Thursday, January 31, 2013

Three Things Thursday

You know how some weeks, there just seems to be negativity everywhere? Yeah, it's been sort of one of those weeks. Sigh. Head down, power through, that's my motto, so on with the Three Things show:

1. Someone (likely the R&D team at Glutino) has heard our pleas - the company is releasing gluten-free toaster pastries. Right now, the only place you can get them is Whole Foods. I cannot begin to explain how excited I am about this.

2.You know I love me some Red Apple Lipstick, and right now they are selling new kits for Valentine's Day. They are a good value and contain some new colors, so test them out. It's a great alternative to chocolate or flowers for Valentine's Day, so drop some hints to your sweetie (hint, hint). Or buy one for yourself, because we're all independent ladies now:)

3. Speaking of Valentine's Day, Betsy has a post about the special V-Day menu Wildfire is offering for the holiday. Bonus: it can be tweaked to be gluten free. We had a great experience there last week, so check them out if you are looking for a romantical dinner destination.

 Tomorrow is February 1, and I'm unveiling a project for the month. Hint: it will be fab. And gluten-free. And YOU get to participate! Check back for details:)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wild About Wildfire

How far will I travel for a gluten-free brunch? About 50 miles, apparently. Each way. In an ice storm. And you know what? Worth every mile.

I found out a few weeks ago about a brunch fundraiser for the University of Chicago at Wildfire in Lincolnshire, and I made reservations immediately. Granted, heading up to the north 'burbs on a Sunday morning normally wouldn't be my bag, but dang it, I miss brunch. And since my love of U of C runs deep and unyielding, I couldn't pass it up. Plus, on top of getting to raise money for one of my favorite causes and eating a boatload of GF yummies, it also included a chef demo, and watching people cook is totally my porn, so bam, a morning full of win was on the docket.

Luke and I had visited the Chicago location in December after my trip to U of C, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the spinach artichoke dip, I wasn't as impressed with the place as I'd expected to be. After all, Wildfire is supposed to be the pinnacle of GF dining in the Chi-town area. I'm going to go ahead and blame my previous opinion on the fact that I had just lost a few pints (it seemed like) of blood, because our trip today was phenomenal.

I knew it was going to be a good morning when we were waiting in the bar area for our dining room to be set up. I overheard a couple talking to the bartender, trying to get the run-down on if the Bloody Mary mix they served was gluten free. I was among my people. The dining room we had was smallish, and far from the bathroom (usually the kiss of death for us celiacs, ha), and we had assigned seating. Which was great, because while many of the folks there knew each other from previous events, Luke and I were total newbies. Our table mates were great (hey Table Six-ers!) and we had a good time chatting, until the food came. Then all bets were off, 'cause we were diggin' in.

It was a four-course brunch with a pre-set menu. I love going to events that have this style of dining, because it allows me to try things I might not order otherwise. Like, I'm pretty much a sweet tooth in every sense of the word, so I typically go for waffles, pancakes, something almost desserty for breakfast. Even though I eat eggs all the time at home, I almost NEVER order them out. Strange, right? The menu today had a nice mix of sweet and savory.

Course numero uno was a chocolate chip coffee cake with a cinnamon crumble. While I think it was more like a bread than a coffee cake, it was really tasty. Not too sweet, and just dense enough so that it didn't fall apart. Full disclosure: The picture at the top is Luke's cake, because I inhaled mine before taking out my camera. Yup, I had the whole thing eaten before he touched his. Don't judge me. The second course was juniper pancakes with a rosemary-infused maple syrup. We both really liked these, but wished there would have been a little more syrup (okay, and several more pancakes ... but we're little piggies). Third course was a flatbread with some sort of arugula salad and smoked salmon. I enjoyed this course, Luke not so much, but he's not really a fan of smoked salmon. It was a little messy to eat, but great flavors.

The highlight for both of us, though, was the last course, which was eggs Florentine Benedict. I was skeptical going in about this one, since it was so far on the side of savory. I mean seriously, spinach? For breakfast? Pop-eye the sailor I am not. But this dish was soooo amazing. It was a poached egg in a hollandaise sauce (that we got to watch Chef Humberto prepare), on top of a spinach and egg mixture in a little bread cup. It was served with maple-glazed bacon, and we are already trying to figure out how to re-create this at home. Soooooo good.

We left full and happy, and completely un-glutened, which is pretty much as good as it gets in my book (although, the decision to have several cups of coffee, plus juice and water, was maybe not the best idea for the hour plus ride home. Oops).

Miss brunch this morning? All of the Wildfire locations have GF brunch options for the weekend. I know we'll be going back (albeit to a closer location) in the near future to try out some of the other items.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Time for another rousing round of Three! Things! Thursday! Okay, maybe it's not rousing. But it is Thursday.

1. 'Tis about that time of year when we all get wishy and washy, lovey and dovey. If you've got a good gluten-free love story, visit Gluten Dude to share it. Not gonna lie, I'm looking forward to reading all the wheat-free romances. Maybe celiac is turning me into an old softie.

2. Since we are all sharing stories, the Celiac Diva is collecting stories for an e-book for GF newbies. Check out her Facebook page for more details. There is nothing that we celiacs like better than talking about our mis-diagnosis. Seriously.

3. This weekend, I'll be trying my hand at yoga for the first time, as well as visiting Wildfire for a special gluten-free brunch to raise money for the University of Chicago. Both of these things are making me feel tres fancy. I'll have to eat (gf) cereal in my holey sweatpants to bring myself back down to earth.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. Confession time. Shortly after my post yesterday, about kicking the behind of one c-e-l-i-a-c disease? I started having crazy, "just got glutened" stomach pains that pretty much relegated me to my couch most of the night. I feel much better today, so I don't know what's up with that, but I'm incredibly suspicious of the salad dressing I had at lunch. That's what I get for trying to eat healthy. Should've just gone for a hand full of Kisses.

2. Since I'm on a confession kick, I'm just going to put this out there. I hate tea. Well, maybe not hate it, but seriously don't like it. Not hot tea anyway. Ever since I was a hipster-before-there-were-hipsters teenager reading Edith Wharton and dreaming of the PhD in literature that I'd have by 26, I romanticized the concept of tea drinking. It just seems so artsy and cool. And there are so many varieties of tea in my house right now that I make Teavana look like a lunch cart operation. But I can't even tell you the last time I made a cup of tea and actually drank it. Every few months I get on a kick where I decide I'm going to enjoy a nice cuppa to unwind before bed (usually, I'm also hard at work typing up my latest novel in these imagined scenarios), and some nights, I will go so far as to boil up the water in my shiny red tea kettle. But the minute water hits tea bag, I lose all interest. With sugar. Without sugar. With honey. In a special mug. Doesn't matter. Still sits there, lonely and sad, until it gets cold and I dump it out. So now it's out there. Tea will be reserved for times of illness, or for icing in the summer. And I guess my hipster-writer fantasies will just have to start featuring ginger ale or, gulp, plain ol' H2O.

3. I never really posted about my results from U of C in December, but everything came back looking good, so good, in fact, that my double whammy of fun (endoscopy and colonoscopy, gulp) has been postponed. Yaaaaaay! Turns out, some of my pain has non-celiac basis - my hip is all goofed up because of a genetic quirk and being on my tail end all day at work. My hand issue looks to be carpal tunnel. Also probably from work. Moral of the story? Become independently wealthy and stop working. Or, become more active. My way sounds more fun.

Rock on, my gluten-free homies.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Someone got a new look (hint: it's me). Well, not me, per se, but the blog. It's amazing what a new (virtual) coat of paint will do. You'll notice I have some tabs at the top of the page to help navigate to Fab Finds, Gluten-Free Gluttons and other resources. I've also compiled links to other great gluten-free or celiac bloggers, because, hey, we're all friends here. But other than the aesthetic changes, I also bit the bullet and bought my own domain name. No more I'm legit. I'm pretty excited about the changes (so excited I spent *hours* picking out some new promo stuff on VistaPrint). So go ahead and bookmark You know, if you want. No pressure.

Also, because of an unfortunate, ill-fitting pants situation, there has to be some other changes on the horizon, too. Apparently, you can only live on (gluten-free) junk food so long before your wardrobe shifts and you begin to sport only leggings and oversized sweaters - which you think makes you hip, 'cause the '80s are hot right now, but really, it just makes you look like you're channeling Robin Sparkles. And pregnant. Which you're not. So to save your coworkers the embarrassment of patting your belly, which is only full of GF cookies, you decide you need to limit the sugar and give up Pepsi and maybe do some ... gulp ... exercising. Hypothetically. (Full disclosure: As I write this, I am noshing on a GF orange cranberry muffin. Probably not a good start.)

One thing that won't change is my OCD gluten-freeness. According to the fine folks at U of C, I am kicking celiac's butt so hard right now. And thanks to the hand full of supplements I've been knocking down every morning, I'm feeling pretty darn good right now. Not like, go out and run six miles good, but good. Huge progress folks.

So let me know - like the new design? Think I missed a blogger on my list of Rad Reads? Let's chat. In the mean time, I'm going to walk some laps around my house, or something.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Three Things Thursday

So. A year ago today I underwent my scope that led to my diagnosis. I'm feeling strangely nostalgic, so excuse me while I go listen to some Bryan Adams and cry under my desk. In the mean time ... 

1. I haven't had too much going on in my world this week besides work and organizing at home. I took six bags of clothes to Goodwill and put out so much trash that I'm surprised our garabage dudes didn't call TLC, for surely this was a hoarder situation. And that was *just* from the bedroom. I'm tackling the kitchen this weekend. Say a prayer, m'kay?

2. If you are in the Chicago area, and you like brunch, and fundraising, and gluten-freeness, you should buy tickets to go to Wildfire's U of C fundraiser brunch on Jan. 26/27. The menu looks divine, and they are doing a cooking demo. Plus, it raises money for University of Chicago, which I can so get behind.

3. There's been a lot of chatter about Lesley University this week - the U.S. Department of Justice ruled in favor of some students requiring gluten-free foods. The Boston Globe outlines the case way better than I could, so check the link above. This is great for a couple of reasons, but mostly because it means that there is a precedent now for the rest of us. The nasty comments made by non-gluten-freers about this case will most likely make you question your faith in humanity though. One step forward, two steps back.

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year, New Plan

So. In a perfect world, I would have totally whipped up some fabu year-end recap, counting down favorite blog posts during that dead week between Christmas and New Year's. But instead, since I am SO GOOD at shooting off my mouth and biting off more than I can chew, I spent the last week of 2012 frantically prepping to host three gatherings. They were all fun, they all went off without a hitch, and I celebrated my first holiday season gluten-free without getting sick. Granted, it included bursting into tears outside of Starbucks once, countless trips to the grocery store, a small fortune paid to Sweet Ali's and several Real Housewives-level meltdowns in my kitchen. But I got through it. Which is why if I had to pick a word to describe 2012, it would be "persevere" (or "dumpster fire" but I think that's two words). Last year was probably the most challenging of my life, but I got through it, and contrary to Mayan belief, the world didn't end (I thought for sure we were done for when Hostess went under).

Now we get to move on to a whole new year. A clean slate, if you believe in those kinds of things. I don't like to make resolutions - I've always said that is an invitation for failure - but I love goal setting, re-organization and anything requiring Excel spreadsheets. Last year, my main priority was making it through. But the problem with treading water is that you are in constant motion, and not really going anywhere. That is, you are exhausted with nothing to show for it but pruney fingers. So this year is about moving forward. Synergy. Dynamism. Buzzwordism.

This year, I want to grow the blog a little more. I want to meet up with more gluten-freers, both in reality and in Interweb Land. I want to work with more great organizations and bloggers. I want to bring you guys more Fab Finds, more restaurant reviews, more stories from the trenches. I want to work even harder advocating for more celiac awareness. And more gluten-free doughnuts. Way more.

I guess the long and short of it is that this year, I'm going for "more." What are you going for?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Happy 2013, friends. Hope you've all recovered from your respective NYE festivities. We celebrated with old friends and new, eating lots of cheese and reveling in the glory of kissing 2012 goodbye. Apparently, it was a clusterduck of a year all the way around. Luke and I then spent the ENTIRE DAY on Jan. 1 lounging on the couch watching TV. And it was GLORIOUS.

1. I know I've mentioned it on the blog before, but seriously make an effort to check out Wolfgang Puck's Signature Tortilla Soup. I buy it at Wal-Mart, but you can nab it just about anywhere. It's gluten-free, organic, and I think dairy-free (unless you dump a bunch of cheese in it. Which I do.). I love it because it sort of tastes like restaurant or home-made soup, not tinny like canned soup. And when you are looking for something fast, filling and tasty, it doesn't get much better than soup. Right now for work I have limited lunch prep/storage/dining space, and this works perfectly. Yum. Okay, done gushing.

2. My friend Kelly just recently had a chance to explore Protein Bar in Oak Brook. They have a pretty large offering of gluten-free and healthy options. She's doing a giveaway, so stop by her blog and check it out. I plan on paying them a visit soon.

3. I know I will be late on the uptake on this (when am I not?) but I have a New Year, New Plan post coming up soon. One of my *ahem* goals is to nurture this GF bad boy a little more. More Fab Finds and Gluten-Free Gluttons for sure. Unless I wake up tomorrow in Giada DeLaurentiis's body, there probably won't be too much in the way of recipes. And if you're looking for a "YAY! Gluten-Free is the BEST THING EVER" blog ... just keep walking, because the snark doesn't really have an "off" switch. If anyone has any great product suggestions, or GF-friendly restaurants in the Chi-town area, let me know!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Alissa Learns the Internet

Hi kids - after getting a couple of requests to add a follow option to the blog, I finally did. It's up in the corner. So, you know, you can follow me and stuff. You can either join that way, or follow via e-mail in the box below.

Or, you can keep on reading anonymously. Whatever works for you.