Thursday, March 26, 2015

Putting the Adventure in the Gluten Free Journey

Our gluten free journey is two fold: It is in and of itself a journey to live life gluten free, and it is something that influences our travel in many ways.

Last week I was told I needed to go to a week long training in Albany for work which was originally declined. There would be no meals served at this training, and the Celiac in me instantly became frantic. What was I going to pack on such short notice? When was I going to have the time to shop for what I need? Would we be able to get a hotel with a continental breakfast? That last one is ALWAYS a point I make for my travels, because if nothing else you at least start the morning out right with fruit and yogurt.

 I felt burdened by this last minute change of plans, and by my dietary restrictions that made this process more difficult. I felt limited, and in a complete rut. While I rationalized that my anxiety was of no use in this situation I was still viewing what I needed to get done as added baggage, but this article titled "Five Reasons Coelic Travel is a Pleasure not a Burden" (shared by Gluten Free Globetrotter) set me straight. Although it speaks more about international long term travel the tone of hopefulness is truly what I needed. I specifically related to this piece:
"• The excitement felt when finding gluten free food on the road simply can't be matched by anything. Seriously, who gets to be that ecstatic about food? When I found GF cookies to pack with me on a hike in the mountains, I was smiling for hours, before being gluten free I never reacted like that to a mere cookie."
Rather than view my gluten free lifestyle as a burden, I need to remember to view it as a gift. It gives me a whole new perspective through which to view life and travel, and an entirely new and fun way to relate to strangers. I wouldn't savor food and eat my way through every vacation if it weren't for my diagnosis. Likewise, I wouldn't have discovered as many new foods as I have (such as my love of papadum) nor would I have met so many like minded bloggers who can tell me the best of the best in their areas. So, I started planning this trip through a different set of eyes. I went and searched for non chain restaurants to try and already made a new friend, and packed some new products instead of the same old thing. Honestly, I feel a bit excited about this trip now.

Living gluten free may make the path more difficult, but it makes the journey a true adventure. So, get out there and put your own adventure into your journey whether it is your day to day life or your next trip!

                                      How do you see living gluten free as an adventure?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Taste Guru Gluten Free Subscription Box Review and Bonus Gift Link

A Taste Guru gluten free subscription box is a perfect way to get your hands on some new products, and add an element of adventure to your gluten free diet.
 Click Here to get your Taste Guru box, including a bonus tote bag gift! 

Subscription boxes are kind of a thing in this house. We have a wine club subscription box and get a box of wine every four months, and my husband has a sock of the month club which in and of itself is pretty self exclamatory. Nothing is better than coming home to packages you've received in the mail, it really is like a mini birthday! This is especially the case for this food lover when those packages happen to be food (and/or wine if you live in states like New York that allow that). That's why I love the idea of gluten free subscription boxes, which add the element of surprise to your package deliveries.

Recently I was sent one of those subscription boxes from Taste Guru. Taste Guru  offers one of the best deals for the largest variety. A one month subscription is $24, and the price goes down the longer a subscription you purchase. Here's what was included in the box I received:
  • Wyoming Authentic Jerky stick
  • Wowbutter sample
  • Old School Grits bag
  • Mini Tabasco original
  • Oven Baked Organics Pancake mix
  • Boulder Granola, in Cranberry and Chocolate Chunk 
  • Two NoGii D'Lites chocolate minis
  • Simply 7, one sea salt bag of quinoa chips and one of sea lentil 
  • Funny Face Choo Choo Cherry Cranberries
  • Delight gluten free magazine 
I was impressed with this haul of products, both old and new to me. Tabasco is fabulous, and the mini bottle become my travel hot sauce while it lasted. My two favorite products in this box were the Boulder Chocolate Chunk Granola and the Simply 7 sea salt quinoa chips. The Chocolate Chunk granola was light and refreshing, with the chocolate melting a bit to pull the granola into clusters. I found myself covered in blissfully covered in chocolate, and eating the entire bag in one sitting. 

The Quinoa chips were simple and airy; they were a great vesicle for some homemade garlic hummus. I was looking forward to trying the Lentil chips as well, and was disappointed when my husband noticed they weren't completely gluten free. While made with gluten free products, they were processed on shared machinery. Now, given that the box is catered towards people on the gluten free diet for a variety of reasons this cross contamination might not pose a problem for some but it could be for those of us with Celiac Disease. I brought this concern up to Taste Guru, who ensured me they would be take more careful precautions to ensure all items were safe for those of us on a medically necessary diet or mark items more specifically on their products card. This oversight only showed me that Taste Guru is a supportive company willing to make the customer experience the best it can be, even when there is a concern.

So, what did I think overall? Taste Guru's versatile products, reliable low price, positive customer service, and packed to the brim box makes them one of the champs of the gluten free subscription box world. Check them out if you want to see for yourself.  If you are interested in getting your own Taste Guru Box Click Here, and with every purchase you'll also receive a bonus tote bag gift. Enjoy your gluten free mail adventure! 

Potluck Dinner Club: Pi Day Potluck (with Bonus Artichoke and Jalapeno Savory Pie recipe from Gluten Free Goddess)

Pie, who doesn't love it? Or do I mean Pi, the mother of all numbers? My friends and I love both, being the nerdy food lovers that we are, so March's Potluck gathering was in celebration of all things Pie and Pi. Mike and I brought two pies to the table:

 Vegan gluten free Shepard's pie made with Bob Red Mill's Textured Vegetable Protein, and perfected with some 'pie crust' patterning.  

Gluten free chocolate pudding pie in a homemade graham cracker crust

Some of the other dishes includes: Gluten free pizza, gluten free salmon and asparagus quiche on a potato slice pie crust, gluten free spinach and mushroom quiche, gluten free Irish cream pie, gluten free apple pie, Shepard's tater tot pie, cheesecake, broccoli and cheddar quiche, Artichoke and Jalapeno Savory pie, bacon ham quiche, gourd pie, gluten free blueberry hand pies, apple pie, and chicken pot pies. 

One of the favorites of the night was the Artichoke and Jalapeno Savory pie. It was a bit quirky, seeing as it was a pie full of pasta, but everyone found it to be rather full of unique flavor. It wasn't until after the potluck that I found the recipe was from Gluten Free Blogging's very own Gluten Free Goddess. You can find the recipe here:

For April we will be doing something a little bit different. Rather than the buffet style potluck we will be trying our hand at a traditional Passover meal. It won't be fully kosher I am sure, but I'm excited to learn about the traditions behind this holiday. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Potluck Dinner Club: Aphrodisiac Party

February's Potluck Dinner Club gathering was romantically themed, inspiring everyone to bring their best Aphrodisiac dish or food item. Aphrodisiacs are items that are said to spark sexual arousal in those that consume them, and their 'power' is largely debatable. If familiar at all with aphrodisiacs many people go straight to the absurd (tigers penis or deer antler) and forget some of the more common ones such as honey or  chilies.

This potluck was a bit more piecemeal than the others, with more single or simple recipes. Here's a preview of what we had. For those interested I've bolded the aphrodisiac ingredient:

Appetizers: Spinach artichoke dip with corn tortilla; cheese platter with goat cheese, walnuts, honey and beets; slices of avocado; chips with ghost pepper salsa. 

Main Dishes: Gluten free pizza (I mean who doesn't LOVE pizza?); gluten free pasta with Basil pesto; salad with strawberries and fennel.

Dessert: Fudge, Red wine infused pears, Mexican Mousse made with avocado, Ice cream bar complete with Neapolitan ice cream, cherries, strawberries, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup.

And of course, everything was topped off with several bottles of red wine. Unfortunately, I failed as host at this party and neglected to get my guest's favorite recipe so I'm leaving you without one. I think you'll do just well enough though with finding your own aphrodisiac food, even if it is gluten free pizza and beer!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Product Review: JK Gourmet Gluten Free Granola and Bites

Grain-Free JK Gourmet US
In the gluten free world a good granola is hard to come by, particularly because of the use of oats. Even when you are lucky enough to find a gluten free granola it is often bulging with sugar content, taking away from the natural flavors of the ingredients. JK Gourmet's products are a good alternative to the norm described here. Their wide array of gluten free and grain free granolas and granola bites are naturally sweetened with honey and contain a limited number of wholesome ingredients. Recently I tried two of their products; their Original GG Bites and their Fig and Apricot Granola.

The Original GG Bites are phenomenal. Simple, sweet, and crispy these bites come in a bar like form. This makes them easy to pack and eat, with two small 'bars' being the perfect size for a small snack. I am a lover of sunflower seeds, and having them be the staple in these really sets them above other granola snacks I've tried. Further, the limited ingredient list truly lets the flavors stand out on their own as well as mingle together to create a refreshingly complete snack.

The Fig and Apricot granola was equally as appetizing. The inclusion of ingredients of different sizes, from the whole almonds and large dried fruit bits to the smaller sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, makes for a varying experience that is a bit unique for granola. I am not that big a fan of the dried fruits, but that is my own personal preference. The short list of ingredients is again a benefit for this product. In particular the natural sweeteners are minimal, which makes this a great granola to add to yogurt if you aren't looking for excessive sweetness. I've been eating mine in a homemade parfait of plain Greek yogurt, strawberries, and honey.

Ultimately, JK Granola is a great find. In addition to being gluten free and grain free their granolas are also dairy free, non-GMO, Kosher, and Paleo-Friendly. Their line also includes other gluten free products including flours, baking mixes, biscotti, and bars. Check them out!

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! 

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