… And Then Cancer Moves Up On My List Of Health Concerns (and why I’m ok with it)

3

Two years ago I figured out that a severe gluten intolerance was the culprit of my ill health (as a side note, I’m still awaiting determination if it’s Celiac Disease). By strictly modifying my diet, my ill health improved drastically.

Just over a year ago I suffered a mental breakdown and began treatment for clinical depression. Again, huge results in my mental and physical health after I started on a low dose anti-depressant.

Now, Cancer is on the forefront of my list of health concerns that I need to keep an eye out for. Warning: This is a bit of a long story.

Remember the kids’ story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day“? The particular day in question wasn’t quite as bad as that … but it was the start of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

I woke up the last Monday of March and it was just one of those days. It was one of those days where I just feel like all I want to do is sit down and cry and there was absolutely nothing that I could think of that had set it off. Once upon a time it was a regular occurrence. Now, it only happens from time to time. I’m not sure what exactly it is that spurs it on … it could be that my anti-depressants were taken too close together or too far apart. Perhaps it was related to my monthly cycle. Who knows what triggered it. I just knew that if I got up and carried on that it would likely pass at some point throughout the day and if not, my mood/state would be reset the following day after waking up after a long nights sleep.

Later on that day I had a message from my mom saying that my dad had went for an ultrasound and something had shown up. The next day, he returned for a CT scan and the results indicated that most likely one of the polyps in his stomach had turned cancerous.

This was not 100% entirely unexpected. My father has a condition called Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP). If left untreated, growths (called polyps) can form in the colon and turn cancerous over time. A regular colonoscopy can check for these growths and if present, they can be removed at that time. My father had his first polyp show up at the age of 40. By the time that he had turned 50 the number had multiplied so rapidly that there were hundreds of polyps in his large intestine – too many to “burn off”. As a preventative measure, he had all but a few inches of his large intestine removed. The following year polyps began forming in his stomach. And similarly, they multiplied to the hundreds. At first there were talks about removing his entire stomach, connecting his esophagus to his small intestine, a process referred to as a gastrectomy . But it would be such a huge impact to his body considering that there was only a few inches left to his large intestine, and in his particular case they expected him to be on a liquid diet and probably have to use a feeding tube. They decided to monitor at 6 month intervals with the intent that they would be able to do the surgery the minute (figuratively, that is) that the polyps started to turn. He was due to go back in a few weeks for his 6 month “inspection” but over the Fall he wasn’t feeling well, having a lot of pain, and that past week he was starting to get nauseated, in addition to the other new symptoms that he was experiencing. That’s when they put him on the fast track for the ultrasound and CT scan.

I ended up calling in to work that Wednesday and said that I wouldn’t be in. I had a lot to process.

My first thoughts were just getting him through his surgery and treatments. Then I started to think about what was to come next. I thought about how his life would be affected by no longer having a stomach (I suspect I inherited my ‘foodie’ personality from him). And then it occurred to me that if I ever do get my restaurant idea off of the ground, that my dad would not be able to enjoy the food that is prepared there. And it made me sad. My dad has always been super proud of my accomplishments and I would hate for him not to experience it in its entirety.

And then my thoughts started to shift from my dad … to my eventual fate.

I, like my dad, am gene positive for AFAP. I’ve known that I’ve had the condition since I was little, due to genetic testing. Screening for polyps started for me while I was still in high school. My dad didn’t get his first polyp until he was 40. By age 50, he had the majority of his large intestine removed. I had my first polyp at age 26. The next year I had my first polyp in my stomach. So I worry, if it progresses at the same rate as my father, will I be looking at the removal of my large intestine by age 36? Or, like with his stomach, could the polyps in my stomach multiple so quickly that I have to deal with cancer and/or have my stomach removed before I hit 40? It was a lot to take in.

Then I started to wonder “What if I get cancer and/or have my stomach removed? What happens to my restaurant dream then??”

This blog has been a component of that dream and I’ve been having so much fun doing it. My blog and dream restaurant is my passion right now. It’s what drives me.

It’s funny. That Monday morning when I woke (before any light had been shed on the extent of the worsening of my dad’s health), I had read an interesting post on Offbeat Home, “I caught that dream that I was chasing. Now what?“. I could relate to the post because: 1) the writer deals with “Imposter Syndrome” and 2) I’ve also been wondering that exact same question. Despite waking up that morning feeling bad from the start, this post was just what I needed to make my bad day feel a little brighter. I felt encouraged that morning to continue after my dream.

Despite reading that post and feeling better about my bad day, after receiving the news of my father’s predicament, it fast-tracked my future-fears of battling cancer myself. In addition to that, I started to worry about what would happen if I had to have my stomach removed. Would I even want to continue to develop this blog and/or my restaurant dream if I were unable to partake in the pleasures of food? Or, if I did achieve my dream restaurant, would I come to resent it??

Then I started to wonder “What if I can no longer enjoy food? Will I become a social hermit?”

I thought about how we love to entertain and its always based on food. True to Newfoundlander form, we’ve always been known for our “kitchen parties”. For this reason, our new home is being designed with our kitchen as our focal point of the house. It’s where we will spend the majority of our time. What if I start to despise those kitchen parties because I would feel out of place because I can’t enjoy dining with my friends?

My not-so-final thought: “Should I give up on my dream?”

This was a lot to digest for one day. I felt lost and I felt like I should give up on my dream rather than face the possibility of my dreams eventually being crushed. I had an overwhelming feeling of “what’s even the point?“.

Then I received an email response to a previous request to do a guest post on my blog. They said that they wanted to do a post on Celiac Disease and Depression, and that they had found my blog by doing a Google search. I think it was what I needed to snap me back out of the funk that I had found myself in. I started this blog as a means to help others through sharing my experiences. By labelling my blog “Food Allergies Etcetera”, the etcetera portion has allowed me to delve into the topic of mental health. And I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who have read my posts related to mental illness because they could truly identify with what I had experienced, and they found that they now had someone else who knew what they were personally experiencing. So what, if at some point I may not be able to enjoy food and share in foodie experiences. Perhaps this blog will morph into something else that is useful to others … perhaps it will serve as a connection point for others with AFAP/FAP, or perhaps it will be a vessel to share my future story of cancer prevention and/or survival.

On the first Friday of April (funny how April just happens to be cancer awareness month), my dad received confirmation that, since his last 6 month inspection, he had cancer in his stomach. His GI surgeon advised that he would not be doing  the gastrectomy at this time and that chemo was the better treatment option. A referral was made to see an oncologist, to discuss chemo. Things have moved very fast and it’s already been just under three weeks since he started treatment and he is doing well with it. Other than being fatigued, he’s not felt sick, has no pain, has stopped losing weight, has regained his appetite and is able to enjoy food just as he always has. And best of all, he still has a full head of thick hair that any 58 year old would be envious of 😉. Hopefully this is an indication of the effectiveness of the treatment!

It’s been a month since that horrible, no good, very bad day … but since then, I’ve stumbled across this article about a young woman in her 20s who decided to have a gastrectomy, and it was quite positive. I also found the No Stomach For Cancer website which has a lot of valuable information, including this overview of a Gastrectomy (You’ll find a lot of useful info related to life during and after a gastrectomy. Just hover over “Gastric Cancer” at the top menu, then hover over “Life Without a Stomach” and you’ll find 4 subpages). In addition to this, I was connected with someone (who I’ll be meeting in the coming weeks) who also decided to have a gastrectomy because she knew that stomach cancer was imminent (due to genetic markers) and she claims that the surgery saved her life (in addition to many other of members of her family). I think she will be a huge resource should I ever decide to go that route in the future. As a result, I’m starting to feel that although having a future Gastrectomy would be life altering, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

My final thought: “You know what? … this situation isn’t as bad as it sounds”

I know the information that I’ve laid out in this post is a bit much to take in … and it sounds like a sad story. But I’m not letting it manifest that way for me. I know our family can beat this. I had a bit of an epiphany moment and its really helped me to deal with the whole situation:

Everyone has their expiry dates. If my eventual fate was to be hit by a bus and killed in a months time, I’d have no idea … And would go on living as if I had years to accomplish what I want to accomplish in life, only to be cut short of those accomplishments. Now I get to live as though I don’t have all the time in the world, it will motivate me to be healthier, appreciate life more and make the best of it.

I wouldn’t come out and be as cocky to say “bring it on!” to cancer … but if it happens to me I’ll be ready for it. I live a relatively healthy life, and am consciously aware of my physical and mental states. I’ve learned over the years that I need to listen to my mental and physical needs. If something seems to be wrong, I’ll immediately arrange to have it checked out. Perhaps in the years to come I’ll be pro-active and have a partial or full gastrectomy, if it looks like it will reduce my risk of developing cancer. I’m upbeat and positive and have an amazingly huge support network in my life, including a fantastic local-gone-national Non-Profit Organization called Young Adult Cancer Canada. I’ve been supporting this group since I’ve discovered it in 2009 and take comfort in knowing the fantastic support that they give to young adults dealing with cancer. I’m not in despair by the recent series of events … I am motivated and I am ready for whatever life has to dish out to me! 🙂

Have you, or someone close to you, had a gastrectomy, been affected by stomach/colorectal cancer, or are a cancer survivor? If so, care to share any advice?

Thanks for reading. As you may or may not have noticed, I recently took a short hiatus from blogging. I have a feeling that for the time being I might continue with this break or at least not blog as actively … although there is potential for some guest posts to pop up from time to time.

Also, positive thoughts are appreciated for our family at this time.

xo

Krista

I Experimented … With Kale

2

There’s several reasons why I started this blog and do varying posts.

  1. I want to help those in the St. John’s, NL area find out what options are available in terms of gluten intolerance and other dietary restrictions … My main focus is in dining out, and this is just starting to kick off. Expect the premier post, soon! 🙂
  2. To share my experiences in exploring natural living and cooking. I’m just a regular Joe, with no  nutrition or culinary background. I assure you that if I can do it, you can most certainly can too.
  3. I want to learn from others. I post things because I want to tell the story of what I’ve tried and attempted, but I want to get ideas from others like me who are exploring the same things and what they’ve found has worked and what hasn’t.

So today, I experimented with Kale. I’ve been wanting to try out cooking with Kale for a long time. Mostly from seeing various graphics on the benefits of Kale such as this one:

And also from seeing various posts from my friend Sharon, at Am I Vegan Now?, on how much she loves Kale. More recently she’s got me thinking about a trying out a breakfast scramble.

So today, I decided to try out a Kale Scramble.

Kale Scramble

I went with Sharon’s advice and used ingredients that I had on hand in my pantry and fridge. Last week’s Small Fruit and Veggie Box from Real Food Market consisted of organic Kale, Spinach, Potatoes, Tomatoes and Bananas. So, for the scramble, I used:

  • Organic kale
  • Organic Potatoes
  • Organic Tomatoes
  • Organic onion (left over from my last RFM purchase)
  • Organic pine nuts (that I purchased at Whole Foods when I was in Toronto recently)

as well as:

  • Non-organic red and green peppers
  • Non-organic bacon

 … as I mentioned at the start of this post, this is my exploration into more natural living so I’m not 100% organic, but I’m getting there 🙂

I fried the bacon in a separate pan in order to remove excess fat. I fried all of the harder veggies first (such as the potato, peppers and onion) and once softened, I added in the kale and tomato. As for seasonings, I didn’t need a lot because the veggies naturally give a lot of flavour … as well as the bacon … but I did add in a pinch of celery salt at the end.

The result was delicious! Thanks Sharon for making me want to try out cooking with Kale … and attempting a scramble. It was as easy and delicious as you said it would be 🙂

Do you cook with Kale? If so, care to share links to your favourite recipes? How about Scrambles? Have you tried any interesting concoctions? 

Uh-Oh! (Gluten Free) Spaghettios!

7

Remember Spaghettios?? They were a staple for me when I was a kid.

That is, until I developed an food allergy (or intolerance) to tomatoes. At the time I was suffering from severe gastro pain and would be up sick several nights throughout the week for hours on end until the pain went away. On a few occasions the pain was so bad that I thought I would pass out. It was a little scary for my parents because there’s a long line of bowel cancer in my family due to a condition that we have called F.A.P (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis) and it wasn’t anticipated that it would affect me until I was much older (I was about 10 at the time). But all of the tests came back clear for any signs of cancer but I was still having issues. I remember going back and forth to the hospital on numerous occasions, when finally a new doctor recommended that it could be a food allergy. Months later I had the allergy test and it concluded that I had an allergy to tomato and egg yolk (in addition to several non-food allergies).

In hindsight, it made perfect sense. On average I consumed 3 or 4 cans of Spaghettios a week. I stopped the Spaghettios and other tomato based foods and I got better. It was hard to give them up cold turkey. I went tomato free for many years and eventually I was able to wean my way back to tomato based foods.

But then I grew up …. and grew out of Spaghettios.

Now, I am severally gluten intolerant (if not Celiac … which I’m in the process of trying to determine). I’m usually pretty good with not pouting over the foods that I can no longer enjoy. But the other day I passed the canned section and a can of Spaghettios caught my eye. And it was discouraging that I was able to “grow out of” my tomato allergy … only to be affected by a severe gluten intolerance as an adult. For a minute, I just wished that I could have a can so that I could feel like a kid again. Sadly I dropped my head and carried on.

On my most recent trip to Toronto, I picked up a pack of GoGo Quinoa Anelli vegetable pasta, while at a natural food store, because it looked interesting and I wondered what it was like. It’s completely organic and consists of Organic white rice flour, organic quinoa flour, organic beets, organic spinach and organic tumeric. It’s wheat-free/gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. The pasta was in my pantry for over a month while I wondered what I would do with it. … Then it hit me! SPAGHETTIOS!! Yes, his was a most excellent idea!

So I woke this morning, excited because I was going to attempt gluten free Spaghettios!

IMG_1787 1

I decided to google “Spaghettios Recipe” and found several hits. One of which, seemed straight forward so I decided to try it out. Get the recipe here: http://www.examiner.com/article/make-your-own-homemade-spaghetti-o-recipe-frugal-recipes-for-picky-eaters

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) tomato soup
  • 1 soup can water
  • 1 soup can milk
  • 1 pound small pasta rings, alphabets, or stars
  • 6 ounces Velveeta cheese (processed cheese), cut into very small cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Pinch of sea salt, optional

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, minus 3 minutes. This will ensure that the pasta, once added to the tomato soup, does not become mushy. Drain pasta.
  2. In large pot, add tomato soup, milk, water, butter, cubed cheese, and salt. Bring to simmer over low heat until cheese is melted. Stir in cooked pasta. Bring back to a simmer over low heat, stirring often, until heated through and thickened.
  3. Yield: approximately 6 to 8 one-cup servings

I had used ingredients that I readily had available in the house such as: PC Brand Blue Menu Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup, almond milk, Havarti cheese, and the Anelli pasta. The can of soup that I had was 591mL so I had to scale the above recipe back somewhat. I also skipped the additional water.

The result was tasty but there was an obvious lack of sweetness to make it just like the Franco-American version that I grew up on as a kid. I decided to add a little bit of Ketchup to sweeten the taste. I think this is a trial and error basis, so I’d start out with a 1/4 cup of Ketchup and add more to suite your taste.

I also recommend waiting for the dish to cool a little before you dig in. The cheese will solidify slightly and the texture will seem that much more familiar if you just wait a few minutes for it to cool down. Trust me, your tongue will thank you! 😉

Spaghettios

The Anelli was fantastic and the sauce worked out well. It really did look and taste like Spaghettios and I really did feel like a kid again while eating it…. minus the severe gastro distress! 🙂

Let me know if you try out something similar!

Cheers!

Krista.

Become A Promiscuous Shopper

6

There’s been several things that I’ve learned since having to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle due to my severe gluten-intolerance.

  1. You’re gonna have to do a lot more shopping for supplies
  2. You will likely have to become a “promiscuous shopper”.
  3. It’s best if you familiarize yourself with whats out there.

… well, if you live in larger centers, then you might not have to be so promiscuous when it comes to shopping to accommodate a food allergy or dietary restriction, but if you live here in the St. John’s and surrounding areas you can expect the need to shop around in order to find all of your groceries.

First, lets look at Supermarkets.

Not only does the variety in the Natural Food Section (or as I lovingly refer to it as, “The Freaky People Aisle”) vary between Supermarket chains … it also varies within each chain.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a creature of habit. So I’ve always stuck to Sobey’s stores … and in addition, I’ve also gravitated to the same location. I like familiarity and efficiency. The minute I have to go to a different store I feel like I’ve landed in “Shelbyville” and I suddenly can’t find the items that I’m looking for as easy as I would in my regular  store . I end up getting distracted, it takes me twice if not three times as long to find what I’m looking for, and if my guy is waiting for me in the car …. I can expect to receive “Focus!!” texts to ensure that I’m not dillydallying and stay on task.

That all changed when I discovered my food intolerance.

Over time I realized that Dominion has a great selection in their Freaky People Aisle. So I now break up my shopping between Sobeys and Dominion. I also realized that the selection varies from Sobeys store to Sobeys store (and similarly with Dominion). What would show up in the freezer section in one location, might show up on shelves in another. Dominion’s brand, President’s Choice has introduced it’s own gluten-free line and these products show in the regular bakery section. At my regular Sobey’s location, delicious Udi’s products show up in the bakery section whereas in other locations I have to go to the “Freaky People” freezer section.

I recommend:

    1. Scoping out the various supermarket chains and various locations to see what products you are interested in.
      When you are ready to restock your pantry, you know exactly where to head to successfully find your favourite products; and
    2. Making note of the days where the natural food shelves/produce/dairy /meat & poultry sections are restocked.
      I find that the poultry section seems to be better stocked on a certain day but there’s a slim chance that I’ll find my favourite variety of Greek yogurt in stock.

Nourish Gluten-Free Bakery

When I was first advised by my “Quack” (i.e. Naturopath) to go gluten-free, the first thing that she recommended was that I check out the newly opened 100% gluten-free bakery, Nourish in Paradise. I enjoy their selection of bagels, tea buns, flatbreads, brownies and various other goodies. I also enjoy Ashley, the owner & operator, who I’ve interacted with on many occasions since I first became a customer. I like that they use all natural ingredients and avoid preservatives. You can purchase from them directly, or you can order a limited number of their products online from Real Food Market which I’ll discuss next. You can also enjoy several of their products when dining out around town. One of the places not mentioned on their list is Post Espresso where you can enjoy several of their tea buns, lemon loaves, coffee cakes and brownies (on occasion) to go with their delicious espresso based drinks.

Real Food Market

I first learned of Real Food Market from my Chiropractor of all places, lol. He had mentioned that he had a patient who was in the process of starting up an online organic market for the St. John’s area and asked if I would like to pass along my info to that person. He couldn’t provide me her name at the time but I did give him permission to share my info and Melissa later contacted me once he mentioned me and the fact that I want to start a restaurant that caters to people with food allergies and dietary restrictions. Melissa has been great to chat both in person and via email.

Real Food Market is an online organic grocery store that either delivers direct to your door, or allows pickup at their warehouse if you prefer. They have a dedicated Gluten-Free section as well as a dedicated Vegetarian/Vegan section. Within the DairyGluten-Free, and  Vegetarian/Vegan sections you’ll also find a Butter & Butter Substitute sub-section. Dairy milk substitutes are found in a sub-section in the Vegetarian/Vegan section. Check out the Vegetarian/Vegan section for all of the available sub-sections.

From my experience, the Gluten-Free section tends to be items that are marketed as gluten-free. I’ve found other products in the non-GF sections that were naturally gluten-free and confirmed to be so after digging further into the companies website/email. Check out the other sections and if there’s something that interests you, do some research to see if it is in fact, safe for you to eat.

Winners Homesense

I would never have thought to check Winners Homesense for Gluten-Free, organic or alternative foods. My neighbour’s sister worked at Winners Homesense in the Avalon Mall for a period of time and she mentioned to me that her sister had said that there were gluten-free items available there. Sure enough, I discovered that they also have a “freaky people aisle”. The only thing is that it’s never consistent. You’ll find that the different locations carry different products and the selection various nearly every single time that you go. If you are there and you see a product that you like, snatch it up! … you’ll never know when you’ll find it in stock again. I liken their selection to that of a “grab bag” or “surprise package”.

I apologize to those of you who have been unsuccessful in finding CocoMira’s products. When I see these in stock … I stock up. I buy whatever is left on the shelves.

As a side note, I have since discovered that you can find Coco Mira products at Chapters (if not in store, it’s available on their website). If I happen to be buying books online from Chapters, I usually top up my order with Coco Mira if I haven’t already reached the free shipping status 😉

Bulk Barn

I had avoided Bulk Barn like the plague after going gluten free … The thought of the bins and potential cross-contamination terrified me. That is, until one day my co-worker asked if I knew that Bulk Barn had a dedicated Gluten-Free Section. My reaction was immediately “Is this a joke??” but sure enough, he advised that they actually have labels to identify the gluten-free item bins and they are all confined to one area. That weekend I checked it out, and not only were there dedicated gluten-free bins of bulk GF flours etc., but they were also carrying other packaged GF goods as well, such as Go-Go Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies which are my new go-to cookie. They have a variety of food alternative products that you can find in their “health food” section.

Health Food Stores

There are several Health Food Stores around the city that you can check out. My favourite would have to be Whole Health … mainly because it’s close to my office and I enjoy dropping in occasionally on my lunch break to pick up some GF snacks for my stash at my desk … and to also chat with Megan, the owner, who I also enjoy. Lovely girl! Other Health Food stores include The Natutral Health Shop on Stavanger Drive, and Food for Thought on Duckworth Street.

Farmer’s Market

The St. John’s Farmer’s Market runs from June to mid December, and have several vendors which cater to various food allergies, one of which is Gluten Free Treasures because 1) the treats are delicious (especially the pumpkin cinnamon rolls!), and 2) Valeria is a sweetheart!

Other regular vendors who cater to dietary restrictions include: A La Tarte! and Le Doyen, to name a few. I DO NOT recommend getting a “Almost Gluten-Free” waffle from The Waffle Lady. She has a gluten-free waffle mix but uses it in the same waffles irons as the regular non-GF waffle mix. Anyone who have Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance should not eat them. If you one of those who are eating gluten-free because it’s the new fad diet …. fill your boots. If you are gluten free because your health depends on it, stay away).

Costco

I don’t have a Costco membership myself, but from what my co-workers have told me they carry a lot of GF products, and I’ve seen that on the blog “Living Gluten Free in St. John’s, NL”, Janelle has many posts on gluten-free items that she’s picked up from Costco.

Various Online Websites

Well.ca is one site that a Facebook friend introduced me to. I enjoy that they have a dedicated Specialty Diet section which includes Gluten-Free, Dairy Free, Vegan among several other sub-sections. They also provide free shipping on all Canadian orders over $25 (unless you live in a remote area).

The “Buddy System”

If you have friends travelling out of province or out of country, see if they would mind picking up a few items if they stumble across them in their travels. I  have a good friend who I’ve met through the CCA-NL Chapter and every time she travels to Ontario or to the States, she always manages me bring me back some form of gluten-free goody … and if I’m really good,  it might be several goodies … on one occasion she brought me back a basket full of goodies! I also get surprises from my non-GF friends and family as well. There is no shortage of cake mixes in my pantry! ha 🙂

Canadian Celiac Association Meetings

I’ve been a member of the CCA-NL since June of 2012… and I’ve yet to be to a meeting where I didn’t come home with free stuff. I’ve lost count the number of times that I’ve come home with free pancake-, cake-, pizza-, and bread-mixes. Who doesn’t love FREE??

So, what caused me to compile this useful list? My quest to find Certified GlutenFree Cornbread in the city. It was impossible to find any without a ‘May Contain’ statement. I could find Bob’s Red Mill GF Cornbread Mix, but not the coarser corn meal. I figured that when I was in Toronto recently that I’d be able to find it. The Whole Foods store near my friends house in Toronto were much like St. John’s in that the only versions that they carried had ‘May Contain’ statements. It should be noted that Bob’s Red Mill produces two versions of Corn Meal: a certified GF one and a NON-GF one. It took several attempts while in Toronto to find the GF version and I found it at the 3rd health food store that I visited. They had 2 packages of the Bob’s Red Mill certified GF Corn Meal and I stealthily “squirrelled” them up! 🙂

I hope that you find this list useful.

Let me know if you’ve found places around town or online that have helped you cope with your food allergies and dietary restrictions. I’d love to hear of them so I can amend this list.

Are you a promiscuous shopper??

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

4

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??

4

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

11

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! 🙂

They Love Me, They Really Love Me: How Friends & Family are Adapting to My Gluten Intolerance

I couldn’t resist misquoting “The Mask” who misquoted Sally Fields’ 1985 Oscar Acceptance speech. I thought it was fitting, because my family and friends obviously love me enough to put up with and cater to my gluten intolerance.

Here are a few examples:

  • If I’m dropping my Guy to work and as he’s about to give me a kiss as he exits the car, he’ll shout “Wait, I just ate a glutenous breakfast sandwich!!” as he turns to kiss me on the cheek instead.
  • They call me up to check on items before using it in dishes if I am heading to their house for a meal.
  • For those who now have a good handle on what naturally has gluten and what doesn’t, their attention has now shifted to ways in which cross-contamination can occur in prep.
  • They tell me about, send me links to, pick me up a sample of any new gluten free products that they see.
  • They forward me gluten-free recipes, or even surprise me with gluten free cookbooks.
  • They have started modifying their naturally containing gluten recipes so that I don’t feel left out!
  • They keep their cupboards stocked with gluten free snacks (in the event that I pop by and I’m hungry).
  • They offer to let me pick a place that they know that I can get good gluten-free options at when we dine out.

The biggest challenge has been for my family back home in my small rural hometown, Twillingate (which had a rough population of just over 2400 people as of 2006). Because it’s a small town, there’s not a lot of options when looking for food alternatives and often food has to be bought at the closest “large centre” (i.e. Gander, with a population of roughly 11,000 in 2011), which is roughly a hour and a half drive away. So, this year when I travelled home for Christmas, I came bearing my own bag of gluten-free goodies: canned soup, wraps, Nourish bread & bagels, toaster-bags, Cashew Lärabars, Kind Fruit & Nut bars, plus additional supplies to make gluten-free cookies during my visit.

The first night that I arrived I asked my mom what was for supper and she was so proud that she had made a separate Mac & Cheese without the Ritz Crackers. When I asked her where she picked up the gluten-free pasta she looked at me with the most mortified look and said “But, you can eat macaroni ….. !? ….. I’ve heard you say a dozen times that you’ve had pasta for supper” and I smiled as I looked to her and said “I can eat gluten-free macaroni”. Poor Mom was devastated that she had been so careful to make my meal safe for me to eat, only to discover that it was completely made of gluten. She said that she figured that it would probably take her all of Christmas to get over the fact that she didn’t have a safe meal for me when I got home that night. I told her that I had brought some gluten free groceries with me and that I could very quickly open and warm a can of soup. After supper she scored brownie-points when she broke out some Chocolate Mice (cookies) that she had made for me (not sure what they are? Check out this recipe on Rock Recipes). She had picked up some Gluten Free Rice Krispies, had checked the chocolate chips and other ingredients for sources of gluten, and even had went so far to buy a brand new jar of peanut butter so that she didn’t have to worry about glutenous crumb-contamination in the jar!) They were delicious and I probably ate 7 (no joke!) that first night!! Mom also had my Aunt G pick up a package of President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies when she was in Gander so I also gorged myself on those as well over the holiday when everyone else was eating homemade cookies.  The next day my mom made a delicious pot of homemade soup which fed me for several meals while I was home – Mom’s homemade soup is one of my favourites! I thought that I had left a pack of Glutino table crackers to go with the soup but I must have finished them off the last time I was out or brought them back to the city with me. I will have to remember for the next time I pack my GF grocery bag! 🙂

When I stopped by my mom-in-law’s the next day I discovered, that she had discovered, that one of the local grocery stories starting stocking Udi’s gluten-free products in its freezer section. She had picked up Udi’s GF white sandwich bread (which I actually hadn’t tried up until this point because we never really did buy much bread before I went gluten-free), Udi’s GF Cinnamon Rolls (which I also hadn’t tried up until this point), and also had picked up a pack of gluten-free flour when she was in Gander earlier that month.

One night my Aunt G had invited us up for supper. She made ham, baked and scalloped potatoes, as well as marinated carrots. My aunt remembered that the tomato soup in her recipe for marinated carrots contained gluten so she made me a version that she substituted with ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar. She also remembered to take out some scalloped potatoes before she added the cream of mushroom soup which contains gluten (she had no idea that you can get gluten-free cream of mushroom soup in St. John’s, so for the next time that I’m out and she makes it, I’ll be sending her out some GF Cream of Mushroom Soup so that she can make one casserole dish of gluten-free scalloped potatoes instead of fooling around to make different versions). And to top it all off, Aunt G had also picked up President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies for me as well!

I was so excited to see my family finding ways to accommodate my intolerance. Both my mom, aunt, and mom-in-law pride themselves on making our favourite meals when we come home and they finally felt like they could cook for me again 🙂

My mom-in-law (or “Mama Sheila” as I like to refer to her) used the gluten free flour to make Homemade Stew with “Baked Pudding”. For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m referring to when I say Baked Pudding, I stumbled upon this recipe (we call it baked pudding but she calls it a biscuit/pastry).

Mama Sheila didn’t use these exact recipes but I assume that they were very similar. I’m pretty sure that she substituted the gluten-free flour for the regular wheat flour in the baked pudding. Normally when you make something with gluten-free flour you add a binding agent (such as guar gum, among others), but the like-for-like substitution seemed to work out just as good. Generally we lay the baked pudding on a plate, and then pour the stew over the baked pudding and let the gravy soak into the pudding. Veggies, gravy, baked pudding …. what more could a girl ask for?

One of our Christmas traditions that we’ve established over the past 5+ years is that we (my Guy and I) will open Christmas presents at my house first thing on Christmas morning and then we drive on over (to the opposite side of the harbour) to open presents with his parents. A few years back (several before I went gluten free), Mama Sheila made a “Breakfast Strata” for the first time and it was absolutely delicious!! The Breakfast Strata has since become a part of our Christmas morning tradition, and so she was able to use the Udi’s GF bread and the GF Rice Krispies to make me my very one Gluten Free version. Basically it’s bread, eggs, ham, peppers, cheese, a few seasonings and topped with Rice Krispies. We’ve agreed to only have it on Christmas day so that it remains extra special!

Breakfast Strata

Can you say Om Nom Nom!?

Unfortunately Mama Doreen (i.e. my mom) had to work most of the time that I was home for the holiday. So, where I could, I stayed at her place to maximize my time with her before she headed to, or after she got home from, work. On the mornings that she had to get up early and head to work, I ended up having breakfast (or in some cases, brunch) at Mama Sheila’s. One morning my dad-in-law, or Papa Garry as I like to refer to him as, made me Gluten Free French Toast using the Udi’s bread. One morning I had a simple breakfast of fresh fruit, greek yogurt and Udi’s toast. The final brunch was a huge family effort. If there’s one thing that the Guy family are good at – it’s brunch! Gluten-Free pancakes, turkey bacon, hash brown patties, and Mama Sheila even discovered some gluten free maple sausages that were delicious!! 🙂

Xmas Breakfast

Christmas was a gluten free success but our trip was short. My Guy had to head back to work on the 27th so we were on the road again on Boxing Day to head back into town. I had a few days to get ready for the arrival of my BFF, Jenny, from Toronto who came baring gluten-free chocolates … which included two boxes of Coco Mira Crunch in Mocha Latte and Dark Chocolate flavours … That girl knows that way to my heart!!

My guy’s Aunt Marguerite has been making lovely gift baskets ever year and we she always gives us an awesome one every year for Christmas. Throughout the year she’ll collect things that are of interest to us (some examples: BBQing or meal prep gear for Rob, cake decorating or gluten-free items for me) and in the Fall she’ll arrange them all to make a fantastic basket! This year she had a box of President’s Choice Gluten-Free The Smart Cookie, a box of Chocolate Chip Quinoa cookies and Cinnamon Quinoa Crunchies from GoGo Quinoa. Other goodies included chocolate, homemade pickles, homemade jams, as well as some non-GF items for my guy and a pack of dog treats for our Lakeland Terrier, Jax.

Christmas Basket

Aunt Marguerite also invited us over for a meal during Christmas while her daughter Corinne and family were still visiting from Calgary. Not long after I went gluten free back in 2011, I found out that Aunt Marguerite’s other daughter, Renee had also went gluten-free. As a result, Aunt Marguerite has become very knowledgable in preparing gluten-free meals. When we went for supper I discovered that she had made a roast with gravy made from cornstarch in lieu of regular flour; had made baby carrots and peas which were naturally gluten-free; a creamy mashed potato dish in which she checked all the ingredients to ensure that they were gluten-free; a broccoli casserole in which she grated up Udi’s Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns to use as a crust; and to top it all off she made me a big batch of gluten-free chocolate cookies (which I am still enjoying as of today)! It was a fabulous meal 🙂

Dinner at Aunt Marguerites

Rob won a turkey at his curling club and decided to give it to our good friends Darren and Tracey to smoke on their Big Green Egg. Sadly, like many of the other meals that we had over the holidays, I forgot to get a photo of the smoked bird before Darren carved it. Rob made a gluten free dressing using Udi’s white bread and I had made asparagus and “turnip fries” to bring out as well. When we arrived to Darren & Tracey’s we found that Mitch and Felicia were also there and Felicia was busy peeling carrots and potatoes which we quickly boiled as Tracey made gravy using corn starch (as I had forgotten to bring out some gluten free flour with me). The meal turned out lovely and Darren & Tracey were awesome enough to smoke the turkey and have us out for supper, despite the fact that they were recovering from colds. Such troopers!! 🙂

New Years Dinner

This was only my second Gluten-Free Christmas, and I have to say that it was incredibly delicious and absolutely perfect thanks to my super-awesome family & friends! xoxo

Care to share any ways that your friends and family have successfully adapted to your gluten-free or food allergy-free lifestyle?

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

8

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 🙂

I started a what?! …

3

…. 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.