Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How to Start Eating Gluten Free-Where to Start

It's really overwhelming when you are told you have to start eating gluten free. What is gluten? What is it in? What ingredients do I need to look for? My doctors office gave me almost no information and sent me on my way.

Gluten in a protien found in wheat, barley and rye. There is a lot of debate about oatmeal and whether it is safe. To me, oatmeal's just not worth the risk so I avoid it too.

Gluten is in a lot of foods. Pretty much everything in the bakery, cookie and cracker aisles. It's also in places you wouldn't expect like turkey, broth and soy sauce. It means you need to read the labels. And since formulations are changing constantly you need to read labels every single time you go shopping.

Here is the unsafe food list for gluten-free eating. I suggest printing it out and taking it to the grocery store with you, at least the first time shopping.

Plan some extra time your first few shopping trips. Reading all the labels and having to try 5 different chicken broths before you find one you can eat will take some time. Here's a couple of tips to get you in and out of the grocery store a little faster. The produce section is great. There's some debate over mushrooms (they are grown in a substance that contains wheat and could get caught in the gills) but pretty much everything else is good. Plain meat is pretty easy. Turkey is the most problematic since they often add broth to make it juicier and that is not always gluten-free. Occasionally you will see this with chicken too. Dairy is also pretty good. Yogurt and ice cream seem to be the hardest. Some yogurts, like yoplait, are labeling individual flavors gluten-free. If you don't go that route look for ones that are all natural. If there are only three or four ingredients it's much easier to make sure you can eat it. Especially if you can pronounce all the ingredient names.

Another great source of gluten-free foods is in the Asian food section. Just watch out for the soy suace. Most (not all) of it has wheat in it. Many dishes like pad tai and peanut noodles are made with rice pasta and they often have rice crackers too. I have been pleasantly surprised that these are often labeled "gluten-free" on the package.

I will continue this in another post. Still to come, gluten-free and medications, finding a support group, where to find recipes etc.


Although I would not deliberately give out incorrect information about eating gluten free and everything on this page is correct, to my knowledge, at the time I am writing this post, I can't guarantee its validity. Food formulations change constantly and please verify that any food you eat is gluten-free before consuming it if you are on a gluten-free diet.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Filing System-Part Two

I am such a dork. I just realized that when I was doing my posts on filing I wrote 2 posts explaining the 2 year catch all folders and never even commented on my permanent and remove/replace filing system. So I’m just going to go back and write the other post I meant to write now.

I keep my taxes for 10 years now. I really liked the rotating system proposed by the Freedom Filer. Basically you set up 10 file folders and label them Tax Year 1, Tax Year 2…Tax Year 0. The number represents the last digit of the year the tax return was filed in. For example, my 2009 tax returns are filed in Tax Year 9. When 2019 taxes are completed I will shred my 2009 tax returns and put the 2019 tax returns in Tax Year 9.

I also used the Freedom Filer suggestion of a remove/replace section of files. These are documents that are frequently updated, renewed or replaced. Things like insurance policies, service provider contracts and retirement statements. When a new document comes in the mail, I take out the old one, tuck the new one in its place and shred the old one. It’s very simple and that way I never have to go through and purge out years of files.

My last section is for my permanent files. These were a challenge to me. Have you ever read a book that tells you how to file? Almost all of them start with “Decide on the categories you will need for your filing system”. Seriously? That is why I am reading this book. I don’t know where to start. Tell me what I need to keep and what I can throw away. What are the basic categories I will need to organize my paperwork? And how do I file it? Is car insurance filed under “car” or “insurance” or “the name of my insurance company”?

This was the list I found that seemed to make sense to me.

1. Tax Returns-Include 8 folders for the last seven years plus the current year. Place all W2’s, 1099’s, interest statements and returns in this file.
2. Retirement Accounts-Create a folder for each retirement account you have, 401(k)’s, IRA’s, etc and include the statements.
3. Social Security-Include your social security benefits statement.
4. Investment Accounts-Create folders for each brokerage account, mutual funds, or individual stocks and keep the statements here.
5. Savings and Checking Accounts-Add files for each separate account you have.
6. Household Accounts-Here you will keep track of your House title, home improvement receipts, mortgage and utility statements.
7. Credit Card Debt-Add a folder for each card you hold.
8. Other Liabilities-This folder would include student loans, personal loans, car loans, etc.
9. Insurance-This folder contains all insurance policies, home, life, car, health, disability, long-term care.
10. Will or Trust-Keep a copy of your will and living trust here.
11. Children’s Accounts-Include any college savings plans or trusts set up in your child’s name.

I tweaked it a little bit, but this is what I used as a jumping off point. My car insurance is now filed in a folder marked “insurance-car”. I keep my taxes for 10 years instead of 8. I made medical files for each of us and a folder for our pets. But this is working pretty well so far. I know where to find things. It makes sense to me. It’s not so complicated that I can’t use it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sneaky Brownies-Gluten Free, Of Course

Over the past couple of weeks I have been cooking out of the Sneaky Chef cookbooks. Have you heard about these? It's a cookbook featuring recipes that hide healthy foods in dishes you would normally eat. She teaches you how to incorporate carrots and sweet potatoes into tomato sauces for pizza or spaghetti, blueberries and spinach into brownies and winter squash into macaroni and cheese. I've tried all three of these and the only thing I could taste was the blueberries in the brownies. It wasn't bad but I think I will try it with cherries next time. Doodlebug didn't seem to mind the blueberries or spinach one bit!

Not all of the recipies in the cookbook are gluten free, but several can be easily converted. I also found a version called The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue. This cookbook has many of the recipes in her other cookbooks that have been converted to be allergen free. There's even a whole section on gluten free! This is where I found the gluten free brownie recipe and there's a cookie recipe I hope to try next.

I love the idea of sneaking veggies into foods that I eat and love. Who couldn't use a few more fruits and veggies in their day? And even though it doesn't magically transform brownies into health food, it makes it easier for me to rationalize eating it. If it has spinach in it, I think I can count it as a salad, right?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chex Treats

Since going on the gluten free diet I've had to give up Rice Krispy treats. Rice krispies seem like a cereal that would not have gluten, but they add a small amount of malt to it which makes it off limits to me.

But seriously, I want to make these with my son. I want to eat them too. I have childhood memories of the ooey gooeyness of the marshmellows melting and I want to pass it on.

My friend hit up on a brilliant solution. Substitue Rice Chex for the Rice Krispies. Why didn't I think of that?

Here's the recipe.

6 cups of Rice Chex
4 cups mini marshmellows
3 T butter

Melt butter over low heat. Add marshmellows and stir frequently until marshmellows melt. Pour into a greased (or sprayed) 9 x 13 baking dish and press down into an even layer. Let cool before eating.

We had a good time making the treats. I had 2 helpers. My official taste tester and my offical cutie pie.

Oh my, these were so good! My little helper (Doodlebug's friend who was staying with us that day) declared loudly, "I love this treat!" I couldn't have said it better myself.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spinach Salad

Unless I’m baking, I don’t really follow recipes all that well. It’s not that I can’t, I just don’t. I can’t be bothered to measure out teaspoons of ketchup or cups of chicken broth. I sometimes discover I’m out of an ingredient ¾’s of the way through a recipe. I am lazy. Why drag out the food processor to grate an apple when I have perfectly good applesause sitting in the fridge. Those are about the same.

For sheer entertainment I’m going to write out this recipe along with the thoughts that go through my head as I am typing it out. This is not for the faint of heart.

Spinach Salad (I know it sounds really gross, but if it makes me want to eat spinach, it’s got to be pretty great. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about. I am a very picky eater.)

2 cups raw baby spinach (The ‘experts’ always tell people to wash their spinach. Should I mention that? I mean, this is a recipe not a cooking lesson. And that would be kind of hypocritical since I never wash mine.)

2 T vegetable oil (Seriously, I have no idea how much oil to use. I just pour a little in the pan. 2T sounds like a good amount though. And who’s really going to measure it anyway?)

½ minced onion (Or maybe a little less. Heck, just use whatever’s hanging around in the fridge. It’s just about adding some flavor anyway.)

2T brown sugar. (I think it’s supposed to be the same as the oil. Maybe not. I can’t remember. Just throw some it.)

½ cup Mandarin oranges (That sounds about right. Assuming you have Mandarin oranges. Last week I didn’t so I used dried cranberries. It was pretty tasty. Maybe I should change it to cranberries. Or both. I bet it would be good with both. I’d better remember to add both to the grocery list for next week. And spinach. I won’t get far without the spinach. Is there anything else we need from the grocery…? Wait, what was I doing? Oh yeah, typing up a recipe. Where was I?)

¼ almonds. (Use whatever nuts you have that seem to go with the other ingredients. Throw in what you want. Seriously. It’s not that hard.)

Heat oil in a small pan. Add minced onion and cook until translucent. (I hate using that term. When are the onions translucent? No idea. But it’s better than trying to figure out how long I actually cooked them last time. As long as they aren't burnt you will be okay.)

Take pan off the heat and add in brown sugar. (I know, it sounds insane. But think of it like dressing. It really does taste good. Promise. Cross my picky-eater’s heart.) Stir until well combined. Pour mixture over the spinach. Toss well to coat. (You’re gonna be standing there tossing for a few minutes. It doesn’t look like it’ll be enough, but it is. Promise.)

Top with Mandarin oranges and almonds. (Oh so healthy, and thanks to the sugar, oh so yummy too. I wonder what other fruits and nuts would work here.)
Google Analytics Alternative