GFAF Expo Chicago

Guess what I’m doing next month?
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I’m an official blogger for the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo on April 12-13. 
Care to join me? (I’ll be there all weekend!)
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We go each year with our GF Get Together group and this year is no different — we’re organizing a meet-up at the expo! So grab your tickets now (using the code above) and get ready for a weekend filled with more gluten-free goodness than you’ll know what to do with.
Click HERE to see the Facebook invite and join the group.
And while you’re over on FB, check out the GFAF Expo and show them some GF love.
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Each year, I find new gluten-free goodies to try. And although I now go for more of the networking opportunities, (which are going to ROCK this year!!!) if you’re new to gluten-free eating, or a seasoned vet, I guarantee you will find something new-to-you. I went to the expo shortly after being diagnosed and I was in gluten-free heaven! I cannot tell you how relieved I was to be able to walk into a room and be able to eat EVERYTHING!
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When do we get to do that?
Are you going to be there? I’d love to see your smiling face. Leave me a comment if you are going to be there, then keep an eye out for this girl and her camera. 🙂DSC_7142

Going Gluten-Free 101

Starting a gluten-free diet can be overwhelming.

There are so many questions in the beginning:

  • How do I start the gluten-free diet?
  • Are there resources out there to help me?
  • Is {insert ANY food} gluten-free?
  • Where do I shop for gluten-free groceries? (and is that bread worth $6?)
  • Do my favorite restaurants have gluten-free options?
  • How do I travel gluten-free?
  • What CAN I eat?

Been there, done that, felt all those frustrations and more. I often tell the story of my first shopping trip after being diagnosed with celiac disease — after filling my cart with some whole foods that I knew I could eat (fruits, veggies, cheese, etc) I quickly became flustered while trying to decipher the “food-like-ingredients” on the labels.

Is modified food starch gluten free? What about the caramel coloring in this? And natural flavors… what about those? I had my handy-dandy safe and unsafe foods  list with me, but  it was a blur of words on the paper.

It was a nightmare. And I couldn’t handle it, so I left my cart in the aisle and left the store in tears.

That was over four years ago and luckily my trips to the grocery store are much less stressful these days. (I’ll come back and revisit that statement after I have kids — went grocery shopping with my BFF out in Denver and her two girls, and as lovely as they are, I have no idea how moms do it, or even find room in the cart next to a baby carrier for the goods.)

The first months of going gluten-free can be overwhelming and stressful, no doubt. But they don’t have to be!

Last month, I taught my first gluten-free class and it was a huge success.

We need more gluten-free classes in Milwaukee, don’t you think? Hoping to fill that void by offering more classes in the future — stay tuned!

I know some of you wanted to be there (and many were there in spirit) but couldn’t, so I thought I’d recap the class for you.

I didn’t want you to miss out on this….

(more…)

Post-Honeymoon recovery: a list of links for traveling gluten-free

We made it home safely, with plenty of tales to tell.

I’ll just be honest and say I’m still adjusting to reality. For some reason, I am having the worst time getting back into the swing of things.

So… I promise there will be more pictures with stories of our adventures on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, but for today, how about a list of links?

TRAVELING GLUTEN-FREE STYLE

  • If you are traveling to a country where the native language is not English, you can grab some Triumph Dining Cards to make things easier on everyone. (I only busted out my Spanish version once on our trip.)
  • Although I didn’t bring my toaster bags on this trip, I do take them on pretty much every other trip, even if it’s a weekend at a friend’s house. 
  • My suitcase, purse and carry-on all contained these Larabars, they are my current favorite. If I had been thinking ahead, I would have ordered and mixed it up with some GFBs too. 
  • Glutino pretzels are a staple for travel – perfect dipped in mustard, cream cheese, with regular cheese bites, on their own, dipped in PB&J, plenty of possibilities. 
  • These Go-Pinic meals pretty much saved me on the plane ride home – NO gluten-free options from American Airlines on that flight, even after calling to request it. Boo. 
  • Some airports have snack options for us too — I scored some Peeled Snacks along with some Honest Tea for the ride there. 
That’s what worked for me on this trip — what are your gluten-free travel tips? Let’s make a list to help newbie GF travelers! 

A Gluten Free Frenzy in Brookfield, WI

If there is one thing I have gotten better at in the last two and a half years, it’s label reading.

Isn’t it funny how we can quickly scan a label with words like Monosodium Glutmate, Lactic Acid, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and many other quite-the-mouthful ingredients and not bat an eye? But a word like WHEAT, BARLEY, MALT will cause us to put that item right back on the shelf with a *sigh*. (those in italics are ingredients in Cheetos…no, not the healthiest, but I dig ’em every once in a while)

Wouldn’t you just love to go into a store and NOT have to read labels?

Just stroll through the aisles without a worry.

Stopping at little tables to try the samples they have out that day.

Grab those hard to find items from amazing bakeries across the country.

Then you could grab a deli sandwich and a Diet Coke and be on your way.

Or kick back with a cup of java before you head out.

Now you can.

A Gluten Free Frenzy is THE new place to find gluten free products. Owners Martha and Greg were thrilled to open their doors just a couple of weeks ago. (we’re thrilled too)

Everything in their store is gluten free. NO label reading.

Ok, you might have to label read if you have other allergies too, but a list of “other allergens” is in the works. In the near future you’ll be able to get your hands on the list to see what items are not only gluten free, but also soy free, dairy free, etc.

Their goal is to provide the best variety of gluten free products. I would say they are well on their way.

And it gets better. There are ready-made food options too.

You can grab some bakery items from the front case that are made with mixes they have in the store. The perfect way to try out the mixes before you buy them to make at home. Plus there are samples all over the store for you to try.

Pizza by the slice? Done. They have that too. And they are using crusts they carry in the store. Try. Then buy.

Perfect.

Deli Sandwiches in the cooler? Check.

Mainstream products like Betty Crocker, Chex, and Thai Kitchen?  Double check.

Plans for their Grand Opening are underway for August. And there is talk of pancake/Belgian waffle Saturday’s. Sign me up.

If you find a product you love that they aren’t carrying yet? Just let them know, they would be happy to order it. (No worries, I have already put in a request for Crispin Cider )

We have been chatting about it all week on the Celiac in the City Facebook page. We are crazy excited to have this new store in our community. We are even making a stop there for our Gluten Free Get Together VI on Monday, July 26th.

Want to join us? Check our the invite on Facebook.

Kudos to Martha and Greg!

Guest Post: Fellow Milwaukee bloggers take on the Gluten Free Challenge

When Peef and Lo from Burp! Where Food Happens told me they were interested in doing the Gluten Free Challenge, I was thrilled. (and a little nervous for them) I should have known they would be fine. Just fine. Especially because some of their recipes are naturally gluten free. Including this recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Schaum Torte which won in Chef Feker’s Family Recipe Revival contest. And others are easily converted, like this recipe for Asapragus-Pesto Pizza. I’m going to be making it this week as part of my “meatless week” challenge.

They were more than fine. Pros really. And they did it on a weekend when they knew they would be on the go and eating out. Grab your beverage of choice, this one is a little lengthy, but well worth the read.

This is their adventure in the gluten free world…

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This weekend, Peef and I did something we’ve never done before.
We eliminated wheat and gluten from our diets.

Why did we do it?
We took part in the Gluten Free Challenge because we were curious about what it would take to adhere to a more strict set of dietary guidelines.  We’ve been reading Sarah’s blog now for the better part of year.  And we’ve also connected with other GF bloggers like Melissa from Gluten Free for Good and  Jenn and her gluten-free husband from Jenn Cuisine. We know that gluten free foods are popping up everywhere — great news for the one in 133 people suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes a severe allergy to wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats.  But, we are also aware that avoiding gluten can still pose quite the challenge in our wheat-heavy world.

So, for two days (May 22-23) we decided to stand tall and proud, along with all of our GF blogger friends, and raise awareness about gluten intolerance. And it’s a little crazy how much we learned.

DAY ONE (Saturday):
The weekend started off bright and early.  We got up at 5am, hoping to get to the Ozaukee County Master Gardener’s Heirloom Plant and Herb Sale before the doors opened so we could get first dibs on seedlings for our backyard garden.   We skipped breakfast, thinking we’d pick something up along the way. So, we were excited to see that there was a Bake Sale going on when we arrived.

“Perfect!” I thought, “we can grab a muffin.”
Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize that there wouldn’t be any gluten-free muffins to be found at the bake sale.  Peef even asked the nice lady working the counter if there was anything we might be able to eat.  Sadly, she shook her head.  Instead, we soothed our growling stomachs with cups of organic herbal tea.

After loading up on herb plants, we headed home to wait for my sister who was coming down to Milwaukee to meet us for lunch for her birthday.  While we were waiting for her to arrive, Peef started foraging for a late morning snack. As he scanned the cupboards in our house, he found that almost everything contained “gluten cooties”.  Crackers… malted milk balls… leftover pizza… granola… He went through most of our pantry and fridge, reading the labels on the products and putting them back down on the shelf.

Now, I should explain that we’re already dedicated label readers.  We always have our eyes peeled for “evils” like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and trans-fats.  But, during the GF challenge, we needed to be extra vigilant. Thickeners, stabilizers, flavorings, food starches, vegetable proteins, and MSG … all of these things could contain ingredients that were derived from wheat. So, every time we picked up a package of food to eat, we had to think about what we were putting into our bodies. It also seemed that everything contained some form of gluten or another.

After about ten minutes of shuffling, I heard a shout of victory from the direction of the kitchen and I saw Peef come sauntering out with a handful of toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

“No gluten in pumpkin seeds, right?” he asked.

“Nope,” I replied. And he smiled. GF snacking mission completed.

My sister arrived in the early afternoon and we headed off to lunch at the Stack’d Burger Bar on South 1st Street.  We’d heard from Sarah that Stack’d was very GF friendly.  They maintain a dedicated fryer used only for GF foods, and they also featured something unusual – gluten free buns for their burgers.  So, we were pretty excited.

We called ahead to let them know that we were coming so that they could start up the gluten free fryer. They seemed happy to accommodate us, and our server was very helpful when we asked questions about the gluten free items on the menu. Peef ordered the Hangover Burger and I opted for a custom burger with pepperjack cheese and jalapeno peppers.  Both of us requested GF buns and French fries. Both burgers were positively delicious – thick, juicy, and perfectly cooked to our specifications.  And the buns were seriously good.  Their texture was more chewy than the white bakery buns we’re accustomed to eating in restaurants, and the tops were slightly cracked and dry looking.  But, the buns themselves were tasty, and they really held up well to the loaded burgers.   The fries were crisp and delicious. And, even better, they’d been fried in the GF fryer, so we knew they were “safe” for us to eat.


When it came time for dinner, my niece requested that we go out for pizza.  Now, pizza would have been a real challenge for us, had it not been for another great recommendation from Sarah, Transfer Pizzeria and Cafe on the corner of 1st Street, Mitchell Street, and Kinnickinnic Avenue.    While my mother and sister enjoyed pizza made with Transfer’s regular wheat crust, Paul and I were able to enjoy our own individual sized pizzas made with GF crust.  We opted to try the Diavola (with cheese, tomato sauce, salami, hot and red peppers, and onions), and the Roasted Potato Chicken pizza (with garlic sauce, cheese, pan fried potatoes, and chicken).   We didn’t know quite what to expect from a GF crust, but we were very pleased. The crust was thin and crisp – reminiscent of a cracker.  It held up well to the toppings and had a nice, nutty flavor.


DAY TWO (Sunday):
Day two was infinitely less eventful on the food front.   Peef made gluten-free scrambled eggs with onions, tarragon, chives, and Gruyere cheese for breakfast, which we enjoyed with some homemade iced coffee.   I headed off to work for a few hours, and Paul spent the afternoon completing a variety of household chores.

Although I’d been hoping to try my hand at some GF baking on Sunday, the time slipped away from us, and when I came home from work we found ourselves discussing what to have for dinner.  The weather had grown oppressively hot during the course of the day, so we were pretty opposed to turning on the oven.  Instead, we decided to cook our dinner on the grill – which turned out to be a pretty easy way to finish off our GF challenge.  We opted for grass-fed New York Strip steaks (seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic), sautéed mushrooms, grilled asparagus, and packets of purple potatoes cooked with sweet Vidalia onions, garlic, and butter – a meal comprised of basic foods, most of which had been grown or raised within 150 miles of our own doorstep.

We sipped gin & tonics as Paul put the food on the grill. Our drinks were made with Stirrings tonic water, a brand that is sweetened with pure cane sugar (not high fructose corn syrup) and contains no added artificial colors or flavors.  That’s Very Good news when you’re concerned that the “natural flavors” in your food might be tainted with gluten – but I found myself feeling a little bit sad that I had to think about what was in my sugary carbonated beverage.

On the other hand, as I sat there enjoying the smell of our dinner cooking, it also occurred to me that when it comes to going gluten-free, a diet rich in whole (rather than processed) foods – things like organic, local vegetables and high quality meatsmakes everything a whole lot easier.  Things get worlds simpler when we stop opting for packaged foods with long complicated ingredient lists and start getting back to the basics and taking the time to cook dinner for ourselves.


That simple steak dinner was the most “meat and potatoesy” meal that we’ve eaten in a very long time.  But, it was simple. And delicious.  And, the best part of it was, at the end of a long day, there wasn’t a speck of processed food (or gluten) on our plates.

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Of course, the saying goes that “every good thing must come to an end.”  And so it goes with the Gluten Free Challenge. This morning we found ourselves getting back to our old routine.  We made kefir and fruit smoothies for breakfast before heading off to work. For lunch I ate up a bit of the leftover pizza we had languishing in the fridge (which was off-limits during the challenge).  And I have no idea what’s on the docket for dinner tonight, but it may very well involve something with “gluten cooties” in it.

Everything on the surface looks suspiciously the same as BEFORE the challenge. But, trust me when I say that things have changed.  We’ve lived in another’s shoes and experienced what it means to live each day with a gluten allergy – to be dutiful and conscious of every speck of food that goes into our bodies.  And it has opened our eyes to a whole way of looking at the world.   We might not need to avoid gluten for the sake of our own health, but we’re now well aware of what our GF friends go through each day – reading labels, asking questions, doing the research. And it has inspired us to make a few changes in our own lives.

We don’t want to forget our GF friends or their journeys, so we’re hoping to continue to opt for at least one gluten-free meal per week. Maybe we’ll experiment with some of that GF baking we’ve gotten so curious about. If we do, we’ll definitely blog about it. And it’s also quite possible we’ll order another round of that GF pizza at Transfer Pizzeria. After all, it was pretty darned good.  And we’d have never tried it if it weren’t for Sarah and the Gluten Free Challenge.

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Aren’t they great? Impressive. (just like their Burp! Where Food Happens blog, go see!)

Did any of your friends and family take the Gluten Free Challenge over the weekend?

Newbies Chapter 4

~Restaurants- Milwaukee and beyond~

Gluten Free Registry for Wisco – registry to help you find safe places in Wisconsin

Beans and Barley – They have rice bread for sandwiches, staff is trained on gf and cross contamination practices.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries – Everything but the buns are gf! Just tell them clean work space and change gloves.

Stack’d Burger Bar – GF burgers and bun, beer and fries. Call ahead and have them turn the fryer on before you go.

Roots – One of my all time favorites in Milwaukee. We always eat down in the Root Cellar. Well trained staff.

Tess – Most of their menu IS gf, and it lists it on there. Excellent food.

Maggiano’s – Chef or manager will come out and speak with you. Most items can be made gf, pasta too!

P.F. Chang’s – Plenty of options, perfect when you’re out at Mayfair. I heart Chang’s Spicy Chicken.

Cafe Hollander – Kitchen is willing to work with you, eaten @ Downer location several times without issues. And they now have New Grist!

Balzaac – Another one of my favorites. The chef usually comes out, most servers are knowledgeable.  They will modify as needed.  Date night!

Crazy Water – They are willing to work with you. A favorite before and after diagnosis. Cool place.

Bunky’s Cafe (Madison) Almost everything on their menu can be gf. The. Best. Pizza. Sweet desserts. Warm owners.

Whole Foods – Love their sushi and they will have or let you get gf soy sauce from the shelf for the sushi bar. I also eat from the hot bar (for some this is a no-no due to cross contamination issues) and have had no problems.

Chancery Family friendly. Eaten there twice now, made the seafood tacos into a salad and a bunless burger. Yum!

Sake Tumi – Ask them to change gloves, clean station, NO soy sauce. (they do have gf tamari now!) Love their sushi!

North Star American Bistro – Chef gets gf eating. They will work with you. Mmm risotto.

Transfer Pizzeria – Extensive pizza toppings and options. GF crusts are new and improved. You can have  a beer too!

Pizzeria Piccola Stellar pizza! Everything goes into same oven, so ask for your pizza to be put on a pan to avoid cross contamination. Beer too!

Cempazuchi Manager was quite helpful. I had the tostadas. No chips though, they go in the fryer with other breaded items. House margarita is fabulous!

Almost any restaurant that has a trained chef will be able to handle your requests. IF they do have a gf menu with too-good-to-be-true items like empanadas that go into a fryer, ASK if it is a dedicated fryer, for gf items only. If they all go in together, you could get very sick. (I’m looking at YOU La Merenda and your “gluten free” menu that made me horribly ill for days. Tried to contact on several occasions to work with them on the menu, no response)

There are other options too. I’m still learning and so are restaurants. (good for us) Check out that Facebook page I mentioned in an earlier post too. Great ideas that I didn’t repeat on this list.

Add your favorite places too!

Newbies Chapter 3

Another day, another newbie post. Or for anyone really. These places make life easier.

Stores in Milwaukee area and beyond:

Outpost Natural Foods (several Mke locations)

Beans and Barley

Good Harvest Market (Milwaukee’s Third Ward and Waukesha)

The Gluten Free Trading Company

Trader Joe’s – they have a list of products that do not contain gluten

Riverwest Co-op

Silly Yak Bakery (Madison, WI)

Molly’s Gluten Free Bakery (Pewaukee, WI)

Larry’s Market (some gf products in the store, and try the honey mustard chicken salad in the deli… dip right in with some kettle chips)

Sendiks has come a long way with options too.

Pick n’ Save (some locations have great selections, others, not so much)

Festival Foods has a whole aisle for you! (I think Mke needs one.)