Monday, March 31, 2008

Chili's Baby-Back Ribs: Gluten-Free!

Chili's Baby Back Ribs at Chili's chain restaurants are gluten-free in these varieties: Honey BBQ, Original, Memphis Dry Rub, and Honey Chipotle.

Chili's has excellent allergen information here. Skip to Page 9 for gluten info.
Disclaimer: I have not personally tried all these flavors to ensure GF-ness with my own tummy, but the allergen info looks good.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Safest Ice Cream for Celiacs: Breyers

Breyers All Natural Ice Creams are tasty and generally gluten-free. Other brands may include odd ingredients like modified food starch (that old devil!) or other, obscure fillers, so Breyers really is the safest choice.

Of course, avoid any ice cream flavor with gluten ingredients, like cookies or brownies, and always read that label to make sure nothing has changed.

Maltodextrin is Generally Recognized As Safe

In the US, maltodextrin is derived from corn and should be gluten-free.

It's in pretty much everything, too.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Recent Celiac Diagnosis: Gluten-Free Kitchen -- What you need to buy new

Congratulations on your recent celiac disease diagnosis!

Yeah, it's a weird thing to be congratulated on, but if you had to choose an autoimmune disease, with celiac, you don't have to take drugs or injections or lance your fingertips every day, you aren't going to gain weight from any steroids, you aren't going to pass away, and you are going to feel better within a couple days of going on the gluten-free diet.

Considering how sick you have been feeling, and you probably have been feeling pretty sick or else you wouldn't have gone to enough doctors to finally find one that can accurately diagnose celiac, that's a pretty good disease to have.

So, what now?

For this article, I'm going to assume that you're going entirely GF. Just make your house GF. Especially at the beginning, that's the easiest way to do it. It's not like going cold turkey from cigarettes. It's more like cleaning up the spilled paint to avoid tracking it everywhere.

Things you will need to buy new:
  • Toaster -- Absolutely necessary. There is no way to clean all the crumbs out of a toaster. Start with a new one.

  • Toaster oven -- if you use one. Same reason.

  • Cast iron skillets, if you have cast iron. Because cast iron pans build up a layer of "seasoning" that is non-stick and keeps the pan from rusting, this layer has gluten trapped all the way through it. I like the "Emeril" brand at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They're reasonably priced and have a "helper handle" on the far side. They're also perfectly flat for glass cooktops.

  • If you have non-stick or steel skillets, inspect them carefully for a layer of burnt oil build-up. Stainless steel can probably be scoured with a steel wool pad until it is shiny and new-looking. Non-stick (Teflon) skillets, especially if they are the kind with recessed ridges, should be closely inspected and discarded if you see anything sticking in there.

  • Baking sheets and pans that have become "dark." Again, layer of burnt-on oil that has trapped gluten.

  • Wooden cutting boards, wooden spoons, or other wood items.

That's really all that you need to buy new. A good cleaning, perhaps a trip through the dishwasher, should suffice for pretty much anything else.

More on setting up your GF kitchen next time.

Did I miss anything? Send me comments!


Del Monte Creamed Corn -- NOT Gluten-Free

Del Monte Sweet Corn Cream Style is not gluten-free. Don't use it. The label includes "modified food starch," which is usually derived from wheat and often a source of gluten, and I definitely had a reaction to it. It wasn't a huge reaction, but there was definitely a "celiac poke" in my tummy after using DM creamed corn as an ingredient in a large recipe.
Green Giant creamed corn specifies "modified corn starch" as has hitherto not caused any celiac reactions.
AVOID Del Monte Sweet Corn Cream Style.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Chi-Chi's Corn Cake Mix: Gluten-Free and Yummy!

Chi-Chi's Fiesta Sweet Corn Cake, a mix based on the sweet corn cakes from the now-defunct Chi-Chi's Mexican restaurants, is tasty, sweet, and has never given me tummy troubles.

I use this mix for a carb base for spicy chili or baked beans. With fresh, smashed strawberries and whipped cream, it's a great dessert.

This is a mix, and you add butter, water, and a can of creamed corn to the mix, scrape it into a bread pan, and bake for 45 minutes. I usually bake it at 400F instead of the 350F that the pouch recommends.

BEWARE: Green Giant creamed corn is gluten-free. Del Monte contains modified food starch and is thus suspect. I believe that I had a minor reaction to Del Monte creamed corn.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kosher for Passover can mean gluten-free but read labels

It's nearing Passover, which for folks like myself who live near a large Jewish community, means that the Kosher for Passover items are hitting the shelves. Passover for 2008 begins at sunset on Saturday, April 19, and runs 7 days until April 26.

During Passover, observant Jews avoid chametz -- any food that's leavened and/or allowed to ferment or rise. That means no yeast, baking soda or powder, but also anything made from wheat, spelt, oats, rye and barley, such as pasta, cereal and beer (unless it is made with matzoh.) Matzoh, matzoh meal, and farfel are, of course, entirely off limits because they are made with wheat flour and are a major source of gluten.

However, some manufacturers make potato starch-based products that are matzo- and gluten-free. Many kosher manufacturers even label their potato starch-based mixes as GF. However, you still must read the ingrediants label and decide for yourself whether you want to chance it.

For example, I found a kosher-for-Passover frozen pizza at my local grocery store. It was clearly marked "Gluten-Free!" and I rejoiced.

However, I flipped over the box and read the ingrediants. After potato starch, sugar, blah, blah, blah, the label specified modified food starch.


Modified food starch can be wheat-based and, in my experience, is often contaminated with enough gluten to cause a major reaction. I skipped the pizza. It's not worth the risk or the tummyache.

I did, however, find a KfP cake mix that I'm dying to try and will report on.


Monday, March 24, 2008

GF Food Review: Green Soybean Pasta from Nutrition Kitchen


All the rice- and corn- and even quinoa-based pastas that I tried when I first was diagnosed turned out gummy or dead-tasting.

Green Soybean Pasta from Nutrition Kitchen, however, is great! It's very forgiving in the pot, meaning that you can overcook it and it still turns out firm but noodly. It also means that you can boil it, then toss it in sauce and cook it some more without it turning to mush. I use it in Thai, Chinese, and Italian dishes.

Health wise: huge amounts of protein and fiber. It's better for you than whole wheat pasta.

While not indistinguishable from wheat, tastiness plus good texture plus forgiving nature plus healthiness earn this pasta a BEST rating! I'm going to try the black and gold versions, too.


Friday, March 21, 2008

CORNBREAD: TK's Southern "Company" Gluten-Free Corn Bread

I adapted this recipe from a gluten-ful one, as none of the recipes in the GF cookbooks satisfied me. This one is light, with a solid crumb and moist texture, almost indistinguishable from Marie Callendar's cornbread. It is not low-fat. Rather than a GF flour mix, this cornbread comes out best with just cornmeal and besan.

"Company" cornbreads were light, fluffy concoctions that used flour, eggs, and sugar, all luxury ingredients.

9-inch cast iron skillet or heavy cake pan

1 1/2 C cornmeal
1/2 C garbanzo bean flour (besan)
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs
1 1/2 C buttermilk (or same amount of sweet milk soured with 1 1/2 T lemon juice)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 C sour cream

  1. Spray skillet with GF cooking sprary and heat it over low heat until medium hot. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together into a bowl or onto waxed paper.
  3. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and sour cream in a bowl. Add dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
  4. Pour batter into hot skillet. It will sizzle but should not boil.
  5. Bake at 425 F for 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Cornbread: Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread p151 -- Review

Contrary to the description at the beginning of the recipe, this cornbread from GFGBB is dry, heavy, and yet easily crumbles into dust. Soaked in honey and topped with significant amounts of melting butter, it is passable, but so is a week-old mud pie.

Skip this recipe.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Taste Rating System for GF Food

Because some GF food is compressed GF sawdust, and some is excellent, here's a 5-point rating system for quality and taste.

Don't bother. Not worth the calories or time it takes to eat.

OK in emergencies. Not similar to gluten-ful version.

Pretty good. Will not be confused with gluten-ful version. Average for GF products or passable food in restaurants.

Really tasty. Close to gluten-ful version or tasty in its own right. For restaurants, enjoyable and tasty.

Reserved for the best products, recipes, and places. Indistinguishable from gluten-ful version or extremely close. For restaurants, excellent GF food and friendly GF service.

Happy Tummy Legend for Restaurants and Foods

This legend is for informational purposes only.

Please remember that reactions vary by individual to minute concentrations of gluten, that products vary batch-to-batch, and that restaurant experiences vary by the chef or waitstaff’s knowledge and care.

5 Happy Tummies = No gluten reaction.

4 Happy Tummies = Possible, very minor reaction. May be due to cross-contamination in a restaurant or product assembly line or cross-reaction by my own tummy. Use caution. Monitor your response.

3 Happy Tummies = Probable, very minor reaction. May be due to cross-contamination or trace quantities of gluten-containing compounds like modified food starch or in “natural flavors.” Use great care if a restaurant or avoid.

2 Happy Tummies = Definite very minor reaction. May be due to cross-contamination or trace quantities of gluten-containing compounds like modified food starch or in “natural flavors.” Avoid.

1 Happy Tummy = Definite minor reaction. Probably due to trace quantities of gluten-containing compounds like modified food starch or “natural flavors.” Avoid.

0 Happy Tummies = Definite major reaction. Probably contains significant amounts of gluten. Avoid.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Celiac Maniac!

Because what the world needs is one more celiac blog.

All right. There's plenty of celiac and gluten-free advice out there. Some deal with the lifestyle, like Gluten-Free Girl, and some are recipe-based, like Gluten-Free Goddess. When I see good posts at these and more, I'll point you there.

This blog is good, concise advice. Mostly, I'll review recipes from cookbooks or other sites and list my additions or changes to them, review readily available GF products, and review restaurants, especially chain restaurants.

We all have differences in taste. Personally, I'm a whole-grain, grainy kind of person. Before my diagnosis, I liked multi-grain bread, like 12-grain, with nuts and seeds and twigs and leaves in it. One time, I found 18-grain bread and ate it with nothing but olive oil. Yummy!

Since my diagnosis, however, I've found that many of the bread recipes that I've found (and I've found lots, I looooove cookbooks,) are less whole-grainy. In one of Bette Hagman's books, she describes her "cornstarch" bread as "the closest thing we have to Wonder Bread," as if that was a good thing. That's when I started experimenting.

Well, Bette was the gluten-free pioneer, and we all owe her a great debt.

TK Kenyon
Author of the non-celiac novels: RABID: A Novel and CALLOUS: A Novel