Thursday, June 30, 2011

Petco Stadium Goes Gluten Free

Yesterday I went to Petco Stadium in San Diego to watch the Padres vs. Kansas City Royals game. While I'm not much of a baseball fan, my boyfriend is, and I do love an outing to the ballpark and all of the sights and smells that come with it. I especially love San Diego, the ocean, and beautiful summer weather they are currently having. My brother in law is in town from Kansas City (hence the Royals game), so we decided to head out so the boys could enjoy the game, while I enjoyed some sun.

Before going, I went online and called the stadium, and was surprised to learn they have a gluten free stand! The stand is located in Section 108. They serve Redbridge beer made by Budweiser which isn't bad - and hamburgers and hot dogs - on gluten free buns... YEAH!!  They sometimes have PopChips, but were all out.  This was fine with me because I don't eat items that are made in a facility or on equipment that manufacture wheat or gluten.  Just my preference.

Here is the menu up close

 I settled for a cold, frosty beer.  Ahh, that hit the spot.

Here is a link to the Padres A-Z guide if you look under healthy food you will see they mention the concession stand. Then look on the website map to help you find the stand.

Here is a list I found of other ballparks around the nation that have gluten free options (from Can We Eat That? blog site)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PF Changs Gluten Free Menu

My brother-in-law is out for a visit this week, and so we decided to go out for dinner and a movie.  Naturally for me, apprehension kicks in.  Will I be able to get service? Can I be confident there are no cross contamination issues?  We decided on PF Changs China Bistro in Sherman Oaks.  The general manager came to my table; he reassured me that my meal would be gluten free. He said that they had a separate wok and cooking station for gluten free food, and the kitchen staff were fully trained. Even the plates they used were marked differently to identify the gluten issue. They even brought me my own sauces.

For an appetizer we decided on the GF lettuce wraps, and for the entree, I ordered the Singapore Street Noodles... shrimp, chicken, vegetables and rice noodles stir fried with gluten free sauce. Both were delicious.

It was nice to feel confident that I could enjoy an evening out without the stress of trying to explain my food intolerance to someone who looks at me like I'm speaking a foreign language, or worry that my salad is going to arrive with croutons.  Thanks PF Changs for making a good evening even better. I hope more restaurants follow their lead.

Next on my list to try is Pitfire Pizza in North Hollywood.  I hear they serve pizza crusts supplied by The Sensitive Baker.  I can already taste my Hawaiian pizza....

Monday, June 27, 2011

What is Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance?

From a link on the website

Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a genetic disorder that affects at least 1 in 133Americans. Symptoms of celiac disease can range from the classic features, such as diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition, tolatent symptoms such as isolated nutrient deficiencies but nogastrointestinal symptoms. The disease mostly affects people of European (especially Northern European) descent, but recent studies show that it also affects Hispanic, Black and Asian populations as well1. Those affected suffer damage to the villi(shortening and villous flattening) in the lamina propria and cryptregions of their intestines when they eat specific food-grain antigens(toxic amino acid sequences) that are found in wheat, rye, and barley3Oats have traditionally been considered to be toxic to celiacs, but recent scientific studies have shown otherwise. This research is ongoing, however, and it may be too early to draw solid conclusions.
Because of the broad range of symptoms celiac disease presents, it can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms can range from mild weakness, bone pain, and aphthous stomatitis to chronic diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and progressive weight loss.3 If a person with the disorder continues to eat gluten, studies have shown that he or she will increase their chances of gastrointestinal cancer by a factor of 40 to 100 times that of the normal population4. Further, gastrointestinal carcinoma or lymphoma develops in up to 15 percent of patients with untreated or refractory celiac disease3. It is therefore imperative that the disease is quickly and properly diagnosed so it can be treated as soon as possible.

Based on the figure mentioned above we can extrapolate the total number of people in the United States with celiac disease: 2.18 million (based on the total population: 290,356,0285). It is very important that doctors understand just how many people have this disease so that routine testing for it is done to bring the diagnosis rate in line with the diseases epidemiology. Testing is fairly simple and involves screening the patients blood for antigliadin (AGA) and endomysiumantibodies (EmA), and/or doing a biopsy on the areas of the intestines mentioned above, which is still the standard for a formal diagnosis.

The only acceptable treatment for celiac disease is strict adherence to a 100% gluten-free diet for life. An adherence to a gluten-free diet can prevent almost all complications caused by the disease3. A gluten-free diet means avoiding all products that contain wheat, rye and barley, or any of their derivatives. This is a difficult task as there are many hidden sources of gluten found in the ingredients of many processedfoods. This site is designed to help people with celiac disease get diagnosed, and make life easier after their diagnosis. Those who are interested can read the story of my diagnosis.

Annie's Homegrown Products - Email Response

I contacted Annie's Homegrown yesterday to ask (1) is your Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese produced in a facility containing gluten and if so (2) is it produced on the same lines or separate lines?  This is the canned response I received:

Dear Vanessa:

Thank you for taking the time to contact Annie's Homegrown. Annie's fully discloses all ingredients on our ingredient statement, and also lists any dietary benefits and allergen advisories.  All of our manufacturing facilities meet with the highest standards of cleanliness, and have complete, documented and audited food safety programs.  Allergen handling and control is one of our mandated food safety programs to address the handling and processing of the top eight allergens (Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Milk, Egg, Soy, Wheat (Gluten), Fish and Shell Fish).  Ingredients containing allergens are marked and segregated.  Mixing, batching, and packaging processes are fully documented and audited to avoid any cross-contamination.  Equipment is completely washed after handling a specific allergen.  Annie’s products labeled as Gluten Free meet the proposed US and Canadian Gluten Free standards of less than 20ppm.

Thank you for contacting Annie's Homegrown .

Best Regards,

Consumer Relations Associate
Annie's, Inc.

Doesn't really fully answer my question.  It does however make me feel better as they say their products labeled as gluten free meet the proposed US and Canadian standards of less than 20ppm.  I did eat some the other night, and didn't have a reaction to it.  Eat at your discretion. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sensitive Baker

Being a beautiful sunny day in Los Angeles, I decided to take a leisurely drive from the valley (SFV for you locals) to Culver City to check out The Sensitive Baker. I've seen their products in health food stores, and read reviews on yelp, and so I've been curious for some time.

When I walked in, I could smell the aroma of fresh baked bread. I was warmly greeted by Dan Irwin, who has owned the bakery with his wife for about 2 years. He was very helpful in pointing out all of the pastries, muffins and cupcakes in their display case. They all looked so good I wanted to order one of everything! I finally decided on the carrot muffin (carrot cake is one of my favorites) which was adorned with soy cream cheese frosting. I also ordered what Dan referred to as a "ding dong" type cake, which had chocolate ganache frosting and cream cheese filling. Oh baby, I can't want to chow on these! Above the display were samples of bagels and brioche buns. Brioche rolls are very similar in texture to that of a croissant. I popped a brioche sample in my mouth and instantly knew I had to buy some. They were amazing... sweet, buttery, and something hard to come by with gluten free baked goods...... FLAVORFUL!! In my opinion, Dan and his wife are expert bakers and know their stuff. And people know it, too: there were three other customers there that drove quite a distance... one couple drove 90 minutes from Lancaster.

On the way back to North Hollywood, I decided to try the carrot muffin. The cream cheese frosting was cold, creamy and not too sweet and the flavor and texture of the muffin was superb. I look forward to making a sandwich or burger on the brioche rolls, or just scarfing one down with some butter and jam.

If you live in Southern California, I highly recommend checking The Sensitive Baker out. They have baguettes, pizza crusts, bread sticks... you name it they probably make it. You can buy it fresh and take it home to freeze, or buy it already frozen. Or, if you're like me and have a sweet tooth, just devour their muffins and baked goods and stand there with a smile on your face. I probably had chocolate in my teeth, but I didn't care.
you can also find them on twitter

Saturday, June 25, 2011


 Here are a list of restaurants I visit often in Los Angeles that I've found can accommodate my dietary needs when I'm on the go and have no time to cook, or just don't feel like it.

In-N-Out - Protein Style Double Double with raw onion and yellow chiles.  Ask for spread on the side (the spatula they use touches bread). Fries are only thing cooked in oil.

Chipotle - Only items that have gluten are their flour tortillas. Ask them to change their gloves since they handle the tortillas.  Some say that the ladles from their rice and beans could be contaminated from filling the flour tortillas, but I've never had a problem.  You can ask them to prepare yours from items in the back if you are worried about this. I get their carnitas burrito bowl with fajita veggies, hot salsa, chips and guacamole. Oh and my drink of choice, an Arnold Palmer

Panera Bread - I get salads here all the time.  Their website gives detailed allergen information.  Again, ask the manager to inform the kitchen of your dietary needs.

Bottega Louie - Located in downtown Los Angeles, they have the most amazing bakery and desserts.  They have gluten free Macaron cookies and a few other desserts.  I'm trying to find out more information about cross-contamination from their main pastry chef, but I've never had a problem. The head chef's sister has Celiac, so he was more than helpful to point out the safe items for me and told me to contact him if I ever wanted to come in for a meal.

Kind Creme - Vegan and Gluten Free ice cream and cookies etc.  Almost everything is gluten free.

Annie's Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese (Gluten Free of Course)

Tonight I just wanted some easy, fast comfort food.  The result: Annie's deluxe macaroni and cheese, add sliced Applegate Farms organic hot dogs, chopped caramelized onions, some cayenne for spice, and you have a yummy, healthier version of mac and cheese.  The hot dogs are grass fed beef and contain no nitrites (note: nitrites can affect blood pressure, and can reduce oxygen in your cells.) I'm just a big supporter of organic whole foods.  

It is my understanding that some of Annie's products are produced in facilities that contain gluten, but their website says that strict manufacturing processes are used to prevent cross contamination issues.  I plan to contact them to see if this product is made in a facility with gluten.  Lately I've been trying to eat more certified gluten free foods or whole foods. If processed food, I definitely stay away from products that are made on the same equipment as gluten, regardless of strict practices.  I have a pretty sensitive system and if there is any gluten I seem to be affected. I know some of Annie's foods are made in gluten-free facilities, so one can hope! Will let everyone know when I get an answer to my email.


My Goal (and some History)

My first post!  I've been wanting to start a blog for some time.  I decided to start this blog as a way to communicate and hopefully help others who are gluten free, and discuss living a healthy, gluten free life.

I've always had a pretty healthy diet, even before going gluten-free. No soda, not much fast food.  But like many, I'd eat way too many carbs - many of them coming from gluten. That all changed when I finally found the solution to all of the ailments I'd had throughout my lifetime. But finding nutritious gluten free foods can be challenging; many have more calories and less nutrients. So most of my posts will be about recipes starting with fresh, nutritious whole foods.  I don't eat much processed stuff - although I'll admit tonight I had a mac and cheese craving so..... hey, we all need some comfort food from time to time.

In my high school years I seemed to have anxiety and digestive problems, which then developed into a mild depression. Since the age of 14 I've gotten strep throat several times a year, have taken too many antibiotics, and this has affected my health greatly. This and other illnesses have seemed like a black cloud looming over me.  At the age of 32 I ended up in the hospital, where they could not find why I had fluid in my lung and extremely painful back spasms for more than 3 months.  I attribute all of this to gluten.  One day while searching online for a solution to all of my symptoms and illnesses (doctors were no help), I had an "a-ha!" moment.  Celiac disease and gluten intolerance.  All of my symptoms pointed to it: joint pain, fatigue, brain-fog, depression and anxiety, and digestive problems. Within a week of going GF, my symptoms started to lessen.

For about a year now I've been eating gluten free.  Being a newbie, I've had my share of trial and error on foods that I thought were gluten free, restaurant and social frustrations, and complete amazement of how many people know nothing about Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance (I've had people ask me if bread had wheat in it!) So my goal for this blog is to (1) help those who are newly diagnosed or just want to learn about new foods and healthy recipes (2) review (mostly) greater Los Angeles restaurants and products and (3) have some discussions about what its like to live gluten free in the United States, where there is still no manufacturing/labeling regulations for gluten.

Here's to living healthy and gluten free! Reviews, recipes and discussions to follow.....