Friday, February 27, 2009

Passover Product Watch 2009: Knaidel Mix

Perhaps you've noticed the reappearance in Passover foods in area supermarkets.

Matzoh remains forbidden on a gluten-free diet, as it is still (unleavened) wheat, but there are many Passover products that are also wheat-free, or non-gebrokts. Among those products are some real finds, which I hope to cover in the days ahead. Even though supermarkets pre-ordered Passover foods as early as last autumn, there's little harm in asking your grocer about any of the products that might interest you. Perhaps one day more food purveyors will realize that their finer gluten-free Passover products can be marketed year-round.

One Passover product that actually seems to be increasing in availability is Lieber's Knaidel Mix, which I've covered previously in this blog. Basically made with potatoes, these dumplings can be used as alternatives to matzoh balls. Need I say more?

If you're interested, ask for it!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

GF Pasta Preparation

Do you really need lots of water to prepare pasta? That's the question Harold McGee explores in the unsubtly titled New York Times article "How Much Water Does Pasta Really Need?" (February 24, 2009).

McGee finds that you generally don't need the amount of water typically recommended on the package. This can save energy as well as water—and, I think, also prevent scalding due to draining unwieldy pasta pots. (I understand that this painful condition is not unknown in Emergency Rooms.) McGee also finds that dry pasta can be placed in water even before the water reaches the boiling point. He also encourages people to try drinking pasta water or using it in a sauce.

Does all this apply to gluten-free pasta? Well, I've long used less than the recommended amount of water, so I'd say that you can definitely taper off if you haven't already. The only thing to look out for is forgetting to check the pot, letting the water boil away to nothing.

Otherwise, I'd say it's better to stick with the instructions for the pasta until you become more familiar with it. Unlike hardy wheat-based pastas, some gluten-free pastas seem to need precisely timed boiling to keep it from being too hard or too mushy. (In my experience that's especially true for potato pastas.) There's little risk in experimenting every now and then, but given the realities of timed food preparation, it's almost inevitable that even if you try cook a favorite pasta "by the book" every time, you'll still become acquainted with its properties at varying timings! And go ahead and try using the water for something if you're interested in that kind of thing.

While I'm on the subject, I'll also go one step farther and venture that salt isn't necessary for pasta preparation either. Personally, I get enough flavor from sauces, freshly ground cheese, and such.

But there's one thing you should never, ever, mix with pasta....

Source (00:48)

Monday, February 23, 2009

GFRAP Welcomes Friedman's Lunch

Also Adds LI BBQ to Roster

The recently revamped Friedman's Lunch at Chelsea Market is the latest NYC restaurant to join the roster of the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP). Friedman's offers deli-style breakfasts, lunches, and early dinners daily, with plans to add gluten-free brew, according to Celiac Chick Kim. That should go especially well with the restaurant's crispy herbed French fries and crunchy homemade potato chips! In the meantime, you can always get a can of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray with your order. Just take note that there may well be a surcharge for any gf breads—including a gf roll and a gf "rye"—ordered with your meal.

Friedman's participation in GFRAP is not coordinated with a local group, but the restaurant is at least the third in the program that is connected to the Phillips restaurant family, which also has a hand in the Asian GFRAP restaurants Lili's 57 and Lilli and Loo.

In other GFRAP news, Long Island's BBQ joint Smoking Sloe's (847 Fort Salonga Road, Northport) is also on the roster. The restaurant's gluten-free menu includes soups and salads as well as ribs and a melt-in-your-mouth wrapped chocolate brownie from Centerport's Azure Chocolat, recently featured in Newsday and mentioned in The New York Times.

Smoking Sloe's participation in GFRAP is in cooperation with the Suffolk County Celiac Support Group (GIG).

And remember, folks: GFRAP welcomes your feedback—positive and negative!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gluten-Free Oscar Quiz

At least one movie in Oscar contention includes a character who is on a gluten-free diet. Can you name the flick I have in mind?

Find the answer in the comments.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Modern Dance Fundraiser

Coming March 12, 2009

The Celiac Chicks will host the fourth annual Evening with the Paul Taylor Dance Company fundraiser at 7pm on Thursday, March 12, 2009, at City Center. Tickets range from $15 to $250; click here for more details about ordering so that a portion of the proceeds will go to the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University (CDCCU).

The program represents a range of moods, from the camp comedy of Funny Papers to the atheletic grace of Esplanade to the grave power of Scudorama. Afterwards come desserts from various sources including Risotteria, Shabtai Gourmet, and Foods by George.

Here's some background on Taylor.

Source (4:23)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cooking by the Book

Next Event on March 3, 2009

Last year I was fortunate to receive an invitation to one of the Cooking by the Book fundraisers for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University (CDCCU). It ain't cheap, but it's definitely worth consideration if the $220 tab is within your budget. (A portion goes to the CDCCU.)

Cooking by the Book is a cooking event held at an unusual apartment downtown. I was especially impressed by the large professional kitchen and, uh, the shower, but here you'll have to settle for a picture of a bookshelf that includes Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Dr. Peter Green and Rory Jones.

But we weren't at this event to read. Before the cooking began, we were able to get to know each other over drinks, which explains the presence of the bottle to the right of the bookcase. Then we split up into teams to prepare different parts of a meal.

The theme to our feast had to do with twos. I shared quinoa duty, which involved getting some scallion-cutting practice and learning different ways to pack two colors of quinoa into a "mold" so they could be presented as one. Here you can see the packed quinoa.

And here, on a finished plate, you can see the quinoa arranged into a kind of Oreo—oh, I mean Mi-Del chocolate sandwich cookie—formation.

And here's the yin-yangy soup! (There were no googly eyes, but it was still yummy.)

This event isn't just about the food—it's also about the schmooze. I enjoyed meeting other gluten-free people and those who love and support them. Some of us even reunited for lunch at Lilli and Loo!

The next Cooking by the Book is scheduled for 6:30pm on Tuesday, March 3, 2009. To find out more about attending, contact Cynthia Beckman by Monday, February 23, 2009.

EXTRA Here is Sloane "Allergic Girl" Miller's description of a 2007 Cooking by the Book event.

Photo: David Marc Fischer

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shameless Shirt Promotion

Shopping for yourself or someone who's on a gluten-free diet? Consider the shirts and other gifts at the Gluten-Free NYC Boutique!

Designs by Debbie Glasserman Design

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gluten-Free Love

A Very Special Valentine's Post

Last year I posted about a dinner introducing the parents of Adam Streisfeld and Jennifer Thompson, who is gluten-free.

I guess the gathering went well enough, because now Jennifer and Adam are looking forward to a gluten-free wedding this April!


Please note how well Adam accommodates Jennifer's diet [gluten-free croissants!]. If you've got someone in your life who does the same, now's a good time to show how much you appreciate it.

Here's a cover of "their" song, "Grits Ain't Groceries." (Maybe grits ain't, but at least they ain't got gluten, either!)


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Unusual Hot Chocolate

Thanks to Sloane "Allergic Girl" Miller, I became aware of a dairy-free hot chocolate recipe in yesterday's New York Times.

How can chocolate milk be dairy-free? When the milk used is coconut milk! If you're interested, check it out here.

Another unusual concoction (found on my own, thank you very much!) is a mix that combines hot chocolate with marzipan flavor. Use coconut milk instead of dairy milk with Niederegger's Marzipan Trinkschokolade, and you might be coming close to a hot Almond Joy drink! (Feel free to double check that it's gluten-free!)

If hot chocolate is music to your ears, this video is for you, you sexy thang!


Monday, February 09, 2009

S'MAC Sale!

15% Off on February 9-12, 2009

Double-plus good news! GFRAP restaurant S'MAC is offering 15% off its menu items Monday through Thursday of this week! And it's opened a takeout/delivery storefront next to its East Village location! The former promotes the latter, which should help speed up the service considerably.

Remember: It doesn't hurt to double-check with the staff to make sure that you've gotten the gluten-free noodles in your order.

Also, GFRAP really really really wants your feedback, positive as well as negative.

Thanks to Erin of the New York City Celiac Disease Meetup Group (NYCCDMG) and Gluten-Free Fun for spreading the news!

Photo: David S'MARC Fischer

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Deborah Grumet's "Studies in Digestion"

Available—for a limited time only!

From time to time I bring an artistic concept to the attention of the wonderfully clever Deborah Grumet, who kindly does me the favor of using her creative talents to make the concept a reality. For example, Deborah recently crafted this New Yorker parody cover—a dream come true for me (and, I hope, Deborah)!

Deborah recently received some coverage for a work she did completely on her own: "Studies in Digestion" (above). It consists of four pictures of the digestive tract done in the style of four different artists: Haring, Seurat, Magritte, and Picasso.

Deborah submitted this work to the Museum of Bad Art, which rejected it! Maybe it was just too darn good. That might be the case, as it is currently up for auction (until about 1:37 Sunday afternoon ET PT!) to raise money (in a tongue-in-cheek way) for the troubled Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University.

This, I think, would be perfect for a gastroenterologist or an art lover with a special interest in the digestive tract. Present bidding is at $141.38!

ADDENDUM It's been sold for $152.53!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Autism and Gluten Sensitivity

Dietitian Tricia Thompson, who specializes in the gluten-free diet, recently posted an interview with autism expert Jennifer Elder about using a gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet to treat autism. I was surprised that there was nothing in the discussion about the potential benefits of screening autistic children for celiac disease prior to putting them on the diet.

But perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. I've seen lots of coverage about treating autism with a GFCF diet, but I don't recall a single occasion when the coverage suggests testing for celiac disease or other gluten reactions prior to putting a child on the diet.

Sometimes it seems that autism and celiac disease exist in parallel worlds, with attention-getting voices like Pamela Anderson's in GFCF World but not Celiac World. But that shouldn't be not the case.

Testing for celiac disease pre-diet makes sense. The current odds of having celiac disease in the U.S. are currently estimated at around 1:100 or 1:133, with most cases still going undetected. So, at the very least, it seems likely that any child tested for celiac disease has about a 1:133 chance of testing positive.

Doctors should seriously consider screening with a full panel of blood tests for gluten sensitivity—not just for the autoimmune antibodies but for the antigliadin antibodies too. Even though the autoimmune antibodies seem very reliable when testing adults, they are not necessarily as reliable for young children. Furthermore, it is possible that a serious neurological reaction can be associated with antigliadin antibodies but not autoimmune antibodies, as is the case with gluten ataxia.

Patients who test positive for gluten sensitivity in a full celiac panel (only valid when the patient is not on a gluten-free diet) can then be monitored for compliance with the diet. If they follow the diet, subsequent results should be lower; if they fall off the diet secretly or accidentally, the celiac panel can provide evidence. But if the patient goes gluten-free without the testing, there will be no pre-diet baseline test results.

I raised most of these points with Tricia Thompson, who agreed that "all children with autism should be tested for celiac disease before being put on a gluten-free diet." I hope that this message gets the attention from the autism community that I think it deserves.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Salmonella Threat Results in Food Recalls, Presidential Review of FDA

Gluten Free Cafe Asian Noodles are part of a precautionary recall by the Hains Celestial Group due to current concerns over salmonella in peanut products; see here for more information.

Out of similar concerns, General Mills voluntarily recalled the peanut-butter cookie flavor of Lärabars, which are all gluten-free. See here for more information.

As you can see here, many other foods have been recalled due to recent salmonella contamination in peanut products, which has resulted in eight deaths and hundreds of illnesses. The recalls are of historic proportions.

The business that seems to be at the source of the contamination is Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). According to USA Today,
The government...accused the peanut butter manufacturer Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) of shipping products in 2007 and 2008 after internal tests found bacterial contamination, violating food safety regulations.

The company's actions "can only be described as reprehensible and criminal," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who oversees Food and Drug Administration funding. "Not only did this company knowingly sell tainted products, it shopped for a laboratory that would provide the acceptable results they were seeking. This behavior represents the worst of our current food safety regulatory system."
The alleged misbehavior of PCA reminds me of the poor practices of Wellshire Farms, which has repeatedly released food mislabeled as gluten-free and failed to have them removed from store shelves.

There are probably many responsible food producers who can self-govern and refrain from selling toxic or dangerously mislabeled foods. But the above examples indicate that there are others who seem unconcerned that sickness and even death can result from their irresponsibility. People on medical diets can try to limit risks by avoiding processed foods, but otherwise the only answer to malfeasance seems to be stricter food regulation.

In response to the salmonella scare, President Obama heeded the calls of food safety advocates in ordering a review of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
I hope that this review will consider issues such as gluten contamination and extend to the USDA and other agencies involved in evaluating food safety.

Here is an AP video segment on the story.

Source (1:28)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Bone Health and Pediatric Celiac Disease

This Seattle video about pediatric celiac disease covers a lot of potential symptoms including anemia, rashes, diarrhea, joint inflammation, malnourishment, moodiness, anxiety, depression, growth delays, and some forms of cancer.

It also includes something I'm not used to seeing or hearing about: A 13-year-old getting a bone density test. What I usually hear is that bone density tests are not recommended in many pediatric cases, largely due to a lack of corroborative data.

Anyway, it seems that many doctors postpone bone density tests until patients are old, even (in the case of women) post-menopausal. It still seems to make sense to me to do testing sooner because it's often easier to stop or reverse the bone-thinning process at an earlier age. I'd like to hear more about baseline tests for people in their 20s and 30s (if not sooner, depending on how reliable and informative the tests might be) with perhaps 10-year follow-ups in an attempt to nip any problems in the bud, when diet and exercise might still help the patient improve and avoid treatment with drugs. The tests might also help doctors find many undiagnosed cases of celiac disease.

Source (3:22)