Rebecca's Gluten Free Blog

Gluten Free in the Upper Midwest

Getting Started: Beauty Products November 29, 2009

Filed under: Getting Started/ General Info — rebeccagf @ 12:26 pm

Gluten can also be found in hair products, lotions, make-up etc. gluten-free ingredients for beauty products can have different names than food items’ trouble ingredients that we all have to learn for label-reading. I still read ingredient labels to the extent that I don’t see anything that I know is harmful before purchasing something, but it can be confusing when there are additional harmful ingredients not found in food items.

it’s also helpful if you can find a company who labels other allergens, because that adds another layer of certainty that they probably identify the top eight allergens. for instance, if a product warns at the end of an ingredient list that it contains soy, and you can’t find any gluten-containing ingredients as you read through them, it likely doesn’t contain gluten or they probably would’ve specified. again, to be sure you can always call. I’ve seen Aveda products list wheat or barley in parenthesis after an ingredient that’s made from it, so I feel fairly confident that if they didn’t label anything as wheat, barley, or oats, that it’s probably ok. and as always, if you call their hotline, you can be sure.

some people pay attention to beauty products more than others. some people are really sensitive and their skin would breakout or burn with the wrong products. mine doesn’t generally, but just to be sure that it isn’t harming me, I choose to take the conservative route.

with shampoos and conditioners, I usually stick to the most natural brands (like those found at Whole Foods or co-ops), not only because it’s easier to spot gluten-based ingredients, but also because they’re more natural and don’t have other harmful chemicals.

lotions can also be tricky. again, I stick with the more natural brands on these. one of my favorites is Desert Essence. they don’t feel all oily and sticky, and they smell so delicious. there’s a Pumpkin Hand Repair Cream that I’ve gotten lots of people hooked on. again, I’ve seen this brand at Whole Foods and several co-ops. their website actually has a lot more products than just lotion~ shampoos, cleansers, lip balms, etc. I wrote the company, and they said that all of their products are gluten-free. however, only their Desert Essence Organics line actually labels its products as gluten-free, because those are the only products made in a dedicated GF facility.

here are some helpful links to gluten-free cosmetics and beauty products:

Burt’s Bees

some people find out that their chapsticks, lip balms, or lipstick contain gluten when their lips start to burn when they put it on, so watch out for that.

Avon‘s gluten-free products (updated July 2008): .

Neutrogena‘s gluten-free products (updated July 2005):

when I made the transition of going through my beauty products post-diagnosis, I first went through what I already owned. first I’d read through for obvious allergens. and then whenever possible, I’d search for my products I already owned pre-celiac diagnosis at a store and read the ingredients there, since I’d long thrown away the containers that mine came in. to be conservative, you should start fresh or consult either the company, their website, or the last updated list (in that order of importance) of the products you already own.

for further help, I believe that the product guide on the CSA’s website (Celiac Sprue Association) lists a lot of these non-food products that are gluten-free. it can be very helpful, especially to start.


Gluten Free Thanksgiving November 25, 2009

I find Thanksgiving to be a relatively easy holiday to do gluten-free, since the foods are pretty basic in general.

turkeys are the staple of the holiday, and you should make sure that the turkey you choose is gluten-free, and there are many to choose from. the following list pertains only to whole turkeys. Jennie-O lists both their Premium-Basted Young Turkey and Fresh Young Turkeys to be gluten-free. however, the gravy packets DO have gluten in them, so do not use those. Honeysuckle White is a Cargill brand, and they list their All Natural Whole Turkey, Extra Tender and Juicy Young Turkey, Frozen Whole Turkey, Oven Roasted Whole Turkey, Hickory Smoked Whole Turkey, and the Deep Fried Cajun-Style Whole Turkey are all gluten-free (again, throw out any gravy packets that it comes with). Butterball turkeys list would list “wheat” on the ingredients list, but not gluten, so you may want to contact the company first. but oddly enough, while some of their accompanying gravy packets do contain wheat, they have some out there that are gluten-free! be sure to check which one you have before using it though. Shelton’s turkeys are free-range, antibiotic-free, and gluten-free. all of Pilgrim’s Pride and Perdue brand turkeys are also gluten-free. Empire Kosher whole frozen turkeys are also gluten-free. ***whatever turkey you choose, do not cook them in those bags that speed up cooking time! they usually contain gluten.

vegetables (mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, etc) are pretty easy~ any plain veggies steamed, baked, or grilled are fine to eat. all fresh cranberries are naturally GF. if you use cream corn, make sure you know if it’s gluten free or not, because I’ve food that most store brands use a modified starch. HyVee is GF, as are Del Monte‘s and Walmart’s Great Value brands. otherwise just stick with regular corn. for mashed potatoes, if you use something other than plain butter, make sure that it’s GF of course.

as far as the gravy is concerned, corn starch is a great substitute for wheat flour. any GF flour or starch can probably be used effectively though. if you use broth as a base, make sure that’s gluten-free. Whole Foods and Trader Joes brands have good labels to see whter they’re GF. Walmart’s Great Value brand of chicken and beef broth (in boxes ONLY, not the cans) are both gluten-free as well. many of the Pacific Natural Foods, Imagine, and Health Valley broths are gluten free. all of Swanson’s Natural Goodness 33% Less Sodium broths are GF, as is their vegetable broth (in the 14oz can ONLY). a grocery guide would also be helpful in the search.

another major concern is the stuffing. if you’re lucky and have a small family, maybe it’ll be feasible to do all the stuffing gluten-free. but if not, make sure they don’t put the regular stuffing inside the turkey!! you can get gluten-free stuffing cubes from Cooqi Bakery, who now does them in bulk so you can buy the exact amounts you’d like. they have about 5 types of stuffing, including an egg-free sourdough option. Bittersweet Bakery sells stuffing cubs in lots of 4 cups. you could also just dry out and cut up any gluten free bread, whether bought or homemade.

one of the best parts of Thanksgiving is the pumpkin pie. most pumpkin pie recipes (for the pie filling itself) are GF, if not they’re easily substitutable with GF ingredients. you can buy gluten-free pie crusts, pre-made or from a box mixture. you could also try and make your own with a GF pie recipe. if you want to make it as easy as possible, you could always crush some GF cookies, and mash some butter into it and spread that around the pan, and use that as a crust. Bittersweet Bakery sells pie crusts, and fresh pumpkin pies, and pecan pies (order ahead).  I believe Cooqi has pumpkin pie-making kits. with them, it’s always wise to reserve your items ahead to make sure it’s still available when you arrive.

if you’re going to someone else’s house, unless you know them well enough to know they can make your meal GF, it may be easiest to volunteer to bring some of the items yourself, so you know you can eat them. or just pack a meal (or part of it) for yourself.

one last thing to consider is that if you’re at a table where not everything is GF, you may want to make your plate first, and then keep some of the extra food in the kitchen. otherwise, people pass the dishes and serving spoons may touch the gluten on people’s plates, which can then transfer to yours. be careful of cross-contamination!


Wildfire Restaurant November 23, 2009

Wildfire restaurant is located in Eden Prairie, and also has several locations in Illinois. they’re a “steak, chop, seafood” restaurant. it has an old Hollywood vibe, and the smells as you walk by the restaurant are amazing.

what’s even more amazing is their attention to gluten allergies/ celiacs. they have a special gluten-free menu with many options. they have gluten-free bread, so while you wait for your dinner and watch everyone else eat the onion loaf, you can have some of your own! they usually warm it up, so it seems like it’s right out of the oven. if they don’t bring you any, just request it.

the salads are big portions~ to be split with others. there are plenty of steak, chicken, pork, and seafood options available for dinner. and one of the best surprises is that they have burgers with gluten-free buns!!! such a treat! although the last time I was there, they’d switched ketchup brands and the new one may have had gluten in it, so you may want to call ahead or bring your own, just in case. also, they don’t have dedicated fryers, so you’ll have to substitute something else for the fries. for dessert, I think there are at least two options that are gluten-free as well. yum!

some of the menu items can be pricey, but there are some cheaper options (such as the burgers, or if you had a salad as an entrée), and the lunch menu is quite reasonable as well.

beyond just a great menu, they take special precautions there, that always make me feel safe. they have big allergy alerts on the ticket, and I was told that they even prepare it in a separate side of the kitchen. they’ve also done special gluten-free events, like a price (prix) fixe menu of 3-4 courses and wine pairings. they really care about the celiac crowd.

since it’s such great food, it’s a very popular restaurant (for everyone). so if you plan to go on a weekend, I highly suggest making reservations, at least a couple days in advance. the reservations can go quickly.


Getting Started: Medications November 21, 2009

Filed under: Getting Started/ General Info — rebeccagf @ 6:13 pm

there is so much to learn when one is suddenly thrown into a gluten-free diet. you need to figure out what you can eat, but with no advance warning. learning what’s what has such a huge learning curve that it can take months until you feel somewhat like you know what’s going on. once you figure out what foods you can eat, there are other items to consider.

to start with, it’s a good idea to check all of the medications you’re taking. if they are prescription drugs, ask the pharmacist to call the manufacturer to see if the pills are gluten-free. you don’t want to accidentally be taking small amounts of gluten in your pills unknowingly. the drug companies generally won’t speak with you directly, so you do need to have the pharmacists call. I don’t pick up any meds until everything has been verified. and once we confirm that they are gluten-free, each time I get a refill I request that I have the same manufacturer. (you may want to open the bottle and look at the pills before leaving with them, to make sure they are the same as what you’d had before, which is a good idea for everyone, really.)

for over-the-counter meds, there are various sources online that you can reference. you must be careful, because manufacturers can change their formulas at any time. that’s why support groups, gluten-free publications, and blogs are helpful. I’m not sure how often it’s updated, but here a link to several lists online: I don’t use it that often, so please judge the reliability for yourself, and if it’s something that you take regularly, it’s always a good idea to call the company (for over-the counter things) and ask about gluten. places like GNC will list it on their brand’s containers if it contains gluten, dairy, and other allergens, so I like using them when possible.

I know it can be overwhelming at first to completely overhaul your diet and start it while you’re still trying to figure it out, so you may want to get the basics of food down first, but checking your medications is an important next step.


Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook November 20, 2009

Filed under: Cooking & Baking — rebeccagf @ 10:45 am
Tags: ,

this is one of the best cookbooks I own (and I have tons of them!) it’s full of whole-grain nutrition, antioxidants, and other natural foods that are often ignored. it’s not specifically gluten-free, but most of the recipes are both gluten-free and allergen-free.

the beginning of the book starts with lots of information. there’s information on some of the most common allergens, and symptoms of each. it gives explanations of different organic labels, and what each means, as well as which fruits and vegetables are the most important ones to buy organic. then it goes in depth about different ingredients~ what they are and how to use them,  from natural sweeteners, to different flours, beans, seaweeds, and much more.

the recipes themselves can be normal-sized recipes with several ingredients, or some are basic~ like how to make basic breakfast cereals from different GF grains or how to make rice or almond milk quickly.

the green smoothies are something that I do regularly~ blending up greens such as kale and spinach with a small fruit (for sweetness) and water, with different variations. there are 3 green smoothie recipes, and each recipe explains what it’s useful for. these smoothies are particularly helpful for people fighting diseases, newly diagnosed celiacs who need healing, cancer patients, etc. they pump you full of nutrients.

also, sporadically throughout the sections they have helpful information, such as how to soak beans, how long each type of bean needs to be cooked, how to store produce, etc.

towards the end of the book, they have some charts of how to substitute for various allergens in recipes. this is followed by the elimination diet (a 28-day diet to determine if you had any food allergies or sensitivities that you never realized).

and then one of the best items, in my opinion, is that is has an allergy introduction guide for children, which is particularly important if allergies run in the family. it goes through different stages of what solid foods can be introduced and when, starting from birth through age 2.

I confess that I don’t use this cookbook often enough, but I do make use of the green smoothies fairly regularly. also, it has such good information that it’s great for reference~I’ve tried to incorporate some of the seaweeds into my diet, and plan to add beans and legumes more. anyone with allergies, people who are immuno-suppressed, and anyone interested in living a lifestyle packed with nutrition should get this book.

the authors are Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre, MS, CN

note: I have a link to their related website under the “recipes” section~ you can see some examples of the foods and recipes used (including one of the green smoothies!)


Five Guys Burgers & Fries November 19, 2009

I recently went to Five Guys Burgers and Fries in St Cloud. it was so exciting! first of all, as you walk in, there are boxes of peanuts in the shell and cardboard holders, so you can grab what you’d like to snack on as you wait for your food.

then for the burgers, the buns are grilled on a completely separate grill from the burgers. and it appears from the website that the only gluten there is in the restaurant is the buns, although I plan to call the corporate office and verify that for sure. so I believe that all the ingredients are fair game, and they have a huge list to choose from, and I don’t think they charge extra for any of them (unless you get a bacon burger).

the burgers tasted great too! it was two thin patties, but super juicy. they reminded me of when I used to eat Culvers’ butterburgers. maybe the fact that I had pickles on my burger, just like I did at Culvers made me think of them, I don’t know. but they were unbelievably tasty, and I didn’t even notice the lack of bun.

the only thing they fry there are fresh-cut potatoes in peanut oil. there was a seasoning, which I skipped just in case, and I think there was even a separate fryer to make unseasoned fries. they tasted just like MN state fair fries~ really good! the large size is good enough for about 3 people, it was really big, especially since we’d already filled up on peanuts 🙂

all in all, it’s my new favorite burger joint! (and budget-friendly!) there are few places where we can get fries (in dedicated fryers) with our burgers, and they usually seem so plain without buns, but I didn’t feel like anything was lacking at my Five Guys meal. I highly recommend it.

Five Guys Burger and Fries locations in Minnesota include St Cloud, Duluth, and the Minneapolis/ St Paul metro (Maple Grove and Edina). locations in Wisconsin are in the  Green Bay, Madison, and Milwaukee areas.


Pizza! November 17, 2009

ahhh, pizza~ a favorite for kids and adults alike. thankfully, there seem to be more and more pizza restaurants across the metro that are offering gluten free pizzas. however, for those on a casein-free diet as well, it can pose additional problems. Pizza Luce offers a solution to the GFCF diet~ it has a vegan soy cheese. and boy is the pizza good! they offer it only in the St Paul and Minneapolis locations as of now, but they seem to slowly add more locations over time. they now offer their gluten free menu 7 days a week! (previously just Tues and Weds). and if you can tolerate dairy, they have an extensive menu full of GF options.

Galactic Pizza in Uptown also offers a vegan soy cheese, however, they don’t quite have the same delectable choice of seasonings as Pizza Luce. but the price is a bit more reasonable, so that’s a bonus.

Z Pizza in Roseville also offers a soy cheese, but I believe there is casein in it. they have lots of creative pizzas, and is a national chain.

other pizza places in the region are Godfathers Pizza in Brooklyn Park, which is very proud of their efforts to abate cross-contamination, and I believe the locations in Burnsville, St Cloud, Rochester, and Zimmerman also do GF pizzas. Park Tavern in St Louis Park also offers GF pizzas (including a taco pizza!), plus it’s part of a bowling alley, so it’s perfect for parties. Biaggi’s (in Maple Grove and Eden Prairie) not only has GF pizzas, but pasta with a plethora of sauces and many other dinner options. Roulette’s Pizza is located in Victoria, and I believe they have a yeast-free (and gluten-free) crust.

other pizzerias include Pizza Flame in Coon Rapids, the classic Red’s Savoy Pizza in Coon Rapids and Hugo, Zebra Pizza in Ramsey, Fresh Picked Pizza in Shoreview, Donatelli’s in White Bear Lake, Leonardo’s pizzeria in Mahtomedi, Ronnally’s Pizza in Woodbury, Bella Pizza has locations in both Cottage Grove and Inver Grove Heights, and Eden Pizza is in St Paul. again, many of these places have options other than pizza as well.

both Cooqi and Bittersweet bakeries offer GF pizza crusts, many of which are used in the restaurants across town. note that Cooqi’s are vegan (casein-free), and Bittersweet does take-n-bake.