Archive for February, 2011

Celebrating One Year!

February 27th, 2011
Celebrating One Year GFree

Celebrating One Year Gluten-Free

On February 25, my family went out to Arni’s to celebrate my one year anniversary of when I went gluten-free. I’m sure that last year around this time I was probably thinking I would never eat pizza again, but just this past month one of my favorite restaurants started serving up a GFree Pizza that is actually pretty tasty. Frankly, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this life-changing event!

When I cut gluten out of my diet last year, my health improved significantly. While it was a difficult diet to follow in the beginning, the rewards of doing so were practically immediate. Withing three days of adhering to a strict gluten-free diet, the inflammation in my body began to recede and I had more energy than I’d experienced within the past four years. I remember crying in front of the butter at the grocery store, wondering if the “natural flavor” in the generic butter meant it might contain gluten. The possibility of something as simple as butter containing gluten was overwhelming to me at the time. I quickly found it easier to avoid processed foods altogether, with food labels that require a chemistry degree to decipher, and stick to whole foods that I cooked at home. I think by doing this that I also eliminated many chemicals and preservatives that my body was reacting to as well.

At one point I noticed that I was getting nauseous eating baby carrots. My doctor didn’t think I was allergic to carrots, and he suggested I try eating organic carrots to see if I had the same reaction. I tried the organic carrots and was able to eat them just fine. So from then on I started buying organic products whenever they were available. This also has helped eliminate my exposure to toxic chemicals and has reduced some of my symptoms.

About two years ago, even before I cut out the gluten, I swore off Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners. Doing this really helped alleviate some awful migraine headaches. So I must say that it isn’t just through avoiding gluten-full foods that I have reduced my Fibromyalgia symptoms, but it has been a process of eliminating my exposure to variety of triggers. However, I believe that going gluten-free has had the most significant impact on the overall improvement of my health thus far.

Going gluten-free has certainly improved my health over this past year. I have lost about 45 pounds without counting calories. I didn’t concern myself with counting calories or tracking fat intake because it was such a challenge just to make sure that I wasn’t ingesting gluten. I’m not sure my body knew what to do with all the chemicals in the processed foods. Possibly my liver couldn’t process things fast enough, so maybe it just manufactured fat and shoved the chemicals into the fat cells thinking it would get to that later. Also, a skin rash I’ve had on my arms since my early teen years has almost completely vanished. How interesting that the rash originally appeared around the same time I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I have fewer problems with my digestion now, although I still suffer from reflux. I cannot seem to stop taking the Protonix, a proton pump inhibitor, that I have been taking for over four years.

I am still having occasional flare-ups, and so I’m trying to figure out what some of my other triggers might possibly be. On my list of suspects are corn, soy, chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, and probably vinegar.  The last four are known to be  high in histamine or produce large amounts of histamine in the body. I have horrible reactions to cinnamon and nutmeg; my arms get stiff and heavy, with numbness and tingling in the mouth, accompanied by persistent coughing and fatigue. Chocolate seems to make my skin crawl, and I’ve always attributed this to the caffeine. Cinnamon and nutmeg are high in benzoates, and I know I have reacted to a salad dressing that has had sodium benzoate as a preservative.

I’ve been reading Dealing with Food Allergies by Janice Vickerstaff, and apparently it is possible to have an intolerance to benzoates. She also discusses the possibility of developing a histamine intolerance caused by a deficiency of two enzymes, diamin oxidase (DAO) and histamine methyltransferase (HMT). Histamine tolerance may also be reduced by autoimmune diseases and medications, such as antidepressants. Since histamine is responsible for triggering the immune response, it becomes difficult to distinguish between a reaction due to an allergy, or a reaction that has resulted from high levels of histamine in the system. Without the proper enzymes to break down histamine, it can build up in the body. One way to cope with reactions due to histamine toxicity is to modify your diet and eat foods that are naturally low in histamine, and foods that do not trigger a release of histamine to the body.  Dr. Vickerstaff recommends trying a histamine-restricted diet for a period of four weeks to see if it will alleviate symptoms.

Low Histamine Diet

I think that it is worth a shot to see if my remaining symptoms will subside. I’ve seen many fibromates talking about how they avoid the deadly nightshades. I think that it is interesting that these are also high in histamine and should be avoided on this diet. I’ll make sure to post if this also makes a difference.

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Shabtai Gourmet, Sweet Treats Allergen Free

February 22nd, 2011

As someone that has multiple food intolerances, I was delighted to find out about Shabtai Gourmet. They specialize in providing sweet treats to individuals following restricted diets that must exclude gluten, lactose, soy, casein, peanuts and dairy. The pictures on their website look very enticing and I was excited to sample their products.

Shabtai Gourmet Bon Bons

Shabtai Gourmet Bon Bons

The first product that I sampled was the Shabtai Gourmet Bon Bons. The box that the bon bons came in was cute, and they were shrink wrapped in plastic to preserve freshness. The chocolate was rich with a creamy marshmallow filling. What I didn’t expect was the crunchy cookie center. I think I expected more of a soft cake center than the crunchy cookie. The creamy filling combined with the smooth chocolate contrasts too much with the crunchy cookie, in my opinion. One of these was enough to feed my chocolate craving for the week. They are good, but oh so decadent.

Shabtai Gourmet Bon Bons

Shabtai Gourmet Bon Bons

I thought that these bon bons would be great to serve up at a party. They truly are a gourmet dessert; however the smooth chocolate seemed to stick to the Styrofoam tray they arrived on inside the box. I had a terrible time plating these treats, but I thoroughly enjoyed scraping the chocolate off of the Styrofoam tray. I had some of my co-workers sample the bon bons, and everyone agreed that the creamy filling was delicious. Although a handful said that the cookie center was too crunchy, one person thought that was the best part. I bet those that were hoping for more of a cake would prefer the ring tings instead.

Shabtai Gourmet Swiss Cake Roll

Although the bon bons were good, my personal favorite so far has been Shabtai Gourmet’s Swiss cake roll. What a sinfully delightful treat that reminds me so much of my youth. My grandma always had a brown paper bag in her pantry full of Little Debbie snack cakes, and in that bag I would always grab a swiss cake roll. So reminiscent of the comfort food from my youth, this gourmet chocolate cake with a cream filling has been rolled and dipped in chocolate. I can see myself serving this up at Christmas time, but I think that they would sell better if they looked more like the snack cakes from my youth. Call it comfort food, or call it junk food – people with allergies like to enjoy their favorites too!

I also think the swiss cake roll might sell better as a snack cake because of a problem I encountered when slicing into the cake. The smooth, rich chocolate kept crumbling and falling off the cake when I went to cut a slice. I found this somewhat annoying, but enjoyed eating the bits of broken chocolate anyway. When I would eat those Little Debbie Snack Cakes growing up, I would bite the chocolate off first anyway before I bit into the cake itself. So this isn’t really a big deal, unless you are serving this cake up to impress someone.

Due to a suspected almond allergy, I will not purchase the bon bons again. However I plan to order some ring tings and another Swiss cake roll in the near future. Shabtai Gourmet has some great treats for those of us with multiple allergies. We definitely benefit the most from their mission to provide gourmet treats to people with multiple allergies, but no one would ever know that these products are without allergens.  My husband and coworkers also enjoyed these products and the only thing that gave away that they were gluten-free was that I was eating them.

NOTE: Shabtai Gourmet provided samples for these reviews.

UPDATE (4/17/11): Shabtai Gourmet is now selling Baby Swiss Rolls, AKA “Devils Stix”. I imagine they get their name from tasting so sinfully delicious. I can’t wait to order a bunch on pay day.

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Gluten Free Hamburger Buns

February 20th, 2011

Our winter warm-up this past week made me realize that spring is just around the corner. Soon grilling season will commence in full force and I don’t want to suffer through another summer season eating hamburgers and hot dogs sans bun because the alternative, gluten-free buns, taste worse than eating sawdust. Over the past year I have tried a variety of gluten-free buns, and many a time I have pulled the meat off and pitched the bun in the trash bin because they are often that gross.

Does this look anything like the picture?

I recently tried Chebe Sandwich Buns, which I think their bread dough might make good calzones, but it isn’t ideal for a hamburger bun. I’m not sure if I was suppose to let the bun completely cool, but I ended up eating a stringy cheesy gooey mess. It didn’t exactly taste bad, but the texture just wasn’t right for a hamburger bun.

Kinnikinnick has some decent products, and they were amongst the first buns I taste tested when I first went gluten-free. I found their buns to always be dry, crumbly and hard, even when lightly toasted or grilled with butter. The taste could be compared to cardboard. I think that recently they have attempted to improve their recipe, but I don’t think I will ever go back to eating their buns.

Another bun I used for a while is made by Against the Grain, the makers of one of my favorite pizza crusts. They also make a french style baguette that makes a great chicken Parmesan sandwich. Up until recently they made my favorite hamburger bun. Their bread products have a tendency to get too crunchy because of the cheese, which is fine for a french style baguette, but not so great when you are craving a soft hamburger bun.

Katz Hamburger Bun Grilled to Perfection!

Thanks to Katz Gluten-Free I won’t have to suffer another summer without a tasty bun for my burgers. I lightly toasted my Katz Gluten-Free hamburger bun in my toaster oven, then sliced it open. I lightly buttered the bun then popped it back in my toaster oven. I wanted a slightly golden bun, and the toaster oven wasn’t cooperating so I ended up putting my bun down in a frying pan for a minute just to slightly brown the inside. This bun was so delicious and soft, slightly sweet, with no after taste. I felt like I was eating a real hamburger again. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite. The only downside to this bun is that it tastes so good I might be tempted to go back to eating more hamburgers! That would be bad for my waistline and my arteries.

Katz Gluten Free Hamburger Bun

The Ultimate Gluten Free Burger on Katz Hamburger Buns

Your guests to your backyard cookouts this summer will not even know these buns are gluten free, so you might as well stock up now. To promote their new buns, Katz Gluten Free is running a deal, buy 3 packs of buns, get one free. Use Coupon Code BBQ. They are so sure that you will love their buns, that they are offering a 100% money back guarantee. So what do you have to lose?

Now if Mrs. Katz could only help me with my hot dog problem. Since Kinnikinnick is the only baker of hot dog buns available for purchase in my area, and I’ve already established how horrible those taste, I’ve resorted to eating my hot dogs on Udi’s slices of bread. I’ve tried following the suggestion on The Gluten Free Survivor’s blog about using an Udi’s bagel, but I find it too messy. Katz Gluten Free should be releasing what they are calling their “Frank Buns” sometime in the near future. I can hardly wait!

NOTE: Katz Gluten Free provided samples for review purposes.

Udi's Hamburger BunsUPDATE (04/17/11): Udi’s should be releasing their gluten-free buns sometime in May. I can hardly wait for them to be in stores. Some online vendors are selling them:
Gluten Free Palace
Linda’s Diet Delights

By the Case:
NEW Udi’s Gluten Free Classic Hotdog Buns 12.9 oz. – case of 8
NEW Udi’s Gluten Free Hamburger Buns 10.4 oz. – case of 6

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Katz Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

February 13th, 2011
Comments Off on Katz Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love a soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie, and before trying the Katz brand, the only way for me to gratify my craving for this sweet treat was to bake a batch up myself. I must say that Katz Gluten Free chocolate chip cookies are deliciously soft and they are a highly addictive cookie. These are almost bite-size cookies that you could easily pop into your mouth, and before you know it you’re left with only the crumbs in the container. Make sure you pace yourself and slowly enjoy each morsel!

In this house, one package didn’t last two days because my son and husband also found them to be pretty tasty. My son didn’t even ask, “Is this one of mommy’s cookies?” He just ate them up. My hubby thought they were lacking some sweetness, but I think what he was really missing was the butter. I think the palm oil instead gives them a nice clean, fresh taste. I found them to be far superior to the Udi’s brand, that are so rock hard from the molasses that I almost chipped a tooth. See my review of the Udi’s Chocolate Chip cookies here.

Of course, there is always room for improvement. One ingredient I wish Katz would change is in the chocolate chips themselves. Lurking inside the chocolate chips is soy lecithin, an ingredient I try to avoid. When I do eat products with soy lecithin, because it is hard to avoid in sweet treats, I try to purchase those that have used non-GMO organic soy lecithin. The way that soy lecithin is processed from the runoff of soybeans makes it a collecting pool for all kinds of pesticides and other chemicals, not too mention it is processed with hexane, a neurotoxin. With my chemical sensitivity, it is important for me to limit my exposure to chemicals in every way possible.

It would be easy for Katz to replace their chocolate chips with a healthier version, but they will obviously be more expensive to produce. I willingly pay for more expensive organic products, that are healthy and taste great. I thought these cookies were even better than the ones I bake from scratch. I would become a regular customer if they would do something about that one ingredient. If you are not concerned about soy lecithin, you should definitely give this product a try. These cookies are delicious!

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