Printable Foodcards for Events

I just found this today!

Printable cards for you to have at your net potluck that helps label whether or not your dish contains common food allergens. The download is in .pdf form and is located here:


If you don't have Abode Reader, you can download it for free on CNet.com.

Thank you Beneficial Design and Gluten-Free Girl. How wonderful is this?!?


Review: Nature’s Pantry

I went traveling this past week to visit family (it’s wedding season) and happily stumbled across a gluten-free store in Jonesboro, Arkansas, of all places! I have to admit I was slightly miffed that Jonesboro was ahead of Los Angeles by having a store completely devoted to food allergies, but I was also excited.

My mother, who also now does a gluten-free diet, accompanied me to visit Nature’s Pantry to see what goodies we could find. I have to admit we weren’t disappointed! The store was stocked full of gluten-free wonders and in many brands that I have never heard of. My mom grabbed several different boxes of crackers, the one thing that she constantly craves on her new GF diet. The shelves were mostly stocked with different baking mixes, cereal, crackers and cookies.

The store owner, Corrie Stricklin, is a doll and welcomed us in right away. As we browsed the shelves, she told us about the history of her newly opened store. Her daughter was diagnosed with Celiacs which prompted her to test herself. She decided to open the store after she found it hard to find tasty products for her family. She eats every product before she puts it on the shelf to make sure that it meets her standards. The store is starting out small, but it looks like business is booming!

I was shocked to hear her tell of a fellow store owner who came in before the store opened to look at the place. This woman told Corrie “Well, I just wanted to stop by and see the store before it closes!” Corrie was crushed, I mean, who could blame her? What a horrible thing to say! Well, Corrie proved them wrong when she had a line of people waiting outside the door on opening day. Business has been steady ever since. Proof that there is a market for gluten-free foods out there after all!

So, if you ever happen to be in the neighborhood, I highly recommend that you stop by Corrie’s store and take a look for yourself!

Nature’s Pantry
510 Southwest Drive
Jonesboro, Arkansas 72401



No, I’m not talking about your spouse or your taxes, I’m talking about your diet.

This post topic was particularly hard this weekend because my boyfriend and I drove down to the San Diego County Fair. Now, I’ve never been particularly keen on fair food, but it’s like the very fact I CAN’T have it makes it more appealing. I grew up in Texas and all my family lives in the South, but fried food never really appealed to me… until this Saturday. I just looked around at all the food booths and sighed.

Now, just like all cheating, emotions play a strong part in wanting to cheat by eating gluteny goodies (like deep fried Oreos). You feel left out, you crave the food, you want to be nostalgic, you are tired of having to think about food all the time, but none of these are good reasons! So there are some tips I have for being reducing the temptation to cheat.

On the road – Bring plenty of snacks with you, both sweet and savory (very important to grab both, attack the cravings from all sides). Do some research before you go for that area. If you are going to a large city, chances are that you will be gluten free support group there and they will have information on good restaurants to eat at. Also, familiarize yourself with some foods that you can grab at a ‘normal’ grocery store that are gluten free (Check out Kraft foods and Frito-Lay since they both have a large selection of gluten free products). Prepare lunches to take with you, don’t rely on fast food (exceptions are Chic-a-fila, Chipotle, and Subway that have gluten-free options but don’t have menus of them in the store, look online before you leave).

At home – Don’t leave gluten options around the house if you can help it. Just don’t buy food with gluten in it and you won’t have it around to munch on. I’m just not as tempted to eat my roommate’s food as my own. ;)

At other people’s homes – If you are going over for a dinner at someone’s house, let them know plenty of time in advance of your food restrictions and have a list of suggestions available to them for menu ideas. You should always inform your host before you go for food that you have food-restrictions. One dinner I went to, didn’t tell the host that I was gluten intolerant and it turned out that her sister was so it would have been easy for her to accommodate me, but I didn’t ask. I just went not planning on eating. If it’s a casual visit, make sure to always bring snacks with you and eat before you go to reduce food urges.

My favorite general tip that has saved me many a time: always have a stash of food in your car. No matter where you go, you always have something with you in case of emergency temptation. I have gum, trail mix, dried fruit, and a non-refrigerated microwavable food product that just needs water. Those basically cover any scenario that I need, plus it gives you something to do during traffic. J Just make sure to keep yourself stocked at all times.

And, if it makes you feel any better, more and more people are learning about gluten. In the short time that I’ve been gluten free, there have been a huge increase in gluten-free products available. I’ve also met more and more people who know about it. So, think of it this way: the longer that you are on the diet, the more options you will have. This will probably be the worse it’s going to get. It’s only uphill from here!


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Guide to Gluten-free Pasta

One of the things that you’ll probably miss most quickly is the ease and convenience of cooking pasta. Take heart! There is an ever growing selection of gluten free pastas, many times in your non-specialty grocery store. Tom Thumb, Ralph’s, Albertson’s, Von’s, and other major chains now seem to carry a small selection. It might not be located directly with the other pastas, so make sure to check the ‘specialty food’ or Asian food section of your store.

Gluten free pasta is one of the easiest transitions into gluten-free life, so let’s get started!


There is quite a large selection available in non-gluten pastas. The most common are made of rice flour, corn, quinoa, and buckwheat (buckwheat, although it has ‘wheat’ listed in the name it does not contain gluten). I’ve found that most pastas can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Traditional Asian noodles which don’t naturally contain any wheat since wheat is fairly new to Asian cooking
  2. Western pastas (think Italian) that are traditionally made out of gluten materials but have been modified to be made out of other flours to make them gluten-free

I’ve found that most Western gluten free pastas aren’t as good because they are trying so hard to mimic their traditional gluten roots. I have yet to find pasta that tastes like “the real thing.” There is always a texture difference.

Now to cook gluten free pasta, you have to know how gluten works in food. The gluten provides the elasticity that you normally think of in pasta, so don’t be surprised when your pasta doesn’t cook or feel the same. Any Western pasta that you’ll purchase will usually be harder in the middle and has a tenancy to fall apart if you overcook it (because there isn’t gluten in it to ‘hold everything together’).

Rice flour pastas are the most common because they mimic wheat more than any other of the flours. I think that they also taste the best (both in Asian noodles and in Western style). Since there are multiple websites that address Asian style cooking, we will focus on the Western gluten free pasta cooking here.

Like always, make sure to read the ingredients in whatever product you’re buying. Many times “rice pasta” will contain little amounts of wheat flour, so be careful. There will rarely be ‘hidden food’ labels like maltodextrin or dextrose, so you don’t need to worry.

Cooking pasta:

  1. To start cooking, put a pot of water on the stove. Now, make sure to not fill the pot as full of water as you traditionally would with gluten pasta. The pasta will have a film on the outside of it that will come off when you cook it. This film will make the water bubble more than you are used it and will make your pot overflow. Filling the pot half way full of water is a safe bet, especially for your first time.
  1. Make sure to put in a teaspoon of oil in the water. This will make the pasta not stick to itself and will make the film not stick to the inside of the pot (which helps in the clean-up process).
  1. Once the water starts to boil, place the pasta in water like you would traditionally. Since the temperature of the water will decrease fast, it will drop the boil down. Don’t adjust the temperature, it won’t take long for it to heat back up. Make sure to stir the pasta so it coats a little bit in the oil and doesn’t clump together.
  1. You need to stay close by the pot to make sure that the pot doesn’t bubble over. It will take longer than normal to cook gluten free pasta, so make sure to leave enough time. I usually turn down the temp once the water is boiling again because the bubbles from the rapid boil will beat harder against the pasta and make it break apart. The water will be murky from the film on the outside of the pasta, so don’t be alarmed.
  1. The pasta will be done right when the middle is starting to soften. You don’t want to leave the pasta in much longer than that because the pasta will start to fall apart.
  1. Once it the pasta is ready, pour out the hot water. I normally keep the pasta in my pot instead of transferring into a colander because the film on the pasta sticks really badly to it and makes clean-up more difficult. Now, run a little bit of cool water over the pasta. This will make the last of the film come off of the pasta and cools it slightly so it doesn’t fall apart as much.
  1. Now the pasta is ready to be served!

Note: Left over gluten-free pasta is usually gross. It does not heat up well and once it cools down it hardens. So only make as much as you need for that meal.


Roommates and Spouses

This should really be titled “Anyone that shares your kitchen.” My roommate LOVES gluten filled foods and therefore eats them all the time. Good for her, a headache for me (not that I blame her, I’m just jealous).

Any time that you come into contact with people that eat gluten, it’s going to be an issue. If the person is close with anyone who has food allergies, then you won’t have as much to worry about because they are usually already conditioned to be aware of their actions. If you are like me, this number is small. But, don’t fret, you’ll be ok.

It’s important to remember that if you are a person with a restricted diet, that it’s your responsibility to educate those around you. It’s not the other person’s responsibility to do that for you. It stinks, but most people have no idea what gluten is or how it affects people. It is their responsibility, however, to take the information that you give them and apply it so as not to hurt you.

You have to remember that most people were originally like you: they had no idea gluten even existed and they don’t know how to handle it. They don’t know of things like cross-contamination or what to look for in labels. Be patient.

Now, most people (if they genuinely care for you) will try to accommodate you. Usually, I start by telling them what gluten is, making sure to emphasize that it is in flour and that it can hide in food without necessarily being labeled (unlike soy or milk). You’ll be surprised to learn how many people don’t know that flour is made from wheat and will normally offer you bread. Just sigh with internal frustration and try to smile. I will then tell them what products normally contain gluten and how cross contamination works. Cross contamination occurs when anything that has touched gluten comes in contact with my person. This includes any food, forks, cooking utensils, dishes, pots, etc. Be firm, but not aggressive.

Just be honest with the person that you are living with that a gluten-free lifestyle is really complex and you are still trying to figure out all the odds and ends. This means that the rules in the kitchen might change as you get more information, but that’s to be expected and you aren’t just changing them just to be difficult.

Now, with that said, the person you are living with will most likely not pay attention to their habits in the kitchen as much as you do. Example: my roommate spills wheat flour on the counters all the time and forgets to clean it up (she likes baking and hates cleaning). This means that I will have to clean every surface in the kitchen before I use it, because she just doesn’t notice. Even though I’ve explained cross-contamination before, I know she isn’t trying to hurt me by leaving flour everywhere because she’s a cool person. She just isn’t as aware of it as I am. So I cut her some slack, because living with a gluten-free person isn’t easy.

Knowing my roommate’s habits, I went ahead and labeled everything in the kitchen that is for gluten-only cooking. I took a sharpie and labeled everything with a “GF” meaning “gluten-free.” She can’t use any of those items UNLESS they are used on strictly gluten free things only. I told her that if she uses an item labeled “GF” on gluten, then she has to buy me another one. So… basically, she doesn’t use any of them. ;)

Some people will divide the counter space into areas of gluten free and non-gluten free. So you would only use one counter area and no one else is allowed to use that space. This eliminates having to worry about cleaning up before each use (I would do this, but my current kitchen is too small).

Other people just make their kitchen completely gluten-free. You will have to talk this over with your person. Lots of spouses will go on a gluten-free diet, as well. It’s actually easier if you do it that way because then you just have one set of groceries and never have to worry about cross-contamination issues. Also, you don’t have to worry about kissing your partner after they eat gluten (sadly, they will transfer gluten to you… the kiss of death!).

Unfortunately, some people aren’t that caring about your gluten situation and they will go ahead and ignore all the information you tell them. This is a larger topic all together, so I’ll have to make it into another post (because you will encounter this!). But if this is a real issue, you might need to reevaluate your living situation with this person.

Just be patient. Soon, all of this will become routine for both of you!


Your Applicances

I think it would be excessive to say to replace all of your appliances. Things like stoves, ovens, and fridges are just too expensive (although the economy would love it if you did).

Toasters and toaster ovens should be thrown out. There really isn’t a way to clean them that you can remove all the gluten, so you should just discard them (give them a new home!). Make sure to never use gluten-free products in toasters that contain gluten, you’ll get sick for sure (she says, speaking from experience).

Some people discard their mixers, blenders, and processors. It’s up to what you feel comfortable with and how clean you can make yours.

Remember, you’ll be cooking more than you did before, so it’s not a bad investment to update your kitchen.


Your Silverware, Servingware, and Cutlery

The same rule applies to this as does the pots and pans: there can be gluten bits stuck in the grooves of your knives. I went ahead and bought a set of knives for myself, because of their tendency to contain gluten. I don’t let anyone use my knives on anything that contain gluten, so it’s not cross-contaminated.

Personally, I kept my old silverware. I think it would be too hard to make sure to keep them completely clean when I have gluten constantly coming in and out of my kitchen. I just make sure that everything goes into the dishwasher to be cleaned as thoroughly as possible. Some people disagree and keep a separate set. I just don’t have the space for it. Just make sure to label it if you do.

I also got a new set of cooking utensils because most of the ones that I had have scratches on them, so their risk of contamination is high. Also, it’s hard to get whisks and spatulas really clean, even if you put them in the dishwasher, so I have a separate set than my roommate. Plus, they are such easy and inexpensive gifts, that I just asked for a new set for Christmas. ;)


Your Kitchen Surfaces

This depends on the food in your kitchen. I personally have a roommate who eats gluten, so her food will accidentally spill or fall onto kitchen counters, countertops, and the stovetop. I try to wipe down the surfaces of our kitchen before I ever begin cooking, just to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. We have our own separate shelves in our pantry to reduce the risk of her food coming into contact with mine. If a piece of my food ever lands on any of the surfaces in the kitchen (yes, even the floor), then I will throw it away. Which reminds me to make a comment about the floor: if you have a gluten-loving person also using the kitchen, make sure to clean the floor. Also, it’s a good idea to not walk on it in bare feet so you don’t loose crumbs on them. Just a thought.

Now, if you don’t have this problem, then you don’t have to worry about surfaces so much. Just thoroughly clean your surfaces regularly and that should avoid most problems. Make sure to use household cleaners that don’t contain gluten. I would contact the manufacturer of your cleaners and ask if your cleaning product contains gluten


Your Cookware

Now, let’s turn to the issue of pots and pans.

It’s recommended by most people to get rid of your pots and pans if you have been cooking with them containing gluten. Why? Mostly because you can’t get anything truly clean. If you’ve used anything that has scratched the pot, then traces of gluten can be in the cracks. This is especially true for anything that you’ve used for baking (pie tins, cake pans, cupcake pans, etc) because you usually use a knife to cut the food inside the dish.

Plus, food cakes on the inside and outside of your pots, so you will have trace amounts of gluten in the pot whether you see it or not.

Now, I didn’t to go throw everything out and start completely over. I didn’t want to spend that type of money, so I slowly have been phasing out my glutened cookware. It takes longer, but it’s a cheaper alternative. Just make sure to label your new pots in some way to ensure you remember which ones are newer.

Chopping blocks are considered one of the first things that need to be replaced, as immediately as possible. New colanders are also a good investment, since you know that they constantly touched pasta.


The Pantry and the Fridge

Now, we’ll start with the most obvious place: your food.

If you have celiacs, an allergy, or are gluten intolerant, you have to remember that you’ll need to be more strict than someone who is going on a gluten free diet for other health reasons. You have to deal with cross-contamination issues that other people don’t. Also, your body is healing after years of damage, so you won’t be able to stomach as much. Get it? Stomach? Ok, so bad pun, but it’s true. Since your intestines aren’t working well, you will be more sensitive to certain foods for a while until things are working better. It’s smart to stay away from food that is spicy, hard to digest, and are acidic. Also, it’s probably a good idea to not eat many products that are replacements for gluten items (e.g. gluten free pasta, cake mixes, bread, etc). They aren’t really easy to digest and aren’t nearly as nutritious as other things. Always talk to your doctor or a dietitian, but many people believe that you should be eating plain meat, veggies, and fruit. The logic is that your body isn’t absorbing nutrients like it should, so anything you can put in your body needs to try to make up for that fact. Depressing, I know.

Keeping that in mind, let’s start with the pantry.

What I did was take three boxes and a trash bag and set it next to me. One is labeled “To Keep,” one is labeled “To Give Away,” one is labeled “Don’t Know” and one is, well, a trash bag. All foods that goes back into the pantry put in the keep box and the food that you can no longer eat but it still good to give to friends or donate goes in the other box. There will be a list of items that might be fine, but you’ll have to contact the manufacturer to see, so they go in the “Don’t Know” box.

So, let’s start with the obvious: bread, pasta, cereal, and wheat flour is out. If you are like me, you don’t even want to touch it at this point! Bye bye evil gluten!

Next, let’s look at your spice rack. Any spice that contains just itself as an ingredient (e.g. oregano) is probably fine. The only issue of cross contamination would have been if you used the same measuring spoons in them as you had with flour or something else containing gluten. Throw it away if you are uncertain. Many seasoning mixes (e.g. Italian mix, grilled poultry mix, etc) contain either MALTODEXTRIN or DEXTROSE. Get rid of those. Both ingredients can be made from wheat, but not necessarily. There isn’t a good way of knowing. Some people say that if you purchase them in the United States that they should be fine, but I get bad stomach cramps when I eat them sometimes, so I stay away altogether.

Now, go through each item in your pantry. Things you need to look out for are the standard hidden ingredients:

Modified Food Starch
Natural and Artificial flavors
Oats (because it’s shipped on the same equipment as other grains)
Vinegar (except Distilled, Wine, or Apple Cider)

A more complete list is located here: Unsafe Ingredients List

If the only questionable ingredient is maltodextrin, dextrose, or the flavoring you can put then in the “Don’t Know” box to contact the manufacturer later to see.

Repeat the same steps you did with your pantry on your fridge. It’s important to remember about cross-contamination. Your butter, for example, you probably used the same knife to spread it on bread as you did to cut it with. Keep it in mind.

Once you are done, clean the shelves just to remove any traces of flour or gluten that might be hanging around.

Step back and admire your work.

Looks really bare, huh?!?

That’s ok, before you know it, it will be full of yummy gluten-free food and now you can rest easy knowing that your food won’t hurt you. Celebrate your victory! You’re one step closer!


The Kitchen Conundrum

Once I found out that gluten was my enemy, I started to become scared of my kitchen. What was safe? What food could I eat? I kept reading online about people talking about cross-contamination. It seemed like everything in my kitchen was going to hurt me.

It seems daunting at first, but don’t worry, you’ll get through it. You just need to remember that this is a transition and to think of everything in stages. It makes it less overwhelming and is a realistic approach to your new life. You can’t just throw away all your food, plates, and cookware. So let’s break everything down into sections:

  1. Your pantry and fridge
  2. Your cookware
  3. Your surfaces
  4. Your silverware, servingware, and cutlery
  5. Your appliances
  6. Roommates and spouses

Now remember, as we go through this you need to keep in mind that there isn’t ‘one method’ that will work for everyone. Some people are really sensitive and some people aren’t. Also, just because you don’t feel any pain, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t damaging your body if you eat something with trace amounts of gluten in it. The jury is still out on lots of things relating to celiacs and gluten intolerance, so you need to decide what works best for you. People will probably try to convince you that it isn’t “that big of a deal” but it is for you and your comfort level is what’s important. So keep in mind that you are going to have to stand up for your health as you go through this exercise. Be strong!


It's the journey, not the destination

Hello and may I be the first person to welcome you into the gluten free adventure. If you are like me, you weren’t too thrilled to find out that you won’t be able to eat bread, cereal, cake, and other such goodies again. I remember when my doctor looked at me and said, “Well, just don’t eat gluten for the rest of your life and you’ll be fine.” All I wanted to do was cry. It’s a devastating experience (especially if you love bread like I do!). I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this horribly negative life-ending event. Don’t despair, there is hope!

The purpose of this blog came out of my own gluten-free journey. I had been experiencing pain, extreme fatigue, mood swings and intestinal distress for years. I went through more doctors than I can remember (although I’m sure my insurance does!), being poked and prodded to the point of loosing all modesty until one day one of my gastro doctors finally said, “How about we have you do a food journal to figure out if your problems are food related.” My initial reaction was, “Yeah right. I doubt food to cause me this much pain.” Ah, how little did I know! After he looked at my food journal, he put me on a gluten-free diet for two weeks. My problems decreased exponentially within a matter of days and when I went back my doctor proclaimed me to be officially ‘gluten intolerant’!