Gluten Free Fig Cookies (Cuccidati)

Italian Fig CookiesCuccidati, or fig cookies as they are more often called, are one the popular treats that pop up around the holiday season.  A staple in Sicily, these yummy Christmastime cookies are filled with figs, dates, raisins, and a variety of spices! They are a bit time consuming to make, but worth the effort!

Filling

  • 2 cups dried figs
  • 1 cups dried dates
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ¾ cup chopped almonds
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¾ cup orange marmalade
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 1½  tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves

Dough

  • 4 cups gluten free flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 ½ tbsp. vanilla extract

Icing

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Finely chop walnuts and almonds using a food processor and place in a large bowel
  2. Remove hard tips from figs and pits from dates
  3. Grind dates, figs, and raisins in the food processor, until well blended. Add to large bowel.
  4. Place marmalade in food processor with honey, brandy, and spices and blend. This will also help chop up the marmalade a it so that it is a smooth consistency. Pour into bowl and mix well. Your mixture should be thick at this point.
  5. Cool for at least 4 hours, or overnight
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  7. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  8. Add butter to mixture and blend until well incorporated
  9. Whisk egg, milk and vanilla together then slowly add to dough mixture
  10. Divide dough in 4 sections, making a 18x3in rectangle (I use a pizza cutter to get straight edges once I roll it out. You can make longer rectangles but 12-18 inches is much easier to work with)
  11. Place filling in center of rectangle and roll dough over filling, pinching seam to close completely. Wet you fingers with water to help seal the dough
  12. Roll dough over so that the seam is facing downward, slice into 1 inch sectionsfig cookies
  13. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown
  14. Allow cookies to completely cool
  15. Whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla, egg white and water. You may need to add additional water if it is too thick. Icing should be easy to spread and drip a bit down the sides of the cookies, but not watery
  16. Apply icing to cookies and decorate with colored sprinkles.

Enjoy!

xoxo

Gluten Free Shampoo & Conditioner

gluten free shampoo & conditionerThe decision to use gluten free shampoo and conditioner is entirely individual. Some people recommend using them, others do not. Now, please mind you that I’m simply sharing my OPINION on this sensitive subject. For myself, I try to use a gluten free shampoo and I do recommend it for my patients (please note that I’m a pediatrician so my patients are kids).  Gluten is not absorbed through the skin and I know that we generally do not go around eating our shampoo.  HOWEVER, kids do. They are constantly putting things in their mouth and I do not want to trust that they will keep their mouths completely closed while bathing. So yes, I do recommend gluten free shampoo and conditioners for kids.

As for myself, I have the annoying habbit of playing with my hair and yes, I can admit it, I sometimes use my mouth to hold sections while curling my hair. Don’t judge, you know you do it too.  This doesn’t mean I won’t use a shampoo that isn’t gluten free. Of course I will, I’m just much more careful when I’m using it. I don’t question it at the salon because I do not have the risk of getting it in my mouth when rinsing it out.  There are a few gluten free brands that are easy to find and very reasonably priced- you may be using them already and not even know it!  Lots of people with celiac do not use GF shampoo and conditioner and do very well. Others feel that it does cause a reaction and choose to use GF products.  If you opt to use them, here is a short list to get you started!

California Baby Skin Protectant Shampoo & Body Wash California baby is great- their website lists if there is gluten in their products or not. I highly recommend them if you’re just getting started because their website is very user friendly!

Dove Damage Therapy– Dove is great with their labels, if it contains gluten, it’s usually written on the ingredients list.

Intelligent Nutrients Harmonic Hair Care Smells great and works amazing but pricey!

Kirkland Signature Moisture Shampoo & Conditioner This is one of my favorites! It’s from Costco and very reasonably priced! It works great!

Savonerrie -great source of GF products

xoxo

Lithuanian Kugelis

Gluten free kugelisIn my family, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without one of our favorite dishes- homemade kugelis. Kugelis is a traditional Lithuanian dish made of grated potatoes, eggs, and bacon. It’s probably one of my favorite things to eat and once you look over the recipe you will see why- there’s nothing healthy about it! It’s truly Lithuanian comfort food!  It can be a bit tedious to make but it is definitely worth the effort.

Just to note- the potatoes need to be grated. Most food processors just don’t cut it! The texture turns out pretty weird if it is not grated properly. When I was growing up we would use a hand grater and sit for hours grating potatoes for my grandmother. If you’re using a hand grater make sure that you use some vitamin C to keep the potatoes from turning brown. No one wants brown kugelis. Now I’m spoiled and, since I love making this dish, I invested in an electric potato grater. I can pretty well grate 5 pounds of potatoes in under 2 minutes. Gram would be jealous. Also, lots of versions of this recipe call for regular milk, but I grew up using carnation milk in our family recipe. Neither are wrong, but you can play with it and see which you prefer. I’ve heard that you can substitute 1 cup almond milk for the cows milk and it eliminates the dairy component, but I haven’t tried it myself. As for the egg component for you vegans- I tried using the substitutes and I just didn’t care for it as much. Sorry. I tried.

Kugelis is traditionally served with sour cream and/or applesauce so make sure you have some on hand. Some recipes you find will have you adding flour to the mixture but you can easily substitute potato or rice flour to make it gluten free. In this recipe I took one extra step and was able to skip the added flour all together. One of the pain in the butt steps of kugelis is straining the grated potatoes (please go get some cheesecloth and make your life easier). Once you have the excess liquid, aka potato juice, allow it to sit for a few minutes and drain off the liquid. There should be a nice thick white layer at the bottom of your dish- hello starch! Who needs extra flour? Not here! Just add that back into the recipe and tah-dah! Gluten free!

  •  5 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 pounds bacon, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 6 eggs
  • 5 oz carnation milk
  • 1 medium onion, grated
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Peel potatoes and place into cold water to keep from turning brown
  2. Chop bacon into small pieces and cook until brown throughout. Do not remove bacon from grease
  3. In a large bowl, beat 6 eggs
  4. Add 5 oz of carnation milk and mix well
  5. Grate onions and incorporate into egg and milk mixture
  6. Line a second large bowl with cheesecloth. Don’t do just one layer, I usually use double/triple layers to keep it all together.
  7. Using a hand grater, begin to grate potatoes. You may need to add crushed vitamin C to potatoes to keep from browning. If you’re using an electric grater, you can skip the vitamin C
  8. Squeeze potato mixture with the cheesecloth to drain liquid
  9. Add potatoes to egg mixture and and stir until well incorporated
  10. Allow liquid to rest (just a few minutes) and strain off the liquid, add the remaining starch back into the egg and potato mixture.
  11. Add bacon and ALL of the grease into the large pan and mix well. Yes. All. Of. The. Grease. I told you it wasn’t healthy
  12. Add salt and pepper to taste
  13. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray
  14. Pour mixture into dish
  15. Bake for 1 hour and 15minutes

Enjoy! (and please spend an extra few minutes in the gym after this one!)

xoxo

Gluten Free Parmesan Risotto

20131205-080543.jpgRisotto is a delicious Italian rice dish. Typically made with arborio rice, it is cooked to a cream consistency and served as a side dish, or alone!  Making risotto is takes some effort because you need to follow the steps carefully and be a slave to the process. It’s MUCH easier if you have everything with you by the stove so you don’t have to run around your kitchen. When I’m cooking risotto I usually premeasure everything and just grab and toss when needed (like on those cooking shows except I’m not nearly pretty when I’m cookingand there’s no camera crew in my house). I usually make double of this recipe and we have enough for a few days. Leftover risotto is just as good as a fresh batch! Yum!

  • 1 small onion,  chopped (that should yield about 4 oz of chopped onion)
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups boiling water
  1. In a large saucepan, melt butter and add onion, cooking until tender.
  2. Add rice, stirring to coat with butter
  3. Add white wine and simmer until liquid evaporates (1-2 minutes)
  4. Add boiling water, 1 cup at a time until nearly absorbed (depending on how high you have your stove set you may need to add more water. Ideally you shouldn’t have to, but if you’re out of water and its still crunchy toss in another cup and cover your pan)
  5. Cook until rice is tender but firm (your mixture should be creamy at this point)
  6. Remove from heat and add parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper
  7. Allow to cool slightly and serve immediately!

Enjoy!

xoxo

Celiac basics for patients & those that love us

So what IS celiac disease?

This is a question I answer all too frequently. Usually someone will interject that it is a food allergy. No, it isn’t. I’m not allergic in the same way that someone is allergic to bees or peanuts.  Celiac disease is considered to be an autoimmune disorder. Our small intestine normally has villi, small fingerlike projections that stick inward helping our body absorb what we eat. In celiac disease, our body begins to attack these villi, destroying them. Without these projections, we cannot absorb nutrients well. Untreated, celiac disease can lead to osteoporosis, infertility, and even cancer.  The tricky thing with celiac disease is that not everyone’s symptoms are the same. Yes, of course, there are the most common symptoms of abdominal cramping and diarrhea, but that does not mean every celiac patient has those symptoms!

Now you may have heard of gluten insensitivity and wheat allergies. They are not the same. However, celiac disease(CD), non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and wheat allergies all fall under the same umbrella term of “gluten intolerance.” The end result is the same- avoid gluten because it is doing some form of damage, however, the mechanism of damage is different for each. You may wonder “what difference does it make?” Well, ultimately it doesn’t when you are considering treatment- the gluten free diet is ideal for all three. However, the genetics of celiac disease and the associated illnesses apply to CELIAC DISEASE. This makes a huge difference when we are looking at long term prognosis and symptoms as well as what it means for our families due to genetics.

If you’re reading this blog, you either 1) have celiac disease, 2) love someone with celiac disease, 3) love the gluten free diet, or 4) are learning about celiac disease for other random purposes.  This post is directed to those who love us. If you have celiac disease- you get it. You know what happens. If you don’t have celiac disease, you have to work really hard to understand and learn “the rules.”  Trust me, my fiancé took a while to figure out what it would be like to date someone with celiac disease and 3 years later, he’s still learning. It can be daunting, but it’s doable! I’m going to try to keep this pretty straightforward so consider it your celiac disease 101. Eventually you’ll move up to the next course!

What happens if you eat gluten?

Well, like I said, everyone is different. It can range from abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, constipation, fatigue, etc. (here’s a list!)  Most commonly, your loved one will end up with abdominal cramps and diarrhea. It’s not pleasant. It can last a few hours, or a few days. Plus, its embarassing. I don’t want to tell anyone that I have diarrhea constantly- and they don’t want to hear about it either. Some people end up with rashes including dermatitis herpetiformis, psoriasis, eczema, and even with oral ulcers. This makes for very unhappy people!

What is the hardest part of the gluten free diet?

Oddly enough, at this point, I don’t think the diet is too hard. For ME, when I’m in control. See? There’s the catch.  I feel safe in my bubble, but we can’t all live in a bubble now can we? Now for me to give that control over to someone at a restaurant or, even more worse- at their own house, is pretty daunting. I’m usually confident that if the chef/waitress understand “gluten free” that they will be able to figure out what I can/cannot eat, especially if they are able to come up with substitutions without hesitating. My friends? Well, they are well meaning, but more often than not, unreliable. My close friends and family will usually run over the list of ingredients with me, but I feel bad sometimes asking people to securitize their labels.  This is usually when I’m just getting to know someone or I’m a guest of someone I’ve never really met.  That being said, I usually get over it pretty quickly though because I’m not willing to suffer for their benefit. (Okay unless it was my niece that tried really hard to share her birthday cake with me by removing all of the cake and giving me just frosting- full of cake crumbs. Yeah, I ate a bite. But she’s beyond adorable and how could I tell a 6 year old she didn’t do it right?)

Cross contamination is a real concern. I love my friends and family but sometimes they don’t get it either so don’t feel too bad. Gluten can hide in lots of places, you can’t just wipe off a pan used for gluten containing food and cook something gluten free. Same with the barbeque grill. In my house, we line everything with foil or parchment paper. This saves a ton of time worrying and aggravation when I realize something isn’t right just a little too late. I used to have a completely gluten free household, but since my fiancé moved in, cross contamination has become an issue.

Other than food, what else contains gluten?

Makeup, lotion, lipstick, shampoo, soaps, you name it. The list is long, and it’s hidden in a lot of different things. You don’t have to master it all. I usually recommend picking a few different things in each category.  Here’s a list of a few gluten free lotions. Are there more? Absolutely! But please don’t overwhelm yourself. I recommend my patient’s and families find a few go to items in each category. Once you’re comfortable, feel free to add to your own list, but remember to check ingredients with the companies because they can change without warning. Going gluten free isn’t just about sticking to a diet. It’s a lifestyle.

What can other’s do to keep celiacs safe?

It’s simple. Avoid cross contamination. Don’t eat off my plate with your fork if you’re eating gluten containing pasta. Can we share? Sure! Get a second set of silverware just for that when you’re out to eat! Don’t mess up my refrigerator. Seriously.  My fiancé would occasionally leave uncovered fried chicken on the top shelf and crumbs would tumble down onto other things. So ours is labeled carefully and he has specific places he can place food in there. Also, everything is labeled.  We buy condiments in 2’s. One is his, one is gluten free.  For example, we have two identical butter containers, one is his and one is mine. Mine is labeled and on a separate shelf. Anyone that is gluten free can use mine, otherwise, they have to use his.  I don’t want to worry about crumbs!

If you’re still worried or have questions- just ask! Trust me, I would rather have someone ask too many questions about what I can/cannot have than just assume something and put me at risk.  If you’re trying to learn about celiac disease because someone you love has it, there are plenty of resources out there! If you’re having trouble finding answers- shoot me a message and, hopefully, I can point you in the right direction!

Hope this helps get you started!

xoxo

Gluten Free Tiramisu Cupcakes

Gluten Free Tiramisu CupcakesIn case you’re not familiar with tiramisu, it is a popular Italian dessert. It is traditionally coffee-flavored, made with ladyfingers dipped in coffee between layers of mascarpone cheese and sugar with chocolate. Tiramisu literally translates as “pick me up”. How perfect is that? Now, lady fingers aren’t generally gluten free unless you search really hard for them and, to be honest, I prefer cupcakes to traditional tiramisu cake.  The recipe is fairly straightforward, so don’t let the multiple steps scare you off! You’ll thank me later!

Cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs + 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • 3 cups gluten free flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 packets instant coffee

Filling:

  • 8oz mascarpone
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp strong coffee (you can make your own strong coffee, but I usually add 1/2 cup hot water with 1 packet of instant coffee)

Combine ingredients until well mixed, do not over blend. (Now, feel free to make extra filling- it’s great to stuff in strawberries or ummm lick the bowl)

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  1. Using a whisk, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.
  2. Add cream and beat until beaks form. Unless you have crazy strong arms, I’d use a mixer for this step!

Cupcake instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line pan with cupcake liners
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter, oil and sugar
  4. Add egg whites, egg, and oil.
  5. Sift dry ingredients
  6. Slowly add half of the dry ingredients to wet ingredients
  7. Add buttermilk and vanilla
  8. Combine the remainder of the dry ingredients
  9. Fill cupcake liners with batter until about ¾ full
  10. Bake for 16-18 minutes until slightly golden
  11. Allow to cool completely
  12. Scoop out the center of the cupcakes. I usually use a knife and cut out a cone shaped center. You can use those fancy gadgets to core cupcakes but this is the easiest way!
  13. Add filling to cupcakes to fill the hole you just removed
  14. Top with frosting
  15. If you want to be fancy, sprinkle cocoa powder over top of cupcakes or use chocolate shavings. You can use a Hershey bar and a knife to make shavings. Best part? You can eat the rest of the bar later!

 

Enjoy!

xoxo