Gluten-Free 101: What is Gluten Anyway?

Are you feeling confused by all the “gluten-free” labels popping up on everything from cereal boxes to sandwich meat?  Do you think celiac disease is an allergy to gluten?  Are you unsure whether it’s all a big hoax or maybe just a new celebrity fad diet?  Unsure what gluten even is?  Well, my friend, this informative yet entertaining little video is just what you need!

I kind of wish he would’ve gone into a bit more detail about what it feels like to get glutened when you have celiac disease: I end up in bed for a couple of days, miss work and school, and have the worse stomach pains I’ve ever had in my life.  And it takes a good week before I can eat normally again (I have to eat super soft gentle foods) and about two weeks (sometimes closer to three) before my stomach completely stops hurting after eating or drinking (water is the worse, it hurts so much).  And all of that drama and pain can happen if I were to just pick croutons out of my salad. 

But I suppose going into all of that would’ve made for a much longer video.  Check it out.  And let me know what you think. Smile

What to know more about living gluten-free?  Check out these posts:

Debi’s Confetti Salad (gluten & allergen free)

101_1075I’ve shared this recipe before, but I had to post it on The Crunchy Cook again when I realized yesterday that it’s one of the few recipes previously posted on my blog that I can still eat.  I can eat something!

Due to my extreme peanut allergy, I can’t even walk through the food area at my university around lunch time because someone might be eating something peanut-y.  And that would be bad.  Really bad.  This means that the one and only microwave on campus is completely off limits to me (who had the grand idea to only put one microwave in at a college?), so foods that don’t have to be reheated are the best options for lunches.  And I can still have one of my favorites!

This recipe, Debi’s Confetti Salad, is something my mom came up with.  And it’s a dish my family tends to eat a lot.  You can find her original post about this recipe on her food blog, Cheap Eats.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked rice, cooled (I usually use brown rice but you can also use white or basmati)
  • 1 can (16-oz) red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can (16-oz) black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can (16-oz) corn (drained)
  • 4 sliced green onions
  • 1 small green or red pepper (finely diced)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar if you can eat apples)
  • 1 tablespoon Spenda/sucralose (or sugar if you prefer)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Mix all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the dressing ingredients together in another bowl.
  3. Pour dressing over salad, mix together.  And you’re done!  It’s that easy.

Disney: Cruising with Food Allergies & Celiac (Part 2)

As I mentioned yesterday, my future in-laws took Mr. Munger, my mom, my sister, and I all on a Disney Cruise in September.  And it was amazing because I was actually able to eat.  Not to mention, it was also just a lot of fun.

We left from Vancouver, B.C. and went down to L.A. with a two-day stop in San Francisco to see the sights.

2012-09-10 11.57.56

Because it was a Disney Cruise, there are Mickey Mouse heads tactfully and tastefully hidden everywhere.  This Mickey head is much more blatantly obvious than most.


Our ship!  This is in Vancouver.


While you’re not bombarded with Disney Characters, they do make guest appearances    sometimes.  This was during the “Sailing Away” party.


My sister, Shannon, in the hot tub.  This was before we figured out how to turn it on.


The closest thing to a ball on the ship is Pirate Night.  Everyone dresses up, and we were extra dressed up because De, my future mother-in-law, has mad skills when it comes to costumes.  Shannon and I picked out the fabric we wanted, explained how we wanted it to look, and De did the rest.


Mr. Munger and I on deck during the pirate party.  We were dressed as pirates on a ship as it was in the ocean and there were even fireworks; it was awesome!


Lovely San Francisco.  Mom took this nice picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Food!  I ate so much wonderful, gluten-free, allergy-free food while on the ship.  After having a waitstaff who truly acted like they enjoyed taking care of me and helping me to have a great trip (rather than acting like I was an inconvenience!), I think I’m spoiled.  Very spoiled.


Shannon eating gluten-free fries and a burger on deck.  It was beautiful but pretty windy!


Mickey Mouse!  Such a good trip.

Other Articles of Interest:

It’s Official: I’m Allergic to the World

food-allergies“Wouldn’t it be bad if I found out I was allergic to more foods?”

My sister, Shannon, shot me back a worried look that said, “Don’t even joke about that!”

With my already nearly epic allergen list (peanuts, mushrooms, coconut, honeydew, and the inability to digest gluten or beef) I felt pretty confident that not a thing would show up during my food allergy testing.  How many food allergies can one gal have?  Apparently, quite a lot.

Yesterday, after my allergy testing was done, I felt like a car had run over me.  My body didn’t like the testing very much.  While the good news is that I’m feeling less like roadkill this morning,  the bad news is that I have TEN NEW FOOD ALLERGIES to try and navigate life with.  Oh, boy.

The happy woman doing my testing suddenly looked very grave: “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”  Not exactly what you want to hear.  She’d never seen anyone come out with so many food allergies.  And as she read of the list of the foods I had to say goodbye to, I felt like I was going into shock.

1. Milk
2. Eggs
3. Apples
4. Peaches
5. Pork
6. Shrimp
7. Soy bean
8. Strawberries
9. Tomatoes
10. Tuna

By the time she was finished reading off my new found food foes, I was laughing in that “better-call-the-men-in-the-white-coats” kind of way.  Seemed better than crying all over myself at the doctor’s office.

The results mean: buying pre-made foods is a luxury I don’t really have anymore, all of my favorite holiday dishes aren’t options, there’s no way I’m going on the four-week study abroad trip to Rome with my school, not sure how baking would even work, and just going to the grocery store will take even longer than usual thanks to all the ingredient-label reading.  And, also, every single recipe I’ve posted on The Crunchy Cook so far are things I can’t eat anymore.  That one probably makes me the most sad (I was already pretty sure Rome wasn’t happening).

The results also explain why I’m so hyper-sensitive to all of my allergies, why I feel crummy much of the time, and my stomach hurts so much.  It’s a shock to the system trying to wrap my head around my new list of food allergies, but I wouldn’t go back to not knowing about them for anything.  I wish I didn’t have any allergies, I wish I was easier to feed, but I don’t wish that I was blissfully unaware … because now I can start taking proper care of my body.

I know I’ll slowly figure out how to feed myself again, and eventually discover food I enjoy eating, too.  But I feel like I’m starting over completely and it’s overwhelming.

Mom hugged me and said, “You’re not on your own.  We’ll figure this out together.”  And she’s right.

Glutened Again: The Magic of Ice Cream

Ice creamWhile my neighbors take advantage of a cooler summer day by having a garage sale and the kids ride bikes in the afternoon sun, the ice cream man is serenading the local residents with tinny versions of “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.”  Perhaps he’s trying to tempt us with the idea of all the magic and wonder of the holidays being wrapped into one overpriced little ice cream cone.

A bowl of French vanilla ice cream may not posses the same level of wonder that Christmas morning holds for a sugar-high five-year-old running on no sleep, but for those of us with celiac (an autoimmune disease that makes my body respond to even the slightest amount of gluten  the way other people’s bodies’ might react to being literally poisoned) ice cream is a huge comfort.

And I don’t mean “comfort food” in that handkerchiefs scattered all over the room kind of way, although it’s definitely been known to double as a companion for those times too, but it works to sooth my poor little inner organs after they’ve been abused by gluten.

My sister, Shannon, and I were glutend a couple of days ago.  We’d gone out to eat at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Seattle, careful ordered off the “gluten-free” menu, nicely questioned the server about each of the dishes, and our meals had even come with little flags planted in our pasta claiming the meal was free of all unwanted gluten.  But thanks to cross-contamination issues, we both still ended up feeling pretty crummy.  That’s where the ice cream comes in.

I’ve always tried to be sparing when it came to ice cream and just desserts in general, but the fiancé was worried so he brought Shannon and I each our own container.  And I ate my entire tub of gluten-free, sugar-free ice cream over the course of two days.  Boy oh boy did it make a difference though.  Whenever my insides would begin feeling like they were being barbecued and gored alive, I’d slowly suck on some of the soothing ice cream.  It never made the pain go away completely, but it would help me to go from feeling like I was going to spend the day doubled-up in a corner crying to feeling uncomfortable and out of it.  An almost miraculous transformation.  Ice cream is always helpful, but if gluten had been an actual ingredient (rather than cross-contamination) it wouldn’t have been able to help as much.

Sometimes I’m asked what kind of medicine I take after being glutened, but there really aren’t any meds that would help.  But ice cream, providing I have a decent (or perhaps indecent) amount and the gluten-ing isn’t too sever, works pretty well.  Perhaps the ice cream man is right, maybe when it’s needed ice cream really is magical.

What do you find to be the most helpful after you’ve been accidentally glutened?

Other Articles of Interest:

The Old Spaghetti Factory: Is it Really "Gluten-Free?"

Spaghetti FactoryMy community college’s radio program just had their end of the year banquet and award ceremony  for all of the radio students from the last school year and, to my surprise, I actually won a certificate of achievement for “excellence in broadcasting.”  While I enjoyed my AM radio class I was only able to take one before completing my two-year transfer degree (going to the University of Washington in the fall), so I was so surprised to win something.

As with most events, food played a key part in the festivities and the banquet was held at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Seattle.  It’s a restaurant I’d never been to before, but I’d heard generally good things about it and according to their website they offered a complete gluten-free menu.  My sister Shannon (who also is gluten-free) and I even got a cutesy little “gluten-free” flag (note the pic) planted right in the middle of our pasta.

Unfortunately, despite the “gluten-free” menu, talking about each option with the server, and the nifty little flag, Shannon and I both ended up getting glutened.  We were there right at dinnertime and because we were a part of a banquet, the kitchen and wait staff were going a million miles an hour.  It was the perfect setting to have someone forget to wash their hands before making my food, to use the same serving spoon that they had already used with the gluten pasta, or not be careful enough with a crumbly piece of bread.

Perhaps The Spaghetti Factory was having an off day due to the number of people they were feeding.  I don’t know.  It was odd though that both Shannon and I ended up getting sick  when we’d both ordered different things off the “gluten-free” menu.  When my future mother-in-law found out about our most recent glutening, she said that a young lady she knows never goes there because every time she’s been to the Spaghetti Factory in Seattle she’s gotten sick due to gluten.              

To their credit, I loved the general atmosphere of the restaurant and the servers were friendly; if I didn’t have celiac I’d totally go back.   I’m glad that I went to the banquet so that I could see everyone and be there to accept my certificate, but I wish I would’ve packed my own dinner.  I appreciate the fact that they’re trying to be accommodating to their gluten-free guest. Unfortunately, due to the seriousness of celiac disease, “trying” isn’t good enough because now Shannon and I will be sick for a couple of days. 

Other Articles of Interest:       

Blueberry Cheesecake (gluten & sugar-free)

Cream cheese cupcakes[Update: Due to my dairy allergy, this isn’t something I can eat anymore.  But give it a try!  It’s tasty]

Mr. M’s just celebrated his 28th rotation around the sun.  Since our very first date to Seattle almost two years ago he’s been wanting to tour Seattle in the most culturally sophisticated way possible—The Duck.  When Mr. M first pointed out the super touristy, tacky duck-shaped boats and announced that he wanted to ride one I just laughed.

In honor of his birthday though I’m going to treat him to a tour via The Duck once spring quarter is over and he’s back for a week over break.  And I also made him mini blueberry cheesecakes to celebrate (note the lovely lit candles below).  And he seemed to really enjoy them.

I highly modified Suzanne Somers’ New York Cheesecake recipe from her book Somersize Desserts.  While it isn’t specifically gluten-free, a lot of the recipes in the book tend to be naturally gluten-free.

Yields: About 18 cupcakes.

Ingredients for Cupcakes :

  • 3 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups Splenda/sucralose
  • 3 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Ingredients for Topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup Splenda/sucralose


  1. Place cupcake liners in muffin tins and set aside.
  2. Beat cream cheese and Spenda together in a large bowl (it will turn out better if you wait until the cream cheese is at room temperature).
  3. Add eggs, beating after each addition.  Then add sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla.  After mixing, carefully add blueberries.  Don’t kill it, just mix until it’s smooth.
  4. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to divvy up the cream cheese mixture evenly into the cupcake liners.  Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 of the way full.
  5. Bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes (0r until a toothpick comes out clean).
  6. In a smaller bowl, mix together sour cream and Splenda for the topping.  Once the cupcakes have cooled completely the in the refrigerator, spread sour cream frosting on top of them.

Cream Cheese cupcakes 3

Pumpkin Cupcakes (gluten-free & sugar-free)

Main picture[Update: Due to my dairy allergy, frosting these little guys is sadly no longer an option.  They’re pretty darn amazing frosted.  And I haven’t tried them out with egg-free egg substitute yet but I’m hopeful that’ll work]

I don’t really believe in “seasonal food.”  Some foods are definitely fresher (and cheaper) if you buy them when they’re in season, but something like canned pumpkin doesn’t really matter.  It’s just generally considered a fall/holiday food.

But I love pumpkin, so despite the fact that it’s late spring I’ve made a couple batches of my new favorite gluten-free cupcakes lately.  And they’ve been quite a hit.  They might not look like anything special, but the multiple requests for me to make them again makes me feel like I’m finally starting to figure this whole gluten-free but still delicious thing out.

You can eat these like muffins, but they taste fantastic if you also frost them with homemade Cream Cheese Frosting.


  • 3 and 1/3 cups Splenda/sucralose (or 3 cups sugar)
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 and 1/3 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin


  1. Set the oven for 400 degrees.  And put about 24 cupcake liners into muffin tins (greasing might also work but because gluten-free baked goods tends to be so fragile, I’d be afraid it’d fall apart when it’s taken out of the pan).  Set it aside for later.
  2. Beat Splenda, eggs, and oil together in a bowl.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl.
  4. Once mixed, alternately add flour mixture and water to Splenda mixture.  Use the electric beaters on low after each addition.  Now, beat in pumpkin until just combined.
  5. Use a spoon to carefully place the batter into the cupcake liners filling them about 2/3 of the way full.
  6. Bake cupcakes at 400 degrees for 18 minutes.
  7. Let the cupcakes cool for about 10 minutes before removing them from the pan.  Then, put them in the refrigerator so they can cool completely.  (While they taste good right after they’re made, they’ll taste the best after cooling all night in the refrigerator)
  8. Either eat them like muffins (they taste great with butter) or, better yet, frost them after they have cooled for at least a couple of hours.  Follow the Cream Cheese Frosting recipe, but add a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg to give it more of a pumpkin-y flavor.
  9. Once you’ve frosted the cupcakes, let them cool for at least a couple of hours.  The cupcakes will taste better and be less fragile and the frosting will have time to set.  Once they’re done cooling, enjoy.


Chocolate, Almond Pancakes (gluten-free)

Pancakes[Update: I’m now allergic to dairy and eggs, but it’s still a good recipe.  So I’ve left it on the blog]

Due to blood sugar issues, I find that if I eat too many pancakes all at once it makes me feel sort of off because I’m not getting enough protein.  So I recently bought my very first bag of almond flour because it’s supposed to be a nice way of adding protein to things.  I also found that I really liked the rich, slightly sweet hint that the almond flour added to the pancakes.

Providing I use a sugar-free syrup, I found that with the addition of almond flour I didn’t really notice my blood sugar doing anything funky.  If that’s not enough of an adjustment for your blood sugar though, try making it a full-on gourmet breakfast buy cooking up some bacon or eggs to go along with it.          

Allergen/Sensitivity Info: Gluten/wheat-free, sugar-free, nut-free.

Yields: About a dozen small pancakes.


  • About 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 2 tablespoon Splenda (or any generic version of sucralose)
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder (read the ingredient label to be sure it’s safe)
  • 1 teaspoon coco powder (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil

Optional Ingredients:

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 banana cut up into small pieces (if you’re not too keen on bananas, apples or blueberries also work well)


  1. Mix buttermilk/sour milk, cooking oil, egg in a bowl.
  2. Add to tablespoons of almond flour to a 1 cup measuring cup.  Then, fill it the rest of the way with brown rice flour.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.  Then, mix the contents of both bowls together.  Don’t worry about getting all of the lumps out.
  4. If the batter is too runny add more rice flour, if it’s too thick add more milk.  The almond flour tends to be very absorptive, so it’s more likely you’ll need to add more milk.
  5. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto an already greased griddle/skillet (it should make about a dozen pancakes).
  6. Cook them on a medium heat—if the heat is too high, the outside of the pancake will burn before the center is fully cooked.
  7. Wait until the pancakes are just beginning to get bubbly and the edges are starting to turn a light brown before turning them over.
  8. Top with as much butter and sugar-free syrup as you like.  And enjoy.

Oatmeal Muffins (gluten-free & sugar-free)

Muffins[Update: Sadly, due to things like eggs, milk, and oats this recipe is no longer something I can eat.  But it’s yummy, so I’ve left it on the blog]

My gluten-free oatmeal muffins were very loosely based on the basic muffin recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens® Cook Book.  Even though I can’t eat most of the recipes without making alterations, it’s still one of my favorite cookbooks because it’s great for getting ideas and the cooking tips and suggestions are helpful.  I love it.       

I was very happy with how well these muffins turned out.  And, to my surprise, the wheat-eaters in the family even enjoyed them, commenting how they wouldn’t have known they were gluten-free.  The oatmeal (gluten-free variety, of course) added texture, which was nice since most nuts are off limits due to allergies.  Perhaps next time I’ll try banana or blueberry.  What are your favorite types of muffins?

Serving: Makes 12 muffins (if you’re using a standard sized cupcake tin)


  • 1 and 1/3 cup rice flour
  • 3/4 cup oats (most oats are not gluten-free, so I recommend Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free Oats)
  • 1 cup Spenda (or generic brand of sucralose)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil


1.  Place liners in the cupcake tin.

Step 1

2.  Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl (everything except the oil, milk, and egg).  In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients together.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until moistened (it’s fine if it’s still lumpy).

Step 2

3.  Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, leaving room for them to grow (filling about 2/3 of the way seems to work well).


4.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes (a toothpick should come out clean).

5.  They can be served hot, but they’ll be more apt to fall apart when you’re eating them.  Or if you let them cool in the refrigerator before eating, they’ll hold together better.  Whenever you decide to serve them, enjoy.  They taste great with butter.

Step 5 (2)