GF LIFE HACKS, Uncategorized

Gluten-free Life Hack #10

I feel like it’s been ages since I posted a hack so here it goes!

Gluten-free Life Hack #10

It’s easy to make your own gluten-free food and hide away from the world afraid of cross-contact. It’s great to be cautious, but don’t be afraid to live and try new things.

Sometimes the best things are hiding in your own backyard!

Yesterday we finally went to check out this great Gluten-free bakery in town. I say finally because they opened their store front last fall! It was so wonderful! We loved everything we tried and the atmosphere was so great we will definitely be going back again.

For me it is so hard to try new restaurants I am always afraid of the cross-contact with gluten and my plate. It part of trying is trusting and hoping and if I can’t do that life can be pretty boring and lonely. I encourage you to venture out and find that diamond in the rough in your area. If you need some inspiration here is the video I did of our experience!


My #1 Secret Hack for Avoiding Gluten Cross-Contamination!

Most people don’t realize one of the major sources of cross-contamination in their kitchen is their toaster!  Think about it, if you are moving your kitchen over from 100% gluten to gluten free there are so many things you have to buy-food, baking utensils, who wants to, or has the money to buy a new toaster?  Or if you live in the real world, like we do, the majority of the family is not gluten free, but I am.  And quite honestly it is just too expensive to buy gluten free for everyone, I’ve tried and the kids don’t mind it, but it’s just not affordable.  So you could do several things;

  1. Give up toast.
  2. Buy two toasters
  3. Make the gluten eaters give up toast

I don’t know about you, but those don’t really work for me!  So one day while I was exploring ways to get one of my favorite gluten free brands online (otherwise I had to drive 1/2 an hour away to get it) I discovered these!  I have to say it was one of the most liberating days in my gluten free journey!

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Toaster Bags!  I had never heard of them before!  It was amazing!  I can still use a toaster that all those other gluten eaters around me use, but I won’t get sick!!!!  So here’s some of my favorite features about them!

  1. They are reusable!!!
  2. They are very inexpensive!
  3. You can toast; sandwiches, pizza, make grilled cheese, bagels, waffles, and moreAND it doesn’t make a mess!
  4. Dishwasher safe
  5. Transportable

I pack my bread for my sandwich in it for work and sandwich fixings separately.  I put my tuna melt together at work, put it back in the toaster bag and use the toaster at work.  Voila-I have a safe for me sandwich, the mess is contained and the bag can be thrown in the dishwasher and used again!

Here is a link for the toaster bags that I use.  The bags are good for roughly 50 uses, or when you start to notice excessive wear.

I love this hack, it has made my gluten free life so much easier!


GF Life Hack #6

There are so many things to think about when you go from eating gluten to living gluten free. Even more so if it is because you have an; allergy, intolerance or straight up celiac disease. Once you enter one of this realms it becomes necessary to be concerned about cross-contamination. And it is in that vein that the topic from this hack comes from.

#6. When turning from a life of gluten to gluten free- wood utensils and cutting boards are NOT your friend.

In other words do not use a wooden spoon you used to use to stir gluten containing macaroni in your pot of Annie’s GLUTEN FREE macaroni. This fun fact we learned during our “conversion period” was mind blowing to me. Wood opens up when heated and contracts when cold, sealing in anything that got in the wood when heated- like gluten. So then when you use that same utensil the next time the wood opens back up and releases whatever it was holding on to until it’s cold again making whatever you are currently making have an unintended effect on the gluten intolerant.

Now if you do not have severe issues with gluten this is not a problem. But if you do, or if you cook for someone who might- avoid wooden spoons, rolling pins and cutting boards if at all possible. We actually got rid of all of ours and bought some new.  For most things we decided to use plastic or metal rather than wooden.  At my mom’s house she has a wooden spoon marked clearly gluten free so we know which one to use when there. So there are different options, do whatever makes sense for you and your situation. We do it several different ways at the different houses we eat at- just make sure to be clear about what you need to be able to eat when not doing it yourself. 


GF Life Hack #5

This is a quick one that goes along with the theme so far of eating out (or somewhere other than your own house).

#5 Don’t be afraid to take food to someone else’s house if it enables you to eat or have a similar meal.

When I first got diagnosed I hated feeling different or having to go through to get my food first- I just felt uncomfortable. Often I would eat before or wait to get home if we went to visit friends or family- but this brought up the same attention I was trying to avoid.

Here’s some thing I’ve figured out about going to other people’s houses during meal time.

  1. Talk to your host about the menu
  2. Offer to bring your own food along the same lines as the menu to help out and be polite.
  3. Offer to bring food that would make your meal as similar to the rest of the group as possible.

An example of the last item; I offered to make guacamole and bring chips that I knew were gluten-free to share. Again as long as you are gracious and understanding of whatever the host asks you to bring or not bring these steps usually ensure a smooth mealtime for everyone! 😊


GF Life Hack #3

So this may seem redundant- but I feel it is vital to share again- perhaps in a different context.

#4. You are your only advocate that will always be with you- you have to become a fierce advocate for yourself!

This hack is very similar to hack number 1, but with some slight and important differences.  The first being that you have to be ok with sending food back if it is incorrect- and be explicit with what is wrong with it. I’m not advocating that we give a dressing down to every waiter and/or chef that ever makes a mistake. On the contrary if you keep hack number 2 in mind you can still be thankful and firm that something is not right with your meal.

Part of the importance of this hack is remembering there isn’t anything wrong about firmly asking for what you need, you don’t need to apologize for it. I find often I am uncomfortable with being so firm and try to soften my requests for safe food- I have paid for that mistake. You have a right to safe food and if someone can’t provide it for you it is ok to decline to eat or walk out of the restaurant if that is where you are. [Just a side note, I have never had trouble at this particular restaurant!  I’ll share more about that later!]

One of the other aspects of this hack is that while it is important to have someone who supports your diet they can’t do everything for you. When I first got diagnosed with celiac disease my husband jumped in with both feet. He began doing research and reading labels like a pro. He also became my voice at family functions and restaurants. It wasn’t until I went out with some friends without him that I realized I needed to be more comfortable doing these things on my own. Another hard lesson learned- and still learning. 😉


GF life hack #4

This hack is new to me, but goes along so well with hacks #1 ,2, and 3 I just have to share it now.

#4. Don’t be afraid to ask for something not listed on the menu. Most places are all too happy to help out if you request is;

  1. Reasonable
  2. Politely asked
  3. And the answer is graciously accepted

Again some of these early hacks may seem like common sense, but sometimes these common courtesies can be easy to rush past when you’re concerned about getting things taken care of correctly.

I was excited to be able to use this hack a couple of times while on vacation recently. Once was for my son (2nd pickiest eater only to me), and again later for myself. Luckily my son does not have to eat gluten free, but I’ve found it’s almost harder to get accommodations done for non-dietary conditions. The people I was working with at Disneyland were awesome. We were ordering lunch for everyone else and I had just about decided to dig out a protein bar for the kid when I noticed that the kids meal options included a turkey and cheese sandwich. While my kiddo would pass on the turkey he does like grilled cheese.  So I politely asked if they would be able to make a substitution and requested the grilled cheese. They checked with the chef and said they’d be able to do that for us. I thanked them for helping us out and they shared they were happy to do it.

At another quick service restaurant later the same trip I discovered they had gluten free hot dogs and buns- new information to me. However they did not have gluten free sides. When I asked if they could sell me the hot dogs separately from the meals they had listed they said they would have to charge me for the full meal price weather I took the sides or not. Even though this was not the answer I wanted to hear and I may have been little disgusted I still made sure to thank them. I thanked them for taking the time to talk to me and for letting me know that there was another option for me to be able to eat. I feel that it’s important to always be gracious- again the way we treat people who serve us will reflect not just on us but on everyone who comes after you with the same questions or dietary needs. You don’t want them to say in the kitchen-” we have another gluten free person trying to order something”. I’d rather they look on serving the group of us as a whole as a challenge and perhaps even fun.  I did have a chef say that on this trip- it was so awesome to work with him. For more of that story check out my “Disneyland snacks I recommend” page. 😊

*** Edited later to add:  We recently returned for a quick trip to Disneyland and we returned to the same Hot Dog quick service restaurant.  They now have gluten free sides-not fries, but its nice to get a little more with your meal when you are paying for it anyway.  I asked them when/why they had made the sides available and they shared that that the sides options had been requested by the people with dietary concerns.  It works!


GF life hack #2

This is a perfect follow up to GF life hack #1 and I am so thankful to have had a perfect opportunity to practice it today!

#2 When someone helping you figure out what to eat is able to help you go out of your way to show gratitude and appreciation.

This may sound like common sense- but it’s very serious! Tonight we were eating at the Storytellers Cafe located in the Grand Californian Hotel at the Disneyland Resort. One of the things I love, is that whether you make a reservation or you drop in- at any sit down restaurant they ask if anyone in your party has any food allergies. Tonight I said, “yes, Celiac..” and before I could add what I meant by that the hostess Melissa said,”ok so you are unable to have gluten- I’ve got that down.” Right from the start I was reminded how nice awareness was- and I told her so. She smiled and thanked me for taking the time to say so and a few minutes later she had us seated and passed off to Tiffany.

Tiffany came over noticed I’d been handed an allergy menu and immediately checked in with me. This already was so different then when we had eaten there a couple years ago- last time there was no menu. She talked over some of the finer points- I wished I had taken a picture to share with you- bummer! Anyway, she made sure I understood then gave us some time to look it over. She came back, to check in and offered to bring the chef out in case I wasn’t completely comfortable. — side note please take advantage of this if you aren’t! As I’ve mentioned before we have made this our vacation destination for the last few years and I’m actually starting to recognize some of the chefs and wait staff from previous visits. Please know that for the first few times to any restaurant but especially here, I talked to every chef that prepared my food. They are incredibly sweet and helpful people- talk to them!–And we’re back. I told Tiffany that I felt comfortable with the new menu- and then she proceeded to share what her favorite gluten free items were! Come to find out that even though she doesn’t have to eat gluten free she wanted to know what to recommend so she tried them- and she was right! My food was delicious- in fact I started eating before I got a picture- sorry! But here is what was left of my chicken quesadillas and gluten free bread(which is the base for their flatbread pizza Tiffany recommended that I try next time.) 

All of my food came with the little wooden stick stuck in saying “allergy” to make sure it was kept safe.

Once my family and I finished eating I made sure and stopped not only Tiffany- but I told her manager too. I made sure they knew what it meant to me to have people who knew what I needed and helped me get it. But that they also took the time with me and didn’t just try to shove me off to the side because I would be a more difficult customer. I guarantee if you take the time to show appreciation you will make an impression. And maybe it will help you later if you go back- but you will also help the next “difficult customer” with any type of allergy get the help they need.