Navigating the wheat free, gluten free diet

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“Chef” Damian Cardone Likes Poisoning His Patrons with Gluten?

I woke up this morning to find the gluten-free world in an outrage over a 40-word Facebook update a chef had posted about gluten-free patrons.   Then I actually read the update:

Gluten free is bullshit!! Flour and bread have been a staple of life for thousands, THOUSANDS of years. People who claim to be gluten intolorent dont realize that its all in there disturbed liitle heads. People ask me for gluten free pasta in my restaurant all the time, I tell em sure, Then I serve serve em our pasta, Which I make from scratch with high gluten flour. And you know what? nothing, NOTHING! ever happens! People leave talking about how good they feel gluten free and guess what, They just had a full dose! Idiots!

Pretty sickening, yeah?  I don’t want to imagine how those people felt later that night or the next day, and for days after that.

The Gluten Free Life has written an open letter to Cardone, which he probably won’t read since he considers the gluten-free diet to be a passing fad diet, but it’s a lot nicer than anything I’d probably say to him right now.

I just can’t imagine what would possess a chef – who has cooked for celebrities and worked at the now-defunct but once-famous Tavern on the Green – to not only take such derisive action against these patrons, but to also brag about it openly on the biggest social networking site in the world.   Has he ever heard of a lawsuit?  A simple, “We don’t have gluten-free pasta” would suffice.

Cardone has claimed that he understands there are “a few” people with a legitimate disorder, but “most people are jumping on the bandwagon.” How does he tell the difference between these so-called bandwagoners?

I’d hate to think that he’s not the only chef out there who takes joy in essentially poisoning the people who pay to taste his food.  But that would certainly explain how crappy I felt after trying “gluten-free” pasta at Olive Garden.



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!


Post joins the gluten-free club, focuses on kids

Earlier this week, Post foods announced that it has made two of its most popular kids cereals, rice-based Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles, officially gluten-free.


The notoriously sugary cereals also got a sugar reduction to make them more appealing to moms who are increasingly interested in what their children are eating.  According to a press release, the company certified both cereals gluten-free, meaning they must be prepared and manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility, just as General Mills has done with Chex.

As I may have mentioned in recent posts, I love cereal.  It’s a quick and easy breakfast, as well as a good snack food option when I don’t feel like preparing anything.  I’ve long wished that companies would make their corn and rice-based cereals gluten-free, and this is a step in the right direction.  Given the plague of obesity currently ravaging this country, I’m glad Post decided to start with kids cereals.  I’m not saying I’m going to go out and buy these right away – I never ate Pebbles as a kid, so I don’t have any nostalgic attachment.  I do however long for a Froot Loop.

I’m glad, though, that Post took the time to go through “a rigorous process to achieve Gluten Free status on both Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles products,” because some cereals – I’m talking to you Kix – eliminate gluten-free ingredients without giving them a dedicated facility, putting them at risk for cross contamination.

I do hope this gets the ball rolling for making rice and corn-based cereals GF certified.  I want some Pops!


For when it’s snowing everywhere but here: Mom’s Vegetable Soup

It snowed in Gainesville this morning:


Not quite here in Homosassa (too near the coast, I think), but close enough for me.  Here it was just overcast, blustery and miserable.  I was more than happy to spend it at the clubhouse of my parents’ golf course, watching Tim Tebow score the winning touchdown of his first victory as an NFL starter.  At home my mom was “slaving away” (remember, cooking for us involves a lot of can-opening) in the kitchen, getting vegetable soup ready for when we came home.

Every year, usually on the coldest-feeling day, my mom cooks a pot of vegetable soup big enough to feed four of us for about two weeks, especially with some grilled cheese or cornbread to go with.  The best thing about the soup, though, is its simplicity.  Quick home-cooking at its finest…

What you’ll need:

-Beef tips for stewing (can find it ready to stew in the meat section of the grocery)

-2 cans of Veg-All; the kind with the peas and carrots and okra and stuff

-3 carrots, peeled and chopped

-1 celery stalk (optional)

-3 Yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and in bite-size pieces

-1 can of cut green beans

-1 can of corn (don’t accidentally buy creamed corn!)

-1 big can of tomato juice (not sauce, juice)

-Celery salt

-1 tbsp. of corn starch (use flour if you’re not gluten-free) dissolved in a little warm water

What you’ll do:

Note: You can cook this in a slow-cooker and let it simmer all day, or in a pot on the stove and let it simmer for an hour.  My mom always did it on the stove.

-Brown the beef and start cooking the potatoes in the soup-pot or wherever.  Drain the meat a little, but save some meat juice for flavor. The potatoes need a little more time than the rest of the vegetables since they aren’t cooked.

– Put the dissolved corn starch in the remaining meat juice and let it thicken a little.

-Add the tomato juice and let it heat up

-Add the Veg-all, chopped carrots, celery, and canned green beans and corn.

-Let it simmer for at least an hour, preferably two, and serve piping hot with something to dip in it.  Mm-mm good.


I’m already looking forward to taking a container of it back to Gainesville with me, where I’ll wish for more snow flurries.



Christmas 2010 Recap: Gifts, kittens and oat flour

Because Thanksgiving was such a huge family celebration, Christmas was understandably low-key, with just me, my parents and my grandmother.  And when I found out my dad had accidentally agreed to have Christmas dinner at the neighbors’ house, I was a little miffed.  I enjoy cooking Christmas dinner. More importantly, I wasn’t guaranteed a Christmas dinner if the neighbors didn’t cook GF.  Well, call it a Christmas miracle, but it turned out I could eat everything, save the rolls, on the table.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Christmas Eve, my mom and I cooked a delicious meal that I didn’t photograph because I was busy making sure my  scallops were warm and fully cooked. The meal was petit filets, seared scallops with a lemon white whine reduction, baked potatoes, sauteed green beans and crustless cherry cheesecake for dessert.   It’s not hard to make crustless cheesecake – just buy one of those no-bake cheesecake kits and don’t use the crust!  we served them in pretty little bowls instead of on a plate with cherry pie filling on top.

Christmas morning I slept all the way until 9:15 before getting up to see what Santa brought.  My sweetheart sister Carrie Mae  read this and bought me this as a result:


A cute Christmas apron for all the bread-baking I’ll be doing for the people who bought me the bread machine when I get back to Gainesville.  Here I am making fudge in it:

We do love our Christmas morning mimosas here in the Provost household.

You’ll notice the apron has kittens on it.  From other family members I also received a cat mug, two cat ornaments and some other miscellaneous catphernalia.  I am not trying to perpetuate the idea of me as a crazy cat person, but apparently my family is.  It’s because of these guys:


Catsby and Daisy have only been a part of the family for a few months, so I’m thinking by next Christmas the crazy cat lady stuff will have calmed down.  Nevertheless, I do love the apron.

Now, I mentioned Christmas dinner was a pleasant surprise.  It was a simple meal: ham, green bean casserole, potatoes au gratin and rolls.  One thing about the GB casserole: Mom and I experimented with crumbling sour cream and onion potato chips on top in lieu of the traditional fried onions – and it worked! An ingenious substitute if I do say so myself.

For dessert, a neighbor had brought two cake-breads – apple butter and banana.  I naturally assumed I’d just be having hot cocoa when we got home.  Then she mentioned she likes to stay away from wheat, and substitutes oat flour for regular flour in all recipes.  I’ve seen oat flour used to add texture to things, but never as a pure substitute.  I quickly used the Droid to make sure it was safe, then dug into the super moist, faintly oaty cakes.

Now, oats are tricky.  It’s fairly well-known that most rolled oats are processed on the same machinery as wheat and wheat flours, and can cause some people to feel ill.  I tried to reintroduce oatmeal into my diet about a year ago and after a month or two it started to make my tummy hurt, so I’ve relegated it to a special treat, and this seems to be a viable solution for quite a few Celiacs.   However, the breads from last night were made from my old buddy Bob’s Red Mill GLUTEN-FREE oat flour, grown on gluten-free farms and manufactured in a dedicated facility.  Can’t beat that.

I intend to try this recipe in the near future using the oat flour and the bake setting on my bread machine.  I thought it was quite fortuitous that our little Christmas dinner with neighbors had a gluten-free dessert just by happenstance.  Merry Christmas indeed.



Gluten-free Apps for Androids

Guess who just got an Android phone?


Goodbye Real World, Hello 21st Century

Everyone you know, probably.  Especially since they’re giving them away now.  My dad got a free Droid with his Droid so I have a pre-Christmas toy to play with (when I’m not playing with this one).

After I downloaded all the necessary apps (Facebook, Email, a collection of crosswords), I decided to type “gluten-free” into the app market’s search bar.  I got 18 results, most of them relevant, 8 of them free.  The two G favorites, and the ones I downloaded, seemed to be the Gluten-free Scanner and Gluten-free Near Me, both powered by GF search engine site,

Gluten-free Scanner allows you to take a picture of a food’s UPC and it’ll tell you whether it’s safe if it’s one of the thousands of items in their database.  You can also use keywords to identify the product if you don’t have it in hand.  This seemed pretty silly to me at first, since you can simply read the label.  But sometimes you can’t be really sure, and it’s nice to have a way to double-check.

Gluten-free Near Me searches through a community-edited database of restaurants to provide safe dining options wherever you may be.  It uses GPS or allows you to type in your current address to identify the best choices. Unfortunately, I am visiting my parents in Homosassa, Florida at the moment, so my selections were a Chili’s 9 miles away, and, seriously, 5 Dairy Queens.  But it’ll prove useful throughout my travels.  My mom and I used it to find a gluten-free meal while enjoying a mother-daughter day in the Tampa outskirts.  It’s good for a quick bite, but it seems to only provide the nearest chain restaurants, which could cause you to overlook a great local place.

In addition to these handy tools, there were several GF recipe apps, which could be useful at the grocery store or someone’s house where you don’t have access to your fav GF cookbooks.  But this Droid also has some pretty sweet Internet access, which is usually just as useful, and has a lot more than 1,000 recipes.

Then there’s Celiac Facts, which posts up to 20 links per week to articles relevant to Celiac Disease.  I wouldn’t check it too religiously because it tends to be repetitive in its postings, but the articles it links to are interesting, especially if you have children with gluten issues.

So yeah, pretty excited about the selection of Droid Apps related to Celiac/gluten-free.  Except now I really want some Dairy Queen.


Gluten-free Christmas Wish Fulfilled: Hello New Breadmaker!

When I posted my list of gluten-free gifts a week or so ago, I jokingly posted on Facebook that “If anything good comes out of this blog, I hope it’s a bread machine for yours truly.”  Well, I have Facebook, this blog, and seven of the greatest friends to thank for this little guy:

bread maker

He’s a Panasonic SD-YD250 Bread maker, complete with automatic yeast dispenser so I don’t have to wait around to dump the yeast in.  It also has a 13-hour timer so, if I so desire, I and the rest of the house can wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread.

I’ll let you know when I find out what I did to deserve such a heartfelt gift.

Being quite a novice at the art of baking non-dessert breads, I decided to buy a pre-measured mix the first time out rather than attempt to do potato flour/millet flour/rice flour/xanthan gum measuring myself.

bob's Following the directions on that bag were fairly easy.  Figuring out how to set the right baking time, type of bread, size, and crust darkness took a little perusing of the user manual.  I chronicled my first attempt here:

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About 10 minutes in, the roommates and I started hearing the weird noises of the dough kneading, and it took a minute to realize what it was.  Then we were pretty stoked.  Forty-five minutes in,  it sounded like the dough was being spanked.  We determined that was the yeast dispenser working its magic.

Finally, around 3 hours in to the 4-hour process, we started to smell the finished product.  I’m the only GF eater in this house, but it was clear everyone was waiting for bread.

When it finally finished, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it actually looked and tasted like a loaf of bread.  It turned out so well I just feel like baking all the time now.  I’ve got one more bag of bread mix, and then I think it’ll be time to test my kitchen chemistry skills.  I’ll keep you posted.


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