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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recipe Re-do: Chicken and Dumplings

I have a sore throat today. I want chicken soup!

...but not just ANY chicken soup: I want dumplings. Dumplings are problematic for GF folks, since they typically contain wheat flour. The wheat flour, because of the gluten, makes dumplings fluffy and tender, and helps to thicken the stew base. Conversely, the gluten that makes the dumplings hold together also makes them gummy if overcooked. The beautiful thing about my GF dumplings is that they can withstand a lot of simmering without becoming gummy and tough.

So, for dinner tonight, I am updating the classic recipe from the Southern Living Cookbook.
I am using King Arthur Flour all-purpose gluten free flour for my dumplings. I've used a few different GF flour blends, and this one has proven reliable in this recipe after several attempts.

Here's the recipe for the stock and the dumplings (six large servings):

For the stock/stew base:
2 Cups water
2 Cups GF chicken broth
1 sprig each of thyme, basil, and 1 sage leaf
1/4 Cup chopped parsley
1/4 onion
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
couple pinches of salt
5 sliced carrots
2 sliced celery ribs
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
dash celery seed
I cook the chicken in the crock pot, on low, in the base for at least 5 hours. Before serving, shred the chicken, and set aside. Strain the stock, throw away the herbs and onion slice, then add the carrots and celery back into the base. Add the chicken back into the base, and add a dash of celery seed. You can also simmer on the stove top for two hours. If you use a crock pot, you must transfer the ingredients to a stew pot on the stove to make the dumplings. The dumplings must be simmered after bringing the stock to a boil. Most crock pots cannot achieve a rolling boil

About 30 minutes before serving, make the drop dumplings:
1 Cup King Arthur GF All-Purpose flour
1/2 Tbs baking powder
dash of salt
3 Tbs butter
1 Tbs chopped fresh chives
1/2 Cup buttermilk

parsley for serving
Blend the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter into the dry mixture until it looks like cornmeal. Mix in the buttermilk. Stir in chives.  Mix until well blended. Bring the soup base and chicken and veggies to a boil in a stew pot on the stove. Turn down to simmer/bubbling. Drop tablespoon-sized pieces of the dumpling dough into the simmering soup base. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Serve in a soup bowl. Sprinkle with some fresh parsley before serving.

Let me know if you have variations on the chive flavoring. That's just the one I prefer.

Have a warm evening!

Monday, December 27, 2010

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Grocery Shopping Primer
The first time visiting my local Safeway store, after my diagnosis, was daunting. I remember talking to a former anorexic friend. She said, "I have no control over my life, so I am going to declare victory over the grocery store. I will leave without buying anything."

This would not work for me. I actually have to buy food and cook for my husband and I. My first shopping trip, in my usual store, took one hour longer than usual.

Backtrack to two weeks before shopping...

Me: Scott, I have bad news for you. I have to go on an all-gluten-free diet.
Scott: What does that mean?
Me: It's basically a modified Adkins diet: No carbs; mostly meat, fish, and cheese.
Scott: That's GREAT News! Meat and Cheese? Excellent!
Thank God for Scott.

Scott and I now have a plan for grocery shopping and social occasions. I hope you find my tips helpful.

1) Shop the outside aisles. In AZ, this means deli, cheese, produce, and vino. When my doctor told me that I was gluten intolerant, I asked him to please tell me that cheese and wine were gluten-free. If not, I "am going to jump into the Grand Canyon." Luckily, no jumping was necessary. The beauty of our natural wonder is unsullied by me and my mangled body parts.
2) Become familiar with ingredients. Know your recipes. Yes, shopping takes longer because you must be an avid label reader. One of the more stunning realizations is that non-fat dairy products contain carageenan. This is seaweed processed with soy sauce, which contains wheat. Opt for the (sorry!) full-fat or 1% milk products that do not contain this stabelizer.
3) Read EVERY label. Blue Bunny ice cream and Dreyers (Edy's east of the Mississippi) contains Carageenan. Spring for Breyer's: Milk, Cream, Vanilla: what's not to love. Trader Joe's seemingly harmless French Truffles contain wheat stabelizers.
4: Read all canned veggie labels. Even some organic items contain wheat and wheat maltodextrin. Look for safe corn maltodextrin and xanthin gum.
5: Buy fresh produce and cook it to your liking. When you add the ingredients, you know what's in it.
6: Unfortunately, by trial or error, you must decide if oats are tolerable. I can handle them. Again, I emphasize that it's trial and error.
7: Make your friends away of your issues. Yes, you appear to be the high-maintenance friend, but it's vital to your health. Become familiar with Terms to watch out for that may contain gluten

  • Corn starch and wheat starch
  • Dextrin
  • Modified food starch
  • Natural flavoring/artificial flavor/color/smoke flavor
  • Fillers
8: Know your ingredients. If you make meatballs from scratch, you know that meatballs may contains bread crumbs. Ask your host: "Do you use breadcrumbs in your meatballs?"
9: When in doubt, do without. This is the Celiac's mantra. In the words of Mr. Hand: "Learn it, know it, live it." Chocolate bars, imitation seafood and herbal teas may contain gluten. To really make the gluten-free diet work for you, it’s important to know all the ins and outs…particularly where gluten hides in products that you might not think about.

Some reliable items that do not contain glutens are:
~ Bon Terra Wines
~ Boar's Head meats and cheeses (Boar's Head bleu does not start use a baguette to start the mold)
~ Diamond Nut Thins crackers
~ Fresh meats and cheeses
~ Fresh produce
~ Rice Chex cereal
~ Pickels and olives: favorite snacks

In my next post, I am going to share some recently tried and true GF recipes:
~ Apple cranberry tart using King Arthur GF Flour
~ Brie with Cranberry or sautéed mushroom topping
~ Seared Scallops
~ Thai Noodle Salad
~ Spice rubbed beef tenderloin
~ Good Eats Turkey Brine (Thanks Alton Brown)
~ Brazilian cheese muffins (see the King Arthur recipes web site).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Diagnosis

I grew up with chronic tummy and digestive troubles. In college it got worse, and I visited a doctor at Andrews AFB hospital (I was still a military dependent then) in the spring of 1985. The doctor said that I probably had a "nervous" stomach, aggravated by school pressures, and that I should avoid caffeine and red sauces. Okay. Check.

I noticed that, unlike a lot of my college buddies, I could not drink beer or eat pasta or pizza without feeling like I swallowed a basketball. I could bet that I would feel horrible after eating in restaurants, and chalked it up to something that was odd about me, period. I would make excuses to not eat when going out with friends, but really, I felt better when I didn't eat.

My body started operating in a mad cycle. I was starving myself (because I felt "better"), I would be famished, then I would eat like a fiend because I was starving. Then I'd be sick again. As a result, my weight bounced around constantly. When I started my senior year of college, at 5'4", I weighed about 150 pounds. When I got married, about six years later, I had ballooned to almost 200 pounds. My mother was diagnosed with cancer two years later. I could not eat much during that time. When my mother died in August 1989, I weighed 148 pounds. 

The years that followed saw my clothing size go from 14 to 8, and then back again. I refused to get to the root of the problem, and instead, lived with the cycle of symptoms that plague someone with undiagnosed gluten intolerance or full-blown Celiac Disease.

Flash forward to 2008...Things were rough at work, and I was taking medicine for acid reflux. The reflux problem got so bad that year, that by November, I had lost 20 pounds. I was having joint pain, frequent and severe headaches, and my doctor started calling me a "frequent flier," I had seen him so much that year. He decided to take charge of the situation. God bless him. He advised me to do an elimination diet. This would take about one month, and would require me to do two weeks of no dairy (torture for me, as I am a self-proclaimed cheese-rat), then two weeks of no wheat or gluten. He said, "let's hope it's a dairy problem. Gluten is in EVERYTHING, and that's going to be much harder to battle."

I saw no change with the diary-free diet. Uh-oh. I felt better about three days after not eating any wheat- or gluten-containing products. I stopped taking the reflux medicine. I stopped taking my daily Pepto. I hadn't felt good for such a long time, that I was giddy. The Doc ordered a blood panel to be sure (although a stomach biopsy is the more conclusive method for diagnosis). My diagnosis was confirmed.

I was relieved to know what was wrong. That relief was soon replaced with the sensory overload I experienced when trying to go grocery shopping for the first time after my diagnosis. I read every label. I donated all of my gluten-containing food items to the local food bank. I had to learn to shop, cook, and think all over again. It took me two hours to shop the first time after my diagnosis. I was exhausted.

So, this is the distilled version of what led up to my diagnosis. Now I'm living with Celiac Disease. In my next blog, I'll explore the world of grocery shopping, cooking, and thinking gluten-free. I hope that this post will help people who are experiencing undiagnosed GI problems. Work toward your diagnosis: your life will get much better in most situations.

I'm thankful that wine is gluten-free. Cheers! 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 1 - Test Drive

I'm not a doctor. I'm not a lawyer. I'm a professional writer who is trying to put her skills to good use...finally. I'm a person who was diagnosed with Celiac Disease - two years ago - who is trying to cope with the baggage that comes with such a diagnosis. 

"Okay," you may say: "some people have real problems."

I TOTALLY agree. I have friends and family who are fighting more monumental battles. However, this is my battle and I find strange, indescribable solace in sharing my story with you. I decided to blog for two reasons:

1. I frequently get questions about my dietary issues.
2. I'm hoping I can truly help someone else.

I don't mean to be militant, but people who don't know celiac/gluten-free can really benefit from more education about the disease. It's not an "allergy,". and it is not simply "sensitivity." Celiac sprue is a bodily autoimmune response to the protein, gluten, which gives dough it's elasticity...yummy, hard-to-replicate, damnable elasticity. Gluten is in pizza, and gluten is in beer. Gluten hurts my body. I miss pizza, beer, bagels, and baguettes. Such is life, anyway. I'm thankful that wine is gluten-free, but I'll expound on that in future blogs.

I'm aiming to take you on my journey. I'll take you through my diagnosis, my adaptation, my symptoms (sorry - I have to get somewhat descriptive here), and my downright wanting to throw in the towel...all because of this disease. I will share some restaurant tips, recipes, travel notes, and reviews of food I've tried. I'm hoping that by sharing my story I can help you to work with your health care practitioner to nail down a solid diagnosis. 

Ask your friends if they - or anyone they may know - is avoiding wheat and gluten. I'll bet you get some affirmative responses. You may know people with frequent stomach and digestive problems who cannot figure out what's wrong. You may have been "sick" for a long time, discouraged, because you cannot pinpoint the things that are making you unwell. Believe me: I've been there.

Let's be friends, and let's learn from one another.