My short response to “Surviving Whole Foods”

There’s a (mostly) funny article going around on the culture of Whole Foods, and it’s quite true and made me crack a smile a few times.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelly-maclean/surviving-whole-foods_b_3895583.html

There’s a section, however, that really just rubbed me the wrong way.

Next I see the gluten-free section filled with crackers and bread made from various wheat-substitutes such as cardboard and sawdust. I skip this aisle because I’m not rich enough to have dietary restrictions. Ever notice that you don’t meet poor people with special diet needs? A gluten intolerant house cleaner?

Let me be the first to say I am usually the one rolling my eyes and telling Celiacs to get a sense of humor. Heck, look at my posts! I have no problem laughing at diarrhea and the fact that I rank #2 on google for “Is pepto bismol gluten free?” (At least 3 of you went to check that right now, didn’t you?)

But this is so damn true that it’s just not funny to me. I had to fight for my diagnosis. HARD. I had to push against the grain and tell my doctor he was wrong. And … I am white and privileged. I will admit it! I had good health insurance. I had google at my fingertips! And I had access to Whole Foods. :)

What about those that don’t? No insurance? Who is going to fight doctors for a diagnosis when they can’t afford to see one? Who is going to be able to google the crap out of their symptoms when they don’t have regular access to internet? Who is going to know where to buy gluten free bread or even think to buy it when they’re barely making ends meet with a loaf of wonder bread?

So while I won’t say I’ve lost my sense of humor, I’ll just say that this tiny piece of the article really brought it home for me that we’re still so far from making sure that all Celiacs have a diagnosis. So until then, I’ll keep blogging. Keep joking about pepto bismol, and continue having no shame about this disease. :)

Bushfire Grill in Temecula!

It was pretty much as soon as I found out I was moving from the Temecula area that I found out about Bushfire Grill. They’re located where the old Pinkberry used to be – which is a little bit sad that there’s no more Pinkberry, but the loss for Pinkberry lovers is a gain for barbecue lovers!

What a bummer for me that I didn’t get to enjoy them more before I moved, because it’s soooo good. Who doesn’t love barbecue?? The majority of the items on the menu are gluten free, minus the obvious breads and such … but I can guarantee that you won’t feel like you’re left out of the good stuff when you order! Meat and mashed potatoes and sweet potato fries … ugh. Now I wish I could head over for dinner tonight!

I’ve been there twice when back home visiting family, and I’ve gone home feeling good. Ok, maybe feeling like I was ready for a nap, though, I may have eaten a few bites too many! Because who can say no to sweet potato fries?!

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Stacked: Food Well Built – Gluten Free in Southern California

One day as I was driving through Cerritos, I did a quick google search for local restaurants to try. I came across Stacked: Food Well Built and it seemed like an interesting concept so I went ahead and tried it out. Well, I was certainly impressed, to say the least!

After thoroughly questioning the staff and asking things like “Are your fries in a separate fryer” etc (which the gluten free fries ARE indeed in a separate fryer), I sat down at the bar and started the ordering process. On an iPad. It sounds bizarre! And it kind of is! Truthfully it’s a bit cumbersome at first, and it takes a little bit extra time to get your order in versus ordering through a server. BUT, if you’re gluten free like I am, you’ll love it – and here’s why. There are GF symbols on everything you can eat. Want to build your own burger? It’s an dynamic symbol – so if you add meat and cheese on to their gluten free bun (by Udi’s) all is ok. But add the onion rings and the GF symbol disappears. Yay! No wondering what is GF and hoping the server knows what they’re talking about.

They carry some GF beer (Redbridge) and Cider as well. Overall I thought the burger was great, and I am excited to have another place to check out again. They have four locations: Thousand Oaks, Cerritos, Torrance, and San Diego.

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Sometimes Celiac disease can be so … emotional

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I am about 3 weeks into The Fresh 20 meal planning … the goal is 20 fresh ingredients each week (plus a set of pantry staples like garlic and olive oil etc etc) to end up with 5 healthy dinners each week.

For a lazy girl, who HATES cooking, this has been a God send. Every week I download a shopping list and then place my order through AmazonFresh (grocery delivery that is currently only available in Seattle & Los Angeles) which delivers my groceries right to my front door. Living in an apartment on the 4th floor, this makes me do a happy dance nearly every time they ring my doorbell. Because I’m the type that would carry 14 bags and bruise my arms in the process just to avoid making another trip down to my car.

Anyway, I’ve been cutting the recipes in half since the servings are made for 4 – and then I’m bringing the other half with me to lunch the next day. Because after starting a new job a few months ago, girlfriend is not happy with all the eating out with coworkers that’s happened. Ok, well I don’t mind it as much as my pants do. UGH.

Anyway, at this point I have to give the gluten free plan over @ The Fresh 20 an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up. It has gotten me excited about cooking, it’s healthy and fresh, and it tastes AWESOME.

Oh, the only downfall? The onions. Lots of chopping onions. Which is great when you need the push for a good cry, but most days I’ve forgotten to take my mascara off first and that just makes for an ugly Melissa. Oh well, at least dinner is good!

 

Cowboys and Turbans, yes please!

Last week I happened to come across a groupon deal for Cowboys and Turbans, a quirky fusion restaurant in Los Angeles only about 15 minutes from where I live. It’s uncommon for a groupon type deal to find somewhere I can eat, but I figured I would check out their menu online to see if they had gluten free options. And to my surprise, they had a LOT of options. I was stoked! So I bought the deal and went out the next day with a friend.

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First off, we kind of thought we were lost. The restaurant is this amazing cute little place kind of stuck between some buildings, and is a little unassuming from the front. But once you walk in the doors, it’s awesome. The seating is outdoors and the setting is gorgeous. Eating here at night was DEFINITELY the right idea- the lighting and nice summer evening was heavenly.

But anyway on to the menu. They have a lot to offer for us gluten free folks! Our server Maggie was awesome and she helped me navigate exactly what I could have- and she gave me some great recommendations.

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Including Indian pizza on gluten free dough! Of course that sounded intriguing so I had to get it! And… No photos but it was SO good. My dinner date had a curry dish with quinoa that he thoroughly enjoyed … And afterwards for dessert, there were multiple options I could have then, too! Let’s face it, it gets tiring to have flour less chocolate cake for the single option at a lot of places! Unfortunately they were out of one that I wanted to try (which means I just have to go back!) but I had the tapioca and my date had gelato. I tried both and YUM.

It’s not the cheapest but I think you’re paying more for the ambiance and experience and I am totally ok with that. I am seriously looking forward to going back again!

Going to the chapel … and I’m not getting married

I posted just a few posts ago about dating, so c’mon, I hope you weren’t thinking I was talking about ME!

Just a few weeks ago I went to a wedding and dinner reception and it reminded me how difficult going to events like that can be for a Celiac or someone with a food allergy. So I thought I’d make a nice little post about how I handle it – as a single girl, and as a Celiac. And as a girl that loves good food.

First things first:

Choose the shoes you want to wear. No outfit is complete without some hot shoes! Oh wait, this isn’t a fashion blog. ;)

What time is the wedding? If the reception is during a meal time and a meal will be served, you’ll definitely need to think ahead.

As much as you want a gluten free meal for yourself … remember that the wedding is about the bride & groom. NOT about your Celiac disease. My recommendation is to not bring up your food concerns with them! What I would do, however, is call the venue and ask what your options might be. Ask what will be served and what options might be already be gluten free that will be served at the reception.

I would not ask them to make changes for you unless the kitchen is already familiar with the needs of the gluten free Celiac community. Not because you’d be annoying to ask, but really I just wouldn’t trust a kitchen that is working on producing mass plates of food for a bunch of hungry wedding goers!

If you’re going to be at a resort or hotel, or even a restaurant, you might be in luck that you can separately order a meal for yourself that is outside the scope of the reception food. Be prepared to pay for it, though! Your dinner should not be an added expense for the wedding couple!

What I usually do is eat on my way to the wedding. If you’re in California, like me, this means you can run through In-N-Out and get yourself a protein style burger and fries (yay for gluten free fast food!) Then bring snacks with you and store them in your purse. If you’re feeling adventurous, even remember to pack yourself a gluten free cupcake so you’ll have dessert.

What kinds of things do I pack? Protein! Protein will help you feel full longer, so I keep little bags of almonds handy, or the Kind+ Fruit & Nut Bars are also a great go-to item when I need something on the go. But be forewarned – if they’re kept in a warm place they can get gooey. And licking your food out of the package is kind of seen as a weird thing. TRUST me on that one.

 

The Addiction Bistro. I might be addicted.

I am pretty lucky to live in Southern California (from Temecula but now in Los Angeles!) because we’re kind to the crunchy folk down ’round here.

I’ve been checking out all of the cool little odd places in the area – it is my goal to try one new restaurant or visit one new place every weekend.

A few weeks ago I tried The Addiction Bistro. This place is awesome. It’s a private little bistro where everything is made from scratch. They have gluten free buns for their burgers and hot dogs! I love when places carry their own gluten free bread items instead of having to suffer with “protein style” lettuce wrapped burgers.

Anyway, I ordered the truffle dog. And sweet potato fries. Sweet potato fries may very well be the best thing I’ve ever had ever. Ok, not as good as ice cream. And not as good as a warm gooey cinnamon roll, but they’re pretty darn good.

Gluten Free Truffle Dog @ The Addiction Bistro

And now I am cursing writing this review on a night I can’t hop in my car and head down to try another hot dog variety! With a side of sweet potato fries, of course. :)

 

 

Life as a Celiac Single

My current theory about dating is … you haven’t really dated until you’ve dated with a disease that gives you diarrhea.

Dating as a Celiac is not for the faint of heart. It requires patience, humility, flexibility (not like yoga flexibility!), and a great sense of humor.

I’m on probably every dating site known to man – well, I am not on http://www.meet-an-inmate.com/ And don’t worry mom, I haven’t even considered that one. But I’ve pretty much tried it all. OkCupid, POF, eHarmony, Match.com … and even JDate. (No, I am not Jewish.)

I’d heard about Singles With Food Allergies, but honestly? I don’t like the idea of dating within the food allergy world. My desire in life is not to isolate myself with people that suffer like I do … and c’mon, if I dated another Celiac I would hate it. Imagine we’d go out for dinner and we both would get glutened … realizing this as we entered my studio apartment that is home to only one toilet. Um, no. I am not willing to compete against another Celiac for toilet usage! Imagine how ugly THAT fight would get. Yeesh.

Instead my goal is to find some adorable gluten eating dude that can laugh with me and doesn’t mind trying new crunchy gluten free restaurants*. I know dating me is not for everyone (but I think it has more to do with the pink hair than it does with my food issues!) but I also know that somewhere out there some guy is going to think I’m awesome enough and my Celiac disease won’t even be a blip on his radar.

Here’s my few tips to those that are also in the same single Celiac pool I am in:

1 – Have a sense of humor. Laugh at yourself. If you can’t find the humor in your disease, you’re not going to be a lot of fun to be around. And no one wants to date someone that isn’t any fun.

2 – Don’t complain. Complainers are annoying. Instead of complaining about your disease and what you can’t have, talk about all the fun things you can do that are gluten free (like roller skating! Ok, I can’t roller skate, but it still sounds fun and won’t give me diarrhea!)  and find all the things you can eat/drink that are gluten free. Like coffee, ice cream, or alcohol. Mmmmm, Angry Orchard.

3 – Don’t apologize. Seriously – it’s not your fault that you have Celiac disease! And anyone that’s worth a damn is going to like you regardless if you carry pepto bismol in your back pocket. So no feeling sorry for yourself, no apologizing for where you can’t eat. Just OWN IT and pick the restaurant. In fact, I mention that in my profile – that they’ll have to let me choose the restaurant the first time we go out to eat. No shame. No apologizing for it. Remember that whining and insecurity isn’t sexy! And dammit, I want to be sexy!

4 – Don’t hesitate to say “Next!” There are more than 3 single guys in the world. There are at least 4. ;) If someone is a jerk to you because of your disease (or for ANY reason!), is embarrassed to eat out with you, refuses to listen when you ask him to not stick his gluten covered fork in your food … say “NEXT!” Life is too short to spend it with an asshole. You deserve better!

*I’d like to note that if you’re a hot dude that stopped on my blog, but also happens to have Celiac disease, I will not say no if you’d like to send me a note. ;) Celiac disease is not a deal breaker for me, it’s just not a priority, either!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t lick razors.

Lately in the gluten free world it seems there’s been a lot of debate amongst Celiac folks about how much gluten is too much. While there’s no real debate about ingesting gluten, we all agree that gluten sucks and no Celiac should willingly ingest gluten, the debate seems to be around household products and items that are applied topically to the skin.

First, let me say, I have purchased items for far less than being gluten free. I am a sucker for the color pink or for good packaging. So if you feel like you want to make sure the moisturizing strip in your razor is gluten free – more power to ya. But let’s be clear here – as a Celiac without a gluten allergy, there is no need for me to be worried about gluten in my razor. Unless I am a razor licker, but as established in my title … I am not. It’s not safe, my mom taught me about sharp objects when I was a kid. Thanks mom!

Gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin!
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/celiac-disease/AN01623

Gluten-containing skin care products and cosmetics aren’t a problem unless you accidentally swallow them. For this reason, avoid using such products on your lips or around your mouth. Also, avoid using gluten-containing dental products, such as certain mouthwashes and toothpastes. If you’re uncertain about whether a product contains gluten, check the ingredient list on the product label or contact the manufacturer.

Some people develop a form of celiac disease called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), which causes an itchy, blistering rash. This skin disorder is also linked to gluten intolerance. But although it involves the skin, DH is caused by ingesting gluten, not by skin contact with gluten. So, eliminating gluten from your diet will help clear up DH as well.

If you use a cosmetic or skin care product that contains gluten and you develop a skin reaction, see your doctor or dermatologist to identify the cause. It is possible to have an allergy to wheat or another grain that could cause a skin reaction.

What about lotions, cosmetics, and shampoo?

It makes sense to be cautious with anything that ends up in your mouth. So lipsticks and lotions, or shampoo that might drip in your mouth as you rinse your hair in the shower … yes! By all means pay attention to those items and make sure that anything that you accidentally or intentionally ingest/lick/eat/swallow/bite is gluten free. But nail polish, if you’re not a nail biter, is likely something that you don’t have to worry about.

But what about dermatitis herpetiformis?

As mentioned above in the above Mayo Clinic link, DH is not caused by a topical reaction. Further described here from the National Institutes of Health, a government website:

How does a disorder that damages the intestines show up on the skin? When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, the mucosal immune system in the intestine responds by producing a type of antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA), explains John Zone, M.D., chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. As IgA enters the bloodstream, it can collect in small blood vessels under the skin, triggering further immune reactions that result in the blistering rash of DH.

 

Yay! Great news! BUT, what if you DO react to gluten when applied topically? Well, that means you’re likely suffering from a gluten or wheat allergy in addition to or instead of Celiac disease.

Why does this matter? If I suffer, who cares why or how – I should just avoid gluten at all costs, right?! 

Yes! Absolutely. For YOU. But it’s important for every person to know what is going on with their individual health. If you suffer from a topical reaction – avoid gluten. But telling other Celiacs to avoid gluten razors is sharing misinformation about the disease and causing a lot of confusion about this intolerance versus allergy situation. We ALL need to be informed about our health issues, and if we’re not fully informed we’re not going to be properly equipped to deal with our situation.

When in doubt, ask your doctor. If you are suffering from allergic reactions to lotions or razors, please see a dermatologist and ask about allergy testing. Because who knows, maybe its not actually the gluten in that item you’re reacting to – and how much better you’ll feel if you know what you’re *actually* reacting to?!

So arm yourselves with knowledge. Get thee to a doctor if you’re concerned about allergic reactions. And buy whatever products you feel comfortable buying. Just don’t assume that every Celiac also has a gluten *allergy*!

It’s a Gluten Free Miracle – Brazilian Style.

Have you ever been to a Brazilian Steakhouse? If not, put on your stretchy pants and head on down.

Brazilian Steakhouses are like a mecca for meat lovers. When you go in, you’re given an individual little wooden colored piece that you use to indicate whether you’d like the meat guys to stop by your seat and offer goods – green is for “Yes please, I am hungry! Get over here now!” and red is for “OMG I’ve eaten too much, give me a few minutes please.”

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I recently went to Gauchos Village in Glendale and had an awesome experience. AWESOME, seriously. The server was new but quite knowledgeable when I asked him about gluten free options. He told me the meats I could not have (the spicy chicken, and another that I can’t recall) and then he also pointed out that the cheesy bread they have was gluten free. Huh? I don’t believe you! So I asked him to double check, and sure enough, all is good for a Celiac! It’s made of yucca flour (tapioca flour) and no gluten is involved in the process.

Finding gluten free cheesy bread reminded me of one of my favorite adorable commercials from a few years back.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/pZDUbKNiMsU

At that point, I was thrilled. I may have eaten an entire basket of bread all to myself. SO YUMMY.

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So if you have a Brazilian Steakhouse near you, give them a call or stop in! It’s one more great cuisine I can add to my options… and it moved Brazil up a notch on my “Must Travel To” list. :)