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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What does it mean to be gluten free?

My shortest blog post ever:
Being gluten free means that you do not consume any gluten.
Any questions? Good!

Okay, now for my rambling:

It's been a long time now since I've met someone new who has Celiac Disease. I meet people all the time who are gluten free, though. Six years ago when I started this journey, I didn't know anybody who was gluten free, which is why I started the first GFFW on Myspace a year later when I was truly comfortable with the whole thing; I wanted to support others like myself and build a strong local GF community.

Wow, Gluten Free Fort Wayne has been online for five years now!

So here we are, six years later, and while I don't know too many Celiacs, everyone I know has dabbled in GF or knows somebody who has. The goal of increasing awareness has definitely worked, and to be honest, I kind of want to take back some of my GF enthusiasm.

It seems so far away, but there was a time when I felt like everyone should go GF- everyone who complained of this symptom or that ailment... in my mind, I could blame it all on gluten. I almost wish I hadn't been so vocal, because people were listening.

Don't get me wrong- I love having more food options (my taste buds do; my waistline and wallet don't), but six years later, I don't have to explain GF to very many people. They know all about it now- or at least they think they do. I trust others' cooking less today than I did then because they're too confident about how to do it right.

It's okay; ask me questions about ingredients and safe food-handling procedures. It's worth it in the end if I can have a safe meal!

I know a lot of people on my Facebook page are GF without an official diagnosis- I promise you, I'm not trying to alienate or insult anyone. I'm just frustrated. I have an autoimmune disease that requires a very strict, very specific treatment, and I don't feel like I'm being taken as seriously as I once was. I'm frustrated by people who think it's okay to eat gluten sometimes- not too much, or just on special occasions.

What's the point of being gluten free if you're not free of gluten? If you have experienced health benefits- whether diagnosed by a medical professional or not- why would you willingly choose to do that to yourself?

I was just reading yet another article online today about the connections between Celiac and Lymphoma. It talked about the increased risk coming from "ongoing intestinal damage". What causes that damage? Gluten! Ongoing damage tells me that even though you don't feel too bad from that one little cheat, you've just moved yourself up another notch on the lymphoma risk. Is it worth it for that cake? That cookie? That pizza? That whatever-your-gluten-craving-is?

OH, but you're only gluten intolerant or have a gluten sensitivity or don't have to do it, but it helps you feel better...

If you've never been tested for Celiac Disease, you don't know for sure whether you might have it.
If you've been tested and it was negative, that doesn't mean that it didn't develop later or that they didn't miss it for any number of reasons.

You've chosen to adopt the treatment for Celiac Disease, so can you say with 100% certainty that you might not be at risk for all the same things as a Celiac?  No.

If you're going to be gluten free, be gluten free. Do it for your own health- just in case you're just an undiagnosed Celiac who is aware enough to realize that gluten doesn't like you. Do it for me too. Even if you've never met me, you've read this much of my ramblings, so you can at least pretend like we have some sort of connection. I need you to be 100% gluten free if you're going to be gluten free at all so that we don't send mixed messages to people. This is serious business.

If you're not sure you can make that commitment, PLEASE get tested for Celiac Disease WHILE consuming gluten so you can get a definitive diagnosis. If you have it, I would hope it might be more motivating to you.

So what does it mean to be gluten free?
It means no gluten. None. Never. Nada.
Got it?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Udi's Tortillas

I bought some of Udi's new tortillas a while back and stuck them in the freezer to wait for just the right moment to try them. If you know me, you might know that back in my gluten-loving days, I worked for many years through high school and college (okay, and even for a while after college!) making pizzas. If you don't know me and you're reading this, you probably realize by now that pizza is one of my favorite things to experiment making. If you know my husband, you might know that it's one of the few edible things I can create- but anyhow....

So yes, I made pizza today.

I was afraid to put sauce on them and have them turn into a soggy mess, so I decided we would just dip them in sauce. Great move. The tortillas are tough enough that I think they could have held up to the challenge, but being flexible and tortilla-y, that might have been too much weight for them. For the same reason, I didn't go all crazy on toppings. I believe they could have held a little more than I put on them, but again, why not throw fun stuff in your dipping sauce?

How did I do it?

 I brushed olive oil on the bottom side of the tortillas (the side with the darker markings) and then flipped them over onto my foil-covered baking sheet. I topped them with mozzarella cheese, green peppers, onions, and pepperoni. I put the pepperoni on last so that maybe the edges would get a little crispy (that won't happen if they're sitting flat on the cheese under other toppings. I then sprinkled on the last little bit of cheese I had in the bag along with some Parmesan cheese and put it in the oven. I had it preheated to 400 and cooked it for 10-15 minutes until the cheese was just starting to brown.

How was it?

Amazing!! This just may be my new favorite pizza. They cut nicely with a pizza cutter so I could make just the right shapes and sizes for everyone to happily eat them. I do think they were extra fun with dipping sauce and would be great as a meal or appetizer- I will definitely make them exactly the same next time.

Enjoy the pictures- the food's already gone!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pillsbury Pizza Dough

Anyone who's known me for a long time might remember the years I spent making some of the most beautiful (gluten-filled) pizzas in '08 zip code during high school and college. I can still make a nice-looking pizza, but being gluten free for 6 years now, the challenge is what crust to put it on.

Anyone who knows me also realizes that I'm not going to put a lot of effort into complicated recipes or experimenting with different ingredients to find a perfect GF blend of whatever. Give me a crust and I'll make a pizza on it, but I'm not making a crust from scratch. A mix, perhaps, but not from scratch.

So anyhow, after sabotaging any hopes of weight loss by devouring tubs of the new Pillsbury GF chocolate chip cookie dough, I decided to try the pizza dough to see if they nailed this dough as perfectly as the cookies (although I might add- I have no idea how well the cookies bake as I have only eaten the dough raw, ignoring the advice on the package against doing so).

It felt good to work with some dough again rather than to just pull a pre-made crust out of the freezer. As I rolled it out and manipulated it into the right shape, I thought I'd try hand-tossing it. This dough is not hand-tossable. It does tear easily, a good reminder that it is indeed gluten free. Having to ball up the dough to start again was a nice reminder of what you lose when you give up regular flour. Flour gives dough its elasticity, something that I have not found replicated well in any GF dough. I used to be able to stretch out a thin crust pizza dough as thin as a silk scarf for a light, crispy crust. That is not happening with this dough.

I stuck with rolling it out with a rolling pin and manipulating it with my fingers. The directions on the package say to oil your hands and your pan/foil- it wasn't too sticky on my fingers, but after cooking it, I definitely recommend generously oiling your workspace. I put down a lot of oil and it didn't get stuck to the foil, but I did have to peel the foil back. That's helpful also with any cheese that hangs off the edge of your crust too- it will glue your pizza down if you have too much.  As I said before, the crust does tear easily. If you get cracks in it as you roll it out, just pinch it back together. I actually worked the edges of my crust a lot with my fingers to get the right shape. If you screw up, don't worry- just fix it. This dough is forgiving.

The dough doesn't rise when cooking, so if you're looking for a thicker edge on your crust, roll it out to the thickness you want and then pinch up the edges a little more to make them thicker. On a traditional pizza, the edges that aren't covered in sauce will rise up more; you won't get that effect with this crust. Personally, I'd rather just have more space to lay down toppings, so I rolled it all out pretty evenly.

Make sure that you do following the directions on the package for baking- you do need to bake the dough by itself first before adding your toppings. For me, this was my chance to make my sauce.

Yeah, the person who doesn't want to make things from scratch or follow recipes DOES make her own sauce... go figure! I'd give you the recipe, but it's not exact. I use tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, garlic, and sometimes minced onions. I mix them until I get the right taste and consistency. My gluten-eating husband has never been too fond of any of the GF pizza crusts I've used, but he always loves my sauce. He's kind of snobby about pizza too, swearing by his favorite Lexy's pizza. I never used to think the sauce was such a big deal, but it really is. Remember Papa John's? I hated their pizza because their sauce was too thin and sweet. Marco's was always good, but didn't taste good the next day. Pizza Hut was always better the next day- cold or hot. A lot of this was the sauce and how it worked together with the crust.

I know you're still waiting to hear about the crust and if you should try it... I'm getting there... but first a little bit more on making a beautiful pizza:

Don't sauce all the way out to the edge. Give yourself a crust.
Evenly space out all of your toppings.
Don't overdo any single topping- even if you only use a single topping. You CAN have too much of a good thing.
Put your cheese on last and make sure it stretches over your toppings onto the crust you left around the edge. It will help to hold everything in place. I used to put cheese down first, but with GF pizzas I have found that it works best on top.
If you do load your pizza down with lots of toppings, it will take longer to bake. Don't just pull the pizza out because the timer went off. Try to wait until the cheese starts to brown a little bit. Be mindful of your crust, though- you don't want to burn it waiting for browned cheese.

So how was my crust?

It was okay. It was definitely gluten free. It wasn't crumbly. It cooked nicely. It was very dense, however. It kind of reminded me of an Udi's pizza crust, but baked at home. I like the Udi's crusts, so this isn't a bad thing, but it's not necessarily anything to brag about. Perhaps I could have rolled it out thinner. My husband didn't like it, though he did eat it. He does reject a lot of gluten free stuff, so again, this isn't a bad thing. I made a good pizza that he could appreciate- the crust just wasn't anything special to him. Will I buy it again? Yes. Will it be my only pizza crust? No. My favorite is still Against the Grain. This one is a lot cheaper though, so it definitely gets my vote there. I might not have as much time for cooking with it during the school year, but I was satisfied with the crust. I would recommend you try it.

Try the cookie dough too- and send another tub of it my way!

I look forward to hearing your experiences with this dough and things you've tried to make it even better. This was only my first attempt at using it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Where have I been?





Sleeping? Eh, sometimes.

I actually have a couple of blog posts that are trapped in an in-development purgatory. Somehow between an extremely demanding job (are you keeping up with the state of public education in Indiana?) and two extremely demanding little girls (worth every second), the wordiness with which I love to fill this blog just isn't happening. I try to post little things here and there on the Facebook page still, so be sure to "like" it- and to adjust your settings so you actually get notification of new posts on there (silly Facebook... just ask me if you're not sure how to do this). The partially-written posts will find their way up here eventually, I'm sure- perhaps on summer break.

ANYhow, if you missed it on Facebook, you can now get GFFW products like shirts and other fun novelties at I'm thinking it would be fun to participate in the Color Me Rad race with white GFFW shirts- let me know if you'd do it if I started a GFFW team.

If anyone is interested in writing a guest blog for GFFW to help keep this thing alive, I welcome your contributions. I will fully credit you in the post, including related links to your own blog, Facebook page, etc., and clearly label the post as a guest blog. You can send your writing to me at or on the Facebook page. If I edit it, I will send it back to you for approval before posting (yes, I am an English teacher- thankfully, no red pens will be sacrificed in the editing process). If I'm not going to post it, I'll let you know. That's not me being a jerk; it's just me trying to stick with my original vision for the purpose of GFFW. For example: if you're one of those home-party sales people (Perfectly Posh, It Works, etc.), I'm okay with a reasonable sales pitch from one person. I'm not going to do 20 It Works guest blogs. If someone else beats you to the punch, feel free to add your contact information in the comments section. I'm also not going to do 20 guest blogs from people selling stuff. So again, don't take it personally if I don't post your guest blog. I'd rather stick with things like restaurant or product reviews, especially for local stuff. Have an idea, but not sure that I'd go for it? Just ask. I'd love to keep this blog active; I'm just struggling to do so on my own right now. I'm hoping I can handle a little cut-n-paste action.  Happy blogging!