A Gold Medal for My Gluten Free Dinner

Katherine: I am a Stay at Home Mom. I have been married to my husband for 11 years and have a son who just turned 10. I have recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease and have started cooking gluten-free for my family, which has been an enormous adventure and learning experience and I am eager to share all of my discoveries and tips with other families. Our family is not only gluten free; we are also living with autism. My son has autism and seizure disorder, and we have been very involved with the use of applied behavioral analysis teaching at his wonderful school, and at home, since he was two.

– Katherine writes a weekly column about gluten-free information for MadameDeals.

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. This means that I am no longer able to eat foods that contain gluten. (Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts and triticale.) At first I thought it was such a joke. I mean seriously? Here I was, in my forties, and I had eaten gluten with no problem all of my life (intensely) and now I had to stop all bread, pasta, etc and never eat it again. No more yummy gluten packed cinnamon scones? Most deserts that I had loved became off limits. Fast food?–not many options there with all of those buns. Doesn’t everyone at least want the option to eat a hamburger or Big Mac once in a while? In addition, I had to say a very sad goodbye to a huge number of other products where gluten is added in for thickening, flavoring or stabilizing! All off limits to me now forever!

The first few weeks, after receiving my diagnosis, were daily, and sometimes hourly, “ah ha- never again” moments, where some other awesome food that I love, and crave, fell off the edge of my universe. It was painful. It wasn’t a joke. And, it became apparent very quickly that it was never going to be obvious what was off limits without direct involvement in the cooking or clear labeling on packages. Many recipes which don’t overtly contain gluten in the ingredients might have been cooked with a bouillon cube that contained gluten, or used a sauce that contained gluten. (I have been visiting at my parent’s house and not been able to eat dinner with them because they used the wrong bouillon cubes to make a beef stew). The day that I was diagnosed, everything I wanted to eat, all of a sudden, became suspect, and had to be investigated to make sure it was gluten free or just avoided. It is actually amazing how many prepared foods have added gluten. Many condiments (Ketchup, mustard, soy sauce), sauces and salad dressings contain added gluten. There seem to be more flavors of ice-cream with gluten than without. There is often gluten in canned soups or frozen dinners. Beer and many alcoholic beverages contain gluten.

Fortunately, there are increasing numbers of companies that are seeing the benefit of identifying their products as gluten- free, and so, it is becoming easier to find truly gluten-free products. Also, grocery stores are attempting to label gluten-free products on the shelves with “gluten free” tags so you don’t have to pick up every bottle of salad dressing, for instance, and look for a gluten-free statement. It is obvious that grocery stores are starting to see the market for gluten-free products as significant to their sales.

I started to lose weight immediately upon diagnosis. I think this was as much about the gluten free aspect, as about the fact that I wasn’t eating any junk, sweets or bread, and didn’t have lots of obvious options for things to eat. Not that I minded losing weight, but I wanted to be able to eat without thinking too much about it. I now have to always think about what I am going to eat in advance, and plan ahead in order to go to someone’s house, or a party, or out to a restaurant, so that I have something I can eat with me, or there is something that I can eat at the restaurant. Stocking the refrigerator has changed too. I started rediscovering my grocery stores, searching out new recipes, finding restaurants that catered to gluten free patrons, and talking with my family and friends about my new life. This blog is going to be about these discoveries, and how I am making gluten free into a good way of life for me and my family.

During the Summer I had one of my most challenging gluten-free food situations to date. I went to the beach for a week with my extended family. Every year our family (20 of us including all aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents) rent one very large house at the beach, and while we are there, we split up the cooking so that each family takes a different meal. As I was preparing to go to the beach, and making my lists, I suddenly realized that I might have to cook and eat segregated meals the entire week! So, I decided to send a desperate plea email to my siblings and parents asking them to accommodate my new lifestyle. “Please cook gluten free with me”. I wasn’t sure how this would go over, and was extremely relieved and appreciative when they all enthusiastically embraced the idea. Between my three siblings and me we have ten children under 16 and so it is an active group. We choose a theme for the beach week every year, and we have tons of fun! This year the theme was Olympics, and so the food was international meals to represent different countries competing in the games (our modified beach games). As it turns out, many athletes have discovered that eating gluten-free, even though they don’t have to, is very healthy and helps them to perform better. So gluten free fit right in with our theme!

And, guess who won a gold medal for the best dinner?! Yes, it was our family! (Well, not real gold. We bought washers at Lowes, painted them Gold, Silver & Bronze and put ribbons through them for the medals). Our family won the gold medal for dinners by making a recipe called Honey Lime Enchiladas. I found this recipe on Interest and you can find it there by looking me up at https://pinterest.com/gfKatherine/

The gluten-free dinners we ended up having at the beach were:

  • Russian Beef Stroganoff
  • Mexican Tacos
  • Spanish Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas
  • German sausages and sauerkraut
  • Chinese Chicken stirs fry and egg rolls

During the last few months I have built up a repertoire of foods, and a way of eating that has started to make being gluten free not as big an issue as it was initially. Stay tuned for all of my discoveries and tips!

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