Monday, January 30, 2012

Forum in Boston

I did my first official review for My wonderful editor, Carol, has embraced my situation and is assigning me restaurants that can cater to my dietary restrictions. See what I have to say about Forum on Boylston St. in Boston. It replaced Vox Populi, and boy, am I glad it did. What a waste of real estate that was. Overpriced drinks, crappy food, and cougars all over the place. Forum is a welcome replacement to that mess.

It did not have a dedicated gluten-free menu, but most of the menu was gluten-free already, thanks to the chef making everything from scratch. I was also thrilled with how educated the server and management were about celiac disease.

Read my Forum review on

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How My Health (and Body) Has Changed Since Going Gluten-Free

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, it was not a surprise. My brother is also celiac (actually, both of them are), and has been living gluten-free for three years. I knew this was genetic. However, I didn't have symptoms. My choice in getting tested yearly was not due to intestinal distress or issues, but instead because of my brother's celiac disease. I had a blood test every year, and this was the first year it came back positive. As a result, I had an endoscopy and biopsy to confirm.

I read a lot of forums where people say how they feel SO much better since going gluten-free, and that they no longer have stomachaches and pains. I wish I could say the same. I suffer from abdominal migraines (related to my own chronic migraines) and have been getting treatment for them from both neurologists and gastroenterologists, but they are unrelated to my celiac disease. I keep a dutiful journal of my migraines, and being gluten-free has not affected their frequency. I was secretly hoping that gluten was triggering these migraines, but alas, it is not the case. Maybe things will change as I am gluten free for a longer period of time -- one can always hope!

However, while I don't feel a huge difference in my digestive system and intestines, I have had overall health improvement. For the past three years, I've had severe eczema on my legs that two dermatologists have been unable to treat. I was at the point where I would wake up with my legs bleeding from scratching in my sleep. I was on the strongest prescription steroid cream available, and wrapping my legs in Saran Wrap after coating them before bed. I've long since given up on trying to treat it -- nothing seemed to make it go away completely. Now, after going gluten-free? My eczema has gone from bloody and scaly broken skin to pale pink healing skin, and it no longer itches.

I also feel like I have tons more energy. I just wasn't digesting my food properly, and not reaping the benefits of the nutrition. Now that I'm digesting food properly, I am more alert and energetic all day. With this energy, I have been more motivated to exercise and work out.

Best of all? I've lost two inches on my waist. I haven't lost any weight or body mass, but I didn't realize that the gluten was bloating my midsection. I am a fairly skinny person, but I always had an oddly large waist that I would hide under empire-waist shirts and dresses -- I chalked it up to being apple-shaped. Since going gluten-free, I've noticed (and others have too) that my natural waist has shrunk. My apple shape has gone to a more feminine pear shape, and it's pretty awesome.

So if you have celiac disease and no symptoms, don't feel like giving up gluten won't change how you feel. It may improve your health in unexpected ways.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Things I Miss the Most

Since switching to the gluten-free lifestyle, there are certain things that I miss the most. I'm sure I'm not alone here, so I've compiled a list of most-craved items, and how I satisfy that craving.

1.) Fried chicken. I have yet to try fried chicken-on-the-bone at home yet, but I did make delicious fried chicken tenders using corn flour. I dredged the tenders in corn flour, then egg, then more corn flour.. then more egg, then more corn flour. The corn added a really nice texture and flavor to the chicken, actually. It was better than the ones I used to make with flour.

2.) Pasta. This is a common one. But the more gluten-free pasta I try, the more that I like. We really enjoyed corn pasta, and brown rice pasta. My next goal is to try to make homemade fresh pasta, gluten-free. I have a pasta press, so I will be sure to blog about that when I give it a shot. I am planning to give Paparazzi a try -- I hear they have gluten-free pasta dishes.

3.) Pizza. I. love. pizza. Who doesn't? Cheesy and wonderful, crispy crust.. there's nothing like it. I miss it. However, there are plenty of good gluten-free options out there. The best one I've found is at The Grilling Greek in Natick, on Route 135. This place quite frankly deserves its own review, because it is my favorite place to order takeout. The tiny unassuming shack churns out some of the best food you will ever have -- pita baked to order, fresh gyros, all for incredibly reasonable prices. But now with my gluten allergy, I order their gluten-free pizza, especially the White Greek pizza -- feta, roasted red peppers, grilled chicken, and roasted garlic. The pizza is wonderfully crispy and chewy all at once, and the best part? It heats up well the next day. I have yet to find another gluten-free pizza that lasts a day. If you aren't in the area, Wicked in Dedham also has excellent gluten-free pizza that heats up well the next day. It's pricey, but tasty.

4.) Toast. I didn't think I would miss a simple thing like my slice of toast in the morning. I used to eat, every morning, multi-grain toast with peanut butter and dried cranberries. Instead, I now eat oatmeal. Be warned, many oatmeals are processed with wheat. So I had to order the Glutenfreeda brand from Amazon. There are also some celiacs who cannot eat oats. However, research shows that the majority of celiac sufferers can tolerate oats just fine -- it's best to check with your doctor. Either way, I get a packet of plain oatmeal, add honey and dried cranberries, then some boiling water. Breakfast is restored!

5.) French fries. Who doesn't love a crispy crunchy fried potato? I am a sucker for French fries, and giving them up has really sucked. Admittedly, it makes me order a healthier side when at a restaurant, but most restaurants simply don't have a dedicated fryer for their fries, meaning they are contaminated with gluten from the other battered items in the fryillator. However, the saving grace? McDonald's. That's right. The best French fries in fast food are, in fact, gluten free. McDonald's does in fact list a gluten byproduct in the beef flavoring put into the fries (yeah, they put beef flavoring in their fries... why do you think they taste so good?). However, tests have shown that the beef flavoring is SO processed that the amount of gluten left is negligible and not enough to trigger a reaction in celiacs. And Mickey D's has dedicated fryers for just their French fries! Amazing. I'll stop into McDonald's for a hot fudge sundae (also gluten-free) and a big side of fries for a treat. Obviously, this is a once in awhile thing.

6.) Burgers. I love burgers so much. They are my favorite comfort food, a nice burger and fries. I am sick of restaurants saying "We have gluten-free burgers!" and what they really mean is "We can serve a meat patty with no bun and call it a burger!" I've tried the gluten-free burgers at several restaurants at this point. BBC is well-known for its gluten-free menu, but the burger bun is terrible. It tastes like drywall. Not Your Average Joe's also has a gluten-free menu, with a very good bun (they also serve the bun as a bread basket in the beginning of the meal), but disappointingly, the burger itself sucks. My server didn't even take a temperature, and it came out medium well and dry. If I could somehow combine BBC's meat patty with the bun from Not Your Average Joe's... So, in lieu of this, I turn to The Cottage in Wellesley. The L.A. Burger is very tasty, and it is actually served on bread.

7.) Wings. Every Valentine's Day, my husband and I have a tradition. We watch terrible movies on the living room floor, with a gigantic order of chicken wings. We love Wing It in Allston, and even the Wings Over... chain. I just love chicken wings (on the bone, of course. Don't give me that fried chicken tender crap and try to tell me that's a wing. If it ain't flapped, it ain't a wing.) and I love getting all gross from the sauce and working for the meat on the bone. Unfortunately, most chains fry their wings in the same fryers as their boneless (and covered in gluten) counterparts. It just isn't safe to eat. Luckily for me, we live near the BBC in Framingham. They have an expansive gluten-free menu, which includes their wings -- they oven roast them in lieu of frying. So not only are they gluten-free, but they're technically better for you anyway! BBC does takeout, so we will order their buffalo wings plus entrees, and it's an affordable and delicious dinner. Do they taste as good as deep fried wings? Well, no. But they are extremely satisfying, and as close to the real thing that I can get without busting out my Fry Daddy at home.

8.) Cupcakes. I do not normally have much of a sweet tooth, but I love cupcakes. Treat Cupcake Bar in Needham has fantastic gluten-free vegan cupcakes, but more importantly, they have varying flavors. There are plenty of good bakeries with gluten free cupcakes (Glutenus Minimus, for example) that are delicious, but they only ever come in chocolate with vanilla frosting. Treat has an entire menu of gluten-free vegan cupcakes, and they do custom orders. I've even emailed with the baker to discuss their practices to avoid cross-contamination. In this picture, you can see the varying flavors they have -- chocolate with orange frosting, mint chocolate cookie with mint frosting, cookies 'n cream, pumpkin with cinnamon frosting, mochaccino, chocolate with coconut frosting and chocolate ganache.. so delicious.

So, that's it so far. Any other substitutions people out there recommend? Is there any craving you're having a hard time satisfying? I'd love to hear from you!

Gone Gluten Free

I've been absent from this blog since I began writing for (I didn't want to be competing with myself), but my recent diagnosis of celiac disease has brought me back to blogging for myself. My life as a foodie has completely changed since being diagnosed a month ago, and it's hard to say if it's for the better or the worse. For those of you who don't know, celiac disease is when gluten (found in all wheat and wheat byproducts) creates an autoimmune response in the intestines, eroding the intestinal lining. Untreated, the disease leads to malnutrition, osteoporosis, and even cancer. The only treatment? Cutting all gluten and gluten-contaminated products out of your diet.

No bread, pasta, wheat noodles, cakes, cookies, etc. The obvious stuff. But there's also the not so obvious stuff -- some kinds of vinegar, soy sauce, shredded cheeses, processed foods, fried food from restaurants (the oil is often shared with battered items), and even makeup and toothpaste. This really required a full-life overhaul for me.

That being said, I was prepared. My brothers also have celiac disease, and my nephew has severe food allergies (dairy, egg, nuts, mustard), so I cook Thanksgiving dinner and it's a gluten/dairy/egg/nut/spice free meal. If I can cook that, I can deal with just a gluten allergy. Since my brother was diagnosed 3 years ago, I've made it a point to educate myself on the disease, so I had a better starting off point than most people diagnosed with celiac disease. The other difficult thing for people who go gluten free is giving up beer -- however, I gave up beer and alcohol years ago due to an allergy, so I have already won half the battle!

So anyway, this will be the new direction of the blog. I've hated how long I ignored this blog, but now I have a focus that will help differentiate from what I do for I plan to blog about trying to live gluten free in the Boston area, and review gluten free items. If there's anything you'd like me to address, please let me know!