Monday, October 29, 2012

Celiac Awareness Tour Recap

Are you aware of celiac disease? You are? Good. I sort of figured if you were reading this here blog you probably had some inkling. And I am pretty aware of it, too. But when I saw that the Celiac Awareness Tour was making a stop in Chicago in October, I pretty much knew I was going to nab tickets. Because I love expos, and expo-like things, and the swag that usually comes with them.  So I wrangled up my mom and dad to go with me, and we braved the nasty weather to check out some gluten-free delightfulness. You'll remember that back in April, I went to the Gluten-Free/Allergy-Free Expo, which was completely nutty and packed with people before the doors even opened, so I was expecting much of the same for the Celiac Awareness Tour, but when we got there at 9:15 (doors opened at 9 a.m.), it was pretty much just us, vendors and staff. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The biggest advantage was that I could actually stop and have a conversation with vendors, which was really, really nice. The disadvantage? Fewer people got to check out all the great information that was presented.
When we walked in, Eve Becker of Gluten Free Nosh was giving a presentation about the basics of the GF lifestyle, and while it was all territory I've pretty much covered on my own, it was nice for my parents to get to hear all that jazz from someone who is not me. We also got to see a cooking demo from Chef Jean-Rene Renusson of Savory Foods. He made a delicious tomato tortilla soup that was to. die. for. It was gluten free, dairy free and vegan, and even my dad (who considers a sleeve of Double Stuff Oreos dinner some days) loved it. But even better than the soup (barely) was Chef Renusson's explanation about how his kitchens (which manufacture both gluten-full and gluten-free products) are cleaned in between runs. It put a little perspective on the always-scary notion of "shared facility." I also nabbed some of his herbed flatbread and frozen cookie dough to sample.
Though there were certainly fewer vendors that at April's event, the folks that were there were enthusiastic to feed us. There were loads of samples, and I got to connect with my friends from Sweet Ali's again. I even got to try some falafel from a local restaurant. It wasn't a waste of a day by any means, I was just expecting a bigger event. Kudos to the folks who organize the tour, because they're doing good work. It was also nice to get to spend the day with my parents, getting to show them some of the things I love, and giving them a little more insight into what this crazy disease means.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Three Things Thursday

I know. I know, okay? I promised a fun-filled recap of the Celiac Awareness Tour. Plus some fall yummies. And probably a bunch of stuff I don't remember right now. But you'll have to excuse me, because I am (yet again) sick. The good news? It is totally not gluten or celiac related. At all. Probably. The bad news? I have parlayed my virus into laryngitis, so yours truly is sans voice. Bad for me, but good for America? Anyway. Hoping to feel up to doing some more posting soon, but with my limited energy supply, if the options are between carving pumpkins or posting blogs, the pumpkins are going to win every time.

1. Big ups to Walgreens. They've always been my pharmacy of choice, and this weekend, when I went in looking for something to tame the nastiness that I had going on, their store-brand Sudafed knock-off took the guess work out of hunting:
I also found store-brand cough drops and cough syrup labeled "gluten free." Which saved me numerous minutes of frantically iPhone searching and cursing under (albeit hoarsely) my breath. I know you have to take all of the labeling with a grain of salt (gluten?) but I appreciated the effort.

2. Being Throaty McPainerson this week has added a new challenge to feeding. Not only did I need to stay gluten free, but I also needed to stay somewhat mushy and gushy. A new find that I think I will be adding to my pantry/emergency zombie preparedness kit is Wolfgang Puck's line of soups. So far, I've tried and loved the Signature Tortilla, but there are several in the line that are gluten free. And they are organic, for what it's worth. Plus, I am a sucker for celebrity-chef endorsed products. I love tortilla soup, period, but this one is hearty enough to help me fight off illness (and possibly zombies).

3. Have I mentioned yet that I love the fall? Usually I am a Halloween junkie, but this year, I just haven't felt as into it. Between my play and being sick, I just haven't been in the mood. But we did do some pumpkin carving at my in-laws' last night, and it turned out great! (Luke and I did the one in the top corner that looks like a witch stirring her brew.)

Here's hoping I can get a little Halloween mojo going this weekend, maybe take in a haunted house or two. But then again, screaming would probably not be good for my poor lil' sore vocal chords. Hmm.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe weekend-before-Halloween.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Howdy, partners. Bunch of random for you today:

1. I'm testing out some new looks for the ol' blogaroo, so it may be a bit sketchy for a while. Hopefully I won't lose any posts. Feedback appreciated!

2. Celiac Awareness Tour last weekend was pretty cool, and I hope to have a couple of posts up about that soonish - hopefully by Sunday?

3. My new staple for party-bringing fare has become gluten-free Rice Krispie treats. The GF Krispies taste exactly like their malt-containing counterparts, so people don't even have to know they are eating something "different." For some real gourmet flavor, go ahead and throw some cinnamon and vanilla (just a tiny bit). They will be gone. Instantly.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Three Things Thursday

I hope everyone's been enjoying the fabulousity of fall this week, because I sure have been. Pumpkin spice lattes, caramel apple spices, candy corn, the whole shebang. I'm hoping this weekend to attempt some pumpkin bread, maybe some chili if time allows. Live large, right?

1. I had a follow-up appointment with my fairy gastroenterologist Monday. Not only are my levels back into normal (huzzah!), but she also recommended a new celiac doc to work on nutrition-type things (because eating Reese's cups for lunch is apparently a bad thing?). I have an appointment with her next week.

2. If any of you Chi-town gluten-freers are looking for something to do this weekend, the Celiac Awareness Tour will be up in Rosemont on Saturday. Tickets are only $10, and some of my favorite vendors will be there, along with some great chefs.

3. This weekend, I am directing a show that I wrote (squee!). Unfortunately, it is an outdoor walking tour show, and weather in Chicago is not looking promising, so cross your fingers, toes or anything else that the forecast changes for the better. I can use all the positive energy I can get, my cast has worked RIDICULOUSLY hard and I would hate for their work to be for nothing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Caramely Appley Delightfulness

I've already been extolling the virtues of all things fall. And also all things Amoretti. So in my continuing quest to re-create former favorite up-scale coffee shop favorites, the next natural choice was a caramel apple spice.

I've always loved hot apple cider. To me, cider and maybe popcorn and candy corn are the ideal complements to any fall activity. And cider, by nature, should be gluten-free. And if you wanted to get really crafty and heat it on the stove top, you could bypass the spiced syrup all together and instead just throw a few cinnamon sticks in the pot. But I like shortcuts, so I opted for the cinnamon Amoretti syrup (and after a slight mix-up at Amazon, I actually got it).

 This recipe is nice because you can make it by the cup, or you can heat enough apple cider for multiple servings in a sauce pot. I think it works best, though, if you add the syrup to each individual glass, though.

Here goes:

1 to 1 1/2 cups apple cider (I like Indian Summer, but you can pick your favorite brand)
2 pumps of Amoretti cinnamon syrup
Hershey's caramel syrup
Whipped cream to top

Pretty simple - heat up the apple cider, either via microwave or stove. When you get it hot enough, squirt the two pumps of syrup in, and a drizzle of caramel. Stir it up, then top with the whipped cream and another drizzle of caramel. Best if served with Breads From Anna pumpkin muffins. And in the hazy glow of your favorite Halloween decor.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Guys, I am a little shaken today, because we have had a serious security breach last night. Around 11 p.m., as we were enjoying the culinary prowess of one Alton Brown, an intruder invaded our home. He looked like this:
I didn't think spiders had trigger fingers. I was wrong.
We should have known. He's been sending recon missions for a week now, smaller, less threatening spiders. We've detained several, and though we questioned them with standard wartime procedure, they didn't talk. So we squished them. But this guy? We knew we couldn't give him the chance to evade us, so we elevated the spider terrorist threat level to red, and grabbed the closest heavy duty shoe. Victory was ours ... for the moment.
Seriously, though, this weather change has unleashed too many eight-legged unsavories in my house, so I am on high alert. Last night's wolf spider was the last straw. Because spiders are to me what snakes are to Indiana Jones. I have tried to explain to Luke that this means I have to wear a fedora and carry a whip at all times, but he failed to see the necessity.

Today's Three Things is brought to you by fear, vengeance and heavy-soled shoes.

1. This has been all over the gluten-free world for the past couple of days, but it bears repeating, so please go sign this petition for better food labeling laws. You can make a difference! They need about 25,000 signatures, so spread the word. In a highly political month, this is something that is a totally non-partisan way to get involved. So do it already.

2. Despite the mix up last week when Amazon accidentally sent me a refrigerator pump instead of my cinnamon syrup, I got my Amoretti goodness on Friday and have pretty much perfected the caramel apple cider. Look for a recipe in the next few days.

3. I'm going to my first ever celiac support group meeting Saturday. One of the topics? Gluten-free Halloween candy. I could write a thesis on this with all the research I've done lately. Here's hoping for some fun new finds.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pizza and Pasta - Still a Thing!

There was a post over at The Gluten Dude's site last week that really got me thinking. Basically, a reader was concerned that they would have to be all recluse-y to avoid getting glutened. And at first, I totally sympathized, because it is hard to plan, or to watch people eating food you'd like to be eating.

But then, I thought about how ridiculous it all was.

Because guess what? Life goes on. So what if you are eating your dinner out of an insulated tote while your friends snack on off-limits noms? You can sulk about it, or you can put on your big girl panties, make a plan and freakin' enjoy your life.

Us at last year's game. We look pretty much the same.
I got to experience this first-hand this weekend. It was my baby sister's senior homecoming, and my middle sister flew in for a family-filled weekend. Six months ago, this would have sent me into a panic - a whole weekend of being out and about, away from the comfort and security of my kitchen. But I have survived a road trip, and a vacation, so homecoming was easy-peasy. Instead of freaking, we just planned. And planned. And planned. When everyone else was dining on pizza from a favorite local establishment, I was noshing on my Udi's pizza. Saturday, when we were tailgating before the game, I had my own breakfast bag, with Udi's muffins (I swear, I am not employed by them) and fruit and juice and a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I even packed popcorn and candy and such so I could have treats during the game if I wanted.

 And Sunday, for our big family dinner, my mom made us a big pan of this:

That's right, that is a ton of delicious gluten-free mostaccioli made with love. And cheese. Lots of cheese. And because my mom is awesome and knows all about cross-contamination, she had me bring my pasta pot, noodle-stirrer thingy and colander. She keeps a separate cake pan for me at her house that has never TOUCHED gluten, and she even lined it with foil. That's love, people. And everyone else enjoyed dinner, too, even my dad, who is about as un-gluten-free as you can get.

This weekend could have gone completely differently. I could have spent the weekend pitying myself, withdrawing from the fun over something as stupid as food. But instead, I just prepped myself for it, and thanks in large part to an (incredibly) understanding family, I got to have a blast. So, you know, to quote Gluten Dude, quoting Andy Dufresne from the great Shawshank Redemption, "Get busy living or get busy dying."