My First Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

This is not the greatest time in the United States to start a new way of eating, no matter what it is. Unless, maybe it’s going to be an all-you-want-of-everything-you-want-that-is-loaded-with-sugar-and-fat diet. So, what to do for Thanksgiving?

I’m lurching along here, learning as I go how to avoid gluten and dairy, too. Today I learned that Bit-O-Honey candy is gluten-free. After I already had a piece of it in my mouth, it dawned on me that I hadn’t looked at the ingredient list. I saw “natural flavor,” and not knowing what that was, I went to a website that has a whole bunch of candy info. It’s gluten-free but, guess what? My Hershey’s Special Dark can’t be MY Hershey’s Special Dark any more. It is NOT gluten-free. I also just noticed that Bit-O-Honey has milk in it. Ugh. OK…I just threw all that in for free; we’re here to talk about Thanksgiving.

I told my husband that I’m doing good to be learning one meal at a time. I have to deal with three of them every day, and don’t want to eat the same three things every day, so I have to branch out. (Breakfast has been the biggest challenge, but I’ve also run into things like having to change to gluten-free soy sauce.) I told him that to have Thanksgiving come at a time when I haven’t found my footing yet, is a bit overwhelming. He suggested we go to a cafeteria. Smart man!! I told him that was a fantastic idea!

So. I called to make sure they will have food besides the traditional Thanksgiving food, and the lady said they will. (I am trying so hard to be careful. Dr. Leiberman said in “The Gluten Connection,” that our bodies react to gluten in any form and in any amount if we are sensitive to it.) I’ll be very careful and ask if flour or wheat is used in anything that I’m not sure of. But, I’ll probably take my digestive enzymes just in case.

Yesterday I bought the ingredients for a special thing we call The Pink Stuff – you know, the mixture of canned fruits and jello and cottage cheese and Cool Whip and marshmallows? Hmm. Dairy. I may be having cross-reactivity problems, or maybe part of my problems have been caused by dairy foods, and I’m just now finding that out. Whatever. I’ll set some aside for myself before I add the cottage cheese. I guess I could get some silken tofu, crumble it a bit and mix it in mine, but it’s not so important that I need to brave the very crowded grocery store. Maybe I’ll try that next year.

I also want to try a pie. I decided to do a pumpkin pie. Yesterday, I found an easy gluten-free pie crust recipe. It calls for rice flour and I have that. This is getting better. Then this morning, I looked at the recipe on a can of pumpkin that I have in my cabinet. Uh, oh. Evaporated milk is one of the ingredients. I thought my pie was not going to work. That is thick stuff, and how would a substitute be anywhere near good enough to pull this off?

Have you ever done a search using the words “gluten-free pumpkin pie”? I know. I wanted “diary-free” since I had the pie crust part settled, but I was up til 3am taking notes from the library book that I mentioned above to make sure I got all the info out of it that I needed since it was due today. I’m doing good to be sitting up right now. Anyway, you might want to give that a try. There are tons of recipes! Guess what I found? This one has  instructions for making your own evaporated rice milk. I have rice milk. See how it gets better as we go along and slowly acquire the needed ingredients and actually have things on hand? I love it! AND, I bought some coconut oil last week that I can use as a butter substitute. I bet this will be one good pie!

So, there you have the ups and downs of My First Gluten-Free Thanksgiving. By next year, I’ll be an old hand at this. Well, I won’t know as much as all these ladies whose websites I’ve been reading, but I’ll be doing better. And, better is good.

ADDENDUM: Looked at the Cool Whip label after writing this and saw that it has milk in it. Lovely. Maybe next year I won’t have to avoid dairy and I’ll have some Pink Stuff. This year, I’ll just eat my pie and think about how much better I feel these days.

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Still Trying to Figure This Out

I think I’m frustrated by the whole learning how to cook differently thing. I got the Better Batter flour mix and wanted to make bread yesterday, and when I went to the website to read about it and find a recipe, I found one and it said to mix the dough with a mixer for 7-10 minutes. I figured my arm will fall off – I’d have to eat the bread with one hand. I was willing to do that. Then as I read comments, I saw that I would have to use a mixer on a stand. Naomi, the lady behind the great flour, told a reader that the thick dough will burn up a hand mixer. SO…now I need a mixer on a stand! The last slice of I bread I ate was when I was at my son’s house and he cooked sausages and I put mine on a slice of bread. That was October 18th. I’d love some French Toast about now. (OK…back to those questions I ask myself…What do I live for? Aren’t I glad I don’t have to take medicine?)

Another frustration is so many recipes that I find and want to try, call for ingredients that I don’t just have around here because this is all new to me. And it looks like I need to avoid dairy, at least for a while. My esophagus feels sore off and on and it seems to coincide with eating dairy.

The great cornbread recipe (see this post for the link) that I have calls for dairy. At least I can make pumpkin muffins without dairy, but I need to get some non-dairy margarine/butter type thing to do it. (And these muffins are totally worth it! DE-licious!) I wonder if the day after Thanksgiving I should just go on some kind of heal-the-digestive-system diet for a few weeks, where I lay off all beans and soy and dairy and gluten and nuts….anything that can be hard to digest?

Oh, I quit taking the enzymes. My doctor told me to try them for a couple of weeks and if I wasn’t fixed to try no dairy, and then if after a couple more weeks I still wasn’t fixed, to try no gluten. I was feeling better while taking the enzymes, but everything was not fixed. I tried going gluten-free first because I noticed that when I ate gluten, like the time I ate the huge beautiful Bavarian Cream donut that sat in my stomach like a rock, if I took an enzyme afterwards, within 15 minutes my stomach felt better.

“The Gluten Connection,” by Dr. Shari Leiberman,  has a chapter on supplements, and enzymes are only recommended for “gluten slips.” I stopped for that reason, and because my doctor didn’t say to keep taking them if that wasn’t the whole problem, and because they are WAY too expensive for me and I could lose my house and have to live under a freeway bridge so I could have my enzymes (Ok…that’s catastrophizing…), and because I couldn’t be sure of everything I should avoid if I kept taking them and they did what my body couldn’t do.

Well, I just took this banana bread out of the oven. Better Batter can be substituted cup for cup in place of regular flour so that is what I used. It didn’t rise like banana bread normally does, which is to be expected. It smells good though.

ADDENDUM: The bread was good. It was thick and not cake-like, which is what the cook wanted who came up with the recipe. I expect to be making this again.

ADDENDUM II: Thought I ought to say this: The esophagus thing is not from dairy. It’s a muscle spasm. It feels better when I eat and it is worse in the evening than in the morning. If I make faces that Gene Simmons would be proud of, it releases the spasm a bit. Seems to be stress-related. Big sigh.