Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gluten Free Grill April 2008 -- Melanie of The Gluti Girls

Welcome to April’s smokin' hot edition of:

April 2008

Melanie, of The Gluti Girls

Ginger Lemon Girl: Melanie, why did you begin a gluten free diet?

Melanie: I started a gluten free diet because my doctor suspected celiac disease. I have suffered from digestive troubles for as long as I can remember. I went in for a check up with a new doctor and she did a blood test on me for celiac, which came out positive. To make a very long story short, I did have a biopsy done, but the answers were not clear. I had a positive response to the diet along with the positive blood test, so my regular doctor thinks celiac disease is what I have, but I do not have a positive biopsy.

Why did you start blogging about being gluten free?

When I found out about celiac disease and the reality set in about how my life would change, I was really overwhelmed. I was so happy to finally know what was wrong with me, but how would I do this? Then I found the blogs. These people were not only living gluten free, but enjoying it. It gave me hope and confidence. I knew I had to do the same. I feel like it's my way of giving back.

Melanie and the other Gluti Girl, daughter Kati!

I will never forget your very first post! How much coffee do you really drink a day? Do you really drink it black? (I happen to like a little coffee with my sugar and cream!)

I love, love, coffee! How much do I drink a day? Well, not as much as I used to. When I was young, I could drink it all day long. Now that I am older, and have a stupid arrhythmia, I keep it to two to four cups a day. The only time I put anything in coffee is if I go to Starbucks. Otherwise, it's always black or straight up as I like to say. Coffee is like a fine wine don't you know! My children share this same coffee passion with me. I think it's a genetic condition. My husband Steve did not know anything about coffee when I married him. I had to teach him the finer points of coffee consumption. Making coffee is one of the things he is allowed to do in the kitchen.

Is your husband really not allowed ANYWHERE near the stove? What is his best grilled meal?

True! And if he is at the stove, I usually rush in the kitchen and with panic in my voice say, "what are you doing!!!!?" He does make the coffee. After several years of being on ice tea probation, he is allowed to make ice tea again. As long as he continues to follow the rules! One time about 18 years ago, I walked in the kitchen to find him there with every container I owned out all over the countertops. Both sides of the sink were filled to the top with water, almost ready to over flow. I think there might have been water on the floor here and there too. My brain was freaking out with all the water in the sink about to overflow and sooooooo many containers. I calmly tried to ask him what he was doing and he said, "making ice tea." That was when he was banned. I couldn't figure out what all the water in the sink had to do with ice tea. He is a mystery. This happened not too long after the burned chicken incident where he made a truly blackened chicken, blackened my pan and threw the chicken out into the bushes. Why the bushes? Truly a mystery.
He makes really good steaks on the grill though. Probably better than I do! Don't tell him that though.

What have you learned since making that first gluten free Cherrybrook cake?

Not to make Cherrybrook cake! I'm just kidding! It really wasn't bad. It was pretty good. I was just so afraid to try making anything home made as far as baking for so long! Before all this gluten free, I was known for my baking. I was afraid of being a bad baker! I have learned to not be afraid to try new flours and recipes. And, that making a flop is not a big deal. Every time you try something new, you learn something!

Give us a basic idea of what is stocked in your gluten free cupboard.

I try to always have a Breads from Anna bread mix. My favorite bread is Natalie's, but I keep the Anna mix for when I don't have time to measure stuff and I'm in a hurry. I usually have Trader Joe's brown rice pasta. My new favorite thing is Corn Thins. I buy them on Amazon. I use them like crackers with cheese or hummus. I even make peanut butter sandwiches with them. I also have a stash of Enjoy Life Cocoa Loco bars for Kati. I am never without Gluten Free Pantry brownie mix!

Do you buy most of your gluten free supplies at local grocery stores or online?

I buy quite a bit online. Amazon is my favorite. I always shop there first and then fill in with local stuff.

I know you are a big pet lover… can you share a special story about one of your pets?

I have so many dog stories! Trinity is our smallest rat terrier. She is the one I have the crazy picture of on my blog. I have an unhealthy attachment to her. I call her my menopause baby. I got her just at "that age". My children were growing and I needed to baby something. She's about nine pounds, that's baby size! I got so attached to her that I told my husband I would not travel without her. So she travels with us sometimes. As you know, my husband has a band and she started going with us to some of the out of town gigs. She's been in all kinds of airports. She even has her own little band uniform. If she is with the band, she gets more attention than they do. The band used to play at the Wisconsin State Fair. For some reason, the fair did not want us driving ourselves to the fair grounds. Most fairs we go to will just get some big old passenger vans with drivers to get us to the fairgrounds. There are about 14 of us and large instruments. The place they hired to drive us was out of vans, so they picked us up in limos. To make it crazier, they insisted upon driving us through the fairgrounds in these stretch limos to our break rooms where we would keep our stuff. Of course this got all kinds of attention. People thought there had to be some big stars in these limos. When the limos had us to our destination and stopped, people were gathering around the limos just waiting to see who would get out. We are all inside just cracking up because we know it's just us. I had the dog with me. She had on a very cute dress, by the way. My husband grabs the dog from me, gets out of the limo. Everyone outside of it is just holding their breath waiting to see who was inside and out steps my husband, he holds Triniti up in the air and says, "it's just the dog, just the dog!" You could hear a collective, moan of disappointment. Of course we all howled with laughter!

The Gluti Girl's mascot, Triniti, dressed in band apparel!

How has being gluten free impacted your relationship with your gluten free teenage daughter?

I think we were pretty close before going gluten free, but it's probably made us even closer. She calls me a lot when she is out to see what she can eat at different places. I love it when I figure out how to make a previously favorite food at home for her. Her whole face lights up!

What are 3 of your favorite recipes you have posted on your site? Why do you like them?

Salmon Salad because it easy and very filling. I like Fish with Parmesan Caesar glaze. Again, it's easy. Every time I make my husband can't stop talking about it. And my last choice would be my slaw with oranges and walnuts. I love the fresh flavor of it and it's so darn healthy and easy!

Has Mia done the pizza dance anytime recently?

Tonight actually! She is the sweetest dog. She had a rough beginning in life after having spent the first 5 months of life in a puppy mill. We rescued her ourselves out of that puppy mill along with 5 other dogs who went to foster homes. We fell in love with her and had to keep her. Because of her beginning in life, she is very timid unless you have food! Since she was starving and underweight when we rescued her, she has an obsession with food. When ever she needs something, she dances. We also call it waving. She does this a lot at dinner time. We eat. She waves. When she waves, she makes the softest little clicking noise because the nails on her paws come together. She is very timid about asking for anything. She would never bark or whine. But she will dance or wave if she needs anything. The dogs all sleep with us at night. One night, Steve went in to bed just before I did and I thought he took all the dogs in with him. We have a gate across our door to keep them in our room at night. I went in to bed thinking they were all in our room. Mia will usually wait under the bed until I get in bed because she is afraid of my husband or anyone who is male. I thought she was under the bed. I got into bed and started to fall asleep. I thought it was weird she wasn't coming out from under and getting in bed with me. As I was drifting off, I kept thinking I heard a weird noise. Click, click, click. Then I would start to drift of again....and the faintest click, click, click. This went on for probably a half an hour. I kept drifting off and waking up thinking I heard something. Finally, I thought to myself....that sounds like Mia waving. But I couldn't figure out why she would be in the dark waving. Then it dawned on me. I sat up in bed and out in the hallway I could just barely make out Mia....waving her little heart out! She was on the other side of the gate and couldn't get in! You would think she would have whined or barked or something! No. She was just patiently waving. Hoping someone would see her. She is so precious.

You have some of the best food photography I have ever seen on a blog… care to share some of your secret tips and tricks?

Thank you Carrie. Honestly, dumb luck. Nothing special. My brother is a professional, and I'd like to think he rubbed off on me. But the honest truth is I don't really know much about photography. I use an automatic digital camera that does everything for me. I almost never touch up or change any of the photos because I just don't know much about that either! I take lot's of shots at different angles, load them on my computer and pick the one that looks the best. I do try to get lots of close ups and I almost never use a flash.

What is a cooking spice that you couldn’t live without?

I could not live without garlic, cilantro, parsley and rosemary. I love fresh herbs.

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

It's really hard to pick a favorite! I have an old antique cupboard filled with cookbooks. I also love to ready cooking magazines. My favorite cookbook are "The Bon Appetit Cookbook" and the "Southbeach Cookbooks". So many of the recipes in the Southbeach ones are already gluten free.

ON being gluten free: What was the biggest challenge you faced? How did you overcome it? What was easiest?

I think the biggest challenge is going out to eat. I think it will be an ongoing challenge. My husband and I just got to the age where we had the freedom to be able to go out a lot, and friends tend to ask us a lot. I don't do so well eating out. I hear of people who are gluten free that go months without eating out. That is impossible for me. I average eating out at least once a week. I want to be social with my friends. But I do think I suffer sometimes because of it. There is just too much cross contamination. I also think that so many restaurants use preservatives in their food. At home, I eat really pure foods without that and I think I am also sensitive to the additives the restaurants use. I think the easiest was learning to cook at home. I love to cook though, so having to make everything from scratch was not too different from what I was already doing. I never did like canned soup or convenience food anyway!

What is your favorite quick meal?

My favorite quick meal would be something I could grill, like salmon, along with a baked potato and grilled vegetables. I love to grill vegetables! I like simple, really fresh food.

Gluti Girl Husband Steve's Band, complete with Triniti!

What is it like being married to a musician? Do you have to travel a lot?

Crazy. Musicians are crazy. I can say it has never been dull or ordinary. The group has on average 3 to 4 out of town gigs every year. I go on at least one of the trips. It's hard finding someone to watch all the dogs. They have been as far away as China and France, and many States here in the US.

What would you consider your cooking style to be?

Simple. I don't like complicated recipes. I don't really like to use recipes! I like simple things that you can guess at or change along the way.

What is your favorite restaurant? Has this changed since being gluten free?

I had two places I loved to eat sushi. I still feel very sad when I think of sushi. My favorite was anything tempura. I have tried several times getting it, but there is so much cross contamination. Last time the owner made mine. He had a clean area and made it away for the others. I got sick anyway. As I thought about it later, Steve had ordered a shrimp tempura roll (and had the nerve to eat it in front of me!) but the guy who was making Steve's and the owner making mine, were getting the vegetables and everything from the same place. You know the guy making Steve's had to have crumbs stuck all over his gloves because there were crumbs all over from the tempura. That's how cross contamination happens. It's just so disappointing.
My new favorite places are Stir Crazy and Bonefish. At Stircrazy I can create my own stir-fry and watch them cook it in front of me. They have gluten free sauces and always clean their woks well. I feel fairly safe there. I love our local Bonefish not only because they have a really nice gluten free menu, but our local manager is a stickler when it comes to training his staff for people with food intolerance's.

Does your daughter cook often? I still love her gnome bowl!

I think if she was home more she would! Teenagers! She is pretty good about cooking eggs for breakfast and making things like tuna salad. She is always on the run. And, that was my gnome bowl! She tries to claim it for herself!
She did make dinner for us tonight. I worked in the yard all day so she decided to make chicken salad, miso soup, edemame and watermelon. It was very good!

What is your favorite thing about blogging? What technical things have you learned since becoming a blogger?

My favorite thing about blogging is meeting other bloggers. There are so many wonder people out there blogging! I have learned so much from others. Oh geeze, technical things? I am so bad about technical things!

What is your favorite gluten free convenience food?

I used to keep Trader Joe's frozen brown rice, but since I got a rice cooker I make my own and freeze it. But pretty much anything on Trader Joe's list of gluten free food.

What is your favorite kind of international cuisine? Do you have a favorite recipe for that cuisine?

Well, I love Japanese, Chinese and Greek. But, I really don't cook any of those very often at home. I have made sushi, but it's a lot of work. I love Greek salad and make that quite often in the summer and winter months.

Melanie's Greek Salad:

  • Tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • Sliced onions
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Olive oil
  • Feta cheese
  • parsley
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
Add vegetables in fairly equal amounts in a bowl. Crumble a good amount of feta cheese into the bowl (we like a lot!). Throw in about a tablespoon of fresh parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and add a squeeze of lemon. Mix well. See, simple. No measuring!

Are you a member of a local celiac support group?

What do you enjoy most about being part of that group?
I am not a member of a local group except through email. We have a local group here, but every time they have had a meeting I have had something else going on. Sometime I would like to go.

Melanie and the other Gluti Girl, her daughter Kati!

What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance?

My advice to someone new would be to cry first. You do mourn the loss of food and freedom you had before. And like other losses I think it's normal to be sad about it. But then, get over it. Read all you can and educate yourself so you know what you can have and cannot have. Get in touch with others who are in the same boat, whether it is in person or over the internet. Then take the bull by the horns and move on with life. Don't be afraid to make mistakes in the kitchen and most importantly don't let them upset you by giving up. Take it as a challenge. An adventure! Also, you will not find a bread that tastes like gluten bread. Get over that too. Don't compare gluten free to that which has gluten. Learn to compare gluten free to gluten free. Then you will start to appreciate it when you find something really good and find you really like it. You might even find something better than gluten bread! You must have a sense of humor. It's like the time I made the jello bottom pizza. You know I had to laugh about that. I still crack up when I think of my son's girlfriend trying to get the piece of pizza chewed and told me it wasn't so bad! I am still on the quest for a pizza crust I like. Now when I try a new recipe, we all compare it to the jello bottom. It's become a running joke. Embrace your mistakes. You will learn from them. You might even laugh about them for a couple years!


Please give a big hand to Melanie of the Gluti Girls for being our Grill Victim this month! Melanie, thank you so much for your thoughtful responses, a fantastic interview, and your willingness to participate!! We love you and your blog!

For more information on the Monthly Gluten Free Grill, click here.

Make sure to visit again on Friday for a great dinner recipe and for the announcement of the winner of Monday's "Essential Gluten Free Restaurant Guide" Giveaway! If you have not entered for the giveaway and you would like to, you have until Thursday April 24th at midnight to enter! For details, click here.

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  1. Carrie,
    This was such a "fun" interview. I'd never seen Melanie's site before so I'll trek on over. So many little time! Isn't that the way it goes? I haven't visited your blog in awhile. You've been busy cooking and creating! Enjoy the's finally spring here, although I can still find piles of snow without looking around too hard.

  2. That was such a great interview! I love learning more about my favorite gluten free bloggers.

    Gluten Free Grill: what a great idea, Carrie!

  3. P.S. I got such a kick out of the iced tea story. Too funny.

  4. Thanks Carrie, I had so much fun!

  5. What a great interview! You are a food journalist!

  6. What a great inteview. I love Melanie, she always has wonderful stories and recipes.

    I can't wait to see who you interview next month.

  7. Carrie - You did a wonderful interview with Melanie and her site. Thanks for the a fabulous introduction to her.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  8. Namaste makes a wonderful pizza crust. It's the best thin and crispy I've tried - and I've tried them all. I added one egg and a pack of yeast the last time trying for a deep dish. It wasn't quit the same but really crisp and delicious. I serve this to gluten eaters and they love it too.