Weekend Inspiration: Melissa Bess Reed, CMA, Gluten Free

I *met* Melissa in 2014 on Twitter shortly after finding out that I had the genetic marker for Celiac Disease.  Melissa, diagnosed with Celiac in 1998, was my first role model for this new path and a new way to eat.  Her book, Gluten Free Lifestyle Series: Silly Yaks Favorite Recipes, helped me, and my family, eat healthier and in a manner that would not make me sick.

For the first post of this new weekly feature of closing out the week with an inspirational story, I just knew this inaugural article needed to feature Melissa.  She took me under her proverbial wing and shared tips and tricks on how to stop yourself from eating the wrong things.  Being armed with foods you can eat safely is the key.  Cooking at home, or from trusted sources, is a must.

At that moment in time, my main meals were the issue.  What could I eat that did not contain wheat, or any of its by-products?!?  And my prowess as a resourceful baker?  Out the window!  Who could make a light fluffy cake with a tender crumb and a buttery taste when I couldn’t use whole wheat flour?  Or, the lighter refined cake flour?

Enter Silly Yaks Favorite Recipes.  The first thing I made was the Chili Relleno Bake.  I really enjoyed them!  It was a new taste for me.  I was never a fan of chilies and cheese but this was yummy!  Next, I made Grammies Easy Jambalaya.  The whole family enjoyed this dish!! (Read about it here.)

I even live-tweeted while I was making the Jambalaya.  It was a lot of fun!  Taking pictures as I was putting it all together.  Asking questions as I went along and getting great feedback and advice during the process.  And Melissa?  She was there for the whole thing.  She supported my growth and budding enthusiasm.  She shared her knowledge without hesitation.


I even shared my blood test results with her and Melissa felt the results pointed more to an autoimmune issue rather than an allergy/intolerance/sensitivity to gluten.  That was in 2014.  Fast forward to 2017.  I was diagnosed with an autoimmune blistering disease.

Melissa was spot in.  She tirelessly studies and keeps abreast of new findings in regards to autoimmune conditions and how what we eat can help help our bodies.  As I mentioned earlier, Melissa was diagnosed in 1998 with Celiac Disease and then in 2012, she was diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis.  Both of these autoimmune conditions medically require a gluten free diet.  Melissa did not want to be a victim so she taught herself so she could share her knowledge with others to help them ease their way into this new eating lifestyle.

Silly Yaks Favorite Recipes

So, if you have any gluten issues, I would strongly suggest you check out Melissa’s cookbook and her blog.  She posts about new gluten free recipes, great food pairings, and sustainable living.

By having Melissa as a part of my life, I was able to grow past some pretty daunting food challenges and come out on the other side with a satisfied tummy that did not rumble in distress hours later.

From the East Coast to the sunny West Coast, I say a heartfelt, Thank you!, to my inspiration — Melissa Bess Reed.

Check out Melissa’s blog here.

Find Melissa on Twitter: @MelissaBessReed



Gaining Gluten Free Baking Confidence

In the last several weeks, I’ve just bullied through my fear and baked muffins for breakfast.  Whether they were good (read: edible), or not, was irrelevant.

In my gluten-free journey, I have been too concerned about having the ‘perfect’ baked goods that exactly compare to gluten-based baked goods.  That is a complete fantasy of mine.  From what I’ve tasted, thus far, from GF bakeries and other home bakers of GF products, you can get close but the exact taste and texture of gluten-based baked goods is not something gluten free products can mimic perfectly.  So, I’ve stopped trying and am getting better results! (Weird, right?!)

Getting back to the matter at hand, I made GF muffins 4 days in a row using slightly different recipes each day adjusting to make it better and more palatable for the majority in my family.

The consensus on the best BASIC Gluten Free Muffins is this one:

Blackberry and Strawberry GF Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour

1/4 cup Coconut Flour

1 tsp Xanthan Gum

2 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

3/4 cup Vegetable Oil  OR 1/2 cup Earth Balance Margarine (softened)

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 cup Half-n-Half (or, your favorite milk alternative)

1 cup of your favorite seasonal fruit, berries, &/or nuts

Preheat oven 425 degrees.  Prepare muffin pan and line with cupcake liners.  Or, spray the muffin pans with gluten free cooking spray.  (Or, use a bit of Earth Balance on a paper towel to grease your muffin pans.)

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl and stir until well blended.

In the bowl of your mixer, add the margarine (or oil).  If using margarine, add sugar and mix until light and fluffy.  Then add, eggs one at a time.  After each egg, mix well until fully incorporated into the sugar margarine batter.

Add half the flour (dry ingredients) mixture to the mixing bowl.  Mix until just combined.  Add 1/2 the milk to the mixing bowl.  Mix until just combined.  Add the rest of the flour mixture.  Mix.  Then the rest of the milk.  Add the two extracts last mixing until just combined.

Now, add your favorite berries and/or fruit to the mixture. (I used blackberries and strawberries!)  If the fruit are large, cut into smaller pieces.  If you are adding nuts, add them now, as well.

Fill your prepared muffin cups to the top.  This mixture rises well.

You can sprinkle the top of your muffins with brown sugar, if you’d like.

Place muffin pans in the oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes (watch carefully!).  [Please note: Gluten Free baked products do not brown as well as gluten-based muffins.]

You can use a piece of gluten free uncooked spaghetti to check for doneness.  If the GF spaghetti comes out clean, the muffins are ready.

Let cool for 5 – 10 minutes then enjoy!


My Gluten-Free Journey: Finally an answer…

For those who have been following my journey navigating a gluten-free diet, I finally have an answer for you, and for me.  I do not have Celiac Disease, even though I have half of the Celiac gene (found out through a simple blood test).  What is my diagnosis?

GF_Road Sign

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

What a mouthful.

I actually found out more about this condition from the Beyond Celiac website rather than the Celiac Disease Foundation website.

I will not bore you with all of the details but here is the crux of it.  Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is an issue with digesting the carbohydrates (the sugars) that are found in certain foods.  And yep, you guessed it.  Some of these sugars are found in wheat, barley and rye — gluten containing foods.

When you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you are to look not at your intake of gluten — since that is not your real issue — you are to look at your intake of FODMAPs.  (Yeeaaah.)

What the heck is a FODMAP?  Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols

What that heck is that?!  I’ll make it easy on you, I’ll give you what the really smart people at Stanford Hospital and Clinics Digestive Health Center and Nutrition Services say they are:

“The FODMAPs in the diet are:

  • Fructose (fruits, honey, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), etc.)
  • Lactose (dairy)
  • Fructans (wheat, garlic, onion, inulin, etc.)
  • Galactans (legumes such as beans, lentils, soybeans, etc.)
  • Polyols (sweeteners containing isomalt, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, stone fruits such as avocado, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, etc.)

FODMAPs are osmotic (means they pull water into the intestinal tract), may not be digested or absorbed well and could be fermented upon by bacteria in the intestinal tract when eaten in excess.

Symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating &/or cramping may occur in those who could be sensitive to the effects of FODMAPs.  A low FODMAP diet may help reduce symptoms, which will limit foods high in fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols.”

(You can read the full report and see the chart of low and high FODMAP foods by clicking here.)

Technically, someone who has non-celiac gluten sensitivity can eat gluten as long as whatever else they eat with the gluten is a low FODMAP food — they should experience no symptoms.  However, as with everything, one must test oneself to see what your own personal food triggers are.

Some low FODMAP foods are:

Proteins: beef, chicken, deli slices, eggs, fish, lamb, pork, shellfish, turkey

Dairy: lactose free diary (any), low lactose dairy: cream cheese, half-and-half, hard cheeses (cheddar, colby, parmesan, swiss, etc.), soft cheeses (brie, feta, mozzarella, etc.), sherbet, yogurt (greek), whipped cream [Not in the can, or the tub! Whip it yourself from real whipping cream!]

Fruits and Vegetables: bananas, blueberries, carrots, kale, kiwi, honeydew, quinoa, pineapple, strawberries, tangerine, rhubarb, passionfruit, cabbage, spinach, turnips, pumpkin, parsnips, etc.

Some high FODMAP foods are:

high lactose dairy: buttermilk, chocolate, creamy/cheesy sauces, custard, ice cream, milk (cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s condensed, evaporated), soft cheeses (cottage, ricotta, etc.), sour cream

Fruits and Vegetables: apples, apricots, dried fruits, pears, plums, watermelon, papaya, canned fruit, artichokes, cauliflower, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, boysenberries, etc.

So, in a very real way, having non-celiac gluten sensitivity is worse than haing Celiac Disease because with CD all you have to do is stay away from gluten.  With Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), you have to stay away from a broad range of foods that are inherently all gluten free!!  (Arrgh.)

Lastly, how do you know if you have NCGS?  You HAVE to go through the process of being tested for Celiac Disease — DO NOT STOP EATING GLUTEN until you get tested!  Shall I repeat that? 🙂

Removing gluten from your diet hampers a diagnosis because the doctors need to see what your gut (your intestines) look like while on major gluten — and not for a short period of time.  So, find yourself a good GI doctor and get tested before changing your diet around.

So, back to the beginning.  What are the symptoms of Celiac?  Check it out here.

To see all of my posts about my gluten-free journey, click here.

Have questions?  Wanna talk about it?  Post your comments, your journey, &/or your questions in the comment section below.




Gluten Free Ramblings on the Way to a ‘Cure’

It’s been a while since I’ve penned an article about Celiac Disease &/or gluten sensitivity.  I’ve been consumed with things of the writerly tweet-erly ilk.  However, I am still completely devoted to a gluten free diet.

I go online and check candy companies to ensure that I don’t ‘accidently’ imbibe gluten with a thoughtless sweet treat.  I ignore every single craving for Junior’s cheesecake.  And believe me, there have been quite a few this week!  I use GF sauces, seasonings, and flours.  I limit my eating out to Mexican, Chinese (with LOTS of questions asked!), Indian and Thai (again, with a ton of questions).  If the responses I receive back are in any way iffy, I decline and move on to another safe eating establishment, or go home and cook.

could it be celiac

I’m still hopelessly bored with food.  I cannot seem to shake the ennui and as a result eat the same things over and over because I want to ensure that I don’t become ill.  Is this some kind of stage in the process of accepting issues with gluten?!  If so, how long does it last? I’m going into my second year of knowing I have a deep-rooted issue with gluten.

Does the confusion/boredom begin to go away once you have a firm diagnosis?  I’m still on the road to one.  I am right now preparing for a second opinion/consultation with an expert on all things digestive/gluten/Celiac.  This new doctor is affiliated with Columbia University’s Celiac Research program.

While I am thankful to my previous doctor for doing the blood work (over and over!) and getting the upper endoscopy done as well as a host of other tests I am glad to go to the next step.  I have heard and read about other people’s journeys to their diagnosis and some of them sound horrific.  Such as the one where a woman had to do over a dozen endoscopies to get to her diagnosis of Celiac Disease!  That is totally inconceivable to me!!  However, it shows this woman’s tenacity and determination in getting a diagnosis nailed down securely.

In part, I wonder if my ethnicity has something to do with my particular journey.  After reading a peer-reviewed article by the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, I see that Celiac in African-Americans can present differently.  Additionally, this article showed that diagnosis in African Americans came much later on in life.  There is also the matter of the limited amount of biopsiesdone in the United States.  Biopsies (done via upper endoscopies) are the ‘final’ factor in the diagnosis of Celiac Disease.



I’m rambling to try and clear my mind but it’s so hard.  For years I’ve eaten gluten and for years I’ve had extremely bad allergies, bad digestion, my nutrient levels were all quite low and when I was younger a very bad rash on my extremities.  It sounds like Celiac to me.  But, it could be something else.  However, if not Celiac, then why when I remove gluten my allergies go back to normal where I only need Singular at the height of the season and a box of tissue lasts way more than 2 weeks?  (I used to go through a box of tissue practically every day!)

I’ll leave it alone for now and let the new doctor pick up this tangled puzzle.  Hopefully, he can help sort through it all and find a reason, and come up with coping mechanisms.  Why?  Because a ‘cure’ what whatever ails me is way too much for me to hope for!

#FunDay #Sunday with a Gluten Free Cake

It was Saturday evening and I felt for a nice dessert without having to spend almost $7 or $8 for a good piece of a gluten free dessert.  I pulled open my cabinet slowly peering at the yellow box that has been poking the back of my mind for weeks now.  Yeah, I was running scared…from a box in my pantry.

Fast forward a couple of hours…


So, I had to cut it. It came out good…for a change.  But I gotta tell ‘ya, it didn’t smell good while it was cooking.  It had that smell of a cake too heavy, or one that needs moisture (more oil, fat, butter, etc.).  Needless to say, there was some trepidation about what would come out of the oven.

After 33 minutes, the Ding! went off and I rushed into the kitchen and took out this pale not very highly raised cake.  I was miffed.  The smell.  The non-rise.  The paleness.  Ugh.

I shrugged and let it cool.

Came back about 30 minutes later and it came out of the tube pan easily.  When touched lightly with my index finger it bounced back.

The ultimate test was the cutting of a slice.


Not too shabby!  It was light enough to actually be called a cake!  The flavor was there and texture was not bad at all.  You’re wondering about the recipe, right?  There isn’t one.  It’s a box cake as my Grandmother used to say.


It’s Betty Crocker’s version of a gluten free cake.  Normally, this tiny box is just under $5.  But, it was on sale for $3.49 so I picked it up.  Still pricey, but much more manageable for a first-timer.

My take on this?  Definitely worth it to buy it again.  If you don’t have the time to bake a gluten-free cake yourself (with the multitude of flours,*sigh*) then this is a good quick way to go.

I followed the box’s directions except I didn’t use the whole egg.  I used only egg whites.

So, I added to the mix:

  • 2/3 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of softened butter (I used margargarine; lactose issues)
  • 2 tsp GF vanilla
  • 4 egg whites (the box calls for 3 whole eggs)

I am assuming that if I had used whole eggs there would have been more color and definitely more height to this cake.  But, I will never know.

My rating for this gluten free cake mix is:

4 Blogairy Notebooks

Three Months After Non-Celiac Diagnosis

Back in December followers of my blog will recall I went for an upper endoscopy to do the ‘final’ test in being diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  Of the six biopsies they did 3 were within normal range and 3 were not therefore the diagnosis was I do not have Celiac Disease.

For about 5 weeks, I ate all types of food containing gluten.  By mid to late February, my nasal passages were swollen and I got sick — very sick.  I had to take antibiotics as I went into the normal sick pattern (when I’m on gluten, that is).  It was at that moment that I realized that no matter what the medical establishment says I know my body.  Eating gluten was not helping me in any way shape or form.  So, I stopped the gluten around February 20, 2015.  It’s now just about a month later and I feel so much better!  My stomach is not bloated any longer.  My sinuses are clear.  I feel normal again.

After 18 months of being off of gluten, then going on a gluten-filled diet for the endoscopy from November 17, 2014 – February 19th, 2015 has shown me that I don’t need someone else’s opinion about what my body can deal with effectively.

Since this last experiment of eating gluten, I have read many reports of others who have had to take the endoscopy test over 10 times in order to get a positive result.  However, each time you do the endoscopy, you have to ingest at least 4 slices of bread every day for at least a month in order for you to have enough gluten in your system.

But, no one told me how much gluten you were supposed to ingest during the test period!  I found this out afterwards.  I listened to my doctor and had a bit of gluten every day.  But, not 4 slices of bread every day! <Grrrrrr>

Since I have decided to follow a gluten-free diet anyway I figured I might as well get better at GF baking so I can eat things I like.

GF Dumpling Dough_3 7 2015

First, I wanted fried dumplings.  A staple of the breakfasts my mother used to make when I was young.  Using the flour found at Walmart I keep raving about this was the dough that came together quite nicely.

GF Flour_Walmart

Here’s the flour from Walmart – Gluten Free Cafe!  It’s only sold in stores. <Drat!>

The dumplings are easy to make.  I used 1 1/2 cups of the Gluten Free Cafe flour, water and a bit of salt.  I also added a 1/2 cup of coconut flour which give the dough (and the finished product!) a nice flavor and a bit more color than normal for gluten free items.  You knead it until it is firm like the picture above.  You can add a bit of baking powder to the mixture as well to make them rise just a bit.

You roll them into small balls and drop them in hot oil to fry until they are golden brown.

GF Fried Dumplings_3 7 2015

I fried these dumplings for about 12 – 15 minutes (depending upon the size).  They came out very golden brown!

The rest of the breakfast was straight forward, codfish with a bit of potato to stretch it and fried green plantains with a nice spicy hot chili garlic sauce.

GF Bkfst_3 7 2015

See? Nice and golden brown!

Making my life more interesting by finding and making gluten free foods is something that I have decided I am just going to do.  The Gluten Free Cafe flour is a big part of my decision because I do not have to mix 4 – 5 flours together as many gluten free recipes require.  This flour is a straight substitution!  Woot woot!!

I even added this Gluten Free Cafe flour to the Gluten Free Bisquick mix (I was running low on the Bisquick pre-packaged flour).  I followed the biscuit recipe on the Bisquick GF box.  I basically used 1 cup Bisquick GF flour and 1 cup Gluten Free Cafe flour, margarine (or, butter if you prefer) and almond milk (I tend to stay away from milk products).  The result?

GF Biscuits_3 21 2015

You see?  I’m having a lot more success with my baked goods using the Gluten Free Cafe flour.  It’s such a same it’s only sold at Walmart.  And my nearest Walmart is over 20 miles away. <sigh>

Well, that’s my story for today.  Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear your comments about the gluten free lifestyle, or some issue in your dietary journey.

Ta-ta for now,



Game Day: The Gluten Free Way

I’m going to keep this really simple because it’s been a LOOOONG Sunday.

For the big Game Day I kept it simple since the hubby went to a party with the guys leaving me home with the 18-month old and the 15-year-old. So what do both age groups like? Chicken Wings and Mac’N Cheese! 🙂

I had a corn flour penne pasta in the cabinet along with a truly fabulous marinade called KenPo. For the Mac ‘N Cheese used the Betty Crocker recipe and subbed the flour with the Gluten Free Cafe all-purpose flour I’ve been raving about lately (it’s only available at Walmart).

Banana Bread made with Gluten Free Cafe all purpose flour with cranberries & walnuts.

Banana Bread made with Gluten Free Cafe all purpose flour with cranberries & walnuts.

The baked loaf...

The baked loaf…

The sliced loaf...

The sliced loaf…

I know I was supposed to wait until at least 10 – 15 minutes before slicing but oh!  The smell was simply divine!  My non-GF son said it smelled like Thanksgiving in the house.  The bread was light, moist and delicious!  I am thrilled to be the baker of this bread! (If you’ve been around this blog a while you will recall my Flapjack Birthday cake…)

The wings were of the frozen variety complete with saline solution added. <sigh>  But with the addition of this amazing KenPo dressing they turned out beautifully!  And tasty too.  This dressing/marinade is Asian-inspired and it is made with olive oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, agave nectar, garlic chili paste and soy sauce — so flavorful with a punch!

Wings & a bowl of mac 'n cheese please -- the Gluten Free way!

Wings & a bowl of mac ‘n cheese please — the Gluten Free way!

We had a variety of ‘dirty’ chips, corn chips, salsa, Swedish Fish, Raspberry Iced Tea, and vanilla pudding (no one bothered with it).

So, if anyone says you can’t have a great fun meal without gluten I’m finally able to prove them wrong.  <Doing the Running Man>

P.S. – Leave me a comment if you’d like the recipe posted.

Ta-ta for now,