5 Tips For Transitioning Into a Gluten/Wheat-Free Home Environment

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What happens once you are diagnosed with a wheat of gluten allergy or intolerance? Although it gets easier as awareness and need grows for gluten and wheat-free food, there are many concerns that one needs to address whilst adapting to a new lifestyle. Especially if you are living in an environment where other members of the household will continue to eat wheat and gluten containing products. There are a few steps that you can take in order to protect yourself from having a reaction through cross contamination.

1. You’ll need a separate toaster that has not been used with wheat and gluten containing breads. Setting up your own station for preparing gluten free bread products is a must. Clearly label your toaster GLUTEN FREE ONLY so that guests know not to use it for normal bread. Also make sure that normal bread products are being kept away from your food preparation area and that family members/ house mates know to clean up their crumbs!

2. Do no use/share condiments/butter  Unless it’s a squeezable bottle or something that a knife can not be inserted into. Condiments and butter are one of the biggest causes of cross contamination at home and in restaurants as people do not realise that these items are full of gluten and wheat. You’ve done it hundreds of times….you’re making a sandwich and putting mustard on it….you scoop some out on your knife and it’s not quite enough so you dip the knife back in again for a little more. Now the mustard is unusable for someone who is avoiding wheat/gluten.

3. Chopping Boards Collanders and pots are items that you should not share with people in the household who are using them for wheat/gluten containing products like bread and pasta. As a whole it’s worth it to invest in a few kitchen items only used for what you prepare for yourself.

4. Learn to cook this may be a fairly obvious one. But I do realise that in some ways, even though there was virtually no awareness about food allergies or easily recognised safe products at the time when I was diagnosed…I was already a cook/chef at the time so learning to modify ingredients in my diet was a challenge I embraced. I did go through some trial and error, but the cooking bit was always easy for me.  If you don’t like to spend loads of time in the kitchen…all you need to do is start out with a few simple recipes that you can do in 5 minutes or less.  Omelettes, quesadillas, GF pasta and simple salads are a good start. There are loads of pre-packaged gluten-free options out there now…but they are pricey and often filled with ingredients that are often less than healthy. Learning to cook will save you loads of money and keep you healthier.

5. Educate others  Don’t expect other people to know how to keep you from having a reaction. You need to educate other family members and friends on how to keep you safe. They love you…they want to help. Not long ago, it seemed that people viewed food allergies and mental illness in the same way. So many times I’ve been told..”It’s all in your head!” Things have changed. Allergy UK states that around 45% of people in the UK suffer from some sort of food allergy/intolerance. Don’t be afraid to ask people for what you need. You will probably encounter some resistance along the way, but being clear about what you can eat and how it’s prepared is a lot easier than spending the night doubled over or a trip to the hospital. Get used to speaking up…you’ll need to do it a lot.

Obviously there is a lot more to say on this subject, especially about the foods you now can/can’t eat…but that is for another time and I find there’s a lot of good info already out there on the web. I will be posting soon on that subject…but if you need help for now here are some great places to start:

http://www.coeliac.org.uk/

http://www.foodallergy.org/

http://www.glutenfree-crawley.org.uk/index.php

all photos used in this blog are sourced from flickr and licensed through Creative Commons. To find out more info about the photographer and enjoy more of their photos, please click on the picture itself and you will be taken to their flickr page! Enjoy!

New Album! Beautifully Undone (Songs I Wish I’d Written)


So I’ve finally made some time to get all the liner notes written up and the little extras for my new covers album! I’m so proud of this record…it’s exactly what you’d hear if I was playing in your living room, but with some little extras thrown in with lots of stacked vocal harmonies and a fantastic bas/voice duo with Steve Lawson. I’m so pleased to get to put my own spin on these tunes and to reinvent such fantastic songs…songs that are all near and dear to my heart. My only regret is that I didn’t get to have any guest musicians on the record (with the exception of Steve on one track) but I’m planning on doing a second covers album in the future though…chock full of my favourite musicians! I might even post a list of songs and let everyone vote on the ones that I cover. Still thinking about that one. Anyway, hit play, and you can hear Volume 1, and download it if you wish!

For some of you, you may not know quite a few of the songs on this record. I decided that this time around I was going to do songs that mean something to me personally….and I hope that if you don’t know the song it will prompt you to go and investigate the original. There are links to youtube videos of all the songs in the liner notes on bandcamp. In a way this might make it seem more like an album of new material from me. Either way, I get to record and perform the songs I love, and hopefully you will grow to love them as much as I do! I’ve had to set a minimum on this album just to cover the cost of licensing all the songs. Whilst Limelight has made licensing so much easier…it’s still pricey so the minimum is just to help cover these costs. The initial release will be digital, but I am printing up some copies for Greenbelt…so if you’re a die-hard shiny coaster fan…there will be a 200 physical copy release in August.

For the curious, here’s who did the songs originally:

Beautifully Undone: Lindy
Junk: Paul McCartney
It’s a Shame About Ray: The Lemonheads
Moon River: Henri Mancini
Consider Me Gone: Sting
Toledo: The Blue Nile
You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) : Dead or Alive
Beautiful: Rob Szabo
God Loves Everyone: Ron Sexsmith

There’s lots of extra info about each song on bandcamp along with links back to the original artists so go and have a look! As always, thanks for listening! xoxoxo Lo.

Spicy Sweet Potato Stew

This is one of my favourite recipes, and I find myself craving this when I feel as if I am coming down with a cold. Â You can adjust the spices to your taste. Some people prefer more cumin and less cinnamon, or more heat. Â It’s a very forgiving recipe so feel free to play!

African Sweet Potato Stew

2-3 medium sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
2-3 medium white or red potatoes peeled and cubed
3 cloves garlic peeled and chopped finely
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 inch piece of fresh Ginger peeled and chopped finely
1 medium onion diced
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili flakes or one fresh chili snapped and added (this way you can take it out if it’s getting too spicy)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
salt to taste
Boiling water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp honey or 2tbsp agave

Add olive oil to heated soup pan or Dutch oven set to medium heat, fry onions until transluscent, sweet potatoes until slightly brown and caramelised, add garlic and Ginger until you begin to smell them. Add spices and  salt and stir to coat.  Incorporate tomatoes and mix well and then add enough boiling water to cover mixture by 1/2 inch. Boil lightly for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Many thanks to Dave Lifeson for the gorgeous photo, licensed under creative commons on flickr. Click on the photo to see more of his work.

Easy Vegetarian Dahl

So what’s better than a nice hearty dahl on a chilling evening? One that doesn’t take forever to make! Let’s start out with the ingredients…

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 leeks chopped
  • 1 medium carrot chopped
  • 1 medium courgette if you like it – finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1  tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Small knob of fresh peeled and minced (about 1 heaping tbsp) play it by ear!
  • 2 tbsp salt – more at the end if you need
  • 1 tbsp agave or honey (give it a good squirt)
  • 250g dried red lentils, rinsed (1 pkg)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 quarts of water (or more if you like a thinner dahl)
  • Chilis to taste…fresh or flakes (snap the top on fresh chilis instead of chopping so you can remove if the heat gets too much)

In a nice heavy pot, saute the leek, onion, carrot and courgette if you’ve added them in some EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). Once the leek and onion are shiny and transparent add in the spices along with the garlic, ginger and salt. Once all these are incorporated (do not allow to burn or you’ll get a bitter taste in the dahl) add 1/2 cup water to make a roux and stir to combine. Add rinsed lentils and stir until incorporated. Next add in your coconut milk and chilis and agave and 3 quarts of water. (you can play with this and add more during cooking if it’s getting too thick) Bring to boil and then turn heat down to simmer for 20-25 mins stirring once or twice during cooking to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Salt to taste and viola! I also fed this to my 10 month old who LOVED it! Lessen the salt and spices you add at the end if your’e feeding to lil’ ones!

Thanks to Pallavi Damera for the beautiful photo, licensed through creative commons! x

Jetlag and 20 Random Facts (for you relentless facebookers)

What time is it? My internal body clock has stopped. Not on the one that goes…”hey honey, lets make a baby!” or the one that says..”Don’t you think it’s time to settle down?” but the one that tells me to wake up at 8am every morning and then lets me go back to sleep ’til 11. I usually fly from California, back to the East coast, and then back to the UK. That makes it a lot easier. This year it was the hardcore 10 hour flight from San Francisco over the Canadian wilderness. The real clock says it’s 3:47am, and I just ate some crisps and a larabar. Hellooo breakfast.

Random Facts
I’ve been getting all these requests for random facts about myself on facebook. Why am I acquiescing and doing your bidding? Cause I’m jet lagged and don’t yet have the brain capacity to do some real work. I could barely spell acquiescing. Hell, I could barely spell barely. Continue reading “Jetlag and 20 Random Facts (for you relentless facebookers)”