Saturday, February 26, 2011

Family Vacation - Celiac Style

Well, we did it.  We went on a family vacation and even survived unglutened!  A week ago, I wasn’t so sure how we'd pull it off. How do you fly to the middle of nowhere (…really! Maui…just an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean,  far from all the new reliable sources and support we’ve developed…) and make sure your kid will be fine? Well, first it went without saying that we’d be doing a lot more cooking in than usual on this vacation.  We were staying in a condo where we had access to a refrigerator and microwave.  Funny thing is we made these plans BEFORE our son’s diagnosis, so we didn’t check the kitchen out the way we would now.  Oven? Toaster? Scratched non-stick pans?
As always, the internet was our friend.  Lots of celiacs had passed this way and shared so much helpful information.  We had some excellent places to shop.  Whole Foods has added a location near the airport in Kahului.  Mana Foods in Paia is a sensitive eater’s paradise.  I wish we had one near our home! Even the Safeway in Lahaina was better labeled and had more options than my local Safeway. And some blogs identified a couple of restaurants as likely options.
To tell the truth, restaurants still have me scared.  Even when they have a gluten free menu, it’s hard to feel comfortable when they repeatedly offer your table a bread basket.  The good news is that my son did not have any noticeable reactions to the two places we visited. Mama’s Fish House and Outback Steakhouse were both accommodating and supportive.  Since we’ve gone gluten free as a family, it makes things a little easier. And several places were kind enough to let a Fumbling Mom read labels on ice cream, drinks and other food items to make me feel more secure about what we offering my son.
In the condo, we cooked GF pasta.  We ate GF cereal.  We scrambled more eggs than usual. We enjoyed some great island fruits.  All in all, Maui truly is paradise.  And, while maybe the food we cooked in the microwave wasn’t the best ever, the breaching humpback whales made up for it all! Aloha and mahalo!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl Party - Celiac Style

Hey, it’s Super Bowl weekend.  We usually have some friends over for chips, dips, chili dogs and all sorts of wicked stadium food that we only do for the Big Game.  This year things need to change. I’ve been digging around for some gluten free ideas that won’t seem like such a sacrifice. I don’t see doing hot dogs without buns.  That’s just not right!
After some research, fajitas were looking pretty good.  Sauted chicken breasts and grilled flank steak, bell peppers and onions, cheese – all on corn tortillas.  And how about corn chips with salsa and guacamole?  I think we can do this!  Add some gluten free potato chips and some sodas, and we’ve got game time!
And yet, when I consulted my son, he really wanted the traditional fare.  So we just modified the norm. We checked (and re-checked) all the products, ending up with some yummy Aidell’s Chicken Apple Sausage and Arthichoke Garlic Sausage (both labeled GF).  To avoid the bun issue, we just cut them into bite-sized pieces with toothpicks.  We also did Stagg Chili* Classic Chili with Beans (Fumbling Mom Product of the Day)– souped up with extra beef, herbs, spices and cocoa – for nacho chili bowls.  I even made Velveeta cheese dip, something I haven’t even SEEN since I grew up in the south. With M&M’s and chips, we were set.
Unfortunately, today - on the day after - my son’s stomach doesn’t feel all that well. With a day of food choices like that I usually just say, "What a surprise!"  (maybe with a hint of sarcasm.)  But this year I have to ask a few more questions. Did we stay gluten free? I feel pretty good that we did. Could it simply be Super Bowl excess? I hope so.
*Not all Stagg Chilis are gluten free, so be careful to check the label.  This one is actually labeled GF, but we had some trial and error in the shopping process.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What's for Lunch?

So, breakfast is a little challenging.  Dinner is easy.  Lunch feels impossible.  Our 12 year old like lots of different foods from crab and clams to broccoli and red bell pepper.  But he seems to dislike almost anything that would be easy to send for a gluten free school lunch.  He’s not much of a sandwich kid.  He doesn’t like salads or leftovers.  He doesn’t snack on cheese, yogurt or hard boiled eggs, like he did when he was a toddler. Let’s see…what’s left?  There’s no way to heat things at school and he doesn’t want to carry a thermos.  So, we’re struggling with this one.
I found a website with a lot of ideas that we are working through.
So far, here are a few things we’ve had success with (note the list is mighty short!):
GF Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich
Sushi (with GF soy)
Leftover GF pizza
Any kind of fruit
GF potato chips and any gf cookie
Corn tortilla quesadilla

What hasn’t worked:
Rice noodle spring rolls with vegies and pork
Ham sandwich
Amy’s GF burrito (mom liked, tho)
Taco meat with corn chips (nachos)

Things I want to try:
Simple melted cheese and corn chip nachos
Hummus dip with vegies
Pasta salad with chicken or tuna
Corn tortilla roll ups (meat, veg + something wet – GF ranch dressing, hummus)
Kabobs – meat and fruit

Our approach toward many of the food challenges we are facing is to try to keep an open mind.  My son may have tried something before and not really liked it, but he needs to check it out again.  I tell him this is just a good idea anyway…because tastes change.  Like the way he loves mushrooms now.  Hated ‘em when he was younger.

We’re also having conversations about what works and what doesn’t in his lunch. I have always suggested that he bring home (rather than throwing it away) anything he doesn’t like at lunch.  It’s the best feedback I can get. And I keep reminding him that there are also different brands of GF products.  If something doesn’t work, we’ll keep trying until we find a good one.

I look forward to sharing more of what works and how inventive we get.  With five school lunches a week, we’ve got to get this nailed…and fast.  Otherwise, Mom will go crazy.

Fumbling Mom Product of the Day:  See’s Candy

What makes a 12 year old feel more normal than chocolate?? When I checked with See’s, they told me they’d gone gluten free in 2009.  What a pleasant surprise.  The only exception to GF is some of the decorations on their seasonal candies, so remember: Read the labels and ask questions!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Good news!

What a crazy week…but good.  We heard back on the MRI and my son’s brain looks fine.  Turns out they could see a sinus infection that is the likely cause of his headaches.  We will start a regimen of antibiotics for the infection, since we all suspect it’s an infection he didn’t conquer 5 months ago.  It’s strange to realize we are fighting on two fronts.  The first front is the celiac issue and the second is the headaches.  We assumed they were connected, but imagine my relief to find that simple antibiotics might take care of one of our problem.  If only celiac were as easy!
So, my kid is reporting that his stomach is feeling better.  He reports a 2 out of 10 for discomfort level.  It’s been two months since he’s felt this well stomach-wise, so I am quietly celebrating.  His baby steps with the new GF diet, only two weeks strong, might be making progress.  While I still lack the confidence that we are as perfect as we need to be on the diet, we are certainly trying.
One saboteur – chewing gum.  In middle school, it’s a big deal to share pieces of gum with friends.  There are so many question marks with this product and there are so many questionable sources for different types of gum! Even after talking with a representative with such a respected and hopefully reliable source as Wrigley’s, I am not totally confident about their product based on the answer I received by telephone.  They say they have no gluten containing ingredients in their product.  Why not say “gluten free”?  Makes me wonder about the manufacturing environment and cross contamination again.  There’s a lot of info on  about gum so I am hoping that we can count on the collective knowledge along with a call to the manufacturer to be sure we get things right.  I am telling my son how important it is not to undermine his herculean efforts on diet by accepting unknown candies and gums from friends at school.  It’s pretty hard to believe I am saying things like this to him, but I need him to understand the choices he has to face going forward.
Another good news note, we had a great GF pasta dish tonight, so I thought we’d share the product and a little recipe.  Since we’re newbies, I welcome feedback if you see any problems below.  We’ve mostly been eating simple things, but we were all getting hungry for some pasta.
Recipe: Sausage Noodle Bake
One jar of Classico Pasta GF sauce (your choice of flavor)
12 oz. package of Bionature rigatoni GF pasta  (surprisingly good!) Fumbling Mom Product of the Day
One onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Jennie O Italian sausages, casings removed, chopped (used a mix of sweet and hot sausage)
1 c. sliced mushrooms, sautéed and deglazed with wine or sherry.
1 c. tomato sauce
½ c. mascarpone cheese
2 oz. Gallo salami chopped.
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut to large bite size
2 oz. grated mozzarella
¼ c. parmesan
Dried or fresh basil, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.  While pasta cooks, sauté mushrooms in a splash of olive oil until browned.  Remove with slotted spoon to a large stainless bowl. (You will use this bowl for mixing all the ingredients later.)  Add a bit more olive oil and saute Italian sausage until browned. Remove from pan with slotted spoon (I put it on paper towels to absorb excess fat).
Pour off excess fat from the sauté pan.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil and sauté onions until golden.  Add garlic. Deglaze pan with just enough broth, wine or water to get up the brown bits and flavor from the sausage and mushrooms. Add in the tomato sauce and Classico.  Simmer for 10 minutes.
Combine pasta with mushrooms, sausage, salami and fresh mozzarella.  Stir mascarpone into sauce until blended.  Mix with pasta.  Turn into baking dish, top with grated mozzarella and parmesan. Sprinkle with basil and bake covered for 20 - 30 minutes at 350 degrees until bubbly, taking the cover off for the last five minutes to melt and brown the cheese.  Yummy!