Gluten Free Pizza

If it looks like a barbecue chicken pizza and tastes like a barbecue chicken pizza. Then it must be a barbecue chicken pizza.

And not only is it a barbecue chicken pizza but it is a milk, wheat, corn, AND soy free barbecue chicken pizza.

Who knew such a thing was possible? I certainly didn’t in the early days after being diagnosed with food allergies. I thought for sure my pizza eating days were behind me. And then I discovered Nature’s Hilights Brown Rice Pizza Crust in a health food store. I had never imagined you could make a pizza crust out of brown rice and potato. And yet that is the complete ingredient list in what has become a staple in my allergy free diet.

So, here’s the world’s easiest Gluten Free pizza recipe

1 Nature’s Hilight’s Brown Rice Pizza Crust (available at Whole Foods in the frozen section)

1.5 oz. of sheep cheese (also at Whole Foods…I like the peccorino or goat gouda)

5 oz. of Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce (though you can find this where the “regular” people shop, I actually found it’s cheaper at Whole Foods–crazy!)

thaw the crust in the refrigerator overnight

preheat oven to 500

place crust directly on center rack for 4 minutes

take crust out of oven and top with sauce and cheese

return to center rack for 7 minutes

To make a Gluten Free BBQ Chicken Pizza substitute 1/4 cup of JB’s Fat Bow Chipotle Barbecue Sauce  for the pizza sauce and add 3 oz of cooked chicken breast

Quick, easy, and delicious.


A new Flat Top Grill recently opened down the street from my office on Wabash in the loop. I’d been impatiently awaiting the opening as a friend who has Celiac had told me this was a safe place for him to eat. When the two of us go out to eat, we joke that if I can eat it there’s about a 95% chance he can eat it, but if he can eat it, there’s like a 25% chance I can. I tried not to get my hopes up.

Flat Top Grill is made to order stir fry where you make your way through a large bar of goodies (meat, veggies, sauce, etc.) and then hand your bowl off to a cook to do the rest. On huge signs above the food is a list of suggestions for people with allergies/sensitivities to wheat and soy. Huge step in the right direction, but for me only half of what I needed to know.

When we arrived at the restaurant there was a 15-20 minute wait. I asked to speak to the manager and see if I could get the scoop on how to eat milk, wheat, corn, AND soy free. Mani Santiago, the Kitchen Manager came over to speak with me. He assured me there were choices I could make to eat safely. He brought over an allergy book that in addition to wheat and soy included information for people allergic to dairy, corn, sugar, and garlic among other things. The listing was really comprehensive and Mani went back to the office and made copies that my friend and I could take with us.

There are lots of great choices for people with allergies. All of the ingredients on the bar are fresh so it’s an opportunity to eat allergy free AND healthy. Flat Top Grill makes every person’s meal made to order. For those with food allergies, they provide a white stick that you include with your order that signals the chef to cook it in a separate area to avoid any cross-contamination. My one gripe (and I already told Mani this) is that the only major allergy free sauces are water based so it would be nice if they had some dry spices (which are usually allergen free) on the bar so people like me could add a little kick to their food (or even better a flavorful milk, wheat, corn, soy free sauce but I know this is a bit of a pipe dream). And, of course if they added Red Bridge or New Grist gluten-free beer to the menu, I might become a daily customer. As it is, I will no doubt be going back sometime very soon.

Allergy shots are so worth it

September 25, 2009

Today at the gym my trainer’s eyes were red, he was congested and feeling miserable because of allergies. And I wasn’t. And it occured to me that I haven’t felt that way in a pretty long time now. And it’s amazing.

Shortly after my diagnosis in 2005 I began an aggressive regimen of allergy shots. Two times a week for the first year. Unlike food allergies where absolute abstinence is the only cure, environmental allergies like mine (molds, dust, dust mites, trees, weeds, grass, pollen, cats, dogs, etc.) can be treated with shots. The shots are not an antidote to the allergen but instead a small dose of the substance you’re allergic to and over time a gradual increase in the dose increases your tolerance for (or decreases your allergic response to) whatever it is you’re allergic to.

Two years in I was starting to feel some real relief. And then I moved to Chicago where I had to start the process over again. I learned there is no single allergy protocol and the allergist here had to start my treatment over again at the beginning. New needle sticks, new regimen, etc.

After a little more than two years with the Chicago Allergy protocol I now receive shots only once every three weeks. That’s like 16 times a year compared to 100 times in the first year of treatment. That’s a difference of 63 hours or more than 2.5 days back in my life.

And because of the shots I can go outside to enjoy them.

Or sleep with the window open.

Kids with peanut allergies? There’s a blog for that.

Gluten-free? Yup, a blog for that.

Lactose Intolerant? Uh huh, you get the picture.

I’ve been reading blogs for awhile now hoping to land on one where the author’s story was a little closer to mine. Not that my story is unique, I’m sure not, but of the 11,000,000 people suffering from food allergies in the U.S. I have yet to meet someone with exactly the same combination of food allergies as me.

I always knew I had allergies. To long haired cats and short haired dogs. To pollen and ragweed and all the usual “hayfever” suspects. And then about 5 years ago it dawned on me that I had those hayfever symptoms in the dead of winter. While taking prescription antihistamines. In fact, I had those symptoms 365 days a year. And I had been having those symptoms 365 days a year for 15 years at least. And I had never seen an allergist.

I was living in Michigan at the time and my doctor referred me to an allergist. Before the first appointment, the office sent me a 10+ page questionnaire about medial history, known allergies, symptoms,etc. There wasn’t a single question that I didn’t answer in the affirmative. Was your formula changed as a baby? Yes. Do you have itchy watery eyes? Yes. Did you have eczema as a child? Ick! But yes. And so on. If you have allergies then you know the fun that comes from that first visit to the allergist’s office to “test”  for them. To discover what you’re allergic to, a nurse does a small needle stick with a bit of allergen in it and then measures your skin reaction to it. They do this anywhere from 20-50 (or more) times with various plants, molds, dusts, etc. The only thing I didn’t have a positive (and positive here is not good) reaction to was the liquid solution that all of the allergens are combined with for the injections. The doctor came in the room, looked at my arms and my chart and said he’d never seen someone with so many allergies who wasn’t also allergic to food and so he ordered a blood test to check the five most common allergens: milk, wheat, corn, soy, and eggs. And three weeks later the results came back and my hitting streak was alive and well as the blood work showed varying levels of reaction to all.

And then the fun really begins because it’s not enough for your blood work to show an allergy you have to do a food challenge to confirm allergic symptoms in response to each food. And to do that you have to go on the caveman diet. Which is exactly what it sounds like. If a caveman couldn’t eat it (because it didn’t exist) then you can’t eat it. No processed foods. All natural. All the time. You do this for 4 or 5 days and then one at a time reintroduce the foods you think you’re allergic to and chart your symptoms. I won’t bore you with the gory details. The food challenge was indeed challenging and in the end confirmed allergies to milk, wheat, corn, and soy. I managed to eat 6 eggs in a day without measurable symptoms so I kept it in my diet but from that day forward I have done my best to avoid milk, wheat, corn, and soy.

When people hear I’m allergic to milk, wheat, corn, and soy they always have the same two questions—

What are your symptoms?

I feel very fortunate that I do not have anaphylactic reactions that require me to carry an epi-pen or the like. My allergies are NOT life threatening. The symptoms I have are interesting because most of them are like your standard hay fever symptoms which is why I’m sure I never made the connection between what I was eating and a runny nose or itchy eyes because I always had them. Turns out milk makes my nose run + bloat + upset stomach. Wheat gives me chest congestion (sometimes in the form of chest crackles) + sluggishness + bloat + inflamation. Corn gives me nasal congestion. And soy makes my eyes itch.

It’s no surprise that in my former life I could never eat hot crispy beef at my favorite chinese restaurant with my mouth closed because I was congested instantly. I never liked milk or cheese. Lasagna always gave me an upset stomach. And so on.

and What do you eat?

Here’s the funny part. I eat like you would eat if you had lived in the 1950’s or 1960’s or even into the 1970’s. I buy almost no processed foods. I eat meat and fish and fruits and vegetables. I eat potatoes and rice. And cheese made from goat milk or sheep milk. And I drink white wine and rum and gluten-free beer. And thankfully because it is not the 1950’s or 1960’s or 1970’s I can find substitutes for just about anything my friends have in their kitchens. It doesn’t taste exactly the same and it costs more (A LOT more) but I have not wasted away to nothing by eliminating milk, wheat, corn, and soy from my diet.