Rebecca's Gluten Free Blog

Gluten Free in the Upper Midwest

General Mills: New Gluten-Free Products April 30, 2010

more gluten-free options are on their way!! as you may have already heard, General Mills will be rolling out some new gluten-free products at the annual CDF conference in Los Angeles on May 15th, 2010, which will be available in stores later this year.

first, they’ve made 3 varieties of gluten-free Hamburger Helper, which will be available mid-July. the three flavors are chicken fried rice, beef fried rice, and cheesy hashbrowns.

they’ve also developed a gluten-free Bisquick, for pancakes and baking. this will be available in stores in the fall.

just make sure you check each box you buy to make sure it’s labeled gluten-free…

thanks to General Mills, for continuing to expand their gluten-free product line~ especially since they’re almost as widely available as their regular (gluten-containing) counter-parts! it’s great to have our diet/lifestyle become more “normalized” through mainstream companies, which also helps to bring costs down. I’m sure that newly diagnosed celiacs, those with busy schedules, as well as those away from home, will find the convenience of these products to be especially helpful!

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Gluten Free Dining while Traveling April 27, 2010

continuing on with the travel theme (as summer is fast approaching), there are several ways to learn about celiac-friendly restaurants before traveling.

the first thing I do when I plan a trip, is go online and look up any local celiac groups at my destination. hopefully they’ll have a website, because celiac groups’ websites virtually always include links to various restaurants that have gluten-free options. oftentimes they always write a little tidbit of what exactly each restaurant offers for us, which can be very helpful. (local blogs such as this can be useful to search for as well.)

if there is no website, there’s usually a local CDF (Celiac Disease Foundation) or GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group) chapter, with an email address for a contact person listed. in such cases, I email the person and let them know my situation and ask if they have any suggestions for celiac-friendly restaurants.

there are also websites that contain info, state-by-state, on gluten-free restaurants. one of my favorites is the Gluten Free Registry. besides listing each restaurant by state, you can also choose one particular city if you prefer to focus on just one area. also, they list not only gluten-free restaurants, but also grocers, bakeries, vacation destinations, etc that offer either a special gluten-free menu or specialty GF items. they also offer GPS programs that you can download, again by state. this can be very helpful on road trips!

another travel website for restaurants is the Gluten Free Travel Site. they’re worldwide, and have more extensive reviews of the restaurants, rather than just a website and address. I find this site to be a little less useful, as it can be difficult to look for a particular city. also, multiple reviews of the same place aren’t consolidated into one listing. that being said, I still check it before trips in case of any hot tips. and it’s definitely geared more towards travelers, so the detailed information in the reviews can be very useful. and because their scope is worldwide, it’s possible to find restaurants when traveling abroad.

Gluten-Free On the Go is a UK-based website that lists various celiac-friendly restaurants. again, the organization of this doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. but it lists a ton of restaurants in the UK, Europe, Australia and elsewhere worldwide. so it’s a great source for travel abroad. they also have a tab that lists celiac contacts in many countries, for additional information before traveling.

an update from a comment below, is that there is one main site in Camada that is well-monitored, called The Celiac Scene. so if you are in Canada or plan to travel there, be sure to check out this website.

Allergy Eats website is one that I haven’t used much, but I know that they account for other allergens as well when making restaurant recommendations. it’s worth checking out if you have multiple allergies.

then there are several types of books that can be helpful. some books list restaurants with gluten-free options available~ Triumph Dining is a prime example of this. they list the restaurants by state, and they sort it further by metro area for big cities.

Let’s Eat Out travel books are very useful. for international travel, they have a list of basic terminology for each of the main allergens, translated into 5 languages. they also list 7 different ethnic cuisines (whether you’re eating them in the USA or abroad), and what ingredients are generally safe (gluten- or allergen-free) or potentially dangerous (gluten- or other allergen-containing).

something else that can be useful for travel, as you may not always be able to find a restaurant that’ll be knowledgeable about gluten-free meals, are dining cards. gluten-free dining cards can be found online for free, and area also available for purchase from many companies. some of the better ones are available from Triumph Dining. their dining cards are available in ten languages (english on one side, the other language’s translation on the other), and are tailored to each cuisine.

in order to make these sources more useful, if you find that a website or restaurant guide is missing a restaurant that you know to be celiac-friendly or have a gluten-free menu, it’s great to be proactive and let them know. their websites have areas to suggest new businesses or write new reviews. and just because they’re travel websites doesn’t mean that you can’t update your hometown area. it benefits everyone if you share your discoveries.

traveling gluten-free can be a little more challenging. but with all of these resources available (and many of them for free), it makes the whole process easier. less time worrying means more time relaxing, so do your research ahead of time so that you can enjoy yourself during your trip! happy travels!

 

Healthy Gluten-Free Travel Snacks April 22, 2010

whether you’re going on vacation or just to the mall, as a celiac, it’s always good to bring a snack just in case!

some of my favorite portable snacks come from Trader Joes. they carry a wide variety of nuts. a big bag of any type is a good thing to bring on a vacation, but they also carry “just a handful” packs. these are a bag of about a dozen single-serve nut packets. I carry one of these in my purse at all times.

Trader Joes also has kettle corn in single-serving packets that I know are quite popular. they’re a little bulkier for airline travel, but perfect for a movie, a party, or a sporting event.

Lara Bars are nutritious and tasty~ they’re raw food bars consisting of fruit and nuts. the “pecan pie” flavor is my favorite. these are available at Trader Joes, Whole Foods, most co-ops, and I’m sure other places as well.

another type of bar that easy to pack, and is filled with protein are Enjoy Life’s Sunbutter Bars. this is especially good for trips when you don’t know when you’ll get your first meal after arriving, because with more protein comes a little more substance than other snacks. Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) is a good alternative for peanut butter, for those with peanut allergies.

then there are Envirokidz bars~ chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate AND peanut butter, and fruit-flavored crispy rice bars, targeted at children. these also pack well, though less nutritious, and are available at Whole Foods and co-ops.

another good snack for kids are Yummy Earth Gummy Bears, which are available in small packets. they’re organic and all natural, so a healthier option than their more sugary counterparts.

I usually keep a box of Mary’s Gone Crackers in my car, in case I ever need some food when I’m out and about. they’re nice and compact, and the small box keeps them from getting crushed fairly well.

and if you’re traveling and find yourself without any snacks, just look for fruit. oftentimes coffee shops and gas stations (and hotels) carry some sort of fresh fruit, and this is obviously one of the more nutritious options.

a less healthy option, but more ubiquitous, are vending machines.  standard vending machines carry candy bars that are gluten-free, like Snickers, plain or peanut M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, etc. and if you also have dairy allergies, there are usually plain potato chips available.

some places are beginning to carry healthy vending machines now, which are often filled with gluten-free snacks, like Envirokidz bars or Lara Bars. some shopping centers in the metro have begun carrying these, for instance, so keep your eyes peeled for these. I’ve heard that Eden Prairie Center carries one such vending machine near the children’s playground area.

there are new gluten-free products available all the time, so I know there are plenty more good options for travel snacks. these are just a handful of ideas that I find helpful.

 

Pizza Luce: new gluten-free locations April 19, 2010

two pieces of news in one day~ at least this one’s good news…

Pizza Luce now offers their gluten-free menu at ALL of their Twin Cities locations!!

 

Cooqi Bakery: Closing Shop

sad news today in the gluten-free realm of the Twin Cities! Cooqi just announced that they’re closing on April 30, 2010. so head there in the next couple of weeks if you’d like to stock up on any last-minute baked goods.

the only good news is that they’ll still be offering mixes of their most popular items, to be sold in stores and co-ops across the metro, in the near future.

also, they will post videos on their website of how to make their items step-by-step, to obtain bakery-quality results.

As for the countless pizza places across the metro that make their gluten-free pizzas with Cooqi’s gluten-free and vegan crusts…   I believe they’re working with Madwoman Foods to continue making these pizza crusts without interruption.

Cooqi will be missed greatly!

 

Passover Food is my new Favorite Thing April 15, 2010

I’m not Jewish. however, I’ve recently discovered that some of our dietary habits are aligned.

I’ve long trusted kosher products over others. while gluten and dairy can be found in kosher foods, I understand that they have pretty strict rules against certain forms of cross-contamination, and therefore generally trust their manufacturing processes more. also, I’ve generally found that kosher foods are more pure and have less fillers, which I try to avoid when possible. again, I’m no expert in the matter, so please forgive me if I get any of my Jewish facts wrong.

now as for Passover… I recently visited a nearby Jewish deli, as I heard that they carry Katz’s gluten free breads and treats. (I’ve tried samples, and they were really good!) I was curious if they had a lot of other gluten-free food. it happened to be just after Passover, so they had a lot of the special Passover products still available.

the owner explained to me that there are a couple of groups with different views of how to observe Passover~ and one of those groups doesn’t eat anything with gluten in it. apparently all of the main gluten-containing grains may inadvertently become moistened after harvest, and begin to ferment, which is part of the leavening process that they adamantly try to avoid. just make sure to continue reading labels, to make sure that the food you select is, in fact, gluten-free.

so as I got the tour through the store, I found some great specialty Passover foods~ like gluten-free egg noodles, which I’m thrilled to be able to use in soups. they also had gluten (and dairy-free) desserts, like pies, cakes, etc. they also had some entrees, like eggplant parmesan. and because they were all made especially for Passover, they were gluten free!

I heard long ago that if you have corn allergies, Passover is a great time to buy your powdered sugar, in order to get it corn-free. I’m not sure whether that’s true or not. but it’s worth looking into, for anyone with corn allergies.

anyway, this post comes a little too late to find the broad assortment of gluten-free Passover foods that are available beforehand. however, it does come in time to find some great deals on those foods leftover from the Passover season! there is a local Jewish deli in St Louis Park, Fishman’s Kosher Deli. several of the local grocery stores have large kosher sections that may also have such foods, like Byerly’s in St Louis Park, among others. and of course, there are many, many places online that you can order from. there’s still time to check it out this year!

I love it when I find other groups of people whose dietary interests are aligned. it helps us understand each other just a little more. (knowing how difficult it is to go gluten-free, I’m impressed that the Jewish people give it up around this time every year!) and it can benefit everyone involved when we discover these symbiotic relationships. another example of this are those with casein/ dairy allergies and vegans.

anyway, I was delighted to find that such great gluten-free products are available for Passover, and am excited to check it out more thoroughly next year!

 

GIG Annual Conference: June 4-5 in Bloomington, MN April 12, 2010

the Gluten Intolerance Group will be having their annual conference in the Twin Cities this year! the theme will be “Savor the Flavor of a Healthy Gluten Free Life”, and it’ll be held at the Minneapolis Airport Marriott (across from the Mall of America).

on Thursday, June 3rd, they’ll have a leadership training day for GIG leaders. and June 4th-5th will be open to the public for registration. you can sign up for just one day or both, whatever you prefer. early registration discounts will be available through May 6th.

the conference schedule is online, and the seminars look really interesting! the conference begins on Friday as a large group session with the latest research from Dr Joseph Murray of the Mayo Clinic. through the rest of that day, they have a couple of tracks that you can choose from~ the Beginner Track includes topics like emergency preparedness, exercise, movement, and eating to banish belly fat, Asian appetizers, and starting GF life. the Veteran Track has topics such as using whole grains to their fullest, including aspects of a Mediterranean diet, and controlling metabolic syndrome.

on Saturday, they have it set up so that there’s a General Program, again with the Beginner and Veteran tracks, and with topics such as label reading and nutrition recommendations, how gluten affects neurotransmitters, depression, & anxiety, a couple of baking class options, traveling gluten-free, dining smart, bone health, etc. lots to choose from!

and then they have an interesting program for parents on Saturday. it begins with a teen cook-off, and then has several different classes regarding how to be an advocate for or talk to your kids about allergies. there will also be a panel of teens with celiac disease, for parents to ask questions of them, which sounds like a great idea!

Saturday ends with an evening banquet (gluten free, of course), but you may have to register separately for this. I believe they will accommodate dairy allergies as well, but not much beyond that for other special dietary concerns.

both days include large group activities, such as morning exercises, exhibits, and gluten-free breakfast and lunch (which I believe are included).

if you choose not to register and attend the conference, the exhibits are open to the public at specified times, so you should still check out the schedule and see if you can make it there for the free exhibits. I’m sure there will be lots of new products and companies there to check out!

try and make the most of it, because it’s not every day that we get to host a national celiac conference!