Monday afternoon I switched over to my personal email to find this waiting for me from Jillian Michaels: “Myth Busters: Does a Gluten Free Diet Aid in Weight Loss?” With all of the bad information celebrities, celebrity doctors, and major retail chains have been putting out in the last couple of weeks (check out this post, and this one , and this, and might as well look at this one), my stomach dropped. Was this going to be another case of bad information or someone getting it right?
Obviously, I totally destroyed all the suspense by saying that she gets it right!
Right off the bat she states that only 1% of the population in the US should be GF due to Celiac, which she correctly identifies as an autoimmune disorder! Go Jill!
–Sbe correctly identifies what gluten is and where you can find it. Added bonus — she identifies places one might not think gluten would be found. Oh, my heart is happy.
–Gluten allergy and gluten intolerance are mentioned as other reasons to be GF.
–Tears when she mentions a Canadian study comparing average GF products to normal ones and found the GF ones were 242% times MORE expensive. But we all knew this shizz wasn’t cheap!
–Direct quote time: “Gluten is found in many whole-grain foods that have an array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are vital to a healthy diet. People who eat three servings of whole grains a day are 30 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The right mix of healthy carbohydrates, like whole-grain products, is the best way to control your blood sugar and avoid diabetes — plus they help to keep you full throughout the day. Whole grains are also the vehicle for many of nature’s disease fighters, like phytochemicals. Without these foods, we’d be sitting ducks for cancer, heart disease, and more. So when you’re cutting out gluten for no real reason, you’re losing all of the nutritional benefits found in foods with gluten.” See, it’s a good thing if your body can process it! Eat it people!
–FINALLY someone mentions that GF foods tend to have more carbs and sugars in an attempt to taste “real”. She also mentions that people on a GF diet tend to be vitamin deficient. Again, things we know but that is not getting press.
This whole article made me happy. You can read it here. Take her or leave her for being a tough lady, I am leading the cheers for getting GOOD information out there.
On May 21st, I had the chance to wander the GFAF Expo in Chicago. I’m going to admit to my newbie blogger mistake and state that I did not get a lot of pictures of the food. I’m a people person and love people in pictures, so I am going to give you a LOT of those. And promise that I will try to remember to take product photos in the future!
Since I am not much of a morning person, ESPECIALLY on the weekends, it a minor miracle that I got to the Expo by 9:30am. My first mission was to say “Hey Girl” to Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bakeshop. I met Kyra last year when she was giving a baking class while I was the head expediter, and it is always a joy to catch up with this two-time CUPCAKE WARS champion. This year Kyra was promoting her new line of cupcake mixes and I snagged the last box of Snickerdoodle mix while picking up my own Crave Bakeshop tee:
Gotta admit, I love that the only part of my Star Wars tee you can see is the “Ta” as the Crave tee is VERY ta-ta friendly!
To the left of Kyra’s booth were the fabulous people from Rudi’s Bakery. During the morning they were grilling up pieces of their cinnamon raisin bread (yum) and in the afternoon they were dishing up grilled cheese. I am so mad I did not get the name of the ladies representing the company, as they were fabulous and I am so excited to try the wraps they gave me to sample. Review on those coming later!
On the other side of Crave Bakeshop were the wonderful people from Taste Guru. This is something that I am going to try soon because for $25-ish dollars, you get a box of GF goodies sent to your house every month. And y’all know that $25 does not get you a box of goodies in a store. Plus, it is a great way to try out new things! Hi to Laura and Heather who were rocking the booth! (and Andrew?? This is when I stink with names)
One product I am excited to try out is the GF Harvest (aka Canyon Oats) instant oatmeal. The cups totally remind me of the Quaker instant oatmeal cups my co-worker has for lunch every day that smell SOOO GOOD! I have a feeling that the GF Harvest cups are going to be delicious. This family has 3 generations of Celiacs, so they know the importance of avoiding cross-contamination and clean oats. Forrest Smith started this company while he was in high school(!), and he is someone who fits right into this geeks sphere, as we had a long talk on Star Wars and the Avengers.
I did have a mission this expo: GET MORE RED APPLE LIPSTICK!!! Last year I had a quick moment to talk with Jay and Andrea about how hard it is to find a good red, they helped me find the perfect shade (ironically enough named: Red!) and I got a cool shimmery lipgloss. This year I was on a mission to get more lip color and pick up some eye shadows out of their new (in the past year) eye shadow line. The goal was to get there early, before they got swamped because all day Saturday their booth looked a bit like this, if not worse:
I ended up making my largest purchase of the expo here: 2 lipsticks, a Rallye Balm, one new gloss, 2 eyeshadows, and an eyeshadow case. Added bonus: the bags they put everything in are super cute and will help with makeup and/or jewelry storage!
After this, the expo started to look a bit like this:
Needless to say, I started to be a bit choosy with where I visited, which means I missed some great products, but here are some of my “Best of.”
Kiki’s Simply Awesome Greek SpinichFeta Pocket. One word — YUM! I kept coming back for more samples of these because I could not get over how light and flaky the crust is. Sadly, my sweet tooth was burnt out, so I did not try the dessert she had, but my love affair was with that pocket. Right now these can be found in a couple of resturaunts in the greater Chicago Area, but I hope she expands into retail soon.
Something I almost passed by because I have been burned by pizza too many times was the Smart Flour booth. In fact, I probably walked past it a half dozen times before finally stopping to talk to them. I am so glad I did because if I had not I would have missed out on a delicious gluten-free freezer pizza hitting market in June. In talking with one of the gentlemen at the booth, I found out that these pizzas had actually been made about 6 months out and were sitting in a freezer in an attempt to give the consumer a similar experience to what they would have when they hit the market. To avoid some of the “cracker-like” crispness so many frozen (and non) pizzas have, they removed the rice flour. Good crust, great taste, the slices of pizza did not last long on the expo floor, and I do not think they will last long on shelves either.
Another love was Outrageous Baking out of Boulder. I have a long standing love affair with banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, pretty much any sweet bread out there. I am just a lousy (sometimes lazy) cook who does not want to whip up a big loaf that I would devour. But that did not stop me from purchasing a loaf of their gluten, dairy, and soy free pumpkin loaf and cinnamon spice bread from these ladies. The lemon poppyseed and chocolate zucchini are also pretty tasty, but a girl has to draw the line somewhere, right?
One of the things that EVERYONE told me I needed to try were the Glutenfreeda “Hot Pockets.” I have been in love with their cranberry cinnamon oatmeal for about a year now, so seeing that they were also coming out with an “instant bowl” made me happy, but I was very distracted by the hot pockets. While the crust was a bit, well, grey, the flavor of it all was pretty amazing. I made it a point to try them all, but forgot to take note on the different flavors. All I know is that when these hit stores, I will be there to purchase for the occasional lunch treat.
So, you know how I mentioned forgetting to take pictures every once in a while? Well, one of my biggest lapses came about with my favorite free of the top 8 allergen cookies on the market: Cybele’s Free to Eat. I will admit that I only tried the Chocolate Chip because it was so tasty and reminded me of an extra crispy Toll House.
Another item I failed to get pictures of are the Enjoy Life Decadent Bars. I tried all 4 flavors (S’mores, Cinnamon Bun, Chocolate Sunbutter, and Cherry Cobbler) and they are all pretty amazing, but the Cherry is my favorite. So good. And the ladies at the booth were super awesome and knowledgable.
If you got their early enough (ie before 1pm) you could take the New Planet Beer tour. Peter and Sarah would talk you through each of the 5 flavors available while giving you a pour to try. I am not much of a beer person, but when I have the beer craving I will reach for the New Planet Raspberry or Blonde.
Holy crow, this is getting long! A couple more finds to wrap things up:
Ian’s has a new French Bread pizza that is pretty tasty.
Keeki Pure & Simple is a line of Gluten Free nail polishes, chap sticks, body washes and sunscreens. I ended up purchasing 2 nail polishes and a root beer float scented chap stick. I promise I will publish a review!
Schar, oh Schar. How I love thee. On top of the new Ciabatta rolls that are delicious, they have 2 new wafer cookies that rock my socks. The first is a chocolate covered hazelnut that reminds me a bit of a giant Kit Kat bar. The second is a Lemon wafer that has so much lemon flavor it ought to be illegal. DELICOUS!
Enzymedica has an enzyme supplement that helps when you accidentally ingest gluten. I am now carrying in my purse to have at the ready when I have an accidental glutening!
Freedom Foods is an Australian cereal (at least here in the States) company. I purchased a box of their Maple Crunch and will review it later.
Van’s, maker of the toaster waffles everyone seems to love, has a new breakfast cereal on the market. I am excited to try it, especially since I discovered my beloved Cinnamon Chex contain GMO ingredients. The people at Van’s gave me a box of their Cinnamon Heaven to try out and I will report back on that as well.
I think those are the bulk of my highlights. I am sure someone or something got missed in here and I will probably just do a photo blog of some more of the photos I took at the Expo.
Until next time!
This past weekend was the Chicago Gluten Free Allergy Free Expo. This was my first time attending as anything other than a volunteer. In the week (!) leading up to the Expo, I was asked if I would be willing to dress up as a superhero to promote a T-Shirt company. Considering I used to dress up for work (and still do for theatre), having the opportunity to create my own character was something I jumped at! I have to send big thanks to the staff at both Ragstock and Beatnix Clothing for helping me figure out the pieces.
Since I am a geek, I even started putting together a back story for her. The only reason I am not sharing it, is because I am playing with ideas to grow with it and maybe turn it into a comic. How cool is that?? Just need to talk to some people, but I had it in my mind.
I took to my Facebook page and to Twitter to try to come up with a name. I knew the shirt had a big “GF” on it, so I thought the name should have that as well. Laura, who writes tweets for Taste Guru and is a fantastic blogger in her own right, gave me a bunch of suggestions based on the article she was editing including “Sorghum Siren.” I love alliteration and creativity that comes when you are working on something new.
Anyway, Saturday morning came and I got suited up and headed to the booth.
To say I did not know what to expect would be an understatement. My thinking was that no one was going to want to meet a character they did not know. And considering I could not even remember the name I came up with (Glutonazon), my thought was that it was going to be a LOOOONG 7 hours!
I was wrong. It started out a little slow, because the booth was near the center back of the expo hall and there was not a lot of business, but then I started wandering. My favorite moment of the day actually occurred during that first pass through the hall. There was a boy of about 4 there with his parents, who were manning a booth. He saw me and immediately told his father he wanted a shirt like mine. I took him by the hand and we headed to the booth where he immediately started wearing his shirt before his dad even PAID for it! It made me smile and made my heart happy. The next day his mom told me he put it on again as soon as he got up. **Happy Moment**
The rest of the day was taking pictures with people, including 4 ladies from the Notre Dame GIG group, coming up with a motto (“Fighting Hidden Gluten One Crumb at a Time”), taking more pictures, walking, trying a couple of products (more later), enjoying conversations with vendors and guests, and being pulled into booths for pictures. I learned a lesson that will be valuable moving forward. This character is a brand. She is someone I love with a message I am passionate about. Moving forward, before I take a picture in any booth, with any merchandise, or with any logo, I will be 100% sure that I love and support the brand. It was very flattering but I know there is at least one picture out there with me in the booth of a product I do not like/enjoy/support. Lesson. Learned.
I’m going to fix a couple of things and I hope that She-Liac appears at more GF events in the future.
This weekend is a BIG weekend for Chicago Glutards. It is the sixth annual GFAF Expo. This is the first year I am not volunteering, so my experience this year will be much different for me.
But on to tonite! This evening Schar Gluten Free hosted a “Gluten Free Food, Fun, And Festivities” evening at D’Agostino’s Pizza. It was a night for locals, bloggers, and expo vendors to get together, kick back, relax, and enjoy some delicious and safe food.
I need to start with the food because I ate so much I was afraid I would need to be rolled out of the restaurant. It was SO GOOD!! There was Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Salad made with Chicken Tenders, Chicken Tenders, and 6 different types of pizza (Cheese, Pepperoni, Sausage, Vegetarian, Margherita, and the Dags Special).
The salad was your standard issue restaurant salad. What made it great were the pieces of chicken tenders on first. At first, I thought there were croutons on top of it, which made me question the Gluten Free training program, but when I looked closer, I realized it was chopped up pieces of tenders. The tenders themselves were YUM! Don’t think the overly crispy ones that I used to inhale at fast food restaurants when I was a kid. This was real pieces of chicken, properly coated, not crispy at all, but with a flavor that was just calling out to be dredged through a sauce and enjoyed in a bite or two. As you can see from the picture, they were a hit.
I need to admit that I have never had Chicken Parmesan before tonite. I really did not even know what it was. For the uninitiated like myself, it is breaded chicken that is quickly pan-fried, topped with pasta sauce and mozzarella and served on a bed of pasta or rice, in this case fusilli corn pasta. Since I am unfamiliar with the dish, you can take my opinions with a grain of salt, but I really felt like there was a TON of sauce on top of the chicken and barely any on the pasta, so it tasted a bit dry. This was not my favorite dish of the evening, but some dish had to be the least favorite, right?
Lastly was the pizza. OMGoodness, the pizza. I ate soooo much pizza. First off, I have to say that the restaurant only offers a super thin crust pizza, so if you want anything else, you need to pass. But if you don’t care about the thickness of the crust as long as it tastes good and the toppings are good, then you will like this pizza. I did not try the cheese, pepperoni or sausage pizzas, partially because I really wanted to try the other flavors. The vegetarian pizza had spinach, onions, mushrooms and tomato and made my mouth smile, which tends to be rare as I love my meat pizzas. The Dags was topped with sausage, mushroom, green pepper, and onions, I thought it was tasty and went back for seconds. But the pizza I went back for thirds was the one that I was told that I HAD to try — The Margherita. The crust is coated with olive oil and garlic, then topped with basil, tomatoes, mozzarella, and a bit of parmesan. Seriously, some delicious things going on with that pizza!
But honestly, the best part was meeting up with friends like Sarah, Mary, Denise, and Andrea; getting to meet people I follow on Twitter like GFreeLaura, RockinGFgal, and Gluten Free Betsy: bloggers whose work I enjoy including Alissa and Elyse; and finally getting to meet people who are making it happen in the GF industry like Denise, Ken, and Anne from Schar, and Jason and Darin from Find Me Gluten Free. I know there are many people I missed, but it is late, I had a margarita and some Angry Orchard, so I hope they forgive me.
I don’t know why I tend to start blogs like they are letters, but it just seems a bit more personal than my just jumping in with what I want to say. Or maybe it is just a quirk of me.
Within the past month, a friend that I had gotten to know and love lost his parents within a week of one another. I felt horrible because the first thought I had when I heard his mother had passed was, “But what about his Health Kwest.” See, Steve was the local “Khantestant” for the Genghis Grill Health Kwest, and to say that he was kicking some serious ass would be an understatement. So pairing the sadness of him losing that motivation in his weight loss goals with the fact that I could not begin to imagine what he was feeling, having lost both his parents in a week, and not being able to give him a hug (about the only thing I could do, as I did not have the right words), I couldn’t think of what I could do to show that I was there for him.
Enter a group of friends who formed the “We ❤ Steve” Surprise Party committee. These people had the same feelings I had and came together with the idea to show him our love, but also show our support in his fitness efforts. I really wanted to contribute in some way, but cooking is not a strong point, so bringing a dish to pass was out, and I am in a bit of a financial mess right now due to an argument with my insurance company, so money was not an issue. But the one thing I knew I could do was put together a video. A photo montage video. And after mentioning it to a couple of people on the committee, and explaining how it would be different from the video they had already planned, they agreed.
Thus began a 2 week period (maybe 3), of asking everyone I could who knew Steve to please mail me a photo of the two of them. And then, this past Sunday started the process of putting it all together. Then discovering I had more photos than song. Thankfully, a friend did some music editing for me creating an extended version of the song, allowing me to put in as wide a variety of photos as I received. Working an 8 hour day and then coming home and putting 2-3 more hours in editing this project and trying to make it perfect.
Now, a friend pointed out that there is a website that could have assembled all the photos into a montage for me and included some special effects. But I could not do that for 2 reasons. The first was prideful: I learned how to edit in college on a non-linear system (reel-to-reel) and wanted to play with iMovie and figure out some basic non-linear. The second had to do with love. Sure, something thrown together in a random order by an algorithmic program is quick and easy. By taking the time to look at each photo and place it to specific beats and lyrics in the music, I was putting my love into the project and making it personal, something I hoped that people would feel when watching the finished project.
Then the raves started coming in. For the OTHER video. The original video. I kept seeing comments by the organizing committee on how brilliant it was. I shared mine in the thread, but no one said anything. And my confidence went out the window. Two of my friends were life savers and confidence boosters during this time, telling me how great mine was in a different way. Finally, the night before the party, I shared my finished project with the committee, so they knew what they had to work with and determine where in the program it would go. And one of them sent me a response that meant more than he will ever know. “Magical.”
Friday, 12 April was the night of the party. There were some travel difficulties (stupid Chicago rush hour traffic) and of course I did not save the files in the proper format for the computer the projector was connected to. Thankfully, I had my handy dandy laptop with me and could export the files in the proper format. WHEW!
And when my two videos played, I still wanted to leave the room. I felt embarrassed when called out for making them. I tried to brush off any praise because it made me feel uncomfortable.
But, I gave the best gift that I knew I could give. I made it with all the love and friendship that I have. And it touched the heart of the person I wanted it to touch. Who could ask for anything more?
I know, in the post I said videos, a plural. But I only talked about one. On Wednesday night, I realized that we did not have anything relating to Steve’s Health Kwest put together. We had something with his onstage work and something to give him a visualization of his circle of friends, but nothing on his workouts. I asked a friend with more video editing experience if he knew of a way I could pull videos off of YouTube, as the websites I had tried were absolute disasters, and he helped me out. Thursday night found me editing “Edge of Glory” by Lady GaGa to just the chorus, then putting together a short video using clips Steve created for the social media challenges he had during his Health Kwest. It was about a 5 hour project, and I think it turned out pretty ok.
I have a confession to make.
I cannot cook.
As far as confessions go, that is not a big thing. But the majority of my friends, and GF bloggers, can. Or they are wicked bakers. I consider it a win when I make my 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies or make something from a box that turns out.
But back to cooking.
I mean, sure, I can do the simple things like make Gluten-Free grilled cheese, french toast, pancakes, and spaghetti. For years, my lunches would be a different Mrs. Leeper’s “Hamburger Helper” box every week. I am great at throwing meat on my Foreman grill and nuking some steamer bag of veggies.
But this is not cooking. This is not eating well. My stomach and my taste buds know they are missing out.
Lately I have attempted to face my fear and start actually cooking. Well, kind of cooking. On occasion, I use the crock pot I inherited from my Grandma. My tendency in those instances are to find the recipes that call for things to be thrown in with very little work on my part, turn it on and walk away. I think I have made 1 non-crock pot/non-“Hamburger Helper” type recipe on the stove in the past 5 years.
My problem is, I start to look at recipes and if the ingredient list goes on my eyes start to glaze over. If the number of steps exceeds 6, I turn away overwhelmed. If there are terms I do not know, my brain starts to glaze over. And if it requires multiple tools? Forget it! I freely admit that the one recipe I made that told me I had to “Mince Garlic” required a trip to Google to find out what the heck that meant. So you can forgive me for not looking up how to julienne something, right?
Now, I know my kitchen is small. If I want to use my crock pot, I have to unplug my microwave and move it, the Foreman grill, and the toaster to another counter. My kitchen has 1, yes 1, usable outlet. Once I move everything, I really don’t like using my stove because there is no elbow room, and at 6′ tall, I tend to need a little bit of room around me. So understandably, I don’t have too many extra kitchen tools floating around.
To give you an example of how poor my kitchen skills are, let me give you a fairly recent example. Monday night I get home from work, a callback, and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race at a local bar with friends. I have all the ingredients for Stephanie O’Dea’s “Super Simple Cranberry Roast“. It is one of my favorites and super simple, just like the title says. After I get all the ingredients in and cooking overnight on “low”, I prep a pot to make rice. I measure in my water out of my wet measuring cup and grab a dry one to measure in the rice. Nothing hard about that, right? Except that when I turned the rice off after my timer dinged it was awfully watery. Looking at my dry measuring cup I discover that in my hurry I grabbed the 1/2 cup instead of the cup. Thank goodness for the strainer! Oh, and that super simple roast? I woke up in the morning to the smell of burning cranberries. Thankfully the meat is still tender and moist, along with whomever developed crock pot liners so I don’t have to scrub that mess out!
I try. I really do. I’m too cheap to eat out all the time, but apparently the kitchen and I will continue our battle.
Maybe eventually I will learn. In the meantime I will keep abusing recipes like the ones linked above as I work on my kitchen skills.
Or get rich and hire a private chef.