Eating Out: An Allergic Foodie’s Strategies

I’ve been eating out a lot since arriving on Hilton Head Island about a month ago and I haven’t had any bad reactions–just a few mild GI symptoms. I consider this a victory. After all, with over 20 food allergies as well as celiac disease it’s pretty tough  finding gluten-free and allergy-free entrees on a menu. During past trips to the island, I spent many days curled up in a ball with stomach pain while my family was on the golf course or riding bikes on the beach. So what’s making this stay different?

For one, I’m picking safer restaurants and avoiding the “bad ones.” I read online what other allergic foodies say about a prospective restaurant and check out the celiac and allergy apps. I also review the online menus.  People in the south fry everything from octopus to tomatoes, so I look for menus featuring lots of local fish and salads. If I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to order safely, I call the restaurant and ask to speak to a manager or chef. By the time the hostess greets us, I usually know what I’ll be ordering.

Sadly, I’m finding more and more restaurants are cooking with vegetable oil because it’s cheap. Many waiters aren’t aware that vegetable oil is soy oil or a combination of soy and another oil.  I react horribly to both soy and corn oil.  One of the first questions I ask a restaurant–even ones I’ve been to in the recent past–is what oil they use for cooking. I also ask about any “fake butter” they may use. I make it clear that I cannot have a drop of vegetable oil.  While many celiacs avoid Italian restaurants because of the flour used in pasta and pizza, I’ve actually had some of my best meals in Italian restaurants. One of my favorites on the island is OMBRA Cucina Rustica. The chefs cook with olive oil and the menu offers lots of delicious gluten-free and dairy-free options.

Another reason I’m not getting sick as often is because I’ve started taking my own dressings and sauces. My go-to meal for lunch is a salad with shrimp or salmon or grilled chicken. I’ve gotten sick so many times from the salad dressing–even homemade dressings from upscale restaurants–that I just don’t want to take a chance anymore.  I carry a small container of dressing with me. If I’ve forgotten, I ask for olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar. As a last resort, I’ll use fresh lemon on my salad.

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I eat a lot of salads so I’m thrilled when one looks like this one!

Last night we tried One Hot Mamma’s American Grille for the first time because I knew they offered gluten-free ribs. (I also was a fan of Orchid Paulmeier when she was on Season 7 of Food Network Star.) I asked for my ribs dry as I’d brought along some Bone Suckin’ Sauce with me. Our server was well-informed about allergies and took my request for no dairy, soy, or gluten seriously. However, when my ribs arrived, they were covered in barbecue sauce (no dairy, gluten or soy). I’d neglected to tell him I was also allergic to corn, which was likely in the catsup they used. While my husband and son immensely enjoyed the saucy ribs, I waited for a rack without sauce (also delish!).  In the south, restaurants cook with a lot of corn starch–I’ve learned this the hard way.  Cornbread and corn on the cob are often featured on menus. This is great for my younger son who has celiac, but not for me.

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Jamaican Jerk Bowl from PURE Natural Market in Hilton Head.

I also have better luck sitting at the bar and ordering from bartenders who are typically full-time professionals and not summertime staff.  We always tip well for good allergy-free service. After coming here for so many years, many of the bartenders know me and my allergies by name.

When I’m in new places, I look for ethnic, farm-to-table and vegetarian/vegan restaurants. There weren’t a lot of options on the island back in 2008 when I was first diagnosed, but there sure are now. One of my recent discoveries is a vegetarian/vegan restaurant called Delisheeeyo. I order the “Happy Wrap”–veggies wrapped in rice paper with an apple cider vinaigrette.

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The Happy Wrap with gluten-free rice paper at Delisheeeyo.

Pure Natural Market offers lots of Jamaican-influenced allergy-friendly options. I saw a new place called Healthy Habit out by the airport, which I hope to go to before we head back to Colorado Springs. We also now have a Kroger (42 Shelter Cove Lane) with a huge “health-food department” as well as a Whole Foods (50 Shelter Cove Lane). This makes it easy to pick up quick and safe meals for beach picnics.

It’s taken me many years–and many good and not-so-good experiences –to learn how to dine out safely.  If you have a tip for safe restaurant eating, or want to share a good or bad restaurant experience, please comment below.

“Eating Out: An Allergic Foodie Shares Strategies” first appeared at “Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.”

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.

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 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

Start the New Year with Udi’s Gluten Free–Enter Giveaway Today!

The Udi’s Gluten Free “care packages” arrived just in time for the College Celiac’s Christmas Break. It’s been a rough four years, trying to adapt to life with celiac disease while being away from home. Okay, truth be told, it’s been harder on me than him. I worried if he was eating enough nutritious foods.

So I was thrilled to introduce my son to new foods from a company I trust. These burritos were a hit. He added Cholula Hot Sauce. What is it with college boys and Cholula?

Udi's Gluten Free has eight varieties of burritos. Allergens: Egg, Dairy, Corn

Udi’s Gluten Free has eight varieties of burritos. Allergens: Egg, Dairy, Corn

Based on the dirty dishes I woke up to on several mornings, the Udi’s Gluten Free Plain Tortillas were also quite good.

These tortillas come in small and large. Dairy, soy and nut free. Allergens: egg.

These tortillas come in small and large. Dairy, soy and nut free. Allergens: egg.

For those of you who are regular readers, you know I’m not much of a baker. Thankfully, Udi’s provided the College Celiac with treats this holiday: Snicker Doodle Cookies and Dark Chocolate Brown Bites (both soy and nut free). I have no photos because they disappeared so quickly.  And someone only left one  Double Vanilla Muffin.

Who ate all the Udi's Gluten Free Muffins?!

Who ate all the Udi’s Gluten Free Muffins?!

My plan was to add berries on top of the muffins with some whipped cream.  In fact, I’d planned on creating several of the terrific ideas Udi’s Gluten Free pinned on Pinterest, but then the other hungry son with food allergies came home.

For Christmas dinner, I served Udi’s Classic French Dinner Rolls. Even my husband–the Eater of Everything–said they were delicious.

New French Roll from Udi's is dairy, soy and nut free. Allergens: egg and corn

New French Roll from Udi’s is dairy, soy and nut free. Allergens: egg and corn

Udi’s also has a new French Baguette that I’m planning to serve with split pea soup this evening. The boys are rallying for baguette pizza.

When I post Instagram photos of  my meals using Udi’s foods, I’m often asked where followers can buy Udi’s. Udi’s started in Colorado and I live in Colorado, yet many of my stores don’t carry the foods Udi’s offers.  If you go to their website catalog, there is a link to either order the products or find a store near you that carry the items. I suggest you ask the manager at your favorite grocery store to start carrying Udi’s; sometimes there is a form you can fill out.

Okay, so now that I have your mouth watering, I bet you’re wondering how you can enter to win one of Udi’s holiday prize packs or coupons for free product. It’s quite easy–just click here.

Good luck. And may you have a happy, healthy gluten-free New Year.

Udi's Gluten Free Giveaway

 

Start the New Year with Udi’s Gluten Free–Enter Giveaway Todayfirst appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

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.

Celiacs Speak Out about FDA’S New Gluten-Free Labeling Rule

Today’s the day the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rule goes into effect. Hear what those of us with celiac disease have  to say about this new ruling that will impact our lives significantly. I will update this list as new blogs are posted–be sure to let me know of any you read or write.

Celiac and The Beast:  Aug 5 Gluten Free Labeling Just a Start

Gluten Dude:  The New FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Rules: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Gluten-Free Fun:  Today Is the Day: Gluten-Free Labeling Rules

Gluten Free Gigi:  FDA Guidelines for Gluten-Free Labeling are Frightening for Celiacs

Gluten Free Watchdog: Food Labeled Gluten Free Must Now Be in Compliance with the FDA Gluten-Free Labeling Rule

The Savvy Celiac:  10 Things to Know about the FDA’s Gluten-Free Labeling Rule

Simply Gluten-Free:   All You Need to Know about the New Gluten-Free Labeling Rule 

The Tasteful Pantry:  The Tasteful Pantry’s “Gluten-Free” Boxes and Products Following the New FDA Rules

Tumbling Gluten Free:  Tricked Out Tuesday: Pop Culture Label Takes on Gluten-Free Labeling

 

Celiacs Speak Out about FDA’s New Gluten-Free Labeling Rule appeared first on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

I Have Exciting News! (Hint: Big Ears)

My sons have shown very little interest in my blogging–except for when complimentary allergy-friendly cookies arrive in the mail. My husband likes to good-naturedly poke fun at my blogging at cocktail parties: “My wife gave up her day job to write a blog–for free.” Such a comedian, my husband.

But now they all think my blog is pretty darn cool.

You see I’m going to the very first  FOOD ALLERGY AND CELIAC CONVENTION in WALT DISNEY WORLD!!!!

I may or may not take the family . . .  they have four months to be really nice to me.

Here are the top reasons why I’m so excited about going–and why you should meet me there on November 22.

1. It’s WALT DISNEY WORLD people . . . c’mon who wouldn’t want to go to a convention in the magical kingdom?

2. I’m AN ALLERGIC FOODIE— I LOVE allergy-friendly and gluten-free food! FACCWDW promises food demos by topnotch Disney chefs and culinary professionals.  I’m pretty sure they’ll hand out samples, don’t you think? This means free food–food I can actually eat.

3. Experts–people who know more than I do about celiac disease and food allergies–will be speaking and answering questions. I’ve got lots and lots of questions.

4.  The behind-the-scene fairies of FACCWDW are two smart gals who look extra cute in those wings: Laurie Sadowski and Sarah Norris. Their desire to “celebrate awareness of food allergies and celiac disease” started it all. How could I not join in?

5. There will be a nondairy ice cream buffet.

6. I get to hang with the rest of the  Blogger Street Team. People like Erica of Celiac and the Beast, Janice of The Adult Side of Disney, and Christy of Celiac 411 . . . these and all the other bloggers are people I’d like to have a glass of wine with at the end of the day–wouldn’t you? I’ll introduce you to more of the Blogger Street Team later.

7.  The sponsors of the event, including Enjoy Life Foods and Allergic Living Magazine and many others, are companies that make my food-allergic/celiac life better. I’d like to shake their hands (and yes, maybe get a free chocolate chip cookie or two from Enjoy Life).

8. Disney is known as the “gold standard” of special dietary food preparation. Not only do I get to go to an awesome convention in an awesome hotel in an awesome setting, I get to EAT and not WORRY about getting sick. Magical? I’d say so.

Disclaimer: FACCWDW is not affiliated or hosted by the Walt Disney Company, or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries.

I’ve Got Exciting News! (Hint: Big Ears) first appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

Life with Celiac Disease: Actress Jennifer Esposito shares her story

An Allergic Foodie Reviews JENNIFER’S WAY: MY JOURNEY WITH CELIAC DISEASE

With all the recent and irritating media attention on going gluten-free–and by this I mean the idiotic celebrities poking fun at a “fad diet”–Jennifer’s Way: My Journey with Celiac Disease by Jennifer Esposito (Da Capo Press, 2014)  is a frank and accurate account of what it’s like to live with this debilitating disease. While I strive to live a full and productive and happy life with this autoimmune disease, I certainly admit it has not been an easy journey. Making it worse is people not taking my symptoms seriously. Being a respected actress and businesswoman and sharing her story, Esposito is the voice for all of us who feel unacknowledged and alone.

Esposito’s diagnosis story is a page-turner. She suffered severe symptoms for 20 years: gastrointestinal issues, ongoing sinus infections, dumbness in her hands and feet, depression, panic attacks, hair loss, dental issues, and a miscarriage. I was astounded that someone with her clout and resources received the same lack of respect from medical professionals as the rest of us do. Before seeing the doctor who finally gave her illness a name, Esposito writes, “I expected nothing, but hoped for everything.” How many of us with this disease–or any autoimmune disease for that matter–have felt the same way?

Jennifer Esposito shares what it is  like to live with celiac disease in new memoir called Jennifer's Way.

Esposito vividly describes what it’s like for one’s body to detox from a lifetime of eating gluten. I’ve never read a truer account. Going gluten-free isn’t an overnight cure–it’s a process that can make one feel even worse than when eating bread and pasta. While every person’s course of healing is different, Esposito shares concrete tips on how she improved her health through self-study. She answers questions the medical establishment typically doesn’t. Readers will surely come away with an idea or two. I know I did.

While Esposito does share recipes from her successful gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, peanut-free organic New York City bakery, also named Jennifer’s Way, and she has plans to go nationwide with her baked goods (can’t wait!), this book is by no means a promotional tool as some may suspect. Nor is it a celebrity tell-all as those unfamiliar with celiac disease have ignorantly suggested. Jennifer’s Way is a supportive and informational guide for the newly diagnosed and the yet-to-be diagnosed. Family members and friends of those with celiac disease as well as those in the medical community should read this book. So should those joke-cracking celebrities.

The Jennifer’s Way Foundation for Celiac Education (JWF)

Interview with Katie Couric

An Allergic Foodie Reviews Jennifer’s Way first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.