Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gluten Free Expo Part Two

The first show I went to was in 2012 and it was held at the Westin in Lombard. I had so much emotion, I was overwhelmed, excited, amazed at all the products, and the out pouring of people who wanted to talk about being a Celiac. I had met Jen the gal in charge of the event at one of her cooking classes she does in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. She was so friendly and so concerned about each of the people who attended her seminars. She was warm and welcoming, and made me look forward to classes to learn new recipes and hear stores of other people who went through similar diagnosis nightmares like me. She mentioned that if we signed up for her emails, we could get a chance to volunteer at the show, I was in! So This year I read all my emails waiting for the one that said "We need volunteers" I was set.

The show was held in the Schaumburg Renaissance Convention Center this year. It was much larger than last years, and was expected to draw in 7,500 people to come to the show. There were 150 vendors ranging from food products, beer, vitamins, local bakeries, make-up, bloggers and vendors with GF clothing.

Last year, my mom and brother came with, they were interested in many of the products, especially since you could sample so many of them. So this year they definitely wanted to come again, my boyfriend and my brothers girlfriend also came with. Each of them found items they really enjoyed. There were several baking mixes they twisted my arm and got me to purchase to make at home. I'm looking forward to replicating some of the recipes, and seeing what else I can make. Since I am the only one who needs to eat gluten free, I appreciate their opinions that the items taste comparable to the rest of the food they eat.

We got to the show about 12:45 we left about 3:30, it was crowded, but we still got to talk to many of the vendors, and find out where locally they are sold, and how many of them are moving into the Chicago area market, and are going to be sold at my local Mariano's!

I was able to get a cute GF T-Shirt from Celiac and the Beast, and a GF cookbook by one of my favorite bloggers, Gluten Free on a Shoe String, they had the book on special for the weekend.


My boyfriend said it was like a day of trick-or-treating for Celiac's. We got lots of brochures on products, information on meetings in the area, and samples of products. There were a lot of vendors who had samples to taste on the spot, but I could only eat so much! I should have started to fast about a week earlier to be able to try everything.

Some of the items we tasted on the spot were -

Rose's Wheat-free Bakery was sampling their GF Dairy Free Cheesecake.
Sweet Ali's had Brownies, pound cake, chocolate cupcakes, and their salted caramel cupcakes.
Rudi's was making grilled cheese sandwiches.
Udi's had their new pizza's for sample, and their soft baked cookies.
Kinnikinnick had a bunch of items, including their new bagels, cinnamon donuts, K-Kritters, and K-toos.
Glutenfreeda had their new hot pocket like sandwiches for taste.
Local Oven was sampling their different bead options (soon to be the bun at Fudruckers!)
Conte's Pasta Co had their pizza, perogi's, and gnocchi for sampling.
Pinstripes was sampling their lasagna that they serve at their restaurants.
Hail Merry had all four flavors of their macaroons for tasting, as well as some of their cakes.
Whole Foods had a apple tart that they said is available in their Gluten Free Bake house selection.
Two Fat Guys Gourmet Sauces were tasting their BBQ Sauces on cocktail hot dogs.
San-J had their sauces all on display and were sampling the sauces and salad dressings on their rice crackers.
Chebe Products were making their bread sticks in bite size portions.
Kiki's Simply Awesome, had spinach feta pockets.
Bard's Tale, Brunehaut, New Planet, and Greens were tasting their beers, in the beer garden.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gluten Free Expo in Chicago Part One

This past weekend was the Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo for Chicagoland. I have to start off by saying, I'm going to have to break these posts into multiple entries, because there was so much to see and do, I can't get it all in tonight.

1st off, Dr. Schars was hosting a party Friday night to introduce their new restaurant training program they have launched in Chicagoland. It was a great party, with lots of amazing food. Dr.Schars is spending 20 hours training interested restaurants how to safely make gluten free food in their existing kitchen space, even items that would have been fried in a deep fryer, they are training how to pan fry, in a dedicated pan, so items like chicken tenders are now back on the GF menu!! How exciting is that?

The team was so excited to have a dedicated gluten free audience to share their news and promote all their tasty new products. On my first try of Dr. Schars products 2 years ago, I will admit, I wasn't impressed with the taste and consistency. I was pleasantly surprised to see how things had changed.

The party was hosted at D'Agostino's in Park Ridge. The restaurant is family owned and as of right now, only 3 of their locations offer the gluten free menu options. The 3 locations are Park Ridge, River West, and Wrigleyville. (

The pizza was a bit soggy, they explained the way it cooks, it comes out with a crispy crust. We didn't have that crispy feeling they explained, but they said with the safe cooking process they have thought back in the kitchen, that all pizza ingredients were available for topping, that got my mind racing for pizza combinations! Overall the taste was good, I enjoyed the flavor and consistency of the crust.

They even served Chicken Parmesan! I will be getting this on my next visit! Luckily my family already has a love affair with D'Agostino's so the fact that I can go with for dinner, I'm foreseeing many trips there, so this is perfect. I LOVE chicken parm. This the bread crumbs were light, they weren't caked on, and the chicken very flavorful. The pasta was Schars Rotini pasta, it complimented the chicken well. They had also served the chicken tenders with ranch and blue cheese dipping sauce.

We got to try some lemon wafer cookies, hazelnut cookie bars (which reminded me of Kit Kat bars, but larger, and yummier than I remembered) and chocolate chip cookies. The host for the night gave out some boxes of their new graham crackers, YES graham crackers and challenged several bloggers to make a cheese cake with them, and report back... Later this week I will post a cheese cake, and my review of the crackers!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two Fat Guys BBQ Sauce

Last year at the Gluten and Allergy Free Expo in Chicago we tried some new gluten free products, some that we found really exciting to us. We loved getting the chance to try some new products without committing to a full meal first. One of those products we tried was Barbeque Sauce by Two Fat Guys. 

We were wow'd with the taste. Full of flavor, smokey, tangy and so delicious, it was like finding a new food love. We'd mention it every now and then, that it was so tasty and we should really look into getting some for dinner one night. We didn't look too hard for it, and kept forgetting. Then the other day I was in my favorite Gluten Free Bakery Sweet Ali's ( and they had the Two Fat Guys sauce on the shelf for sale! I got so excited, I was already salvating over the cupcakes, cookies, and any other goodies that I was going to pick up, I picked up the bottle without skipping a beat and brought it home.

We went to Costco and got their smoked pulled pork, cooked it up on the stove, added the Two Fat Guys sauce at the end of cooking the pork, just to warm it all up. The bottle of sauce seemed large for the portion of meat that we had, but we used most of the bottle, with a little extra to pour over the top of our sandwiches.


We made some Awesome Gluten Free Pulled Pork Sandwiches. We tried out some new dinner rolls that I hadn't seen yet, EnerG Tapioca Dinner Rolls, I found them a bit dry but adding a little extra sauce helped out the rolls. I don't think I could use them for burgers, but maybe Sloppy Joe's or Beef sandwiches.

I checked out their site tonight, to figure out where else we can buy the sauce, and realized that my local grocery store, Mariano's carries the Two Fat Guys Sauce! I guess I would have noticed that if I shopped an aisle other than the gluten free aisle every now and then. So tomorrow I'm going to figure out where they have the sauce, and pick up another bottle! This may become a regular meal in our house

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pizza Portobella Mushrooms

I've discovered it's some of the little things that I miss when eating out. I've found some ways to improvise on that, but also come up with some simple but different dishes for dinner at home. It keeps gluten free interesting, and spices things up a bit.
I love mushrooms. Stuffed, fried, on pizza, pastas, on sandwhiches. Here is a quick side dish recipe that my whole family enjoys.

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • 2 Extra large portobella caps
  • Handful of spinach leaves (minus stems)
  • 1 plum tomato diced
  • Dash of Italian spices (Oregano, Garlic, Red Peper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (or shredded Daiya if dairy free)
  • Baking dish at least 1/2 deep (Juice from the mushrooms will drain out as they are cooked.)
Make sure you clean off your mushrooms and remove the stem. Place the mushrooms top down in the baking pan.

Next you will mix your tomatoes and Italian spices together, and then lay them inside the mushroom caps, I like covering the whole inside to make them extra tasty.
You will then cover the tomatoes with the spinach and then with cheese.
Feel free to add as little or as much as you want for taste. 
You will then bake them in the over for 20 minutes. Make sure to be careful taking the dish out of the oven, because of the juice from the mushrooms will be hot. Serve right away as a side dish to any meal!

It's a great dish to help satisfy a pizza craving, you could even add some pepperoni, or any other favorite pizza toppings!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Party Hopping

I love a party as much as the next person. But going to a party, gathering, dinner, can be a bit overwhelming when you have Celiac's. At least at first. Luckily I've always carried a purse big enough to carry a small dog in, that I always make sure I'm prepared. I always back a couple Larabars, or KIND bars, Gluten Free Tamari packets, If I have room, some granola, cookies, or rice crackers. When possible I'll also bring a dish to share, a dip with some lentil crackers, Salad with a unique dressing, something that will stand out, and when people find out it's gluten free, they see there are some great choices out there!

As a plus I live in the suburbs of Chicago, I'm never far from somewhere we can stop to get something to eat, if needed. But I always am prepared for a party. What if they aren't serving anything gluten free? Will they notice that I'm not eating and be offended? I've learned that if I don't want to make a big deal, I can pull off no one noticing I didn't eat at their party. I always have a glass of something to drink, and I'll offer to hold someones plate as needed, it's easy enough to get by without eating. I always make sure to eat something before I go out, at least to hold me over. I'll look for a veggie tray, cheese plate (sans the crackers!), hummus, shrimp cocktail or a salad are the usual things I look for first. If I strike out, I know I have my back up snacks in my purse if needed! Even if I just nibble on them in the car on the drive home.
I feel fortunate I have some very amazing friends who are really understanding and have no problems making sure there is something GF, or that look forward to the dish I bring to try.

Today we had some party hopping luckly in a very populated area of the burbs. I had a KIND bar with my coffee on the way to the first party, they had veggies, salad, and deviled eggs, so I had lunch! Party #2 didn't have as many options, but a bag of chips was enough to hold me over until dinner, which we stopped and had on the way to party #3. It was crazy, but we're use to the routine. While driving we started pointing out options along the way, to figure out where we'd stop. It has opened us up to trying different places, and becomes like a scavenger hunt to find something new.
The main thing is, I don't fear parties, I know I'll be ok, and that in the end, it will be just as fun as before.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

More about me, gluten free

I have been Gluten Free since November of 2011 when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. To be honest, I'd never heard of Celiac Disease until the doctor said he thought that was my issue. I was furiously writting down what he was saying, and didn't even know how to spell the word! That's what started my crazy new journey of eating gluten free.

I had called my dad and told him, he had a couple friends who had some experience with eating gluten free, and gave him some quick tips. He went to the store and found out they made frozen mac and cheese, and told me, "It will be ok, there is still mac and cheese!" It was actually quite comforting!

I had started to have bad stomach pains and felt sick to my stomach, about 8 months earlier. I really thought it was the flu. But after a couple weeks and the pain not going away I decided to call my doctor and see what he said. He was stumped by where I had pain and where I didn't have pain. Over the next 8 months I went for multiple ultra sounds, CAT Scan, HIDA Scan, Multiple blood tests. I was getting to know the hospital nurses like we were best buddies. My HIDA Scan came back saying my gallbladder was a bit slow, and the doctor said that was probably what was causing my issues. I wasn't sold on that answer, and being resistent to the surgery, waited a couple weeks before calling my doctor back and asking "Are you sure?!??!" and he said NO - Call this GI doctor, I think he will be able to help you better.

I called the GI doctor, met with him, we talked about my medical history. The reoccuring sinus infections (I always seemed to have), anemia, mouth sores, skin rash, constipation, missed periods, irritability, loss of enamal on my teeth, multiple vitamin deficencies, fatigue. At the end of the day I felt like a text book list of all the symptoms. He said he knew the answer, and after doing an endoscopy he asked for me to do one more blood test, and the results came back positive on both for Celiac Disease. When I went for my blood test the nurse kept asking me why they wanted to test for it, and what evidence did they have to think this was my issue. She was shocked when that turned out to be the key. 

Since then, my anemia and vitamin deficencies have cleared up, I'm back to being cheerful, I'm not tired all the time. I have not had a sinus infection in over 2 years! Nor has my dentist found as many cavities! I feel like a whole new person, and would have NEVER thought this was the answer.

I enjoy baking, trying new places to dine out, and traveling. I'll highlight those experiences in this blog and share what I learn along the way!