At the Canadian Celiac Conference!

26 May

ImageJust a quick update from the conference being held here in Kelowna this weekend: it’s been a great event so far and I’m meeting lots of great people who are passionate about advocating for Celiac testing, gluten free food safety, and most of all (like me) food!! Last night at a reception, I immediately passed by the bread, and then did a double take – I could eat this bread, I’m at a Celiac conference, and it must be gluten free!!

I’m looking forward to connecting more with people though this blog in the future, including all the newly diagnosed Celiacs I’ve been meeting, and all the amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to get to know at the conference.

I’ll be posting a conference recap sometime in the next few weeks, so watch out for it!!

And if we haven’t met yet, and you’re at the conference, stop my and say hi. I’m the one taking all the photos!

Canadian Celiac Association’s National Conference 2012, Kelowna, BC!

7 May

Canadian Celiac Association National Conference: May 24-25, 2012

As many of you may know, I live in the beautiful Okanagan region of BC, in Kelowna (you can usually find me tweeting @misskelowna!) Well, I’m super excited about the upcoming Canadian Celiac Association Conference this month, because it’s in my hometown! I just marked my third year anniversary of being gluten free (aka 3 AD – 3 years after diagnosis), so I’m looking forward to going to my first Celiac conference, and being around people who really “get it.” I’m looking forward to also learning about the latest in Celiac and gluten free research, and of course, to the gluten free food that will be sampled and served at the conference!!

Conference Speakers

This year’s keynote speaker at the conference is Dr. Sheila Crowe. Dr. Crowe has over 25 years of experience in Gastroenterology and is the co-author of Celiac Disease for Dummies – a book I read when I was first diagnosed! Dr. Crowe served as a Consultant “Ask the Expert” for the New York Times Health online section on the topic of celiac disease. Although Dr. Crowe doesn’t have celiac disease herself, she is certainly well versed in the disease. In fact, her month-in-law, the late Mrs. Kay Ernst, co-founded the Canadian Celiac Association (CCA) 40 years ago. You can read her full biography here. (Opens in a PDF).

Other speakers include Dr. Ian Blumer (speaking on celiac disease and its relationship to other autoimmune diseases), Dr. Hardy Limeback (speaking on dentistry and celiac disease), Dr. Brent Barlow (speaking on naturopathy and celiac disease), and Dr. Mohsin Rashid (speaking on “Celiac Without Borders: A Global Perspective”).

On Sunday, Dr. Connie Switzer will be delivering the Professional Advisory Board Report. Dr. Switzer was actually the gastroenterologist* that did my endoscopy back in Edmonton, and delivered me the news, “Yep, you definitely have celiac disease.” After that day, I never intentionally ate another speck of gluten. (Luckily, I had decided to load of on some of my glutenous favourites before that endoscopy, as I had a feeling I’d never have them again: perogies at the Farmer’s Market, fresh bread (of any kind), fresh sourdough bread (oh how I miss you), and my old Friday night tradition, Panago Pizza.)

*A gastroenterologist is an internal medicine physician that specializes in the treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract.

Kelowna Gluten Free Expo

On Saturday, May 25 at the conference (non-conference attendees can go for $5), there will be a gluten free expo. Click here for more info. The following exhibitors will be sampling goods and/or providing info on their services:

For more information about the conference and gluten free expo, check out http://kelownaceliac.org/kelowna-2012/. For those of you who are attending, I look forward to seeing you there!!

Gluten Free Las Vegas – Sensi

1 Apr _MG_1482

Sensi at the Bellagio was the first restaurant we went to dinner at during our Las Vegas trip. It gave me a first taste of the exquisite dining options in Vegas, and set the bar very high for the rest of the trip!

Sensi is a gorgeous restaurant with ambiance-enducing waterfalls, four open/glassed kitchens attached to one another in the centre of the space, and amazing service and attention to detail.

The restaurant website describes it even better: Sensi is committed to serving sustainably grown and naturally raised products. Sensi offers a greater purpose to dining involving all five senses. The food and presentation from the four kitchens constantly evolves to produce innovative culinary creations. The kitchen takes center-stage while four complementary cuisines: Italian, Asian, American Grill and seafood specialties take leading roles. Quality, purity and freshness prevail in every creation. Enjoy this truly unique style of dining complete with an impressive wine list and striking carved stone, waterfalls and mirrored chrome.

Enjoy this photographic journey of our experience at Sensi. We’ll definitely be back in the future – make sure to check it out if you’re in Vegas in the future. It’s pricey (like most Vegas dining) but unforgettabe. I can’t wait to go back!

This photo was taken by yours truly. I kind of love it! Just the presentation alone was satiating to my eyes. And the taste exquisite. I can't remember the name of the dessert, but it was made fresh that day by the pastry chef and the server described it as "ants on a log." YUM!!!

My boyfriend's sushi. To stunning to not take a photo, right?!

Yummm.. I'm still thinking about this drink. Although I would typically order a martini or wine, the house-made gingerale. I need to learn how to make this at home!

Do you ever feel left out when the rest of your table gets fresh made bread or buns that just call out your name? I know I do. Well, I've been to three restaurants in the last three years, that served a gluten free bread to the Celiacs at the table. Sensi was one of them - major bonus points! These were delicious and fresh Indian flatbreads served with three different dips. I believe they're called Roti or Chipatis, and made out of chickpea flour. Being served "bread" was an amazing thing.

I wanted to save room for dessert (understandably, right?!) so I opted for delicious steak salad type of dish. That's not what it was called; they had a much better name for it. I shall take notes next time!

I have a shellfish allergy, but these guys sure looked cute! The perimeter of the 4 kitchens had many fresh ingredients displayed which is always nice to see!

I was watching all the magic happen in the kitchen. I'm guessing these were being fire roasted for some kind of tandoori chicken.

This is Executive Chef Royden Ellamar. He was super friendly and allowed me to take photos of his kitchens!

More preparation going on in one of the four kitchens.

Gluten Free Travel – Breakfasts & The Bellagio, Las Vegas

27 Mar _MG_1242

Well, I survived my first ever trip to Las Vegas, and the food was definitely one of the highlights! (The food and the shows. Wow.)

We stayed at the Bellagio, and there was a multitude of dining options right in hotel. We went to Cafe Bellagio and  The Buffet for breakfasts.

At Cafe Bellagio, I had some wonderful omelette (with a fresh, warm salsa), and hashbrowns. It was so good that I had the same breakfast twice! The restaurant was very allergy-aware, which is a nice way to start the day, right! With coffee and tip, breakfast for two was almost $50, so it’s not what you’d maybe call an affordable option. But I realized that while you can get “great deals” TO Las Vegas, everyone there is, ahem, pricey.

We also went for an equally pricey breakfast at the casual dining restaurant at the Aria. Beautiful hotel. They were also allergy-aware, but the service lacked, and all I could eat? Eggs. No starch there. This girl needs protein AND carbs before walking miles around the Strip all day! Apparently their hash browns were in complete cross-contamination territory with everything else they cooked on their grill. Disappointing that they couldn’t figure something out, but I appreciate their upfront honesty. There is nothing more rattling then eating at a restaurant when a server uses language like, “it should be fine” or a tone of unsureness.

Yes, on our last day, I took a chance on the buffet, and had a great experience. We saw that a buffet breakfast was around $15, but included OJ and coffee, which together would add $12 onto each person’s bill elsewhere. (No joke there.) I did actually take a risk in not asking for a tour of the buffet and what I could eat. I tend to get tired of being the centre of attention in a meal-choice environment, which is my bad, because we’ve all heard of buffet horror stories. This was actually the first buffet I’ve been to since diagnosis almost (wow, that long?!) 3 years ago.

I sussed out the options and felt safe that the fresh made omelette station would be safe. No gluten-containing ingredients there. I don’t think. So I went for a veggie and cheese omelette, and filled the rest of my plate with hash browns (they appeared the same as the ones in the Cafe Bellagio), fresh fruit, yogurt, and of course salsa. (I love salsa with my eggs. And it always seems to be fresh-made in the US, unlike the bottled stuff you usually get at restaurants in Canada.) To top everything up, the coffee was amazing and the orange juice was fresh squeezed.

As a breakfast lover, I’ve missed being able to go out for Sunday brunches. In fact, I’ve found great breakfast joints in White Rock, Edmonton, and now Las Vegas, but haven’t found somewhere great here in Kelowna for a nice worry-free brunch.

So breakfasts at the Bellegio? A+. On a side note, we won’t be staying at the Bellagio again due to an issue there was in the room, and how the staff subsequently handled it (or rather, didn’t handle it, as they kept on telling us to come back and speak to a manager, when none seems to ever be available.)

But I think we’ll definitely eat at the Bellagio again! Besides breakfasts, we had a wonderful experience at the Yellowtail and SENSI ® restaurants. More on them later!

Gluten Free on “The Dish” – link to my interview on CBC Radio-West!

19 Jan

I had a great on air chat about the life gluten free, with the new-to-Kelowna Rebecca Zandbergen of CBC Radio-West. She’s a lovely lady and fantastic interviewer , and as she predicted, 6 or 7 minutes on air felt like a mere minute. There’s a lot of great tips I completely forgot to add during the interview, so I’ll have to post them here on the blog!

And soon to come… gluten free shopping tips-it doesn’t have to cost you every penny in your possession. Also, awhile back I promised to send Vernon girl Kerry K Taylor of Squawk Fox, some of the things I do to live as a money-conscious Celiac! Although she’s probably already in the know. (They’re coming Kerry!) If you haven’t visited Kerry’s frugal living blog – Squawk Fox – where frugal living is sexy, delicious, and fun – you must!

And here is the interview…click on the image to listen in on CBC Radio’s website!

Gluten Free on The Dish - CBC Radio West

Repost: Chocolate Cinnamon Banana Loaf

18 Jan

This is a repost of an old favourite of mine – Chocolate Cinnamon Banana Loaf! I’m going to be sampling it today during at radio interview at CBC Kelowna, so I wanted to make it easy to find. 

Chocolate Cinnamon Banana Loaf

You probably know the feeling of  “ick” I’m referring to – you’re trying to keep up with all the fruits and veggies you should be eating and then you see them sitting there on your counter. Once beautiful and firm with shades of yellow and green, they are now browning and wasting away like a grape in the sun. Some call them overripe. I call them rotten. That’s the ick I’m referring to!

Since I really only enjoy eating bananas when they’re more green than yellow, I’ve decided to not let them waste away anymore. Banana chocolate chip muffins it is!

Oh wait – I have no gluten free chocolate chips – I had to throw out a huge bag of them that were maybe once gluten free but spent way too many afternoons hanging around the Evil Mr. Flour in my pre-diagnosis days.

So searching for a tasty alternative to banana chocolate chip muffins, I came across this Food and Wine recipe for Cinnamon Banana Bread.

I amended a few things – took out the Xatham Gum (which is already in most all-purpose mixes), amped up the cinnamon and vanilla factor and added cocoa among other things and I have to say… it turned out great and much better than I expected for a first time go at it!

The loaf, although of the ‘dense’ consistency of many gluten free ‘breads’, was moist and flavourful and it may just become a staple in my house! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten free, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

    Chocolate Cinnamon Banana Loaf - a new favourite!

  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp gluten free cocoa (I used Hersheys)
  • Dash of salt
  • 3 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup milk (any milk of your choice – dairy, soy, almond, etc)
  • 2 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil a loaf pan and line with parchment paper.

Mix all the dry ingredients into one bowl. In another bowl, mash the bananas and then add in the oil, agave nectar, milk and vanilla. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before slicing. (Or, nibble on it straight out of the pan like I did!)

*Optional: Mix a half teaspoon of each: cocoa, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle onto banana loaf after 10 minutes of baking – this will give you the crackle effect seen in the photo. Tastes pretty good too!

Happy New Year!! Your Favourite 2011 Recipes (preceded by a red wine coloured rant)

4 Jan

Happy New Year everyone! Wow, 2012, sounds so futuristic, doesn’t it?!

So people have been asking me over and over, “when are you going to start blogging more”? No matter that these people are all of my real life friends who are asking me because they’ve referred recently diagnosed friends. But they have a point. Having a stale blog makes me feel icky, I mean, I work in marketing! How often do I huff at blogs that I really want to read but have gone months without a new post. And that’s what I’ve become?

Note to readers here: this is just my personal “forgive me, I have blinned” (blog sinned, made that one up) rant. Skip down for the hottest in recipes from 2011 ladies and lads.

I have to say though, that nagging feeling I get when I’m blazy (blog lazy, ha!) is when I talk to people who feel like getting diagnosed Celiac is going to ruin their life and cooking is going to be impossible. And I tell them, “No sister, it ain’t gonna ruin you, you just gotta learn the secrets.. I can tell you.. And you can find them on my web log!!” Okay, I totally don’t talk like this.

But I do tell people to not let a diagnosis get you down, that things are going to get easier. Because you quickly learn what you can and cannot eat. And you learn that you don’t have to follow complicated gluten free recipes to be able to eat. (Just learn how to substitute ingredients like a seasoned Celiac!) And let’s not forget that not only is gluten free knowledge on the uptake in society because people think it’s a weight loss tool (idiots), but because more and more people are being diagnosed with it. Restaurants and grocery stores are finally starting to get it. Some more slowly than others. (And yes, some will possibly be forever oblivious.)

But these secrets, and developments, are what I wish someone had told me when I was first diagnosed with Celiac. I thought my life was ruined! And it was not. I’ve learned to live with it, and make tasty food in a jiffy, and you can too.

So expect to see more of my rants and raves throughout 2012!

Now, for the top recipes of 2011? Here they are!

  1. Oven Baked Risotto. Apparently this was popular with the new-to-risotto crowd. So if you’re reticent of making your first batch of risotto, start with this one. And then try some of my other risotto recipes and see what you’ve been missing all these years! Risotto – gluten free food of the gods. And perfect for a creamy, savoury treat if you have to refrain from dairy as well!
  2. Cranberry Banana Walnut Loaf. Shave off 10 minutes to make muffins, or add in chocolate chips for a real anytime treat. Yummzers!
  3. Celery Leek Soup. I’m glad you liked it as much as I did! Because simply, it’s to die for. Put it on your list for a winter-warm-up fast!!

Enough from me for today. I wish you all the best in 2012 and look forward to continuing our gluten free journey together!

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