Thursday, April 30, 2009

Basque Views with an Omelette~

My first trip to the Basque Country, or Euskadi, was in 1999 with my mother. I had heard about this majestic homeland since I was a child and given that both sides of my family originate from both the Spanish and French sides, it was inevitable that one day I would make the journey there and finally experience it's beauty for myself.

Up to that year, I had traveled quite a bit outside the U.S. but had not made it to Euskadi. It was the kind of journey that would serve as something of a baptism of sorts, so I wanted to share that experience with my mom. You see, she was the driving force behind all-things-Basque during my brother and my childhood. My mom was the brave explorer who in 1963 at the young age of 19, set out on the SS France with three of her Basque friends for Europe and the adventure of their lives. Having heard the details of that story a hundred times, I'm still discovering new pieces of that puzzle to this day. On the way to San Francisco recently, my mom shared another funny anecdote about the time she and her friends were living in the family's Baserri in Pamplona and how she dumped an entire vat of fresh olive oil onto the floor and all over their feet!

I never grow tired of the recounting of her youthful adventures - she truly was the pioneer of her generation of cousins in the Laca family. She was raised by not only her Basque parents, but also by her grandfather, "Chichie" who moved in with the family after his years of sheep herding in America. The essence of "Basque" was ingrained in my mother's soul from day one ~ and in turn, I can tell you that soulful gift is something that I too have always carried with this very moment. My father, of course, is also a strong Basque man with many of the traditional cultural traits but he will also tell you that my mom, his wife, has given him the gift of connecting to his homeland, as well. She truly is the matriarch and soul-giver in our family.

There was a moment in 1999 that happened for me while I was sitting upon a park bench in our family's hometown of Lekeitio. My mom and I had strolled from our hotel down to the beach and up to the steps of this tiny, lush green park perched above the Lekeitio harbour, with a most amazing view of the ocean and the little island just off the shore. I believe it was during those moments of viewing the sea, sitting in silence and watching the Basque flag flying with it's green, red and white colors, waving high above the fishing boats, when I truly experienced my greatest "soul connection." Tears welled in my eyes and I knew then what it felt like to know your roots - to know from where you know you were home.

I found a quote yesterday that truly inspired me to write this story down - it spoke to exactly how my heart and soul felt during that time in the park in Lekeitio.

"I was once more in my own place, an invader of what was already mine." M.F. Fisher

Along with the heart-felt moments and family connections rekindled on that trip, there was also great indulgence in native foods and amazing and traditional "tortilla" (or in English), omelettes!

Here's a recipe for a wonderful gluten-free tortilla/omelette with asparagus and potato that you won't want to deprive your taste buds of ~ Go native and use white asparagus instead!


3/4 lb. thin asparagus

3 to 4 Tbs. olive oil

2 large green onions, chopped

6 to 8 small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into
slices 1/8 inch thick

1 tsp. salt, plus pinch of salt

1/2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 Tbs. snipped fresh chives, plus chive blossoms
for garnish (optional)

3 Tbs. unsalted butter

11 eggs

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

About 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed


Cut or snap off the tough ends from the asparagus and place the spears on a steamer rack over boiling water. Cover and steam until tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from the steamer and cut into 1-inch lengths. Set aside.

In a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat, warm 3 Tbs. olive oil. Add the green onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the potatoes, the
1 tsp. salt, tarragon and pepper and sauté until the potatoes glisten, about 3 minutes, adding the remaining 1 Tbs. oil if needed to prevent sticking. Cover and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until the potatoes are browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chives and asparagus and remove from the heat.

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

In a nonstick fry pan or ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Stir in the pinch of salt and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and season with pepper. Pour the eggs into the hot pan. Stir gently in the center and, using a fork or spatula, carefully lift the edges and gently push the eggs to one side of the pan, tilting the pan slightly to allow the uncooked eggs to flow underneath. Cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Spread the vegetables evenly over the eggs. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the eggs are set and the cheese melts, about 15 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the pan and whether the vegetables are still hot.

Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve, garnished with watercress sprigs and chive blossoms. Serves 8 to 10.

Enjoy this delicious tortilla - you can eat this in the Basque country for breakfast, lunch or dinner (especially if you are a Celiac!) - so you're allowed to do the same, here in the States :)


There's great joy in the journey - and the most important things in life are laughing with the ones you love, seeking adventure and pushing yourself from your comfort zone. Allow each day's experiences to help you grow and stretch your limbs and your soul!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beauty on a Friday...

Friday photo -

So, it's actually snowing outside right now - yes, I said "snowing." However, when I snapped these lovely photos of the blooming buds on my trees yesterday the sun was still shining.

I was chatting with a dear friend of mine who lives in the Basque Country this morning on Skype, and during our conversation we came up with three lovely little affirmations that just seemed to float into our discussion regarding life, love, living and keeping a positive attitude during uncertain times.

I will share them all with you ~

~ Less is more - (which can truly be applied to every aspect of life or personal philosophy)

~ Gero Gerokaok - In the Basque language this essentially means, Seize the day, enjoy the moment, Carpe Diem

~ Whatever you are doing is the most beautiful thing.

Have a savory weekend and hopefully, you are located some where it is not snowing!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Family Ties Update ~

Good news has found its way to my family, or specifically to my mother. My Celiac doc discovered that she does NOT have Celiac Disease! We were all very surprised and pleased to receive this news and happy to know that more than likely my mom was just suffering from a strange stomach virus.

I'm very happy for her, of course, but now the mystery still looms over what side of the family and where my celiac genes originated from. I'm so hoping that one day this information will be revealed to me, but in the meantime, we celebrate the fact that my dear mother can still drink a Guinness!

I received an endearing comment regarding my original Family Ties post from a reader. This person was just very recently diagnosed with celiac disease and expressed their anxiety and feelings of loss over gluten - it's so understandable and part of the process. There's a definite transformation that takes place in one's life after they are diagnosed. It's not a simple process; it takes years of learning and self-education and a daily dose of positive encouragement from either one's self, or from a supportive person in your life...or perhaps, just from this little blog.

I visited my celiac doc last week for my annual blood test and check up and we were discussing my nine year anniversary of diagnosis that happened on April 14th! Wow...time flies, yet in a sense, it feels as though I've always lived gluten-free. I was expressing to Dr. Yamamoto how even after nine years as a celiac, the journey is still daunting at times, yet also wonderful. I told him that I'm constantly learning new things, as well as making mistakes or others making mistakes with my meals when I eat out, leading to poisoning. He told me it's all part of living this way. However, he did share the fact that things are moving rapidly regarding celiac research and that he's very hopeful there will be some type of "treatment" coming in the near future.

And one last's a new article regarding Who is at Risk for Celiac - pass this information along to friends and family members. The more who are informed, the better off we all will be.

Happy Wednesday ~

Friday, April 17, 2009

Celiac Disease Vaccine Studies to begin in Australia~

I just learned that an experimental vaccine designed to mute the autoimmune response to gluten in patients with celiac disease is being tested in Australia, starting this month, April 2009.

The article sounds very interesting and hopeful. Evidently, the point of the vaccine would be to induce autoimmune tolerance to gluten, so the celiac patient's body would not react in the usual manner and no damage would be inflicted on the small intestine.

Let's stay tuned and hope for some successful results.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Roman Holiday...

It's freezing cold here this's supposed to be spring but it doesn't feel like it. I'm longing for warmer days and memories of budding flowers and sunshine. As I stared outside my window at the falling snowflakes, my mind drifted to my last Italian "spring-fling" and to the warmer days and green hills of Tuscany.

Instead of writing about food today, I've decided to warm your hearts and eyes with some photos from my travels through Rome and Tuscany - there's a gluten-free story there, as well to day soon - don't worry.

Enjoy the virtual tour of warmer days and sunny memories ~ Ciao for now!

Roma ~

Citta di Ronciglione ~

Toscana - Pienza, Cortona, Montepulciano ~

Hiking through the forest near Lago di Vico, outside Ronciglione ~

"Heaven shines through" Lago di Vico ~

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday ~

Easter is just two days away and on this Good Friday I look outside my office window to see the snow falling...yes, snow on April 10th. Evidently, this is spring in Nevada.

In my last post I wrote about the possibility of my mother also having Celiac Disease but I don't have an update for you yet - she's still awaiting test results. We are all curious, though I think she's a bit afraid to call the Dr.'s office to find out! We understand.

I wanted to share with you my two gluten-free foodie experiences that I had this week here in Reno:

On Tuesday afternoon I stopped by the local Great Harvest Bread Company in the Plumbgate Shopping center to see if the rumors of gluten-free fresh-baked bread on Monday's and Tuesday's was true - it is! I picked up a delicious loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread that is actually quite tasty and light. They also bake plain white bread and pumpkin bread on Monday's and made-to-order items. If you live in the Reno area, it would be worth a try. It just felt special to walk into a bread company and request a loaf of bread from the rack and then walk out feeling quite "normal"...I know it's only bread, but it's also progress!

Another tasty experience happened yesterday while dining at Beaujolais Bistro with a client. I had the pleasure of working on a TV shoot two weeks ago at this Bistro for another client, and at 5 a.m. Chef/owner Bill Gilbert had prepared an amazing rabbit confit that we were all enjoying, along with some wine for breakfast! I had never dined on rabbit before, mostly due to my affection for the little creatures, but after a 3 a.m. wake up call, the savory, buttery aroma won me over and I dug in for my first bite of authentically prepared rabbit with amazing beans imported from France, sprinkled with mouth is watering just recounting and writing this...and yes, it was all gluten-free.

Yesterday's lunch was just as lovely. I ordered the scrumptious Omelette (Organic eggs) with mushrooms and Gruyére, served with a perfect organic salad, drizzled with an amazing vinaigrette. The flavors of this meal were bursting in my mouth and in all honesty, conjured up memories of dining in Paris and France. The freshness of every ingredient is hard to find in this city or in the majority of restaurants, in general. The care and understanding of real French cuisine is defined at Beaujolais Bistro and by Chef Bill.

In addition, the majority of their daily soups are gluten-free and thickened with a light cream, vs. a heavy flour base. Be sure to ask your server but each time I've visited now, I've reviewed the menu with both the Chef and server to discuss what is and isn't safe for a Celiac, and they are very helpful and careful.

It's still snowing and gloomy outside but on this particular day, Good Friday, it seems appropriate. However, by Easter Sunday we should be experiencing temperatures in the high 60's and lots of sunshine ~ just in time to celebrate Life!

Happy Easter and don't eat too many chocolate bunnies!

Cheers ~

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Celiac Family Ties...

It's April Fool's day and already spring time - hard to believe. When I got a call from my mom earlier today stating that she might also have Celiac Disease, I thought she was playing an April Fool's joke on me at first, but she wasn't. She's been suffering with stomach issues as of late and her weight has dropped and she's just really thin and can't ever seem to remedy that. I had suggested last month that she pay a visit to my wonderful Celiac doc, Dr. Dennis Yamamoto in Reno. She did so, and after a colonoscopy, the results revealed that she's healthy; no tumors, no ulcers, etc...but the issues she was having have persisted. This morning, Dr. Yamamoto met with her and delivered his opinion about the fact that he feels she most likely has Celiac Disease due to the inflamed lining of her stomach.

To this present day, I'm the ONLY person in our entire family, on both sides, who has this disease. Others have complained of stomach issues and abnormalities, yet they won't get properly tested. My maternal grandfather died of stomach cancer, but we always assumed it was due to his years of smoking and drinking alcohol (that generation of men were drinkers) and an unbalanced diet, perhaps. My maternal Aunt also has huge issues with her stomach and numerous other related problems, that in my mind, are directly related to having an auto-immune disease...but what do I know right, I just live with Celiac and was diagnosed after nine years of suffering! :)

If my mom does end up having Celiac Disease I think I will be filled with mixed emotions for her. On the one hand, she's lived around my disease for years now and has been a tremendous help and support to me, always by my side and willing to learn anything and everything about CD, so she definitely has a "head start." But on the other hand, I will be a little sad for her, knowing how much she loves her Guinness beer every once in a while, or a good Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista in SF, or a sweet roll. I also have the distinct feeling that she'll take this on full-force, yet try to hide the fact that she's overwhelmed and perhaps grieving a bit for her past life with gluten. I can't imagine living 63 years of life with gluten and then whammo - no more.

If the tests do confirm she has Celiac Disease, I've decided that my gift to her will be to show the support I've received during the last nine years, times 10. I want her to grieve for what's behind her, but be excited and hopeful about a "new life" that would consist, most-likely of better health, more energy, some weight gain and longevity. It's all any of us can hope and pray for in life.

And for all of you out there who have been recently diagnosed or maybe still struggling with the adaptation that must take place as you transition into a life sans gluten, know that you are NOT alone and take comfort in the fact that this is truly a great time to be diagnosed as a Celiac. That statement may sound strange or "Pollyanna" to you, but I can tell you, as someone who rarely found a "gluten-free" product on a store shelf nine years ago, your resources now are abundant and blossoming. In addition, I can tell you for a fact that the struggle is worth the effort and "cheating" will get you nowhere but sick in bed for weeks.

I will update you once my mom's diagnosis is soundly determined. It could be an interesting week for our family. If she does join "my world" you never know what can happen - maybe this blog will take on a new shape and theme...

Two Celiac minds are always more creative than just one!

Until then, keep sticking to your gluten-free diet and enjoy the benefits of eating healthy and all of the goodness that nourishing, fresh food brings to your body.