Going Back to School-GF in the Classroom


I really thought that Middle School food issues would be easy.  The kids are getting older, right?  No more birthday treats, no more Valentine’s Day parties, no more multi-culture potluck parties, right?  Wrong!  Some kids still bring birthday treats, and there are lots of parties, donut party after donut party, after donut party!  Really?  Why?  Who needs more junk food?  Well, apparently Middle Schoolers do, more now than when they were in Elementary School.  Okay, I am a cool mom, I can handle that.  And really, what it boils down to is being cool.  I hate junk food.  I lived on junk food growing up.  My mom tried.  She always had healthy foods for us: sandwiches, fruit, sunflower seeds, pretzels, granola bars, yogurt and cereals.  But I went straight to the junk: cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream and chocolate anything, M & M’s being the ultimate to die for food.  I do not regret eating all that junk.  I think it taught me, after a while, that it really was not all that great and it did not make me feel all that great either.  So I totally get that my Middle Schoolers crave all that junk.  And I get that they could careless how it makes them look or feel.  So really all I can do is not deprive them of what other kids are eating.  There is now always a box of Kinnickinnick Donuts in my freezer.  Why?  Because there is always going to be a donut party and I do not want my girls to feel bad that they are not included.  Because ‘not feeling included’ is going to feel worse than the donut will make them feel.  When you have food allergies, no matter where you go, or what you do, you kind of feel like the outsider and that can make kids feel resentful toward eating healthy for their bodies, whether it is not eating gluten, soy, dairy or chocolate.  I do not want my girls rebelling later in life so they can fit in, and be like everyone else.  I want them to be comfortable in their own shoes and at the lunch room table.  If they feel good about what they are eating, and they feel a part of the group, then they will be happy and satisfied with the whole experience.  The bottom line is that you have to make your kids feel good in any situation.  When they are going to a birthday party, send them with a big gluten free cupcake.  When they are going to a slumber pizza party, make them a yummy gluten free pizza (there are so many to choose from now) and when they are having a donut party, just get them a donut.  It will not kill them and who knows they may decide one day to  pass on the junk food altogether.  But, unfortunately, it has to be their decision, not yours.

It is always fun to find cookies in your lunch.  Here are some light and easy cookies to pack in their lunches every day.  They are not loaded with sugar and yet will satisfy that sweet tooth after a meal.

Vanilla Wafers*


½ cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup organic sugar

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp salt

1 ½ cup GF flour mix

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 T water



Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream sugars, oil, eggs, and vanilla together.

Add flour and baking powder.

Add 1 T water and continue to mix until dough forms a ball.

Roll dough into ¾ inch balls and flatten slightly onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.

Makes 50 cookies.

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Celebrating a Gluten Free Shabbat

August is my favorite time of year to write about Shabbat. It is really one of the few months without any major Jewish Holidays, besides Tu’B’Av, which came late this year and was on August 3, 2012. Shabbat starts at sundown on Friday night, and ends at sundown on Saturday night with a ritual called Havdalah. Shabbat is a day of rest for most people of Jewish dissent. Although, I tend to spend time cleaning the yard, picking up the house and cooking, it is still a day of ‘less stress.’ I do not have to get up at ‘the crack of dawn.’ I do not have to pack lunches. I do not have to yell at anyone to get showered or dressed right away. And I definitely do not have to crack the whip on homework. It is a sweet, quiet, family day. In the past, and you know when I refer to ‘the past’ I am referring to our ‘gluten days’, we would bring in Shabbat with a nice big fat braided Challah and we would go to Subway for dinner before services. It was very frustrating and heartbreaking to watch my girls stand back and watch as others enjoyed the challah on Friday nights and even the oneg afterwards, a celebration filled with cookies and desserts. However, my girls were the first to rise to the challenge and compromise because they knew in the long run they would feel better because of it. At first, I did not make any challah because I knew it just wouldn’t taste the same. I have since designed a great challah that I even bake and sell to friends for their Shabbat dinners. But with new circumstances come new traditions. We decided to have nachos and now eggs for Shabbat dinner, at home. We often find ourselves at the local FroYo store for a sweet treat before services so that when they see all the yummy desserts at the oneg, they know that they enjoyed their dessert before services. It also gives them energy to get through services and does not keep them up so they will not go to bed. We love our new tradition. Traditions are important, especially during the holidays, and Shabbat is a holiday that comes for Jews every Friday night. Do not let gluten free living stop you from enjoying family traditions. If your old traditions involved gluten, and chances are that a lot of them did, change them, make them meaningful, make them fun. And feeling good afterwards will make the whole experience richer and more memorable. Shabbat Shalom.
I know many people share the tradition of Challah French Toast on Saturday mornings. Well, here is a delicious recipe that you can serve with fruit, yogurt and maybe some turkey bacon and don’t forget the coffee! It will make you forget about that old French Toast stand by.
Sour Cream Apple Coffee Cake*-2-1-11-335
1 medium apple
2 tsp cinnamon
4 T brown sugar
1 ½ cups Brown rice flour
½ cup Potato starch
¼ cup tapioca flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp xanthan gum
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups organic sugar, divided
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup grapeseed oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cheesecake spring pan with olive oil.
Mix cinnamon, ½ cup sugar and brown sugar in a small bowl.
Peel, core and chop apple into small pieces.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and xanthan gum in small bowl.
Beat egg and 1 cup of sugar in large bowl. Add vanilla.
Add sour cream, and oil and beat for 30 seconds.
Add dry ingredients to egg mixture.
Evenly spread ½ batter to bottom of pan.
Top with apple pieces and ½ cinnamon sugar mixture.
Layer the other ½ of batter on top.
Sprinkle remaining cinnamon sugar mixture on top.
Bake for 50 minutes. Do not open oven.
Cool cake and serve with coffee!

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Is Sjogren’s Syndrome a Symptom of Something More Serious?

Many people with celiac disease have also been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome which is a condition that causes dry eyes and dry mouth. In fact, there is a connection between the two diseases in that 15% of the patients diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome also have biopsy-proven celiac disease, making it far more common in Sjögren’s patients than it is in the general population. However, about 90% of Sjogren’s syndrome patients are female. There is a high genetic component involved in this syndrome and it is also found more commonly in families that have members with other autoimmune illnesses, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, autoimmune thyroid disease, Type I diabetes.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease, just as celiac disease is. However, in the case of Sjögren’s syndrome, the autoimmune attack takes place in the moisture-producing glands and other tissues in the body that serve your eyes and your mouth, as opposed to the villi in your intestines. People with Sjögren’s syndrome may encounter difficulty swallowing, damage to their teeth due to a lack of saliva, and damage to their eyes due to a lack of moisture.
However, there is some evidence that people with Sjögren’s might want to consider getting tested for celiac disease, especially if they have possible symptoms (remember, not everyone has primarily intestinal symptoms). Of course, you should always complete any celiac testing prior to going gluten-free, since it’s impossible to get accurate test results on the gluten-free diet. In some cases, folks with Sjogren’s syndrome who also have celiac disease, have silent celiac disease in that they do not notice any medical symptoms but show evidence of intestinal damage. In addition, there may also be a link between non-celiac gluten sensitivity and Sjogrens syndrome.
Well, all this information is wonderful and interesting, but where does it leave you, the patient of Sjogrens syndrome? There’s no cure for Sjögren’s, but it’s possible to manage the symptoms with artificial tears, frequent water drinking or gum chewing, or possibly prescription medications that stimulate saliva flow. Physicians recommend using moisturizers to treat the dry skin that frequently comes with Sjögren’s.
Well, for starters, I would get a diagnosis for both the Sjogrens syndrome and the celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Then I would suggest you follow a gluten free diet, and look into treatment for dry eyes and dry mouth. Although this diagnosis is annoying and discomforting, following a gluten free diet may alleviate the severity of the symptoms. I always tell people, “If your body does not have to work so hard to fight that gluten, it has energy to fight in other areas of your body that might need it.”
So, as you know, 6 years ago, I gave up chocolate for me and for my oldest daughter because we were highly sensitive to its affect…probably the cocoa and caffeine. We have since discovered numerous ways to make carob taste yummy. Here is one of our favorites…in ‘the brownie form.’ Enjoy!

Not-So-Sinful Carob Gluten Free Brownies*
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup homemade carob
2/3 cup honey
½ cup applesauce
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 t vanilla
1 cup certified GF rolled oats
½ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup white rice flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 T powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Lightly spray with olive oil a 9 X 13 baking dish
In large saucepan, heat oil and carob over low heat.
When melted, remove from heat and add sugar and applesauce.
Stir in eggs and vanilla until completely blended.
Add combined oats, flours, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum.
Spread evenly into pan.
Bake 22-25 minutes or until edges pull away from sides of the pan.
Cool and cut into bars. Serve with powdered sugar on top.

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Staying in Hotels and Flying Gluten Free

Traveling, flying, hotels, packing…this can all be a nightmare, but especially so when you are doing it for 5 people who are all gluten free. Although I have done it many times over our 4 years of being a gluten free, soy free, family, I do need to brush up on my skills for an exciting trip to Disney World that my in-laws have planned for us. I know that on the day of the flight and for the five days we are at the park, things will run smoothly, but not without hours of research and possibly headaches to make sure it is all done right. Here is what I am going to do to make sure that our trip to ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ is a happy trip, well except for an occasional crankiness from a missed nap.
1. Look up the Airport Terminals. All airport terminals should list their restaurants and you can find out which restaurant is safe to eat at. Our favorite is Subway. Simply bring your own gluten free bread or roll and have them make you a sandwich, piled high with your favorite veggies and you have a meal that everyone can enjoy.
2. Bring snacks on the plane! This is a must. Especially when the flight attendants are flashing those gluten filled pretzels your way. And don’t think you are off the hook with the peanuts either, they are loaded with MSG! I like to pack fruit, nuts and granola bars. Peanut butter or almond butter packets are great too, either to spread on fruit or eat plain for a quick protein fix. Easy foods that won’t get crushed in my backpack and will withstand a day of traveling.
3. Call the hotel that you are staying at. In fact, you should call the hotel before you book the reservation to find out what the accommodations are. Here are some things that the Velick’s find helpful.
a. Ask if there is a refrigerator in the room. This is a must. Not only are you going to need it for any food that you brought, but also for any food that you will need to buy during your stay.
b. Ask if there is a microwave in the room. This is somewhat of a luxury, but is nice to heat up leftovers you may have or water for tea. Ask my family about the time I made them eat cold soup for lunch because we did not have a microwave.
c. Ask if they have a continental breakfast and if so, what is provided on it. Usually, the continental breakfast is easy to work with. First of all, you are able to have access to bowls, plates, spoons, forks and cups even if they don’t have any food you can eat. Usually the breakfast comes with coffee, juice, milk or tea. Also, they most likely have fruit, eggs and yogurt. With these items alone, all you need to do is provide your family with a box of gluten free cereal and/or a loaf of gluten free bread and you are set until lunch! Think easy! You do not need added stress when you are traveling. Many times, I have my girls grab some extra fruit for snacks throughout the day.
d. Ask what restaurants are in the area surrounding the hotel. This is important because it is in desperate hunger that we fall off the healthy eating meal plan. Resorting to ice cream at the dairy queen is not an option during a vacation where you want to feel good and have fun. A little research before the trip can save you a huge headache when 6 pm rolls around and your family is frantically driving around looking for somewhere to eat that does not fry their food in soybean oil!
e. Ask what Natural Grocery stores are in the area. We have been known to travel with our toaster. This started when we were in Chicago and the absolute only place to eat ALL our meals was at a Whole Foods Market in the suburbs. We bought a toaster so we could buy our gluten free bread from the freezer and toast it with our meal. It is a great ‘last resort’, but it sure is better than being hungry, sick or on a sugar high.
Well, I will let you know how are trip goes, but please let ME know if this advice was helpful. My goal for you and your family is to make gluten free easy, manageable and fun. Your vacations should not be spent worrying about food. So with a little preparation, you can enjoy your vacation and feel good and have fun because you took care of you and your family and ate right.

Here is a great vegetarian option to the traditional hamburger.  On Mondays for dinner, we go ‘meatless’ and these burgers were healthy, filling and gluten free.
Sweet Potato Burgers*-2-13-12
1 medium sweet potato
2 cans of cannellini beans
2 T creamy organic peanut butter
2 T maple syrup
¼ cup gluten free flour
¼ cup glutino bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
Bake sweet potato at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Mash with a fork.
Drain and rinse two cans of cannellini beans. Mash with a fork.
Add sweet potato and beans to peanut butter, syrup, flour and bread crumbs.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Form 6 patties with potato bean mixture.
Top with crushed red pepper.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
Serve on a gluten free tortilla wrap lined with fresh spinach and guacamole.

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Gluten free living for weight loss?

Well, if you ask most medical experts, they would say a resounding “No.” But you all know my take on medical experts. Based on my own experience and what I have observed in those around me I would say, “Yes, on a gluten free diet, people do tend to lose weight.”  Here are some theories why.
First of all, people who adopt a gluten free diet, usually do so because they have been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. In the past, these people were not able to process any of the foods they were eating that contained wheat, rye, barley, spelt or oats. This means that their digestive systems were not working efficiently and were either eliminating the food from the body or storing it as fat. Going gluten free allows the body to recognize and process the foods that we eat and use them for nutrients. When your food is able to be used by the body as fuel and not waste, you are not hungry all the time and you are not eating as many calories, which is ultimately the key to losing weight.
In addition, people who begin a gluten free journey are suddenly more aware of the ingredients in their food. When you start looking at the ingredients and nutritional values of the foods that you are eating, you tend to eat more healthy. And eating healthy can be addicting! Once you realize that eating gluten free foods, especially naturally gluten free foods, gives you more energy, prevents bloating and gas, and keeps you satisfied, you will not want to go back to your old way of eating. Again, eating healthy=weight loss.
Another thing I noticed when I went gluten free is that I did not crave carbs anymore. I have written a whole article about this, but basically, unprocessed gluten turns into an opiod in your body, telling you to eat more food. When you eat more food, you still can’t process it, so your body keeps trying to satisfy a craving that it physically cannot. Once you break this vicious cycle, you ultimately are eating less food, which can result in weight loss. According to, Cardiologist Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, eating wheat stimulates your body to produce very high levels of insulin, the hormone that moves sugar from your bloodstream into your body’s cells. High insulin levels cause your body to accumulate fat around your abdomen. When your body has an increase in insulin circulating in the blood, it also can lead to feelings of low blood sugar, which make you hungry. You grab a quick snack like some easily-digested carbohydrates, and the cycle starts all over again. Dr. Davis believes that taking the wheat out of your diet can calm this cycle involving high insulin and low blood sugar, and almost always leads to the person consuming fewer calories … which in turn results in weight loss.
Finally, we all know the complaint; ‘Gluten free foods are way too expensive. I could never feed my whole family gluten free.’ Again, I have done many articles to counteract this argument, specifically pointing out that there are cheap, naturally gluten free foods out there that are loaded with nutrients and are good for you! In fact, in 2010, I based most of my articles on gluten free whole foods. In fact I am eating two this very second: popcorn and apples with cinnamon. Very yummy, lots of fiber and highly satisfying. However, when you do splurge and get that $6 box of gluten free donuts, or 4 pack of cinnamon rolls, you are more likely to savor them, ration them, and enjoy them on occasion, instead of daily like you used to do.
Here is one of my favorite naturally gluten free grains: Quinoa. It is pronounced (KEEN-WA). I buy a 4 pound bag at Costco for about $10. It has 220 calories and 5.2 grams of fiber for 1 cup cooked. It takes 12 minutes to make and it is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It only has 2.5 grams of fat, and 7 grams of protein per ¼ cup dry grain. However, I learned that quinoa is not a grain but a pseudo-grain, an ancient seed that is in the same family as spinach (Chenopodiaceae). If you have been keeping up with all my recipes, you know that my favorite way to eat quinoa is on the side with a nice piece of salmon and some veggies. If you have never tried quinoa before, I recommend trying some to substitute for white rice or white potatoes; two foods that are sure to pack on the pounds due to their high starch content, low fiber content and high glycemic index number. I would recommend going to the website: http://www.cookingquinoa.net for more great recipes.

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When Gluten Free Takes You on the Road

I am always amazed that I even get up enough energy and stamina to plan a trip anywhere outside of our own home. For anyone who has started a gluten free life style for a family of five, they will appreciate the fact that it is not always easy. Not only that, our trips are always ‘saturated’ with bribes! ‘If you are a good eater on the trip…If you do not complain ONCE on the trip….If you eat at a restaurant and smile on our trip….I will….take you to Dairy Queen for a week, the movie of your choice, and my favorite bribe from our trip to the New England States is…ANYTHING you want from Starbucks!’ Oh my goodness, and not only that, but I have turned into one of those cheerleaders that I vowed I would never become because I did not make the team in High School! “Come on, this will be fun, oohh, that looks soooooooooo good, oh, I bet you will LOVE it after the first 7 bites!” Hey, I never said going gluten free was easy. I just promised that I would MAKE it easier for YOU!
When planning for a trip, I found an amazing website called http://www.glutenfreeregistry.com. It is an awesome sight when you are looking for places to eat that are gluten free. You simply click on the state you are visiting. Then you can look in that state, or narrow your choices by picking a city you are visiting. For each location listed, you can click directly on the website of the restaurant or bakery. They also have ‘star ratings’ next to some of the choices. The site also mentions how to find out more about the gluten free options that are available. For example, are they just advertising their vegetables and meats as gluten free options, or are they offering you gluten free pastas and breads to SUBSTITUTE for a gluten-filled version. In addition, next to the restaurant you can click on a map to help you find it. This was really helpful to me when I planned our trip out East because there were some cities that did NOT have a gluten free restaurant, but I would find another city that did have a gluten free restaurant that I mapped as not far from the city we were going to be in. I was really impressed with the site and it helped me navigate around 5 states that I had never been to before. My only recommendation is to call ahead. A few times, unfortunately, we found the restaurant was no longer in business. Or, not all locations may accommodate gluten free needs. We found this out the hard way on a trip to California, when we went to the Islands Restaurant. The Islands in Colorado has gluten free (not fried) fish tacos on corn tortillas. The Islands in California does not offer the non-fried option OR the corn tortillas. As always, I wish you much luck in your travels and I hope in the next several months, because it is ‘vacation season’ to provide you with great tips for an easy gluten free vacation.
These are one of our new favorite snacks. They are high in protein and low in fat and naturally gluten free. Experiment with different spices to satisfy your cravings. And they make a great snack to carry on a car trip or an airplane ride when they are offering you those darn pretzels!
Parmesan Chickpeas
1 16 oz can garbanzo beans
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp pepper
1 T olive oil
Empty one can of garbanzo beans on paper towel to dry. Let stand 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In small bowl combined garbanzo beans, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and oil.
Pour onto a baking dish lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 50 minutes.
Let cool 30 minutes. Store at room temperature in a sealed container.

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Finding Restaurants That Serve You When Traveling

We have been eating at restaurants forever. After we had kids, it became a bit of a challenge, because kids tend to be more picky about what they eat and their ‘standby’s’ may not always be on the menu. When our family became gluten free, going to restaurants was sometimes impossible, often resulting in many tears and often hunger! However, when we are at home, we have the luxury of being able to cook good meals that we know are safe and eating at restaurants is not that appealing. However, when traveling, it is a completely different story!

I know that I have mentioned glutenfreeregistry.com in the past. Well here is another fabulous website when you are traveling and looking for a restaurant in a pinch. It is called http://www.allergyeats.com. On this site all you need to do is check off the foods you are allergic to, the town and zip code you are interested in dining at, as well as the distance you are willing to travel. It then gives you a list of restaurants based on quality; 5 stars being the best and 1 star being the worst. As far as I could decipher, this star system is not based on how well they take care of food allergies. It also shows a map, directions, and offers a restaurant website if they have one. It also offers allergen information for that restaurant if it is available. And if you are lucky, there is even a gluten free menu if you need one. I like this because my kids can plan in advance what they can eat so it is not a disappointment or surprise when they get to the restaurant.

In addition, you will need to call the restaurant ahead of time anyway. There are two important reasons for this. One, sometimes a restaurant will run out of, say the gluten free pizza dough, and so you want to call and make sure a. they make it, and b. they have it in stock for when you will be there. Secondly, you should check to make sure the restaurant still exists because I am not sure how often they update this sight, and restaurants are closing all the time. If you are really organized, you will call from home before you travel, so you are not ‘winging it’ when you get on the road. When we were in Boston, we drove around for 2 hours one night looking for somewhere to eat. I assumed that a local Red Robin had food that we could eat, but I did not call first. When we got there, everything was made with soybean oil and we had to leave. Driving around for 2 hours in a strange town with 2 very hungry kids is not something I ever want to experience again! When you have confirmed that the restaurant is there and it has the food you want, remind your waiter or waitress that you have food allergies and that the food needs to be prepared a certain way. The cook does not know unless you tell them and just because French fries or vegetable soup seems harmless, if they spike it with a little MSG, that can change the whole ballgame.

An old favorite in our house is a good sourdough bread.  Thick and chewy and just a little sour.  I found that although it tastes very different, this bread was a nice substitute for sourdough bread.
Sorghum Bread*

1 cup sweet sorghum flour
2/3 cup tapioca flour
2/3 cup arrowroot
1 ¾ tsp xanthan gum
1/3 cup non-dairy milk substitute
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 tsp baking powder
2 ¼ tsp dry yeast
2 eggs
½ tsp distilled white vinegar
3 T olive oil
1 cup lukewarm water

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease an 8 1/2″ by 4 1/2″ loaf pan with vegetable oil and dust with rice flour. When the oven gets to the right temperature, turn it OFF and do not open the door.

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, or in the mixing bowl of a standing mixer, whisk the eggs, vinegar, and oil. Add most of the water, saving a few tablespoons.
Slowly fold in flour mixture a little at a time, with mixer on low setting.
Add the remaining water to attain this texture. With the mixer on high, beat for several minutes or until the dough is smooth and well-blended.

Pour into the greased and floured pan, cover with a dishtowel and allow to rise in the warm oven for 30 minutes or until the dough reaches the top of the pan.
Turn the oven back on to 375 F and bake for 10 minutes.
Cover with tin foil and bake for another 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
Immediately remove from pan and allow to cool before slicing.

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