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Gluten? Whatever it is, it must be awful tasty, because when you take it out, you find yourself thinking "Where's the taste?" And texture? Fuggedaboutit. I've been eating a gluten-free diet for two and a half years. I'm a lousy cook to begin with- I have literally burned a pot of water, set both the oven and the stove on fire (not on the same day)- I've even ruined jello instant pudding. My disaster-in-the-kitchen track record is bad enough without the restriction of "no wheat"- and not just "no wheat," but nothing allowed with any trace of wheat. Now we've got a "recipe" for a long string of unappetizing meals. I'm always on the lookout for anything that makes GF (gluten-free) cooking easier and most of all, tastier. My first attempt at eating a gluten-free diet was in 1994. The diet was suggested to me by a healer because of my several autoimmune conditions, the scariest of which being lupus (SLE). The lupus was attacking my vital organs, including my kidneys and lungs. The drugs were nasty and I was willing to do anything that might help me get off of them. In 1994, there were not many choices for gluten-free snacks, bread, dough, etc. It was rice cakes, rice cakes, and - oh look, more rice cakes. I've since learned that rice cakes, while gluten free, are cooked at such a high temperature that they contain toxins. Great. Now I can't even have rice cakes. Man cannot live on bread alone. But woman cannot live without bread. Perhaps that's why I eventually fell off the gluten-free bandwagon. My health was stable, and I was tired of not being able to eat pizza, pasta, sandwiches, pretzels, cookies (there were gluten-free cookies on the market, but it was all I could do not to break my teeth on them). Fast forward to 2008, when I decided again to go gluten-free after another lupus crisis (more drugs, more side effects, and more resolve to get back off the drugs). For a year, all I ate for dinner every night was 2 heads of romaine lettuce with Caesar dressing. Once in a while, I'd get really creative and have one head of lettuce for dinner- and the other for lunch. Finally, I got tired of that and started shopping for something else to eat. Was I relieved to find out things had changed. There are a *lot* more GF choices out there now, and some of them actually taste *good*. - Bob's Red Mill homemade wonderful gluten free bread mix (that's not an editorial; that's the name of it).(Bob's RM also makes a GF pizza dough. It's really good if you have the time to make it)Bob's red mill can be bought on the health food aisle or ordered online. -don't feel like making your own bread? me neither. Udi's makes GF bread that tastes and chews like bread. Freezer section, health food aisle. - Amy's has a bunch of GF frozen entrees, including Palak Paneer, Mexican casserole, Rice crust pizza, Amy's vegetable bowls, and even GF Mac 'n' Cheese (She also makes regular mac n cheese, so you gotta read the box!). - Pacific Foods makes a *fantastic* carrot cashew ginger soup. Just heat and serve. YUM! - There are other frozen entrees popping up that are labeled gluten free- look in the health food aisle of your grocery store, if there is one. These items are all completely gluten free- and aside from the pizza dough, require no culinary skills whatsoever. Just my speed. I've learned if you're *really* going to go gluten-free, you have to read labels. You've got to look for any trace of wheat (regular soy sauce has *&^% wheat in it! So I buy Bragg's Amino Acids- soy sauce, no wheat. Things with barley and oats are usually not gluten-free except for certified GF oats). It can be really tough to eat out. Here is a tool that will help you: Triumph dining cards. It is a collection of ethnicity-specific cards with various kinds of foods (Indian, Mexican, Italian, etc) telling you what to avoid in each place. Is it worth it? For me, yes. I would suggest anyone with an autoimmune disease give it a try for a month. You can try tracking your symptoms and see if they improve. I kind of like not having migraines or joint pain, and fatigue only when I've earned it. It's not going to harm you, so you have nothing to lose but annoying symptoms. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Carla Ulbrich, The Singing Patient, is a comedic performing songwriter and the author of "How Can You *Not* Laugh at a Time Like This?"

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