Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chicago GFAF Expo 2015 AND GIVEAWAY!

The countdown has begun! The 2015 Chicago GFAF Expo is less than three weeks away! 

I was blessed to be asked back as a media blogger again this year AND

I get to offer my readers a discount AND a chance to win a FREE TICKET!

This event is beyond amazing. More gluten free vendors than you can imagine. 
SAFE gluten free food everywhere and services that are tailored to meet our needs! 
 And for full disclosure, I will actually be working the Chebe booth part-time this year. So I'm eager to meet you in person, share about this wonderful product, AND try some of the newest products on the market.

So what can you expect from a GFAF Expo? 

Read my preliminary review from last year to get an idea of what to expect.

Here's more info direct from the GFAF Expo website:

"The GFAF Expos are the largest and fastest growing special diet consumer events in the US. Started in 2007, the events are professionally managed and have expanded from one to seven cities throughout the United States. In addition to meeting the needs of the Celiac community, the Expo welcomes those with gluten sensitivities, auto-immune/inflammatory diseases and autism."

What do you get with your Expo Ticket?
   * Entry into the vendor fair with over 100 brands
   * Valuable coupons at the vendor booths
   * Samples from the vendors
   * Discounted products available for purchase
   * Informative classes related to the gluten free and allergen-friendly lifestyle
   * Free reusable bag to carry your goodies
   * Meet your favorite vendors, authors and bloggers

Why buy your ticket online?

With promo code "ADVANCE," you get 20% off your order if you purchase by May 1st.
   Plus, guarantee that you don’t miss out on the Expo, as limited tickets are available each day.
    Aded bonus- no need to wait in line at the Expo to buy your ticket!

(We’re sorry, there are no refunds for pre-purchased tickets.)
So, would you like to enter for a chance to go for FREE?
Go to the vendor list for this event, and COMMENT BELOW about which company
 you would most like feedback about when I'm there. 
Winners will be contacted by April 28th.

Me personally, I'm looking forward to learning more about the new ENER-G breads that were debuted at ExpoWest, seeing my pals at Smart Flour, and finally being able to buy one of Sweet Ali's FAMOUS gluten free cinnamon rolls. Oh, and hitting the Coconut Bliss dairy free dessert booth again MULTIPLE times!
Make sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter for tons of pics and instant reviews!
Follow @GFAFEXPO on Twitter and Instagram as well! 

So, tell me, who should I check out?

Chebe and Me

If you've followed me for a while, you know that I like to try new gluten free foods

And you also know that I love Chebe products.

A lot. 

They're products are not only gluten free, but they're allergy free as well. No dairy, soy, corn, peanuts Just full of flavor and culinary flexibility! 

So I'm excited to let everyone know that I'll be working at their table at some upcoming events! 

If you live in the Midwest, love to try new gluten free foods, and love Chebe (or have yet to try it and therefore have yet to fall in love with Chebe), you HAVE to come meet Chebe and me in person! 

April 25th and 26th we will be at Living Without's Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest in Columbus, Ohio. Chebe will be one of more than 40 exhibitors, eager to share their product and services with you! There will also be presentations by speakers, not to mention that you'll get to meet other bloggers like Erica Dermer from Celiac and the Beast and Cindy Gordon from VegetarianMamma. (There's going to be an epic selfie scavenger hunt. I'm SO excited!) 

The following weekend we will be in CHICAGO! The Gluten Free Allergy Free Expo is May 2nd and 3rd in Schaumburg, Illinois. I went to this last year as a GFAF blogger and it was SO wonderful. Seriously, it was like going to a big party where you can safely eat everything from over 50 companies and meet the actual people behind the them. That's where I got to meet Jon Miller and founder, Dick Reed, from Chebe. Love these guys!

So what are you waiting for? Get your tickets for the GFFA Fest now. Enter the promo code FESTFB15 and save 10% on your ticket order! Plus you'll save time waiting in line.

And, if you pre-buy a ticket for the GFAF Expo in Schaumburg by May 1st and use this link, you'll get 20% off your ticket AND a free one year subscription to Delight Gluten Free Magazine!

And if you've never tried Chebe, you're in for a treat!
Here is just a sample of some of the things that you can do:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We're Not The Gatekeepers

I'm about to get all theological up in here, so humor me.

So here's my question- What is communion and who gets to decide who can receive it?

I was trying to look up the definition of the the word communion, or more precisely, the definitions of the root words found within.  Com- and -union. (We add another "m" in between to make it look pretty.)

com- a prefix meaning “with,” “together,” “in association,” and (with intensive force) “completely,” 
union - the action or fact of being joined 

So in laymen definition terms, one might say it is something that completely joins persons or a group of people. In Christian theology, it is the ordinance of taking the bread and wine in remembrance of that same night when Jesus shared it with his disciples.

Recently I was relayed a story of someone who sincerely wanted to follow in this tradition, but they were told they could not take communion.  Without divulging too much, this person was told there were some prerequisites that they needed to take before they could participate. And just to say, there has definitely been evidence of faith in this person's life.

It broke my heart and brought my husband to tears.

My thoughts on communion have changed over the years. When I was a child and understood as a child, I thought it had to be grape juice and white bread. I thought taking communion was what saved you, not understanding that it is our right standing with Christ and obedience to him that is the definition of salvation. I used to think that passing on Communion was a sign that you were an awful person, but today understand better the scripture about examining yourself, because we about to take part in somethign Holy, profound and beautiful. There are times I have passed because I haven't felt right with God or another, and my faith has been strengthened by it.

And it's this last part that I want to highlight. So many times when partake in Communion, the minister will read from 1 Corinthians 11, "On the night that Jesus was betrayed...." This familiar passage starts in verse 23 and is often read through verse 29. " For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves." And it often stops there. 

But I think we need to keep reading on!

Verse 31 says -  
But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment!

I quote this to say that we should be discerning about our own faith and relationship to God than trying to discern the faith of others when they want to take communion. 

I know this is a touchy issue. I dealt with it recently, as we've been "shepherding" some young people in our neighborhood. They came to church on a Sunday when we were serving communion. These kids are a little rough around the edges, and aren't your traditional "church kids." Sometimes they are loud, swear, and talk out of turn- but week after week they want to be there. And as far as I knew, they have never made a profession of faith or been baptized.
Before we went to take communion, I sat down and talked to them about it, the significance of it, and what it was (and wasn't.) And all the while I was afraid of the other people in the congregation, wondering what they were thinking of these two kids going to take Holy Communion. Afterwards, I sat down with our minister and discussed it with her, and she had no problems with them taking it.

She thinks a lot like me. At our church we serve communion "open table" style. We stand up front and whomever wants to partake, we allow them to do so, supposedly not passing judgement. And even if someone hasn't made a profession of faith, we believe that our God can touch someone's heart at anytime, and that even during communion someone can come to salvation.

I love the Message translation of Romans 14:2-4, as I think it speaks to this perfectly.
 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Wow, that's some powerful stuff. Who are we to cross someone off the list? And if we are worried about someone not being reverent enough or jumped through the right hoops first or anything else that we think will bring offense to God, He's big enough to handle that himself. After all, if he can speak to Moses through a burning bush, allow a virgin to conceive a child through the Spirit, and bring back His son to life after three days in the tomb, I think He's powerful enough to get through to one person.

And we seemed to be all in a huff today if someone "disrespects" God. How dare they?! Don't they know who HE is?! And especially I think of this Holy Week, when Peter was willing to take up the sword for the God he loved, and Christ STOPPED him. On more than one occasion, Jesus was less concerned about HIS rights and more concerned about the souls of those whom they know would come to salvation later.

Maybe we're afraid of being "bad teachers," that God will be angry at us if we don't make sure that people take all the proper steps. But if this is the case, what is the point of GRACE? With God there is forgiveness, for both the teacher and the student. There is grace for any and all offenses. And we are called to be agents of grace to those around us, to be reconcilers, to be the ones who stand in the gap.

See right now, our church is trying to be a better neighbor. We're taking intentional steps to reach out to our community, love on them, and welcome them with open arms into our congregation.Many of them have never been in a church, never raised to know the "proper" way to do things.

And I would be UNDONE if someone in our congregation stopped them at the altar and told them they couldn't take communion, probably feeling shunned like an outsider, basically told that what we are doing is only for the "in" crowd. We live in a neighborhood that is broken and disenfranchised. They already feel like outsiders, they don't need any of our help to feel that way.

Truly our only job is to love one another as Christ has loved us. And that is a big enough job, we don't need to add the responsibility of keeping track of whom should and shouldn't take Comminion.
 Let's leave that up to God.

John 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] 
 They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Schar gluten free pizza crusts

In the gluten free world, Schar has been around for quite a long time. In truth, Dr. Schar "has been making products to support a healthy diet" since 1922. In collaboration with doctors and Celiac support groups, they launched their first gluten free line in 1981, over 30 years ago. Although their headquarters are in Italy, they have production facilities in Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and in the United States.

Recently they reached out through social media looking for bloggers  to write about their products. As they have been a gracious supporter of our support group and a leader in educating Celiac patients and doctors, I was definitely willing to give them a little press. 

So they recently sent me a really large box with three individual boxes of pizza crusts as well as three packages of their new marble pound cake. Each individual box contains two shelf stable pizza crusts which are gluten free and lactose free, as well as cholesterol free and trans fat free.

The very first pizza we made was a sloppy joe pizza. I know it sounds bizarre, but  it was a lot of fun.  

As some of you may or may not know, I am also the chairperson of our local Celiac Support Group, CSA Chapter #59. Our upcoming meeting was focusing on foods that incorporate fruits and vegetables. I decided it would be a great opportunity to make some veggie pizzas and share this product with our members. They were quick to throw together with some store bought Prego sauce, a blend of frozen peppers and onions, and some cheese. Less than 20 minutes from box to finished product.

I made one with daiya cheddar cheese slices for those group members who are dairy intolerant. In some ways I liked this pizza better than the dairy one. In fact, I think they were both better reheated the next day.

 While I will admit that the crust is not as good as my homemade crust, it's incredibly convenient. Sometimes my extended family likes to order pizza for a simple family gathering, and these would be handy to have on hand to make a personal pizza. For this reason I think it would be great for non-gf grandparents to have on hand when their gluten free grandkids come to visit. My non-gf husband thought they were tasty!

I also like that the crust has a deep well in the center. This prevents the sauce from sliding over the edge and guarantees a good "crust handle" for eating your pizza.

Last night I made a meat lover's pizza. After having to pass on one last weekend at a friend's house, it was making me want one of my own! As my husband has a pork allergy, I topped the pizza with sauteed onions and bacon, turkey pepperoni and beef polish sausage. I found that it tasted best baked on a pizza stone.

So have you tried Schar pizza crusts? Not only do they make the plain crusts, they also make frozen cheese and veggie pizzas. They also make bread, ravioli, crackers, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Schar is also often present at many events around the country. Check out their events calendar to see where they will be next. Hopefully you can get a chance to meet their dietitian Anne Lee in person. She's a wealth of information as well as incredibly friendly!

Taste Guru Monthly Subscription Box

Recently Taste Guru reached out to our support group to tell us more about their product. They were nice enough to let me raffle off a box to our members and share a box with me as well.  I was excited when I opened the box because there were a few products that I've been really wanting to try!

In case you haven't heard about Taste Guru, they are one of the multiple monthly subscription box companies that offer gluten free items. They have been around for a few years and have upgraded their packaging and their boxes, which I think is an improvement. (Follow this link from when I wrote about them in 2013.)

Like other companies, they offer different lengths of subscriptions, from one month all the way to a year. These are great for a gifts, as care packages for those away from home, or for those looking to try new things every month. It's especially great if you live in a city with few gluten free options.

As a one month subscription costs $19 plus shipping, I wanted to do a cost breakdown of what came in this month's box. There were some that I couldn't find prices for, so I took a best guess to total up the items.

Estimated Total- $19.55

Taste Guru was nice enough to offer our support group an added tote bag, a $10 value, for those that sign up, and they stated that I can share the same deal with my readers. Just follow this link or click on the image below to order yours! If you subscribe for 6 months or 12 months, you will receive bonus products as well! 


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Culver's has gluten free buns

A little birdie told me that Culver's now had gluten free buns. So I called my local Culver's to inquire if this was true and to ask them a few questions.

When I called, they told me how they serve the Udi's bun separate from the meat and condiments, in its own sealed packaging. This is to prevent the risk of cross-contact. They stated that all of their staff have been trained by their corporate office. They did not mention whether this training was in conjunction with GIG, NFCA, or another trusted gluten free organization. 

While they don't have a specific gluten free "menu" they do have a two page listing at the back of their nutrition and allergen guide that lists items that are gluten free. This is in addition to the individual listing of all of their ingredients and their individual allergens, calories, and other nutrient contents. This was super helpful to have. 

They also notated my order with an exclamation point which highlighted !FoodAllergy!. I was also blessed that the friendly gentleman taking our order has a sister with Celiac Disease, so he took extra care taking our order! I had previously checked to make sure that the meat was not grilled in the same place as their buns, as their website said that was possible.

Because my burger was made up myself and everything was made fresh and separate, my burger was totally delicious. I ordered a side of mashed potatoes and my husband ordered a side of green beans. The green beans were AMAZING! Don't waste your time on the mashed potatoes- trust me. 

Upon leaving, I kindly asked the staff if they had any literature about the new bun that I could share with my support group. They smiled and immediately made a copy of their FAQ's about the gluten-free bun program, after checking with management first of course.
Here's a copy of what they gave me.

Q: What are the ingredients for your gluten free buns?

Q: Do you grill your ButterBurgers on the same surface that you toast your buns?
A: The gluten-free bun is served in a sealed package for you to assemble on your own. Certain breads are placed on the same grill as our meats.
(**At my location they don't do this, as they have a separate toaster for their regular buns. Make sure to check with your location on this. She did mention that the grilled cheese is also cooked on the grill, but they have a dedicated section of the grill where they don't grill anything else. If concerned after asking about this, I would ask if they can cook your meat patty on aluminum foil.) 
While we do our best to minimize cross-contact, Culver's restaurants are not gluten-free environments and cross-contact with other food items that contain gluten is possible.
 (**Their roast beef is not cooked on a grill and therefore eliminates cross contact.) 

Q: I see people posting about gluten-free buns at their local Culver's. When will my Culver's get a gluten free bun?
A: We hope to have a gluten-free bun option in all restaurants by the end of March.

Q: Is there a chance you will get a gluten-free (menu item) in the future?
A: We continue to work on making it safe to offer gluten-free menu options in a kitchen environment that is gluten tolerant. Please share your suggestions here http://bit.ly/RXUkUh so we can pass it along. Additional ingredient information can be found at http://www.culvers.com/menu-and-nutrition/allergen-grid. Thank you!

Q: Is your kitchen gluten tolerant?
A: Our team members receive training on how to prepare a gluten-free product with proper safe food handling precautions in an environment where common sources of gluten can be found.

Q: Is there an additional charge for the gluten-free bun?
A: Each of our restaurants is independently owned and operated and will make their own decision on this.
(**My location charges $1.00 extra, and alerted me of that prior to ordering.)

All in all, my husband and I agreed that we had a great experience, and anticipate that we would be interested in going again. At the bottom of the receipt it had directions for taking an online survey. As I have a smartphone, I was able to do it on premises and received a free cup of custard. Free ice cream is always a plus in my book!

I paid for my own meal and was in no way persuaded or reimbursed for my opinions. 
I provide this post simply to educate my readers about the experience I had and
to suggest they make an informed decision about their dining experiences.

February 2015 Send Me Gluten Free Box

February 2015 Send Me Gluten Free Box

The folks at Send Me Gluten Free were generous enough to send me an extra box in February. I wanted to share with you what was in the box. 

These wraps come in multiple flavors:
Garden Vegetable
Savory Tomato
nogii Whey & Quinoa Protein - Cocoa Chocolate (contains stevia)
Sunny's Gourmet Products Kimchee Seasoning
Toosum Acai and Cranberry bar (contains gluten free rolled oats) 

I'm super excited about the Kimchee Seasoning. I've been reading up on probiotics and prebiotics. To include probiotics in my diet, I've started drinking kefir and continue to eat greek yogurt. While I already eat beans which are a good source of prebiotics, I've been wanting to try Kimchee, which is another food that helps to stimulate good bacteria in the gut.

Free Toufayan Product - The exciting part of this coupon is that Toufayan just debuted gluten free PITA chips at Expo West. Awesomesauce! 
They have the following flavors:
Chili Lime
Salted Caramel
Sea Salt

Jovial $.50 off one product

Black bean wrap made with Toufayan.

Remember. you can get a 20% discount on your own Send Me Gluten Free Subscription, if you enter BLOG20 at checkout.

If you ordered the 12 month subscription (normally $240) and enter the code at checkout, that would bring your total price down to $192, which averages $16 a month. That's almost 50% off their single month price!

February 2015 Love It Like It Leave It

Love It
Immaculate Baking Company Double Chocolate Cookie Mix

Fellow bloggers have been raving about these mixes and cookie doughs for some time. I recently found them for $2 a box at Big Lots. This may be the best gluten free cookie mix I have EVER tasted. I also bought the chocolate chip cookie mix, but haven't tried it yet.
I made these for our spaghetti fundraiser at church, for those that needed a gluten free option. Others who don't need to eat GF tried them as well and thought they were delicious!

The cookies were especially good rewarmed with Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream sandwiched in between. If you miss Thin Mints, this ice cream sandwich cookie will hit the spot.

Like It
Pamela's Sugar Cookie Mix

Pamela's makes wonderful gluten free products and have been doing so for a really long time. They are definitely a company that can be trusted. This is the first time that I have tried any of their cookie mixes. (Her pancake and brownie mixes are wonderful!) They rolled out easily and baked well. They were a little bit firmer than I generally like for a cutout cookie, but they were good. A big benefit is that they don't crumble and fall apart like some other GF products.  

Leave It
Birch Benders Gluten Free Pancake Mix
Photo taken from Birch Benders website
If you've been following my blog for a while, you would know that I'm a pancake fanatic. We truly eat pancakes EVERY Saturday. I was really excited when I found this mix inside my Send Me Gluten Free box.
Unfortunately, I wasn't excited about the taste. I made sure to follow the directions exactly the first time we tried them. They were dry and not very flavorful. When my husband made them the second time, using milk instead of water, they were better, but not my favorite.
We also followed the direction on the bag for waffles. They came out hard and dry, and needed a lot of peanut butter and syrup to be palatable.
I think I'll stick with making my pancakes from scratch.

So what new products have you tried lately that you think everyone should know about? Leave a comment below!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Brad's Amazing Braised Chicken Thighs

My husband is the most amazing cook. Seriously, if I’ve learned anything about cooking, I’ve learned it from him. While I grew up always needing the security of a cookbook, he has always been the one to throw caution to the wind, add a dash of this, a touch of that, and create the most amazing things.
He did it again the other night. I came home from a long day at work to the most amazing meal of braised chicken thighs, wonderful homemade mashed potatoes and a cauliflower, broccoli and carrot blend of vegetables. I told him it may be the best dish he’s made in a long time.
He usually never writes down anything that he does, which is often frustrating because it usually can’t be recreated. But this time, he immediately wrote down what he did so that we can have it again and so that I can share it all with you! 

Brad's leftovers for the next day in his BentGo box

Brad’s Amazing Braised Chicken Thighs
1 ¾ to 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 can diced tomatoes
1 oz fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped (about 3 large) 
1 roasted red bell pepper (directions on how to do that can be found here)
1 red onion, cubed
1 Tbsp. brown mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (We use Lea & Perrins)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. cardamom

Place all ingredients in a Dutch oven/ 5 qt. sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the lid 10 minutes prior to serving to allow some of the liquid to cook off and for the sauce to thicken. 
***Side note- He made the mashed potatoes by baking them in the oven instead of boiling the potatoes. He then mashed them, add Greek yogurt to taste, and a sprinkle of parsley. AMAZING!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Homemade Gluten Free Deep Dish PIzza

I have a confession to make. This blog post is about the first time I've ever had deep dish pizza...ever. My whole life, I don't think I've ever , gf or not, had deep dish pizza.

But thank God, all of that has changed.

Last Christmas I used my large spring form pan to make an apple cake. My memory could be off, but I think it was the first time in our 11 years of married life that I had ever used it. (Or at the very least, not in a VERY long time.) I was super intrigued. What else could I make with it? Searches turned up cheesecake, chicken pot pie, lasagna, and DEEP DISH PIZZA. What?! Why had I never thought of that?

And then life goes on, you forget about such things until one day, miraculously your memory works for once and you say, Oh yeah, I've been meaning to do that.!

Enter Domata Pizza Crust mix. Domata was a vendor at the Lansing Gluten Free Fair in 2014 and they were generous enough to give me a few boxes of their products to try. One of which was pizza crust. Oh yeah.

So I searched the internet for how one makes an authentic deep dish pizza. And then I came across the world's most inspirational recipe. Individual deep dish pizzas made in MINI spring form pans. Which I actually own because I bought them to make hamburger buns. This was going to be EPIC!
(I did make one change- I did not do a top dough crust. There were plenty of recipes that didn't have one, so I figured I would be fine. Besides- extra crust would take away from the cheese!)

So I started with the Domata Pizza Crust mix, following the directions word for word. It was honestly a big gooey blob. I added quite a bit of my Krusteaz flour to make it so it was solid, rollable, and able to be worked with. As I knew I only had 6 pans, I separated my dough into 6 portions, rolling it into a circle probably a good 1-2 inches bigger than the circumference of the pan. This allowed for the dough to fit all the way up the side.

Following the recipe, I placed mozzarella cheese on the bottom. pepperoni, sauteed veggies, then sauce and more cheese. Because, cheese., right?

Loaded with cheese and in the oven!

6 servings of awesomeness!
In all honesty, my husband had fallen asleep on the couch when I was making these. When he woke from his slumber, he was amazed at the smell. Not a bad way to wake up, huh?

And even better, these came perfectly out of the pans. My most recent baking pan purchases have been Wilton products, and I have NOT been disappointed.

While my camera and my photo skills don't do this justice, believe me, they were wonderful. Not only were they great fresh out of the oven, my husband said it was great in his lunch the next day, and they were even still delicious frozen and reheated weeks later. The dough, even though it had originally hard to work with, was very tasty.

While I may not use the Domata flour again, I will DEFINITELY be making these deep dish pizzas again. Hopefully I have encouraged you to try it on your own. If you don't have a spring form pan, I did see some recipe that suggested making  large single deep dish pizza in a cast iron skillet.

***P.S. While Domata's Recipe Ready Flour made AMAZING gluten free chocolate chip cookies, the flour blend did not pass the pancake test, and in general I wasn't pleased with it. I used the seasoned flour according to their recipe. My first attempt wasn't my favorite, but I want to try it again. Their products are also pricey. Honestly, if I was doing a Love It, Like It, Leave It post, I think it would be a "Leave It." Bummer.

So, have you had successes with Domata Flour or with deep dish pizzas. I want to learn from you!