Finding gluten free food in Poland.

Gluten free food in Poland is generally found in specialist stores, health food shops or delicatessens. In larger towns you will find some basics in the supermarkets, and mostly it will be in its own (very small) section. Piotr i Pawel has more then most, Alma usually has a few things, my local Intermarche has TONS, but you can usually find bits and bobs even in Carefour and Real and Auchan. As mentioned previously on this blog, tesco has nothing.

I live in a small town outside of Poznan, and even in this town there is a small delicatessen selling gluten free goods, and unlike other countries, it is NOT super expensive.

– Linda

Friendly Food Poznan, my first visit to a gluten free restaurant!

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in 2 years and 8 months (give or take), I went to a restaurant and didn’t use even ONE wet wipe! We went to a gluten free restaurant! And its really gluten free. It doesn’t just have a great gluten free menu, it has a gluten free premises! No gluten allowed what so ever, everything is certified gluten free! The owner and the staff all know their stuff. I assume they are Celiacs themselves, but due to a language barrier I am not 100% sure.

Before becoming gluten free we used to have lunch out every weekend, even when Celiac kid was undiagnosed and difficult, we still made the effort to eat lunch out, taking turns to hold and comfort our screamer. Then there was a period of us attempting to continue this (after diagnosis), we would bring Celiac kids food , wipe down the table etc, but it always felt a bit like Russian roulette, not something you want to play with your kid! So the restaurant visits became fewer and fewer. It just didn’t seem so important anymore. Sure, there are a few places that we trust that we go to, likewise, if we travel we do eat out if when we feel like it, we don’t let celiac rule our lives, BUT, given the choice, we would rather eat at home where we know everything is safe.

We went a bit crazy I must admit. I mean, a whole menu where everyone can eat everything??!! Its like letting kids in to a sweet shop and saying, ‘hey, you can have whatever you want!’.

We had crepes with spinach and feta filling, crepes with turkey mince and tomato filling, crepes with chocolate and pizza and hot dogs, and some grainy thing that was some kind of kasha (looked a lot like quinoa) and it tasted so amazing I cant wait to go back and have it again. We had chicken with veggies and roasted veggies. Everything tasted awesome. The best part was actually not the food though, it was being able to sit together, with everyone being able to touch each other without using hand wipes AT ALL, and all of us being able to try everything from every plate and not having to worry. It actually brought tears to my eyes. So normal for most, but something we so rarely (never) get to do.

They have a shop too, they sell spices, tons of them, I was overwhelmed! Then there are pizzas and breads and grains and flours and biscuits and so much stuff!! Again I must apologise for my photos, iPhone again, I really need to bring my camera out with me.

Im not a food reviewer, but if you are a gluten free person and you ever find yourself in Poznan, you MUST visit Friendly Food.

Friendly Food Website

rezerwacja@friendlyfood.pl
tel. 665 450 858

-Linda

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Mixing with the gluten kids – No problem!

We have been gluten free for over 2 and a half years now, the house, pretty much as long. We have ALOT of play dates and people over at our house, why? Because its easier. Here Celiac kid can play without supervision (gluten supervision), here, she can put toys in her mouth and touch whatever she wants, and there will be no issue what so ever (as long as people wash their hands as they arrive). I find that mostly, kids are extremely accepting of gluten free. I never tell anyone that the food they are about to eat is gluten free, why would I? You wouldn’t hear the host of a dinner part serving up pasta and saying ‘THIS is pasta made with GLUTEN’ (unless they had intolerant people there). Kids who visit my house generally eat what I serve, often ask for more and never even realise they are eating gluten free. Adults at times will be more hesitant, they take a bite of something and analyse it, like its a wine tasting! Then they look up and utter with surprise ‘its good!’. Like what, they expected us to eat disgusting food? It should be said here that I buy very few ready made gluten free things, I make all food from scratch and we eat a generally healthy diet with only a few processed things thrown in. But still, Im surprised that so many adults seem to think we live on some kind of starvation diet. If I had a dirham or zloty for each time someone asked me ‘but what do you eat??’ Id be very very rich by now. Its simple really. We eat exactly the same as anyone else, only our food is generally healthier (because I read every label and scrutinise it like a scientist), mostly organic, and always gluten free. We eat pasta, pizza, bread, hot dogs, you name it, we eat it. Except maybe liver. We aren’t to keen on liver. Like I said, kids don’t seem to care, they eat and move on.

We had one mum in our school who point blank refused to let her kids eat gluten free. My sons lovely teacher had asked me to bake for the class for their Christmas party so that his sibling would be able to take part in the open day same as the other siblings and mums and dads – the previous party I had ended up holding her standing by the door as there was a gazillion kids running around with cupcakes (poison) in their hands. I was so touched to be asked, what a kind gesture. So of course I went all out. My friend Katinka helped me bake brownies and cupcakes and biscuits and soft cake. The only mum who knew I was baking gluten free was the class rep at the time. She was obviously not happy as she was the one who usually baked. She sent gluten cupcakes for her kids, I overheard her saying at drop off ‘my kids wont be eating any of that stuff’ (meaning gluten free stuff). Talk about judgemental! At the actual party everyone ate, parents, teachers, siblings, kids, not a single person noticed they were eating gluten free! One mum said the brownies were the best she’d ever had!

Im guessing if we had made some kind of announcement about everything being gluten free the reaction would have been different. Kids however, are so awesome. To them, cake is cake, no matter which flour you use! If they ever ask, I explain, and all the kids that come to our house know I make awesome pizza and snacks. I only wish adults were as open minded!

-Linda

brownies clip art

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Cabbage, Potato and ehm….. more cabbage..?

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Perhaps Im spoiled. Having lived in Dubai for 8 years Im used to seeing a huge variety of foods in the supermarkets. I remember shopping in Dubai after I had just arrived, seeing so many different fruits and vegetables, some I had never seen before. Spiky pink things, funny shaped oval yellow things etc etc. It was an adventure learning to cook with some and trying all the ones I was brave enough to try! Dubai supermarkets will have an abundance of things from America, Australia, Europe, Uk, Asia. Yes sure, we complain when things go out of stock, but bottom line, we are spoiled for choice in Dubai. Meat is flown in, great quality lamb, beef, fish, chicken, turkey and even pork in selected shops! The cereal aisle has so many brands you couldnt count them! Even in the smaller shops!

And now, here I am, in Poland. The first few supermarkets I went to I couldnt quiet put my finger on what it was, everything seems the same as anywhere else. Then after a few shops I realised what it was! Even though the shops might be big and the sections are big, its all a repeat of the same stuff over and over. In my local supermarket in Dubai there would be no less then 8 different brands of apples, all from different parts of the world, in my local supermarket here, the apple section may be almost the same size, but its all just one or two kinds of apple. Same thing in the veggie section. Where I used to have a great choice of onions, red, white, brown, organic brown, indian red, American red, shallots etc. Here. There is just one kind. Go to any section, and its similar. Rice section, a handful of brands, cereal section, again, a handful. The fruits and veg are very seasonal. Cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, leek, potato. Apples, Bananas, clementines. The more high end places have more. You might even find avocado in some. 

Actually….. I started this post with ‘perhaps Im spoiled’, I realise now that I am. You get used to going to the supermarket and picking whatever you like based on what you like, not based on what they have. Meat here is chicken, chicken, more chicken, turkey, pork, pork, more pork, and then sausages and pates in every shape imaginable, most not ok for us as few are gluten free. Beef and lamb is around of course (although so far I have not seen any lamb), but I dont understand the labels and I dont recognise the cuts, obviously this is my problem, not the supermarkets fault.

I find myself not really knowing what to eat. Its strange, because of course there is plenty of food in the shops, but its just not at all what Im used to. I guess I need to try to cook more with whats there instead of walking around looking for what Im used to. Even gluten free is hard to come by, even though this is Europe.  Actually, I shouldn’t say hard, it was hard, for the first few weeks, now that I know the shops and I know where to go, its not so bad, but it wasn’t as readily available as I had expected. 

My week used to be so easy, meal plan wise lamb 1-2 times, seafood 1 time, beef once, pasta once, 1 leftover day and a veggie day. It was rare we had chicken. Now its all chicken. I need to be more prepared I guess. Buy the good stuff in advance and freeze, find myself a local butcher perhaps.

I hope this post doesn’t come across as whiny and depressing, I don’t mean for it to sound that way at all. Im more surprised then anything. Im embracing it, slowly, today we boiled cabbage in chicken stock as a side for dinner, kids loved it! And food here, is cheap! I mean, really really cheap. Tomatoes that we pay over 20dhs per kilo for in Dubai are sold here (same brand, from same country) for 1.80dhs per kilo. Im guessing my carbon footprint is also happy (ecstatic probably). I mean hello, it rained enough in the last week to turn the desert green 4 times over! 

Now, if you’ll all forgive me, I must go and google ‘leftover cabbage recipes’, perhaps you have one to share? Who knew 1dhs worth of cabbage would go that far??

-Linda

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Contamination, what happens?

Just like all Celiacs are different, so are everyones reactions. There are 200-300 (depending where you read!) documented symptoms relating to Celiac. Very often we talk about what happens if a Celiac eats gluten, but what about contamination, not really so much from eating, but from the environment or contamination somehow in the kitchen?

Yesterday I picked up a grumpy child from school. She told me her tummy had hurt during the day. Knowing what this means I was instantly ‘on my guard’. When she’s been contaminated we walk on eggshells…. We got home, there was some wind. Hey, this is a gluten free blog discussing celiac, so Im just going to say it, there was farting. I call the farts gluten farts. See, there is normal farting and there is contamination farting. The contamination one is sometimes deadly. You smell it in the car and know you got to get home QUICK, because soon the pain and crying could start. OR, like yesterday, its not so much the smell, but the amount of actual air! My tiny 4 and a half year old can do farts that last like 5 seconds! Then she laughs, and blames her brother, or daddy, or the dogs. Then she does another, and another. I guess the bloating has to come out some way. When you are 4 and a half, long loud farts are pretty cool. Not so much when you are a teen I guess!

Then there is the reason we walk on eggshells. Her mood. The smallest thing can make her angry or upset. From angry, we have a very very thin line, if crossed we have a tantrum. This is not a normal tantrum though, this is a gluten tantrum, and in a gluten tantrum no telling off, pleading, time outing, or reasoning will make any. difference. whatsoever. There is a reaction in her brain, its something she can not control. You just have to reel in all those feelings that you yourself feel, bite your tongue and try to be as nice as you possibly can, preferably before the line is crossed and the tantrum comes. You can discipline bad behaviour, but you cant discipline a reaction in the brain! Im not even sure of all the ins and outs of what happens in the brain, but I asked some of my adult Celiac friends who also suffer emotionally when contaminated. Linsey says she feels so emotional she cant help but cry. Once she said she felt so down all she wanted to do was hurl herself out of a window. Mel the same, she called me in tears one day and said, ‘if this is how A feels, then please go easy on her, because I cant stop the tears’! Because how, if an adult feels like that, can we expect a 4 year old to understand whats going on and try to ‘be nicer’? Remember, we are talking about contamination here, not eating something with gluten ‘on purpose’, if A or Linsey or Mel ate something with gluten in it the reaction would be far far worse.

This morning the mood continued. She didn’t want to put her jacket on, she wanted help, then there were endless tears, endless. I know my girl, and most of the time I know which is gluten behaviour and which is not, but its hard to parent a child like A when she’s been contaminated. Its also hard to try to explain to the sibling why sometimes the celiac kid may not get a time out when at other times she would. Sometimes I get it wrong, sometimes I think she’s just being a stubborn 4 year old when in fact she is having a reaction. All you can do is try your best, and dish out extra cuddles as often as possible.

So what happened yesterday? Why was she unwell? She eats only food from home, her table is wiped down by adults before she sits. Who knows, there could have been a crumb somewhere, maybe she held hands with a gluten eating kid that hadn’t washed properly, maybe she stuck her fingers in her mouth. Maybe it was the yogurt that she had eaten the night before, because although usually A’s reactions start within 30 minutes or so, they don’t always. These things happen, they will happen from time to time, all we can do is try as hard as we can to prevent it. There is no blame here. I mentioned it to the teacher this morning, but that was that. No matter how hard you try, sometimes it just happens anyway.

So the next time you see me with my hand wipes cleaning the shopping trolley handle or the table in a cafe or my child’s hands, please, spare me the eye roll and mind your own business, this is what we do, to try our best to keep our girl healthy. And no, a little bit of exposure will NOT make her stronger.

-Linda

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Just a small add here, please remember, that even for a celiac who doesn’t react as strongly as A does, there could still be damage on the inside after being exposed, so when we prepare foods for a Celiac there is no ‘how sensitive are you?’ coming in to the equation. We need to be 100% strict no matter what.

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Tesco extra, what is going on???

Having spent half an eternity in the UK before moving to Dubai, there was something I couldn’t wait to do on my arrival in Poland. Go to Tesco! So, 2 weeks passed, and there was finally a day with some spare time. I drove all across town to get to the biggest Tesco in Poznan. Like a child in a sweetshop I entered, full of expectation, eyes open wide and bright. An hour and a half later, having gone up and down every single aisle, I found an employee and asked him for the gluten free section. I even repeated my question in Polish to be on the safe side, Bezglutenowy? Yes yes he said, follow! My hope was renewed, obviously I must have missed it!

I hadnt missed it. On a small shelf with sugar free products, hidden behind some other items there was. one. packet. of. glutenfree. biscuits. ONE. PACKET.

I know, Tesco is low cost, glutenfree is not. But Tesco has a whole range of low cost gluten free produced by them! Tesco, gluten free is not a choice for most, this is not something we do because we want to be cool, we do it because its a medical need, something we must do to LIVE. Given a choice of doing my weekly shop in shop A that is slightly more expensive but has a gluten free section, and shop B that is slightly cheaper but nothing gluten free, I will almost certainly choose shop A! So you are not just losing the revenue on the gluten free stuff, you are in fact loosing the revenue from my weekly shop, and with me, many others! Providing a gluten free section is not just about the profits you may make on gluten free, its about keeping your customers!

Am I going to have to get a cheap flight to the UK to get some Tesco brand gluten free biscuits? Please. Please please. Tesco Poland, give us a gluten free section.

If you are in Poland, or the UK, please share this post, perhaps someone somewhere in the right place will read it. I hope so.

-Linda

(images below showing just part of the Tesco free from range, NOT available in Poland)

 

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Pizza! There is a new contender in my kitchen!

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There is one food that is always mentioned more then any other food when we have meets and events, and yup, its pizza, it even beats bread hands down!

Restaurants who serve a safe gluten free pizza will have visitors from far far away, even a not very safe gluten free pizza will draw some attention (hopefully the establishment serving it is honest in telling their customers its not safe for Celiacs), but there is one place to eat pizza that absolutely beats all the others, and its home! First of all, I know what Im doing, so even if there WAS gluten in my home, chances are I wouldn’t contaminate anything, second of all, there IS no gluten in my home, so in order to contaminate it Id have to run over to the neighbour and rub my food on his kitchen table…..

In Europe you can buy frozen ready made pizzas fairly easy, here in Dubai, you will be lucky to find one when you need it.

I have tried most of the ready made bases available, and they are good, ok you know. But nothing to write home about. But the latest one I tried you can totally write home about! Its yet another one of Katinka’s gorgeous creations. Katinka is the owner and manager of GlutenFree-Supermarket, she is also Celiac and has an amazing knowledge about baking, often her creations are gluten / wheat/ corn / soy and dairy and egg free. How she manages to still make stuff taste amazing I will never know, but she does. She also NEVER takes shortcuts with products, ask her where any ingeredient comes from and she will be able to show you the package, its gluten free certification or a letter showing you its safe. I trust her 100%, there is noone else in Dubai I trust as much, apart from maybe myself 🙂 And skinny genie.

Anyway, back to the pizza!

The base is not the thinnest of bases, but its not thick either, you just pop your passata on top (I mix mine with some olive oil and salt and pepper), then add your chosen toppings and shredded mozzarella (Kraft is safe, no gluten), pop it in the oven and 10 minutes later (or a bit longer if you like it more well done) you will be enjoying delicious yummy pizza.

The base doesn’t go all grainy as it starts cooling down, nor does it ‘sweat’ and go all soggy. It actually keeps so well I was able to rescue one of the pizzas and send it to school for the kids lunch box the day after. They both finished their lunch 😉 Cant ask for much more then that…

Hope you all enjoy 🙂

-Linda

Direct link to pizza 😉 –click here

My top 10 tips for a gluten free lunchbox

Originally posted on Gluten Free UAE in November 2012

The first few weeks of being a gluten free family can be very daunting, especially when it comes to making lunch boxes for kids, even more so if you are used to sending sandwiches every day. It can take some time to get used to gluten free bread, and a gluten free bread slice often doesn’t do so well in a lunch box because of crumbling. After a year and a half of being gluten free I am sure I am close to being an expert now. It has become almost a ‘sport’ to see how many days I can go without sending bread! My older child used to be nightmare when it came to eating at school, we have used every trick in the book to get him to eat.

  1. Forget bread. Don’t miss it, don’t think about it. You don’t need bread for a lunchbox. If the lunch is appealing enough, your kids wont even ask for bread.
  2. Decide in advance how many foods you are sending and what they should be. By having ‘rules’, making the lunch will be faster and easier, as you are always following the same ‘rules’. I send 4-5 foods for my older child, and 3-4 for my younger. Each child has a vegetable or fruit food, a ‘main’ food, a dairy food, and a snack.
  3. Sending one big portion of something often means it goes uneaten. Smaller portions are less daunting for a fussy child, and usually there will be less waste. If your child doesn’t eat, send less foods (less choice) for a week and you may be surprised.
  4. Let your child choose within the food rules that you have set. ‘Do you want yogurt or cheese sticks today?’, ‘Do you want pasta or pancakes today?’, ‘Cucumber with hummus or an apple?’ etc.
  5. Prepare some foods in advance. While I always do the fruits and most veggies fresh on the day, many of the ‘main foods’ can be prepared in advance and kept for a few days in storage containers in the fridge.
  6. Experiment! Don’t be afraid to try new crazy things, get the kids involved too. Very often the crazy stuff is what works.
  7. Become best friends with your muffin tin. Really. Im serious. Its amazing what you can do in it, and its just the right size for a child! Try Spanish Omelette, baked eggs, pancakes, quinoa bakes, pasta bakes, crustless quiche etc etc.
  8. Try to stay away from pre packaged gluten free stuff, more often then not its not very nutritious, and it probably cost more then dinner in a fancy restaurant too! Make things yourself if you can, or use mainstream products that are naturally gluten free.
  9. Don’t give the same food every day, even if your child requests it. The last thing you want is for your child to stop eating the one thing he always eats! Its also not very good from a nutritional stand point. A varied diet is usually better (unless you have managed to get your kid to eat a superfood of some kind).
  10. Keep an emergency (non perishable) lunch box with the teacher! You don’t want your child to go without food if his lunch box becomes contaminated, dropped on the floor etc. Our emergency box has 2 muesli bars, some raisins and gluten free crackers. It’s sealed shut, with my child’s name and gluten free stickers all over. Its kept with the teacher and I check the box regularly to see if it needs updating.

-Linda

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Why we made our house gluten free.

8324104_origOriginally posted on Gluten Free UAE in October 2012

I often get asked about why our whole house is gluten free, are we all Celiacs? If not then why aren’t the rest of you eating gluten? Well, let me explain how I see it…

Our Celiac is 3 years old. Still a young child. A young child who doesn’t yet fully understand the ins and outs of cross contamination. But thats not the main reason we have made our house gluten free. We made our house gluten free because we want our child to feel normal. Because she is! She’s just a normal kid, she likes pink, she likes to dance, she likes to play football with her brother and she loves squinkies! She’s only different from most 3 year old girls when it comes to food. And she is only different when we are out.
Why? Because we, her family, have decided that this diagnosis is not hers, its ours. We are a Celiac family and this is how it has to be.

I personally believe that every Celiac has the right to feel safe in their own home. If there is gluten in your house, no matter how many systems are in place, you always run the risk of contamination.

Cooking, in a mixed house where both gluten foods and gluten free foods share a space is extremely stressful, or at least it was for me. Watch a pot of pasta boiling. Did you know water can jump out of the pot and jump in to the pot next to it? Never mind the spoon confusion, gluten free to the right, gluten to the left, gluten free to the right, gluten to the left…. then the phone rings, the doorbell goes, the dog barks, older child spills a juice and which spoon was it again???

For a Celiac, less then a bread crumb (or a very tiny bread crumb) is enough to cause a reaction. For my older (non Celiac) child this took the enjoyment out of eating his chocolate cupcake, I was a nervous wreck, right there with my tissues, waiting to clean any crumbs, ‘lean over the plate, careful, careful…. don’t touch anything, come, now wash’. I was on edge, worried, and most meals I had tears in my eyes when she asked for something she couldn’t have.

We lasted like this less than 2 weeks. The decision to make our home a safe home for our girl, was the best I ever made. Now we all eat chocolate cupcakes together and the crumbs can go wherever (although my cleaning nerve does twitch a little), we all eat the same food, and everyone is able to open any cupboard and eat anything they want. It is all gluten free, all safe.

From the work I now do with Gluten Free UAE, it seems to me that those who have a mixed house (gluten and gluten free foods sharing a space), have a much more limited diet with less variety. Why buy variety if its just for one person anyway, its a waste if it goes off?

In the beginning our food costs were sky high off course, they over doubled once we all went gluten free, now, a year and a half later, they are back to almost the same as they were when we were gluten eaters, and I must tell you, we are all, much much healthier.

If you are still mixing products in your home and finding it a challenge, try making your house 100% gluten free for a while – it may just work for you too – if not, you can always change back 🙂

-Linda

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