Thursday, 22 June 2017

Restaurants Are Terrifying Unless You Have A Tracy!

A Celiac at a restaurant. She knows she is going to die. 

Let me tell you something, come in close now, real close. You listening? Good. EATING AT A RESTAURANT AS A CELIAC IS TERRIFYING. I'm not being dramatic or extreme here...it's fucking terrifying. Alfred Hitchcock level of scary. I know Celiacs that never eat out...ever. It's THAT scary.

You have to put so much trust in so many people. People you don't know, nor particularly like, and you just have to pray. Pray and wish and hope and dream like a Disney Princess waiting for a prince or an education.

You have to trust the waitress and hope they were trained properly, can read, aren't hung over and don't have too many tables so they have the time to listen to your lengthily order and that they aren't fighting with the kitchen so they will tell them about your Celiacs. You have to trust the chefs, that they have heard of Celiacs, and know what in their kitchen contains gluten. You have to trust their trainer who months or years ago taught them what they needed to know about cross contamination and pray that on that day, everyone had their thinking caps on. You have to trust that the hostess controlled the flow of guests and didn't seat twenty tables all at once causing the kitchen to crash and burn in a blinding wall of tickets, leading them to not be able to see, or have time to prepare, your Gluten Free meal. You have to trust the manager, that they treat their staff well, and encourage them to take their time with special orders and double check all meals for quality and accuracy. You have to trust the owners, to adhere to the guidelines and spend the money training everyone about Celiacs. They also have to make sure that the products on their GF mcnu, are indeed Gluten Free and that their suppliers notify them of content changes.

That...is a LOT of trust.

Every once in a while though, I find a gem of a restaurant who gets it. Really, really gets it and it's the most satisfying thing you could imagine. Eating out is such a simple thing for the rest of the world and it's so rare for a Celiac to feel that simplicity.

I got to get that feeling when I visited the Chateau Louis Hotel and Conference Centre for the Gluten Free  Festival put on by the Edmonton Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association. I was invited to be a speaker and I personally, was just excited to get a night away from the spawn and attend the festival. The restaurant was just a massive bonus. The Chateau Louis is this charming hotel close to the Edmonton downtown core. The rooms were clean and the bed was super comfy. After registering and scoping out the vendor fair at the Chateau Louis Convention Centre, we walked back along a covered flowered walkway to the dining room.

I was a little nervous to see that the dining room had a Pasta Buffet that night which for a Celiac is the worst thing ever. However, a lovely server came up to let me know that about eighty percent of  the buffet was Celiac friendly. Not just vaguely 'gluten aware' we are talking CELIAC FRIENDLY. That means all the ingredients have been checked, that they have exclusive equipment and are careful with every little step of the food preparation process. This was big news people.

So once we get seated, I decided to order off the menu because there was some seriously awesome stuff on there, even though the buffet looked amazing too. The lovely server's name was Tracy and she wasn't just lovely, she was fantastic. Tracy wasn't just happy and charming, she was super smart and knew everything a server needs to know about Celiacs and eating gluten free. She made great recommendations, she made sure the chefs knew about my meal and made sure I knew that my meal would take a little bit longer because it was being made from scratch. From scratch! She even added, "I hope that's okay."

Uhhhhhh yeah... that's okay. That's awesome! That's amazing! That's the best thing I have heard all day!

I had the mushroom soup and the Shrimp and Scallop Rizotto. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. I was in Celiac heaven.

We couldn't stay after the conference because we can only unload the spawn off on friends for so long because they are kind of annoying, but I totally wish we had! Turns out, the Chateau Louis has a completely Gluten Free Prime Rib Buffet on Saturday nights! Wow! I was so sad to miss it but might just make a plan to go back to Edmonton JUST to eat there.

Thank you Chateau Louis Hotel and Conference Centre for a wonderful stay. Thank you Tracy for being so smart and charming. Thank you Chefs for taking the time I know you don't have to feed us Celiacs.

Thank you to the Canadian Celiac Association Edmonton Chapter for inviting me to speak at the Gluten Free Festival. I had an amazing time.

Make sure you make the Chateau Louis a stop when you visit Edmonton, you will be as gleefully happy as I was.

Here is a few clips of my talk where I delve into the horror that is, restaurants for Celiacs.



Sunday, 11 June 2017

Laughter and Love at the Edmonton Gluten Free Festival


I have no idea what I am saying here, but I guarantee that it was more funny than informative

WOW! I am still reeling from the fantastic weekend I just had. I had the privilege of attending the Canadian Celiac Association's Gluten Free Festival put on by their Edmonton Chapter. For those of you who are not from Alberta, you need to know something. Calgary and Edmonton have not always gotten along.We are technically sister cities and like sisters, we bicker, are often jealous and constantly vie for attention from our parents (two yuppy hippy types on the other side of the country named Trudeau). Calgary thinks that Edmonton is all hoity-toity because they are the Capital of our province. Edmonton feels that Calgary is all hoity-toity because they have the Stampede. And then there's the hockey thing. UGH the hockey thing! The battle never ends. For years, the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers have battled for top spot in the NHL and as you can imagine, we take hockey seriously....very seriously.

But of course, I jumped at the chance to speak and be the comic relief at the festival. To be honest, my heart stopped a little when I saw my name listed among the other speakers. There were Doctors and experts and then little old me with a bio that described me as a 'below average wife to the most patient man in the world'. The contrast was equally concerning and entertaining. At the end of the jam packed day though, I had learned a lot, made some new friends, and got to ramble like a drunk asshole into a mic for forty five minutes and make people laugh (except for the man in the red shirt who just sat there with his arms crossed, lip tight and scowling the whole time - I know you were laughing on the inside pal....I know it). I also got to eat like a Gluten Free Queen.

As the president of the Canadian Celiac Association, Anne Wagget stated, for us Celiacs, it's all about the food. Ohhhhh the food. I was giddy about the food. First of all, it was on a buffet, which normally makes us Celiacs pop Atavan like Pez to ease our anxiety. But this time, we could eat everything. EVERYTHING. For those of you who get to eat a buffets all the time, number one, you're an asshole for showing off, second, know that Celiacs don't like to touch buffets for a lot of reasons.

 First, it's rare to see the ingredients listed on a buffet, making anything with a sauce or a spice, or cooked for that matter, off limits. Second, even if there is something that you are fairly sure you can have, the possibility of some jerkoff who was ahead of you in line swapping out the tongs is huge. Seriously gluten eaters, just use the spoon provided for that item. If someone else is using it, just fucking wait for the serving utensil. If you can't wait seventeen seconds to put a damn tater tot on your plate causing you to grab at the fruit tongs and subsequently cross contaminate all the fruit so I can't eat it, you have big problems my dear, big problems. Stop screwing with the system and use the tongs provided you lazy ass.

But at the Gluten Free Festival, we could eat the entire thing. There was no fear of cross contamination, or improper handling of our food, we could just, relax and eat. For breakfast there was sausage, bacon, fruit, eggs, pancakes and toast. TOAST! Fucking TOAST! I almost lost my mind. I looked at my husband and said "I am eating toast from a buffet table." I'm not ashamed to admit that my voice cracked with emotion as I said it. I was amazed at how calm we all were about the whole thing. Everyone showed massive restraint. I was half expecting someone to just jump up on the table and go savage on that tray of toast. I can just picture some lady (okay, it's me), squatting on the table like a gorilla, fisting handfuls of toast into her mouth, chunks of Kinnikinnick bread flying around and crumbs stuck in her mascara. Lunch was sandwiches (SANDWICHES!) and salad. There was no worries about the dressing or the mayo or the deli meat. The relief of this, to me, was palpable.

On breaks, we could peruse the vendor fair which was an amazing display of awesomeness.

There was:
Arbonne                                                         NuPasta                                           Stellas
Blue Kettle Specialty Foods                          Only Oats                                        U of A Research
Celebrate Gluten Free                                    PastyPie
Dr. Schar                                                        Rio Vida Bakery
Epicure                                                           Screamin' Brothers
Hair of Rachel                                                Simply Delish Soup and Salad
Heart to Home Meals                                     Snyder's of Hanover
Monat Global                                                 Sobeys

AND OF COURSE....EDMONTON'S OWN KINNIKINNICK

As far as friends go, hanging around with a big bunch of Celiacs was some kind of wonderful. We had conversations that would make regular people cringe. Within moments of meeting someone, we were talking about common symptoms, including terms like 'loose stools'. It was kind of fantastic, not to you, gluten eater, but to a Celiac who often doesn't hang out with other Celiacs, this was wicked fun. There were so many inside jokes, and common stories, I was in Celiac heaven.

When it was my turn to talk, I wasn't even nervous because suddenly, I was just talking to a bunch of friends about the one thing we all share. They laughed a lot at my stuff, (red shirt guy) which was nice of them, and we all had a great day. I was filled with warm fuzzies and glowing happiness. After I was done, the co-chair of the event, Don Briggs came up and presented me with a thank you card. In true Alberta form, and to remind me that sisters only get along in short bursts, Don tucked an Edmonton Oilers key chain in my card. Funny shit. Fuuuuunnnny shit. Celiacs crack me up.

Note to Calgarians, I WILL be using this key-chain and will NOT be putting up with any sass


I'll be posting again shortly about all the amazing factoid stuff I learned and I'll be talking about the hotel and their amazingness. In the meantime, here is couple of little clips of my talk. If you want to see more, you can go to the next Canadian Celiac Association Conference and hopefully, I will be asked to speak again! That, or they will block my email and pretend they never met me.

With Laurie Lyons, honestly, it could go either way.










Saturday, 27 May 2017

ONLY TWO WEEKS UNTIL THE EDMONTON GLUTEN FREE FESTIVAL

I will be there doing a nice long rant about my misadventures with Celiac Disease. Get your tickets now! 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

An Epicure For All That Ails Your Dinner








I talk a lot about Celiac baking. Mainly because I have a rabid addiction to sugar. I don't talk as much about Celiac cooking. Why? Well, I don't hate cooking if that's what you are thinking. I don't hate it like I hate Nickelback or aphids, but, most days, cooking is not my favorite past time. "Time" being the key word here. I never have enough time. I enjoy cooking on Sunday's when I have the whole day to defrost, prep and create. I do not enjoy the panicked rush of throwing something together at 4:30pm while the kids are hangry, the house is a mess, and the dog wants to play. Having Celiac disease takes a lot of convenience foods off the table, literally. I remember with wistful nostalgia, throwing together a hamburger helper or tossing a can of cream of mushroom soup on some chicken and having a perfectly good meal thirty minutes later. No such luck these days. Want to just bake up a frozen lasagna? Your Celiac Disease laughs at your misfortune. The majority of pre-packaged, pre-made meals at the grocery store contain an astounding amount of the evil gluten.

This leaves me stuck for finding ways to avoid dinners that are flavorless, boring, repetitions of yesterday. Wanna know what I figured out because I am wicked smart and lazy?

Epicure.

Yup, Epicure. Those little octagon (hexagon? I don't know, I'll count them later) shaped jars in pantries with cute little labels. If you are a female and over the age of twenty, you have been invited to an Epicure party. You have also been invited to a tupperware party, a candle party, a jewelry party and a sex toy party. If you haven't been invited to these things, you're a loser, but a lucky one I assure you. Most of these parties feature a bright-eyed, over caffeinated, stay-at-home mom who is desperately trying to break out of the endless monotony of repeating herself a thousand times a day and picking lego pieces out from between her toes. Most products at these parties are over priced and wildly unnecessary. But hey, if you've got an extra eighty bucks and a desire for bamboo infused under-eye gel, have at it.

At these parties, I usually just drink all the wine, don't buy anything, and pinkie swear that I'll call to book my own party with no intention of doing so. Hostess gifts can suck it.

But when I attended an Epicure party, I perked right up when I heard "It's all Gluten Free".

Oh you heard me. Every single thing that Epicure sells is Gluten Free. Now, those of you that don't have Celiac Disease may say, "Uhhhh Laurie, it's just spices, spices aren't made with flour dummy!" To which I say, "Read some labels you illiterate, know-it-all dick." A LOT of spices on the spice rack say "may contain wheat." Why? Well because these companies make more than just that one product and they make them all on the same machinery, so there is a chance of cross contamination. So the company has to put "may contain" on it. May contain means no food for your Celiac belly.

But Epicure has made everything Gluten Free which makes me deliriously happy. They have tonnes of different spice combos like Pasta and Thai that you can just add to your pot to make it seem like you spent hours mixing and infusing flavors like a real grown up.

My favorite items are a constant presence in my pantry and they make the ominous, end of day dinner hour far easier. Don't get me wrong, the house is still a mess, the kids are still fighting and I'm still a crazy, swearing, harpy, but at least dinner is done and it tastes good.

Here are a list of my fave Epicure items. Click HERE to shop for them and other cool stuff.


Poultry (just throw on the chicken and bake)

Herb and Garlic (we put this shit on everything, eggs, chicken, soups, fish)

Lemon Dilly (fish, chicken, lemon pasta or mix with mayo and sour cream for a dip)

Pasta (self explanatory)

The broth mixes (beef and chicken)

Pulled Pork (comes in a pouch, throw it in the slow cooker in the morning and be done)

Mac and Cheese (made it with gf pasta for the family, ate it all myself out of the pot like a savage)

Pumpkin (for pies and pumpkin bread)

Taco (so good and cheaper than the little packages)

They have recipes on their website to help you whip up everything from Curry to Pad Thai and it's all really great. A fave in our house is the Lemon Dilly Chicken recipe.

Small side note, Epicure has also reduced the amount of salt in all their products. This is great if you are trying to cut salt from your diet, but I am slowly trying to murder my husband for the insurance money, so I always add salt to the dishes.

So, check out Epicure. Find someone near you who sells it and get shopping. You don't necessarily have to host a party, I don't think,you just have to find a representative.WARNING: they may try to pressure you into hosting a party by using Salem Witch Trial torture tactics. Stay strong sister, stay strong.

 I do not sell it, I just eat it, so don't bug me for stuff. Just get it, eat it, and make your dinner time less like a war zone and more like a..... well.... a smaller war zone.


PS

SUPER off topic squirrel moment here. My friend Kris sent me a video of a Basset Hound farting because he thought I would find it funny and it seemed like a caption that one might find on my blog. I could not agree more. However, I, although a good writer, could not find a way to incorporate a video of a farting Basset Hound into a blog. So I'm just putting it HERE for shits and giggles.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

I WILL BE DOING A TALK (AKA RANT) AT THE EDMONTON GLUTEN FREE FESTIVAL ON JUNE 10TH. GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!





Sunday, 5 March 2017

Cookie Cookie Cookie Starts with...Guar Gum




Ohhhhhh Cookie Monster. You strangely flaccid blue rug with a face. Despite ONLY eating cookies for over forty years, you haven't gained a pound of fluffiness. How is that? It might be because you don't actually EAT the cookies, you just crush them up and throw them around like confetti. A practice that must make the other residents of Sesame Street super happy. I wonder if your little three fingered, fuzzy, lobster claw-like hands can hold a dust pan? I doubt it. They all must LOVE cleaning up after your bullshit behavior. Are those cookies you are throwing all over the place Gluten Free? For some reason, I think not.

As many of you know from previous posts, I have failed many times at gluten free baking. And when I say many, I mean thousands of times. Thousands of horrific, disfigured, disgusting creations have come out of my oven and I have made my husband eat every single one of them. GF baking is not for the weak. It is a practice in patience that requires the tenacity of a hyena fighting over a dead carcass. And yes, some of my baking has looked like a dead gazelle carcass.

I have given up on making gluten free bread, buns and pretzels. I have passed those achievements onto far more astute and talented bakers and simply purchase them from the store. I suggest you do the same unless you want to become the shell of a human I am.

I have though, mastered the Gluten Free Cookie. I can make GF cookies like a boss. People usually don't know that my cookies are gluten free and my friends with Celiacs often ask for the recipes. Due to my long rap sheet and many poor decisions, there isn't much I'm proud of in my life, but I am proud of my Gluten Free cookies.

 How did I do it? Well by failing several times of course and not giving up. My success is evidence to my Irish stubbornness, not due to any level of talent on my part. I have developed some hard and fast rules with my cookies and I have decided to share them with you because I'm a nice guy.

Rules for GF Cookies:

1) Use a good flour. The paler the better. I don't use any flours that have darker products mixed in, like flax or buckwheat flour. These are good for cooking or frying but I don't like them for baking. I use Robin Hood GF Flour or President's Choice Gluten free flour. Any flour you choose should be able to be swapped cup for cup. Measure your flour carefully, don't just scoop the measuring cup into the bag, this packs the flour down and makes it so you get too much. Use a spoon and ladle the flour into the measuring cup so the measurement is accurate. With most of the flours on the market these days, you can make any cookie recipe from your mom's old, yellowed, recipe box and just swap out the flour.

2) Add Guar Gum. About one or two teaspoons per recipe. If your cookies come out flat, add another teaspoon next time. Guar Gum is cheaper than Xanthum Gum and they do the same thing. Some people say that they can tell the difference between the two but I think they a crazy people. EVEN IF the flour says it has Xanthum or Guar Gum in it, add a teaspoon.

3) Rolled cookies are a pain in the ass. This has been one of the hardest things to master for me. GF cookie dough is always a little more wet than regular dough  so no matter how much flour you use, they will stick to the counter and be impossible to cut out and lift. The secret? Parchment paper and corn starch. I tape the parchment paper to my counter, cover it with cornstarch, put the dough on, sprinkle that with more corn starch and another piece of parchment paper, then I roll it out. This works great. You can also use plastic wrap but I find that it can leave those weird seams and lines in the dough. I use corn starch because GF flour is so expensive and it feels wasteful to just throw it around. If you are a Rockefeller, feel free to use as much GF flour as you like. For the rest of us peasants, corn starch is the way to go.

4) The cookie trays can be a challenge. If you are like me, you have your Mom's old cookie trays from 1960 which are probably made of lead and thalidomide so they have had a LOT of gluten on them. Plus, these jerks I live with that call themselves my family, don't have Celiacs so they sometimes use the cookie trays for their poisonous food, like chicken fingers. Losers. Anyway, line your cookie trays with parchment paper too, this prevents cross contamination and stops the cookies from sticking. I have used tin foil before and just sprayed it with non stick spray but sometimes the stupid gluten free cookies still stick and the tin foil heats up too much and causes the cookies to burn faster. So use parchment paper, it usually just comes in a roll and I buy parchment paper at the loonie store. Use something sharp to trim the parchment to the cookie sheet, a knife or samurai sword works fine.

5)  GF cookies should take the maximum amount of cooking time listed on the recipe. So if the recipe says 8-10 min, it will take 10, maybe even twelve. BUT, and here is the kicker, they burn SO FAST so watch your oven carefully. Don't leave the kitchen to build a snowman or give a presentation on the theory of relativity while you have cookies in the oven. If the recipe says 8-10 minutes, I start watching them at 8, like a hawk.


Here's the thing, you could follow all my rules and still have a result that looks like a Chernobyl experiment. I give no guarantees so don't write me hate mail when your Grandma's recipe for Snickerdoodles didn't work out. Sometimes it works, and sometimes the Gluten Free Gods did not smile on you that day and you produce bullshit. Sorry, you have Celiac Disease, suck it up, throw some icing on that shit and eat them all up anyway. I can't fix fate.

So, to my Cookie Monster, you messy, googly-eyed, sweet, puppet. I love you, I do. I would love to make you some GF cookies one day because, let me tell you, you simple-minded, sixties shag rug with arms, you wouldn't throw my cookies around pal. You would ACTUALLY eat them, because they are delicious!

You can find my recipes for GF Chocolate Chip Cookies and Sugar Cookies in the recipe section on this site.

Happy Baking!






Saturday, 18 February 2017

Someone Is Going To Give Me A Microphone!



That's right, someone is going to give me a microphone and free reign! 

I am excited and honored to be asked to speak at the Edmonton Gluten Free Festival on June 10! I'll be ranting and raving with some other amazing speakers, all of which will be far more informative and educated than I. 

The festival has amazing vendors and promises to be a fantastic event. 

Get your tickets HERE. Tickets include a Gluten Free Breakfast and Lunch plus access to all speakers and vendors. Remember to register early as space is limited!