percent of children and over 80 percent of adults with celiac disease when follow-up biopsies were performed.”

In the back of my mind, I knew this was probably true, given the risks of cross contamination and the fact that I still feel gluten-sick at least once a month.  Still, it’s disheartening to hear that the only treatment for the condition you have isn’t all that effective.

One of the new drugs the article mentioned is ALV003, being developed by Alvine Pharmaceuticals.  It’s designed to prevent an immune response to gluten.

“’No humans fully digest gluten,’ explains Daniel C. Adelman, MD, senior vice president of development and chief medical officer of Alvine Pharmaceuticals, located in San Carlos, California. ‘When we eat gluten, we digest it down to a protein comprised of about 33 amino acids.’ But that large a protein can be immunogenic—capable of stimulating an immune response in those with celiac disease. ALV003 chops up the gluten protein further than the digestive system does naturally, with the hope of rendering it harmless.

“‘If you can degrade gluten into smaller fragments, fewer than nine amino acids in length, you can destroy its immunogenic potential,’ says Adelman.”

Pretty fascinating stuff.  It should be noted that these drugs are designed to collaborate with a gluten free diet, to prevent if not eliminate the effects of cross contamination.  They are not cures.  However, a cure may be on the horizon.

“Australian researchers just completed the first clinical trial on a peptide-based vaccine known as Nexvax2, which exposes the immune system to very specific, small amounts of gluten fragments (peptides) with the idea that repeated small exposures will help induce the immune system to once again tolerate gluten. It’s a concept not unlike allergy shots.”

“’The long-term ambition of Nexvax2 is to replace the need for the gluten-free diet and to prevent celiac disease,’ says Bob Anderson, PhD, director of Nexpep, the biotechnology company that developed Nexvax2 and is running the clinical trial.”


It is unclear, as of yet, how long it would take for a Celiac’s body to begin tolerating gluten again, but the findings  and animal-based studies do seem promising.  How amazing would it be to be able to order a gourmet sandwich, an artisan pizza, or even a big mac?  Unfortunately, this miracle drug won’t be hitting pharmacies tomorrow.

“’There’s a real possibility that in the next 10 to 15 years, we will be able to offer celiac disease patients an alternate treatment for the gluten-free diet,’ says [Bana] Jabri [MD, PhD, co-director of the University of Chicago Digestive Disease Research Core Center]. “We can even dream today of being able to identify a preventive cure for individuals at high risk of developing celiac disease. This is something we wouldn’t have said even five years ago. There’s been lots of progress.”

But before getting too disheartened over what seems like a long way away, remember how far the gluten free diet has come just in the last few years.  The market is huge and is continuing to grow.  Eating out is easier than ever.  Until the day comes when there is another treatment out there, it is up to no one but us to prevent cross contamination, not take risks, and keep coming up with delicious gluten free foods.


Gluten free shortbread cookies are full of win

After reading a Mental Floss post about Girl Scout Cookie copycats, I got a real jonesin’ for some Trefoils (those are the shortbread ones shaped like the Girl Scout symbol that come in the light blue box).

The recipe called for things I already had in my kitchen, so that amped up the craving.  The primary ingredient? Two sticks of butter. Paula would be proud, y’all.

The only thing was I had to sort of wing it on how much xanthan gum to use to bind it, but my baking experiments have been so full of FAIL lately that I just went for it.  And it worked!

The cookies looked almost exactly like the recipe’s example, except bigger because I didn’t want to be hanging out by the oven all day waiting for batches of little cookies.  And even though the original recipe called for the dough to be rolled and cut out, I bypassed that and simply spooned them onto the baking pan and then flattened them with the floured bottom of a glass.

The one thing I’ll say is that the cookies, while delicious, especially with coffee or milk, tasted more like those Danish butter cookies that come in a tin than Trefoils.  I didn’t care.  They may or may not have been eaten already.


Celiac or Coeliac: The same but different

In researching this wonderful subject of mine, I’ve often seen the word Celiac  spelled Coeliac (pronounced the same.)

Turns out it’s only North America that spells the word sans O.  Europe and Australia use Coeliac because it derives from the œ symbol used overseas.

While we’re on the subject of Celiac etymology, I found this Wikipedia excerpt interesting:

“This condition has several other names, including: cœliac disease (with œ ligature), c(o)eliac sprue, non-tropical sprue, endemic sprue, gluten enteropathy or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, and gluten intolerance. The term coeliac derives from the Greek κοιλιακός (koiliakόs, “abdominal”), and was introduced in the 19th century in a translation of what is generally regarded as an ancient Greek description of the disease by Aretaeus of Cappadocia.”

The more you knooow (cue NBC Public Service Announcement)…



I think I just had my Julie and Julia meltdown moment.

I came home excited to combine the three different flours and other essentials I’d bought during a shopping spree with a sweet Groupon coupon for Mother Earth (now Earth Origins) here in Gainesville.  I even bought a set of canisters to put the combined flour and separate flours in where they’d be air-sealed and readily available.

So I came home and set to work, but it went downhill quickly.

While I was getting the bags of flour ready to be combined, removing the canisters from packaging, etc. my two kittens were hovering around, curious.  This is something I should have dealt with immediately.

I opened a bag of brown rice flour and carefully measured three cups into a bowl.  I began to do the same with corn meal, following the directions of the Gluten Free Cooking School GF flour recipe.  Except I didn’t realize I was supposed to be using corn STARCH until it was two cups too late.  Disheartened, I decided to go ahead and empty my bag of Xanthan gum into canisters before heading to the store to get more brown rice flour and corn starch.  It’s expensive, and I didn’t want it going bad.

But, of course, some of it spilled and I grabbed a wet paper towel to clean it off the counter.  Mistake #2.  As soon as water hit the Xanthan gum I realized why it’s called gum.  The sticky, slippery mess is finally off the counter, but not my hands or my memory.

But what really took me over the edge was that while I was scraping the gooey mess off the counter, my boy-kitten sneakily jumped into the unattended bowl of flour mix behind me, marveling at the way it felt on his paws.

It got everywhere.

So somewhere between washing the cat from head to toe with damp rag to prevent the flour disaster from spreading through the house and answering the door covered in flour to a man selling meat door-to-door (who does that?), I decided I needed to take a break from the kitchen.

I’ll pick up tomorrow.


Mary Frances of Gluten-free Cooking School talks blogging, baking, bargaining

Mary Frances Pickett, creator of Gluten Free Cooking School makes me feel lazy.

She’s been blogging about gluten-free cooking since ’06 and has been quite successful at it, financially and flavorfully.  She chatted on the phone with me for a bit to give a new blogger some tips on all things gluten-free, from bread machine mishaps to saving money at the store.

When Pickett was first introduced to the gluten-free diet, it wasn’t even out of necessity.

“My husband found out in college that he had Celiac and needed to avoid wheat.  But the doctor didn’t tell him implications so he didn’t start eating gluten-free until senior year of college.  After my first son was born, I really started noticing more digestive problems and got tested; found out I didn’t have Celiac, but I did have a wheat allergy.  So I don’t have a problem as long as I stay away from wheat.”

Pickett started blogging back in 2006 sort of on a whim, having read some vegan and gluten-free blogs, and was hoping to make a little extra cash.  She blogged often for several years, but with three kids and a full-time job as a CPA, it became less and less of a priority.

When her husband began taking classes on search engine optimization, Pickett picked it up again.

“(My husband) built traffic to site way up as well as the (Google) Adsense earnings and I thought, ‘Maybe we can really make money at this.’”

In addition to their blog earnings, the couple wrote an e-book last summer that has sold about 700 copies to date.  Even with a 4-year-old, a 21-month-old and a 9-month old, Pickett still felt secure enough to quit her job in November and revamped their online cooking school.

One thing I found surprising when talking to Pickett is the fact that she has no cooking or nutrition background other than her husband’s illness and the lessons her mother and grandmother taught her growing up in Alabama.

She attributes much of her gluten-free success to that characteristic of many southern women: tenacity.

“I started out trying some (already made) gluten-free recipes.  They were alright but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results.  I’m stubborn.  I’m gonna find a way to make it good.  We’ve stopped using all mixes unless we really need it. None of the ones I’ve tried are just great. They need to taste a whole lot better.”

She doesn’t remember her very first homemade recipe, just that she made a lot of pancakes and waffles and bread early on, and has this to say to those starting out on their own homemade gluten-free baking adventures:

“Learn as much as you can about why a recipe works with wheat flour.  The flour change is not that huge of a deal if you get the other parts of it right. If you can understand what makes a bread recipe and how that’s different from a pancake recipe and when should you use baking soda – and read other recipes.  They help a lot in figuring out why a recipe works and why it’s not working.

“If testing, always follow exactly to see how it’ll turn out; then change one variable at a time.”

It took her 4 years to perfect her sandwich bread , and knew it was ready when it finally stopped falling – had some height to it – and she could eat one sandwich and be full instead of two or three.

Having gone from two major incomes to one supplemented by the blog, Pickett also had some money-saving tips to offer up.  This grad student listened carefully.

“We used to be very busy so we just bought groceries and could easily spend $1000 to $1,200 a month on groceries, and that’s with me cooking 5-6 breads a week.  I had lunch with Jenny of Gluten Free Birmingham and she said the rule of thumb is to not pay more than 99 cents per pound for produce.  If there’s not much there, you end up using vegetables you might not normally use because they’re on sale and it’s like, ‘Oh I do like rutabagas.’”

Pickett also uses Southern Savers to print out Publix coupons and never buys what’s not on sale.  She’s managed to only spend about $100-$150 in a week on groceries.

Not bad for a family of five!


Gluten-free Betty Crocker + Bread Baking Disasters

Oh, the ups and downs of gluten-free life.

On the plus-side this week, I was in line at my local supermarket when this caught my eye:

After I laughed for a minute at “Pizza! Yes you can!” I picked the thing up and threw it on the conveyor belt.  When I looked through it, I was happy to see  the ingredients in many of the recipes are both less expensive and less hard to find than some more substantial gluten-free cook books and cooking manuals.

According to Celiac Facts, gluten-free expert Jean Duane and the Betty Crocker test kitchen collaborated on the magazine-style book to create GF recipes for sweet breads, dinner rolls, pizza (yes you can!), pies, muffins, cornbread, sugar cookies, waffles, scones and even gravy.  Plus, it boasts that “The Sandwich Bread is sure to become a regular in every gluten free household.”

Well, I’m gonna have to check that last part out ASAP because, on the downside this week, I have gone through three unsuccessful loaves  of sandwich bread in my beloved breadmaker (that’s $18 worth of mix).   I have found that there’s nothing more heartbreaking than waiting for four hours, and even smelling delicious bread cooking, only to open the machine to see a half-risen, rock-hard ball of what can only be called breadfail.

Breadfail 3; a moderate success, comparatively.

I troubleshooted (troubleshot?) via the Internet for a little while, and at first thought it was a problem with the kneading blade coming loose mid-knead and causing the loaf to become malformed.  But then I made two successful loaves of Cinnamon raisin bread for some friends and decided this couldn’t be it.  After the third failed loaf (the one you see above, and actually the most successful of the three), I decided it must be a problem with the yeast activating.  I bought some new ingredients and a bag of the mix at a different store and I’ll give it a go tonight.  I’m also ordering some new kinds of mix to test out, but what I’d really like to do is make my own from scratch.

Which is why I’m very excited for my next interview, with Mary Frances of the Gluten Free Cooking School.  I intend to find out exactly how one gets started creating brand new gluten-free recipes without  going crazy (and with three kids no less!).  I’ll also be talking about the e-book she wrote with her husband, The Gluten Free Survival Guide.

Look for that in the next couple days, along with an update of my loaf-baking success or failure.  The next loaf that comes out wrong will be sent flying across the room.


Tag Cloud