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A Gluten-Free Anniversary




Years ago I was desperate for answers. My body-mind-spirit was skidding down hill fast. The symptoms, Sugar Pie, you don't want to know about. Suffice it to say that Pepto Bismol was my true companion.

What I knew?


That a diagnosis of IBS with lactose intolerance was getting me nowhere. I wasn't feeling better eating more wheat germ and whole grains for fiber, like the doc instructed. In fact, I was feeling worse. Lactose enzymes did absolutely nothing. And the bread and pasta I was told to consume seemed to trigger more pain.


My intuition told me gluten might be a culprit after my first cousin was diagnosed with celiac disease. When I searched my symptoms on the Internet I discovered I was not alone. Gluten is an issue for roughly three million Americans. And having a family member diagnosed with celiac disease upped my odds considerably.

I called my nurse practitioner and asked if gluten might be the illusive enemy we were searching for. Maybe was her one word answer. I thought I heard her yawning. I asked if we could try a gluten-free trial to see if my symptoms abated. Sure, she said. See you in two weeks.

I knew within 48 hours I was on to something.

By the third day sans gluten I was symptom free and already envisioning a life without bloating and pain. The difference in my body was dramatic and immediate- and I wanted more of it. I consider myself lucky that I have obvious and attention-getting symptoms (to even the tiniest amount of gluten protein). The symptoms made my decision to go gluten-free an easy one. (Read about the ease and importance of testing here at Celiac Central.)

There were inadvertent bumps along the way to living totally gluten-free. I neglected to check on an herbal tea once and was "glutened" by  roasted barley. Lip balm did not register on my gluten radar at first; it was four weeks before I checked my lip balm label (lurking in the fine print: wheat germ oil and wheat bran).

Not thinking, I still used my old cutting board (saturated with wheat flour proteins) until it dawned on me how sticky a protein gluten actually was. I was contaminated at a well-meaning friend's house because she cooked and stirred the inherently gluten-free soup with her ancient wooden spoon.

There's a definite learning curve when it comes to living gluten free.

The good news is: it gets easier. 

Much easier. And as energy levels return, and life expands beyond planning rest room strategies and swigging Pepto Bismol for breakfast, you begin to comprehend just how awful you felt for so long. And how many odd and mysterious symptoms you took for granted as "normal". And how many insidious ways gluten affects and triggers the body's autoimmune system (digestive, cognitive, visual, neural, hormonal).

Gluten- the elastic protein in wheat, rye, spelt and barley- can cause impaired agility, balance and gait, lessen vitamin, mineral and protein absorption, diminish lactose, fructose and fat digestion, and whittle away bone integrity. Not to mention, energy and stamina. It can even trigger depression, migraines, skin rashes, brain lesions and seizures in certain individuals.

Scary stuff.

Going gluten-free requires a time for realignment and adjustment- living gluten-free is traveling in unknown territory without much of a road map and very little support; though that particular aspect is rapidly changing thanks to the Internet, the fabulous work of the NFCA, and the recent flourishing of dedicated research centers devoted to understanding and curing celiac disease.

As awareness grows, gluten-free products are becoming more widely available (my favorite baking and pancake mix is Pamela's) and better tasting.

GF life is good and getting better. And living gluten-free has been a slow but steady climb toward healing and regaining strength, clarity, and stamina. I've come a long way. And I've developed quite a passion for gluten-free cooking.

So today, in honor of my Gluten-Free Anniversary, I just may have a cupcake for breakfast.

Care to join me?

Karina xo


TRENDING

Cape Cod Apple Cake with Cranberries (Gluten-Free)

Sweet and Tart.   No philosophy today. Dust off your cake pan, Babycakes. This is a moist and tender apple cake laced with a hint of cinnamon and studded with fresh tart berries. After seven   twelve   - er, 19!- years of baking various gluten-free incarnations of my tried and true family apple cake recipe, this could be our favorite. Maybe it's the sweet-tart combo. The subtlety of flavors. In a food culture obsessed with kicking up recipes with more for the sake of more (white chocolate peanut butter bacon swirled maple donut ice cream drizzled in dulche de leche coconut marshmallow syrup and dusted with sugared Meyer lemon zest and shaved cacao, anyone?) the clean and classic flavor contrast of apples and cranberries is somehow new again. Even, refreshing.  I don't need dessert to taste like candy. I like my cake to taste like cake.  You can bake this recipe with eggs and dairy, or vegan alternatives. See options below.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas

YES PLEASE.  This award winning budget-friendly Santa Fe inspired vegetarian enchilada recipe is one of those happy accidents that springs from a burst of creative imagination. Or rumbling hunger. In that what-have-we-got-in-the-pantry sort of panic. I was craving the soft and spicy comfort of enchiladas one windy spring night back in 2003, and I had none of the usual suspects on hand (no chicken, or beef, no pinto beans).  But! I had one lovely mother of a sweet potato.  A can of organic black beans.  Some roasted green chiles.  One lonely lime.  And your intrepid Mamacita-Goddess at large thought, Hmmm. Why not? Deliciousness ensued. These wrapped little gems are soft and creamy and a little bit spicy- Just like a certain cook , my point-scoring husband wisecracks. It's the yams, I tell him. Er, sweet potato. I can never tell the difference. Can you? In the end, it doesn't matter.  What matters is how it tastes. And darling, these are so mucho scrumptiou

Gluten-Free Goddess Lemon Yogurt Cake

Luscious Lemon Cake So  I've been jonesing for a cake laced with citrus- not too sweet and not too light. A cake with character and heft.  Something akin to a lovely simple cake I remember liking as a child, a store bought bakery cake called Louisiana Ring made by Freihofer's. The cake featured a hint of orange. The day I decided to bake, I did not have oranges in the pantry- but I did have some lemons, organic Greek yogurt, and plenty of blanched almond flour.  And this simple home baked lemon cake was born.  In time for Spring. Love, Karina xo

Gluten-Free Goddess Flourless Chocolate Cake

Ah, flourless chocolate cake. The perfect rich dessert. Forgive the hyperbole. But I just can't help it. This is rich, sexy chocolate deliciousness on a plate. And such an easy recipe, especially if you use a food processor to do the work. Serve this to non-gluten-free folks with no apologies. None. Zip. Nada. And for gluten-free folks? Hand out seconds (we deserve it, don't we?). And the best part is- the recipe is inherently gluten-free and wheat-free. Always has been. No substitutions. No funny stuff. This is the same flourless chocolate cake I've been making for decades. It never contained flour. The only thing I've tweaked post-celiac diagnosis is adding more coffee and vanilla. Just because. And PS: See below why I make this recipe in a food processor- thanks to Bobby Flay. Karina xo

Gluten-Free Goddess Pasta Frittata with Kale

An Italian Classic - Updated. Today I offer you a simple recipe spun from the magic of leftover gluten-free spaghetti and eggs- a creamy, light frittata. Perfect for the weekend. Or when you're simply too tired to cook. Or you have nothing in the fridge but a carton of eggs, half a bag of kale salad and last night's leftover cooked spaghetti. It's one of those intuitive, spontaneous recipes I've pulled out of thin air, so many times. For dairy-free folks, the "cheese" pictured in this version was a vegan "mozzarella" (my current favorite is Vegan Gourmet). But if you prefer using dairy- select one or two of your favorite Italian organic cheeses. I've also made this yummy dish using goat cheese (and roasted red peppers!), and another time I tried a blend of fresh mozzarella and shaved Parmesan. It's a very versatile recipe. Celebrate Spring. Have fun with it! XOX Karina

Gluten-Free Goddess Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

A classic cookie made gluten-free. I suppose you could argue that one oatmeal cookie recipe is enough. I mean, how many oatmeal cookie recipes does a person need? To this I answer, at least two. Why? Well, first you have one with raisins (my oatmeal raisin cookies here ). Raisins give oatmeal cookies that old school chewy sneaky nutrition boost. They're old fashioned and comfy cozy. Kinda like spending one of those Saturday afternoons at your Aunt Martha's house, chillin'. Watching Mr. Rogers and laying on the floor with a pile of coloring books. Coloring outside the lines with a beat up box of Crayolas. Wishing the silver crayon was more than a lonely nub. And right at that nub lamenting moment she'd bring you a plate of cookies. Truth is, I never had an Aunt Martha. But I did have a chain smoking platinum blond babysitter who liked martinis a little too much. Or maybe it was gin and tonic. There was ice in the glass. If I was lucky enough to scro

Gluten-Free Goddess Raspberry Jam Bars

Sweet and simple raspberry jam bars. Let's be honest. I am here today to tempt you. To coax you. To seduce you with a gluten-free dessert worthy of every single luscious calorie. In full transparency, I am admitting up front these are not fat-free. Or sugar-free. These aren't diet food. They're not proper for breakfast (unless you serve them with Champagne). And you won't be able to sigh ever-so-wistfully at parties and mention, off hand, how hard it is to eat gluten-free at family gatherings and parties. Because, Darling Reader, you'll score zero sympathy points once people sink their teeth into the luscious raspberry jam filling nestled between buttery toasted coconut-almond crunch topping and tender hazelnut cookie crust. Nope. In fact, these decadent raspberry coconut-almond bars should come with a warning:   Be careful who you share these with. Because they are sure to fall madly in love with you. Seriously. Karina xox