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A trip to Manchester – small things…

I started a new job in October. It means I am much busier – less time for writing – and that I am travelling regularly for work.

Sorry if this post reads a little like an advert – I had a bit of an #overexcitedcoeliac moment…

I wanted to mention this trip because of the incredible service I got at Motel One in Manchester – travelling away always makes me a little nervous, especially since my reaction to gluten has become so much more sensitive and I really can’t afford to be besieged by brain-fog (or worse) while working away in an unfamiliar place.

Apparently I can remove this particular anxiety when travelling to Manchester! When I went down for breakfast after my night’s stay (the rooms are basic, but inexpensive, spotlessly clean and well designed) there was a note next to my name where I checked in for breakfast. After a couple of minutes, while I perused the continental breakfast, (meats and cheese, yoghurt, organic milk) they brought me a basket with two different types of bread (more than I could eat), as well as two bowls of gluten free cereal to choose from.

It was a small thing really, but made such an incredible difference to my day. There wasn’t even a hint of a rolled eye and the staff were really keen to help. So, there was only a communal toaster (you know the ones where there’s a moving platform and you have to keep your fingers crossed the toast doesn’t burn on its journey through?) so I had bread instead of toast, but I really didn’t mind.

The staff were friendly and attentive, the location was incredibly convenient right by Piccadilly station and I’ll definitely be back!

Grabbing a Quick Lunch

I was diverted from a full BreadBitch melt-down today by a toasted sandwich.

Those who are gluten free out of necessity and who are not super organised will probably recognise the scenario to some extent:

I have an hour for lunch. I had to run some errands, make a couple of phone calls. I ended up bumping into a friend in town which slowed things down and then I needed to grab something quick to eat on the way back to the office. BIG MISTAKE.

I have a couple of safe places that I visit, which are within a few minutes of work – it’s a bit of a running joke that I’m addicted to felafel, but it’s tasty, it’s quick and it doesn’t leave me swollen like a balloon and aching for 3 days. But – I live in Brighton – known for being health conscious, a little alternative. It is, according to a friend, the easiest place to be gluten free in the country.

But I wasn’t near the ‘alternative’ bit of town – I was slap bang in the centre and in a rush. Sainsbury’s didn’t haven even their usual sad selection of 2 varieties of gluten free sandwich. All the lunch options in Boots had either pastry, bread or pasta (yes, even the salads). EAT, seemed like a slightly more expensive safe bet, but all they had were side salads, which were not going to fill me up.

When I mention ‘BreadBitch melt down’ what I really mean is that I wanted to cry in the middle of the shop. I wanted to sit on the floor and kick things and shout at the manager for not making it easier for me to just ‘grab a quick lunch’. It actually meant that I held back the tears, ground my teeth slightly and considered the fact that salted popcorn might be the easiest ‘savoury’ option available to me. It made me appreciate the word-smush ‘hangry.’

On my march/sulky walk back to the office, I decided to pop my head into a coffee shop that I’d never been into before (oh yes, I’d also called in at Starbucks, who were all out of their gluten-free wraps) – NY Coffee Club, famous for being owned by Peter Andre. I did not have high hopes, but was wrong. I could have kissed the server when she said ‘oh yes – we ALWAYS have gluten free toasties at least. If you don’t like what’s on offer, I can make you up something else.’

She even wrapped the sandwich in paper to prevent the risk of cross contamination in the toaster and thoroughly washed the knife before cutting the sandwich in half.

So, I didn’t have a tantrum in public, or cry, or go hungry. And although I will probably stick to making my own lunch or having felafel for the 800th time, at least there is another safe option in town.

Udi’s Gluten Free – Review

I was delighted to be contacted by Udi’s a few weeks back, offering to send me some of their products to try and review.  I’d already treated myself to some of their bagels a few months earlier and been very impressed, so was keen to have a try of some of their other products.

The bootie was delivered to work and the first thing to be tried was the “Chocolate Flavour Sandwich Cookies” which were shared out between my colleges (none of whom are gluten free themselves) – these look & I’m assured taste, very much like Oreos. Perhaps a hint at the American origins of Udi’s products.  If I’ve ever eaten an Oreo, I don’t remember it, but these were delicious. My colleague Paul even suggested they’re better than the originals that they’re clearly in honour of, as they’re slightly less sweet.

 

GF Oreos

I will certainly be trying these again – not least as I saw an amazing chocolate cake recipe recently which used Oreos as the base. I’m also told that twisting the top off of one of these biscuits and adding peanut butter is a treat not to miss…I’ll report back on this!!

Next up to be tried was the Chocolate Chip and Toffee Flavoured Muffins – I was a bit disappointed to start with that my muffin didn’t have any toffee in it and then realised that the pack of two has one chocolate chip muffin and one with toffee – they were both delicious, very moist and not at all crumbly (which is what tends to happen when I’ve made my own muffins recently!) – my non-bf boyfriend was also really impressed with these, when I gave in and let him have a try.

I took the Chocolate Chip Bagels to a friend’s house when I stayed over, as I’m never sure how easy it will be to have a gluten free breakfast when staying away. I’d previously had the Cinnamon and Raisin bagels and these were just as good – very chocolatey and again, no different from the bagels I had before going gluten free (assuming my memory stretches back that far!). We had them toasted with cream-cheese – really indulgent!

The Ancient Grain Crisps did not go down so well. They tasted rather over processed to me. But from a secure fan of Ready Salted crisps, perhaps this is not that surprising. I don’t really understand why you would really want to make a special kind of gluten free crisps when most (is that pushing it?) crisps are gluten free anyway. Not something I would buy, but if you love highly flavoured crisps, these might be for you.

The Chocolate Banana Cereal Bars were a surprise, as I don’t like bananas, but these were a great pre-gym snack first thing in the morning (when most people would probably just have…well…a banana!) Really chewy and not too sweet – the kind of thing it’s good to have in your bag for an emergency if you find yourself stuck at a railway station. They do taste of banana, but the chocolate took the edge off for me & I’ll probably get these again.

The Breakfast Bars are another homage – this time to Kellogs Nutrigrain bars – (although I guess this may not be as intentional as the ‘oreos’ mentioned above). I took these along camping and they ended up getting passed around when we couldn’t be bothered to make a proper breakfast. They’re great if you’re looking for a replacement for an old favourite – but I didn’t find them particularly full of flavour.

Overall I was pretty happy with my Udi’s haul – a bundle of sweet treats. I would imagine that their arrival in the UK from the USA will be a blessed relief to a lot of people who have been diagnosed with Celiac or other gluten intolerance who do not want to give up their previous eating habits. With a lot of gluten free alternatives to popular foods.

For me, these will only ever be occasional treats. It made me realise how ‘clean’ I eat these days – I was bamboozled by the list of ingredients for some of these products, although they are no worse than a lot of other food you’ll buy on the supermarket shelves. My favourite items (perhaps predictably given the above statement) were the ‘Simple’ Granolas, with an ingredients list of just three items. I was expecting them to be rather sweet like the other products, but they weren’t at all and were perfect mixed in with yogurt & fruit in the morning – a really great way to get some extra fibre – something I find hard at times.

I recommend you look Udi’s up when you’re craving a sweet treat – it’s great to be able to chow down on some goodies without any fear of a glutening – it’s always the naughty treats that catch me out. They are good quality and will appeal to non-gluten free eaters too!

 

Roast Dinner – a simple pleasure

My Mum makes the most incredible Roast Dinners. I think it is probably why it took me so long to really try and do it myself. I think I was afraid of serving up soggy roast potatoes and over cooked carrots while I tried to get my timings right.

In the past couple of years, I’ve overcome my fear and now am very happy to serve up a roast dinner – if only for me and my boyfriend so far!

Chicken goes in first (thank goodness the timing is always on the packet – Thank you Sainsbury’s!) – usually 85-90 minutes. I tend to rub a small amount of olive oil on the skin and add some salt and pepper.

Potatoes next – I’ve started using new-potatoes…you don’t get the same crunchy coating, but you don’t need to par-boil them & they take just under an hour. Heat a couple of table spoons of olive oil ready to coat them (just stick the pan in the oven) and put them in when there’s about 50minutes left on the timer for the chicken.

Prepare the veg (today carrots, leek and kale) once the chicken and potatoes are in the oven, I put them in the steamer and leave them to one side. Baste the chicken roughly every half an hour and shake the potatoes at the same time.

Once the chicken is done – leave it out to rest while the potatoes finish cooking. Put on the veg to steam for about 5 minutes.

Done! If the potatoes are done more quickly – I stick them under the grill to stay warm.

Since the standard Bisto gravy granules have been out since going gluten free, I usually have just mixed half a teaspoon of bullion in with the juices from the chicken and some of the water from the vegetables. In reality, this hasn’t been great, but it sort of looked right and I was never a massive fan of gravy anyway.

We tried the Illumi Chicken Gravy, but it tasted too much like chicken soup to me – was better when it was watered down a bit, but not to my taste (unlike most of the other Illumi world food – I really recommend you take a look at their meals!)

Today, I brought the Kallo Organic Chicken Gravy Granules – it was a pound for a sachet, and the instructions said to use the whole lot with half a pint of water. I used half the packet, mixed with the vegetable water and some of the fat from the chicken and it was great. Would be better if they were available in a tub, as a pound a packet is a bit steep, but it was nice to have some proper gravy!

Gluten Symptoms & Getting Tested

Something that amazes me about Coeliac disease is the number and variety of symptoms.

I was first tested because I was anaemic and I had a vitamin D deficiency. As I mentioned in my first post – I didn’t go through with the full test, as eating a high wheat diet made me so ill so quickly. It could be that I have a Gluten Intolerance as opposed to full blown Coeliac disease, but at this point in my life (and on the advice of my doctor) I’m not prepared to go through the pain to find out one way or the other. I did have a blood test, which showed a negative result. When I looked closely at my diet (other than the enforced 6 day binge) I hadn’t been eating much gluten at all for months (because it made me feel bloated and ‘brain-foggy’) so the doctor wasn’t surprised by the negative result, and I’ve since learned that a false negative result isn’t uncommon.

If you are suffering from a variety of these symptoms (see picture below), go and talk to your doctor about it – if you’re eating gluten, don’t stop until after you’ve been tested, as your sensitivity gets more pronounced when you stop eating it, so you won’t want to go back!

Personally, the benefits I feel of going gluten free FAR outweigh any inconvenience. I went from being permanently ill with cold after cold, various allergies, issues with my joints, gynaecological issues, to being overwhelmingly fit and well in the year since I quit gluten. It hasn’t made me super-woman, but it has put a spring in my step!

Gluten Dude surveyed 130 of his readers and this picture shows the most commonly reported symptoms. Of course, a lot of these things can come from other things too, but I know there are a few things here that ring true to me after having been ‘glutened’.

Courtesy of @glutendude

Courtesy of @glutendude

Bread Bitch

Everything I’ve tried to write for this blog so far, I’ve read back and rejected, so this time I’m just going to write something, hope it’s not too awful and just post it, in the hope that someone other than my Mum, boyfriend and a few supportive friends might read it. Thanks for sticking with me so far!

I was ‘diagnosed’ with Coeliac disease in January 2013 – the inverted commas are there because I never went through with the full test. To be tested (which most of you reading this will already know) you have to spend 6 weeks eating a high gluten diet. I lasted about 6 days and pretty much had a full scale meltdown.  Not only were there the physical symptoms of bloating, upset stomach and headaches, but it also caused my anxiety levels to peak and periods of IRRATIONAL ANGER!

If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed that my header description (is that what it’s called?) bares an uncanny resemblance to that of Bruce Banner – The Hulk. Basically, that is how Gluten makes me feel – I swell up and I get really pissed of – really quickly, often followed by nasty feelings of depression and anxiety – not nice! Was interested to read recently that I’m not alone in this – take a look at Jane Anderson’s blog – I’m not sure how wide this study was, but it’s nice to know someone is looking into it!

Having been living on a gluten free diet for around 15months now, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not all that bad. It doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t need to be expensive. It does mean a bit of extra self-control and it does mean planning ahead if you’re going on a long train journey, but it is manageable.

Oh yes, and friends and loved ones will think you’re the biggest fuss-pot on the planet, that you’re making it up, that it isn’t that bad. But they learn. They don’t like me when I’m angry.