Today I am introducing Mike from Gluten Free Mike. He was the first one to respond to my query of gluten free folks to participate in my new bloggy feature, Gluten Free and Loving It.
Your name: Gluten Free Mike
A short bio: I am a professional living in New York City. I hold my Ph.D. (ABD) and am currently putting the finishing touches on my dissertation. I have lived abroad for extended periods of time and have traveled the globe extensively. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2003 and soon thereafter suddenly became severely allergic to all shellfish (my Epi-Pen is never far away). Needless to say, traveling and dining out always proves interesting and yes, in the beginning was downright overwhelming. Yet, over time, and through trial and error, my dietary restrictions have become intertwined with who I am and do not hinder my enjoyment of food and new experiences.
1.How long have you been eating gluten free? Since 2003.
2. How did you discover that you were gluten intolerant? I had always had what everyone, myself included, referred to as a “funny tummy”. I remember my mother saying that she would have to make my baby food from scratch because off-the-shelf versions did not react well with my digestive system. My food allergies would continue through adolescence where I would be allergic to various food preservatives over time that seemed to cause reactions of varying types.
In my teenage years through college and graduate school I was always exceedingly thin. I remember being a consistent 28” waist with my weight hovering in the 150-155 range. I looked skeletal and could not understand how everyone else around me, particularly at college, was adding the freshman 10-15 pounds from all of the poor eating choices, late nights, and partying. I always had regular physicals with my family doctor and nothing ever showed up. I chalked it all up to having a speedy metabolism and thought it great that I could wear sample sizes off the rack, eat and drink whatever I wanted and not have to worry about gaining an ounce. In hindsight I remembered having intestinal reactions of varying severity after meals or hitting the bars.
I also lived abroad for extended periods and travelled the world extensively and my “funny tummy” always managed to come along for the ride. I tried everything to alleviate my symptoms but not knowing the exact cause made it a challenge.
While I enjoyed eating literally anything in any quantity, I did not realize that I was slowly destroying my digestive system and jeopardizing my permanent ability to properly absorb nutrients. Also, not knowing what would cause a reaction made going out annoying because I never knew when a reaction would strike. I have been everywhere from alleys in China to Egypt to the opera when the infamous “reaction” kicked in. Needless to say it was not fun.
3. What were your most prominent symptoms?
While the severity of my symptoms tended to vary, the one thing that remained constant was a horrible pain that lasted for hours. The worst part was that I never really knew when an attack would strike. I was also extremely thin and could not understand while I was eating constantly why I would never put on weight. Thinking back, all of the typical Celiac symptoms were there but at the time it was really not something that people or physicians were as aware of as they are today.
4. Do you have an official diagnosis of Celiac Disease? Yes, but it was a long road getting there. Celiac mimics so many other digestive disorders and that coupled with the lack of knowledge and education on the disease at the time made arriving at Celiac a long journey.
5. How long did it take for your major symptoms to disappear when you started on a gluten free diet? It probably sounds like a cliché but I noticed a difference immediately. I would no longer get sick after almost every meal but it would take many months to a year before everything returned to normal.
6. Do you have allergies or intolerances to other foods? I do. Actually, not long after my Celiac diagnosis, I suddenly became allergic to all shellfish – something that I have loved until I ended up in the Emergency Room one evening. Not knowing exactly what caused the reaction I soon figured out the culprit. A visit to an allergist and testing yielded an allergy to ALL types of shellfish, so severe that my allergist noted he had rarely seen such a severe reaction. I cannot touch or even be near shellfish being prepared and even had a reaction from the steam coming of a neighboring diner’s steaming mussels while dining out. Also, cross-contamination from prep or frying (remember many places use the same oil) caused reactions while I was still learning the nuances of this allergy.
7. Are other members of your family gluten intolerant? No.
8. What do you miss the most since starting to eat gluten free? You know, I honestly do not miss anything from a food standpoint. We have come such a long way in a relatively short time that I have found replacements for all of my favorite items. That being said, I do miss the convenience factor that non-Celiacs enjoy – being able to pretty much each whatever, whenever. There have been times while traveling that I longed to be able to walk the streets and just pick up a crisp baguette loaded with fillings or just being able to pop into a restaurant or shop and not have to examine all the ingredients to find something safe to eat.
9. What is the hardest part for you about eating gluten free? It definitely is the convenience factor at times – particularly when far from home. Being Celiac requires you to plan or think a bit more about snacks and meals.
10. What is your favorite restaurant? My favorite restaurant is The Four Seasons in my hometown of New York City. You can read about my gluten-free experience on my Web site. It is not a gluten-free locale but my how philosophy is that you can eat gluten-free pretty much anywhere you want and need not sacrifice quality. My favorite gluten-free restaurant is Lili’s 57, also in N.Y.C. which has the most amazing gluten-free Chinese menu I have come across to date.
11. Do you have a favorite gluten free recipe to share? My favorite recipe is one that I developed after longing for a gluten-free chicken-fried option. (You can check out other recipes from Mike at Gluten Free Mike )
Mike’s GF Chicken Fried Chicken
One of the things I missed most after being diagnosed with Celiac disease was texture. That’s right, I thought my days of golden brown, crispy fried delicacies were long gone…boy was I wrong. As you likely already know food is a side passion of mine. My mother is a fantastic chef and has trained me well. Now I love taking some of the classics that I grew-up with and loved and making them not only gluten-free, but making them taste like the originals. Today I am going to share my delicious chicken cutlet “breading” with you.
Here is what you will need:
2lbs. thinly sliced chicken cutlets (nicely trimmed)
2 ½ – 3 cups corn starch
¼ cup garlic powder
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. pepper
½ tsp. dry mustard
3-4 extra large eggs
Let’s get prepping:
Make sure that your cutlets are nicely trimmed and free of any fat. I like to soak them for a bit in salt then rinse them thoroughly to remove any excess “gunk”. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat well. A good trick is to add a splash of milk and cold water to help them better emulsify (it also helps stretch the eggs).
In a separate bowl mix the corn starch, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and dry mustard. Mix the ingredients very well.
Take a cutlet and dip it into the egg, let the excess drip off and place it right into the corn starch mixture. Coat it well. Then return it to the egg mixture and once again to the corn starch mixture. Again, coat it well and shake of the excess cornstarch.
Let’s get cooking:
On the stove have a large frying pan or pot filled ½ of the way with the canola oil. This is deep frying at its finest so do not skimp on the oil. I start it on High to get the oil up to temperature then after the first batch goes in move it down to just above Medium.
Place each breaded cutlet into the oil. CAUTION: It will cause quite the sensation so be careful and add one cutlet at a time to avoid having the oil bubble over. Tip: You should “bread as you go” because the cornstarch mixture, if left to set for any period, tends to get a bit goopey and that is never a good thing.
Fry the cutlets until they are a deep, rich brown – flipping often with a pair of tongs. Remove the finished culets and place on a paper towel covered plate to drain. Then transfer to a serving platter for service. Continue the breading and frying process until you are finished.
These cutlets remind me of the wonderful chicken fried anything I used to love. They are super crispy and flavorful. I have served these to non-Celiac friends and family who rave about them and are amazed to find out there is no flour whatsoever.
These go so well with the old cutlets standbys of mashed potatoes and fresh corn with a nice side salad. Paging Nostalgia!
12. What are your hobbies?
I love to travel and am also a private pilot so flying is a favorite pastime as well. I love dining out, going to the theater, and opera.
13. Where did you go on your last gluten free vacation?
My last trip was to one of my all-time favorite places in the world – Montreux, Switzerland. I never have a problem dining out while there and have never had a reaction. I even manage to dine gluten-free on my international flights. You can read about my experience on Continental Airlines on my recent trip to Switzerland on my blog.
14. How has eating gluten free changed your life for the better?
The major thing is that my digestive system is now functioning properly and I believe that any previous damage done has well resolved itself. I also have had a new found freedom because I no longer have to worry that a reaction is going to occur at an inopportune moment. There is a great sense of control that was not there prior to my diagnosis. I know what I need to avoid to enjoy a full and fabulous life.
You can learn more about Mike and his gluten free life at Gluten Free Mike
If you have been eating a gluten free diet for at least a year, and would like to be featured here, contact me for more information.