Wednesday, April 30, 2014

GFAF Expo Recap

I can watch zombies maul countless people without batting an eye. I've been able to steel my nerves so I'm pretty much immune to the heartwrenchingness of those Sarah MacLachlan sad animal commercials. But give me a sample of gluten-free deep-dish pizza and I cry like a toddler.

That pretty much sums up all of my feels after the Chicago GFAF Expo.

I look forward to this weekend all year, not only because I love free stuff (who doesn't?), but because it really makes me feel like I'm a part of the GF community, and gets me excited about products I can see using in my day-to-day life. Plus, when you're used to never being able to eat anything, ever, it's nice to be in a safe-food bubble for a little while.

I spent Saturday repping Udi's/Glutino and Sunday working with my friends at Red Apple Lipstick, so while I didn't get to spend as much time on the floor as last year, I got a totally different perspective. I knew there were some "must-sees," and I picked my friends' brains for what they thought rocked.

Here are my fave finds:
Kiki's: I'm not exaggerating - when I tried the GF deep-dish pizza that Kiki's was demoing, I cried. I don't know what kind of deal with the devil these folks have, but this was the un- gluten-freest tasting GF pizza I've ever had. We're talking golden, crispy crust with just a bit of softness on the inside. Holy balls. For those of you in the Chicago area, these bad boys will be available through Artizone at the end of May. I don't know if I can wait that long, though, and Kiki and company might just find a wayward blogger hanging out on their front stoop begging for scraps.

Pamela's: I went in with a mission to find the Figgies & Jammies, and find them I did. I got to try the Mission Fig and the Strawberry & Fig, and they did not disappoint. I kept joking with my weekend roommate that she'd better put hers on lockdown so I didn't go rummaging.

Coffecake Connection: Growing up, Entenmann's coffee cake was a staple in our house. Not to mention, it appears at every work & conference breakfast, holiday brunches, etc. I'd not yet found a good GF alternative, until this weekend. Coffeecake Connection is based in West Chicago, ships all over the country, and has an amazing array of flavors. Plus, if you're not up for a whole cake, they sell these adorable little cake-a-lettes that are like a muffin, but better. I tried the Triple Berry, which was nice and fruity.

Freedom Foods: This Australian company stole my heart last year with their Tropic-os, so this year, I went in with plenty of cash. Since cereal tends to be my default food (oh, hey, now the blog title makes sense, no?), it's great to find a gluten-free one that I don't feel guilty eating. Expo price on these were about $2/box. I won't embarrass myself by telling you how many boxes I bought.

Ethel's Edibles: My sweet tooth tends to be overpowering, so I was really happy to find Ethel's on Sunday. Their Pecan Dandies are freaking amazing. I've been on a real pecan kick lately, and this was a perfect dessert. They're based in Michigan, but ship all over.
 
Leo's: My mom actually pointed me in the direction of Leo's on Saturday, urging me to try "the best gluten-free ravioli ever." With a pitch like that, I couldn't resist. Whaddya know, it was true. Great pasta, perfect texture. We liked it so much, we ran out and bought some after the expo, and my mom's taken to keeping a bag of it in her freezer for when I visit. Not bad, Leo's. Plus, they're in a lot of local grocery stores, so the convenience factor is icing on the cake (cheese on the ravioli?).

I Heart Keenwah: This delectable little snacky has had a place in my work desk drawer for a while. I already knew I like the chocolate, so getting to try the other varieties was great. This is a perfect pick-me-up for when you need something sweetish, but also want to get a punch of protein. And who doesn't love the phonetic spelling of quinoa?

Products are great, and I'm no stranger to swag pirating, but I also love the people aspect of Expo weekend. I'm pretty much a hermit in real life, so it's always nice to get the opportunity to be social, on my terms. And hanging out with some fellow special GF snowflakes is always wonderful. If you don't already have them in your blog feed reader, you should check out Gluten Free Betsy, Frannycakes & Tower of Mel. I finally got to meet Sarah of Celiac in the City, who might just have inspired me to finally make the trek to Milwaukee. And I got to meet several folks I know only via the Interwebs (hi, Allie, Abby & Melinda!), and got to hang with Andrea and Jay of RAL. It doesn't get much better than that.

Did you attend the Expo? What was your favorite booth? And does anyone want to place a wager on how many GF pizzas I order from Kiki's in May?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Three Things Thursday: GFAF Countdown

To say I'm psyched about this weekend's GFAF Expo is a dramatic understatement. Other than the fact that the event itself rocks, I get to spend a whole weekend with lovely folks who I don't get to see very often. Folks like Betsy, Mel, Mary Fran, Andrea and Jay - plus getting to meet a slew of new GF friends (like contest winners Allie, Abigail & Roseanne - stop by and say "hello!"). For little ol' sort-of-reclusive me, it's kinda the social event of the season.

I'll stop geeking out pretty soon, but here's three things I'm looking really forward to trying this weekend:

1. Pamela's Figgies & Jammies - Fig Newtons have always reminded me of my Nana, since she's the only person I know who always had them in her pantry. Many a summer day was spent chilling on her back porch, drinking iced tea by the gallon and noshing on Fig Newtons. Ever since I heard these were a real thing, I've been salivating. I'm trying to NOT turn back into a cookie monster, but I'd love to try them to see if they compare to the Fig Newtons of my past, gluteny life.

2. Kiki's pizza - Kiki's won me over last year with their spinach pocket, and this year, they are supposed to be sampling their new deep-dish style pizza. I don't even think I need to expand on that. Deep-dish pizza. Yes.

3. Udi's frozen dinners - So new they aren't even on the Web site yet, Udi's has started offering a slate of frozen dinners. This could be problematic, as I will be spending Saturday working the Udi's table with Betsy. I'm really hoping that it doesn't turn into a gluten-free re-creation of the I Love Lucy episode at the chocolate factory. But honestly, I think it helps sell your product when your own reps can't keep their hands off of it.

If you're going to be expo-ing this weekend, what are you most looking forward to?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Three Things Thursday

It's April, which should mean spring around these parts, but I'm still sporting my winter coat. Blerg. But whether or not the weather cooperates, there's some awesome things in the pipeline this month, including:

1. GFAF Expo: In just over a week, some of the greatest gluten-free fun will be happening right here in Chicagoland. My ticket giveaway ended yesterday, but some of my friends' are still going strong, so go visit Gluten-Free Betsy and Frannycakes to enter. Or, to buy tickets, just head to www.gfafexpo.com and use the code BLOGCHI to get 35% off. All sales pitches aside, this is a great chance to get to try a lot of cool GF food before purchasing, to hang out with some fun folks and to get to wander aisles of safe goodies. I'll be hanging out at the Udi's booth on Saturday, and with my friends at Red Apple Lipstick on Sunday. Come say hi!

2. Easter: We don't do a religiousy celebration, but we do decorate eggs, watch old Easter cartoons and do a Mystery Science Theater-esque viewing of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. And did I mention Peeps are gluten free? Even the new flavors? Like Orange Creme and Chocolate dipped? I'm just going to leave that right there for you all.


3. C2E2: I can't believe it's time for C2E2 again already. It feels like I was just strapping up my holsters to cosplay as Black Widow, and now it's upon us again. I plan on going at least one of the days, but probably not dressing up at all. Who knows, though, I do love a cosplay. This year, I'll be spending all of my money on Doctor Who t-shirts, I fear.

Bonus: No colonoscopy or EGD this year. Woooot! Hope your April is shaping up to be as awesome!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Three Things Thursday: Wedding Madness

I skipped out on last week's Three Things, because I was in the throes of weddingness for my little sister. It was my second wedding as a part of the bridal party whilst being GF, and while I don't usually expect the bride and groom to accommodate me, this wedding was particularly awesome because my sister, Kady, is gluten-intolerant, so I felt very safe. And not worrying about food freed me up to do things like take silly limo pictures and drink lots of champagne. Here's the food rundown from the weekend.


1. Thank God for Glen Prairie: I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and then again - this place rocks my socks. Easily my favorite restaurant, Chef Danny and his crew put together amazing meals, most of which can be tweaked to be gluten free. I was thrilled when the bride and groom decided to have the rehearsal dinner here. If you're in the Chicago area and looking for a place to host a small gathering, I highly recommend them, not just because the food is great, but because service is amazing, too. Luke also threw my surprise birthday party here last year. If you visit, tell them I sent you. And try the duck tacos.

2. Two thumbs up for Seven Bridges: My sister is gluten intolerant, and while she doesn't react quite as, um, strongly as I do, she wanted to make sure there was no chance of either of us getting glutened at dinner. Typically, for an event like this, I'd just either eat beforehand or pack a lunch. But after meeting with the event coordinator at the banquet hall last month, I felt confident enough to try the meal that was provided. Apparently, we're NOT the only special snowflakes with food issues, and gluten-free is becoming a more common request for banquets. I left one of my restaurant cards with the chef, and the week before the wedding, the coordinator e-mailed my sister to walk through the menu and confirm the ingredients and prep on everything. It was so nice to be able to eat the bacon-wrapped date appetizer and the whole goshdarn dinner without getting sick. This just goes to show that sometimes, people listen. And it's okay to trust. On occasion.

3. Part of being matron of honor is keeping the bride happy, so this meant loading up on gluten-free snacks for breakfast and breaks on the big day. Bonus? I got to eat them, too. Thanks to Sweet Ali's for making amazing crumb cakes, banana breads and donuts (You have to carbo-load for mimosas. You just have to). We also made sure to have fruit, nuts and some hard-boiled eggs that we accidentally froze. It took a lot of pressure off of both of us to know we could eat safely. Also, did I mention champagne?

And, it doesn't hurt when your date is adorably handsome in his bow-tie.




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GFAF Expo Ticket Giveaway!



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Guys, how excited am I that it's almost GFAF Expo time again? This is a great opportunity to get out and meet the faces behind some of your favorite brands, try new products and see what kind of awesome gluten-freeness is in the works.

The folks at GFAF Expo have generously offered me some tickets to give away to you wonderful readers. To enter, leave me a comment with why YOU want to go to the expo. Make sure to leave me a valid e-mail address. I'll be picking winners on April 2. In the mean time, make sure to like GFAF Expo on Facebook & follow 'em on Twitter.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Three Things Thursday: The "I'm Hungry" Edition

Okay, so I'm hungry. Like, all the time lately. This is a good thing, because between two sinus infections, the stress of running a show and switching some medications, I've been having to force myself to eat for the past few weeks. Then, a couple days ago, I wake up and boom! Appetite back. Why do I have a feeling that the 15 pounds I've lost since Christmas will be coming back?

Anyway, here's three things I will be nomming. Or want to nom. You know.


1.PACZKI!!!:  ZOMG, guys. So I've been mourning the loss of my beloved paczki for three Fat Tuesdays now, wishing and hoping that someone, somewhere could re-create this fried yumminess for the GF set. Lo and behold, by dreams have come true. Gluten-free bakery Celiac Specialties in Michigan have caught lightning in a bottle and created this Polish specialty. My darling sister, who is getting married in about a week, sent this deliciousness my way. Raspberry filled and covered in powdered sugar, this is the opposite of all of the things I should be eating. But since I haven't had one in forever, I didn't feel too guilty.

2. Pei Wei's Vietnamese Chicken Salad Rolls: We found Pei Wei last year, and though it's not super close to my house, it's one of the few "fast" options I feel comfortable with. It's a spin-off of P.F. Chang's, and they are pretty good with GF. It's great to be able to get quick Chinese if I really want it. My new favorite thing is the chicken salad rolls - I'm really hoping to be able to re-create them at home one of these days. I guess it's good that I have to drive 20 minutes each way to get those bad boys, because I'm pretty sure I would otherwise spend ALL of my money on them. 

3. Grilled food: Yeah, so this winter has been an absolute beast. Usually, we don't let a little bit of snow stop us from firing up the grill, but sadly, we've not had just a little bit of snow. I was so excited at the beginning of the week because it was melting to the point that I could finally *see* the grill again, but it didn't last long, as Wednesday morning's thundersnow covered everything back up again. Le sigh.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Three Things Thursday

Man. I'm still experiencing show hangover almost a week post-production. All I've been doing this week is working and sleeping. Somehow, I'm okay with that. Anyway, here's three things rockin' my world this week:

1. 100% Pure Honey Almond Hand Buttercream: Since we are still in the throes of the winter that will not end here in Chicago, my skin is not happy at all. This stuff helps a great deal, and smells absolutely wonderful. Not to mention, gluten-free. Because duh. I've been snagging mine from Ulta, since they have a smaller sized tube that fits perfectly in my purse (although let's not lie. I could fit entire human bodies in the suitcases I lug around).

2. Johnsonville Breakfast Sausages: Breakfast is probably my favorite meal, and in my never-ending quest to add more protein to my diet, I've been looking for a good breakfast sausage. Because while I could eat bacon every day, my arteries probably appreciate it if I don't. Plus, perpetual bacon cloud in you house sounds way more delicious than it is in actuality. This past weekend, we found some Johnsonville breakfast bangers that were labeled GF at our local grocer (is the labeling new? I don't recall ever seeing it before). We made some amazing pigs in blankets using our GF Bisquick mix. It's amazing how a little thing like that can make you feel so dang normal.

3. KIND Chewy with a Crunch Bars: I've been seeing these in stores for a while now, but I got so burnt out on bars that I just kept on walking. This week, I was looking for something new, so I picked these bad boys up in Vanilla Blueberry, and they are awesome. One of the things that I'm not so into with other bars is the crunchiness - sometimes you just want something chewy. These fit the bill nicely, and I can't wait to get my hands on some of the other flavors.