Gluten-Free Ginger”dead” Men + Fraggle Rock Shenanigans …

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If you’re either bit quirky, like me, chances are you also love and have a small collection of Fred products. When I stumbled upon this Fred item (while visiting Toronto for the Gluten-Free Expo and to see one of my BFFs, Jenny), I thought that it would be the perfect present for my friend, Ryan, who is born on Halloween and who throws one kick-ass Halloween party every year for his birthday…. and not only was I right, I now want one for myself 😉

Speaking of that Gluten-Free Expo … you may recall the recent blog post that I did about it. One of the delicious products that I sampled, purchased and brought back with me was 1-2-3 Gluten Free’s Chewy Chipless Scrumdelicious Cookie Mix. I’ve been holding off on using the mix for just the right time, and with Ryan’s birthday just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to not only give him the awesome cookie cutter-stamper for his birthday, but to also use it to make delicious (gluten-free) cookies to bring to his party (so that I’d know that there would be at least one thing at the party that would be safe for me to eat)!

I thought it was only appropriate to use the mix to make the Gingerbread Cookies recipe that was listed on the inside of the box (and available on the 1-2-3 Gluten Free website) …. although there are 6 different recipes available on the inside of the box (which includes one egg-free version).

It doesn’t hurt if he’s already dead, right? …

I found that it was best to roll the dough thick, cut the men out first, transfer to your baking sheet and then stamp …. otherwise, you’d end up with the poor soul in the above photo. The recipe suggested that you use a rolling pin on top of the plastic wrap but I found that my rolling pin would move the wrap around and leave indentations so I just smoothed out the dough by running my hand on top of the plastic wrap.

I also failed to heed the suggestion of spacing the cookies at least 2″ apart … As a result, the men sandwiched together and cracked when they didn’t have anymore room to expand. They didn’t look as good as I had hoped, but at least this way i didn’t have to be as particular when filling in their bones with royal icing …. which was a big time saver considering that I still had to finish off my Halloween costume for Ryan’s party (which was taking place the following evening).

I sampled one cookie that evening and it was delicious! I couldn’t wait until the next evening to have another. I think the cookies went over well with the “regular people” at the party and I bet that they had no idea that they were gluten-free. Ryan texted me the day after the party and said that they were amazing even a day later 🙂

And now on to the costumes (i.e. the Fraggle Rock Shenanigans)!

Ryan was a good friend from university and although we still live nearby, we don’t see/hang-out as much as we use to. With that said, we do tend to make a huge effort to make up for this at Halloween (i.e. his birthday) and we all put a LOT of effort into our costumes. A few of us who are more craftily inclined tend to partner up to work on group costumes. One year my friend Susanne and I went as Mickey & Minnie Mouse, another year as The Blue Man Group (in company with my Guy), not to mention Papa Smurf & Smurfette. Last year Susanne’s boyfriend Jon joined us when she went as Darkwing Duck, I went as Darkwing’s girlfriend Morgana McCawber and he went as LaunchPad McQuack. This year Susanne decided that she was going to be Red from Fraggle Rock and she suggested that I should be Mokey because she felt that I fit the part 🙂

Susanne is beyond resourceful every year when she plans out her costume. This year she found a template for a Muppet puppet and had the template enlarged so that it would fit our heads. Once the template was sorted, it was just a matter of finding all of the right materials.

This was the inspiration photo that I used when gathering items for the costume. The pink material in the second photo above was material that I actually picked up while in Toronto for the Gluten-Free Expo. The top right photo is of the template for one half of the Muppet head and I also included a close-up of the 4″ foam … as I beg to differ on the “Easily cut” statement 😉

I’m fairly certain that my dog, Jax, was convinced that the material that I had picked up was a mat. On three separate occasions when I had my back turned, upon turning around I found him perched on the material. Perhaps I’ll use the leftovers to make him a dog bed 😛

I was surprised to find that the material was incredible heavy. So heavy … that when I cut the small hole in it for my head, I discovered that it had stretched and was hanging too far out on my shoulders. I had to sew in a drawstring in the back to pull it together to close it up somewhat. And once I cut off the “sleeves” it was like I had a ton weight lifted from my shoulders. It was so incredibly heavy. I found the perfect sweater at Sears (that was actually on sale) and it even had two pockets in the front in a similar fashion to Mokey’s sweater.

Next was the hard bit … the foam cutting! Actually, it wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was trying to slice the 4” foam down to 1” but I’ll get to that in just a sec. I pinned down the pattern to the foam and did the outline in permanent marker. Sus had said how difficult it was to trim down the foam using a bread knife so I thought to myself – “I have an electric knife that’s been in my cupboard for (most likely) about 10 years … perhaps I’ll try that to see how it works”. The ironic thing was that it was just a few weeks before that I had been looking through my cupboard and I thought, “I haven’t used that thing in years. I should donate it to good will.

I’m glad that I didn’t because the thing worked like a charm! And the funny thing was that it was the first time it was used, it was used to carve out 4” foam for a Halloween costume … I know this for certain because when I took it out of the box, it still had the plastic protector on the plug and a twist-tie still around the cord. Yep, hadn’t been used since it was purchased!

Ok. Next was the really hard part! Trimming four inches down to one. I decided that because the pattern was for half of the head, and I’d need to carve out a second shape for the other side, that I’d use the top and bottom of the piece that I cut out so that I would minimize the amount of foam needed and would have a smooth edge for each half of the head. I marked out the perimeter and connected the dots to make a solid line and then started cutting with the knife. It was surprisingly easier than expected, but I started to notice that little particles of foam were flying everywhere. Having a HUGE eye phobia (called Ommetaphobia – these 3 clips from Friends pretty much sum me up: 1 2 3), and being terrified of getting the foam particles in my eyes, I decided to put on my safety glasses …. Only to realize that they were at the office. Remembering that my Guy sometimes goes to the dockyards when they have chartered vessels come in, the following conversation occurred:

Me: “Rob, do you have any Safety Glasses here??”

Rob: “(short pause) … I have onion goggles ….”

Me: “(short pause) … That’ll do”

And with that, I put them on, and got cracking ….. errr, I mean slicing.

The next part was time consuming but it really helped define the shape – sewing the foam to form the head. Sus had used a glue gun to glue hers together but she said that you had to hold it for a long time to get the glue to bond well. I have been used to sewing most of my costumes in the past so I decided to sew my head together. I held it all in place with A LOT of safety pins. Then I sewed … and sewed and sewed … until finally it looked like the head that you see in the photo. I then cut out some pink fleece material that I had picked up from Fabricville and also sewed that to the head. I couldn’t wait to get the eyes on it because at this point it looked like I was making a pink Barney costume :S

I was really pleased with how the eyes turned out – they really made the costume come to life.

I had found 3 different shades of wool to use for the hair and it was a different type of yarn that is really stringy so it really gave it the look I was looking for. I randomly made multiple stands of the different colours and tied them in a knot at the middle to make a section, which I glued to the head with a glue gun. It didn’t take long to fill out the hair.

The next task was to cover the inside of the mouth with red. I made a flap with red felt on the bottom lip and attached a red sheer material to the top so that it was see-through for me, but difficult for people to see my face inside the head. I then used Velcro to secure the felt to the sheer material and this was used as an opening for when I wanted to eat or if I got too warm. …. Which I did. When the head was off, you could put your hand in the head and just feel the heat come off of it. But it was worth it 🙂

Susanne’s boyfriend, Jon, decided to join in on our costumes again this year and he went with us as Marjory the Trash Heap. Everyone got a kick out of us and the highlight of the night was when Ryan downloaded the Fraggle Rock Theme Song and the 3 of us danced our hearts out to it. I have no idea how we will top these costumes off next year! 🙂

Oh, and the easy-access hatch that I made came in handy …. especially for eating the gluten-free Gingerdead Men (I bet you didn’t notice Mokey stuffing her face in the right-hand photo above)!

Halloween truly is one of my most favourite times of the year! Happy Birthday Ryan!! 🙂

Cheers!

Krista.

Recipe Modification Experimentation: Dairy-Free, Vegan Pumpkin Smoothie

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You win some …. you loose some ….

(I haven’t quite decided yet where exactly this recipe modification attempt falls in between these two options)

Ever since I seen this image shared by Kathy Smart of “Live the Smart Way” on her Facebook Page, I’ve been dying to try a pumpkin smoothie!

I knew that I just happened to have a can of pumpkin in my pantry that didn’t get used on Thanksgiving Weekend a few weeks back, so I finally decided to attempt a similar version of this smoothie with the ingredients that I already had available in my kitchen.

Raw banana upsets my stomach so I decided to try some frozen mango that I had in the freezer. I also only had regular almond milk instead of the vanilla version so I attempted to duplicate the same thing by adding vanilla extract. I happened to have some Clubhouse Pumpkin Pie Spice in my cupboard so I figured I could just use that instead of the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. In addition to this, I’m convinced that dairy doesn’t agree with my guy, so I just happened to have a carton of Healthy Top dairy free whipping cream (almond & cashew based) in the fridge so I decided that now was the time to test it out.

Let’s focus on the “awesome” lessons learned from the recipe mod attempt:

  • Healthy Top = Awesome Top. I was a little weary when I cut open the carton and the contents didn’t pour out. It had solidified on the fridge and I had to scoop the contents out with a spoon. As I was turning to place the spoon in the dishwasher, I licked the spoon and discovered that the taste was fantastic, despite it not resembling anything like regular whipping cream. I flipped the switch on the mixer and the product quickly softened up and looked as real whipping cream should.

Now for the real lessons learned:

  • Skip the Pumpkin Pie Spice and go for the real stuff. The Clubhouse mix contained the spices that the recipe called for, but also included Cloves & Sulphites. I’ve tried this mix in a failed attempt to make a homemade version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte and I think it’s time to give up on it.
  • Frozen Mangoes were not the best substitute for bananas in this case. I think bananas would have given a better texture/consistency. Because I didn’t enjoy the the Pumpkin Pie Spice mix, I added in more frozen mangoes as I didn’t think that the smoothie was sweet enough when really it was the spice that was just to overpowering (to be fair, it should be noted that I probably added too much of the spice mix to begin with)
  • 1 cup of grated pumpkin is not likely equivalent to 1 cup of grated pumpkin. In fact, I think this is where it all started to go down hill. The pumpkin was too overpowering from the start so I had to play a round with the other ingredients to try and balance it out.
  • There’s a reason they sell Vanilla Almond Milk. Don’t bother trying to replicate it. Postpone your recipe for a few days until you can get some.

Although I pointed out several things that were wrong with my recipe mod attempt, don’t get me wrong; it did taste ok…… It just wasn’t of the “leap out of your seat to go write a blog post about it” calliper. The main thing I took away from this process is that I can find a good replacement for regular whipping cream that tastes great! So all is not lost! Here’s to hoping that my next attempt at this modified smoothie is a success!! 🙂

Cheers!

Salmonella Alert: Purefit Peanut Butter Crunch Bars (Gluten-Free/Low Glycemic/Vegan Product)

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The CFIA has issued a warning that some PUREFIT brand PEANUT BUTTER CRUNCH BARS may contain Salmonella. This is part of a very large U.S. recall of certain peanut products.

The recalled bars are sold individually and in packs of 15. The individual bars have Best Before Dates between 1 March 2012and 12 July 2013.

For more information visit: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/corpaffr/recarapp/2012/20121016e.shtml

The 2012 Toronto Gluten Free Expo

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Holy Crap is right! 😉

One of the most exciting things that I’ve done this year (to date) was attend the Gluten Free Expo in Toronto a few weeks ago, on September 30th.

As stated on the Expo’s Facebook Page:

“The Gluten Free Expo is Canada’s first, and largest gluten free event. Whether you’re looking for great tasting products, or Gluten Free education, the Expo is your source!”

…. and I can attest that whoever made that statement, was not kidding! 🙂

The Toronto 2012 Expo was the first for Canada. Details are available on the Expo’s website for the upcoming Vancouver Expo on January 13th 2013 as well as the Calgary Expo which is happening on March 24th 2013.

When I first heard of the Gluten Free Expo and realized that there would be over 100 exhibitors present, I thought to myself:

“If I get excited about 2 to 3 gluten free vendors at our local market … and tickled pink by 5 to 10 gluten free vendors when I visited the Halifax Farmer’s market, then I should be in Heaven with 100+ gluten free vendors at the Gluten Free Expo!”

And I was! The only problem was that I had limited room in my luggage to bring back items!

The Expo was held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on 655 Dixon Road and I decided that I should fly to Toronto the day before just in case I might encounter some flight delays. Of course, the cheapest flight that day was scheduled to depart St. John’s at just before 6AM … so I was up at 4 in the morning to get ready. During the month previous to flying to Toronto, I had been emailing back and fourth with Ellen of The Celiac Scene and knew that she was involved in the organization of the Expo. At that point in time I didn’t know if I would be attending the Expo but I was later able to confirm that I could take a few vacation days. I knew that Ellen was busy with getting everything ready for the Expo so I didn’t bother to email her back to let her know that I was heading up for the Expo. When I arrived at the hotel, I emailed her to let her know that I was there and gave her my cell number and room number in case she wanted to reach me and we could finally meet. She replied and said that she must not have updated me to let me know that she didn’t come for the Expo, and that she was staying in BC to man the phones and emails. She felt so bad that I was expecting to meet her while I was there that she decided to connect me with Margaret, the Expo Event Manager. I went downstairs to meet Margaret and discovered what a lovely girl she was! She ended up being short a volunteer so I spent the day from around 3ish to 10pm volunteering with registering the exhibitors as they came in. It was a very long but interesting day. By 10pm only about 50% of the exhibitors had arrived to set up, which means that the next day was going to be super busy from the start! I texted Ellen a couple of photos throughout the evening and was able to chat back and forth with her through email on my iPhone which was nice. When I got back to my room that night Ellen called me and we had a nice chat about how things were going and the excitement of it all! 🙂

The next morning was the day of the Expo and I was supposed to meet up with a friend (Laura) at 11am so that we could go to the Expo together. I was ready to go at 10 AM (when the Expo actually opened), so I decided to go down and help out until Laura showed up. Margaret gladly accepted my offer to help out again 🙂

Who knew that so many people would show up first thing in the morning! The first photo in the above collage is of the line-ups at 10am, and the second photo is around an hour later. Bright green reusable shopping bags were available for the first 2000 people and just after 11 AM we realized that we had run out of bags!! In just over an hour 2000 people had come through. It was crazy (of the good variety)! At one point, we were told that we had to hold people up at the registration because they had reached capacity in the exhibitors area and couldn’t let anyone else in until some had left. People were getting disgruntled because they didn’t get a free shopping bag, and had to wait before they could get in. There were several pretty grumpy people in the lines, but once they got inside and started getting some samples, they seemed to have come around. We were hearing a lot of great comments from people. With 5600 people coming through that day, Margaret said that she is going to plan an even bigger event for next year. I’m hoping to get involved with future expo events because I find these types of events to be really fun to get involved in. Large events like this can be madness, but being involved with successfully putting it off can be really satisfying!

I didn’t actually get to see any of the speakers because I spent most of my time down around the registration area, which was bad planning on my part, and I hope to plan my breaks better the next time I’m involved so that I can take in a few of the speakers 🙂

It was so nice to get to finally connect with Ellen (though phone rather than just email) and we chatted several times that weekend …. not just about the Expo, but also about how I started down this path and all the events that led me here. And it was so nice to meet Margaret! That girl does not buckle under pressure and is such a lovely person! My favourite part was when exhibitors would come up and ask to speak with Margaret and I would point to her just a few feet away from me engaged in conversation with other exhibitors or hotel staff and the response was always a surprised “Noooo waaaaayyyy ….!” Many had only spoken with her on the phone and I can only assume had envisioned her to be an older person with more life experience, lol. I got such a kick out of their responses! Once they met her, she definitely lived up to their expectations! 🙂

The Expo didn’t actually go as I expected, but it was a fantastic experience. I was actually chatting with the owner of a restaurant in Uxbridge, Ontario called Frankie’s Ristorante that’s completely gluten-free, as well as nut-free and soy free. I think I’ll consult with them when planning my allergy friendly restaurant as that chapter in my life unfolds 🙂

And now to share with you some of the goodies that I brought back with me. I tended to stay away from products that I was familiar with and knew that I could purchase back in Newfoundland.

I thought this kettle corn was delicious! I met Teresa & Tony of TnT Enterprises who started a side business for something fun to do. They are actually both forklift drivers and they said that they had no idea how much fun that they were going to have getting into the kettlecorn business. They actually do a lot of sales as part of fundraising programs for schools which I thought was neat. They love going to events like the Expo and are full of life. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them during the set up, at their booth during the Expo and even while checking out of the hotel the next day (that’s when they handed me a second sample of their popcorn for the flight)! They love to tell everyone that the product is just four simple ingredients: corn, oil, raw sugar and a little bit of salt. I forgot to ask them what they use to dye some of the popcorn with for their Harvest package as well as any other times that coloured pieces are required (such as school colours for fundraising campaigns).

I was excited to see a product that resembled two-bite brownies!! I sampled one (and then another) while chatting with Edward, the president of the company. He was explaining how Nutri-Health’s products were originally designed by a dietician for patients in hospitals and seniors homes and that they started to notice a demand for their products. You can check them out at www.nutri-health.ca

The bottom cookie was made by a company called Sweets from the Earth. Their products are all natural, 100% vegan, refined sugars free, GMO free, etc. etc. and there are two options: 1) peanut & nut free; or 2) gluten & wheat free (depending on one of the two dedicated facilities that the item is prepared in). You can check them out at www.sweetsfromtheearth.com

The Scrumdelicious Cookies mix is from 1-2-3 Gluten Free (one of the Expo’s sponsors). Kim, the founder of 1-2-3 Gluten Free products had used this cookie mix to make pumpkin cookies. She had me at the word pumpkin before I even sampled it! I can’t wait to try out this mix later this month to make Halloween cookies (Post-blog post update: check out the blog post on the cookies here)! This was just one of many products from this company which are made in a dedicated gluten/dairy/peanut & tree nut/egg/soy – free facility. All products with the exception of 2 (biscuits and corn bread) are also corn-free. The products are GMO free, large-yield, and all natural. 3 of the mixes are sugar free (in which you add your sweetener of choice). You can check out the other products at www.123glutenfree.com

I discovered CocoMira products at Winners Homesense. The only thing is that the products are never consistently stocked …. either that, or when someone finds this product on the shelves, they buy all of it for themselves and leave none for anyone else (as I do when I find it). So I was super excited to find their booth at the Expo! I grabbed my favourite, Mocha Latte Crunch, but also picked up the Dark Chocolate Crunch as well. I would have picked up more but I knew that there was limited space in my luggage! CocoMira products contain no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, no high-fructose corn syrup, no gluten and no egg. I just discovered by checking out their website that they are carried in some Chapters/Indigo stores as well as some Second Cup locations (the only two locations local to St. John’s)!! I shall have a look the next time I am at Chapters and Second Cup!! 🙂 You can check out the other CocoMira products on their website, www.cocomira.com

Last, but not least, I discovered this fantastic Nutty Pumpkin Harvest granola! This stuff is fantastic! I was so sad that I only picked up one package! Turns out that you can buy a package of 12 for $40 (+ 25.20 in shipping and taxes). The granola is also dairy, soy and corn free in addition to gluten free. I also picked up a jar of Organic Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Butter by the same brand/company and it was taken from me at security because the security officer considered it more liquid like than paste like. The almond butter goes for $120 (+ 35.60 in shipping and tax) for 12 (minimum order). To check out other similar products go to www.totalwellbeing.ca

Because some of the ingredients in the granola is organic (not all are stated to be organic) I contacted Real Food Market to see if they might be able to bring in this product. I’ll keep you posted on the results once I hear back! 🙂

In addition to food products to be sampled and purchased, there were also several other informational type booths. I think that one of my favourites was the t-shirts at this booth! It was a company that I had never heard of before called Olli Lolli. I love these shirts …. especially the one for the “Everything Kid” …. you know, the kid that has developed allergies to nearly everything. At least these t-shirts can help spread awareness of their allergies and I discovered that this company also sells clothing (for example, cargo pants, hoodies, and jackets) to help carry their allergy medication so that they have it with them at all times. Check out their products at www.ollilolli.com

Another booth that was present was Allerbling, which is a wristband that is a unique medical ID bracelet, and is customizable by you, at any time, based on your child’s changing food allergic conditions. It displays the iconic symbols of the food products that are risky to the children, so their teachers and caregivers can be constantly reminded at a glance. Check them out at www.allerbling.com

Other booths that were of interest to me (and that I managed to get time to stop by and see) were as follows:

Mila: Loaded with Omega—3s, Fiber, anti-oxidants and many other vital nutrients, Mila® offers a variety of opportunities to improve your overall health and well being. It can also be deliciously combined with many foods as it has no taste or smell and its biological properties are not diminished by heat in the baking process making it easy to incorporate into your favorite recipes. They didn’t have any thing to sample the seeds with so I opted not to pick any up as I had limited room in my luggage but its definitely something that I want to look into more. Check out the product at http://home.lifemax.net/mila/the-miracle-seed

Lotus Fine Foods: Offers two forms granola that is organic, vegan, dairy free, gluten free and free of artificial flavours, colours, trans fat, preservatives and refined sugar; 1) Coconut & Cherry Quinoa, and 2) Cranberry & Cinnamon Quinoa. Check out their products at http://lotusfinefoods.com/

Bubbie’s Biscotti: If you follow the link to their site, you might realize that the gluten free biscotti varieties are carried at Second Cups around St. John’s. The two Gluten-free flavours are Chocolate Chip and Belgian Chocolate Marble. Don’t forget that they are also peanut and nut free! Check them out at http://bubbiesbiscotti.ca

Frankie’s Ristorante: As I mentioned above, located in Uxbridge, Ontario. Patrons will find both Celiac-friendly food and a peanut- and nut-free environment, as well as vegetarian, vegan and some sugar-free pastries for diabetic patrons every day. They also have a gluten free bakery which supplies the restaurant. Check them out if you ever find yourself in the Uxbridge area, as well as their website: http://www.glutenfreefrankies.com. This is definitely one place on my restaurants-to-visit list!! 🙂

Crepe-alicious: A European Restaurant which serves European favourites, Savoury Crepes, Breakfast Crepes, Vegetarian Crepes, Sweet Crepes and Paninis. All crepes can be made gluten free for an additional cost and there are several items that can also be requested to be gluten free. Their menu looks great but unfortunately they do not have a website (from what I can tell). The best that I could find was the listing on Urbanspoon: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/242/1683405/restaurant/Ontario/Crepe-alicious-Hamilton

Goodbye Gluten Fine Foods: Canada’s first 100% Gluten-free food store offering:
Fresh baked goods from its gluten-free, nut free, and dairy free bakery; Fresh prepared foods made on premises in its gluten free and nut free kitchen, and features a wide assortment of appetizers, salads, sides and main courses in Grab n’ Go format (fresh or frozen) or from the display counter; Grocery items including Nut-free, Dairy-free, Egg Free, Soy Free, Sugar Free, Salt Free and Vegan products; Catering.
Sounds like a fantastic place! Check them out at http://www.goodbyegluten.com

And last, but not least, Alyce Feindel (who was a delight to chat with and is from the Maritimes … Chester, Nova Scotia to be exact) was there selling copies of her cook book “Living and Eating Gluten Free”. Alyce also did one of the talks that I unfortunately missed but I enjoyed chatting with her during the set-up period on Saturday night as well as the day of the Expo.You can check out Alyce on her website www.glutenfreeforlife.com

This is just a small sample of the exhibitors who were present on the day of the Expo. For a complete list of the exhibitors who were there, check out http://glutenfreeexpo.ca/toronto-exhibitors-sponsors/.

I loved everything about the Expo! Engaging with Ellen via phone/email, meeting and helping out Margaret, visiting with my friend, Laura, while we perused the various exhibitors, sampling and buying delicious products, and realizing that I could stop myself when entering gluten-intolerant “robot” mode where I automatically ask the person serving me “and you’re certain that this is gluten-free right??” …. EVERYTHING was gluten-free. And it was absolutely awesome!!