An Allergic Foodie’s Favorites: Rebecca’s Gluten Free

I’ve really come to appreciate the small family-owned businesses that make food my sons and I can eat. For a long time I hated grocery shopping because all the “allergy-free” packaged foods contained at least one ingredient one of us couldn’t have. Son #1 is allergic to dairy and eggs, son #2 has celiac disease, and I’m the Queen of Allergies including oddball ones like vanilla, nutmeg and guar flour.

Thankfully, there are other allergic folk (mostly women) and parents of little allergic folk (mostly moms) who don’t mind stepping up to the kitchen counter and taking on the painstaking task of developing recipes sans “normal” ingredients and yet taste great. I so appreciate these women because I do not have the patience or the passion to create a batter over and over again until I get it right. These people deserve our applause.

At the recent Food Allergy and Celiac Convention in Orlando, I was incredibly touched by the selfless stories I heard over and over again of people changing careers or starting a home business to help families like mine. These people make it their life’s work to make our lives better.

I’d like to introduce you to  some of  these special people and their companies. Starting with this post, I’ll tell you about my favorite gluten-free and allergy-friendly businesses–everything from computer apps to cookbooks to cookies. I hope you’ll learn about new products as well as enjoy getting to know the incredible people behind them.

Let’s begin with cookies.

An Allergic Foodie's Favorites: Rebecca's Gluten Free

Rebecca’s Gluten Free  (Cookie Mixes)

Some back story . . .

Rebecca Clampitt sent me two of her cookie mixes to try–Coconut and Brownie. I was reluctant at first because they are made with some corn and I sometimes react to corn, depending on the amount. The directions also said to add butter and eggs, which are a no-no for one son and me. I decided to make the coconut ones with egg replacer and Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread.

Rebecca's Gluten Free Cookie Mixes

They turned out perfect and so tasty–like a macaroon but better. I had no reaction to the corn–this is not to say those of you with corn allergies should try!

Coconut Cookie Mix from Rebecca's Gluten Free

Now on to the interview .  . .

Rebecca, please share the story behind Rebecca’s Gluten Free.

Three years ago, when my daughter was  ten, she was very ill with severe gastrointestinal issues and ear infections. I was also having GI symptoms. I wanted her to be tested for celiac disease, but she is afraid of needles and wouldn’t let a doctor get near her. I finally decided to take us both off gluten and we felt so much better. While we’ve never ben officially diagnosed with celiac disease, we are gluten intolerant.

I wanted my daughter to have gluten-free treats for school functions, but most packaged gluten-free cookies didn’t taste that great. As far as mixes go, there were only two choices–chocolate chip and sugar. So I started researching different flours. The cookies would always end up flat and I’d end up in tears. It was not an overnight process!

Rebecca with her beautiful daughter

Rebecca with her beautiful daughter

When I finally got it right and decided to sell my mixes, it was important to me that they be easy and require no more than three additional ingredients. They require eggs and butter, and the Pumpkin Spice requires molasses.  I also wanted to come up with unique flavors. We offer Brownie, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Crinkle, Coconut, Pumpkin Spice and Snicker Doodle.

Where are your cookie mixes manufactured?

I rent space in a commercial kitchen. The kitchen is not gluten-free certified, but I have my own space–no one uses it to cook any other foods–and I make my mixes when no one else is cooking. I also use my own cooking utensils..

Your labels say “tested and approved at 2.5 ppm of gluten.” How do you test for gluten?

According to the FDA, everything in the mixes must be tested, including the separate packets of sugar and coconut included in the package. I send everything to EMSL Analytical Incorporated.  Every new mix flavor I create gets tested. I am working to become Certified Gluten Free through the Celiac Sprue Association.

I noticed the ingredients weren’t listed on the packaging. Why?

Honestly, I couldn’t fit them on the label! In January I will have new packaging that will include ingredients and nutrition labeling. Until then, you can find all ingredients on the website.

The Brownie Cookie Mix was a hit with the College Celiac.

The Brownie Cookie Mix was a hit with the College Celiac.

Are there any other common allergens in your mixes?

All of the mixes have corn and one has coconut. There are no nuts.

How much do your mixes cost, and where can people find your cookie mixes?

They cost $5.99.  Tight now I am only selling through the website. I am waiting to be certified gluten free before pursuing Trader Joe’s and other stores.

For more information about Rebecca’s Gluten Free, visit her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

An Allergic Foodie received Rebecca’s Gluten Free Mixes for free, but An Allergic Foodie’s review is entirely her own.

An Allergic Foodie’s Favorites: Rebecca’s Gluten Free first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

An Allergic Foodie will share tips for the college celiac on Nov. 6, 2014 during Food Allergy Wellness Summit

FOOD ALLERGY WELLNESS SUMMIT: COLLEGE 101

My husband and I drove through Nashville this past weekend and stopped to have dinner with the college boy. You’ve heard me refer to our son often as the  “College Celiac.” Yes, he inherited his mom’s celiac genes, something we discovered after he left home and went far, far away. Actually, he believes the amount of wheat he ate during freshmen year–pizza, pasta, bagels, cookies–triggered his celiac. He’s probably right.

Over gluten-free appetizers, I asked my son if he ever cheated and ate a slice of pizza or a cookie. Okay, I was really wondering if he ever slipped up and had a beer at a party. Perhaps it was the dozen of red solo cups and the beer pong table in his rented house that made me wonder this.

“I’m never even tempted,” he said. “It’s not worth feeling stupid all week.”

Food Allergy Wellness Summit: College 101

My son’s worst celiac symptom is brainfog. Feeling lethargic and air-headed can obviously make learning and studying hard. Trying to adapt to college life is challenging enough without having to worry about eating the wrong foods and getting ill.

And oh how I hated those terrible middle-of-the-night phone calls when he was doubled over in pain. I wondered if it was truly a gluten reaction or if he had appendicitis or food poisoning. Should he go to the ER, or wait it out?

When  he ate in the school cafeterias, he got glutened often. We tried moving him to a suite with a kitchen and that proved to be even worse–the other boys left half-eaten pizza and breadcrumbs everywhere! Moving to a house last year helped, but he still keeps a toaster in his room and gluten-free foods under his bed.

We’ve both learned a lot in the last four years. So when I was asked to speak about our experience for the FOOD ALLERGY WELLNESS SUMMIT–a FREE ONLINE 4-day event with 12 food allergy experts–I jumped at the chance to help other parents and students about to embark on the college journey. There seems to be a wealth of information out there for younger kids with food allergies and celiac disease, but not so much for the high school and college student.

Surviving College with Food Allergies or Celiac

If you have a child with food allergies, or you are a high school student preparing for college, please join me on November 4 for “I Can’t Eat That: Living with Food Restrictions in College.” I’ll offer lots of advice on everything from choosing the right school to preparing to leave home to eating and socializing on campus.

After listening to my talk, you’ll  receive TWO FREE DOWNLOADS specific for college students from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Food Allergy Research & Education. Plus you’ll have a chance to WIN THREE GREAT PRIZES  perfect for the college student: a $25 gift certificate to Well Amy; an assortment of treats free of the top ten allergens from Surf Sweets; and an autographed copy of The Everything Gluten-Free College Cookbook by Carrie S. Forbes.

An Allergic Foodie will share tips for the college celiac on Nov. 6, 2014 during Food Allergy Wellness Summit

SIGN UP FOR THE FOOD ALLERGY WELLNESS SUMMIT TODAY!

Food Allergy Wellness Summit: College 101 originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie

The Waitress Who Went to Bat for An Allergic Foodie

The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Just getting over a few days of food-allergy misery. I’ve been eating out a lot–just check my Facebook or Instagram photos!–so I’m not all that surprised a bit of gluten, soy, dairy, or corn snuck into my food. I guess I tempted the Food Allergy Gods one too many times.

This may sound slightly paranoid to some of you, but I kind of wonder if this time at this particular restaurant the chef didn’t intentionally leave an allergen in my order. It’s horrible to suspect someone who is preparing your food isn’t taking your food restrictions seriously, but we all know it happens.

The Close-minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me

Here’s how the dining experience–er, dining disaster–played out. The waitress is terrific–very aware of my needs because she herself is gluten sensitive. She asks myriad questions and goes over the menu in detail. To be safe, it’s decided I’ll order plain grouper and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. The table will share crab legs for an appetizer, butter on the side.  The only unanswered question is what kind sauce of the six offered I can have on my fish. She goes back to the kitchen to find out.

When she returns, her face is flushed  She explains that the head chef is “old school” and believes the front of the house–the waiters and servers–shouldn’t converse with the back of the house–the chefs.  I thought this only happened in the movies! How in the world is our waitress suppose to find out if  food is allergen free without talking one-on-one with the person preparing the food?

“I told him you’re not going to have to use an epipen on my watch!” she says. Her pen flies up in the air like a sword.

This waitress went to battle for me. How awesome is that? But that’s also why it makes getting sick from this meal even worse–and why I suspect foul play.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just leave the restaurant then. In hindsight, I should have. But it was late, few other restaurants were opened, and we were so enjoying this view of the full moon.

IMG_2772

So I ate my plain grouper that was nondescript, which was fine if it meant not getting sick.

Of course, you now know how that panned out.

While rolled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, I rehashed that meal in my head. I pictured the chef ignoring that lovely waitress. I wondered what he missed–or added–to my order that made me so sick. I kept asking myself, If this chef had a wife or a child with food allergies, how would he feel about interacting with the front of the house then?

I’m often quick to blame a waiter for leaving croutons on my salad or butter on my vegetables, but maybe I don’t know what he is dealing with behind those swinging steel doors. When a hierarchy exists in restaurants–when good communication between all food staff members doesn’t exist–those of us with food restrictions pay the price.

The only time I’ll return to this restaurant is to see the sunset. I’m pretty sure this chef could care less about losing me as a customer, but the waitress may. She did her job exactly right. I’ll give her a high-five the next time I see her.

The Close-Minded Chef and the Waitress Who Went to Bat for Me first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Food Allergies have many symptoms

We Didn’t All Grow Up with Food Allergies

Sitting at the hotel bar during a recent food allergy conference I was surprised–no, shocked– when two mothers of food-allergic children told me that adults shouldn’t need help coping with their allergies. They were wondering why I was at the conference. Now before you get angry, let me explain their side. They assumed all adults with food allergies had developed them as children. Hence, by adulthood, food-allergic folks should be experienced–physically and emotionally–at handling restrictions and reactions.

Imagine! I had no idea some people thought this way! Of course, I quickly took this opportunity to tell them how wrong they were.

I explained people can develop food allergies and celiac disease and other health issues requiring food restrictions at any time in life. I shared that my symptoms started in my late thirties, though it took nearly ten years to find out multiple food allergies, celiac disease, and eosinophilic esophagitis were the cause.

My kids ate everything–and I mean everything!–when they were little. Their food issues developed as teens. My oldest son realized dairy and eggs were off-limits in high school, and my youngest started showing signs of celiac disease his first year in college. I also mentioned one of my adult friends couldn’t eat dairy and gluten due to Crohn’s Disease and another developed life-threatening reactions to many foods in her thirties. Oh, and by the way, one of my favorite attendees at the conference was a spunky senior citizen with over 40 recently diagnosed food allergies and intolerances.

Adult with 40+ Allergies

After we were all on our second glass of wine, I may have suggested that getting diagnosed with food allergies as an adult may actually be more difficult than being diagnosed as a child. What I was trying to say is the food-allergic adults needed the conference as much as the parents of food-allergic kids did.  Figuring out all the foods containing soy, dairy, gluten and corn fell on my shoulders–I didn’t have mom and dad to guide me. My young adult sons taught themselves how to negotiate school cafeterias and participate in social activities with peers who didn’t get that food could make them horribly sick. My oldest even figured out how to eat dairy- and egg-free in Italy, the land of pizza and cheese.  After years of not needing to worry about allergy-friendly menus, or planes with peanuts, or explaining to family members why they couldn’t double-dip, becoming  “the weird person who can’t eat anything” is like being a foreigner in a new land–yet the doctors don’t offer any counseling.

I think the women were kind of tired of me by then. They wanted to get back to talking about preschools and camps. But this conversation opened my eyes to how some people may view adults with food allergies.  Will a waiter or chef who thinks I’ve managed celiac disease all my life  have a false sense of security that I know what I’m doing when ordering my food? Will my co-workers and friends not believe me when I become sick from food; after all, shouldn’t I know how to eat by now? My own mother doesn’t understand my health issues because I didn’t have food allergies as a child, so how can I expect strangers to understand?

Fortunately, there are those out there who do get it. The next few blog posts will focus on resources for teens and adults, starting with Erica Brahan’s “A Teenager’s Perspective on Food Restrictions: A Practical Guide to Keep from Going Crazy.” Gotta love the title.

Please be sure to let me know of any resources I miss. And remember, I do know how difficult a later-in-life diagnosis is–I am here to help.

We Didn’t All Grow Up with Food Allergies first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

By istolethetv from Hong Kong, China (alien abduction Uploaded by Princess Mérida) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Battling My Leaky Gut

Lately I’ve been feeling like my leaky gut is an alien that’s taken over my body, like in one of those sci-fi movies my boys watched as kids. My leaky gut and all its accompanying symptoms control me physically and emotionally. My gut dictates my family life, my work life, my social life. It tells me where I can eat and what I can eat. It makes me tired and angry. It keeps me from traveling and doing the things I used to do. It makes my brain feel like mush and the wrong words come out of my mouth.

I wish I had an antidote to cure my leaky gut, so that I could return to the person I once was, the one who felt Super Human. Of course, back then,  I didn’t know I felt Super Human. I did not appreciate my health, my energy, my memory, and my non-eczema skin  because I didn’t know any different.

If I could go back in time,  oh how I’d live my life differently. I wouldn’t starve myself in high school because I wanted to fit in 28-waist Levis. I wouldn’t have lived on lettuce and beer in college. As a young mom, I’d skip the processed convenient foods and focus more on the outer aisles of the grocery stores. I’d follow the advice of my sister-in-law, an osteopathic doctor, who touted organic and non-GMO foods way before it was cool.

I would have eaten more organic foods

In my thirties, I’d take probiotics when I took antibiotics along with prescribed painkillers for the first medical procedure  . . .  and the second . . . and the third. I wouldn’t have believed the first two doctors who diagnosed IBS; instead, I would have listened to that voice in my head that said something else was wrong. Nor would I have believed the next two doctors who diagnosed gall bladder disease and not celiac disease and food allergies. Yes, the cheese sticks made me sick but not because they were fatty!  Because they were full of wheat and dairy!

When my father died, I would have taken long walks in the Vermont woods instead of drowning my sorrow in wine and Ben and Jerry’s. I would have believed that stress does impact your health.

But I can’t go back.

None of us can.

We can only go forward.

We can do all the things we should have been doing all along. We can continue educating ourselves about our leak guts and accompanying illnesses. We can stand up for ourselves at our doctors’ offices. We can listen to the voices in our heads when they tell us something isn’t quite right, or maybe I need another doctor’s opinion or test, or maybe the diet I’m following isn’t working.

Most importantly, we can support one another.

When you’re having a bad day, reach out to someone who understands; there are dozens of online support sources. Check out the websites, bloggers and nonprofit organizations who dedicate themselves to educating and supporting various autoimmune illnesses.

And when you’re feeling good–maybe not quite Super Human, but good nonetheless–help someone who is having a bad day.

It’ll make you feel even better.

***

After writing this post, I realized you could replace “Leaky Gut” with  “Celiac Disease” or “Food Allergies” or “Multiple Chemical Sensitivities” or “Lupus” or “Lyme Disease” or an other autoimmune illness and the meaning of my words would be the same. Coincidentally, it happens to be “awareness week or month” for just about every autoimmune disease. So if you want to substitute “leaky gut” for the illness you have and share this post (with a link back to me), please feel free to do so.

Battling My Leaky Gut first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Denial after food allergy diagnosis

Denial, or Why I Ate That Damn Pizza

I never eat something I know I shouldn’t.

This, folks, is called being in denial. Denial is when you pretend something that happened didn’t really happen.

Since my gut sprang a leak–make that lots of leaks–and I developed food allergies to many, many foods, I have sometimes been in denial. Okay, the truth is I was in denial a lot after I was diagnosed.

I do not have celiac disease and allergies; it’s just a little indigestion.

The lab must have gotten my blood mixed up with someone else’s– I CANNOT be allergic to that many foods!

I am not allergic to corn. I am not allergic to corn. I am not allergic to corn.

I can eat a tiny bit of soy.

When the little voice in my  head made these statements, I believed them to be real–as real as the pain in my gut.

Denial runs in my family. My mother doesn’t go to the doctor because she doesn’t want to find out she has cancer. My college son didn’t want to admit he’d inherited celiac disease. After all, he’d taken a blood test and it had come back negative. The constant gut ache after eating, the lethargy, the weight loss must be from something else. What college sophomore wants to admit he has to give up beer and pizza?

Who wants to spend their college years in the dorm bathroom either?

Eventually acceptance comes. If you’re new to this, you may not be there quite yet, but you will be.  You’ll decide you really can’t eat those cookies without developing an ugly rash all over your body. You’ll discover almond milk and Bard’s beer aren’t so bad. You’ll start focusing more on what foods you can eat, rather than all the foods you cannot eat. You’ll learn how to grocery shop, cook and eat out.

You’ll accept life is different now, and that’s okay because you feel so much better.

Still, every once in a while, you may slip back to that old frame of mind and that tiny voice in your  head will say, “You haven’t eaten _________ (fill in the blank) in a long time, so how do you know you’re still allergic? Maybe, just maybe, your non-anaphalatic allergies have magically disappeared.”

See this pizza?

Denial and Food Allergies

 

The other night I decided I could eat it (and unfortunately blasted this photo on Instagram). I’d read all about how Mellow Mushroom had taken great strides to ensure their kitchens were clean enough to produce gluten-free pizza crust. (Kudos to Mellow Mushroom!) I’d done my pre-dining out homework.

Check.

I told the server I had celiac and wasn’t just on some fad diet.

Check.

I ordered veggies as toppings to avoid any possible soy, corn, or gluten.

Check.

I asked for Daiya nondairy cheese.

Check.

I ordered a gluten-free New Planet beer.

Double check.

BUT I “FORGOT” TO ASK WHAT OTHER INGREDIENTS WERE IN THE CRUST!!!!!

How stupid was that? I think I just wanted to eat pizza and have a beer and watch basketball like all the “normal” people sitting around me at the bar were doing. I told myself I’d be safe with the gluten-free crust. If there was a little bit of egg or corn in the crust, I minimized what it would do to me.

Good old denial.

Later that night, as I doubled over in pain, I looked up the crust ingredients on the company website. Oddly I found listings of ingredients in several places, but they were all different. However, it’s pretty likely I ate soybean oil, cornstarch, and egg–a hattrick of allergens.

Guess I needed a little reminder that denying my food allergies only makes for a really bad night.

P.S. If you have celiac disease or are gluten sensitive, the Mellow Mushroom crust was delicious. Please note though that they cannot guarantee any menu item can be completely allergen-free due to possible cross-contamination.

Denial, or Why I Ate That Damn Pizza originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.