Sunday, January 31, 2010

For the love of Sushi - Sushi Para II

We took my old friend Mike to our favorite All-You-Can-Eat Sushi at Sushi Para II last night for dinner. Knowing the place gets busy around dinnertime, we tried to beat the crowd and arrived at 6:00pm. Though there were several tables open, we were told the wait would be 20 minutes. 5 minutes later, they sat us at a table that once bore a "Reserved" sign. On our previous visit here, we waited over an hour on a Friday night.

Sushi Para II offers all you can eat appetizers, maki rolls and nigri for $18.99. This is up from the $16.99 at the end of last year. Still a great deal for very fresh sushi. Plus, it's BYOB with no corkage fee.

While the service leaves something to be desired, we keep coming back for the love of sushi. Michigan Roll, Mountain Roll, Spicy Salmon Roll, Spider Roll... Salmon, Tuna, White Tuna nigri...edamame, shumai... and the best part is watching "The Twins" make the rolls fast and furious. "The Twins" are the sushi chefs. They are two very tall Asian guys who used to have the same haircut (one has a buzz-cut now). It's easy to mistake the similar looking pair as twins by someone who is not of Asian decent (aka Ernie). It's now just become a running joke.

There seems to be no method to the seating, other than they tell you there's a wait. At times, we have been passed over for seats by people who arrived after us. The servers are not the most friendly people either. Once I even tried thanking a server in Chinese because I heard them all speaking Mandarin. Still no change in attitude. She didn't even acknowledge me.

We only put up with the terrible service and long waits because the sushi is so good and so cheap. If they raise prices anymore, I may just find a new place.

Sushi Para II
2256 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-3853
(773) 477-3219

M. Henry

This morning I met Christina, a former co-worker, for brunch at a lovely place in Andersonville. M Henry was packed when we arrived at 10am. Clearly young families with kids are early birds and must eat brunch early! I put my name on the list and waited by the most incredible looking display of bakery treats from muffins to scones other beautifully frosted baked goods. The wait was about 30 minutes before we sat down in a quiet corner by the window - they separated the larger room using non-functional windows hanging from the ceiling with chains to suspend them right into the normal 'window-level'.

While most of the extremely delicious-looking dishes were made of some kinds of bread or wheat, there were several nice egg options for us gluten-avoiders. I had the Latina Omeletta (black beans, tomatoes, sour cream, Wisconsin sharp cheddar, green onions and cilantro topped with chipotle sauce and served with sweet plantains & house potatoes.) and at $8.95, you can't beat the price. The serving was a healthy portion so I still have half in my fridge for later.

The atmosphere was very 'Back Yard Garden Sunday Tea Party' with lots of light, families with young children, couples and friends catching up. The menu is full of delicious treats easily separated into 'sweet', 'savory' and 'eggs'. If you're keeping gluten-free, you better stick to the 'egg' options. Everything that came out of the kitchen looked like a piece of art and sooo delicious. The poached pear on top of the french toast had a delightfully friendly yet tasty look. The lemon crab & shrimp cake benedict caught my eye with an oh-la-la!

The bottom line, M Henry is the place to be. Get there before the crowd swells just before 10am.

M. Henry
5707 N Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60660

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gluten Free Flourless Cake (Serves 10-12)

Cake ingredients
5 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 tablespoons instant coffee, optional
Pinch of salt

Glaze ingredients (with 2 options)
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon brandy or bourbon, option #1
1 tablespoon instant coffee, optional #2

Cake preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a 10-inch spring form pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment or wax paper, then butter the paper. Set aside.
For the cake, melt the chocolates and butter together in a saucepan set over low heat, stirring to blend well. Set aside to cool.
Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff.
Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the yolks, and then fold in one third of the egg whites.
Fold in remaining whites until no streaks of white remain.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for 35–45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
The cake will rise a great deal during baking.
Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, and then remove sides of the pan.
Invert the cake onto a rack and remove the bottom, but do not remove the parchment.
Let cake cool completely; it will fall considerably.
Remove parchment before glazing.

Glaze preparation/glazing of cake
To make glaze, melt the chocolate and butter together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in the brandy.
Place the cake on a rack set over a sheet of wax paper.
Pour glaze over cake and spread lightly with a spatula, if necessary to coat evenly, allowing extra glaze to run down sides.
Serve small wedges and complement with a dab of whipped cream.

I haven't tried this recipe yet but my God-Brother Christopher forwarded me this link from Best of the Best Chicago Dining.

Prepping for CLEAN: Day -2 (with recipes)

Day: -2.
LBS to Goal: 3.8

Maybe it will be easier if I ease myself into the CLEAN program. I started off the morning with a mango, pineapple and berry smoothie at 6:45AM.

BREAKFAST: Pineapple, Mango, Berry Smoothie
1/2 cup cubed pineapple
1/4 cup cubed mango
1/4 cup blueberries and blackberries
1/4 cup of Almond Milk - add more for desired consistency
1/2 cup of Ice Cubes
1 Teaspoon of Agave Syrup

Blend until Smooth

The smoothie was great. Pretty much your average to better than average smoothie. I could probably drink this for awhile before tiring of it. The downside is the prep time. It took me about 30 minutes to cut up the pineapple and mango, then another 10 to clean up the mess. We made our smoothie with Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk. If we had made our own nut milk like the book suggests, there's no telling how long that would take.

It's only 10:15am and I'm already hungry. The first full week of CLEAN will be tough.

LUNCH: Cucumber Mint Soup
1 1/2 Cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1/2 Lemon, peeled
1/8 cup Pine Nuts
2 cups Water
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/8 cup Mint leaves

In a blender, mix cucumber, lemon, pine nuts, water, olive oil and sea salt for 3 minutes on high. Add mint leaves and blend for 15 more seconds. Serve Chilled. (Hold your nose and gulp it down.)

Not gonna lie. This soup is pretty gross. Chalice was right that the cold raw veggie soups are nasty. I only could get half into my body before it said "NO MORE." blech. It's now 5pm. I'm hungry but won't be eating til 7:30pm. I might try to choke down the rest of the soup to tide me over. It was runny, lemony, a hint of nuts and not so minty. Maybe you could reduce the water content. In any case, I'm not making this one again.

DINNER: Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction and Quinoa Salad

Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction:
The recipe suggests cooking the chicken with skin on, but we don't like the skin. This seemed to work just fine on boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well.

2 Chicken Breasts
2 Cloves garlic, sliced thinly length wise
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons minced rosemary
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

1. Heat oven to 425 oF
2. In a small saucepan reduce the balsamic vinegar by simmering and stirring occasionally until it becomes the consistency of a light syrup.
3. Add garlic and rosemary and simmer for 2 more minutes. Set aside. Be careful here to not over-cook. When you set the mixture aside, more water will evaporate making the mixture very thick. Plan ahead for this to happen and remove from heat when the mixture is the right consistency.
4. Brush chicken breasts with olive oil and salt
5. Place on a baking tray and roast in oven for 10 minutes (lay down foil on tray for easier clean-up)
6. Brush with generous amounts of balsamic mixture.
7. Turn oven down to 375 oF and roast for a further 10 min
8. Brush again with balsamic mixture and cook 2 more minutes
9. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, remove the skins and thinly slice.

Quinoa Salad
2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup chopped raw almonds
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup scallions, cut thinly diagonally
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup lime
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil

Put all ingredients in a bowl, and toss together. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Dinner was fantastic, especially the Quinoa! After being pretty hungry all day, this was a nice way to fill our tummies. During the actual CLEAN program, we will be eating the solid meal during lunch rather than dinner. I think if I had the Chicken and Quinoa for lunch, I wouldn't have been hungry all afternoon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Love Affair with Cupcakes

I used to LOVE Sprinkles Cupcakes!!! In 2007, I was visiting my brother in LA. It was just the two of us for Christmas so we went over to our second cousins' house. In effort to thank them for their hospitality, we went to get a dozen Sprinkles Cupcakes for dessert.

I made my brother take me to the original Beverly Hills Location where I fell in love with the soft red velvet cupcakes. The wait was OVER an HOUR long. So, I stood in line while my brother went to park. This was the most insane wait for cupcakes I had ever seen in my life. My brother parked, walked all the way over to the end of the line and decided he didn't want to wait in line. So he shimmied up to the front of the line, bought 18 cupcakes (6 for us to keep) and we walked out. Because the wait was so long, we were so late for dinner that we actually missed dinner all-together. So awkward.

Anyway, I tell you this story to highlight my love-affair with the red velvet cupcakes from Sprinkles. I've eaten quite a few Chicago cupcakes, but this takes the cake! The news broke today...


The best part is, they are opening in Chicago in March 2010. You better bet I'll be there right after my Clean program is over. If anyone wants to join me, comment on this post and I'll organize a group!
My love affair with Sprinkles Red Velvet can now continue for a lifetime...

Sprinkles Cupcakes
50 East Walton Street
Opening Mar 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Ernie and I decided we would dedicate February to the Clean Program. I heard about this program from my classmate, Matt, who had just started this program with his wife. Then, I read about it in a couple of January NY-Resolution magazines.

The premise of this program is that it enables your body to restore its natural ability to heal. I found this to be a fitting way to end my first year of 100% gluten free living. The program was developed by Dr. Junger whose book is available on So far, I find that the book is a helpful guide to starting the program. Rather than regurgitating what's in the book, I'll tell you the good, the bad and the ugly of this 3-week diet. Then, you can decide whether this diet is right for you.

I have a feeling this will be a very time-consuming and expensive diet. Today, I spent almost 2 hours in the store stocking up on the first week worth of food. My first stop was at Jewel where I was able to buy quite a bit of the foods needed for the diet. $163.71 later, I was off to Whole Foods to get the rest of the groceries.

Whole Foods has the random stuff I couldn't find at Jewel, including Organic Currants, Leafy Green Kale, and Raw Agave Syrup. I got caught up talking to Neal, who works at WF, about his own gluten allergy. It's funny how people come out of the woodwork with similar gluten allergies. I also learned his wife is Thai and we talked about my recent trip to Bangkok and Phuket. $18.24 later, I headed home.

Starting Feb 1, I'll post the following information along with a general synopsis of how I'm feeling.

Day: 0
Lbs til Goal: 5
Breakfast Meal: Liquid
Lunch Meal: Solid
Dinner Meal: Liquid
Grocery: $181.95
Thoughts/Feelings: This is going to be expensive... but I hope I have the tenacity to make it through the 3-weeks completely clean.

Gross Cracklebred. Don't waste your time.

I bought this gluten free cracklebred for New Year's Eve. They're made by Natural Nectar and boast "17 calories per slice" and "light & crispy texture" on the front of the box. In reality, these things are disgusting. I had 2 over our weekend new year's trip and they've sat in my cupboard until tonight when I tried to give them another shot.

The crackers have this weird cardboard taste worse than all the matzo that I could manage to consume back in the day when I grew up in a Jewish town. In fact, I actually used to like matzo especially matzo pizza, matzo with PB&J and matzo ball soup.

The "light & crispy" texture is in fact like puffed disgustingness. This is not worth your money. In fact, if the grocery store was giving out free samples, I wouldn't even take one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hands Down - Best GF Pizza at Aurelios

My co-worker's parents own a local franchise of Aurelios Pizza. One day, she came into work bearing gifts - a gluten free sausage pizza.

All I can say is YUM. I still crave them.

We proceeded to take the long journey over to La Grange the following Saturday night for dinner. Ernie's co-worker Peter joined us for the action.

I ordered a warm, scrumptious sausage and pepperoni pizza. The gluten free pizzas come only in personal size 8" squares so Ernie and Peter could eat their own delicious pizza.

The combination of the sweet corn-based crust and the slightly spicy tomato sauce was perfect. The crust was not exactly soft and doughy like normal pizza crust, but it was a nice translation of a gluten-based food into gluten-free. It still had a little flaky feel and wasn't gritty or crumbled like other gluten-free foods. Plus, you can get whatever toppings you want from a whole list of options!

Honestly, it was so good, I ordered four 'par-baked' personal pizzas to go. I froze them for when I wanted to fill my pizza appetite but didn't want to drive the hour to La Grange. A few minutes in the oven at 350 degrees and you're good to go! Just like in the restaurant.

Aurelios Pizza
11 Calendar Court
LaGrange, IL, 60525
phone 708.579.0900

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Love Chex Muddy Buddies

Muddy Buddies are so easy to make, and are a fantastic snack for road trips or for the 2:30pm snack to get you through the day. With Gluten-Free Corn and Rice Chex, you can have a crispy, chocolaty, peanut buttery, sugary snack that you'll adore!

I can't promise they are a low-cal option for those trying to lose weight. Especially because you'll crave more and more...

Muddy Buddy Chex

9 Cups Corn Chex or Rice Chex (Gluten-free!)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips - I use Tollhouse
1/2 cup peanut butter - I have to be honest, I haven't tried using organic PB yet
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Measure Chex into a large bowl and set aside

2. In a 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, PB and butter uncovered on High for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla.

3. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2 gallon resealable ziplock bag.

4. Add powdered sugar to the bag while the Chex is still warm. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. (it works on cookie sheets too).

5. Store in airtight container in refrigerator

If there's only one of you eating the snack (chances are slim that someone else won't want these tasty treats), I suggest cutting the recipe in half or even a quarter if necessary.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jane's Restaurant

Ernie and I met our friends Kelly, Dan and Steve for dinner before the Dexl brother's big birthday bash. We went to Jane's Restaurant which was right next to Cortland's Garage, the bar with the birthday boys.
The decor is adorable, especially the north room. The ambiance is very relaxed, romantic and cozy. Jane's menu changes seasonally, and this season's menu had several gluten-free options and even a dish for you Vegans out there. I opted for the Sirloin Burger smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and grilled onions with mashed potatoes, without the bun of course. The portion was very large and the mashed potatoes were whipped soft and not too buttery or garlicy. While not stated on the menu, the entree also comes with a nice greens salad with sliced plum tomatoes and a light balsamic vinegrette.

Ernie ate the Goat cheese stuffed chicken with mushroom pastina and marsala wine. The chicken was really tasty and cooked just right so the meat was extremely tender. If you order this entree, you'll have to get a replacement for the pastina since it's a wheat cous cous. I'm sure you can sub in the greens salad!

Either way, you can't go wrong at Jane's Restaurant!

1653-1655 W. Cortland Street
Chicago, IL 60622

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sausage Jalapeno Breakfast Skillet

Last night, we had a make-up class for Entr New Ventures. Normally class is on Monday but due to MLK day, it was rescheduled to yesterday. While Friday night classes can be tiring, yesterday was particularly challenging. I had an 8am call with Western Europe for work which meant that I needed to be in the office by 7:45am. Our Ad Agency kindly brought bagels and doughnuts.

Then a full day of meetings and off to a three hour class on a Friday night. It happened to be pizza party day. Pizza and beer delivered right to our classroom! Every quarter students look forward to free pizza in class, what could be better?!

Except when you have a gluten-allergy and your boyfriend is cooking dinner for you after class. So I sat in the aroma of pizza for a solid three hours with only a yogurt from the nearest 7-11 to tide me over.

Anyhow, moving on to more exciting things... Ernie made a Sausage and Jalapeno Breakfast Skillet for lunch!

Prep: 10 min
Cook: 15 min
2 Servings

3 Eggs, beaten
1/4 lb Italian Sausage, crumbled
1 Plum Tomato, cubed
1 Redskin Potato, cubed
1/2 Jalapeno Pepper, chopped
1/4 cup Red Onion, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Heat the skillet with butter - or olive oil for a healthier option.
2. Add Potato, mix and cook until almost soft. (7 min)
3. Add Italian Sausage. Cook until there's no more pink. (5 min)
4. Add Red Onion and Jalapeno Pepper. Cook until onion is soft. (2 min)
5. Add eggs and tomato. Cook until eggs are no longer runny. (2 min)
6. Salt & Pepper to taste

I done split my pants!

Clothes just aren't made how they used to be... Lately, I've noticed the quality of my apparel has significantly degraded over the years. I still wear cothes from 7th grade yet...

Exhibit A: Citizen Jeans. My every day wear, yet high-end priced jeans. The style I have are the Women's Basics, Kelly which are low-rise, bootcut. This morning as I was getting dressed, I went to reach for my favorite pair. Low and behold - a huge tear in the seat of the jeans! I wore them yesterday at work and I have no idea if it was noticable. Maybe the rip happened later? How trampy of me!

Exhibit B: The cardigan sweater I put on this morning. I went to button up and - the button was missing! Granted, the sweater is from Forever 21, not the best quality clothing, but still... the buttons should at least stay on when the rest of the sweater pills up or wears thin at the elbows.

Exhibit C: William Rast Jeans. These are no joke, ladies and gentlemen. The jeans retail for over $200. I loved the ultra low rise, straight leg style and Pony Blue wash. While I was in Thailand, they ripped at the knee which had very quickly worn thin over time. After all, I bought them less than a year ago. Ugh. They used to be my go-to weekend jeans. In the picture below, jumping off this ledge is what made the final rip in the knee.

Exibit D: BCBG Navy 3/4 Sleeve Trench. I bought this coat in Vegas on a work trip. It was a steal - Originally over $400, and I bought it for less than $100 at the encouragement of the sales team (of course). It made it through two fall seasons with no less than 4 buttons falling off. The latest culprit still sits on my counter waiting to rejoin his friends. Good thing I didn't pay $400 or I would really be peeved.

sigh. at least I have a big closet full of alternatives.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Throwing Out the Wheat

I found this article "Throwing out the Wheat" today via another discussion board on eating gluten-free. It was posted almost six months ago, though a lot of the discussion is still relevant today.

The article starts out engaging and I'm nodding my head "yes, yes, yes" at many of the author's points. However, as I continue on reading I become more and more annoyed, then completely angry at his nonchalance and downright digs towards people living a gluten-free lifestyle. Engber suggests that going gluten-free is a choice, like the Atkins diet. I hate that "The View" co-host Elizabeth Hasslebeck's book gets cited as a cause for turning a gluten-free diet into a 'fad.' AND that this 'fad" borders on an eating disorder.

"When a restrictive diet becomes an end in itself, we call it an eating disorder; when it's motivated by health concerns, we call it a lifestyle. That's why Hasselbeck says going G-free will make you slim (a sign of wellness) rather than skinny (a symptom of anorexia). It might also explain the relationship between food sensitivities and fad diets: People who are intolerant of gluten or lactose get a free pass for self-denial." says Engber. Who does Hasselbeck think she is?

The comment from "synthdementhe" on the article describes perfectly what I was thinking: "Elisabeth Hasselbeck's book has done more to damage public awareness about celiac disease than help it. Listening to her is like listening to Oprah--misguided and misinformed. Instead of unaffected people asking questions about the condition, they are starting to roll their eyes at it, as if it's some new form of political correctness."

This article is a small minded view of why people need to eat gluten-free. Trust me, if I could eat gluten products, I totally would. I miss doughnuts, bagels, pizza, and gnocchi especially. Just ask my boyfriend about my 'All I want is pizza' episode. I stood in not one, but TWO long lines at TWO separate pizza-by-the-slice joints, only to reach the second counter and cry out "I can't eat anything!" Then, I ran all the way home in a fit of depression. The anticipation of chewing on a warm, crusty slice of pizza was heightened by the sweet smells of it baking in the wood-fired oven... I was so depressed by the realization that I no longer fit into the 'mainstream'.

For the rest of my life, I will have to ask for exceptions. It still makes me choked up to think about making special food requests which often require more work for someone else to accommodate my needs. I do my best to not draw any attention to my dietary-restrictions and to prepare for situations where I can avoid asking for special treatment.

It's not as if I eat a bite of gluten and I automatically rush to the toilet with runs. I have so many other long-term issues that I want to avoid - like compartment syndrome, alarmingly high Heart Rates, joint pain, etc. (read my previous post "The Diagnosis".)

The author goes on to say that a gluten-free diet is "unnecessary" and "deprives you or your children of certain culinary pleasures" and "very annoying - to friends, lovers, work-buddies..." Well I'm sorry if I inconvenience you with my dietary restrictions. Should I say to all of my vegetarian Indian friends that they are annoying? Or to my kosher Jewish friends that they are annoying? Or to alcohol-avoiding Middle Eastern friends that they are annoying? Or to my cousin who is allergic to shellfish and peanuts that he is annoying? I think not.

If I annoy you because of my gluten-free lifestyle, then we probably shouldn't be friends anyway. Thankfully, I'm quite certain that I don't have any friends that view my gluten-allergy as a deal-breaker for our friendship. I actually think some pity the fact that I can't have all the tasty warm chocolate chip cookies I want.

Burger King posts gluten-free items

Burger King posts Gluten-Free Items

Burger King Corp. released a Gluten-Sensitive list—foods and ingredients on the Burger King menu in the U.S. that do not contain wheat, barley, oats, or rye.

The Gluten-Sensitive list is available online. Offerings include BK Fresh Apple Fries with low-fat caramel dipping sauce; all beef patties; Egg Omelet; French Fries; Hershey's Fat Free Milk; side salad without croutons with Ken's Honey Mustard, Light Italian, or Ranch dressing; and the Tendergrill Chicken Breast Filet.

"We understand that our guests have individual dietary needs, and as part of our Have It Your Way brand promise, Burger King Corp. offers menu items for individuals with gluten sensitivity," says Cindy Syracuse, senior director of cultural marketing for the restaurant chain.

Source: QSR Magazine Jan 05, 2010

Burger King Corp. Makes it Easier for Gluten-Sensitive Restaurant Guests to make Informed Nutrition Decisions

MIAMI – Jan. 5, 2010 – Burger King Corp. (NYSE: BKC) today released a Gluten-Sensitive List: foods and ingredients on the BURGER KING® restaurant menu in the U.S. that do not contain wheat, barley, oats or rye. As part of nutrition efforts under its BK Positive Steps® corporate social responsibility program, the gluten-sensitive nutrition information supports BKC's commitment to provide guests with access to detailed nutrition information so they can make informed choices that fit their dietary and lifestyle preferences.

"We understand that our guests have individual dietary needs, and as part of our HAVE IT YOUR WAY® brand promise, Burger King Corp. offers menu items for individuals with gluten sensitivity," says Cindy Syracuse, senior director, cultural marketing, Burger King Corp. "With our Gluten-Sensitive list, we're making it easier for our guests to identify these choices."

The Gluten-Sensitive List and other nutrition resources, including detailed nutrition facts, meal planning tools and information about allergens for all U.S. menu items, are available at Some examples of BURGER KING® menu items in the U.S. that do not contain wheat, barley, oats or rye include:

BK® Fresh Apple Fries with low-fat caramel dipping sauce
All BURGER KING® beef patties
Egg Omelet
French Fries
HERSHEY®'S Fat Free Milk
Side salad (no croutons) with KEN'S® Honey Mustard, Light Italian or Ranch dressing
TENDERGRILL® Chicken Breast Filet

Source: Jan 5, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Diagnosis

The blog has been getting some hits… yeah! And the biggest reaction is – “What? I didn’t know you were allergic to gluten!” or “How did you get diagnosed?” I figure it’s easier if I just lay it all out. Bear with me; it has been a long process to diagnosis.

My first signs of an allergy were in Fall of 1999. I just left home where we ate traditional Chinese meals (naturally gluten-free) 95% of my life. I was inadvertently working hard to put on the “Freshman 15”. Let’s be honest, I could use a few of those pounds, having graduated HS weighing in at 92 lbs at 5’3”. The night the allergy struck, I had just eaten pizza, mac ‘n cheese for dinner and a cookie for dessert. I proceeded on to the nearest fraternity party with a bunch of people from my floor and three guys from High School.

The next morning, I was covered in hives, throat swollen, eyes swollen shut, couldn’t hear anything because my ear canals were swollen. I went to the ER on campus. Obviously, I was allergic to something but we couldn’t figure out what. I was put on a regimen of four types of allergy meds and some mild steroids. A week or so later, the hives were gone. The doc thought maybe it was the barley, hops or wheat in the beer. I had told him that wheat products didn’t have this type of affect on me previously (after all, I worked at a Bagel shop in High School), so we ruled out wheat and assumed it was hops or barley. But I had eaten barley soups before with no reaction. Conclusion: Allergy to Hops.

I tried to be brave again my second year in college. Beer pong with Ice house. What a bad idea. Then, to soak up the alcohol, we ordered Papa John’s pizza. Kasey, my roommate, and I had a tradition to share a large PJ’s Pizza and watch American Pie late into the summer nights. I woke up the next morning again covered in hives. I vowed to never drink beer again.

A few years later, an allergist concluded that I was positive for virtually every one of the 100 allergens tested. Prick arm with needle, apply allergen, wait 15 min, see what gets puffy. For me, I had passed out at 7min and was given some anti-histamines. They took blood to conduct the rest of the tests.

Fast forward to 2006… I had pretty common stomach problems that I just kind of dealt with. Finally, after encouragement from my sports trainer, Steve, I went to see an alternative medicine guy, Dr. M. It sounds a little crazy, but Dr. M. performed muscle testing, which is a tool from Applied Kinesiology to identify allergies. Applied Kinesiology is an alternative method of medical diagnosis that uses muscle testing. In the 1960’s, Dr. John Goodheart found that body muscles instantly became weak when the body was exposed to allergens or harmful substances. Based on the foundations of Chinese medicine, the goal is to balance the body’s energy and return it to health. Read up on “muscle testing”. It sounds far out, but is it?

I learned that I have sensitivities to wheat, brown rice, white and brown sugar and milk. I removed these from my diet for several weeks and began to feel better. After awhile, however, I reintroduced some of those foods back in with moderation since I didn’t think there would be serious long-term effects.

With more time on my hands and a move to the health-conscious Chicago, I increased my work outs to 6-7 times a week. You’d be surprised, but at one point I was actually what I call skinny-fat. I weighed less than 120 lbs, but was 28% body fat. This means I carried almost 34lbs of fat on me! In 2008, I met my trainer Randy who pushed me harder than ever and changed my body composition, finally achieving 15% body fat. Over time, I began developing pains in my joints and leg muscles. Soon, the pain became so severe that I couldn’t even walk.

A visit to Dr. D at Active Body and I was diagnosed with a mild form of compartment syndrome so I started therapy which included Graston Technique and Active Release Technique . These are used to break down the scar tissues between my muscles to return to normal muscle function. After months of twice weekly appointments, I was walking with less pain but something was still going on. My aerobic heart rate would spike to 207 (it should be 185).

Enter: Dr. N, sports medicine specialist. My reaction to Dr. N when he gave me Ventolin for my newly identified exercise-induced asthma was, “inhalers are for nerds. Ugh.” My blood tests all proved to be normal, except with slightly high triglycerides. However, my heart rate was still really high.

Enter: Dr. B, a cardiologist who specializes in arrhythmia. I underwent an EKG, Echo Test and Stress Test. No signs of arrhythmia, phew. Too bad I only had a few appointments, this Doc was easy on the eyes!

Enter: Laura, PT. I now need physical therapy to rehab my sprained gluteus medius. This happened because I was overcompensating during exercise to avoid more pain in my legs. I also continued to see Dr. D for Graston/ART and so I had three physical therapy appointments per week and was spending more money than I was making.

Enter: Monique, RD. Dr. N referred me to a sports nutritionist who promptly told me to eliminate wheat from my diet. “Give me 9 months,” Monique says. She was sure I had gluten intolerance. It would take at least 9 months of full gluten-elimination to truly realize the changes. A few expensive consults later, I decided I could eliminate gluten on my own without getting her meal-by-meal weekly planner.

I decided to go 100% gluten free on April 13, 2009. This was the day after I met Ernie’s mom for the first time, who made a fantastic brunch with strata (which includes gluten). It was a great way to say goodbye to bread.

After a decade on this long and arduous road to the final diagnosis, meeting with over ten health care professionals and thousands of dollars later, I finally feel pretty healthy. I still get the occasional stomach pain or other small intestine irritations, but overall, much better. No more inhalers for me, as my wheezing is gone. My feet aren’t swollen at the end of the day because of poor circulation. I can walk with no pain; my joints don’t hurt when I sit. I don’t bruise as easily, and my skin heals faster after minor cuts.

Gluten allergies are very difficult to diagnose. I’ve heard many stories about how long it takes to find out the real cause of someone’s health issues. The fact is that less than 1% of people have Celiac Disease which can be tested for, but many people have gluten intolerances. It’s often the last thing a doctor checks when something is wrong. Most allergists just give you medications to fend off the symptoms, but to treat the symptoms and not cure the cause is the downfall of many healthcare providers.

So, that’s my saga. I'd be surprised if you made it all the way through the story! It's not meant to sound 'woe-is-me' because I'm happy, healthy and ready to experience this new decade!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Da Lucianos Italian Eatery

Pizza is usually an afterthought for many families. “I don’t feel like making food, let’s order pizza.” or a late night snack after an all-night binge drinking fest. However, for those of us with gluten allergies, it’s one of those things you have to plan for – either you buy some gluten free pizza dough from the local Whole Foods and hope it's decent, or you drag yourself all the way out to a pizzeria that has products to suit your dietary restrictions.

On Sunday night, we went to Da Luciano’s Italian eatery. I know what you’re thinking – WHAT? How are you going to eat Italian food when everything is made of wheat? Good thing for me, the Libreri Family who own the little eatery have four (of their six) children with Celiac’s. Due to the restaurant’s unique food offering, they have been featured on TV such as ABC News and in magazines such as Living Without (

When I walked in to the small storefront restaurant, I saw tons of articles hanging on the wall about their gluten-free offerings. It’s also hard to notice the shelves of gluten-free pasta that you can buy for use in your home.

I ordered the garlic bread ($3.50 for 2 pcs) and a personal pizza with sausage and pepperoni ($10). The garlic bread was just OK. You can still taste the grittiness of rice flour, but it did have the feel of an English muffin. It was a nice starter to much on while Ernie had traditional Italian bread. The 7” round pizza was better than the garlic bread. The crust was flaky and crunchy and definitely satisfied my pizza craving.

I’d say that I still prefer Aurelio’s pizza to Da Luciano. Aurelio’s sauce is a bit spicier and the cheese is nicer on the palette which makes the overall pizza experience much more flavorful. Plus, my co-worker/friend’s parents own the closest Aurelio’s.

What will keep me going back to Da Luciano’s is their extremely wide variety of gluten-free dishes. From Tiramisu (yeah!!) to all kinds of pasta dishes to chicken/fish/veal, there’s a lot more to try from this mom and pop restaurant. Plus, you can take home any of their gluten-free products dried or frozen.

· Wide Variety of Italian yummy dishes.
· Go early, they get busy and there aren’t many tables.
· Park across the street or on the side of the building, but not in the lot for the new strip mall.
· Great value – Seafood, Pasta, Chicken are all less than $15. Veal dishes are $2 bucks more.
· Save room for dessert! Cannoli, Tiramisu, Spumoni, Lemon Ice, Cupcakes.. yum!
· Take home some home made Italian!

Gluten Free Menu:

Da Luciano
8343 W. Grand Ave
River Grove, IL 60171

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nature's Divine Brownies vs. Trader Joe's Brownie Mix

These Nature's Divine Mini-Brownies are by far the best Gluten-Free baked good I've come across to date.

I bought the box of 12 mini brownies at Whole Foods the night I bought ingredients for our mahi mahi dish. At $7.99 for twelve, they are not cheap to say the least (what do you expect from a place nicknamed "whole paycheck"?) - but they are a great value considering the taste of most gluten-free products. Find them in the Gluten-Free area of the bakery section. You can also sometimes find these brownies in the gluten free refrigerator section next to GF breads and bagels.

The chocolate treats are so good that Ernie will also eat them without hesitation. They taste just like the real thing! Texture is the most difficult thing to replicate when making GF products. But not for Nature's Divine Brownies! The texture is so soft and moist, with the top having the same slightly toasted consistency of a real brownie. Though rather expensive, these brownie bites are so much better than the GF brownie mix my sister bought when she hosted our Gluten-Free Thanksgiving dinner.

My sister bought the Trader Joe's Gluten Free Brownie Mix. The main ingredients are brown rice flour and evaporated cane juice. The mix also says it's free of wheat, nuts, dairy, soy and corn. I hate when companies/products try to be friendly for so many allergy-specific diets. This usually results in bad tasting products. This mix was easy, just adding in oil, egg and water.
I was first to taste and said that it was 'good, considering it's gluten-free.' The texture was the main issue here - they're nothing like real brownies. My sister then tried it and practically spit it out and said it was terrible! She sent me home with the rest of the batch which I quickly put into my freezer. They're still a good option for those times when I need to satisfy a chocolate brownie craving. Despite my sister's thoughtful attempt to make something I could eat, I felt bad that there wasn't a better dessert for everyone else at the table.

Semiramis, Lebanese Cuisine

Last night, we met our good friends Chad and Michelle at Semiramis, a Lebanese cuisine restaurant. Middle Eastern food is very gluten-friendly despite having to pass on pitas. A lot of things are grilled and served with rice so you don’t have to worry about miscellaneous flour that may be used (for example, Italian restaurants dust grilled fish with flour).

We ordered two starters: the special of the day which was a lamb sausage with grilled tomatoes, and falafel. I asked the server (who was extremely helpful) how falafel was made. After a 2 minute dissertation on the processing and cooking of falafel, I asked “so it’s not made with flour?” Everyone else laughed because I should have just asked if falafel is made with flour. Alas, it’s not! Mashed chickpeas and spices deep fried to get the crunchy outside. SUPER tasty treats!

I ordered the Chicken Chawarma with Fattoush. Fattoush is a salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, green onions, green peppers, radishes, mint and toasted pita bread, mixed with olive oil, lemon juice and sumac. I avoided the toasted pita that I should have just asked to be omitted from my order. It was a large portion! Basically, this dish is a nice salad with shaved chicken on top and drizzled with a white colored sauce.

Ernie ordered the Mixed Grill which included Lamb, Chicken, Spicy Beef, Rice, grilled onion, tomato, green pepper, and spicy chopped up onion on the side. His portion was even larger than mine! Another great gluten-friendly option.

The resturant was also great for Chad and Michelle, who recommended the resturant. Chad's a vegitarian so the vegitarian plattered offered a great mix of all things made of veggies. Michelle a classic kabob dish - enormous portion of meat and rice! Healthy and a huge variety of food.

The take-away: Great Lebanese food at a good price. We’ll be back for some more falafel! You'll have to skip dessert, but you'll be too full to want bakliva anyway.

· Arrive at/before 7pm to minimize the possibility of waiting for a table. We met Chad and Michelle at 7:30pm which must have been the peak hour because we waited nearly an hour to be seated. The waiting area was full, but at 8:45pm the entire restaurant’s patrons were turned over.
· It’s BYOB! With no corkage fee.
· Price was very reasonable. It was $40 (including tax and tip) for two of us and we even had appetizers.
· The portions are very generous so come hungry or prepare to take home your uneaten food.

Lebanese Cuisine
4639-41 N. Kedzie

Friday, January 15, 2010

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Avocado-Chile Salsa

Prep: 15 min
Cook: 12-16 min
Marinate: 20-30 min
4 servings

For the Mahi Mahi:
1 ½ pounds mahi mahi cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Mix olive oil, juice, salt and pepper
2. In a deep glass dish, marinate the fish with the oil mixture for 20-30 minutes before grilling
3. Grill over coals or on a grill, or cook under a broiler for 6-8 minutes per side

1 ripe avocado, cut into ½ to ½ inch chunks
2 plum tomatoes, cut into ½ inch chunks
1 cup minced red onion
1 jalapeno pepper or serrano chile, seeded and minced
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
½ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large glass bowl, and mix gently with a spoon. Set aside. You can prepare this salsa up to a few hours before serving and store it in a covered container in the refrigerator.
2. Serve the fish with the salsa on top.

Some Notes:
I found the original recipe to be a bit confusing so I edited here to hopefully clear the confusion. When we made this, I thought you were supposed to marinate the fish with the salsa mixture, but alas, you just marinate the fish with the oil/lime/salt/pepper mix. I suggest using glass bowls as metal bowls can start to react with the lime juice (supposedly).

The recipe makes 4 servings - which was too much for just the two of us! Next time, we'll just get 1 lb of mahi mahi.

If you don't like spicy hot dishes, use less than the full jalapeno pepper.

We also made some potato wedges and a spiniach dish to compliment the mahi mahi.

Recipe modified from Health Magazine

Glutino Pretzel Sticks

Glutino Pretzel Sticks are my go-to snack. They're perfect for lunches or something to munch on throughout the day. I throw them into a reusable tupperware container (go green!) and carry them with me to work and class. I will often dip them in Peanut Butter or even better - Nutella! ( They taste so similar to regular wheat pretzel sticks that the first time I tried them, I double-checked to make sure they were really gluten-free.

You can find these in the gluten-free section at your local Jewel (the one I shop at only has a 4 ft section of gluten-free products) or in the snack foods section at Whole Foods. They're more expensive than other pretzels (maybe $4.50 for the larger bag), but totally worth it! Plus, there's no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives added... On the downside, I have noticed them to go stale after a week.

Glutino also offers Pretzel twists, Pretzel Sesame Rings and Unsalted Rings. I haven't tried any of these varieties as I've been quite content with my sticks! The website boasts that the Pretzel Twists are the #1 selling Gluten Free Pretzel, but I honeslty haven't even seen a single competitor.

Goals for 2010

New Year’s Resolutions are new to me this year. I’ve decided I need to keep some kind of plan to keep me moving forward. And if I tell you the plan, you can help keep me honest!

1. Goal: I won’t be sharing this until it happens. Sorry, but you’ll have to wait.
Measure: It will happen by July 2010, Hopefully

2. Goal: Save Money
Strategy: Make Meals at home, travel less (boo hoo), Spend less on ‘going out’, Save tax return and bonus
Measure: Save 10% of income by year end (not including retirement accounts)

3. Goal: Get Skinny
Strategy: Create work out plans and stick to them, make meals at home, go to BIkram Yoga
Measure: Maintain goal weight by April 1

4. Goal: Live Gluten Free
Strategy: Keep a blog about gluten-free life, compile a book of gluten-free recipes, eat gluten-free
Measure: Post something every two weeks, gluten-free cook book

5. Goal: Act and Model more
Strategy: Find additional agents if needed, take a new acting class
Measure: Book at least 6 (paying) jobs

6. Goal: Graduate Business School (if you have 6, one HAS to be a gimme!)
Strategy: Go to class, do homework
Measure: Diploma in hand on June 19, 2010!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The comments you get on Facebook

Cindy Hello, my name is Cindy. I have been gluten-free for 241 days. I can walk w/o muscle/joint pain. My active heart rate reduced from 207 to 185. Tummy does not have dehabilitating pains. Random hives no longer visit for weeks on end. I eat Asian, Mexican, and yummy gluten-free pizza. It is nice to live a (mostly) normal life! I want to start a gluten-free food joint bc I believe in sharing good health!
December 8, 2009 at 4:17pm

Aditya, Larry, Sandra, Mary Ellen, Steve, Rebecca, Jessica, and Lauren Elyse like this.

OMG - ME TOO!! i had a few surgeries over the summer, lost a lot of weight (that i couldn't really afford to lose), and the intolerance was finally found in september. i've been thinking about gf cooking classes. take care! ♥
December 8, 2009 at 4:52pm ·

Wow I tried that too. Can u honestly say gluten free pizza is good?
December 8, 2009 at 5:26pm ·

I eat gluten everyday, I enjoy my nutritional source of protein
December 8, 2009 at 5:54pm ·

a friend of a friend begins chef school next month for the same reason.
December 8, 2009 at 7:13pm ·

I think that is a wonderful idea!!! Go for would do great. And congrats to your success.
December 8, 2009 at 9:17pm ·

A majority of Americans have gluten allergy and do not know it. Digestive issues are a HUGE problem in the States. They put gluten in everything as a thickener. You are so lucky because there are tons of foods available now. Congrats to your colon being healthy!!
December 9, 2009 at 7:27am ·

That's awesome. You know, Katie can't have wheat either, so we should have a gluten free dinner sometime!
December 9, 2009 at 8:21am ·

Jess - Thankfully I didn't have any surgeries, however, I would have gladly accepted some weight loss :) Happy for you that you figured it out!
Shaun - Yep, this place in Chicago owned by my friend's parents make REALLY good gluten free pizza. last time I went, I ordered 5 pizzas!Winnie - not fair. we have the same genes.
Heidi - maybe I should hire your friend...
Thuy - thanks! Miss you!...
Toni - I know! Shocking how many foods have flour in it!
Craig - for sure. early 2010?? It's a double date!
December 9, 2009 at 9:53am ·

Do you have celiac or just an intolerance? My BIL has celiac and it's no fun. :)
December 9, 2009 at 10:17am ·

All the websites, restaurants, recipes, and comments about being gluten free are greatly appreciated. Good job Cindy!! It is not an easy thing to do.
December 9, 2009 at 10:54am ·

CK: I never did the intestine biopsy for celiac. Scars on my tummy are not necessary so I have no conclusive evidence.
Sandra - I think it's actually more difficult on Ernie's mom who is always offering bagels, sweets and breads! I feel so bad and I really want to eat it. I caved on the stuffing during turkey day. She's so cute getting gluten free menus from places so we can have dinner together!
December 9, 2009 at 12:30pm ·

As an alternative to the biopsy, you might consider the genetic test for celiac. I had it after my sis was diagnosed earlier this year; my mom's been living with it for almost 40 years. Luckily, I am negative. It was expensive for me do to the insurance plan we have, but worth knowing.
December 13, 2009 at 7:58pm ·

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Chicken

In efforts to save money this year, I've decided to cook at home more often. I have loads of recipes from books and magazines so I'm taking on the task of converting the best ones into gluten-free meals.

Last night, we cooked the following recipe. It's a good mix of protein and grains. A little creamy for comfort in the winter weathers, but the hint of lime gives it a crisp aftertaste. Ernie said it was 'loaded with flavor' from the peanut, lime, chili and peppers.

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Chicken
Prep: 15 min Cook: 18 min

8 oz uncooked quinoa noodles
1-lb chicken tenderloin, trimmed and cubed
½ teaspoon salt, divided
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons peanut oil
1 cup chopped red or yellow bell peppers
½ cup chopped green onions

Peanut Sauce:
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about three small limes)
1 tablespoon honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon dark sesame oil
¼-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions as optional garnish

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. Sprinkle chicken with ¼ teaspoon salt and dredge in cornstarch. Heat peanut oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sauté until cooked thoroughly.

3. Combine pasta, chicken, bell pepper and onion in a large bowl

4. To prepare sauce, combine chicken broth, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and next 6 ingredients (through crushed red pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Pour over pasta and chicken mixture, tossing to coat.

5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Some notes:

  • We found it helpful to heat the sauce so it didn’t cool down the chicken and pasta. It also helped with mixing the ingredients together, particularly the peanut butter.
  • Ernie also liked the sauce/chicken mixture over rice rather than pasta, so you can substitute white or brown rice for the pasta.
  • Use organic peanut butter.
  • Opt for agave nectar in place of honey.

Original Recipe modified from Health Magazine

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Udon and Soba

Ernie and I had the wonderful fortune of traveling to Southeast Asia for two weeks in December. I was looking forward to the time off from work, school and cold weather. On our way to Bangkok, we had a layover in Tokyo – a place I’ve never been before! While this won’t be a re-cap of our amazing trip, I’m thought I’d share with you my travel experience.

On our 14 hour flight to Tokyo direct from Chicago on Al Nippon Airways we were served two meals. The first meal was Japanese styled food with rice, veggies and salmon. Ernie doesn’t like salmon so much, but he ate it anyway. There was also a side of Soba or Udon noodles. I don’t know the difference between the two. Anyhow, the airplane food was alright as far as airplane food goes. I passed on the noodles because I wasn’t so sure what they are made of. Best part was the ice cream dessert!

The second meal was not as easy. My assumption is that ANA was trying to appease both consumer bases – eastern and western travelers. The second meal was: Lasagne. Not only was it lasagna, the side was bread and cookies for dessert. Ernie asked the attendant if there were any other food options, but there were none. I stared at my plate in disbelief. Usually there are two options! After choking down the frog in my throat, I felt a few warm tears on my cheek. I took one moment of feeling sorry for myself and when I finally got over it and looked up, I could see that Ernie was upset too. I ended up eating the one inch by one inch square of “excuse for a salad” lettuce and a spoonful of ricotta cheese from the center of the lasagna. By then, I had lost my appetite and was not in the mood for my gluten free snack bars.

Once we arrived in Tokyo, I was hungry. We figured, "We’re in Japan! Let’s eat sushi!" So we went to the nearest airport map and located a sushi restaurant. With hungry eyes, we bought three trays of sushi, the size of the trays at your Jewel or Kroger. Neither of us knew the exchange rate of Yen to Dollar, but we figured the sushi wouldn’t be too expensive. Later, we discovered that we just paid over $80 for the sushi! I much prefer my all-you-can-eat option at Sushi Para Too for $17 bucks.

The vacation itself was a breeze in terms of eating. Everywhere had rice or rice noodles, as wheat is not as rampant in Asian countries. I ate mostly pad thai, glass noodles and white rice. Of course, the continental breakfasts in our hotels served toast and waffles, but there was always an option for me. As for our travel locations, we LOVED Siem Reap in Cambodia where Angkor Wat is the main tourist attraction. I thought Thailand’s beaches were beautiful, but I could have done without the prostitution being so visible and abundant. Neither of us cared much for Bangkok as we were scammed by a wily tuk tuk driver who left us in the middle of a busy intersection.

On the trip home, Ibasically slept the whole way from Bangkok to Tokyo. I was so groggy that I didn’t even remember the food. Maybe I didn’t eat any? I snacked on trail mix I had brought along from the US. We decided to forego any $80 sushi during our second Tokyo layover. The return flight also had two meals. Again, the first meal was Asian style chicken and rice. There was a small roll that I passed over to Ernie. Before the second meal, I continued to munch on the trail mix.

The flight was scheduled to land at 9am Chicago time, so our second meal was breakfast at 6:30am. Pancakes with a sausage link. Oh and a side of those Japanese noodles… I ate the sausage, I passed on the pancakes (it’s obvious those are made of wheat) and opted for the noodles hoping they were made of rice. After all, they looked white!

Once back in the states and after Christmas and our new year’s get away to Galena, I googled both Udon and Soba noodles since I wasn’t sure what exactly I was eating. Wouldn’t you know that both are made of wheat.

I don’t know if it’s the one serving of gluten, or the lack of a steady diet for two weeks, or just being stressed from my non-ideal job situation… but for the next 2 weeks, I was not regular. And I did not like it.

Is it normal to feel sorry for yourself because you can’t eat something? Maybe, but it’s pathetic to cry about it… which I have done on more than one occasion. Should I have anticipated the excessive gluten and packed a meal? Maybe, but how would it stay chilled for a 14 hour plane ride? Will this prevent me from traveling? No way. I’ll just bring tastier protein bars next time – or peanut butter on gluten free bread. Besides, when I went to Africa, South African Airways actually had gluten-free meals for me. Maybe ANA didn’t know what gluten-free meant when I requested it during booking.

Lesson: When traveling, request gluten-free meals AND pack your own snacks or you’ll be hungry & crying!

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, New Food.

Happy New Year.

Like many, I view New Years Eve as one of the most over-hyped holidays of the year, yet on almost every year I can remember I’ve spent this momentous stroke of midnight in some celebratory way. This year was no different. My boyfriend, Ernie, and I went to the quaint town of Galena for the long weekend. We rented an adorably charming chalet on a hill with a dozen friends. We rang in the New Year with champagne toasts and kisses.

While any normal weekend getaway with friends would have been a non-issue, my Gluten Free lifestyle proved to be a bit of a challenge. I was able to prep by bringing some gluten-free bread and crackers and hoped we would head into town for dinners where I can freely choose what to eat at an accommodating restaurant.

Day 1: NYE.

Not bad. Four of us went into town to eat dinner at the local McDonalds where I had a cheeseburger-no bun and some fries. Not the healthiest option but at least I had something in my stomach to provide a base for cocktails later in the evening. Back at the ranch, the gang had prepared a smorgasbord of appetizers, many which I could, and did, also consume.

Cindy: 1; Gluten: 0. It was technically only a half day here, but I was able to feel gluten-free and still partake in ringing in the New Year (in ice-skates, don't ask).

Day 2: Hang-over day.

This was the tough day for all of us. Due to the excessive celebrations and libations the night before, the majority of our team was down for the count. Read: Completely and utterly hung over. Most didn’t arise from our Seasonal Themed rooms until past noon. In a cleverly designed hat drawing, Ernie and I scored the “Summer” room with Fourth of July decorations and a creepy crow hanging over the window frame) Some of the ladies prepared brunch and I was able to eat a delicious wheat-free quiche.

Dinner time was the challenge. Since no one felt much like moving from the couch where everyone was engrossed in the "Jersey Shore" marathon on MTV, the decision was to order in: Pizza. This poses a bit of a problem since I haven’t had a proper slice of pizza in… I don’t even know. I wanted to go into town to get some food, but Ernie’s brother had taken our car back to Chicago for a hot date tonight. I felt stranded.

Thankfully, one of the couples was going into town to buy more water and paper towels. I was grateful that Ernie and I could tag along. At the local Piggly Wiggly, I spent 20 minutes debating between (1) disgusting frozen TV dinner and (2) week-old crusted over potato salad. Instead, Ernie encouraged me to get sliced turkey and cheese from the deli for me to add to my gluten free bread. Finally our pizza delivery came and everyone enjoyed cheesy, sausagy pizza – except me. After dinner, I then retreated to the basement to see the sad Bearcat loss to Florida at the NOLA Sugar Bowl. Will we ever win a bowl game?

Cindy: 1, Gluten: 1. Stranded with no car and a Pizza Delivery Dinner leaves me out of luck.

Day 3: Whoopee-Cushion.

We woke up a tad bit earlier today. Ernie made me some hash browns and eggs while I heated up a slice of left-over quiche. Yum. The other girls went over to the spa for relaxing massages. Three of us went into Galena and walked in the sub-zero wind chill through antique store after antique store – with a couple of old school toy stores mixed in. Where do they find all these chotchskies???

Our friend Patty bought a whoopee cushion which was used later that evening with much hilarity to most, and much dismay to some. Why do I bring up this old child past-time? My stomach felt like it was an automatic whoopee cushion. Although I was able to maintain my GFD today, my tummy still gets all riled up on occasion. It's often possible to consume gluten without knowing it. This weekend was no different.

After a tumultuous week for my tummy post vacation (check back for a post on traveling to Thailand/Cambodia on a GFD), I was looking forward to a more familiar meal plan. We did end up eating dinner in town where I ordered an almond crusted walleye and sour-cream mashed potatoes, modified to be gluten-free by the enthusiastic chef and server.

Cindy: 1, Gluten: 1, Tie: 1. While I was still able to eat Gluten-Free today with little hassle to the rest of the group, my tummy was miserable.

Overall, the weekend was fun. It was a nice way to relax with some friends and get to know everyone just a little bit better. On the downside, I was more high-maintenance that I wanted to be because everyone was so accommodating to my diet (thank you btw). I think some even felt bad about pizza as our best option since I couldn't join in. I hate to feel like I’m causing annoyance or altering any group decisions because of this GFD. Trust me, I do not choose this life-style. You can cope, but it never really gets easier when you’re out with a group and have no means of getting your own eats.

Note: I tried to think of some witty way to open this blog; some explanation of why I’ve decided to start blogging about living a gluten-free lifestyle. I came up short so I just rolled right into the meat of the sandwich. I can’t eat the bread anyway.