The Case of the Gluten Free Corn Dogs–and a Giveaway!

I nervously answered my cell phone. The call was from our local neighborhood security company, and my husband and I were away on vacation.

“Ma’am, there are a lot of boxes on your doorstep . . . they appear to be . . . ugh, corn dogs.”

I let out a sigh. I’d forgotten Foster Farms had offered to send me their new gluten free corn dogs to review. I explained to the baffled officer that I was a food blogger and I’d have my neighbor put them in our freezer.

That was last October. Those corn dogs sat in my basement freezer until the College Celiac came home for his winter break a few weeks ago. Because they contain soy, corn and egg which I’m allergic to, I couldn’t taste them myself. Which was really frustrating because I once liked corn dogs–before allergies and celiac disease–and the photo on the box taunted me every time I opened the freezer door.

As soon as College Celiac dropped his backpack on the kitchen floor, I said, “Wanna corn dog?”  I really needed that freezer space for the Christmas ham.

College Celiac was more than willing to oblige. Corn dogs were always one of his childhood favs.

He quickly microwaved two. After I took the obligatory blog photos, he microwaved the corn dogs again because they got cold.

IMG_3422

 College Celiac’s review of Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs: Two Thumbs Up!

My college boy was happy the breading didn’t crumble like a lot of gluten-free breading–even after microwaving two times–and he said they were tasty. Well, what he said was: “They taste like the corn dogs I used to eat.” This is high praise coming from a guy who hasn’t eaten gluten in three years.  Of course, he added a little Cholula sauce–he and his brother eat everything with Cholula sauce!

Foster Farms GF Corn Dogs

So here’s the lowdown on these dogs. They are certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group, which requires foods to have less than 10 ppm of gluten per serving; a serving is one dog. GIG also evaluates every ingredient for cross contamination. A press release from Foster Farms says, “All ingredients are required to be gluten free and are labeled, stored and processed separately from other ingredients. Foster Farms Gluten Free products are manufactured separately from all other normal finished products. Analytical verification testing measures and sanitation practices are instituted, documented and confirmed with every production run.”

Kudos to Foster Farms for their gluten-free practices and their transparency. Wish more companies would publish statements about what they do to keep those of us with celiac disease and food allergies safe.

You should be able to find Foster Farm Gluten Free Corn Dogs, as well as gluten free breast strips and nuggets, at your local grocery store. If not, call Foster Farms at 800-255-7227 for help finding a retailer. Even better, tweet this post with #FFGlutenFree, like this post and/or write a comment below, or like my Facebook page and you can win a voucher for a free box of Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs.

The Case of the Gluten Free Corn Dogs first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

What a week! I spoke during the online Food Allergy Wellness Summit on a topic close to my heart: Living with food restrictions in college. As a nonfiction writer, I love to research and I read everything available to prepare for this interview. I have enough material to write a book! Well, at least a few blog posts.

I’d like to thank the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Food Allergy Research and Education for providing PDFs of their college-related handouts. Also, my appreciation to Well Amy, Surf Sweets, and Carrie S. Forbes, author of The Everything Gluten Free College Cookbook, for generously donating giveaways for those who signed up to follow this blog. (A little bribery never hurts. Wink, wink.)  Lastly, kudos to Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink for organizing this valuable summit to help families with food allergies and for including me with such an impressive list of speakers.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Last night I grabbed a glass of wine and a Daiya pizza–by the way, the crust has been greatly improved!–and listened to NFCA’s webinar on Gluten-Free Labeling with Tricia Thompson, RD. She’s the dietitian behind Gluten Free Watchdog, which if you aren’t following you should be! I learned so much about the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rules and I’m going back today to re-listen. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended)!

Good News: NFCA will be providing the webinar on their website. so you can listen, too. Check here later today.

On a sad note, this week I also learned a nonprofit task force I’ve co-chaired with a good friend would be ending. For 12 years my friend and I provided support to high-risk pregnant mothers on bed rest in local hospitals. We’d both been on bed rest during our pregnancies, and I delivered a baby 12 weeks early. We were the substitute families for these women whose families weren’t always available (we live in a military community). It’s hard to have the door close on something we believed in so much.

But as the saying goes–when one door closes, another opens. I truly believe helping others with celiac disease, food allergies and EoE is my new calling. This blog is just the start. If you have ideas for how I can do more to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Okay, enough musings–on to a few morsels!

As I’ve mentioned more than a few times here, I react to soy worse than any of my other allergens. So when I saw Soy Allergy Survivor’s helpful one-page soy list I immediately printed it. Because I have so many allergies including corn and dairy which can hide in many, many foods, I always appreciate guides like this one.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Speaking of hidden allergens and labeling, which seems to be a theme this week, a new FDA consumer report, Finding Food Allergens Where They Shouldn’t Be, says the FDA is working to reduce undeclared allergens on labels by:  researching the causes of these errors; working with industry on best practices; and developing new ways to test for the presence of allergens. From September 2009 to September 2012, about one-third of foods reported to FDA as serious health risks involved undisclosed allergens. This is frightening, to say the least. You can help the FDA by reporting  food-allergic reactions to the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your district. 

I’ll end with a little gossip. Who doesn’t like gossip? A little bird told me that the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference would be held in a different state than Nevada next year. Turns out it’s true! Pop on over to their Facebook page to learn more. If you aren’t familiar with FABlogCon, it’s a wonderful conference and opportunity to connect with the food allergy community and learn from experts. It’s for everyone–not just bloggers.  I, for one, am pretty excited about a new venue in a new state.  Come to think of it Colorado would be an excellent choice . . . hint, hint.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14 first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Food Allergies & Celiac Disease: Tips for Coping at Work

Coping with Food Restrictions at Work

My oldest son just celebrated a birthday. Having graduated from college last May, he is now working his first real job in an office setting and living on his own. I laughed when he said, “Birthdays just aren’t as much fun when you’re a grownup.”

No matter how old you are, birthdays aren’t as much fun when you have to pass on the birthday cake, too. College Grad is allergic to dairy and eggs. Of course, there are plenty of treats he can eat, but the office is small and they are evidently unaware of the nearby allergy-friendly and vegan-friendly bakery with cupcakes like the one below.

cupcake

A few years ago, for a short time, I worked in an office. I didn’t know back then that food was making me sick. I’d buy a sandwich on wheat bread or bring one from home and spend the rest of the day doubled over. Fortunately, the company allowed me to work at home often, but I became so focused on figuring out what was wrong with me, I resigned. My husband likes to say I quite my job to be a blogger.

That experience, and now having a son with allergies in the working world, has made me empathetic to those who must manage food restrictions among co-workers who don’t alway understand. Even my younger son in college experiences challenges managing his celiac disease while interning for companies. Both sons developed allergies and celiac disease as young adults, so they had to learn to speak up for themselves; a teacher or a parent wasn’t always there to ensure their  food safety. Still, when you’re young and interning or starting your first job, it’s not easy to ask your manager to wipe the cookie crumbs off the counter or explain to the company CEO why you can’t eat the cheese pizza he just bought for the staff.

One of my friends, a project manager who developed anaphylactic reactions in her thirties, told me how she had to train her staff to use an epipen.  Can you imagine? Who wants to stick a needle in their boss’s thigh? A man I recently met shared how uncomfortable it is to have a reaction among co-workers and be the center of attention. He worried that others would view him as weak.

Whether you’ve grown up with food restrictions or reactions are new, you must learn to speak up for yourself and be proactive in managing your dietary needs. Christina Griffin, who blogs at Bubble Girl Happily, and Alice Enevoldsen have written a terrific guide Managing Food Allergies in the Workplace.  This manual is for both food-allergic folks and for their employers. FARE also has useful information.

My sons and I would love to hear your stories and workplace tips.Coping with Food Restrictions at Work first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

An Allergic College Student You Just Have to Meet

One of the things I love best about being a blogger is meeting remarkable people who are making a difference in the food allergy community. Recently, I met such a person, a college student about to graduate named Amanda Merrill. Amanda won the giveaway Amanda’s Own Confections and I ran a few weeks back. Coincidentally, she shared the first name of the owners’ daughter, which the company was named after.

As Amanda and I emailed back and forth, I knew right away that I had to share her story. Though Amanda was in the middle of final exams at Tufts University, in Boston, she took the time to answer my emailed questions.

An Allergic Foodie: Congrats on winning the allergy-friendly chocolate bars, Amanda! In an email, you mentioned your senior honors thesis has to do with food restrictions  . . . can you elaborate?

Amanda: Happy to, and I’m thrilled to win the chocolate bars because with my allergies it’s almost impossible to find chocolate I can eat. The title of my thesis is “Is Gluten-Free Worth the Price?” Basically, I looked to answer two questions: 1) if consumers are willing got pay extra for gluten-free certification, and 2) if so, how much are they willing to pay? This is the first study in this area, and I devised my own survey to distribute. In short, I concluded that consumers are willing to pay a premium. I am planning on publishing my findings in a journal.

An Allergic Foodie:  I know you came up with this topic because you yourself have many food restrictions. Did you always have food allergies?

Amanda: As a young child, I was first allergic to tomatoes, potatoes and chocolate, which was very hard for me because my dad is Italian and my mom has an Irish heritage. I couldn’t eat any of their traditional dishes. Luckily, I mostly outgrew these allergies –especially the chocolate!

Around middle-school, I started becoming violently ill after eating and I broke out in this terrible skin reaction that left me unable to even open my mouth. I saw many dermatologists who couldn’t figure out what was going on, and I did all sorts of dye and metal allergy tests. My mom was the one to ask for food allergy testing; that’s when I found out I was allergic to soy, nuts and beans. I still wasn’t feeling 100 percent and with more testing, I found out I was allergic to wheat. I have luckily never been hospitalized for a reaction, but I always carry an epi-pen because some of my allergies are life-threatening.

An Allergic Foodie: You said you “outgrew” some food allergies, have you developed any new ones and/or other health issues?

Amanda: I get tested for food allergies yearly. I am now only “borderline allergic” to tomatoes and potatoes so I can usually handle then in moderation and in small amounts. Unfortunately, some of my other allergies are worsening, and this year I discovered I’m allergic to apples, pineapple and sesame. I also have extreme seasonal allergies to everything from grass, pollen, dust, and mold to dog, cats and rabbits. I also suffer from IBS as well as a slow-moving colon and stomach-emptying processes, which constantly leaves me feeling bloated.

Amanda Merrill with Tufts University Mascot Jumbo the Elephant

Amanda Merrill with Tufts University Mascot Jumbo the Elephant

An Allergic Foodie: Your food restrictions must make dating and eating out difficult. How do you do it?

Amanda: If I am going on a date that involves going to dinner, I often spend hours researching restaurants, menus, policies, and contacting managers to coordinate a meal. One time, I was out in Boston and when the waiter brought over the manager, I began going through my allergies and making adjustments, etc. At one point, the manager, jokingly, told me that he might as well put me in a rabbit cage with a piece of lettuce and a water bottle. The funny thing is, I’m allergic to rabbits as well!

An Allergic Foodie:  I have a son in college dealing with celiac disease and I’d love to hear your tips for eating in a school setting.

Amanda:  When was looking at schools, I was really concerned about how I would eat.  When I arrived at Tufts, I met with a nutritionist/dietitian on campus. I’d advise any student with food allergies to research everything they can about the potential school’s dining services and to meet up with a nutritionist to discuss an eating plan.

In Tufts University’s dining hall, a nutrition card is placed above every food and condiment; the cards list every ingredient and has an allergen statement. The problem I run into is that Tufts, like many other dining halls, have all sorts of sauces, marinades, breading, etc. that contain wheat, soy, or another one of my allergens. I often cannot eat much or anything offered for meals and often end up eating a lot of salads and plain grilled chicken.

Since I cannot eat many dinner food items, the chefs prepare a separate meat for me–chicken, pork, or steak. They use a separate pan and just cook in olive oil, salt and pepper. Tufts had never had to deal with a student with so many allergies before, so I worked with the nutritionist to get more allergy-friendly choices. Now there is a separate refrigerator/freezer for items such as gluten-free breads, bagels, pizza crusts, and other baked goods as well as a special shelf with gluten-free cereal, granola, ice cream cones, and peanut butter and jelly–there’s even Sunbutter for those of us allergic to peanuts. I have my own special area for my foods that don’t contain my extensive allergies, and I even got the school to change to a soy-free cooking spray.

An Allergic Foodie: That’s so great that you’ve made a difference for future allergic students going to Tufts. I think you also are involved with FARE . . .

Amanda: I put together a team to walk in the Walk for Food Allergy Boston to raise money to assist in research for a cure. I hope to continue researching and advocating for food allergies in more ways post-graduation and would love to get more involved with FARE. I try to pass along their messages and awareness information as much as I can.

An Allergic Foodie: I love that you don’t let your food allergies hold you back! What are your plans after graduation?

Amanda: My double major is in Mathematics and Quantitative Economics. I will be working in a pricing and risk analyst position while taking the actuarial exams. My goal is to become a certified actuary. Also, I have been dancing since the age of three, taking ballet, tap, and jazz. At Tufts, I joined the ballroom dance team and competed in all ballroom and Latin dance styles. After graduation, I want to get back to studying classical ballet and pursue my dream of taking classes at Boston Ballet. Dancing is and has always been one of my passions aside from academics.

An Allergic Foodie: Thanks so much for making a difference, Amanda, and good luck with your job and dance– you are an inspiration to other college students with food allergies.

An Allergic College Student Your Just Have to Meet originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Hate When I Poison My Kids

Recently I gave my two sons food that made them sick. I mailed the youngest in college cereal that was not gluten-free and served my oldest dairy.

I poisoned them!

Gluten is Poison for SomeAfter five years of gluten- and dairy-free cooking and shopping, you’d think I’d have this celiac/allergy thing down by now. But nope, I still make mistakes.

Now my “kids” are young men and can fend for themselves. They are certainly capable of reading labels. However, I’ve been their mother much longer than they’ve been coping with celiac disease and a dairy allergy and they trust me. If I mail them a college care package, they’ll believe the food is safe. If I put the plate on the table, they won’t question whether they can eat it.

Well, they used to trust me.

Until I poisoned them.

A while back Costco carried 24-oz packages of Udi’s Natural Artisan Granola and the packaging said “soy free, wheat free, dairy free.”  I assumed it was the same Udi’s gluten-free granola I always ate. But I should have noted “wheat free” versus “gluten free.”  I didn’t. That is until just this week when I was eating it myself and I realized the oats weren’t certified gluten-free oats. Well, that explains the weeks College Boy was doubled over in pain. Oh a mother’s guilt.

Then there was the memorable Thanksgiving meal. We ordered a turkey, sides and gravy from a trusted source. I ensured–over and over again–that the food didn’t contain gluten. I forgot to ask if the gravy had dairy.  Poor kid worked the night shift and spent Thanksgiving evening in the bathroom. The gravy was made with heavy cream!

And these lentils  . . .  how did I miss the red wording: Contains Dairy.

Dairy in ingredients

If you’re a parent, you understand parental guilt. It’s okay if I eat the wrong thing, but it’s never okay for me to feed my kids gluten/dairy-containing food.

Luckily, my boys have forgiven me, though I’ve noticed them checking ingredient lists more.

That’s probably a good thing.

__________________________

If  you like this post, you may also like:

Celiac Disease Wasn’t a Part of the College Plan

I’m a Picky Eater and Proud of It!

Hate When I Poison My Kids first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Taste Test Tuesday: Enjoy Life Decadent Soft Baked Bars

This summer I’ve been golfing a lot.

BD (before diagnosis) I typically stayed home while my family hit the links.  (Golf courses with limited restrooms aren’t the best place to be when you’re having a reaction to gluten or soy or dairy or corn or one of the other myriad foods I now know I’m allergic to.)  Fortunately, since cutting out offending foods from my diet, I am much more active.

Country Club of Colorado

The new dilemma: What do I snack on when I’m playing four hours of golf, or hiking in the Colorado mountains, or taking a day trip to Denver.  Certainly not anything from a snack bar or a  fast food joint!

Fortunately, portable allergy-friendly products are becoming more and more common. In just the five years since my diagnosis, I’m amazed at the availability of convenience foods for an allergic food.  More importantly, many of them actually taste good!

So I’ve decided to review some of these products in a regular blog post called Taste Test Tuesday.

My first review is–drum roll, please–Enjoy Life® Decadent Soft Baked Bars.

Enjoy Life Decadent Soft Baked Bars

Full disclosure: The company sent these to me to try after I offered to review.  I was curious to see if these new bars could win me over. I’ve had some pretty awful cardboard-tasting “bars” since AD (after diagnosis) so I was a bit skeptical, and honestly, somewhat reluctant to bite into one.

The four boxes sat unopened on my pantry shelf for several weeks. Then one day when I was late for a tee time, I grabbed a Cinnamon Bun for breakfast.  Now I won’t try to convince you it tasted like I imagine one of those cinnamon buns in the mall does, but it was good. Quite good.  And no wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish or shellfish!

So the next time I golfed, I took a Chocolate SunButter®.  Yummy!  As you may have read before in this blog, I adore chocolate!

My gluten-free son is a bit pickier than I am (he gets to be since he can eat dairy, soy and eggs).  Yet he LOVES the S’mores. S’mores were always a favorite dessert when he was growing up so it’s nice he gets to enjoy them again. He took the rest of the bars back to college.

If you like tart flavors, you’ll enjoy Cherry Cobbler.  I couldn’t get excited about this one, and my son said the bar tasted odd (he’s used to sweeter, I think).  No worries–there are three other flavors for us to enjoy.

The Decadent Soft Baked Bars are now a staple in my pantry, in the care packages I send to my son, and in my golf bag.  Thank you, Enjoy Life, for making a product that helps this allergic foodie enjoy her golf game again.

Now if you could just help me with my putting.

—————————————————

Visit Enjoy Life Foods for more information.

Words to Live By

When I started this blog, I was determined to keep my posts upbeat and inspirational. I’d spent too many years in a funk feeling depressed, lethargic, sick. I’d sat in too many sterile rooms listening to white coats tell me I had IBS (or GERD, or endometriosis, or fibroids, or a bad gall bladder). I’d had too many surgeries and medical procedures (for IBS, GERD, endometriosis, fribroids, and a bad gall bladder). I’d taken enough antibiotics to treat a third world country, popped more prescribed pain killers than I suspect many addicts do, and endured most of the naturopathic remedies the gal at the local health food store suggested. My favorite being the mercury-releasing bath that caused the need for a plumber, but we’ll save that story for another time.

Yet after all this, I still spent days on the couch curled into the fetal position.

Then I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and Multiple Food Allergies and EE and Leaky Gut.  Finally I knew what was wrong with me! I immediately felt relieved. And although there was some initial panic that I might starve (I’m allergic to a page worth of foods), I felt strong enough to take my autoimmune system on. Give me a sword (sorry, I’ve been catching up on The Borgias)! I’d gallantly overcome my health problems and then I’d ride off to help others. Note my blog’s tag line: Don’t let celiac disease and allergies hold you back!

Little did I realize the “others” would include my own 20-year-old son.

While Steve was away at college, gluten became his enemy. The kid who lived on Kraft Mac and Cheese and red licorice throughout childhood couldn’t ingest a cookie crumb without being knocked to the ground.

Suddenly I found it hard to be upbeat. No mother wants her child to suffer, and certainly not suffer with an illness her genes likely passed on. For the last few months when I tried to write, all I wanted to do was whine and pout and stomp my feet. And who wants to listen to a middle-aged mother’s tantrum? Afraid of losing all five of my readers, I erased my negative words.

Now I know plenty of people suffer health issues far worse than gluten intolerance (the young girl with cystic fibrosis who is waiting for a lung transplant comes to mind). Steven’s health issues are not life-threatening and they are manageable. I know this. I also know firsthand how getting sick from gluten negatively impacts one’s life.

And he’s just a college kid . ..  who wants to be like all the other college kids.

Because his body no longer likes gluten, my son’s youth has been drastically changed, and he’ll never go back to the way it was. Always getting “glutened,” his weakened immune system can’t fight off cold germs and he’s constantly sick. When he comes home from college, he turns down his high school buddies invitations to hang out at the local hamburger joint. Back at the university, he can’t share a late-night pizza with his roommates, or even be in the same room as their leftover crusts. He turns down offers of birthday cupcakes and treats the professors bring from home. Fortunately, since he’s underage, beer isn’t an issue. 🙂

And don’t get me started on the school cafeteria! The staff has never heard of cross-contamination. What do you mean you can’t slap the GF bread down on the same counter with the non-GF bread? One worker insisted celiac disease was all in Steve’s head and what he needed was “some good white bread on his skinny bones.” (I’m hoping this was an attempt at humor but still . . . ) In the apartment-style dorm with a kitchen, roommates left cereal and cookies everywhere and cooking utensils were never washed. As a last resort, Steve found a house near campus along with roommates with who get the whole gluten thing. They’ll move in together this fall. Stay tuned.

Oh yeah and it hadn’t even dawned on any of us that being gluten-free would make getting a summer job difficult, especially when all of his experience is restaurant-based. There is no way Steve can work in a restaurant now, and he has no retail experience. Anybody hiring in the Nashville area?

Still, my sweet boy doesn’t complain. Like his mom felt a few years back, he’s just glad to know what’s wrong with him and that removing gluten from his diet will make him feel better. This summer he’s learning to cook and he’s resumed his old workouts and outdoor runs, hoping to gain back some of the weight and muscle he’s lost. Summer classes are going well–now that he doesn’t have a constant fuzzy brain or a bellyache. He’s grateful to have a GF kitchen, transportation to the local Whole Foods and Costco, and a mom who sends GF care packages.

Some gluten-free goodies for the college student

Some gluten-free goodies for the college student

During a recent visit, I told Steve how sorry I was he inherited my stomach issues. He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not a big deal,” he said before grabbing an apple. “Stuff happens.”

Stuff happens. Now those are inspirational words.

Gluten Free in College Blog Series