• Love Actualized (by the Snow Goons)
    I’ve been thinking a lot about the content of my blog. I wonder why people come to it. If you’re interested in commenting, I’d really like to know. Sort of an informal survey. Are you looking for recipes? Support for your gluten-free lifestyle? Personal anecdotes? Anything else not mentioned? Oh, and if anyone can offer any advice on how to get the pictures into the post without screwing up the text, I would greatly appreciate it!

    Here we are, halfway through February, just a little more than a month away from spring. We’ve only had a little bit of snow here in New England, but enough for the snow goons to make their presence known. “Who are the snow goons?”, you ask. I will share a little bit of personal information with you. I think it might make you smile. It helps me get through the long, cold winters, knowing that the snow goons will visit whenever the flakes accumulate and leave enough on the ground for them to play in.

    After any amount of decent snow fall, I look out my bedroom window. And there, embedded in the clean, white usually packed snow, I see something that looks vaguely like footprints, but my eye is more focused on the words that are spelled in the snow. My sweet husband’s name. My name. Though we didn’t meet each other until both of us were nearly 40 years old, I imagine we might’ve been high school sweethearts. And I pretend that my adolescent boyfriend stamped our names in the newly fallen snow, with a heart, maybe an arrow to mark the spot and publicly declare our love. That’s what I see when I look out at my window, after newly fallen snow has settled into the nooks and crannies of our backyard. Snow goons. That’s what my husband tells me. It’s like Valentine’s Day each time it happens.

    And this sweet husband of mine – why else do I bring him up? For many reasons. But tonight, one of the reasons I bring him up is because I think a friend of mine might read this blog entry. And maybe my words will help persuade her that she needs to elicit her family’s help. She has fallen off the Celiac wagon, once again. Diagnosed about 6 or 7 years ago, she just cannot seem to remain compliant. She advised me, when I was diagnosed a short 15 months ago. She helped me navigate through the endless maze of questions I had. She endured my endless phone calls, made during my frequent visits to Whole Foods. Are potato chips gluten free? How about bread? Which kind should I buy? What about spices? What about dried fruit? What about this? What about that?

    She began taking probiotics about 6 months ago and within a short time, felt enormously better. And once she began feeling better, it was a slippery slope into eating gluten again. A little bit here and there never hurt anyone, right? Wrong. It caught up with her and before too long, all the old familiar symptoms returned with a vengeance. They say it can take months to heal after a gluten hit, especially when you’ve been compliant. I don’t know exactly how compliant she’d been, but she really fell off the wagon big time and now is paying the price.

    Today, when we spoke, I asked her whether she thought it was difficult to be compliant in a house where others eat gluten and where she has to cook with gluten. I’m not at all suggesting that every household with a Celiac should be completely gluten free. I wouldn’t go that far. I only know what works for me. But I think with her tendency to slip and go back to her old ways, she would benefit enormously if her family would join her in being gluten free, at least in the house. Some of her pitfalls? She and her husband entertain a lot. They have frequent gatherings where people bring food to the house and/or she cooks. They go out to eat with their friends a lot. Not infrequently to Italian restaurants. She used to bring her own pasta. Not any more. She got tired of the drill. It’s just easier to eat what everyone else eats. She wouldn’t dare subject anyone who she cooks for (family or guests) to eat gluten free. Why should they suffer?

    I only hope she will reconsider. Those of us who do enough reading on the subject know that cheating will come back to haunt you. Maybe not immediately, but someday. Who knows what other auto-immune diseases you’re inviting into your life? Why would you play with fire? There are so many great options, especially if you like to cook (and she does). And if you care enough about your health and you want to set a good example to your children, you will return to being vigilant about what you eat.

    I brought up my sweet husband because after my endoscopy (confirming Celiac), he insisted that our house be entirely gluten free. And after about four months of watching me watch him eat those hamburgers on wheat buns and him not having to ask any questions at restaurants, he decided to join me. I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it is that he is gluten free also. It means he doesn’t have to brush his teeth to kiss me, wondering whether he ate gluten prior to our lips touching. It means we can eat off each others’ plates at restaurants, something he used to yell at me for but then found he missed once I couldn’t eat from his gluten filled entrees. It means he feels better – he lost 10 pounds and has no more indigestion and rarely has headaches. It’s been a win-win situation for both of us. Plus he can totally sympathize and understand what it’s like from my end of the menu! I don’t know if I would’ve asked him to do it, maybe I would’ve. But I sure am glad he figured it out on his own and made that decision to join me. Makes me feel so supported, it’s beyond my ability to describe it.

    Ok. I’ll get off my soapbox. If you’re reading this, just know that I care.

    This past week I cooked up a storm. Here are some of the things I made:

    Pad Thai
    Pad Thai, inspired by Brendon at Something In Season. He was inspired by Chez Pim, another wonderful blogger. Tied right in with my continued desire to cook and eat everything Vietnamese I can get my hands on. And the more cilantro, the better. For the recipe, I would suggest going to Chez Pim’s website and following her intricate and perfect directions. I made a few minor changes, but overall, kept the recipe intact. I used baby bok choy instead of beansprouts (got that idea from Brendon). I used scallions instead of chives. Didn’t use the pickled turnips or dried shrimps. I took the time (though it took just a few minutes) to make the tamarind pulp. Kind of fun and squishy. And when I made and tasted the Pad Thai sauce, the flavor absolutely exploded in my mouth. Definitely make this sauce. You won’t be sorry.

    Sate Seafood Rice Noodle Soup (Hu Tieu Hai San Sa Te)

    This soup was delicious and reheated beautifully two days later, as did the Pad Thai. I found the recipe at http://www.Vietworldkitchen.com


    Fish Soup and Corn Bread (yes the picture is sideways!)


    I went to BJ’s (wholesale club market) with a friend and bought two pounds of scrod. Decided to make Mexican Fish Stew – I got the recipe from Martha Rose Shulman’s website – I’ve been a fan of her cookbooks for years. Served it with homemade Corn bread with fresh (well, actually frozen) corn kernals and jalapeno peppers. Delicious!


    Huevas Rancheros With Cornbread


    This morning, I made a new version of Huevos Rancheros. Instead of serving it over corn tortillas, I served it over the leftover cornbread from last night. It’s basically a salsa type sauce (canned fire-roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno pepper, cumin, coriander, S&P chopped in the blender) served over two fried eggs, served over cornbread. Nothing fancy, but boy, it tasted great on a Sunday morning.

    The finishing touch was tonight’s dessert. Homemade chocolate cookies. But not any ol’ chocolate cookies. These were Balsamic Fudge Drops which I got from the Habeus Brulee blog which in turn got them from Alice Medrich. I don’t know much about Alice Medrich, but if these cookies are any indication, I am definitely going to read everything she’s ever written.
    I made a mistake that I think turned out to be fortuitous. It was the first time I replaced wheat flour with a gluten free flour mix. But I forgot to add xanthan gum, which I think you’re supposed to do when you make substitutions with GF flours. But the cookies came out fantastic. Oh, and instead of using what I imagine is dark balsamic vinegar, I used white balsamic vinegar, as I didn’t have any of the dark stuff in the house. Cookies were so chocolatey and so crisp and lacey. A real keeper. In fact, I could see making a chocolate crust using these cookies.

    Balsamic Fudge Drops

    Balsamic Fudge Drops
    I think the recipe made about 18 cookies.

    1 cup gluten free flour of your choice (I used Annalise Roberts Brown Rice Flour mix)
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
    1/8 teaspoon SALT
    5 tablespoons unsalted butter
    ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
    2/3 cup granulated sugar
    1/3 cup dark brown sugar (I used light brown)
    1/3 cup plain yogurt
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    Vanilla sugar (see note)
    Preheat oven 350 degrees.

    Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.

    Melt the butter in a small saucepan. When it is all melted and sizzpling, remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder, and then both sugars. And then the yogurt, vanilla, and balsamic vinegar. Once that is mixed together nicely, add the flour mixture and stir it just until it is fully incorporated, trying not to overmix.

    Measure out tablespoons of the dough about 1 ½” apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle vanilla sugar on top. Bake for about 11 mjinutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through.

    When the cookies come out, they will look somewhat crackled on top, and terrifyingly soft. You will probably be convinced they are not yet done. Take them out anyway. Slide the parchment paper with the cookies onto a rack to cool – the cookies will harden as they cool, and then you will be able to remove them from the parchment paper.

    Note: To make vanilla sugar, mix sugar and inside scraped flesh from one vanilla bean in your food processor. Sift to remove any big chunks. To use the vanilla bean, make a slice from top to bottom with a sharp paring knife, as if you’re opening it to see what is inside. Then take the blade of your knife and slide it from the top down to the bottom, dragging the inside pulp out of the vanilla bean and then putting it into the food processor.

    So, long post. Lots of yummy food. Lots of cooking. That’s what I do. In order for me to stay safe, I’ve needed to learn to eat at home. We go out periodically, especially when we travel out of town. But when we’re home, we eat home. And I have to say, I ain’t looking back at all. I feel good and on my way back to mending my health, after many years of stomach aches and who knows what else. I’m doing what my friend told me when she first advised me – it’s not a death sentence – you can do it and eat well. So, right back at you girlfriend. Make it work, you’re worth it!

    • melanie

      Hi there – I’m a new reader, recently diagnosed with celiac. I come to your blog for all things gf: recipes, anecdotes, support. When I was diagnosed, I immediately went to the internet looking for others and subscribed to a handful of gf blogs. Thank you for being here, it definitely made the transition easier for me!

    • Lynn Barry

      Dear Ellen,
      I come to your bloghome because you made me feel a connection with you when you came to mine and told me you read everyone of my posts and they inspired you to experiment and you seemed so grateful.
      I feel as if I am fighting this personal battle to control my body and mind. The thing that is helping me accomplish this is to totally eliminate gluten, casein, corn, soy, eggs, and yeast. I do this because it makes me feel the best I have felt in over 50 years. I see those 50 years as a waste in some ways because I always felt poorly and like your hubby I had the headaches and stomach distress and also rashes and nervousness, inability at times to sit still and on and on. I did not test positive for celiacs but at the time I was tested I had been gluten free for a while, so who knows. It does not matter I will NEVER go back, I WILL NEVER return to not feeling well. My family is extremely supportive but this house is not gluten and casein and corn and soy and yeast and egg free by any means and I even bake cookies for the guys using wheat and eggs and milk products. Do I miss any of it…NO WAY!

      I think it boils down to making a decision to love yourself and want to feel the best you can feel. It took a while to discover this but only because I was still finding out what things I should eliminate.

      I come here because you are a beautiful person who loves herself and wants to feel the best you can feel and I care about what is going on with you. You also do a great job of posting pics and writing about your life in a way that is down to earth and yet has enough pizzazz to make it interesting.

      I write on my blog and other sites without thinking about others reading what I write. I write because I have to write, so when others (like you did that day)write things back I am always surprised…sounds silly, but I write for me and when someone gets something out of it I am tickled, but always surprised.
      Love ya,
      Lynn
      PS you are a great person to care so much for your friend who is in crisis

    • Mike Eberhart

      Wow have you been busy Ellen! You are a baking machine! Lovely pictures too.

      I stop by just to see what others in the Celiac community are going through, and I love reading the stories you post, as well as checking out the recipes, pictures, and the lot. It’s a nice sense of community when you can browse around a few other GF blogs and get a quick read on what life is like elsewhere. Keep up the great work!

      I never quite know why people visit my blog either. I assume the recipes are a draw, especially as often as I hear gluten-free people (especially newbies) needing direction with their baking, etc. Aside from that, I use the blog as a personal record of what’s going on. And, I find myself all the time going online to pull some referenced material from my own blog when someone asks about a certain GF topic or such.

    • Ellen

      Yes, Mike, the support of our small but growing GF community is a great foundation for me (and I’ll bet for others also)- knowing that we’re in this together really helps me stay strong. Thanks for your words!

    • celticjig

      Hi! I have been reading your post for about a month now, when I learned how to subscribe to posts (a wonderful thing). I too am gluten free and read other gluten free posts for support (I suppose I could go to a support group, but then I feel as if I am giving in or weak), recipes and for the comradery with other foodies. I am a slacker blogger and since my blog doesn’t have “gluten free” in the title, not many readers visit my site. I have difficulty juggling work, experimenting with GF baking and blogging and the rest of life (knitting, reading, gardening). Since I can’t run down the street and grab take out without a thought, I seem to spend so much more time in the kitchen now, not that I mind as I love cooking.
      I too love and crave Vietnamese food and am always looking for great ethnic recipes of all cultures. I need to post the recipes I have developed and will get to it eventually, I have lots of food photos to post.
      Mostly it is nice to know there are other celiacs out there who are going through the same thing I am and we can all learn from each others successes and mistakes!
      I live in Michigan and we have lots of snow, so I can appreciate your weekend in the New England woods, sounds great! Thanks for your blog!
      Ginger

    • Ellen

      Hi Ginger,

      Welcome to our GF friendly community! I’ve added you to my link list of GF blogs. I know it’s hard to keep up – sometimes I go a week without posting. Most times I post a few times a week. It is definitely time-consuming, but I think of it as therapy. Like going to a GF therapist for a session or two each week:). Except the only outlay of money is for the food I buy. And I buy lots of it – since eating home almost all the time, we’re at the market almost every other day! But I don’t mind, as I love to cook.

      Also, we are professional full-time musicians – thought you might like to know that! (www.peterandellen.com)

      And I knit AND I just bought a sewing machine!

      So, we have lots in common. So glad to meet you!

      Best, Ellen

    • celticjig

      Any tips for learning the mandolin? Another one of my goals. My friends here (a group of homebrewers) have started a kitchen band – I call them the Deadfish Cuddlers. I think my boyfriend is surprised by my frequent trips to the store, but to that end it extremely supportive of my GF life. He even pulled out the Rebecca Reilly GF baking book over the weekend and made an apple cream cheese coffee cake and it was delish! Pic’s coming soon to my blog! I work out of my house, so that does help with getting lots of cooking accomplished. I think I will blog more often when I get back to using a laptop. I am a laptop blogger and my laptop died over the xmas holidays. Ah, excuses, but I did finish a lot of knitting projects.
      Ginger

    • gilly

      Hi Ellen, I pop by your blog often, as I try to make GF meals several nights a week… and I’m always looking for inspiration. Last year when I was very sick, I thought that I might have Celiac. And although they did a panel, and it returned negative, I find under certain conditions that I can be more of less sensitive to it (perhaps a slight intolerance). I still do gluten-y baking for my husband (in small quantities), but I try and sneak in plenty of GF meals in there. He doesn’t even notice. I find your blog to be a good source of inspiration for those meals. So I thank you for that.

    • mare

      Mike said it well:

      …sense of community

      …personal record

      I add constantly seeking inspiration for a love of good food!

      I’ve hesitated for almost two years but with my SO’s calm encouragement I’ve started blogging. Although not – NOT – ready for prime time, it is http://warchild13.com/thegirlcanthelpit/

      and you know why? The sense of community.

    • Zohreh

      I love reading your blog because a) you have delicious and inspiring pictures b) you write interesting posts and c) you’re enthusiasm for gluten free is just so encouraging.

      Can you post the recipes for some of those delicious-looking things you made in your last post? Mainly, the black bean soup, butternut risotto, and coconut muffins? please??? Just looking at them makes me want to take the day off and cook cook cook!!

    • Allie

      Hey Ellen!

      I’ve been so busy with work I’ve been neglecting catching up on my blog as well as reading everyone elses!

      I love reading your blog and others for a few reasons. I like to hear what you are cooking, what you’re using to cook with, how it turned out, etc.
      I also like hearing about other people with celiac/gluten intolerance and how they’re doing, like someone said earlier, it’s nice to have a sense of a gluten free community. PLUS, I love to read about people in the area who may have a tip on a restaurant or a store to visit!

      Thanks for the blogging – I’m always impressed by all the wonderful food you cook up!

    • Gluten Free Suzi

      Hi Ellen,

      I have been a Coeliac for many years but am quite new to blogging. I started my blog to share my Gluten Free knowledge but I am finding that I am the one who is learning from others. I really enjoy reading everyones experiences and knowing I am not alone. I only help my stories will also help others.

      Your story tonight about your friend has really hit home. The stars must have aligned because I wrote a similar blog directed at a close friend of mine for her Mum. She was recently diagnosed but seams to think she is too old to worry about her gluten free diet. She has been sick for as long as I remember, but is too set in her ways to change. I am doing everything I can to educate my friend about Gluten Free cooking, trying to show her that is does not have to be a big deal and how important it is that she support her Mum & teach her it is OK to be Gluten Free.

      When I was diagnosed not many people knew about Coeliac. I did not go out to a restaurant for 6 months! It was my family, particularly my husband who helped me through. Even now when I slightly think of taking a risk, he is there to talk me through it.

      I think it is great that you are concerned for your friend and doing everything you can to help her get back on the wagon. Let her know there is a wonderful group of coeliacs there to support her and that she should just talk with her friends and family. When a friend goes to all the effort of making you dinner, they do not want to give you food poisoning – and that is basically what they are doing by not accommodating for her.

      I have added you to my blog. I love reading your stories. All the best.

      Suzi..

    • Jeanne

      Great blog! And thanks for the recipes. About your friend: I am always amazed that someone with celiac can “cheat.” My other g-f friend and I talk constantly about how horrible we feel if we get even a smidgeon of accidental gluten. So, the concept of doing it on purpose completely boggles the mind. I realize that she must have latent celiac (with no symptoms). But, still…it makes me shudder.

    • Gluten Free Vegan

      Ellen…I love your blog. You hit every area of the gluten free lifestyle in one way or another, pluse you remind us to be creative (with your recipes) and lucky to be able to eat at all.

      I loved this particular post about your friend. I also have a friend who glutens herself on occassion knowing how sick she is going to be afterward! I can’t seem to understand that, because if you dont have your health, you have nothing…

      Keep blogging away…we luv you!

    • Cheryl

      Hi Ellen,

      You asked, why did I come to your blog?

      There is an elderly woman in my Torah study group who has Celiac, and I was thinking it would make her really happy if I could find some GF hamentaschen and make her a Purim basket for next week. I googled “gluten-free hamentaschen” and your site came up on the first page of results… and voila! Here I am! I was excited to discover that the bakery is near enough to me that I can even go there in person. I saw your comments on the brownies and the rice bread, but didn’t see any comments on the hummies – how were they?

      I’m sure I will visit your blog again. I know next to nothing about GF cooking, but whenever I make something to share with my Torah group I am careful to make it GF so my friend can enjoy it too. Some recipes I have gotten off the internet for this purpose were just no good at all, so it is nice to find a source where I won’t be wondering, “is this worth making, or is noone going to want to eat it?” the whole time I am preparing it. Besides that, your posts are just fun to read. Your positive attitude and real appreciation of life really come through.

    • Anonymous

      What probiotics did she find so helpful? I do not have celiac, but probiotics were recommended to me.

    • adi

      Nice blog, This is my first time visiting here.

      regadrs,

      Kenali dan Kunjungi Objek Wisata di Pandeglang

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