Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastry … A Surprise From My GFF!

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This week I discovered a new term from Glam Without Gluten, that I love: GFF … i.e. Gluten-Free Friend.  I thought this was very clever to use a phrase that is equally as catchy as the widely recognized phrase, BFF. Glam’s blog is full of great posts and videos. You should check her out!! 🙂

A few weeks back I first mentioned my GFF in my post titled “Become A Promiscuous Shopper“.  Once again, she returned from the States and this time she surprised me with Glutino‘s take on a gluten-free version of the popular Pop-Tart. She picked up a box of each variety, and split between us. The pastries are individually wrapped with no markings, so when she swapped two Apple Cinnamon toaster pastries from my box with two Strawberry pastries from her box, I had no idea which flavour it would be until just before popping it into my toaster bag at work. Quelle surprise! 😉

Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastry

Now, it’s been likely 15, if not 20 years since I ate my last Pop Tart. I went through a spurt of eating them when I was a kid but I found (for me, personally) that the texture was a bit too dry, and the ones that were coated in icing were too sweet while the plain ones seemed like they were missing something. I later started eating Toaster Strudels, and fancied those more because the pastry was slightly more moist, the filling was a little more gooey, and it came with a pack of soft icing that I could apply to my individual liking. Like I said, it’s been at least 15 years since I had either of these … so my memory isn’t quite as reliable for comparing to the non-gluten-free versions of the Pop-Tart and Toaster Strudel … but the Glutino version reminded me somewhat of a cross between the two (minus the packet of icing). This quick breakfast option isn’t available in Newfoundland yet (and perhaps even Canada), but hopefully they start popping up on shelves soon as it’s a quick and easy breakfast option when you’re too busy to prepare breakfast ahead of time, and unlike the majority of the population where you can’t just pop out to the nearest coffee shop to get a quick snack.

Thanks again to my GFF for my GF Surprise!! 🙂

Have you had a chance to try these breakfast toaster pastries out? What did you think? What’s your favourite flavour?

2 Food Allergies, Etc. Bloggers to Follow! Celiac and Allergy Adventures + The Allergista

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Originally, I introduced Amanda & The Allergista through a different post (don’t bother to go looking for it. By the time you read this post, the original would have self-destructed). In that original post, I attempted the unthinkable … a reblog of a reblog of a guest post. Surprisingly, it seemed to have worked … for the most part. When you reblog something it takes a snapshot of the post and you can add comments to it. Your post (or reblog) assumes the title of the original post, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. When you reblog a reblog … you are taking a snapshot of the comment which was a part of the original reblog so there is no title for your post (or reblog) to assume. So you end up with a post without a name … or a titleless post. This is what happened to me when I reblogged Amanda’s reblog of her guest post on The Allergista’s blog. And as a result, I was left with a post titled “919” as you can see in this screenshot:

My original post (or, reblog of a reblog of a guest post) which since self-destructed

My original post (or, reblog of a reblog of a guest post) which since self-destructed

And the fact that those 3 little numbers were there instead of an actual title that actually had meaning for people, drove me absolutely crazy. I may be a little OCD. Maybe.

It was also brought to my attention that people wouldn’t be able to “Like”, “Tweet”, “Pin”, “Press”, “Submit”, “Tumbl”, Email, Print, etc. etc. the reblog. The idea that people wouldn’t be able to easily share with the world the blogs of these two fantastical ladies seemed like an epic fail. Both Amanda and The Allergista have incredibly informative blogs which deserve to be passed around the internet for all to enjoy.

If you’re still confused at this point, forget everything I said. I’ll now jump into the important segment of this post:

Say hello to Amanda of Celiac and Allergy Adventures. She recently did a guest post on The Allergista blog. I’ve been following Amanda’s blog now for several months and I thought that she had some excellent tips for the recently diagnosed Celiac in this guest post. In addition to Celiac Disease, Amanda also suffers from food allergies (some severe enough to cause anaphylaxis), asthma and eczema. If you find yourself in the same boat as Amanda …. or simple just suffer from one or two of the above ailments …. then I definitely recommend that you follow her blog!

Amanda’s reblog also introduced me to The Allergista … who suffers from a long list of food and skin allergies. I’ve only been following The Allergista for a few days so my knowledge of her posts are still a bit limited … but according to Amanda’s reblog, The Allergista has very informative posts … especially when it comes to Allergic Contact Dermatitis. She also has a passion for fashion, which actually gets interesting considering her skin allergies.

And get this: The Allergista did a guest post on Amanda’s blog. Which can only mean one thing … They are internet friends!

I really enjoy these two bloggers and their associated blogs. If you aren’t already following them, you’re missing out! Head over to their blogs and check them out! 🙂

50% Off: Allergic Solutions Mixes – This Weekend Only!

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Although I’ve only been a member of the CCA-NL since June of 2012, at every meeting that I’ve attended thus far, there’s been freebies to take home. At our meeting this past week, Allergic Solution had sent the Chapter samples of their various mixes, and there were enough packages for each member who attended to bring home multiple packs.

Allergen-Friendly Mixes, http://allergicsolution.com

Allergen-Friendly Mixes, http://allergicsolution.com

According to their website, they claim that having food allergies doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve a delicious treat. They say that many people possess multiple allergies or sensitivities and that their mixes were created with this in mind. Allergic Solution mixes are free of: corn, dairy/casein, eggs, gluten/wheat, peanuts, tree-nuts and soy.

This morning we decided to make the Pancake & Waffle Mix. I topped my pancakes with  some vanilla greek yogurt, our Aunt M’s homemade raspberry jam, and a little drizzle of maple syrup. Because the toppings were so flavourful, it was hard to judge on the taste of the pancake itself,  but it seemed like a good pancake to me. They appeared to be slightly denser than non-GF pancakes but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They reminded me of a crepe consistency which I enjoyed because I’ve yet to have a crepe since going gluten-free. When it comes to pancakes, for me personally, it’s the toppings that make the pancake. So, if you share in my philosophy in pancakes, have one or more dietary restrictions, and are looking to try out a new pancake mix, you’ll likely find that you enjoy Allergic Solution’s Waffle & Pancake Mix as well.

Allergic Solution Pancakes, vanilla yogurt, raspberry jam, & maple syrup

Allergic Solution Pancakes, vanilla yogurt, raspberry jam, & maple syrup

Best of all, for this weekend only, Allergic Solution’s mixes are 50% off, or 2 for 1 (however you wish to look at it). You can find the mixes at various stores as listed here on their website, however, I think the deal applies only to their online store. They also sell their mixes in bulk, and also sell several gift baskets which include various pans, waffle iron, or additional ingredients (depending on the particular type of basket chosen) which I thought would make a nice gift for someone who is a multiple food allergy sufferer. Keep in mind though, if you are buying online that you also have to consider shipping costs as well.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this mix, considering that they are egg-free, but I have to say that I enjoyed the crepe-like texture of this mix! I also like that they vegan-friendly and diabetic-friendly. Due to the fact that there is no sugar added, are dairy-free and gluten-free, the mixes would be a great option for those with strict dietary restrictions as a means to control disruptive digestion issues (much like my aunt who has to be gluten-free, dairy-free and consume minimum amounts of sugar in order to keep her collagenous colitis symptoms under control).

They also have a Facebook Page if you want to stay in the loop on similar deals.

Have you tried this mix? If so, what did you think?

Dear Toronto: Did You Really Gluten Me, Again??

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The last time I was in Toronto, I (naively and unintentionally) glutened myself. Ironically, it was the same weekend that I was there to attend the Gluten Free Expo. You can get that story in my Glutened, Days After Attending the Gluten Free Expo … and No. It was Unrelated post.

This time, I was super cautious about what I put into my mouth. “When in doubt, go without” was my motto for the weekend (as it is any other weekend that I don’t have a serious lapse in judgement). However, I did a spa day for my BFF’s birthday and although it was a fantastically relaxing and detoxifying day, about 20 minutes after we left, my stomach had swollen to the point that it appeared as though I was 5 months pregnant.

The spa that we went to was Body Blitz. We did an afternoon in the therapeutic waters while a few of us had spa treatments done before returning to my friend’s apartment for a party involving a slightly larger audience. The therapeutic waters were AMAZING!! I’ve never felt so relaxed and detoxed at the same time. It was fantastic! I’d highly recommend it if you live in, or will be visiting, the Toronto area.

Body Blitz Therapeutic Waters. Source: http://bodyblitzspa.com/index.php/blitz-gallery

Body Blitz Therapeutic Waters. Source: http://bodyblitzspa.com/index.php/blitz-gallery

Body Blitz Therapeutic Waters. Source: http://bodyblitzspa.com/index.php/blitz-gallery

Following the Therapeutic Waters, I had a session booked for a Winter Warming Mud Basic Body Bake. It was ultimate pampering! As good as the day at Body Blitz was, as we were travelling back to my friend’s apartment, I noticed that I could feel gas bubbling up in my colon (sorry if this is a little TMI). This is usually a sign of me having a reaction to something. As we drove back to the apartment, I could feel my belly swelling, and within 20 minutes my stomach was swollen to the point that I looked like I was 5 months pregnant. When we got inside to the Party Room which my friend had booked out for her party, I had mentioned, to the girls who came back to the condo building a little early, that it felt like I had reacted to the moisturizer that was applied at the end of the treatment. When they said “Really?” …. as it was obvious that I didn’t have any hives or obvious skin reactions. When I said “Huh uh. My belly is swollen”, they looked down to my belly, and I immediately seen all of their eyes widen, as their jaws dropped, and they simultaneously expelled a “Whhooooaaaaa …..” They said that, had they not seen me a few hours previously in a teeny bikini with an obviously flat belly, they would have seriously thought that I was 5 months pregnant. There was so much pressure in my belly that I was incapable of sitting upright and spent most of the night stretched out on the couch. It was the most bizarre feeling to walk around “stomach-first”. Getting up out of the chair was also a struggle as I couldn’t really bend properly at the waist. When I would get up, it was in the same manner as someone who is severely pregnant would move into a standing position. Throughout the night the girls were still flabbergasted at my swollen state. They even asked “Did gluten really do that to you?” and my only response was that I could only assume so.

I had assumed that the moisturizer would have absorbed into my skin and that’s what caused the reaction. However, in talking with my Celiac friends at our Celiac Association meeting last night, they said that you need to actually ingest gluten in order to have a reaction. Did I accidentally have moisturizer residue on my hands and accidentally put my hands in my mouth? Or was it something else in the moisturizer that absorbed through my skin and reacted to? I’m not quite sure. I had a similar experience a few years ago at a local spa but at the time assumed that it was perhaps related to residue on the jug of water or the glass that I had drank out of immediately following my massage. In that instance my stomach had also swollen within a span of 20 minutes.

So, Toronto. Did you really gluten me, again? Or have you allowed me to discover that I may have another intolerance or sensitivity?

To answer this question, I’ve contacted both spas to see what ingredients are in both moisturizers in hopes that I can find the common link. Stay tuned!!

Cookbook Recipe Trial: Pumpkin Pancakes

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As I mentioned in my earlier post which profiled the FREE FOR ALL COOKING: 150 EASY GLUTEN-FREE, ALLERGY-FRIENDLY RECIPES cookbook, it only took about a year and one “snowpocalypse” to attempt this recipe. I’ll apologize in advance for the lack of “oomph” that my pancake pictures bring to the table …. but I assure you that the taste made up for the lack of presentation effort on my part. What happened was: we were in the middle of the worst snow storm (actually blizzard) that I can remember since moving to St. John’s in 2001, and we were racing against time to prepare breakfast before our power cut out again. In hindsight – probably not the smartest move on my part, to profile a recipe for my blog under these circumstances ….. but I had psyched myself up for these pancakes when I went to bed, and they were the first thing that I thought of when I woke up that morning. I needed those pancakes to be in my belly!

To give you an idea of how intense the storm was, nearly 50cm fell and wind gusts of more than 100 km/h were experienced. We were one of the few lucky sections of the city to only loose our power for about 30 minutes. The power went out early Friday morning and for some, it was late Saturday afternoon before power was reinstated. The airport had also shut down until midnight Saturday night due to the storm (which was further impacted by an ongoing strike by maintenance workers). Like I said, it was one of the most intense snow storms that the city had seen in years.

Before: Mid Afternoon, Thursday January 10th 2013. After: Mid Morning Friday January 11th 2013.

Before: Mid Afternoon, Thursday January 10th 2013. After: Mid Morning Friday January 11th 2013.

Ever since I had my first pumpkin cinnamon roll from Gluten Free Treasures at my local Farmer’s Market, I realized that I was IN LOVE with everything pumpkin! So when I stumbled across the Pumpkin Pancake recipe in  this cookbook, I knew that it would be the first recipe that I would attempt.

Pumpkin Pancakes

As I mentioned in my post that profiled the cookbook, the recipes are written for use with Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Blend. Considering that I didn’t have all of the ingredients in my pantry to mix a batch of her flour blend, I turned to another fine lady named “Pamela” and opened the package of her baking and pancake mix that my friend, Felicia, had surprised me with a while back. Felicia raved about the mix but … once again … I hadn’t found the time to test it out. I thought that I would substitute the Pamela’s flour blend for that of Jules’ blend and see how it turned out.

I won’t reproduce the recipe here, but the recipe did consist of:

  • gluten-free flour
  • baking powder
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • cinnamon
  • egg (or egg substitute)
  • cooking oil
  • brown sugar
  • pureed pumpkin
  • milk
  • optional: raisins, cranberries or chocolate chips (I opted for plain pumpkin pancakes).

Although we eat food with dairy, we don’t normally purchase milk for use as a beverage, and as a result there was none in the fridge to use in the recipe. Luckily I had a carton of almond milk in the cupboard. We had eggs in the fridge so they were used in the recipe. At some point I might attempt an eggless version … but for the time being, I was running against the clock to finish the pancakes before the power cut out again (thankfully though, it remained on for the remainder of the day).

The pancakes were a little denser than a regular pancake because of the pumpkin … but then again …. all gluten-free pancakes are denser than your ‘regular’ pancake, so no difference there. Regardless of the density of the pancake, the result was absolutely delicious!

The recipe serves 4 and because my guy decided that he would only take one pancake to eat with his breakfast ….. it meant that I had enough for leftovers! There’s nothing better than warming up a pancake when you’re in the office on a Monday morning!! Just don’t forget the maple syrup! ….. unless you’re allergic …. then, go ahead and forget the maple syrup! 😉

As I was scanning through the recipe to write this post, I noticed that Jules suggests that you strategically place chocolate chips after flipping to create the illusion of a jack-o-latern … Jules: I like your style! And I like love Halloween. I will DEFINITELY be making jack-o-lantern pumpkin pancakes, next Halloween! 🙂

Jules has several recipes related to pumpkin included in the cookbook, which is great because now I have more ways to feed my love of pumpkin. Up next? Pumpkin Corn Muffins! 🙂

Glutened, Days after attending Gluten Free Expo (… and no. it was unrelated)

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One of my favourite experiences from this year was travelling to Toronto to attend a Gluten-Free Expo (which I randomly became a last minute volunteer for)…. and I had a blast! You can read about it here.

My least favourite experience from this year? Getting “glutened” a few days later in the same city, during the same trip. Oh, the irony!

Luckily, getting glutened was totally independent of attending the Expo (…. Margaret & Ellen: if you are reading this, you can start breathing again 😉 ….. Margaret was the organizer and mastermind behind the expo and Ellen supported her remotely from BC. It was a pleasure to help them out during the event!).

Like I said, the Expo was amazing and I was very much looking forward to hanging around for a couple of extra days so that I could hang out with one of my BFF’s, Jenny, who had just returned from a trip to India.

Celiacs will go completely out of there way to go to a restaurant that has been identified as safe for Celiacs. I had consulted The Celiac Scene maps to look for a safe restaurant that had a brunch option for Jenny and I before we took on an afternoon of shopping. She had mentioned that there was a place called Mitzi’s that had gluten free options as far as she was aware. I remembered going there before I realized that gluten was making me sick and I remembered how delicious the food was so I agreed that we should definitely go there, even though Mitzi’s wasn’t showing up on The Celiac Scene. But I know that the “Scene” is only as good as those who actively contribute to it …. so if you’re in an area where there aren’t a lot of Celiacs using the Scene, then chances are you could miss out on a fantastic restaurant with safe options because there’s been no one to providing feedback to the Scene in order to get that restaurant on the list. Perhaps, I figured, this was why Mitzi’s wasn’t showing up on the list.

When we got there and I had a chance to peak at the menu, I was SOOOOOO excited to see Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes! Generally, I don’t get the luxury of having someone else make me gluten free pancakes, unless they are made by my guy in our kitchen at home. Better still, the pancake of the day was topped with an espresso cream, maple syrup, whipped cream, and pralines – HELLO DELICIOUSNESS!!

I was delighted! That is, until the waitress popped back to our table and said that the pancakes were actually made with oats. I asked if they were certified gluten-free and she said that she didn’t think so. I asked if I could see the package to have a look at the ingredient list. Turns out it was Quaker Rolled Oats and there was a “May Contain” statement for wheat.

I don’t know if I have Celiac Disease or not. It was suggested by my naturopath that I was sensitive to gluten and I immediately went on a gluten-free diet. It was amazing the difference after years of bloating and digestive discomfort. I later realized that you should be tested for Celiac Disease before going on a gluten-free diet because gluten needs to be present to cause the the inflammation in the small intestine in order to get a positive diagnosis. So, although I do not know if I have celiac disease, I have so many of the symptoms that I’m almost certain that I do. I eat as strictly as a Celiac does …. with the exception of this instant. I totally let me guard down. In hindsight, I was being absolutely naive.

When I saw the “may contain” statement, I thought “Oh, it’s probably just a liability disclaimer. It’s likely that it’s made in a totally separate area, but because they process wheat in the same building they have to list a May Contain statement” ….. I normally DO NOT eat anything with a “May Contain” statement but the idea of eating those buckwheat pancakes with the espresso cream and other delicious toppings made me let my guard down. I kept telling myself, “I’m sure it’ll be fine …. maybe just some light swelling of my belly”.

I ate the pancakes and they were DELICIOUS!! When I left, I noticed that my stomach was swollen and I felt very nauseated….. but my stomach didn’t feel like it was ripping apart like it normally does when I accidentally ingest gluten. So I thought perhaps there was very little trace of the wheat in the oats. Boy, was I wrong. At about 3:30 that afternoon all hell broken loose on my digestive system and I was back and fourth to the washroom off and on for hours afterwards. My stomach was still not 100% back to normal when I went to bed that night. I think this is a very likely sign that I do in fact have Celiac Disease.

So, it turns out that the Gluten-Free buckwheat pancakes were not actually not gluten-free at all. This is not the first time that I’ve been exposed to glutenous buckwheat breakfast items. I learned the hard way that the buckwheat crepes at Cora’s also contain wheat. In fact, first when I went gluten-free and was learning about all the things that I need to keep an eye out for it took me a while to clue in to the fact that the sausages that I was ordering contained gluten …. then I discovered that the breakfast potatoes were coated in a flour mixture. And after the third time going and coming home feeling nauseated and sick to my stomach, I decided to do a little googling. And sure enough, I found a Celiac Disease forum that stated that Cora’s buckwheat crepes actually contained wheat (despite wheat being in the name, buckwheat does not contain gluten). Every gluteneous mishap is another opportunity to learn from it. I learned a lot in the first few months of going gluten-free.

Because the food was so delicious, I wanted to provide suggestions to Mitzi’s so that they could improve their awareness of the dietary restrictions that surround Celiac Disease so that they could be a safe place for Celiacs and that we could get them added to the Scene. Here’s the suggestions (and pleas) that I emailed to them the next day:

  • PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not offer them to anyone who is Celiac or gluten intolerant/sensitive until you can take measures to ensure they are gluten-free (if you have to, Tell them that you ran out off your ingredients).
  • Purchase certified gluten-free oats.
  • Confirm if your buckwheat is gluten-free, if not, purchase one that is certified as gluten-free.
  • Ensure that any other toppings for the pancakes are gluten-free (for example, the pralines shouldn’t have a may contain statement).
  • Use a separate pan and separate spatula.
  • There’s a guide for food allergies available on the CRFA:http://www.crfa.ca/foodhealthyliving/#foodallergies . If you follow this link, it will take you to the guide on Restaurant Central (http://www.restaurantcentral.ca/FoodAllergiesGuide.aspx).
  • If you offer Gluten-free toast, don’t use the same toaster that you use for regular bread. Even if you use a convection heater, there’s still risk of cross-contamination. I found this statement on the restaurant guide for food allergies: 

Did you know: It is commonly believed that extreme heat during cooking will change the make-up of the food being prepared and remove the protein that can cause a reaction. This is not true. Cooking the food using extreme heat will not make the food safe for allergic individuals.

  • To help with toaster cross-contamination, you can get Toaster Bags, such as these: http://www.amazon.com/Set-NoStick-Toast-Toaster-Bags/dp/B0012XGM92 .
  • Be mindful of is crumbs in the butter and other condiment (such as mayo) containers. It’s best to use a separate container that’s designated as gluten-free and use a clean knife for cutting and spreading and a separate cutting board when slicing the bread (if it doesn’t already come sliced). I also recommend washing your hands and applying disposable gloves prior to handling the gluten-free bread.

I sent off my recommendations and feedback to the cook and the general email for the restaurant but I never did hear back from anyone. When I get a chance, I’ll call them up and see if they did implement any of my suggestions. I hope, for their sake and for mine that they do, so that I can enjoy another delicious meal when in Toronto and that we can recommend them to be added to the Scene.

I know there’s a bit of a learning curve when it come’s to gluten-free knowledge so I’m willing to give a second chance if I know that an establishment has taken the necessary measures to make positive changes. There is only one place that I have boy-cotted and that’s because I became sick for the third time after ordering a supposedly gluten-free item. Hence my adopted rule of thumb:

Gluten-me once: Shame on You. Gluten-me twice: Shame on Me. Gluten-me a third time and it’s automatic blacklist, buddy.

One thing that I’ve learned over the past year and a bit is that you can never be too safe when it comes to dining out gluten-free (or with any restriction for that matter). There’s no such thing as too many questions when it comes to your health and wellbeing. And such experiences reinforce the need (and my desire) to start Etcetera …. a safe-haven restaurant for people with food allergies and other dietary restrictions! 🙂

Cheers,
Krista 🙂

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!!

I started a what?! …

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…. a Blog. If you had told me at the beginning of last year that I would be starting a blog, I would have said that you were crazy. I’m not great when it comes to grammar and keeping to the point. I often use 10 lines to explain what could be explained in 2. I’m a bit of a scatterbrain. And I often bite off more than I can chew.

So what landed me at this point in time where I thought “You know what? I should start a blog”? … a little thing called gluten and a newly(-ish) diagnosed intolerance to it.

For years I’ve suffered from gastrointestinal issues. Which is not surprising when you consider the fact that there is a large history of colon cancer in my family due to a predisposition to an inherited condition called Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) …. actually, in our family it’s an attenuated version (or AFAP) so it’s a little more unpredictable (not that it’s necessarily pertinent information) …. In addition to my genetic predisposition to AFAP, I also suffered from two food allergies as a kid: one to tomato and one to egg (yolks, to be exact). It probably took about a year of suffering from hours of intense stomach pain and Stomach-Flu like symptoms several times a week before we found a doctor that finally suggested that it might be a food allergy. Long story short, I cut out tomato and eggs from the time I was in Grade 5 until late high school. Over time I realized that it was tomato and egg in its purest form that would reek havoc on my insides and that when ingested in smaller ratios I would not really notice any ill effects. Cakes and cookies were added to my “Safe” list, while omelettes and spaghetti fell on the “DO NOT EAT” list. Another thing that I learned over time was that I could enjoy a small portion of spaghetti but would have to suffer the consequences. I was ok to do this once every six months or so. Eventually I started slightly decreasing the period in between “cheats” while slightly increasing the volume ingested. I know that by Grade 11 I was able to enjoy salsa with no known side effects. So what does this have to do with gluten, you ask? Well, nothing other than I wanted to provide you with a little background history.

Fast forward to late 2010.

I was run-down with no energy, experiencing what I called a foggy mind and foggy memory, but worst of all was experiencing a bloated stomach on a daily basis which was extremely uncomfortable when your job requires you to sit at a computer desk or meeting room for the majority of your 8 hour work day. Within the last six months pre-diagnosis I could no longer wear pants to work without, part way through the day, unbuttoning the button and slipping a hair elastic around it to provide expansion (under a long top to cover my gaping pants) to accommodate my extremely swollen belly and traded all my pants for leggings and dresses. I felt completely awful and regularly complained to my sister who regularly suggested to me that I was complaining about the same things that some of her staff who were gluten sensitive and/or Celiac were complaining about. She kept telling me that I should get tested for gluten intolerance and I kept putting it off.

Finally, I was at a conference and ran into a coworker during one of the breaks. She was pointing out all the various things around the table that she could and couldn’t eat due to her gluten and dairy intolerances. I asked her how she had discovered that she had food intolerances and she told me how awful she had been feeling (much to the same way I was describing myself) and how she had tried a naturopath. I got the name of the clinic that she went to and quickly made an appointment.

At first I was a little skeptical when the naturopath explained how she was going to test me. But I felt so awful that I was willing to give it a try. The first thing that she said was that I was definitely sensitive to gluten. The second thing that she said that I should avoid bananas (something that I had myself concluded over the last few years due to my upset stomach after eating it). She also said that tomato was extremely bad for me as well as egg yolk. She also suggested that I avoid milk (but cheese was ok, thankfully!), beef, and peanuts among a few others. I had mentioned how when I was little that I was allergic to tomato and egg yolk and how I had weaned my way back on those items. She suggested that it may have been that my symptoms had changed and I was no longer recognizing that it wasn’t agreeing with my body. For the first month I had cut out everything that she had suggested and felt amazing. But it was a challenge to adjust to a new gluten free diet (in addition to other restrictions) and I had a lot to learn. Cutting out gluten seemed to have the biggest positive effect on me so over time I allowed myself to be a little more lenient and was less strict with the other restrictions that the naturopath had suggested. As a result I was feeling probably like 90% of the way I felt within that first month of adhering to all of her restrictions … in comparison to the 30% that I was feeling before I followed her advice. Although I am lenient with her other suggested restrictions, gluten is one thing that I have a zero-tolerance for. I would never “cheat” when it comes to gluten, however there have been a few accidents while dining out where I thought what I was eating was gluten free. The result is what I like to refer to as my “gluten-baby”.

Going gluten-free was the first factor that lead to this blog. Like I suggested at the beginning of this post … I often ramble on when trying to explain something. In my next posts I’ll continue my story of how I came to the point where I decided to write a blog.

FoodAllergiesEtcetera will touch on various food allergies and dietary restrictions, with a focus on natural living where possible. Any useful sites, articles, recipes, restaurant reviews, etc. will be shared and discussed throughout.