Sunday, April 28, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons

When Life Gives You Lemons
by Lisa Hamel
April 2010
Phoenix, Arizona

My mother and I both adore this picture, and it always makes me smile. My son was just a few weeks shy of turning one when it was taken, and it captures his curiosity and love for life so perfectly. I love the contrast of my mother's super-sized lemons against his tiny hand, and the dimpled texture of the lemon peel against the alabaster smoothness of his wrist. Even better--it reminds me of the joy of finally getting a high-quality digital camera, since I took this shot on the second day I owned my Nikon D-3000.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix

Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix
a one-pot wonder

I was first introduced to Zatarain's Jambalaya on my first official date with my husband. Although his (former) step-mom was serving spaghetti, she also cooked a box of this special stuff because it is one of my father-in-law's favorite foods. Essentially, jambalaya is a spicy rice-dish from Louisiana. Authentic recipes include variety of fresh vegetables and an assortment of meats, such as chicken, ham, smoked sausage, or shrimp. After one bite, I was hooked.

What I like about Zatarain's Jambalaya is it is quick and easy to prepare, requires only one pot, and is relatively inexpensive. It is a great option for weeknight meals, and I swear it tastes better as leftovers than on the night I cook it. Better yet, it is available at essentially any grocery store, and it is versatile. If I want it a little milder, I add extra water and plain, uncooked white rice. If I want to change it up a bit, I add a fresh vegetable, like diced green bell pepper. No gluten-free sausage available? I can use cooked and diced chicken breast or ham instead. On top of everything else, the smaller packages are even labeled gluten-free! (You can learn more about Zatarain's other gluten-free products here.)

If you are ready to try this Creole creation, here is what you need to do:

  1. Gather your ingredients:
    • 1-2 boxes of Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix
    • Gluten-free meat of choice (cooked chicken, ham, sausage or shrimp--see package for amount)*
    • Water (see package for amount) 
    • 1 green bell pepper optional
    • Small amount of uncooked white rice (see package for amount) optional

      I used Hormel brand's Natural Choice Original Smoked Sausage, purchased at Target.
  2. Start boiling the water according to the package directions before you prepare the other ingredients. Covering the pot will help the water boil faster.
  3. Prepare the remaining ingredients. I usually cut my sausage into half-moons, since it is easier to evenly distribute the smaller pieces.
  4. Once the water is boiling, combine all of the ingredients in the pot and let simmer according to the directions on the package. 
  5. When all the water has been absorbed, your meal is ready. Before you dish it up, make sure to stir the pot thoroughly. The meat tends to float to the top while it is simmering.
Easy, right?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Get the word out!

I would like to share two pieces of photographic evidence (well, visual evidence) to illustrate the importance of letting people know you are gluten-free.

1. No Glutton for Gluten

A few weeks ago, I found this cute little article in my mailbox at school about shopping for gluten-free products in Phoenix (click on the image to go to the web edition). There was no note, but I was fairly certain it must have come from one of my celiac friends on campus. I was right--it came from my friend, Brenda, who was diagnosed with celiac disease in the last year or so.

Now, I think most of us assume people with celiac disease look out for others with the same disease--swapping recipes, recommending restaurants and products, etc. Thus, it probably doesn't surprise you that Brenda, who I have shared many gluten-free tidbits with over the past year, would pass on a helpful resource to me. The story of how she got it, however, illustrates my point (Get the word out!) quite well.

Brenda received the article from another teacher in her department who has absolutely no reason to think about gluten-free products. She simply came across the article one day, remembered that Brenda is on a strict gluten-free diet, pulled it out, and passed it on. Upon reading the article, Brenda immediately made a resolution to check out one of the gluten-free bakeries mentioned, but she never would have known the article (or the bakery) existed if she hadn't been open about her disease and her diet restrictions. 

2. A Pretty Platter of Gluten-Free Cookies

You know those awkward moments when someone gives you a gluten-containing baked good as a gift, and then they just kind of stare at you and wait for you to eat it? Well, I did not experience that on my birthday this year. Instead, I walked into my classroom, and I was greeted by this perfect platter of pretty little cookies--all of them gluten-free.

My instructional aide, Kim, who had never even heard of celiac disease until a few months ago, consulted with Brenda about the best-tasting gluten-free cookies, spent a small fortune purchasing them (undoubtedly), plated them up, and wrapped them in cellophane for the most thoughtful birthday gift I could have asked for from any coworker. She even brought doughnuts for my students so I wouldn't have to share!

Could this have happened if I hadn't taken the time to explain--in detail--what celiac disease is, how it restricts my diet, and why it I should never, ever have gluten? No, it couldn't have. If I hadn't explained celiac disease to Kim, I probably would have been greeted by a pan full of gluten-containing birthday cake, an awkward situation, and a guilty conscience.

The Takeaway (to steal a phrase from the delightful style blog, Work Your Wardrobe):

People want to help us, but they can only do that if we speak up and educate them.

Not sure how to start the conversation? Pop over to my informational page, "Celiac Disease," for some well-researched answers to a few common questions, including: What is celiac disease? What are its symptoms? and What happens if you eat gluten?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Simple Gluten-Free Cornbread

Simple Gluten-Free Cornbread
No specialty flours or ingredients required!

Yields nine 3x3 inch squares

What? Two gluten-free recipes in one month? That's right--you've hit The Everyday Celiac jackpot! Honestly, though, I have been wanting to share this recipe for a while, and making a batch of my family's favorite cornbread made for some excellent mother-son bonding time. Pint-sized sous-chef is my son's favorite job, after all. The bread is a little crumbly, but it tastes delicious. Trust me!

I mean, seriously, if you think gluten-free baking isn't worth it, stare at this photo for a few minutes.You'll change your mind.

Is there anything that beats homemade bread, still warm from the oven and smeared with delicious butter (or non-dairy margarine) and jam? Yum!


(Right-click in new window & select print.)

A few final tips...
  • If you prefer warm bread like me, nuke room-temperature cornbread for about 10 seconds before scarfing it down eating it
  • It's shelf life can be a little short, so you may want to consider refrigerating it.
Other uses & serving options...
  • Use as a base for gluten-free stuffing come Thanksgiving
  • Save & freeze crumbs for use in recipes calling for gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • Make a double-batch & freeze individual portions for later use
Update 6.20.13: 
I used this recipe to make cornbread muffins this morning, and it worked perfectly! Reduce the cooking time to about 18 minutes, grease your muffin tin well, and fill up each cup about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way with uncooked batter. Yields 1 dozen standard-size muffins.

Update 7.12.14: 
If you are concerned about texture, try using a combination of 1 1/2 cups cornmeal and 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend like those produced by Bob's Red MillBisquick or Namaste Foods. While the recipe works fine with just cornmeal, the combination makes for a lighter, fluffier cornbread.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Creative Gluten-Free Tuna Salad

Creative Gluten-Free Tuna Salad
A.K.A. an easy lunch you'll be proud to eat

I would like to start off by apologizing to anyone who thinks this meal is entirely too pedestrian to deserve the title "kitchen (mis)adventure." I understand where you are coming from, but long story short, my health knocked me on my back this weekend, and there was no way I felt up to trying out a new recipe...although I definitely wanted to.

Additionally, I realize that just about everyone knows how to make tuna salad: open a can of tuna, stir in some mayonnaise, and call it a day. At the same time, one of the greatest challenges of the gluten-free diet is feeling stuck in a rut and limited in your food options--especially if you are not into cooking. This post is about a simple way to put a new spin on an old favorite.

All of that said, let me tell you why I love this recipe: It's easy, adaptable, work-lunch friendly, and healthy.

Now, for the directions.

As always, gather your ingredients first:
  1. 1 can chunk-light tuna in water
  2. 1 stalk of celery, sliced
  3. 1 small carrot, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
  4. 1 handful of dried craisins
  5. 2-3 heaping teaspoons of gluten-free mayonnaise*
*My favorite brand of "safe" mayonnaise is Smart Balance. It is labeled gluten-free, available in nearly every grocery store, and very tasty. 

Next, mix all of the "dry" ingredients together in a small Tupperware container. Yes, technically you could use a bowl. However, substituting a Tupperware container means you can just slap a lid on the leftovers without dirtying an extra dish.

Add the mayonnaise last, a little at a time, so you can control how much you have. I like my tuna salad well-coated in mayonnaise, but not swimming in it.

Finally, serve on your favorite gluten-free bread substitute. For the picture above, I made an open-faced sandwich on a toasted slice of Glutino's gluten-free flax seed bread (my favorite), but you could also try  gluten-free crackers, celery sticks, or rice cakes. Enjoy!

Why is it called "creative" gluten-free tuna salad?
Well, I threw together at the spur of the moment based on the ingredients I had on hand. I've tried craisins and sliced celery before, but the carrots were a bit of a (lucky) gamble.

How can it be adapted?
Truthfully, however you want. In the past, I have used halved grapes instead of craisins, and a friend and I once tried corn kernels, cooked rice (chilled), and ranch dressing--but I wouldn't recommend the latter combination. Throwing in sliced almonds or chopped walnuts would be another great way to change it up, as would using canned chicken or salmon instead of tuna.

Get creative, and let me know how it turns out!

This kitchen (mis)adventure was a delicious experiment gone right!

I apologize for the lack of photos. I know the recipe is painfully easy, but we all want a little eye-candy, right? Basically, I was too hungry to bother with pictures--which is why the solo piece of photographic evidence features a half-eaten open-faced sandwich on gluten-free bread.