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New York Times: Autism Caused by Inflammatory AutoImmune Response

My mother-in-law just emailed me a link to an interesting article in the Sunday Times. It states that a certain subset of Autism is being caused by inflammatory immune disorders. At least one-third of Autism (and “very likely more”) is caused by diseases such as Celiac, which is what I have, that start while in the mother’s womb. The more active a mother’s immune system is, the more likely a child is to be born with autism. And Celiac Disease can send an immune system into overdrive, causing severe inflammation.

So I found this article especially interesting for several personal reasons. First, I have to follow a Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) diet – which is often called the “Autism Diet”. My Celiac disease means I must avoid gluten (GF) and my casein allergy forces me to avoid all dairy (CF). So I’ve done a lot of research on a GFCF diet. Many parents of autistic children have found that strictly avoiding gluten and casein can to help lessen the symptoms their children experience. From a personal, “normal” adult perspective (“normal” meaning not on the autistic spectrum), I can completely see how being GFCF could help alleviate symptoms of Autism. When I have the tiniest bit of gluten, within an hour I feel what must be a chemical reaction taking place in my brain. First I become super-anxious (Chicken Little has nothing on me! Not only is the sky falling, but everyone’s going to get hurt or die – it’s a terrible, out of control feeling that no matter how many times I tell myself “it’s just a gluten reaction,” it still feels very, very real!). The next day my super-anxiety is coupled with a hair-trigger raging temper. Which, you know, is fun for the whole family. Then for days after gluten exposure, my mind is foggy, sluggish and unresponsive. Words are lost. Thoughts are abandoned mid-sentance. Many things are forgotten. It take about 5 days for the mental effects from a single particle of gluten to begin to clear my system and weeks before I can start to feel “normal” again. So I can only imagine how it must be for an autistic child if they’re having a similar reaction to the proteins of gluten and casein that they eat on a regular basis. Perhaps it’s similar to my cognitive disfunction but magnified to such a degree that it causes the much more drastic, impairing symptoms of Autism….

Secondly, my Celiac “kicked in” when I was pregnant, so I would have been a prime candidate for having an autistic child. The article states that according to a large Danish study (10 years and 700,000 births), women with Celiac Disease are three hundred and fifty times more likely to have an autistic child. Not twice as likely as someone without. Not 10 times as likely. But 350 times more likely to have an autistic child. What a staggering statistic!!

And finally, we have a nephew with Autism. I’ve always felt a rather special connection to him, but really never thought much about it. I always felt like we somehow have more in common than meets the eye. To most people, we look like an 18-year-old autistic boy and a (gulp) middle-aged woman. But I’ve always seemed to be able to “get” some of what and why things bother him. Not everything – no, not even close. But I’ve always kind of understood and been comfortable with him and his habits. So I’ve been interested in the theory that a GFCF lifestyle like mine might help him. And this article seems to suggest that we may have more things in common than I thought. If autism is indeed caused by inflammation brought on by an overactive immune response, perhaps my own gluten-induced overactive immune system (that causes swelling of my digestive system and brain) causes some not dissimilar symptoms in me (albeit to a decidedly lesser extent). I just wonder what would happen if my nephew and I followed the same strict gluten and casein free diet for a few weeks…. would there be a difference in his cognition too? I don’t know.

But a recent event really solidified the connection I’ve always felt to him. Last weekend I was accidentally contaminated at a large family party (where I brought all my pre-prepared homemade GFCF food and methodically washed my hands but STILL got “glutened”). I was experiencing the first throes of gluten-induced mental changes while following and watching over our Autistic nephew. And I tell ya, there must be something to this inflammation/symptom connection. While I’m sure every individual’s experience is different, I felt like I could experience just a tiny little bit of the overstimulation that he must feel from the noise and energy of over 50 happy, loud people milling around in one house. Things like patterns in carpets are more visible, lights are brighter, sounds more sharp. Everything is just… more. And it makes me jumpy – and I LOVE crowds and noise. If that bit of gluten could effect my brain the way it did, what must it be like for him?

The Times article states: “A population-wide study from Denmark spanning two decades of births indicates that infection during pregnancy increases the risk of autism in the child.” I was shocked by this for a very personal reason: our nephew’s mother had undiagnosed non-hodgins lymphoma when pregnant. Her poor immune system was running in super-overdrive her entire pregnancy. (BTW, she’s healthy now, in remission.) It’s astonishing to me that science is just now beginning to catch up with this Autism epidemic (600% increase in the last 20 years?! That’s epidemic.)

As for the article’s postulation about introducing “domesticated” parasites into Autistic’s systems… well, I’m not too sure what to make of that. Although I *am* a HUGE proponent of probiotics – which are, after all, living organisms that help balance our digestive systems. (And if you’re even contemplating a GFCF diet, I’d strongly advise you to look into probiotic supplements – it was the final piece to my recovery puzzle). But the idea of taming my overactive immune response by “raising” worms from pigs to put into my sad little modern digestive system, well… that seems a bit radical. But who knows?

Anyway. The article is very interesting indeed. Check out the NY Times article here.  Then post back – I’d love to read your take on the connection between Autism and Immune Disorders.

Noi’s CrockPot Pulled Buffalo Chicken

Sunday is the Oscars, the “Superbowl” for film fans everywhere. I’m going to have some fellow film geeks over for a viewing party so I was trying to think of some yummy GFCF appetizers that would satisfy my non-GFCF friends. And since this worked so well for the Superbowl (which I also ADORE watching!), I figured it would be a great Oscar watching party app.

This recipe is easy, warms your whole house up with delectable smells. It tastes so buttery and awesome that everyone will love it and no one will believe it’s dairy-free! (Yum! This is making me hungry and it’s 7:30AM!)

Noi’s Pulled Buffalo Chicken (CrockPot)

6 tablespoons oil (2 of olive oil, 4 of sunflower oil)
          + additional olive oil if browning chicken
1/2 cup Frank’s Original Hot Sauce
2 teaspoons tomato paste
4 teaspoons chile powder
3 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chicken broth (approx. 1 small 14 oz. package of Pacific Brand broth)
2 pounds chicken (either 4 breasts, 8 cutlets or 2 packages of tenders – I get whatever’s on sale)
Corn starch
Turn Crockpot on High
Combine first three ingredients in small mixing bowl and stir until fully mixed.
Whisk in the spices.
Whisk in chicken broth
Transfer to crockpot with heat on high
Brown chicken in additional olive oil (med heat: 6). Just brown it though- Don’t completely cook  or it gets tough
                    (I’ve done cutlets and tenders raw and they cook in about 3 hours without browning, no problem)
Place browned chicken in crockpot and spoon sauce over to cover
Turn crockpot heat down and cook 3 hours on low.
After about 2.5 hours, you can thicken sauce: carefully remove chicken (it’ll break apart easily) and whisk in cornstarch 1/2 tsp at a time until desired thickness
Replace chicken and use a fork to break it up until it’s all “pulled” and soaking in sauce
Serving suggestions:
You can bake up some oven fries (slice white potato, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with a little garlic, salt and pepper)…
or ladle over a baked potatoes…
or use as an appetizer by serving with GFCF crackers (Glutino Garden Veggie are our fave)…
or cut up celery “spoons” (trim and cut celery stalks in half, put a tablespoon of chicken on the fat end)

GFCF Food Delivered to My Door? Sign Me Up!!!

—————<<<UPDATE>>> closed down. Booo hoo! But I honestly didn’t order from them too much anyway… too overpriced for what you got. There are so many other ways to get GFCF foods now, they really didn’t have much of a chance. Too bad though. It was a good idea – if only there was a way to do it locally and fresh, not frozen…. ——————-

When I heard about this GFCF delivery service from, I thought it was too good to be true. But a delivery service that can truly keep me safe from both gluten and dairy AND keep me out of the kitchen was too good to pass up. The selections seems a bit limited and easy, but totally kid friendly, which is great for us. So I just ordered a Turkey Meatloaf, Meatballs, Mac-n-Chz and Chicken Tenders. The shipping was a bit hefty ($21+!!) but their site says all orders have to be shipped in special refrigerated packaging.

I placed the order tonight with regular shipping (over $100 for expedited!!! Yikes!!)…. I will post back to let you know how it goes!!

Silk Soy Milk Dairy-Free… or is it?

The holiday spirit seized me in the grocery store a few days ago. As I reached for my usual Almond Milk I noticed two Seasonal Flavors of Silk Soy Milk: Pumpkin Spice and Chocolate Mint. I’d tried the Egg Nog for Thanksgiving (and it seemed okay…), so I thought, hey! This could be a way to get some Christmas Cheer in a glass. :)

So for breakfast this morning I had a decadent GFCF breakfast of Chocolate Mint Silk and Chocolate Chip Muffins ( Kinnikinnick). Yum! But then about 10 minutes after eating, I noticed I was starting to get stuffy… Then my eyes were itching. And then my throat was scratchy. And pretty soon I was wearing my “Allergy Mask:” a hot, red, itchy face that I only get when I’ve eaten casein.

What?! But all Kinnikinnick products are manufactured in a dedicated gluten and dairy free facility! It can’t be the yummy muffins (yes.. I had two 😛 ) that caused my allergy reaction.

So it must’ve been the Silk. Actually, come to think of it, I had a similar (yet not as severe) reaction yesterday when I had I had a glass of Pumpkin Spice Silk. By a meeting at 11am my face was bright red and itchy. Allergic reaction for sure. But I was so busy I didn’t take the time to track it down and try to figure out why. But today, well, today I took a look at Silk’s website.

And I’m very surprised to see that Silk products can not be certified Kosher Parve! All of their soy milks are heated on the same machines that process dairy!! So that means there’s a chance of a dairy cross contamination in all Silk Soy Milk products. Trace amounts of casein is still casein! I don’t understand how they can get away without even putting a “processed in a facility with dairy” warning on their products. US Legislation on food labeling is ridiculous.

Here’s what Silk has to say on their website about it:

Are Silk products kosher?
All Silk products in all flavors are certified Kosher OU-D. Kosher OU-D certifies that our dairy-free product was heated on equipment also used for dairy, but does not indicate the presence of dairy in the product. We have extensive testing protocols in place at our production facilities to detect and prevent contamination by dairy or dairy components including casein and lactose.

Because Silk products are dairy-free, why is the Kosher certification OU-D?
All Silk products are completely dairy-free and can be suitable for people with dairy allergies. While Silk soy products do not contain dairy, they carry OU-D Kosher certification because they may be produced on equipment that also produces dairy products.

Silk follows strict allergen-cleanup procedures to ensure that products made on shared equipment are dairy-free. We have extensive testing protocols in place at our production facilities to detect and prevent contamination by dairy or dairy components including casein and lactose. Those with severe allergies should always consult a doctor before introducing a new food.

GFCF & Egg Free Pumpkin Bread

Here’s a yummy gluten free, casein free and egg free pumpkin bread that will enthrall even your pickiest little bread connoisseurs. Our 6 year old asked for not only seconds, but thirds!! He didn’t notice what was missing, just that it was super tasty. :)

4 teaspoons Orgran’s No Egg Natural Egg Replacer
4 tablespoons of water

1.5 cups Bob’s Red Mill potato starch
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill “sweet white” sorghum flour
1 cup raw sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 can pureed pure pumpkin (1.5 cups) (NOT pie mix)
2 teaspoons white, distilled vinegar
1/2 cup coconut oil

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Grease two 9×4 loaf pans (using any oil of choice or Earth Balance).
• To make “fake eggs,” in a small bowl combine 4 teaspoons of egg replacer with 4 tablespoons of water. Mix vigorously until all lumps are gone and set aside.
• Sift all dry ingredients into medium mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.
• Add the “fake eggs,” pumpkin, vinegar and oil to the dry ingredients. Mix well, until thickened (about 3-4 minutes with a mixer on medium-low).
• Divide batter and pour into prepared pans.
• Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a tester toothpick inserted into the middle comes out cleanly.
• Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.
• To serve, dust top with powdered sugar.

Fun Holiday Idea:
I used a mini loaf Train Pan from Williams- Sonoma to make a GFCF Pumpkin Bread Train. The kids LOVE this: they can decorate it and then each have their own “car” to themselves. :)
FYI: In this pan, it only take about 30-33 minutes to bake these mini-loaves.

Finally! Great GFCF Bread

After trying so many cardboard-tasting gluten-free dairy-free breads, I stumbled upon a new, happy-looking GFCF bread while visiting family in North Carolina. Udi’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread is a fabulous GF bread. It’s not delivered or stored frozen, so it’s much fresher, softer and lighter than any other GFCF bread I’ve tried. And I’ve tried a lot!

On the Udi’s Gluten Free Foods website there’s currently a coupon for $1 off and a contest where you could win a whole year’s worth of GF bread. And this is bread you’ll actually want to eat! So it’s a worthy contest. I’m entering. :) Look for “Noi’s GFCF Goodness” sandwich. I’m going to make one tomorrow so I can take a nice pic of it. I’ll post back with a link.

Milk in French Fries? Yep.

I hate to admit this, but before going GFCF I rarely, if ever, looked at ingredients. I mean, sure, I’d casually glance at them and perhaps tisk-tisk when I saw the well-known offenders (like… MSG or… high fructose corn syrup).  But I had NO idea what I was ingesting. No idea that wheat and dairy were so prevalent. But I guess that’s what got me into this food allergy/sensitivity problem in the first place.

But since going GFCF more than 7 months ago I’ve read more labels, done more online searches and read more non-fiction books (cookbooks, alternative health books, allergy & intolerance books) than I’ve done in my entire life. Times two. And now I’m shocked at what I was ingesting. Shocked! By not only the chemicals but the strange combinations of “natural” ingredients that go into creating mass-produced, seemingly simple foods. Like French Fries. If you had asked me 7 months ago what could POSSIBLY go into creating french fries, there’s no way milk would’ve ever made it on my list. But there are SOOO many brands, both restaurant and grocery store, that contain dairy.

And I love french fries. I mean, LOVE them! I remember in high school I discovered that one of the diners on main street four blocks from the school would give me a HUGE plate of fries and a Coke for the same price as my school lunch wouldda cost. I ate there every day Sophmore year. Through rain or snow I would trudge those four blocks for my fix (what I wouldn’t give for THAT metabolism now!!).

So when I found out that I had to give up my bread (boo hoo!) and my cheese (Yikes!!), I consoled myself with “at least I still have my french fries.” I found several frozen brands of french fries that are GFCF (like Cascadian Farms). But more and more I’m finding that my newly sensitive system isn’t accepting even 100% GFCF foods if they’re too processed. What?! First no ice cream and cake and now no FRENCH FRIES?! I was despondent for days.

So today I’m taking the bull by the horns – or the fries by the oil – and I deciding to make my own. Yes folks, the Girl Who Never Cooked is now going to make her own fries from scratch. (Thank goodness a good friend got me a mandoline with fry cutter attachment for my birthday.) I went to Whole Foods this morning and got two pounds each of Yukon Gold potatoes and Sweet Potatoes. And tomorrow, on Sunday Cooking Day, I’m going to attempt to fry myself up some home cooked potatoey goodness.

I’ll post back to let you know how it goes. But in the meantime, while I’m adding tiny round oil burns to my BBQ-singed arms, if you have any tips on how to best make some yummy french fries or chips, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how you make your yummy potato treats! :)

Handy Recipe Website

As today is the very first day of my ALCAT 4 Day Rotation Diet, I’m finding it very challenging to make food that is not only GFCF, not only not one of my 60 other sensitive foods, but also on the list of foods or the day. So with random list of one-quarter of my small list of acceptable foods available to me on this day, I’ve had two break downs and one temper tantrum already today. (My poor husband… He’s the best for not only putting up with me but helping as much as he is!!) And it’s only just after lunch.

So when I looked ahead at my Nutrionist-created Meal Worksheet to see what was for dinner and saw Potato, Lamb, Tomato and Safflower Oil, I thought, well okay, good! Some kind of Indian dish is in the offering tonight. But whenever I went to a recipe, it called for many of the taboo or rotated-out-today foods. Grrr!!!! How am I ever going to make something with only these X ingredients?!

So, all this is a long way of saying: I found a great new website! Frustrated, I just Googled “Make recipe with ingredients on hand” and found Supercook! It is super intuitive: well designed, easy to use and OH so useful!!! I just typed in my basic available ingredients, highlighted my nutritionist’s “must have” ingredients (ground lamb, potato, tomato) and then just kept entering in all available veggies and spices for the day, which thankfully included coconut. (And, okay, I have to admit: I did move the ginger over from day three, but there was nothing to go with it for that day so I wouldn’t have used it anyway. And I also couldn’t find “curry” – to which I say “ignorance is bliss” ’cause if I don’t have it on my bad list OR my good lists, then it must be okay… right? :)

So then I modified the one recipe that came up and modified the heck out of it and came up with “Coconut Curry Lamb with Potatoes.” Well, we’ll see how it goes tonight.

Austin's Coffee and Film

Ahhh…. Austin’s. I love this place. Located on Fairbanks Ave in lovely Winter Park, Austin’s Coffee and Film is a tiny little coffee shop that is owned by a wonderful couple who are very, VERY sensitive to food allergies/sensitivities. This is the ONLY place in town that I’ve found I can get a hot latte (Chai Tea Latte with Soy milk). Every time I’ve tried to get a Chai elsewhere, even after explaining about my milk allergy, I’ve gotten contaminated. But here at Austin’s Jackie is SO helpful: she triple washes the steam wand on the machine & uses a dedicated soy milk pot to heat it. In all the many times I’ve been here (yes, I’m sitting on one of the super comfy, eclectic sofas right now) I’ve only had a dairy reaction once. Not easy to do!

They also carry vegan, gluten free baked goodies and can prepare lots of menu items to be GFCF as well. You can get salads modified to be GFCF and I believe you can now get their sandwiches on GF bread (although I’ve never had one). Let me go ask Jackie. Okay, here’s the scoop. She said that she had been getting the GFCF bread from a local bakery (which I won’t name, since it’s second hand info) but they were delivering substandard product, so she’s currently put all GF sandwiches on hold. But she’s been talking with the bakery and trying to work with them to get what she needs, but they haven’t followed through. So as of this post, there is not any way to get a GFCF sandwich. But that will hopefully change in the near future. And Jackie said she’d keep me posted. :) So I’ll post back when I hear something.

I always get the yummy 954 Salad: Spinach, grilled pears (when you tell them you’re GF, they put foil on the grill so you don’t get CC), seedless grapes, pecans (which I skip because I don’t know how they’re roasted and don’t want any CC, but this is probably being overly cautious on my part), red onions and homemade honey vinaigrette. The super yummy dressing is made of all GFCF ingredients – Jackie was great and showed me the labels for all the ingredients so I could inspect them and make sure they’re all safe. This salad usually comes with blue cheese crumbles, but they leave them off for me… as well as the croutons (which they make here and I’m bummed I can’t try them, but oh well. :) ) But they’re always happy to accommodate any special dietary needs and will really work with you to make anything you’d like. (As long as they have the ingredients… which, they don’t always have… several times I’ve had apples instead of pears on my salad because they never seemed to have pears when I came in… But the grilled apples were tasty on the salad.)

The baked goods at Austin’s come from Veronica’s Vegan Bakery and Raphsodic Bakery, a local orlando vegan place. (I tried it once, didn’t really enjoy the two things I got and was amazed at the high prices… I need to give it another shot….). But it’s hit or miss with the gluten free items… sometimes there’s plenty to choose from, other times it’s one thing…. Today is actually the first time there was nothing GF offered in baked goods. But usually there are two or more muffin flavors and then maybe a breakfast bread or cake being offered here at Austin’s.

Austin’s is a cute little funky coffee hang out place with free wifi, board games and sometimes movies playing (hence the “Film” in the name). And everyone is so nice here! I’m greeted by name, they know my usual drink, and always remember to be extra careful about the milk and gluten. So if you’re in Winter Park and need a little caffeine or nosh, check out Austin’s. And tell Jackie that Noi sent you. :)

Betty Crocker GF mixes can be CF too!

Whoo hoo! As I may have mentioned before, I’m not much for spending a lot of time in the kitchen. (What with working full time in my video editing business and being a wife and mother… well, there’s just not a lot of time to make anything but the essentials.)

But being GFCF is really making me change my ways. I make more and more things at home, but still don’t take the time to make a “luxury” item like baked goods. So when I found out the new Betty Crocker Gluten Free Mixes can be modified to be Casein Free as well, I was so excited! I have yet to try these recipes but wanted to post them as soon as I found them. I’ll post back when I make some nice GFCF baked goods using the Betty Crocker mixes.