Gluten Free Girl and the Chef http://glutenfreegirl.com Playing With Our Food Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:17:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=314 announcing the Gluten-Free Girl Flour Blendshttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/09/announcing-gluten-free-girl-flour-blends/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/09/announcing-gluten-free-girl-flour-blends/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:59:30 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9717 We have been waiting nearly two years to publish this post. And for the past six months, Danny and I and our friend Claire have been dedicating nearly every minute of our work days to this endeavor,…

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Gluten-Free Girl Flour Blends for Kickstarter

We have been waiting nearly two years to publish this post. And for the past six months, Danny and I and our friend Claire have been dedicating nearly every minute of our work days to this endeavor, keeping it quiet that entire time.

It’s time to shout this from the rooftops. We’re elated, nervous, and ready to go. And we need your help.

For nearly a decade, we have been developing recipes for great gluten-free foods, first here on this website, and then in a series of award-winningcookbooks. Over those years, we realized that most of you don’t want to be chemists in the kitchen, mixing 8 different flours, trying to build enough to protein to create structure or add enough starch to make moist baked goods. You just want to make pancakes for your kids on Saturday morning.

pancakes

A few years ago, we came up with a formula for an all-purpose flour blend that worked in every recipe we tried. We published the recipe here and hundreds of you wrote to say how much it changed you baking for the better. But most of you asked, “Can we just buy it from you?” We wanted to make the process easier, so we dropped the blend to three flours, keeping the flour blend 40% whole grain. Hundreds of people wrote to say their families loved the baked goods they made with our All-Purpose Flour Blend. This is their family flour now.

Still, most wrote people to us to say, “Can we just buy it from you?”

Two years ago, we started thinking about packaging and selling our flour blends. For the past year, we have been working on this with real dedication. To create the best gluten-free recipes, we have blended and tested dozens and dozens of different gluten-free flour blends. All for you! After much research and thousands of hours of work, we have a co-packer we trust, a package design we love, and a package manufacturer. We are ready to launch two flour blends: the Gluten-Free Girl All-Purpose Flour Blend and the Gluten-Free Girl Grain-Free Blend.

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Gluten-Free Girl All-Purpose Flour Blend

* This all-purpose flour blend is 40% whole grain, making it more nutritious than most gluten-free flour blends.

* This blend contains the ancient grain millet, which is high in protein and magnesium. It also has a natural sweetness and lends a warm taste to baked goods.

* It also contains sweet rice flour, milled from “sticky” rice, which has wonderful binding qualities for gluten-free baked goods.

* The potato starch in the blend keeps everything moist and light.

* Our latest cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, which used this flour blend for all its recipes, recently won a James Beard award.

* This blend is free of any of the top 8 allergens.

(Can I just repeat that? This flour blend is dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, corn-free, soy-free, tree-nut-free, and of course, fish and shellfish-free. It’s also guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination from those ingredients. This is an allergen-free blend.)

apple-walnut cake

Gluten-Free Girl Grain-Free Flour Blend

This blend is meant for those who like baking with more nutrient-dense flours.

The almond flour in the grain-free blend is high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and full of good fats that create great baked goods.

The grain-free blend also contains buckwheat. (Buckwheat does not contain wheat! It’s not a grain but a pseudo-cereal, a member of the rhubarb family.) Buckwheat is low on the glycemic index, higher in protein than any grain, and full of essential amino acids. Its warm, nutty taste blends beautifully with almond flour, creating a flavor that is both enticing and familiar.

The arrowroot in the grain-free blend keeps everything moist and light.

So many gluten-free folks seem to thrive when they eat grain-free. Those of you who have been following the Paleo diet, need to bake grain-free, or those of you who want to bake with more nutritious and deeply flavorful flours? This blend is for you.

A note on this. Many of you have written to say that you like baking with our whole-grain blend, which is 70% whole grains and 30% starches. Even though this is a grain-free flour, this blend follows the same formulation of 70% more nutritious flours and 30% starches. The taste is incredible. See that apple-walnut cake? Everyone who has been eating it has loved it. They don’t care that it’s free of gluten or grains. It’s just good.

Both flour blends will be certified gluten-free and kosher. Both blends are free of any additives, preservatives, fillers, or gums.

Let me repeat that. You will not need to use xanthan or guar gum, whey protein powder, expanded modified tapioca starch, or any additives or preservatives to bake with these flours. This will simply be the flours you pull out of your pantry to start baking cookies with your kids or pie for the holidays.

(Baking bread, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, or anything that generally requires gluten will take a pinch of psyllium. But we’ll show you exactly how to do that in a post this month.)

These are the flour blends we use in our kitchen. We’d like to bring them to your kitchen. We just need the money to make it happen.

And this is where you come in.

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Today, after months and months of work, we launched a Kickstarter. (If you’re already convinced, click on that link and start pledging!)

We’ve been thinking about and working toward making these flours available commercially for years. Briefly, we played with the notion of packing the flours ourselves with printed labels and UPS. But we already have full-time careers as cookbook authors. We also have two small children. Along this journey, we’ve met talented people who grow gluten-free grains, mill them into flours, blend and pack them, as well as graphic designers and package manufacturers. We’ve created a team of people whose work ethic we admire. We like the idea of employing people by bringing you these flour blends.

Of course, in order to do this right and employ these people, we need a lot of money up front. That’s why we’re asking for your help.

So many of you here have written us moving letters, telling us what our work has meant to you and your family. Everywhere that we have gone on book tours, or taught classes, or made appearances at conferences, you have been open and loving, greeting us with happy tears or gifts for the kids. But mostly, you have so generously shared your stories of how we have helped you to feel reassured. You have come to feel like family. We cannot imagine our lives without you.

“Life can still be delicious without gluten.” That’s what I’ve been writing here since 2005. Those of you who have heard that and felt reassured? We need your help now.

We want this to be a family-owned business with the support of our internet family. Please pledge today.

The funds in this Kickstarter campaign will pay for the costs of designing and printing packages, shipping those packages, the costs of raw ingredients, packaging the flours, legal fees, employee salary, and research and development. Danny and I will not be receiving any of these funds as personal income. Frankly, we won’t even keep enough of the money to take ourselves out to dinner to celebrate once this Kickstarter is funded. Instead, we are building a company we want to thrive for many years to come. You’ll be helping thousands of other people to make good food in their kitchens by helping to fund this Kickstarter.

chocolate chip cookies for Kickstarter

We’ll be bringing the Gluten-Free Girl All-Purpose Flour Blend to market first, with the Gluten-Free Girl Grain-Free Flour Blend to follow as soon as we can. As many of you might know, almond flour can cost up to 5 times as much as millet or buckwheat flour, so that blend will be quite costly to produce. If we meet our goals for this Kickstarter, we can bring the Gluten-Free Girl All-Purpose Flour Blend to market almost immediately. If you can help us not only meet but exceed this funding goal, we can bring the Gluten-Free Girl Grain-Free Flour Blend to market more quickly than we now imagine. We’d love to get that blend into your kitchen soon.

Our next cookbook, American Classics Reinvented, has 130 much-loved American comfort food recipes, such as red velvet cake, fried chicken, deep dish Chicago pizza, soft pretzels, and chocolate chip cookies. Every recipe in that book has been created and tested to work with both the Gluten-Free Girl All-Purpose Flour Blend and the Gluten-Free Girl Grain-Free Blend. We want both bends on the market by the time of publication of that book, in October of 2015.

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I can’t tell you how excited we are to be launching this today. And terrified. And elated. It’s time.

Mostly, we want to be open about this process with you and how much we have done and will be doing to bring these flour blends to your home. We want to help you cook and bake. We want to help feed you.

Over the next 30 days, we’ll be updating here with stories and explanations of both these blends, recipes that use both of these blends, information about the team that is making this happen, answers to your questions, and suggestions of how you can use these flours to feed your family and friends.

That’s why we are doing this: we want to help you to live the good life, without gluten.

In order to help you, we have to ask for your help to bring these flour blends to market. After all, we could all use a little help from our friends.

Please go over to Kickstarter and start pledging today!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1009968318/the-gluten-free-girl-flour-blends

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Meet Our Sponsors: PlanetBoxhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/09/planetbox/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/09/planetbox/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 00:13:01 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9703 The school year has begun. Lucy’s in kindergarten in the morning and her favorite place — a school where the students spend most of their time outdoors, making up plays on the stage in the…

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PlanetBox

The school year has begun. Lucy’s in kindergarten in the morning and her favorite place — a school where the students spend most of their time outdoors, making up plays on the stage in the woods, or reading under trees, or creating games in the mud —in the afternoon. Suddenly, we’re all busy and on a rigid schedule again.

Thank goodness. I do so much better on the school calendar than during the wild open space of summer. (I never felt that way as a kid. But as a parent? What do parents with two full-time jobs do all summer long with their kids?)

Thankfully, Lu loves kindergarten. She comes home bursting to tell us stories of the kids who sit at the purple table with her, happy after art or music or PE class, but mostly she loves Wednesdays when they visit the library, because she’s so eager to read more and more.

At least we know she’s well fed for these adventures.

Lots of people have asked us what we feed Lucy for her school lunches. I’ll be writing a post about it soon. (Short answer? Plenty of protein and vegetables — like the sausage and peppers and cucumbers you see above — sometimes a sandwich— like the peanut butter and honey on pancakes sandwich you see above — and a bit of fruit, but no treats. Treats are for the afternoons or the weekends.) My first answer is always, however, what we give her food in.

We’d like to introduce you to PlanetBox, our latest sponsors. They make great stainless steel lunch boxes, of all sizes, that make it easy to feed a gluten-free kid with a ravenous appetite for life who goes to school all day. We’ve owned this lunch box for Lucy for the past three years and it’s still holding up strong. She still loves decorating it with magnets. I love tucking a real napkin and silverware in the carrying case, along with a note for her every morning. This lunchbox is so durable that I’m almost certain it will carry her through elementary school, and perhaps beyond. I can’t imagine our life without this lunchbox. Honestly.

Our friend Catherine McCord, who writes the delicious-for-kids site, Weelicious, introduced us to PlanetBox first. She posts photos of her kids’ lunches on Instagram almost every day. Her cookbook, Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box with More Than 160 Happier Meals, is Lucy’s favorite cookbook of all time. So of course we had to get a PlanetBox for Lu. She has loved it ever since.

We’ve asked Caroline Miros, one of the founders of this family-owned business, to tell her about what she does.

Why did you start PlanetBox?

When my oldest daughter turned 3, I started to look for safe, effective ways to send food with her to pre-school.  I tried glass first, but after it shattered on the ground the preschool teacher politely asked me to not send such a safety hazard to school.  I tried everything on the market, but was frustrated I couldn’t find an all in one lunchbox that was made of a safe material, and made it easy for my daughter to eat her foods. So I challenged my product designer husband to design something new with me.  And here we are, 12 years later, with a line of high-quality, stainless steel lunch boxes at PlanetBox (yes, that means my oldest is now a teenager :-).

How do you hope to help people?
I hope to offer people a beautifully design product that will make it
1. Easier for them to pack the healthy foods that work for them
2) Easier for them and their children to actually eat the foods they pack on the go

3) Easier for them to protect their own health and the health of the planet

Can you tell us about your newest products and how they meet a different need than your original lunch boxes?

Our original design is the 5-compartment “Rover” lunchbox.  It was designed for people who like smaller serving sizes and more variety — which describes most kids, and some adults.  We then created the 3-compartment “Launch,” designed for larger serving sizes, and more bulky foods (think salads and large sandwiches).  Then we expanded to the 2-compartment “Shuttle” last year — built for mini-meals and snacks on the go.  We designed the Shuttle with little kids in mind, but have found they work great for teenagers (yes, back to that teenage daughter :-) and mini-meals on the go for any age.

Can you share a story of a customer whose life has been helped by your product? 

We are so fortunate to have people write to us every day with stories on how our products have helped them.  Christi R. posted this on our FB page about 10 minutes ago: “Spent a couple of afternoons at the children’s hospital for follow up appointments with my special needs 6-year-old son. Once again, this lunch box proved to be an awesome investment. It’s easy to slip in the basket under his wheelchair, keeps his food contained while he ate, held foods he is able to eat and sits neatly on his wheelchair tray. It kept me from having to scramble around for foods he could/ would eat when we got stuck there for a few extra hours. It easy to pack and he can feed himself since it’s not a bunch of tiny boxes or bags that he would not be able to open with his muscle issues. THANK YOU Planet Box for making things a little easier for this busy mom!!”

In regards to people following specific diets, we get many many comments about how our lunchboxes have helped.  Parents so appreciate the fact that our lunchboxes help foods look good — something that kids on special diets can be self-conscious about at school if they have to pack foods that are “different.” They also appreciate that the foods will stay contained and not risk any cross contamination.  Amber S.U wrote this to us recently — “My daughter has a gluten intolerance and PlanetBox is amazing and very helpful. Purchasing prepackaged things gluten free is not common and very expensive. I have to pack her lunch every day and it was worth the $59.99 to get the Rover PlanetBox. I’m very pleased with it. After a year of use, it’s still in awesome shape!!”

Where do you see the future of kids’ lunches? 

I see more and more awareness about the need to pack healthy foods that work for you and your family, and I am so proud to be a part of that movement.  I also see more and more awareness about the safety of the materials we use to pack food, and the amount of garbage and waste we create transporting our meals.  We want to continue to be a leader in offering people safe, elegant solutions that function well, and make it easier to pack a healthy, waste-free meal on the go.

 

We really believe in the work that Caroline and her company are doing with PlanetBox. We hope you’ll support them by buying lunch boxes for your kids!

PlanetBox has kindly decided to give away two of the lunchbox kits. Leave a message here about what you feed your kids for lunch for the chance to win. Winners will be chosen at random next Monday, October 6th.

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Send Me Gluten-Free (sponsor)http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/09/send-me-gluten-free/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/09/send-me-gluten-free/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 05:13:04 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9692 As you might remember, we’re big fans of the Gluten-Free Media Group, one of our sponsors. They run Gluten and Allergen Free Expos across the United States. Their Find Me Gluten-Free app is helpful whenever…

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As you might remember, we’re big fans of the Gluten-Free Media Group, one of our sponsors. They run Gluten and Allergen Free Expos across the United States. Their Find Me Gluten-Free app is helpful whenever you’re traveling and don’t know where to eat. And now they have begun Send Me Gluten-Free, a subscription box stuffed full of great gluten-free foods, which arrives on your doorstep every month.

send me gluten-free

We’d like to let Jen Cafferty, founder and CEO of Gluten-Free Media Group, tell you more.

 

Why did you start a GF Goodies of the Month Club? 
I decided to create Send Me Gluten Free to help people have access to more gluten-free products than what is offered in their local stores. I often hear that people are tired of wasting money on gluten-free products that they don’t like. Send Me Gluten Free allows folks to try numerous products, receive coupons and have exposure to brands they might not have otherwise, so they can make an educated purchase at the store or online. Our hope is that they find a new favorite brand or product that they may not have known about.

What kinds of foods do you want to offer to people?
Each month we send our members 8–12 new gluten free products to try that will include at least 1 full-sized item. We not only offer full-size and sample size food, but also personal care items, supplements and household products that support a gluten free lifestyle.

What kind of experience can people expect when they sign up?
Customer service is our first priority. People can expect a positive experience and clear, transparent and timely communication from the time they sign up. It’s also just a nice surprise to get a box full of goodies in the mail each month!

We can confirm that. Even after all this time of being gluten-free, I was happy to open this box from Send Me Gluten-Free and see only foods I could eat.

To learn more about Send Me Gluten-Free, see their About Us page. And their Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Leave a comment here about why you might be interested in a service like Send Me Gluten-Free and you’ll be eligible for a great giveaway: a free three-month subscription to Send Me Gluten-Free. The winner will be chosen at random on Monday, September 22nd. 

Update: a winner was chosen at random and informed. Thank you for your comments. 

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here we go.http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/09/here-we-go/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/09/here-we-go/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 05:43:27 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9670 Desmond, who is asleep next to me as I write this, the sound of ocean waves softly murmuring near his ear, is five months old. We longed to meet him for three years and now…

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Lucy on the porch_

Desmond, who is asleep next to me as I write this, the sound of ocean waves softly murmuring near his ear, is five months old. We longed to meet him for three years and now he’s here, growing faster than we can imagine. He taught himself to roll over at three months, and now he’s like a perpetual motion machine. As soon as he could move from his stomach to his back, he wanted to go from his back to his stomach. And again. And again. He’s trying so hard, arms reaching and legs kicking, to crawl.

Kid, slow down.

(Good luck with trying to convince him of that one, right?)

This summer, there have been gatherings on the back porch of our home —— assorted children dancing or jumping on the trampoline as the adults talk —— most evenings of the summer. We sit in a circle, plates before us on the deck, and tell stories and laugh. Almost every night, we’ve had a different set of people with us, good friends from decades before or new friends. Having a baby who needs to nap and go to bed early means that we have been the hosts. Someone else is coming unexpectedly? Go grab a plate. There’s always food here.

And that food, which has been delicious and nourished us, is mostly thrown together at the last moment from whatever has been growing in the garden or what we picked up at the farm stand that day. Collard greens sautéed in cracklings from the ham we roasted, with smoked paprika and aleppo pepper. Cherry tomato salad with slivered romano beans, apple balsamic vinegar, and Moroccan olive oil, plus diced cucumbers with pickled ginger, fish sauce, and a bit of wasabi. Blueberry and peach crisp with Thai basil and honey, with an oat-almond topping. We play with flavors, and all the friends have been happy at the end of dinner, but there have been no recipes. Danny and I make something out of what is in the cupboard and fresh that day.

Whenever we finish a cookbook, this is how our cooking goes: simple and frugal, with some interesting little twist.

This has been the summer of the back porch.

I’ve been thinking often about this, how the food we make on a daily basis, the food we consider a feast with friends, rarely makes it onto this site. I get stymied by cookbook deadlines from updating more often. And when the manuscript is done (but edits coming back soon!), we need a rest. And then we start thinking of all the recipes people have asked us to create, and we go back into that mode. But this site, as it is, rarely looks like our real food life. We have some ideas about how to change that here.

It’s a time of change.

school supplies

This evening, we ate dinner at our dining room table for the first time in months. Desmond tried avocado. After Danny spooned some into his mouth, and he made the requisite confused pursed-lips look at the taste of something new, Desmond grabbed the spoon to eat more. He started eating solid foods two weeks ago and he’s already tired of us holding that spoon in front of him. He wants to eat everything himself, now.

And Lu? She wants to eat up the entire world by herself, now. Tomorrow is her first day of kindergarten.

The first day of the year is the first day of school. Heck with January 1st. That’s the middle of winter and a time of renewal on the calendar alone. But being the daughter of two teachers, a student for years and years, and a high-school teacher for nearly a decade, I have only one signal for the beginning of the year: newly sharpened #2 pencils. This evening, after we finished dinner and cleaned off the table, I sharpened six pencils for Lucy’s pen and pencil case. Danny and I watched her print her name on the green tape she wanted on her purple folders. I gave her the first of what I assume will be many black and white speckled composition books for her backpack. She giggled, delighted, then lined them all up by the door. In the refrigerator, waits her snack for the first day: black bean hummus Danny made today, slivers of red peppers, a little blueberry muffin with lemon zest and cinnamon (we made dozens this morning and put them in the freezer for snacks), and an apple. She went to bed smiling.

Need I mention that it all made me a little bit teary?

Tomorrow morning, she’ll walk with us to the end of our road, where the bus will pull up on the main highway. We’ll kiss her and hug her, tell her how proud we are of her. She doesn’t want us to drive her to school. She wants to go to school by herself.

It seems about twelve minutes ago that she was five months old, wriggling on the floor, just finding her voice. And tomorrow, she starts big-kid school, confident enough that she doesn’t need us there. It’s her world now. The moment she was born, I looked at her, fell in love with her, and thought to myself, “Now I have to let you go.”

Here she goes, our happy kind alive kid. Here she goes, walking into the world.

Summer’s over.

Bring on the next season.

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times have changed.http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/08/americas-test-kitchen-gluten-free/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/08/americas-test-kitchen-gluten-free/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 21:13:13 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9663 It’s not often that Jack Bishop from America’s Test Kitchen stops by to bake biscuits with you. For us, it was a one-of-a-kind experience. (Desmond was only three weeks old when Jack came to see us. And…

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ATK Jack's hands

It’s not often that Jack Bishop from America’s Test Kitchen stops by to bake biscuits with you. For us, it was a one-of-a-kind experience.

(Desmond was only three weeks old when Jack came to see us. And somehow time has tumbled on itself these last few months, fumbling like fingers and thumbs on pliable dough. I’ve been meaning to tell you about this afternoon for months now.)

Jack is one of the kindest men I’ve met in this food world. He was a little weary from a whirlwind book tour for America’s Test Kitchen’s new cookbook, The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, but he arrived with presents for Desmond and enormous thoughtful energy for baking. I have to admit it — I’m a huge America’s Test Kitchen fan. The folks who run that place are geeks. (Around here, geek is a compliment.) I love the meticulous way the editors there lay out the kind of food they are trying to create, the narrative explanations of every permutation they tried, and the recipes that result. It’s not always my kind of food, but it’s my kind of mind at work. (I wish that I were as meticulously organized as those narratives imply, but I also remind myself that they have a whole team of people working on this! Our test kitchen is me, Danny, and Desmond, who mostly offers cuteness to the equation.) So having Jack Bishop here with us, when we were wildly excited and sleep deprived both? It was a dream.

(Thank you, Jack, as well as Beth. You’re both delightful.)

ATK collage

The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook is in true America’s Test Kitchen form. They tell us what they were trying to achieve and then show us how they achieved it. There’s no question that the recipes in this book are meant for people who are trying to replicate white flour baked goods and more typical American recipes. That’s the largest audience, after all. If you want whole-grain breads or grain-free baking, this might not be the book for you. Those who need to avoid dairy or other foods have expressed annoyance that there is so much dairy in the book. But this book is, as Jack expressed to me, an attempt to create the best gluten-free book possible. It’s not an allergen-free book. And it’s a book intended for an audience who may not be able to find gluten-free ingredients in their grocery stores easily. Jack and I talked, as we made biscuit dough, about how much we love sweet rice flour. It’s starchy enough to bind ingredients together in a baked good, a little like gluten. I always use it in baked goods that work well with all-purpose flour. The folks at America’s Test Kitchen love it too, but they worried about its availability for the widest array of people, so they left it out of their flour mix.

This is a thoughtful, helpful book. After nine years of cooking and baking gluten-free, and especially after doing this for a living, I found much in the book to be a confirmation of what I have taught myself through trial and error. But I still learned from it — I love their trick about how to par-bake pizza dough to make sure we steam out the wetness before making the final pizza — and I still keep it at the studio as a reference. We honestly recommend The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook to anyone who needs to be gluten-free.

When I was diagnosed with celiac in 2005, the phrase gluten-free didn’t appear on restaurant menus and grocery shelves. Once, I had to explain to a confused server in a restaurant that no, I wasn’t trying to avoid eating glue. I need to avoid any trace of gluten to keep myself healthy. Times have changed. It’s grown easier, in so many ways. Having one of the most respected sources on creating great food create a good cookbook about gluten-free baking? It’s a boon.

Thank you, Jack Bishop, and the team at America’s Test Kitchen.

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plentyhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/07/plenty/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/07/plenty/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 00:30:38 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9652   When I lie down in bed at night, the room warm and the hour late, my mind starts flashing images of the day behind me. Desmond’s smile wide open, like a child’s drawing of the happiest…

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When I lie down in bed at night, the room warm and the hour late, my mind starts flashing images of the day behind me. Desmond’s smile wide open, like a child’s drawing of the happiest face. Lu’s feet gripping onto the skateboard we gave her last week for her birthday, the pink knee pads hovering above them. The greens in the garden bolting bright with the heat and sunlight. (Anyone need some kale? We have plenty.) The sound of the ocean rushing continually out of the baby monitor as Desmond sleeps upstairs in his crib. He’s a sleeper, this kid. Oh heavens yes, he’s a sleeper. Lucy on my lap, a stack of books besides us, waiting to be read. Dishes in the sink that will have to wait until the cool evening air comes through the windows. Dinner on the back deck, plates set on top of the yellow chalk drawings and hopscotch squares. The quiet click of Lucy’s bedroom door shutting behind us when we finally realize she is asleep for the evening. (Remember that feeling of being a child in summer, perplexed at why you have to go to bed in broad daylight?) The relief of a hard day’s work finally done — no work or computers after 9 pm here — Danny and I together on the couch, talking through the day. And then we watch another episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

(Can we talk about this show? We are obsessed. We don’t watch television, normally, but now, every night, we’re perched on the edge of the couch, watching. On Danny’s birthday card the other day, I wrote to him, “Shanté, you stay.” My dear friend Sharon, my best friend for 31 years, stayed with us this week. We started her on this brilliant parody of a reality show that is also a reality show and somehow manages to normalize drag queen life while also being relentlessly flamboyant and hilarious at the same time. She was hooked too. Every evening she visited, as soon as we knew both kids were asleep, we called my brother, who lives on the island, and he came over with his wife and pre-teen son to watch another episode. It may seem like an odd family bonding, but no one ever claimed to be normal over here. And honey, those drag queens are fierce. When I remember this time, I’m sure to think of it as the summer of Ru Paul.)

When Lucy is at camp or on play dates, the days are packed full of work for projects I can’t tell you about yet. At our studio, we’re hatching plans and writing emails and tackling to-do lists. Meanwhile, Danny stands at the stove, flipping onions in a skillet, then adding greens and bacon, goat cheese and lentils, and a couple of fried eggs on top. We may be broke after the adoption process but we’re still eating well. And that little guy kicks his legs and giggles on the table beside me and I stop thinking about money.

When Lu is at home, the living is slow. Mostly, there are popsicles. And board games. Jumping on the trampoline. Long walks before dinner. Chores in the morning. Lots of lying on the floor with a book open before her. And an entire troop of imaginary friends who make their way into our days. That’s sort of the feeling right now: everything fantastic, beyond our wildest dreams, and yet mundane.

I like the mundane days best.

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here. now. raspberries.http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/06/here-now-raspberries/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/06/here-now-raspberries/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 19:14:08 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9639 Hi there. I’m waving hello from our kitchen studio, where the sun is shining brightly outside and I’m in here, sitting on my exercise ball chair, trying to pause from typing every 20 minutes or…

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summer berriesHi there. I’m waving hello from our kitchen studio, where the sun is shining brightly outside and I’m in here, sitting on my exercise ball chair, trying to pause from typing every 20 minutes or so. The first draft of the manuscript for our next cookbook, American Classics Reinvented (or is it Reimagined?), is due in 6 days.

This is the fourth book I have written since 2006. Fourth book! There’s magic in that phrase for me — the girl who always wanted to be a writer — and exhaustion — the woman only two years away from 50 with a three-month-old and very energetic almost-6-year-old. For most of the last year, Danny and I cooked and baked and schemed and planned and cut recipes and created foods we’d never made before and want to make again and again. Knishes! Reuben sandwich soup! Seattle coffee cake! California roll salad! Hash brown waffles! Smoked salmon eggs benedict! Elk and morel mushroom pot pie! Pimento cheese sandwiches! Baja fish tacos! Amish chicken and noodle! St. Louis gooey butter cake!  All of it gluten-free, of course. We’ve also created a grain-free flour mix we love, which those of you who have to avoid grains can use in any recipe. We’re really happy with this book, even this last week before it’s due.

It has been quite the year.

Usually, by this time of a book being due, I’m a frantic mess. Shower? No time. Food? Forgotten. Writing until midnight and getting up at 4 to write more? Of course. It’s just too easy to put my head down and work, work, work, and then look up and see the day has waned without my seeing it.

This time, however? Forget about that frantic flapping. I don’t want to live that way.

Part of this extraordinary year for me has been looking at my celiac more closely, realizing that it truly is an autoimmune disorder. For me, simply avoiding gluten is not enough to heal me now. Enduring the return to sleep deprivation for the sake of a lovely baby and the hormonal shifts of a woman who’s nearly 50, plus getting some gluten by mistake has made this a rough year, health wise. Still, I think there are gifts in every hard place, the times that question and throw everything into disarray. For me, this has been a chance to step back and decide how much to breathe and see how gently I can treat myself. Stressing out, not sleeping, forgetting to exercise, letting fear and anger and guilt burrow into my gut? Those are not the way to heal from an autoimmune disorder.

I think every day these days about this quote from Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics): “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

Every time before this one I would turn to Danny in the middle of the crash-and-burn ending of a book and say, “Look, when life calms down, after the book is done…” And eventually he’d laugh and gently smack me on the arm.

“Good one, honey. When does life ever calm down?”

Now. In this moment. Danny has taught me that. Lucy and Desmond have taught me that. My celiac has taught me that. Nearing 50 has taught me that. I’m tired of living frantically, waiting for the right moment to breathe. Now. Here.

Here. Now. Time to eat the raspberries picked this morning.

So I’m writing up the notes from recipes all day today, while Lucy is at stilts camp (yep, you read that right) and Danny is at home with baby Desmond, who’s a little under the weather from his first round of vaccinations. I have Cat Stevens playing, a cup of green lemongrass tea that needs refreshing, and a piece of writing I didn’t expect to tumble forth today. This evening, I’m playing softball and going to bed early.

I have a feeling this will be the best book we’ve done so far. Even if it’s not, it will be done soon, followed by relief and joy. Then, we start back to work again.

See you soon.

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Meet Our Sponsors: Dough Buddies Gluten-Free Donut Mixhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/06/dough-buddies-gluten-free-donut-mix/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/06/dough-buddies-gluten-free-donut-mix/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 04:41:34 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9620 The other day, we called out to a group of friends hanging out at our kitchen studio. “Hey guys! Doughnuts are ready!” It seems that nothing can make people run faster, happily, than a batch…

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doughnuts sponsorship

The other day, we called out to a group of friends hanging out at our kitchen studio. “Hey guys! Doughnuts are ready!” It seems that nothing can make people run faster, happily, than a batch of hot doughnuts, ready to eat. Every one of the people in the room made little happy noises and exclaimed as one. “Oh, these are good!” Only after the doughnuts were gone did we tell them these soft, cakey doughnuts were from a gluten-free mix: Dough Buddies Gluten-Free Donut Mix.

We’re happy to announce that Dough Buddies is our latest sponsor. We truly believe that you’ll love this easy-to-use mix. It makes some darned fine doughnuts, gluten-free.

This small company is run by two lovely women, Karen Manarolla and Pat Landy. We’ll let them tell you their story.

Why did you start Dough Buddies?

Pat:  We met at the University of Washington in a French class, we became friends, and later colleagues as French teachers in Seattle.  Continually amazed by the frequency of “like-mindedness,” it did not surprise our friends and families that we would pursue an after-teaching career doing something together.  Dough Buddies – it’s all in the name!

Karen:  In 2006, I was diagnosed with osteoporosis caused by gluten intolerance and I loved doughnuts. Desperate in 2010 for a really delicious doughnut, I took a class on making gluten free doughnuts and a light went on!  I started experimenting with recipes and brought doughnut holes to school in containers marked A, B, and C.  Pat and the other language teachers would give them a try, talk about them and then send me the feedback.  After about 6 months of taste testing, I had a recipe we all liked:  a classic, cake doughnut that was yummy!  We widened the circle of taste testers to family and friends and the responses were all very encouraging.

Why doughnuts? 

Karen:   I have always loved doughnuts and I’ve eaten a ton of them.  It started with Spudnuts in Ballard many years ago, watching the doughnuts roll out on the conveyor belt and eating them warm and fluffy. In high school I ate doughnuts by the bagful.  At the University of Washington my favorite breakfast was a cup of coffee with a chocolate covered chocolate doughnut.  On road trips I’d buy those packaged, powdered sugar mini-doughnuts at the convenience stores.  I loved doughnuts.  In 2006 my doughnut eating came to a screeching halt when I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity.  I still craved doughnuts.

Pat:  We want everyone to have the best gluten free doughnut possible.  Does that mean consumers need to make them themselves?  Or, can they go to a doughnut shop and buy a delicious gluten free doughnut?  We think having options is really important.  And we believe that most everyone would agree, a fresh, delicious, doughnut is the absolute best.  So we are looking for every opportunity to bring our doughnuts to consumers of gluten free products by marketing the mix to local grocery stores, selling through our website on the internet, and looking for restaurants with dedicated gluten free fryers or with the desire to offer baked gluten free doughnuts.  Whether doughnut or donut, we have one that the whole family can enjoy!

Can you tell us about the ingredients in your food and why you chose them?  

Pat:  First off, we looked for ingredients that, when combined, would taste good naturally, unembellished – without any frostings, toppings or glazes.

Karen:  Taste and texture drove the creation of Dough Buddies GF Doughnut Mix.  With each experiment in the kitchen we learned what the different flours and ingredients do and how they interact with one another.  The three kinds of rice flours combine to create a lighter and crispier doughnut that tastes the way we remember cake doughnuts to taste.  The spices are important:  nutmeg, cinnamon and turmeric for both taste and health. Turmeric imparts a wonderful color to Dough Buddies, too.

We found a small, certified gluten free co-packaging company in Idaho that offered us exceptionally good tasting ingredients and would make our mix in small batches. The ingredients are the highest quality milled rice flours and potato starch.  We have taken great care to insure that all of the ingredients are non GMO, do not contain any hormones, that the buttermilk powder comes from non-cloned animals and that all ingredients are free of pesticides and other unwanted chemicals and additives.  Our mix is Kosher certified and the facility is certified peanut free.  It’s important to us that great care is taken when our mix is packaged for our customers.

Pat:  Our doughnuts can be fried or baked which is a real plus for the consumer.  A lot of people are afraid of frying and although it’s really not that scary, we understand their fears. We suggest using a small saucepan with only a couple of inches of oil to keep the process manageable.  Regular-sized doughnut holes take only a few minutes to fry, so the process moves quickly.  When frying, we caution people to never leave the pot of oil unattended, never mix water and hot oil, and avoid splatters and we suggest using a thermometer to regulate the temperature.  A couple of hints from veteran doughnut makers: save your oil in the fridge to use from one time to the next because it imparts more flavor to the finished product, roll the warm doughnuts in cinnamon and sugar but save some that have cooled to roll in powdered sugar.  For those who prefer a baked product, we suggest using one of the little clamshell mini-doughnut or cake pop bakers.  They produce a great product with our mix, too.

Can you tell us a story about a customer pleased by your food?

Pat:  At the Mother Earth News Fair in 2012, one of our first customers was a mom with her 6 year old son.  She approached our trailer and asked about the gluten-free properties of our doughnuts. Assured, she commented, “My son has never tasted a doughnut.”  Wow, his first doughnut was one of OUR Dough Buddies!

Karen:  We bring samples of Dough Buddies to stores and restaurants and invariably we meet people who haven’t had a delicious doughnut for years because of gluten sensitivities or intolerance.  When they taste our Dough Buddies, their eyes light up, a big smile comes to their face and they say, “This tastes just like the doughnuts I remember from when I was a child.” Now THAT is a thrill!

What fuels you to do the work you do?

Karen:  Working together, we see how well our creation is welcomed and in demand.  We are a great team and see eye-to eye on the goals of our company and how to achieve them.  The company is growing and you never know where the path will lead.  Doors are always opening to new opportunities.  What started as a bright idea for two friends has become a creation that is enjoyed by many others.

Pat:   So many people approach our demo table saying, “I never thought I would get to have a real doughnut ever again.”  It’s all about equal access, quality options, no longer feeling denied or having to make a compromise. Karen has crafted an incredible recipe that we simply need to share!

 

Thank you, Karen and Pat, for creating this doughnut mix. We love it and we think our readers will too.

Karen and Pat have kindly agreed to giveaway three packages of their Dough Buddies donut mix. Please leave a comments about donuts (or doughnuts) and why you might like to try Dough Buddies

If you’d like to know more about why we do sponsorships on this site and how we do them, please read this

Winners have been chosen and notified. Thank you for your comments! 

 

 

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not again.http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/05/gluten-sensitivity-is-real/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/05/gluten-sensitivity-is-real/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 21:59:16 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9590 “Gluten sensitivity is bullshit!” I stared at my email and sighed. Not again. Long ago, I signed up for a Google alerts for the words gluten-free and celiac, so I can keep up with the…

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gluten-free sourdough

“Gluten sensitivity is bullshit!”

I stared at my email and sighed. Not again.

Long ago, I signed up for a Google alerts for the words gluten-free and celiac, so I can keep up with the latest news on scientific studies for those of us whose bodies cannot tolerate gluten. Each day, I see gluten-free blog posts and announcements of yet another gluten-free brownie mix. There are also fascinating medical journal articles on zonulin inhibitors and the latest theories on the gut microbiome. (I’m a bigger scientific geek than often spills onto this blank white space.) Those I prize. The endless spewing about the sudden interest in gluten-free food? That I wish I didn’t see.

As you might know, a couple of weeks ago, everyone in the press and on the internet was discussing a study out of Monash University in Australia. The title of the study? “No Effects of Gluten in Patients With Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity After Dietary Reduction of Fermentable, Poorly Absorbed, Short-Chain Carbohydrates.”

Now, I understand that’s a mouthful. Most people don’t know what fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates are. If you don’t know what they are, they’re commonly referred to as FODMAPs. For those of you who don’t know, FODMAPS stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Now that’s really a mouthful. These short-chain carbohydrates, for reasons that are not entirely clear, ferment and digest poorly in the intestines of some people with irritable bowel disorder. Each person who has problems with FODMAPs seems to have a different set of foods that bother the gut, and it’s an intricate dance of eliminating high FODMAP foods and adding them back in, one at a time, to see what is tolerable. What kinds of foods are high in FODMAPs? Artichokes, onions, anything with lactose. Honey. Apples. Lentils. Pears. And wheat, rye, and barley.

Let’s just hold that in our minds. Wheat, rye, and barley are high in fructans, which are oligosaccharides, which cause pain, gas, bloating, distension, nausea, changes in bowel habits (such as diarrhea and constipation), and other intestinal disorders in some people.

As Roxanne Khamsi wrote in a measured piece about this in Scientific American“A final group of potential culprits belongs to a diverse family of carbohydrates such as fructans that are notorious for being difficult to digest. A failure to absorb these compounds into the blood may draw excess water into the digestive tract and agitate its resident bacteria. Because these resilient carbohydrates occur in all kinds of food—not just grains—a gluten-free or wheat-free diet will not necessarily solve anything if these molecules truly are to blame.”

So, in short, this study seemed to point clearly to the fact that some people who feel certain they are sensitive to the protein commonly known as gluten are actually sensitive to the carbohydrate in wheat, rye, and barley instead. Mind you, there were only 37 participants in the study, all of whom were suffering with irritable bowl syndrome. The scientists who conducted the study happen to work at the same university where FODMAPs were first named as a problem for people with intestinal issues, a university becoming famous for that work. And the study only looked for intestinal problems, not joint pain or headaches or depression, or any of the other myriad symptoms that can accompany gluten-related disorders.

However, it seems that the study was done to help people. Why are some people on a gluten-free diet still experiencing symptoms? If they’re not on the right diet, they need to find out what ails them. This could be great news for some people who suspect gluten doesn’t work for them but don’t know why. This could be a chance to help more people.

As the lead researcher on the study, Jessica Biesiekierski, stated, “We believe non-celiac gluten sensitivity probably does exist, but it’s not very common and we have a lot more to do until we fully understand [gluten].” As she and Peter Gibson, the co-lead researcher have stated, it seems that some people do not have gluten sensitivity but wheat sensitivity. Joseph Murray, the leading gastroenterologist specializing in celiac at the Mayo Clinic feels the same: “I’m starting to feel more uncomfortable calling it nonceliac gluten sensitivity. I think it might be better to call it nonceliac wheat sensitivity.”

In other words, this is an issue of semantics, in some part.

People who cannot tolerate wheat, rye, or barley because of the fructans still cannot eat wheat, rye, or barley.

It seems to me that these are the real implications of this study: people who have FODMAP problems still cannot eat wheat, rye, and barley, which are high in fructans. On top of that, they might also need to cut a dozen other foods out of their diet to find relief. As Biesierkierski wrote, “‘That means we really have to understand the differences between gluten sources and FODMAP sources,’ she says, ‘to help people figure out what’s upsetting their stomachs and how to avoid the triggers.’”

The story of this study should have been one of compassion, of complexity and nuance, about how hard it is to negotiate our own health in this world when we’re receiving so many mixed messages and the health care system is pretty woeful when it comes to anything related to food. It could have been an opportunity for news sources to teach, to reach people and communicate that they might not be taking care of themselves as well as they could.

Instead, there were headlines like this: “Unless You Have Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivty Is Probably In Your Head.” And that was from PBS Nova, folks.

The study was first published in Gastroenterology in May of 2013. Why did it suddenly go viral this May, which is Celiac Awareness Month? And it wasn’t just snarky internet sites that were using derogatory headlines. ABC News did a piece called The Doctor Who Started the Gluten-Free Fad Admits He Got It Wrong. Of course, in the piece, they identify the fructans these folks will have to avoid as wheat, rye, and barley. And yet, the coverage is glib and superficial, saying that those who are gluten-free are wrong.

This piece on NPR had a nuanced headline: “Sensitive to Gluten? A Carb in Wheat May Be the Real Culprit.” The New Yorker wrote a measured piece, called “Freeing the Gluten-Free.” In it, they quote Alessio Fasano, a leading celiac researcher from Massachusetts General, who was quoted as saying, “‘There is no question in my mind that it exists. Gluten is a very strange protein. We are not evolved to digest it.’ He regularly diagnoses patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and he argues that the Gibson study was flawed because it only included people with IBS. People with NCGS often have other symptoms besides gut problems, he said, and limiting the study to IBS patients could have excluded patients whose main issue is gluten rather than FODMAPs. ‘They studied the wrong population,’ he said.

Even Gibson, the co-lead on the study, agrees. “Gibson says that he’s not trying to debunk non-celiac gluten sensitivity. He agrees with Fasano that it’s real, and that gluten may do much of its harm outside the gut. In April, he and his team published another study, with the same group of IBS patients, which found that eating gluten for three days had no effect on intestinal symptoms but did lead to increased symptoms of depression.”

This fascinating, intelligent Scientific American piece, written by someone who had been told to go on a gluten-free diet and improved, for the most part, is titled: “Gluten Sensitivity May be a Misnomer for Distinct Illnesses to Various Wheat Proteins.”

Why were the other articles, from other sources, not written with this much nuance? This isn’t a culture of nuance. This is a culture of 140 characters, quick fights, and making a deadline, fast. This is a culture of snottiness and righteousness. Writing a headline like “Gluten Sensitivity May be a Misnomer for Distinct Illnesses to Various Wheat Proteins” isn’t sexy. Writing “Gluten-Free is Bullshit” is snappy and snarky and gets the attention.

We live in a culture that goes for attention instead of attention to detail every time.

 

 

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the happiest place on earthhttp://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/05/disneyland-gluten-free/ http://glutenfreegirl.com/2014/05/disneyland-gluten-free/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 20:15:38 +0000 http://glutenfreegirl.com/?p=9576 This was a most mediocre and tremendous meal. It wasn’t locally sourced, grass-fed beef. I’m sure the guacamole came out of a tub. The beans were sort of spongy, the tortillas lukewarm. That pre-grated cheese…

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Disneyland

This was a most mediocre and tremendous meal.

It wasn’t locally sourced, grass-fed beef. I’m sure the guacamole came out of a tub. The beans were sort of spongy, the tortillas lukewarm. That pre-grated cheese didn’t taste like much. The taco buffet we make at home on Thursday nights has pickled radishes, slow-braised carnitas, and crunchy cabbage for the shells.

However, I’ll never forget this meal. I’m so very grateful for it.

You see, we ate this lunch at Disneyland, back in February. After we finished the official part of our potluck road trip tour, we spent a couple of days in Claremont, the town where I grew up. Thanks to our good friend Emily, we had a place to stay and friends with whom to laugh late into the night. It was a wonderful way to unwind from the drive down California, the public appearances, and all that we learned. But really, for Lucy, this was the only stop worth making. She knew that as soon as we were done with the tour, we were going to Disneyland.

Having grown up in Claremont, I visited Disneyland at least two or three times a year. My family and I went every August for my birthday, every January for my brother’s birthday, and sometimes at least once more. My brother and I called it D-Day! and the drive from Claremont to Anaheim always took an agonizing long time. We were convinced that every car on that freeway was headed toward Disneyland and they were all going to ride Pirates of the Caribbean before we could arrive.

(Memory is such a funny creature. When we were trying to figure out what time to leave for Disneyland the next day, I told him the drive from Claremont is at least two hours. Turns out it’s about 35 minutes. But man, it sure felt longer when I was a kid.)

A few months before, in a fit of nostalgia, I told Lucy childhood stories about the rides at Disneyland. Her eyes went wide. Already deep in princess mania, Lu wanted to see this magic place where Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty and the Mad Hatter hung out in one place together. Thanks to the internet, I could show her parades and rides and character breakfasts. After that? Forget about it. She was never going to forget about it. We knew this was the last trip we were taking together, just the three of us, since Desmond would be arriving soon. Danny and I saved up enough money to make a day of it at Disneyland.

Look, I know it’s easy to knock Disneyland, and all things Disney, since it’s such a megalith of money-making, mesmerizing power. But I love that place. And the movies, which have been a source of stories for Lucy. She watched The Princess and the Frog and talked about making gumbo and beignets for months. So we figured out gluten-free beignets for her. Her brief spate of fixation on Cinderella made her ask her grandmother if she could mop the garage floor when we visited. (And she did it.) “I have to do my chores, just like Cinderella and Snow White!” she’d say to us. Go right ahead and watch that movie again, kid! I will always adore the Toy Story movies. But I’m very glad we didn’t watch Frozen until after that trip, since there are reports of four-hour lines to meet Elsa and Anna at Disneyland now. (By the way, do the songs from that movie ever leave your head?)

I had not visited Disneyland since I was in my early 20s, so as excited as I was to share the space with Lucy — and with Danny, who had never been before — I felt a little trepidation in my chest. What if it was shabby and crass, not the place I remembered as a kid?

No need to worry. It was a glorious day.

What struck me, as an adult, watching it through the eyes of my child, is this: Disneyland is a place of service. Every person who works there is helpful and cheerful. Every flower is bright, all the wilting ones dead-headed. The lines are organized, the characters are happy to listen to chattering children on their knee, and the entire park is set up to make each person’s day as free of care as possible. It’s about more than money. It’s a place determined to serve.

It’s this dedication to the people visiting that makes Disneyland the best place to be gluten-free.

People told me about this before we visited. Folks on Twitter and Facebook raved about the care the staff at Disney take to feed people with food allergies and celiac. This page explains the steps they take to ensure everyone can eat safely. Still, seeing it in action was something else.

Lu romped through the park, spinning on the teacups ride, skipping joyfully through Fantasyland, and taking it all in. But about 2 pm, she flagged. We were nosediving into Hungry Grumpy land, fast. We stopped at a generic Mexican place in California Adventure to see what we could eat. When we ordered, we told the server we were both celiac and needed to eat gluten-free. He sent for the chef.

At each restaurant or place to buy food in Disneyland, the head chef comes out to greet the customers when the staff is informed of a food allergy. (In our case, an autoimmune disorder.) The chef at this Mexican place asked us about any other food allergies or intolerances. She listened, seriously. She told us the dishes that would be easiest for them to make for us, gluten-free. And she wrote it all down. I sat down with Lucy, keeping her distracted from the wait for food with princess stories. Danny stood near the kitchen and watched. He watched the woman who had helped us personally supervise every ingredient being cooked, making sure that there was no cross-contamination in every single step. When this tray was set before me, I wanted to cry. This place I had loved so well as a kid? It fed me and my child with grace and compassion.

I don’t know why every food service establishment cannot be like this. There’s been a spate of nasty jokes and condemning stories about folks with gluten intolerance lately. Ironic, since May is Celiac Awareness month. But every time I hear something like this, I think of the experience we had at Disneyland. If your first impulse is to make fun of someone who says she has to be gluten-free? If, as a chef or server, you doubt the people you are feeding and think about putting flour in their food just to show they are faking it? Why are you doing this job? If you are in food service, your job is all about service, with food. Your job is to feed people. Not quickly or cheaply or condescendingly. Your job is to feed people, safely. And if you’re good, you’re feeding them with love. Taking care of someone who has food allergies or intolerances, so we don’t get sick — that’s a form of love.

If you’re making fun of people who have to be gluten-free, the joke is really on you. You’re not doing your work.

At dinner, we had the same gracious experience as we did at lunch. We went to a cafe on Main Street, and grabbed one of the last tables outside. Danny ran to Space Mountain while Lucy and I waited for the parade. We ordered burgers and fries, with cherry Cokes. This isn’t how we normally eat but this was a special occasion. We were at Disneyland, after all. I ordered for us and once again, the head chef came to talk to us. She was so kind, so caring, and clearly had such a clear protocol of how to take care of us that I actually did start to cry this time. “I’m sorry,” I said. “This is sort of weird to be crying, but I came here so many times as a child. To have you guys understand and take care of us like this? It’s just really wonderful.”

She smiled. I’m sure she has seen it before. She took our order inside and cooked it up herself. Lucy and I stood at the gate of the white picket fence in front of the cafe, waiting. I swung her onto my shoulders and felt her dance when she heard the music starting. She bounced up and down, shouting out the name of every character she recognized as they passed us. It felt the same as it did when I sat on the curb in the late 1970s, watching the Main Street Electrical parade pass before more. All that happiness and awe and warm nights and the joy, just joy, of being in that place. And now, I was sharing it with her.

Danny came back just in time for food. We all shared a meal and chattered happily together. Lucy and I ate safely. We didn’t worry for a moment. It couldn’t have been more normal and extraordinary at the same time.

Man, that burger and fries tasted good.

Thank you, Disneyland, for doing it right.

And the rest of America? Catch up.

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