Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Easy Gluten-Free Last Minute Holiday Dishes

Happy Thanksgiving!! Not much has changed on our Thanksgiving menu, so I'm sharing this post from a couple of years ago. With just our family of 5 this year, a sweet friend is sharing turkey and ham with us (and yes, I asked how for ingredients and how both are prepared). My husband will make mashed potatoes, while I make a pumpkin pie. I'll make cornbread as well, and we'll add green beans to the mix. 

This Thanksgiving, I am more AWAKE to the reality of what being TRULY THANKFUL MEANS. 

From our health, to the roof over our heads, to having clean water to drink and wash with, to my husband's employment, to our teachers, God Bless our teachers, school staff, bus drivers and so on. I am thankful for ALL our medical workers - THANK YOU. I am thankful for LIFE.

We've heard "We're ALL in this Together" - and, I find that phrase a bit tiresome BECAUSE, we AREN'T ALL dealing with the SAME circumstances during this pandemic. Those who have lost jobs, have lost loved ones due to COVID, who have dealt with endless amounts of stress due to lack of work, childcare and so much more...

So, I have a NEW phrase "We WILL GET THROUGH this ONE WAY or the OTHER." For those who have been through a tremendous amount of stress these past 8 months, I am praying for YOU today. NEVER GIVE UP. Find the small blessings. This TOO shall pass.

Now, I do know ONE THING, "We're all in this Together" - because if you are reading this, then you are wanting a special Thanksgiving for yourself, or your child, or a loved one who has been diagnosed with celiac disease and must live a gluten-free lifestyle.  

I PROMISE YOU, you can HAVE A WONDERFUL GLUTEN-FREE Thanksgiving. Last minute store run to Kroger or Publix to get Pamela's Cornbread Mix, Wholly Gluten-Free Pre-Made Pie Crust (in frozen pie section) and then run over to ALDI grocery store for some GF stuffing!

Happy Thanksgiving fellow gluten-free friends. 

Green Bean Casserole
Gluten-Free Alternative:  This turned out fabulous, actually better than I thought it would. Thanks to ALDI liveGFree French Fried Onions (pic at bottom of post) and Pacific Cream of Mushroom Soup! I was so excited to find GLUTEN-FREE FRENCH FRIED ONIONS!! They taste just like the, you know, THAT "GLUTEN" brand, if not better. Make sure to check out your local ALDI store - it's a seasonal item.

2 Boxes of Pacific Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 Cans of Green beans (drained)
2 C. of LiveGFree French Fried Onions

Mix together cream of mushroom soup, green beans and 3/4 cup of french fried onions. Pour into 8" x 11" casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Then add remaining fried onions on top and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Gluten-Free Alternative: ALDI liveGfree stuffing! It tastes AWESOME!                     It reminds of Stove Top Stuffing.  

Note: I used Chicken broth and added celery and onion for more flavor.  

If you're unable to find ALDI stuffing, I would suggest following one of Pamela's recipes. If don't know already, I'm a HUGE fan of Pamela's products and her recipes, so I think you will be pleased as well. A couple of options - use Pamela's Cornbread Mix to make Cornbread Stuffing or you can you use Canyon Bakehouse bread (or whatever bread you prefer) for Pamela's Traditional Stuffing.

Corn Pudding (Casserole)
Gluten-Free Alternative: My "go-to" for gluten-free cornbread has always been Pamela's Cornbread Mix. I've used it many, many times, so I wanted to see if I could create a corn pudding casserole. And I did!


Pamela's Cornbread Mix
2 Eggs
1/2 C. Sugar
3/4 C. Sour Cream
1/2 Milk
1 Can Cream Style Corn
1 Can of Corn (Drained) 
1 small can of Corn (optional, my husband wanted more corn in it)
1 C. of Butter (Softened)

Beat Eggs. Add butter and sugar - stir well. Add all corn and sour cream - stir well. Add a little cornbread mix at a time along with some milk and continue to mix well. Stir into all ingredients are incorporated. Pour into nonstick sprayed 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes - insert toothpick at 40 minutes and watch for edges to brown.

Pecan and Pumpkin Pies
Gluten-Free Alternative: I have to say, this is the best tasting pumpkin pie I've ever had...and I made it!! It was so good. This year, I tried a new crust by Wholly Gluten-Free. Two pre-made pie crusts come in each package - I found it in the organic/gluten-free freezer section. It's AWESOME! It tasted great and saved soooo much time! It's GF certified and free from many of the top allergens. I was very pleased. I mean, look at my pumpkin pie!! It tasted just as good as it looks! 


YUM! I followed Libby's Pumpkin Pie recipe below. It calls for a "DEEP DISH" pie crust and pan. 

These ARE NOT deep dish pie crusts, so I poured in the mixture and had some left over. I mean, what do you do?? These pie crusts are awesome and I don't think I want my pie any "DEEPER", so I will definitely use them again.

Pumpkin Pie Ingredients:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream (optional)

MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
POUR into pie shell.
BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Pecan Pie Ingredients: 
This is the first time I had ever made a pecan pie! It turned out AWESOME!! I used this recipe: Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie

See y'all, you got this! SUPER EASY DISHES! You can find the pie shells in the organic/health freezer section at most popular grocery stores. Libby's as well. Do you have an ALDI near you? Pamela's Cornbread can be found at most grocery stores or online.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Jack's Celiac Test Results Explained

Jack is doing great! He just wrapped up his 1st year of
middle school (6th grade). Jack is a straight A student,
who loves hanging with friends, playing basketball,
baseball and of course, Xbox.
It’s our 10th year of being a part of Celiac Disease Awareness Month.  

Jack, is now 2 months away from turning 13!!! Not another teenager in the house?! NOOOOOOO. 😭😉

For Celiac Disease Awareness Month, I want to share with you, Jack's official celiac test results.

Here's just a little back story, before we get to his test results.

When Jack was diagnosed at 2 years old, in August 2009, he was one of the “lucky” ones. Meaning, he was diagnosed after just ONE doctor's appointment. This RARELY happens. BUT, hopefully, it's happening more today.

I remember getting the call from the pediatrician, "“Jack has celiac disease. It’s where he has to avoid gluten. We will put you in touch with a Pediatric Gastroenterologist.”

Jack at 4 years old, embracing his gluten-free lifestyle.
Of course, he really didn't understand what it all
meant, except that "gluten" hurt his tummy.

I WAS NOT told at that time to have Jack CONTINUE EATING GLUTEN. So, I just did what any parent would do. It was about lunch time, and I thought to myself, "Okay, no gluten, what has no gluten?"

Long story short, I stopped feeding him gluten right away. And, POSITIVE changes began almost immediately. It was AMAZING to at the least. TRULY ASTOUNDING. 

Two weeks after his Pediatrician diagnosed him, I took him to see Pediatric GI Doctor, Dr. Steven Steiner, at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis.

Dr. Steiner said, “You and I both know from his bloodwork and his diet change that he has celiac disease. I do not feel at this time, he should eat gluten, in order to do a biopsy." 

NOTE: Each diagnosis is different. Please don't disregard a biopsy if one is suggested.

I agreed as well. I knew Jack had celiac disease, but, I wanted to know more. What did his actual celiac test show? What did it mean? What are all these < and > ranges? And so on.

I'll show you exactly what I mean. NOTE: Don't be SURPRISED if you or your child's results look quite different. Different labs, share results differently.

So, let's take a look at Jack's celiac test results below. I went ahead and typed in RED to clarify any blurriness from this being a faxed copy.

A year ago, I reached out to Dr. Maureen Leonard via email. Dr. Leonard is the Clinical Director of Mass General's Celiac Center for Research and Treatment. I asked if she could help explain Jack's numbers compared to the the "reference range" and here is what she had to say:

"The reference range just means- what is the actual normal value- so for AGA IgG the value is normal if less than 10 and abnormal if greater than 10. If the value in the value column has a > than it is off the charts.

We really focus on just two of these laboratory findings. The TTG IGA and the EMA IgA so we can forget about the others for clinical purposes.

Here for TTG the reference range of <4 is considered normal (ie any value from 0 -4 is normal). The value for Jack which is 100 is as high as the scale goes so Jack’s TTG is >100 or off the charts so quite high. We usually consider something more than 10 times the upper limit of normal (in this case the maximal normal is 4 so 10* 4=40) so anything above 40 is high. Since his number is >100 it is more than 10 times the upper limit of normal and thus quite high.

The EMA IgA is just a qualitative measure here (sometimes they give a number but here the reference range or normal range is negative) but when TTG is high and EMA is positive it is >95% likely that this is celiac disease and a biopsy makes it 100%."

I definitely understood it much better, after Dr. Leonard explained it. To be honest, when I saw, 
"+ + + +" - there wasn't much more I needed. But, over the years, I have found the tests associated with celiac disease, hard to explain. What are these particular tests? And, what is happening in the body to cause these antibodies to react? To help better understand celiac disease, it makes sense to understand the two tests that are most prevalent when diagnosing celiac disease and that is TTG and EMA - so what are they?

TTG (provided by Jane Anderson over on

"The tTG test, also known as the anti-tissue transglutaminase test or anti-tTG, is the first-line option for antibody testing. tTG is an enzyme that plays a role in wound healing, cell-to-cell adhesion, the regulation of cell survival and death, and other biological processes. It also is involved in the breakdown of gliadin—a water-soluble protein in gluten that's essential for bread to rise during baking and that is easily absorbed by the intestines.

The interaction between tTG and gliadins is complex. After tTG breaks down gluten, the subsequent breakdown of gliadins in the bloodstream will activate tTG in the small intestine, causing enzyme levels to increase. In response, the immune system produces defensive tTG antibodies that can be detected by the tTG test."

EMA (provided by Jane Anderson over on

"Endomysial antibodies are produced in a layer of tissue surrounding muscles called the endomysium which contains a form of tTG that, when exposed to gluten, will activate and churn out antibodies in an autoimmune response.

The endomysial antibody (EMA) test is considerably more accurate than either the tTG or DGP test. It's also more complicated and expensive: Because the antibodies bind with smooth muscles, frozen esophageal or umbilical cord tissue is needed to draw the antibodies from the blood sample in high enough concentrations to elicit an accurate result."

So, we have come a LONG WAY since 11 years ago. We have. I am thankful for the awareness that has been raise, the many loyal brands who have committed to manufacturing certified gluten-free products, and not to forget, THANK YOU TO THE MANY doctors, nurses and researchers who have invested countless hours into understanding this autoimmune disease.

As Jack turns 13 in August, I want him to have a thorough physical examanation. He is doing great overall, I have no immediate concerns. This is more for "maintenance" than anything. To keep Jack on the right path, and make sure all the proper vitamins are being absorbed. From testing vitamin levels, bone density and possibly a biopsy to see how his intestines are doing after 11 years. I PERSONALLY think a biopsy is good for anyone after so many years of having celiac disease. So, that will be my priority in the coming year, as well as 
teaching Jack more about this autoimmune disease. From understanding "villi" to his small intestines, from genetics, to absorbing nutrients, bone health and so on. 

I hope you found this post informative/helpful. For more information on Jack, his Dad having celiac disease as well, and genetic testing, check out the following links below:

Jack's Story

Genetic Testing

Jack's Dad - Celiac Story