Sunday, July 29, 2012

Better Safe Than Sorry!

For those of you who live in Massachusetts, you probably remember the unusual weather we had last summer and fall. A lot of us were without electricity for quite a while, and some who lost their homes in the tornado had to go to shelters. Unlike other states that are prepared for this kind of weather, we in Massachusetts have not been trained in the same way. We do not have emergency supplies for bad weather stocked up in water proof boxes, and we don't always think to have any kind of emergency plan for things like tornadoes. If you have celiacs and went to a shelter, most of them did not have specific gluten free food put together, and might not be able to supply a group of people with celiacs. After all the things that happened in Massachusetts last year, it might be time to start considering these types of things. Here is some advice for preparing for living gluten free with no electricity or in a shelter.

Pack An Emergency Supply Box!

The Box:
First off, make sure that the box is waterproof. You don't want to be evacuating from your house in a storm and have a cardboard box fall apart in your hands. Also, make sure that it's a reasonable size. Each household will be slightly different due to population and needs. Make sure it's big enough to store the essentials you need, but not so big that you will have trouble leaving with it in a hurry. You want to make sure that it is airtight too as you will be storing some food in it.

Non Food Essential Items:
Flashlights and extra batteries are a must. When the power goes out, you want to make sure that these are easily available to you, and you know exactly where they are. If you lose power for a number of days, the extra batteries will definitely come in handy. I also packed an extra USB battery charger in my kit. It stores 12 hours of power for anything that can be charged via a USB port. This is great for your cell phone of you need the extra power. A first aid kit is certainly essential in this kit, as you never now what kind of situation you are going to run into. Make sure you have the ice packs that don't need to be kept cold, and plenty of bandages, gloves, cleaning materials, dust masks, pain killers, and anything you might need like an emergency inhaler or an epi pen. If you talk to your doctor about an emergency kit they are usually more than happy to prescribe you an extra epi pen or inhaler for your kit. Also make sure you have any personal sanitation items you may need packed. If you have an infant in the house, make sure that you have extra supplies packed in the kit for them, OR you make sure that there is a diaper bag ready to go with you with everything baby will need. Pack a whistle that is really loud, or some other item that can easily attract attention if you are in any danger. Having some cash in there is a good idea. If you are able to find a store that is open, but is only accepting cash, it will come in handy. Local maps are a good idea to have as GPS systems have a hard time communicating during the bad weather, and you want to make sure you can find where you are in an emergency. A battery powered radio is also key for listening for any weather alerts or other information you might need to know. And lastly, glow sticks, to make sure you and your love ones can be seen in the dark by any vehicles or emergency response teams. Glow bracelets are great for kids as they do not have to hold onto them for a long time and they stay right on the wrist.

Essential Food Items:
Like I mentioned above, if you are traveling to a shelter in an emergency, the shelter you arrive at might not be equipped with the supplies to provide a gluten free community. You need to take some initiative and have some food stored in your emergency supply box. In mine I have a box of gluten free granola bars, a box of gluten free cereal, a pack of gluten free crackers, gluten free cookies, peanut butter, and a few cans of easy-open gluten free soup. You need to keep in mind when packing your food in this box that things like gluten free easy mac will not do because if you have not power, you can't cook it, and there may not be someplace to prepare food at the shelter you are going to. Soups can sometimes be alright if you are ok eating them cold. They are a nice change of pace from eating crackers and granola bars. Just make sure the cans are easy open, or you have a can-opener in the supply box.Also make sure you have some plastic silverware packed in the kit so you can eat whatever you packed. Water bottles are essential. You want to make sure that you have a supply of water in case you don't have access to water for a little while. If you are traveling an evacuation route with everyone else in the county, it's going to take some time, and you want to make sure you keep well hydrated.

Non-Essential, But Very Handy Items

These things are not needed as vitally as the above items, but if you have the room in your kit, they cab become quite handy in an emergency situation. Some of these things can also be essential depending on who is in your household. Remember that this is a loose guide, and the needs of each household vary. Sweaters for each person in the house are good, especially if we get a freak snow storm in October that cuts the power like we did last year. I was quite grateful for my sweaters I had unpacked before the storm. If you have children in your home, you might want to consider packing some form of entertainment for them. handheld devices are one option, but they either need to be charged, or they will suck up your battery supply. If you choose to pack these things make sure you pack extra batteries specifically for the toy. Books are a great idea, or any kind of traveling game. I have a dice game that my friends and I love and it's stored in a cup and you don't need anything else to play! A deck of cards can be handy too for passing the time. A blanket or two can come in handy, and my mom keeps a battery powered lantern in our kit. It helped light up the area we were all in when we had no power. .

Things To Have At Home, But Not In Your Kit
We have a few things that we keep around the house that really came in handy when we had no power. We had little Sterno containers that we could light and cook a small amount of food in my old mess kit from girl scouts. This was good for heading up a can of spaghetti-o's or some water for some tea or coffee. These should not be stored for a long time though or in any place that they might be a danger. Make sure you read the warning labels on the can for proper storage instructions. We also have an emergency plan for our cats. I would never be able to leave my cat behind in an emergency. Make sure you do some research and see what your community's evacuation plan is for pets. Most of the time there is a designated shelter for the pets to go to where they can be safe, and be fed, and you can retrieve them safely from when the danger is over.

I hope that this inspires you to have a kit prepared for an emergency. You don't want to be caught off guard and end up in a bad situation!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wisdom Teeth and Soft Foods

Like most people around my age, I have reached a time when I am in need of having my wisdom teeth removed. Unfortunately it took my wisdom teeth growing in sideways and cracking a molar open for the dentist to go "Ok, this needs to be done now." So tomorrow, I will be going in to get my 3 wisdom teeth removed (the 4th one never developed apparently!), 2 root canals, and I need a bone implant in my upper jaw. I have been on pain killers for the past week for my cracked open tooth, and have been eating all soft and bland foods. For those of you who are on a gluten free diet, you probably know how hard it is to find soft gluten free foods. In case you are ever in need of soft gluten free foods, here are some of the things I have been eating during my dental problems.

1. French Onion Soup
Progresso makes a fantastic gluten free french onion soup. If you purchase the glutano gluten free bagel chips and get some mozzarella cheese, it tastes just like the stuff at the restaurant! The baking of the bagel chips in the soup makes them super super soft, and easy to swallow, and the cheese is just fantastic! Simply pour half of the can of soup in an oven safe bowl, layer some bagel chips on top, and sprinkle with a layer of cheese. Bake in an oven at 350 for about 5-10 minutes (until the cheese is melted) and enjoy! It's bland and soft, and super tasty!

2. Mashed Potatoes
Pretty self explanatory. I didn't do anything fancy with it like add garlic or cheese, just a little bit of butter, and a pinch of salt. It was quite nice and comforting on a rainy night.

3. Soup, soup, and more soup
Honestly, I feel like I have spent most of the week eating soup. Thankfully the line of Progresso gluten free soups were on sale at Shaws Supermarkets this week, and I was able to stock up. I was especially a fan of the broccoli cheddar this week, and as mentioned above, the french onion soup.

4. Chocolate Pudding and Cool Whip
The medications they had me on to prevent an infection in my broken tooth left me with a very bitter taste in my mouth all week. This wasn't so pleasant with all the soups I was eating, so I was definitely craving something sweet in a matter of days. I tried a bite of FroYo we had in the fridge and that was a BAD IDEA with a broken tooth. My mom ended up bringing home some chocolate Snack Packs that I kept out of the fridge so they were at room temperature, and some Cool Whip for a nice topping. I was disappointed to find out that Jell-O brand jello is not gluten free, but the pudding seemed to hold me over just fine.

I hope none of you have to go through the tooth pain I have been though this week. Needless to say, I will not be posting for the next few days as I will be in surgery tomorrow, and recovering for a day or two afterwords. I hope everyone is having a fantastic summer!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Coffee: Friend or Foe?

Coffee is one of the top consumed beverage in the United States. Many people rely on it to function in the morning, and some people can't go a few hours without a cup. But for those with Celiacs Disease, it might be something you want to cut from your diet.

According to recent studies by Dr. David Clark, the most common cross-reactor to gluten is coffee. When somebody with celiacs drinks coffee, it can cross-reacts with gluten antibodies. So what does that mean? It basically means that when you ingest coffee, your immune system may mistake these antibodies in your system are gluten, and therefore your body will react as if you have eaten something containing gluten.

I have personally found that these finding are very true to me. Before this study, I had always just thought that I was allergic to coffee as every time I would drink it, I would become violently ill. My allergy tests at the doctors office though would never show an allergy to coffee, but I stayed away from it regardless. These new findings have given me comfort in knowing that my body wasn't reacting to something else, and I will continue to keep coffee out of my diet.

There are ways that your doctor can test you to see if you have this reaction to coffee, but it's extremely expensive and takes time. Most experts just recommend that if you have been diagnosed with Celiacs, that you try and cut coffee from your diet. For those of you that this is asking the impossible, make sure you are cautious of how your body is reacting to the coffee you are drinking. Even though there are no traces of gluten in coffee, if your body is reacting in a negative way, you are causing some major harm to your immune system and your intestine. It's doing the same damage as eating gluten would.

Tea is an excellent substitute for coffee, and is offered in a variety of flavors and styles. I like to treat myself to some good quality, loose leaf teas from Teavana. It's a bit pricey, but the quality is fantastic and worth every penny. Also, they make a coffee like drink from cacao beans that is quite tasty! Make sure to check out your local health food store for some good quality tea and cacao drinks.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Caprese Salad

I know I have posted about salads before, but I feel like Caprese salad didn't really fall into that category, and it often gets forgotten.

What is Caprese Salad? it is a wonderful mixture of tomato, mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. It's super simple, and this time of year when the tomatoes are fresh, it's super delicious! You can combine these ingredients in any form that you would like to make your salad to taste. I like mine with a little more tomato than cheese. It's great to use for a party too! Here are some creative ways to serve it:

Slice the tomato and mozzarella into disks and form a pretty pattern of them around the plate. Drizzle with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sprinkle with basil. Simple as that, and super pretty!

Appetizer Snack:
Use cherry tomatoes and small mozzarella balls for this one. Cut the tops off of the cherry tomatoes and hollow them out. Stick them on the tops of the skewers. Roll the mozzarella balls in vinegar, oil, salt and pepper and stick on top of the tomato. Sprinkle with shredded basil.

Salad Bowl:
I couldn't for the life of me find the picture that I had of this one, so this version will be without a pic. Use beefsteak tomatoes for this one. Cut the top off of the tomato and hollow it out to make a bowl. Fill your tomato bowl with mini mozzarella balls. Drizzle with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with shreds of basil. Enjoy!

I have tried all three of these and they are all fantastic! They are great at parties! Your guests will be so impressed with your creativity of making these different versions of the salad. Please let me know if you try one of these! I would love to hear from you!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cupcakes That Truly Kickass!

This past week, I have played host to one of my best friends, who is a native to NYC. Since I live in the Boston area, and it was Harborfest this week, we thought it would be fun to explore Boston. We visited the USS Wasp, which was one of the ships docked in Boston this week, and had lunch at Fresh City (that's a post to come later...). After a long day of walking, we needed a sweet fix to get our spirits up, so I decided this was the perfect time to try a new bakery I had been hearing so much about!

Kickass Cupcakes, located in Somrville, MA, is a modest little cupcakes shop that you may miss if you blink walking down the street. But don't let it fool you, it's definitely one of the best bakeries I have visited in a long time. This bakery carries regular glutenous cupcakes of many MANY flavors, cupcakes for pets, and a selection of gluten-free cupcakes.

The woman behind the counter was extremely friendly, and was very helpful in our selection of cupcakes. I purchased the 3 gluten-free cupcakes of the day: chocolate, vanilla, and mojito. My friend purchased some for himself, and for people waiting back home. They were kind enough to pack the gluten-free cupcakes separately, and even label the packages so we could tell the difference.

The first round of cupcakes we had purchased, didn't even make it back home. My friend and I immediately broke into our treasures as soon as we got to the car. He enjoyed a Cinnamon Chai Pecan Sticky cupcake, which he devoured in about 5 seconds. I enjoyed a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting, and let me tell you, I was in heaven. First off, finding a bakery that has gluten-free cupcakes on had, that you do not have to pre-order in bulk was already amazing, but the fact that these cupcakes were so fluffy and moist, I found it hard to believe I was eating a gluten-free cupcake! I will admit that I was a little bit of a pig and enjoyed a second cupcake later that day. My boyfriend and I split a mojito cupcake. It was a little strong for my taste as far at eh mojito flavoring goes, but the texture of the cupcakes was just as satisfying as the first. I enjoyed the vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting yesterday. Just as heavenly as the first.

Want to know what's even cooler about this store?? The have a CUPCAKE TRUCK! How cool is that?? They drive this awesomely decorated truck to different locations around Boston to deliver fresh and tasty cupcakes! Also, if you place an order with them, they will deliver them to you! Yay! I know what I am doing for my next party!

If you live in the Boston area, or take a trip out to Boston someday soon, it is a definite must that you check out Kickass Cupcakes. The prices are fantastic, the cupcakes are super tasty, and if you are playing host to people who are not all gluten free, you can mix and match flavors so there is something for everybody to enjoy! I recommend calling them before you head over to check their gluten-free flavor selection for the day. Here is their information:

Kickass Cupcakes
378 Highland Avenue 
Davis Square, Somerville, MA. 
1 (617) 628-2877

Monday, July 2, 2012

Chicken Tarragon

Chicken has become a staple food item in my household. Some nights, it seems like the only food we can all agree on. Here is a recipe of mine, that is on the newer side. I made it the other night and it was fantastic! The leftovers are tasty too!!

12 oz of boneless chicken, your choice in cut (I use chicken tenders)
1/4 C veggie oil
Salt and Pepper
4 tbls gluten free all purpose flour
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 C dry white wine (I like to use a Riesling)
2 1/4 C low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 C chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 C Dijon mustard
2 tbls unsalted butter

In a large pan, heat the oil over a high heat. Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, and 2tbls of the gluten free all purpose flour. Cook the chicken in the pan, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides. (note: if the chicken is browned, but not cooked through, it's ok, we are going to cook it a second time!) Remove the chicken from the pan, and set aside.

Lower the temperature under the pan to a medium-high heat. Add the onion to cook, and make sure to season with salt and pepper. Cook onions until softened. Add the garlic to cook for about 30 seconds, or until the garlic becomes aromatic, and turn up the heat to high. Add the wine, and use the liquid to deglaze the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. (Make sure it's wood!) Return the chicken pieces to the pan, and slowly add 2 C of the chicken broth and the tarragon. Bring the mixture up to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let it all simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan, and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 C chicken broth and 2 tbls gluten free all purpose flour until smooth. Whisk the flour mixture into the simmering pan. Gently whisk in the Dijon mustard, and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the 2 tbls of butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the sauce over chicken, and garnish with tarragon.

The first night I cooked this dish, I served it over rice, and it was divine. The second time I made this dish, I served it over gluten free pasta, and it was like eating a whole new dish! Everyone has their preference, I enjoy the pasta, where my mom enjoys the rice, so make sure to try both!

Happy cooking!

Long Overdue Post, and A Surprise!

Hello everyone! I am sorry I have been MIA. My summer class and my new job were a little overwhelming last month, so my productivity outside of that was at a minimum. On the bright side, I am now done with summer classes and ready to blog!

Although I have not been working directly on my blog, I have been working on a new project. I have decided to write my own gluten free cookbook! This cookbook will feature not only some of my favorite recipes, but guides to eating gluten free, like the ones you have seen featured on this blog. I am going to be posting some of the recipes from the new cookbook here, and I would love for my readers to try a few of them! If you try and of the recipes I post on my blog, at any point, please please please let me know how it turns out! I would love to get feedback from all of you about what I am writing.

I hope summer is treating all of you very well. I have a few recipes to post this week, along with a restaurant review of a new (to my area) Mexican Cantina. 

Keep cooking!