Cathy Adamsick makes gluten-free stuffed pork chops
Fresh, healthy meals yield unexpected side effects
Cathy Adamsick was only trying to cook more healthy meals and lose a little weight five years ago when she started preparing from-scratch, fresh meals for her family.
For years she had been a from-the-box and freezer cook, but when she hit her 40th birthday she vowed to make a change for everyone's health.
So why was her husband Greg feeling so sick?
As Cathy loaded their plates with fresh vegetables, whole wheat pastas and chicken breasts Greg suffered occasional breathing problems after eating, constant bad breath - "smellyitis" as the family affectionately dubbed it - and weight loss.
"He was eating thousands of calories and dropping weight," says Cathy.
Long allergic to a variety of foods, which he controlled with medication, Greg progressively felt worse. The turning point came Christmas Eve 2007 when he turned blue after eating rice.
The Adamsicks consulted an allergist, and two months later Greg found out what was bothering him: Celiac's disease, a lifelong intolerance to gluten, which is found in wheat and other grains, and that prevents nutrients from food from absorbing properly. It can cause intestinal cancers and diabetes.
"People are born with Celiac's, and at some point there is a trigger" that brings it to the forefront, says Cathy, who notes ironically that her whole-grain campaign was that trigger.
"Apparently I was trying to poison him," she sighs.
A third-grade teacher at Diamond Lake School, Mundelein, Cathy had to modify all the recipes she had so recently learned.
"At first it's overwhelming," she says. "You get it dumped in your lap and you don't have a lot of options; you can't do it halfway."
So Cathy delved full-throttle into research.
She combed the Internet, the library and book stores and joined Celiac organizations.
She discovered a host of gluten-free food products, especially at Peapod.com, an online grocery store, and Sunset Foods in Libertyville. Whole Foods carries gluten-free products, too.
She found gluten-free bread crumbs, perfect for the stuffing in today's Those Yummy Stuffed Pork Chops, and gluten-free flour that she uses in her Not Quite Crawdaddy's Gumbo, a recipe inspired by the shuttered Crawdaddy Bayou restaurant in Wheeling.
Other products she loves: wheat-free soy sauce, baking mixes, pizza crust and cereals, like Corn Chex.
"The biggest wheat surprises initially were teriyaki and soy sauce, salad dressings, and corn-based foods like cornflakes," says Cathy. "For some reason there is gluten in licorice, which seems weird."
Though their three, gluten-craving teenagers long for "real" pasta and bread, the Adamsicks all eat pretty much the same food for dinner.
"Everything I cook is gluten-free because I don't want to cook two dinners," says Cathy. But when the "cat" is away, the "mice" will gorge on their favorite wheat-based foods.
"When Greg is traveling we have a gluten party," she says.
They chow down on semolina pastas, sandwiches "or any other food we all like that doesn't have a gluten-free substitute."
To avoid cross-contamination Cathy keeps two sets of cookware - cutting boards, spatulas and strainers.
"It's a little like having a kosher house," she says.
And a lot more than she bargained for when she embarked on a healthier lifestyle.
"I thought I was doing everything right," she says. "Whole wheat pasta. Who knew?"