Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Enjoy Life's New Chocolate Products!

Who doesn’t love chocolate?  As long as it’s dark chocolate, it’s one of the very few ‘desserts’ that (should) not have any gluten or dairy.  Still, it’s important to always read the label when picking out a new brand.  Although milk is completely unnecessary in dark chocolate, a lot of companies add dairy anyways.  Additionally, I am sensitive to vanilla and soy, so I try to steer clear from chocolate with vanilla or soy lecithin listed as an ingredient.  This is actually really hard!  I usually stick to Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate bars which are the only ones I’ve found that meet all of my dietary restrictions, but it’s a pain when a recipe calls for chocolate chips.  That’s why I was so excited to find Enjoy Life’s new semi-sweet Chocolate Chunks.

All of Enjoy Life products are made in a dedicated nut and gluten-free facility and certified gluten-free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization.  All products are free of the top 8 allergens, including wheat, dairy, egg and soy.  Even though the bag clearly says dairy, soy and gluten free, I admit I still read the label.  Some habits will never die!  It’s so exciting to find a product that you can really trust and don’t have to worry about any hidden allergens.  Plus, they taste really good!  I added them to the buckwheat banana pancakes I made this weekend and couldn’t help eating them straight out of the bag.  Girlfriend couldn’t keep her hands off either and sprinkled the chips into Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Crunch Granola as an extra chocolaty dessert (which was a bit too much chocolate overload for me!).

Which brings me to my next chocolate ‘dessert’ find for the week.  Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Crunch Granola is so good!  It tastes kind of like Cocoa Pebbles or Cocoa Puffs and it’s hard to believe that it is gluten free and has some health benefits as well, with 4 grams of Fiber per serving.  I usually think of breakfast when I hear granola and I think in my younger days, I definitely would have dug into this granola for breakfast.  These days, this is the perfect sweet treat when I get one of my frequent chocolate cravings.  Unfortunately, I can’t partake in this granola too freely, because its main ingredient is rice which I am sensitive to.  I can have in small doses every other week or so, but any more than that and I will have a pounding headache lasting for up to 4 days.  It was hard to stop myself from eating the entire bag, but that wasn’t really an issue since Girlfriend also loved this granola and it was gone in about 3 days…

On a side note, I also tried Enjoy Life new Crunchy chocolate chip cookies and they were delicious!  You can pick up all of these products at Whole Foods and at certain Jewel’s in the IL area.  To find a store near you, check out enjoylifefoods.com/where_to_buy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fast n' Easy Fridays: Vegetable Coconut Curry

This flavorful and easy curry dish can be made with whatever veggies you have lying in your fridge.

Vegetable Coconut Curry
Sauce
1 can coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Coriander
2 Tbsp Turmeric
½ Tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Tsp Agave
2 Tbsp chopped ginger
1 clove garlic

Vegetables
1 sweet potato, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 onion
1 cup green beans
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup spinach
2 cup broccoli


Add all Sauce ingredients into large pot and bring to a boil, then simmer on low.  While sauce is heating, prep and cut vegetables.  Begin with sweet potato and carrots and add to sauce first because they take longest to soften.  Saute onion (using vegetable broth instead of oil) until soft and add to pot.  Add all other vegetables to pot and let simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, until all vegetables are soft.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.


Serve with rice, rice noodles or quinoa and squeeze fresh lime juice when serving. 

 

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 8: The "Challenge" is a challenge...

One week is over and I’ve got to admit, I’m skeptical.  I’d like to say this diet, or should I say “Lifestyle” has been a breeze, but the truth is it’s hard.  In general, I love the focus on healthy grains, veggies and fruits and have found an entire world of fresh produce that I didn’t know existed or at least would have never considered buying.  Before last week, I had never tried kale or bok choy and it turns out they are good!  Consumption of plant-based foods has helped me to branch out to new foods I wouldn’t have tried and also made me more aware of how often I skipped the veggie part of a meal and stuck to meats and grains.  So, from that aspect, I’m loving the diet and my increased consumption of greens. 

Surprisingly, I haven’t missed meat and dairy at all and I find cooking much more enjoyable when I’m not worried about cleaning and prepping meat.  Although, I will definitely always choose goat yogurt over coconut yogurt which lacks yogurt’s characteristic tanginess.  So, why the skeptics then?  I miss oil!  Now that I’m looking, oil is in everything.  How do you make popcorn without oil and are there any oil-free tortilla chips out there?  Tortilla chips were my go-to dinner option when I was strapped for time.  Pared with corn, black beans, spinach and avocado, it made a filling and fast dinner.  I’ve substituted spinach and quinoa for the chips, turning the dish into more of a healthy burrito bowl, but there’s really no comparison to the salty goodness of tortilla chips.  And I’m not even going to mention the struggle I’ve been having with Angie’s Kettle Corn except to say that I bought it at Costco yesterday and started eating it before I left the store…  There are so few food items that I can truly enjoy without worrying about some sort of reaction or sensitivity and these corn-based items were two of my favorite indulgences.  When I’ve given up so much, why should I give this up too?

And what about when I go to a friend’s for dinner or a wedding?  My diet is already so limited due to medical factors, why should I make it even harder by choice?  The gluten and dairy free option at events is almost always meat.  And, I hate to admit it, but when I go to my friend’s wedding next week and they tell me the only gluten-free option is a chicken breast, I know I will eat it.  I will most likely feel intense guilt about this choice and who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky with some gluten free quinoa pasta, but I’m being realistic here.  Food already consumes so much of my life and my family’s life.  With so many restrictions, I feel guilty adding another one and expecting my family and friends to accommodate me.  In the past, when I’ve been worried about what I’ll be able to eat at an event, I’ve always held faith that, no matter what, there would be a plain piece of meat I could eat.  I don’t miss meat in my at-home life and think I might keep this veggie lifestyle at home even after the 28 days are over, but when I go out, that meat option has always been there for me and I don’t know if I can let that go.

So, I’ve had a few discouraging thoughts this week and a few slip ups.  I couldn’t stop myself from eating tortilla chips or kettle corn (both really good and both containing oil).  But, all in all, I feel great about eating more fruits and veggies and am surprised to see that in my daily life, a meat-free existence hasn’t been too painful. 

I promised I would spend this past weekend brainstorming new and more inventive menu options, so for the next month, I will post a new recipe idea every Friday.   For today, I will post my favorite lentil recipe which is fast and easy.  Not exactly inventive, but sometimes flavor and time are more important.

Quick and Easy Lentils:
1 cup lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 cup chopped mushrooms
Salt and pepper, to taste


Bring vegetable broth and lentils to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 20 minutes, until soft.  While lentils cook, saute onion and garlic until soft.  When lentils have cooked for 20 minutes, add onion, garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, or until all broth has been absorbed.


See you Friday for Vegetable Coconut Curry.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Day 2: Whole Foods 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge

When I decided to join Whole Foods 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge, I thought it would be easy.  Increase consumption of plant-based foods, reduce oil, sodium and sugar intake and eliminate all animal products.  I figured since I currently avoid dairy, eggs and most sugar, I was already practicing this diet and it would be a snap.  But, when I asked Girlfriend if she wanted to join the challenge (after I had already signed up), she said “no way, I love meat!”  Wait… No meat??  I definitely interpreted ‘animal products’ as dairy and eggs and completely forgot about the biggest animal product in my life:  meat!  This might be harder than I thought it was going to be…  But, I’m up for the challenge and can do anything for a month, so I started researching and brainstorming meatless dinner options and new recipes.
 
Before I share my favorite veggie dish, let me give some background.  The Challenge follows the principles outlined in the book, Engine 2 Diet, by Rip Esselstyn which basically focuses on committing to a plant-based diet to lower cholesterol, lose weight and improve overall health.  I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, but will share the highlights in the next few weeks.   Guidelines include the following:

- Complete elimination of animal-based products and processed foods
- Reduction in oils, sugars and sodium
- Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains
- Exercise minimum of 5 times per week


So, for the next 28 days, I am going goat-free!  A little sad to put the “Goat” part of my blog on hold for the month, but I did discover So Delicious coconut yogurt, so at least I will have something to pare with my delicious granola

Throughout the month, I will update you on my progress, suggest veggie-friendly meal ideas and post vegan recipes.  Today I will leave you with one of my favorite salad recipes that’s fast, easy and very filling.  Feel free to change the ingredients with any fresh veggies you have in the fridge.

Jicama Arugula Salad
2 cups Spinach
2 cups Arugula
1 large Jicama, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups strawberries, sliced
½ can black beans (drain juice)
½ can whole kernel corn (drain juice)
2 ripe avocados
2 Tbs oil (avocado, olive or walnut work well)
1 lime, juiced
2 Tbs Cilantro, chopped


Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and serve!



********
Also, the official Challenge start date was Wednesday, May 11, so today is Day 2.  Since my OCD couldn't handle starting a new program mid-week, I started on Monday, so it's Day 4 for me.  From here on out, I will follow the Challenge dates, but let's recap since it's almost been a week.  Minus a small fiasco when I totally blacked out with a bag of tortilla chips, I haven't had any slip ups and the no-meat thing hasn't been too hard.  I haven't been very inventive at adding interesting dinner and lunch ideas into my diet.  For the most part, I've been eating spinach or arugula salad with vegan soup every day...  So, for this upcoming weekend, my goal is to start brainstorming and find some fun and interesting dinner ideas to spice up this diet.  Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gluten Free, Allergy Free Expo

This weekend I made the trek to Lisle, IL for the Gluten Free, Allergy Free Expo and it was well worth the drive.  After a month of unlucky run-ins with gluten contamination (see Monday's blog post), it was refreshing to be in a room where I could eat so many items.  Everything was gluten free and there were also a lot of egg and dairy free foods available.  It made me realize how paranoid I’ve become, as I couldn’t shake my vigilant need to read through every product ingredient to check for gluten, eggs and dairy.  The vendors must have thought I was crazy.  Even after reading the ingredients, I double-checked to positively confirm I was able to eat everything.  It was amazing!!  I really couldn't believe it!  I tried a lot of awesome products and met lots of great gluten free bakers, like Kelly Brozyna (Spunky Coconut), Amy Green (SS & GF) and Elana Amsterdam (Elana’s Pantry). 
I also met Alisa Fleming, author of Go Dairy Free, a guide and cookbook for people with lactose / casein intolerance.  She gave me a copy of her book, so keep an eye out for a blog post where I will review her book and recipes.  I've only had a chance to skim through the first few chapters, but so far it is great!  I love her detailed overview of different types of dairy substitutions available and am happy to see many of her suggestions are free of soy which I try to steer clear of most of the time.  More to come on Alisa's book when I've had a chance to read and try some of her recipes.  For now, here are some of the expo product highlights:
Andean Dream – Cookies made with quinoa flour and free of dairy, eggs and gluten.  Most baked goods on the market are made with rice and potato flour, so it’s great to see a product using quinoa flour which is much healthier and high in protein, vitamins and minerals.  These cookies were low in sugar, not too sweet, but still a satisfying treat.
Cru Creations – Gluten free, vegan cheesecake.  I tried Bananas Foster flavor and it was great!  Very surprising that a cheesecake mostly made out of nuts, dates and coconut oil could taste so deliciously similar to cheesecake.  I wanted a whole piece!
No Nuttin’ – Products free of nuts, dairy, eggs and gluten.  I tried the Blueberry Maple granola and Energy Explosion trail mix which were both delicious.  No Nuttin' also has granola bars which I would like to try soon.  Seems like a good option for a snack on the go - always a good idea to carry a back up snack in case there are no gluten free / dairy free options. 
I know we’ve all heard of Bob’s Red Mill as one of our favorite spots for gluten free flours and mixes.  They gave me a gluten free pizza crust mix that can be made using flax seed instead of eggs.  I plan to test it soon and am going to host a pizza party with gluten free pizza crust and different cheese replacements (along with goat cheese, of course!).  I recently tried making various nut cheeses and the cashew ricotta came out really well.  I’ll blog about it all soon and let you know how everything turns out. 
These are just a few of the amazing products I tried at the expo.  It was a great experience and I enjoyed finding great new products and talking with others who suffer from allergies.  Can't wait til next year!

On a separate, but related note, you may have noticed the 1 in 133 banner on my webpage.  1 in 133 is an important organization working towards FDA standards for gluten free product labeling.  Seven years ago, the FDA was tasked with developing and implementing gluten-free labeling.  These standards are still not complete which has left all of us gluten allergy sufferers at risk of eating contaminated foods.  And there are a lot of us out there!  18 million Americans suffer from gluten sensitivity and 1 in 133 people in the US have Celiac Disease!  Those stats are enough for me to know this is an important cause.  Please support this important organization by signing the petition or making a donation.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Giveaway: LOST AND FONDUE by Avery Aames

Avery Aames is an author with celiac disease and is living a gluten-free lifestyle. Her new book, LOST AND FONDUE, launched today and is the latest installment of the Cheese Shop Mysteries. This fun series even includes gluten-free recipes!

Synopsis: LOST AND FONDUE begins in the fair town of Providence. The town has settled down to normal after last year's murder. Charlotte’s Cheese Shop is thriving, and her romance with Jordan is flourishing. But when her friend, Meredith, decides to throw a fund-raiser to create a liberal arts college out of a long-abandoned winery--a winery that is rumored to hold not only buried bodies but buried treasure--Charlotte's joie de vivre deflates like a bad soufflĂ©. Charlotte's fears are realized when an art student is found dead in the wine cellar, and Meredith's niece is the main suspect.

We have 2 copies to giveaway and there are 3 ways to enter:

1. Follow me on twitter and put a note in the comments section with your email address to let me know

2. Follow Gluten Free Girl and the Goat (in the sidebar)
3. Reply to @GlutenFreeGoat on Twitter and say "I want a copy of LOST AND FONDUE by @AveryAames"

I'll announce the winner Friday, May 6!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I've been Glutenized... Again!

I had a great time at the Gluten Free Allergy Free Expo this weekend and can't wait to tell you about all the amazing products I tried and great people I met.  Tune back in on Wednesday for a full re-cap.  Definitely no stories of gluten poisoning at the expo which was a nice break from my bad luck this month...

*******

This month we’ve had many joyous and fun occasions – weddings, baby showers, Seders and gatherings with friends.  While I’ve enjoyed all of these events, I spent the better part of the month calling restaurants and friends to ask question after question about how each dish was prepared to determine what I could eat safely.  Even with careful planning and erring on the side of not eating, I have been “glutenized” 4 times this month, suffering terrible migraines, stomach aches and muscle aches lasting for up to 5 days.

Needless to say, this is extremely frustrating and I’ve reached my limit, declaring we will never eat outside of our house again.  Obviously, eating at home for the rest of our lives is not the answer, but it’s frustrating to feel like I’m doing my due diligence and still getting sick.  With more events coming up in the next few months, I think our friends might be a little irritated if I show up at their wedding or baby shower with a Tupperware of gluten-free dinner and ask the chef to heat it up.   But, the risks of wrong information and gluten contamination are on my mind. How do you safely eat at a party?  How can we trust that a dish was truly made gluten free and proper handling was used to avoid cross contamination?

It all started when we went to Quartino's, usually one of my favorite restaurants for gluten-free options.  I ordered soup off the gluten free menu and it came with a huge piece of bread IN the soup.  Obviously, this was a misunderstanding in the kitchen, serving the regular dish versus the gluten-free presentation and I was lucky it was such an obvious mistake.  But, what if it had been more subtle like using a different sauce for the gluten-free option?  I wouldn’t have noticed until the next day when I was confined to bed with a pounding migraine.  My paranoia took over, I sent the soup back, and stuck to salad with no dressing. 

My next run-in happened during a recent work event at a local cooking school.  I asked the chef if the chicken satay appetizer was gluten free and, after listing several ingredients, gave a definitive yes.  Usually I ask multiple questions about preparation like whether the meat was dusted in flour before grilled or if soy sauce was used.  Since I was asking the chef directly, I felt safe with his answer and ate the appetizer.  Later, the chef passed out recipe packets that included the chicken satay recipe.  I was shocked to see soy sauce as one of the main ingredients in the peanut sauce!  I immediately confronted the chef and his response was “Oh yeah, I guess you’re right.  Well, you can eat the chicken”.  I said, “Yes, but I already ate the sauce."  He shrugged his shoulders, grinned and said, “Oh well, what now?”  I was astounded!  How could he be so blasĂ© and nonchalant about such an important issue!  I replied, “Now I’m going to be sick for the next four days.”

Even when people are being considerate and thoughtful in what’s being prepared, I have still been glutenized.  During Seder, I greatly appreciated our friend’s efforts to prepare gluten free dishes.  They graciously walked through every ingredient used to prepare the main dish and we determined it was safe to eat.  The next day, I was so sick I could barely get out of bed, let alone go to work.  I couldn’t understand it – all of the ingredients used were gluten free and I was so careful!  Thinking it over later with more clarity, it must have been cross-contamination.  As careful as our friends were, it’s difficult to understand that preparing chicken using the same surface and utensils used to make the matzah balls is enough to make a gluten-sensitive person sick.

Don’t get me wrong, not every event has been a cause for stress.  My friends and family have made a great effort to provide gluten free options and practice safe food handling.  My aunt is amazing about catering to my allergies.  She sets out a separate gluten free appetizer section during parties with gluten free chips and separate dip bowls so nothing is contaminated by bread or other gluten filled goodies.  She also cooks entirely gluten free dinners when my mom (who is also gluten free) and I are present, so there is no issue of cross contamination. 


It seems to me like it’s an issue of education.  In all of the interactions I’ve had lately, I’ve noticed a huge difference in how my allergies are treated when the waitperson or friend has a family member or close friend with a similar allergy.  Not only are they more knowledgeable, but they can truly understand the consequences of ingesting gluten.  Talking with other allergy sufferers, I know that this is a widespread issue that we all deal with on a daily basis.  I welcome you to share your stories and any helpful tips on how to safely eat out in restaurants or at friends.