Sunday, March 1, 2015

Five Years Gluten Free: I'm now a Gluten Free Big Kid!

March 1st, 2010

That's the date I started my gluten free life style five years ago today. This anniversary means that I am no longer a gluten free toddler, I get to play with the big kids now! On that date I begrudgingly started my new 'diet' after eating all the gluten in the house, and most of the surrounding vicinity (yes, I know, terrible idea). While I was irritated by this change I wasn't bogged down by the idea of it really, but was rather thrilled by the potential of finally being healthy after years of being sick. I was overwhelmed however with the prospect that this potential rested fully in my hands, that I alone could bring about this health. This reality is at once overwhelming and empowering.

While I do have my down moments where I just want to shove an entire glutenous pizza in my face (or throw it at a wall) I've accomplished much in these past five years. The 'diet' became a life style with the inception of this blog in May 2010, and my acceptance into a Social Work Masters program that same year which showed me the need to embrace all parts of yourself. Here's just a glimpse of the things I've done since going gluten free:

  1. Planned a fully gluten free wedding that was a culinary hit with all the guests.
  2. Tolerated innumerable business and personal meetings where the food focus was glutenous, I hope with minimal irritation directed towards others.
  3. Advocated for youth with food allergies in a social work internship.
  4. Supported the local gluten free community by connecting to my local Gluten Intolerance Group and volunteering at their vendor fairs.
  5. Traveled to Canada, Mexico, and 19 new states.
  6. Learned to really love my food, and to nurture my body through nutrition. Through this I became truly connected to my body by watching how it reacts to different foods, or environments.
  7. Worked with a client transitioning to a gluten free lifestyle as part of a Gluten Free Health Challenge.
  8. Attended at least 5 weddings where my diet was respected and catered to with relative success.
  9. Helped host 20 potlucks with friends (and 5 friend thanksgivings, all taking into consideration the various dietary needs of our diverse group.
  10. Dined safely (with a few exceptions) at more restaurants than I cam remember.

That's a hell of a list of accomplishments, but it wasn't without the bad moments. I can't count the number of times I've gluten myself, whether it was because I was being lax in my questioning or because of another's mistakes. I also can't count the number of times I've cried at the grocery store, or have simply decided to stage my own mini hunger strike and just not eat because I did't have the energy to explain things. Yes our gluten free life style makes things more complicated, but it truly doesn't have to limit your life. 

The truth is that going gluten free didn't solve all my problems, but it is the biggest thing I can personally do to keep myself healthy and keep the power in my own hands. Since going gluten free five years ago I've been diagnosed with Asthma, Fibromyalgia, Pre-Diabetes, and am now struggling with a rapid heart rate. While my diet needed more adjustments to address these new concerns, I now find myself in need of treatment with medications. This is new territory for me, but it's another path I'm now more equip to walk down thanks to all that going gluten free has taught me. So, cheers to five years down and many more to go in this growing world of gluten free opportunities! 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Gluten Free Points of Interest in the Lake George Area


Every year since 2007 I've been heading up to the Chestertown NY area, about half an hour north of Lake George, to stay at a friend's lake house. We go for about a week at a time, and it is probably one of the highlights of every year. Who doesn't love a vacation with friends, especially one's you've grown incredibly close to over the years? Although the faces that go have varied over the years several things remain the same: an absurd shopping spree, swimming, kayaking, hiking, a visit to Bolton Landing, ice cream, Lake George, bon fires, and lots and lots of food.

Over the year's I've become quite comfortable with my group of friends. Our shopping spree has gone from a free for all, to a meticulous planned experience. Our meals are willing revolved around the dietary needs of those that attend, including my gluten free needs. For example, we almost always have a pizza and pasta night as well as a BBQ dinner, and many mornings involve pancakes. It isn't uncommon during these community meals for everyone to eat gluten free. Don't I have the most awesome friends ever? Here's just one example of their awesomeness:


Two gluten free pizzas; Absolutely delicious, and made with love (while drinking a bit of wine and hard cider). All this shopping is done at the local grocery store in Chestertown, NY now a Tops Friendly Market. Now, I had not been gluten free when we started going up there but since that dietary change I've noticed a drastic improvement in the availability of gluten free alternatives in this supermarket. They now have a small gluten free section including breads, pastas, crackers and more. There is also now a Walmart near by in Queensbury NY and obviously, given that they have their own line of gluten free products, there is availability there. This makes bringing my own food up with us less of a requirement. 

In addition to our meticulous shopping spree we always make room to do some dining around the area. The Crossroads is a favorite spot for us to hit up for ice cream, especially for my sweet toothed friend who's family property we are staying at. This year I saw a sign that made me absolutely gleeful: They now carried gluten free ice cream cones! Their maple ice cream is to die for, and since it is soft serve cross contamination is limited. They are also a great stop for quick snacks or any fishing or outdoor gear.

The Chestertown Farmer's Market, which happens from June through September, is a great quick stop for fresh produce and other locally made products such as cheeses, gluten free granola and more. It is also right near the town's museum as well as a great low cost thrift store. One of the most interesting finds at the market were these Cuke-o-melons:

 


Another stop for us is always the Adirondack Winery in downtown Lake George. For under $10 you get to taste 7 of their many wines, and a souvenir wine glass. Their wines are some of the best I've tried, especially their dessert wines. So much so that we even have a quarterly wine club membership with them. Although they don't offer gluten free oyster crackers, they do offer cheese platters that are safe, and all their wines are safe for gluten free consumers.   


Bolton Landing is another usually stop for us, and this year I found a few gluten free opportunities there. The Bolton Landing Deli offers only Boars head cold cuts and cheeses, a line which is inherently gluten free, along with gluten free bread for sandwiches. It is a small, though busy, place but it seems they have no problem changing their gloves to prep gluten free sandwiches. Finally, Cate's Italian Garden makes gluten free pizzas which to my amazement were the same size as regular pizzas. They have an entirely different oven, prep station, and set of ingredients for their gluten free pies. I highly recommend checking them out for some safe, delicious pizza in a friendly environment. Please let me know if you have any other Lake George area gluten free points of interest for me to check out this year! 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Help tell NASCAR that Eating Gluten Free is not a Weakness


This morning a friend texted me a link to this petition put together by Gluten Dude regarding a superbowl commercial put together by NASCAR for NBC. The advertisement says:
"America. It's time for a gut check. If the founding father's saw us huddled in our cocoons texting each other smiley faces they'd hand their powdered wigs in shame. When our idea of danger is eating gluten there's trouble afoot. Yes, we the people have gotten soft and all the likes in the world aren't going to save us now. But one thing will, and it rhymes with Mascar."
Needless to say this was not the best way to start my morning, I was fuming with agitation. I hate seeing gluten free get bad publicity, and I especially hate when it is associated with a sign of weakness. At best this commercial is tasteless, at it's worst it is hurtful. AND it isn't even coherent. What the hell does my diet have anything to do with NASCAR?

My immune system and digestive track may make my life difficult but eating gluten free is  NOT my weakness, it is in fact my salvation. It is the only reason that I am currently healthy and sane, and that is the case for over 6% of the population in the USA who have Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, or Wheat Allergies. This doesn't even include others who BENEFIT from a gluten free diet for other conditions such as arthritis and hashimoto's disease, people made healthier by cutting out gluten. For  people like me and those above gluten really is a HUGE danger, so no eating gluten free does not make me or them soft.  

 My weakness is in fact other people: The friends that tell me I'll be fine if I just eat a little, the servers that don't take my pleas for safe food seriously at restaurants, the strangers that mock me unknowingly saying that no one really has to eat gluten free and everyone doing so it just looking to drop weight or for attention. It's the ignorance displayed by individuals that are fed nonsense like this advertisement through the media, and the media that continues to perpetuate that stigma.

Yes many people flock to gluten free diets for medically unnecessary reasons, and that in part makes those of us on medically necessary gluten free diets have a harder time, but so what? Why should it be the butt of a joke that continues to leave us taken less seriously? I'm all for freedom of speech, but when the media continues to misinform something needs to be done. So, I'd like to thank Gluten Dude for putting this petition together for us gluten free folks. Let's give NASCAR and NBC our all and tell them that eating gluten free is not a weakness. I signed, and I hope you will to. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why I Hate the South: Gluten Free Pizza at Mellow Mushroom is too Damn Good


I'm a New York girl through and through, and we are known food wise for two things: Pizza and Bagels. I never cared so much about bagels, but to this day nearly 5 years after going gluten free I can't be near a regular pizza without wanting to devour it and/or weep. I'll even open my windows if I'm carrying a glutenous pizza to a party or something so as to not be enveloped in the smell. Regardless of the temperature. Gluten free pizza from a restaurant just gets old sometimes, as most companies use the same 10 inch rice flour pizza and you can be limited on your 'safe' toppings options. That's why I was extremely disappointed in what NY had to offer as far as gluten free pizza is concerned when I came across Mellow Mushroom

Mellow Mushroom, a chain of restaurants located primarily below the Mason-Dixon line features salads, hoagies (sandwiches), calzones, and pizza. They are MOST well know for their unique twists on traditional pizza toppings, several of which are available on their in house made gluten free crust. In addition, the crust is also vegan and they offer dairy free cheese! So if you are vegan or avoid milk, keep reading! 

I first caught a bite to eat at their Bowling Green Kentucky location last winter, and that's when the 'addiction' started. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the pizza... well the pizza was the first gluten free pizza I got from a restaurant that was FOLDABLE. And it tasted phenomenal. Oh my freaking god I was excited. We ordered two pizzas: The Kosmic Karma (Red sauce base with feta and mozzarella cheeses, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and Roma tomatoes with a pesto swirl) and Gourmet white (Olive oil and garlic base with sun-dried tomatoes, Provolone, feta and mozzarella cheeses, Roma tomatoes and onions).The pizza had a thicker crust that was crunchy on the outside but soft in the center, a perfect NY pie. The two types of tomatoes on each pizza really added depth in flavor, and the pesto was amazing! I was instantly hooked.   

Once more on that road trip we stopped to get our fix at the Durham North Carolina location. We were met with equally fantastic service and food, this time the plain pizza and the Veg Out veggie pie. This location had an added bonus of designated gluten free plates and a newer pie crust that was even thicker than the last. Apparently the company was rolling out a new recipe for their dough at this point (January 2014). 

Back in the north I spent several weeks ranting and raving about Mellow Mushroom until I got my fix again in February at one of their Tampa Florida locations and again in April at their Adams Morgan location in Washington DC. Tampa had another bonus, as they offered a few of their appetizers that used pizza crust in gluten free varieties, however neither of these had the newer crust from the Durham location so I was a bit disappointed. I must have posted enough instagram photos of my Mellow Mushroom adventures at this point though because they reached out to me offering a free pizza. On learning I was from New York they offered to send me a gift card instead, which I greedily kept in my wallet until just last week when I visited their New Orleans Louisiana location. Even after a 8 month hiatus the pizza was still as good, although the gluten free menu remained the same and the 'new' crust from Durham was still no where to be found. They also didn't offer any gluten free appetizers with the crust. 

All in all Mellow Mushroom is a great chain if you are looking for some gluten free pizza. Each restaurant, although they had varying procedures, did ensure my safety from cross contamination and I never had a reaction. What I liked most about Mellow though is that each restaurant had its own character, unlike many chains where the layout may differ but the decor is a carbon copy. Whether it was funky tie-dye decor, colorful 70s motifs or woodsy theme each design was creative and fun. I look forward to my next Mellow Mushroom experience, and thank the south for making a gluten free girls Pizza dreams! 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Winners: Celtic Celiac Holiday Bundles

It is officially 2015. It still sounds surreal to say... I hope everyone had a good holiday season, and that you are settling back into a 'normal' schedule for the beginning the year! Thanks to everyone who entered my Holiday giveaway, there were over 125 entries. I was excited to host a personal giveaway and I thought these bundles were great so I am happy you all agreed! The two winners are:

Kerrie R.

&

Jennifer C. 

You've both been messaged directly for your mailing address. Once I have that your bundles will be mailed out! Thanks again to all that entered, and a healthy and happy New Year to all of you. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Homemade Christmas: 2014

Each Christmas it seems that I become more and more 'domesticated' for lack of  better word, although I personally like to call it awesome. As I grow older more and more homemade cookies and goodies get made to bring to the various places I do during the holiday season, and Mike and I start incorporating more homemade gifts. This year I might have over done it a little bit, as I was trying to keep my spirits up with the momentum of holiday cheer. You can get into a groove baking cookies, wrapping gifts, cleaning, shopping, and decorating for the holidays and it certainly takes a bit of the stress away if you do so without having a major break down over how much you have to do. I averted the major breakdown this year, although there were a few minor melt downs, so I would say I was successful. Here's a quick recap of this years key homemade moments:

Jules' Gluten Free Sugar Cookies: Colorful and fun! Mike made these around midnight one night when I was exceptionally grumpy and couldn't sleep, helping him out cheered me right up!




Chocolate Bark: These were a  reword of some 2010 recipes, and were also made to honor m brother. We made peanut butter cup bark, walnut bark, and peppermint bark. 



Gluten Free Oreo Truffles: This is another 2010 recipe, but it has become an extended family favorite. I never said we were that healthy around the holidays!



Almond Crescents: This is a recipe passed down from my grandmother, and one that I rarely seem able to get right...

FAIL

This year however I was successful by using some random mixture of confectioners sugar and regular sugar in each batch, god only knows what the exact measurements were but they were surely potentially diabetes inducing and freaking addictive. 



Christmas Crack: Making this indulgent snack for my floor at work was a last minute decision, and probably took the least amount of time. I used the recipe shared by I'm a Celiac but used cinnamon and rice chex. I also gave each of my direct colleagues a bag of the homemade cookies.


Homemade Lavender and Pine Candles: This year we also tried out hand at candle making for the first time. It was actually pretty quick and fun! 


And the packaging was mason jar fantastic!



Finally no holiday season can be complete without having some non handmade snacks on hand for when all the cookies have been handed out. Udi's Snicker Doodle Cookies and Glutino's Peppermint yogurt Pretzels were two great snacks that got us through a few games of Cards Against Humanity with friends. 



Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Eats, Drinks, Merriment, and Udi's Love!

As you've probably seen if you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook I've been participating in Udi's #EatDrinkBeMerry event this holiday season and I hope you have or will too! In exchange for spreading word of their colossally awesome giveaway, and sharing some of my own favorite Eats, Drinks, and Merriments, I was sent an equally wonderful set of their new and favorite products. Here's just a peak at the freezeable portion of their generosity:


The packaged were so brimming with product that my pantry and freezer couldn't even fit all the goodies, so needless to say there's been much consuming of this goodness. My favorite product so far? Their NEW Bean and Green Chili Burrito. It was the perfect balance of cheesy goodness and starchy fullness, with a great subtle spicy taste to boot. I am MOST excited about trying their French Baguettes. I haven't had a huge loaf like that since going gluten free almost 5 years ago. I used to absolutely love those huge garlic and mozzarella bread baguette loaves you could buy prepackaged at the store, so I see an Italian night with garlic bread in my future.

So, how could you win big from Udi's? It's simple: Just share your favorite Eats, Drinks, or Merriments with them via their contest entry form. You could also share your favorites with the hashtag #EatDrinkBeMerry via twitter or instagram. Here's some examples of how I've been using the hastag to share my favorites.

Favorite Eats: Chocolate Bark. It's so versatile, and easy to make! It also reminds me of my childhood, the second apartment I lived in with my husband, and my brother Tom who passed away suddenly last christmas Eve. I've been making huge patches this year of various barks.


Favorite Drinks: Apple Cider. I love it mulled, spiked, sparkling, hard, and regular. I even add ice cream to it AND bake with it. It's an all around wonderful drink.


Favorite Merriments: I didn't share this one on instagram but the thing that makes me happiest during the holiday seasons is long standing traditions with friends and family. For 12 years I've been meeting with my high school friends the day after Thanksgiving, so that's a big tradition that I adore.

How about you? What are your favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season with food, drink, or merriment? I'd love to hear, and Udi's will give you the chance to win over 600 prizes (including 100 packs of goodies similar to the one I received) if you share with them as well. So, #EatDrinkBeMerry and Happy Holidays! 
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