Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Eat, Drink and be a Merry San Francisco~

It's hard to believe but Christmas is just around the corner...five days from today, to be exact. The season of eating, drinking and consuming loads of gluten is upon us...well, not all of us, right?!

With that said, I can verify that it's quite possible to get through the multitude of holidays and parties without eating an ounce of gluten, while still feeling satisfied and included in all the Christmas cheer!

This past weekend I enjoyed the delights of San Francisco and all that my beautiful hometown has to offer during the Christmas season. I have such wonderful memories of being a child in San Francisco: standing in Union Square in awe of the abundant amount of beautiful, lighted wreaths decorating each window of Macy's and "how on earth," I would wonder, "did they manage to bring that giant Christmas tree through the small front doors of Neiman Marcus each year?" And one of my most favorite sights and as child and still today is driving westbound into the City at Christmas time to see how the Embarcadero buildings are outlined with thousands of white lights, further emphasizing the "fairyland" that seems to hover over the water, yet can be seen through the shroud of fog.

Wonderful memories - past and present.

This last trip "home" however, was also one of indulging in some delicious gluten-free meals at some terrific and affordable SF haunts - all of which I will share with you! I have found that there's a true sense of peace that comes to me when I know that I'm able to eat safely and well in restaurants that completely understand and "get" the concept of gluten-free eating, yet leaves you completely sated and happy.

I have several readers andone in particular, who are always looking for more safe places to eat in San Francisco. So here's the rundown of some pretty terrific restaurants and eateries that are wonderful enough to make you feel special for eating there, yet affordable enough that you can visit regularly without breaking the bank, because we all know how $$$ it is to be a Celiac, especially in this economy.

Soup for you~
Our first stop was to grab some lunch and take a gander at the lovely Westfield Center on Market Street. They have a gigantic upscale food court on the concourse floor of the building, along with a full-size Bristol Farms market. Amazingly enough, I found gluten-free soups at the San Francisco Soup Company. I indulged in some delicious Tomato Bisque - but they also have four or five other GF soups to choose from...I had a tough time deciding which one to choose, as it's rarely an option for me. They also create delicious salads made-to-order, so I was able to dictate to the preparer exactly what I could or could not have on the salad. They put together a Greek Salad that was fresh, nutritious and safe. I recommend stopping there for a quick lunch when you take a break from shopping.

Tapas galore~
If you have read my blog, I'm sure that you have figured out by now I am Basque and have a strong propensity to navigate towards anything Spanish, French or Basque when it comes to cuisine and drink. Bocadillos, was just what we were looking for the first night out to dinner in SF. This hip, San Sebastian-style communal bar and restaurant that's nestled in the Financial District was created by the renowned Gerald Hirigoyen, owner of Piperade and uber-entrepreneur...and I'm proud to say that he's also a fellow Basco friend of mine.

I had been so anxious to eat at Bocadillos, (which also serves breakfast and lunch) but was always swooned by the amazing dining experience at Piperade, so on this trip my mom and I made the exception to sway our loyalty and wow, was it worth it. Now I will be torn between where to dine the next time I'm in SF! But here's the scoop for a Celiac who wants to eat there - you will leave VERY, VERY full. Our server was great and guided me through a few tricky questions regarding the oil they fry in and rice starch vs. flour, etc. We were given the green light and ordered four tapas plates. One of those plates was their patatas bravas with romesco sauce...translated to, divine potato wedges with a tomato/aioli sauce you can't get enough of! Then we went for a sautéed spinach bowl, a plate of chorizo and grilled peppers and did I mention the potatoes?! Our last plate was the best tasting cod with garbanzos in a Meyer lemon and kale sauce I have ever eaten. And last but surely not least, my mother and I can both vouch for the fact that Bocadillo's caramel flan with maldon salt was the best we have ever tasted...and we are fairly experienced flan eaters!

So weather you are dining at Bocadillos or Piperade, you'll be in gluten-free Heaven!

Who needs to fly across the Pond when you have Bocadillos in SF! Speaking of travel, I just wrote an article on eating in the Basque Country for a UK Celiac website/Blog, Enjoy!

Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market~
I have a confession to make...I am officially addicted to Miette's Parisian Macaroons, found in the Ferry Building. I also got my friends hooked and let me tell you, there's not turning back - ever. Vive la France! They are completely gluten-free and 100% delicious - they come in several flavors; the lemon was suburb! If you are anywhere near the Ferry Building, it's an absolute must that you stop by and try one of these little delights - it's well worth the walk, trust me!

Since my authentic exposure to real Italian espresso and cappuccinos from Italy, there's no turning back. There really is just something methodical and soothing about holding onto that warm mug and sipping through the beautiful froth of steamed milk with streaks of caramel-colored espresso tempting your taste buds. No matter where I choose to enjoy this beverage, it always conjures up a bit of Italy for me and the Piazza here's a terrific and authentic place to indulge in YOUR Italian coffee fantasy ~ Emporio Rulli il Cafe in Union Square. They have indoor and outdoor seating and it's a great place to sip your beverage and to people watch. Not to be missed!

Celiac Basque~
Another Basque restaurant in the City that is really unique and fairly authentic in its menu choices is Iluna Basque, located in North Beach with panoramic windows facing Coit Tower and a very large moon on the night we dined there.

This was my first time dining at Iluna, though one of my Basque friends who joined us had eaten there several times. The atmosphere is "contemporary" Basque with the dark red walls and mementos typical of our culture; however, it also possessed a bit of "funk" and some fun twists, like the red velvet curtains ordaining the front entrance and the large video art screen flashing black and white photos of the French Basque Country, which was a bit mesmerizing. The tapas were good, especially the Tortilla de Patata - and they were all easily adaptable to a gluten-free diet. I also found out that the chef uses corn starch in many of the dishes vs. wheat flour, so even if you are not versed at "tapas ordering"...just be very specific with the server and you too, will enjoy a tasty meal at Iluna Basque.

As you can see, we didn't enjoy our dinner of tapas at all!

Brunch Delight~
I've walked past Boulette's Larder several times in the past while cruising around the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, but never really noticed it until my neighbor suggested we eat there for brunch on this trip, so we did.

It was a rainy, cold morning as we trudged down Market St. with our umbrellas flapping in the strong wind, but didn't sway us from the pursuit of our brunch that was awaiting us. I always love experimenting with new restaurants and after reviewing their menu first on-line and calling, I was certain I would be pleasantly surprised with what I could order there. As we sat in the courtyard/hallway just outside the tiny eatery across from Frog Hollow, we would get cold gusts of rain-whipped wind blowing through every time an employee opened the door to haul in a load of food or supplies...after all - it is still an "industrial-type" building with lots of fancy food inside. I love the contrast.

I also loved the food and the totally unique menu that's seasonal and offers such a variety, with an Italian twist. My friend and I both ordered the divine scrambled eggs with porcini mushrooms, loads of aged pecorino cheese and a dash of olive oil and sea salt...oh, and some fun organic greens, along with some fresh-squeezed orange juice.


And one last bit of fun I would be remiss not mentioning...not related to food but equally "tasty" the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the deYoung museum in Golden Gate Park. It's the exclusive U.S. presentation of the exhibit celebrating his life and showcasing 40 years of creativity.

It runs now through April, 2009 and it truly was a magical exhibit to see and well worth the extra $10 per ticket. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and pairs very well with tapas!

So, "Tis' the season to be jolly and gluten-free." Enjoy the holidays and the next time you are in San Francisco, enjoy these fine eateries, and please, let me know of any new finds that you have to share!

Merry Christmas ~ Zorioniak

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pie in the Sky ~ Lemons in Hand

'Tis the ole season for pies, cakes, cookies, candy - you name it! This lovely pumpkin pie is mine all mine and I would love to claim that I baked it, however I did not. Last week, in my haste to get out of town for our family vacation over the Thanksgiving week, I managed to find a perfect gluten-free pie crust at Whole Foods and then convinced a local (Reno, NV) Austrian baker (Franz's Backstube Austrian Cafe) to whip up a safe pie for me to take with us to Palm Desert.

Very exciting. Very delicious!

There's still half a pie in my fridge. I've noticed as the years pass I truly crave less and less sweets and really a piece or two is all I need to feel sated. A far cry from my years before being diagnosed when my body had an insatiable craving for sugar. I've heard from other Celiacs that they too have experienced similar shifts, major shifts in their eating habits. It's a good thing, I believe! If you really listen, our bodies always tell us what they really need to be healthy and happy...well, almost always.

Digressing a bit to Thanksgiving, I hope it was a great one for you all. I have come to enjoy this holiday a little more each year since my diagnosis. I remember the first couple of years were much more daunting for my poor mother who was in charge of the Thanksgiving kitchen - and we both made plenty of mistakes along the way but have learned that it's quite simple to create a wholesome, delicious Thanksgiving meal that's gluten-free and the best's a FAR less filling menu than the traditional gluten-laden meal that leaves you in a coma for a few hours...and you thought it was the turkey!
One tip that I readily give out to newbie Celiacs is this - do yourself a BIG favor and don't eat from a turkey that was baked with stuffing - no matter if the meat did not touch the gluten stuffing. Don't eat it. People don't realize that there's a huge cross-contamination risk with eating a bird that's been cooking for hours stuffed with gluten.

A much simpler and safer idea is to simply purchase a small turkey breast, baste it with yummy butter and herbs and voila....your own Thanksgiving turkey that's perfectly gluten-free. You might even catch envious glances from across the table as you carve into your lean bird that's sans giblets!
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't once again, mention the wonderful Cliffhouse Restaurant in La Quinta, CA where we dined for Thanksgiving this year. I have eaten there several times since I became a Celiac and the chefs and staff completely understand gluten-free food preparation. My Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely perfect all the way down to the special sauce they used on my salmon dish - yes...I ate a divine plate of salmon vs. turkey this year. The sweet potatoes were heavenly and they even brought me a special desert that was double-checked by the chef...but honestly, I only ate a few bites because I had my pumpkin pie at home waiting for me. If you are ever in the Palm Springs area, I highly recommend this restaurant, and their manager Chris is terrific and so interested in making your meal perfect.

Since returning the other day from the Desert, I've been obsessed with lemons. I mean I'm squeezing lemon juice onto and into everything I'm eating and drinking and guess why...because I picked a bag full of little yellow beauties from one of the lemon trees outside of our townhouse - they are abundant in the Coachella Valley, as our the grapefruit trees.

You know that old saying, "when life gives you lemons...make lemonade." I was thinking about just how apropos that bit of advice is for Celiacs and how fitting it is for us all. I mean, we could come up with our own bit of advice..."when life gives you Celiac, enjoy the gluten-free flours"...or how about the lifestyle, the healthy eating, the kinship and support and life-changing lessons we learn. The abundance.

See what little lemons can help conjure up!

Continuing on the topic of lemons...did you know that as a world-class seasoning ingredient, the lemon is second only to salt and pepper?! I find that to be fascinating. The lemon also originated in India and may actually be a citron and lime hybrid - who knew? But this is my favorite a medicinal agent, the lemon is remarkable. Here are just a few highlights about the lovely little lemon:

- It has a cooking effect and is good for fevers

- It aids digestion and eases the work of the good old liver

- It can act as a laxative and a diuretic and has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties

- and it treats high blood pressure, cleanses the blood...oh, and can relieve sore throats AND hiccups...and many more things.

It's like a little powerball and the best part - it's naturally gluten-free!

And after allll of that Thanksgiving eating, here's a simple and easy way to cleanse your body and drink this every morning as your elixir - energy booster:

Morning Elixir

- 1 cup of boiling water

- 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Honey to taste

Simply stir the ingredients together, and sip away.

All this talk of lemons and pie has now inspired me to go make my own cup of tea with lemon juice and honey and a nice big slice of my remaining pumpkin pie.

Before I go, I would love to hear how some of you use lemons and what your favorite gluten-free recipe(s) might that calls for them.

Enjoy the goodness that the good 'ole earth provides us, and while you are at it, go pick a lemon or two ~

Monday, November 24, 2008

Easy to Make Gluten-free Pizza~

The week of Thanksgiving can always be a bit hectic and harried for most of us, especially if YOU are the designated chef for your family and friend's holiday dinner. I can speak from experience, when I say that this week is already filled with multiple trips to the grocery store(s) to hunt down all things gluten-free for the Thanksgiving table, so creating additional meals leading up to Thursday night can easily take a back seat.

I came up with this delicious and very easy GF Pizza that the whole family will love, or if there's leftovers, you can simply freeze or reheat what's left.
- 1 gluten-free frozen pizza crust (I used a rice crust)
- 4 Tbsp. of Amy's Roasted garlic pasta sauce
- 6 Slices of Applegate Farm's roasted turkey
- 8 Fresh Ciliegine mozzarella balls
- 1 Sliced zucchini
- 1 Sliced organic bell pepper - yellow
- 10 Halved baby Roma tomatoes
- 1/2 Sliced yellow onion

- 1 Tbsp. Balsamic Fig vinegar

The trick to a crispy crust is to thaw the pizza for about 20 minutes, then glaze with olive oil and bake for 5 minutes at 450 degrees. Take out the crust from the oven and let it cool for a a few minutes, then spread on the pasta sauce. Layer the turkey, then the sliced onions and zucchini, then peppers and lastly, half the tomatoes and mozzarella and arrange on the top of the pizza.
Lastly, drizzle the vinegar over the top of the pizza and Voila...ready to pop in the oven.

I bake my pizza at 400 degrees or whatever the directions on the box require, checking every five to ten minutes. I have found that my pizzas usually require a bit longer oven-time than the directions call for. Use your best judgement, but testing the softness of the zucchini is your best bet for gauging its readiness.

Buon Appetito!

Give it a try and it's sure to be a pleaser and definitely won't require you putting hours in the kitchen - you can save that for Wednesday and Thursday!

Have a wonderful and blessed holiday with family and friends and remember, don't even think about cheating on anything that's not gluten-free! It's so not worth it!

Abundance to you all ~

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Evening of Yum ~ Gluten Free Baking

Baking and cooking can be magical sometimes and have the ability to take all of our cares away and transport us completely into "the moment"...where one is solely focused on the creation at hand and the world just seems to melt away, similar in a way to the dark Dagoba chocolate dripping down the side of the photo above.

Okay, I'm pretty excited to take credit, along with my lovely mother, for the scrumptious Black Bottom cupcake we just had to photograph ~ seeing is believing! Now, this isn't just any old cupcake, it's one of the goodies we learned how to bake last Friday night at the Whole Foods Gluten-free baking class we participated in, along with close to ten other Celiacs and supporters of loved ones with Celiac, in the Reno area. The class took place inside their beautiful Culinary Center and was three hours of sharing, learning, baking and the best part of all - EATING.

I've learned throughout the eight or so years since I have been diagnosed, about the importance of "community" when you are a Celiac. I must say that there is real power in gathering together and sharing each of our individual stories...stories that led us to gather 'round a table, just as it did the night of our baking class. Our exuberant hostess and chef, Stacy of Whole Foods, asked us all to gather table side for and introduction of sorts and a chance to share each of our stories about being diagnosed as a Celiac and what we have learned. I always find each person's tale of great interest and usually learn that I'm somewhat of a "veteran" when it comes to the amount of years we've all be diagnosed. So that evening we went around the table sharing our journeys and struggles and all that we have learned and are so eager to share with one another. There's such a feeling of commrodory that comes from simply acknowledging what each of us has lived through and some of the residual health issues we might still be facing, but it's always, always a positive and beneficial discussion, no matter the group gathered.
One of the younger woman attending our baking class had just been diagnosed two months ago, after what sounded like years of struggling through some rather unpleasant health issues. Her husband came to join her for support and as he explained, to learn how to be more understanding of what it takes to live with a Celiac and to have compassion. As I listened to her story I was struck with a great sense of empathy for this woman, remembering as we all can I'm sure, the first month after being diagnosed and the dreaded task of walking into a grocery store armed with lists of "do's and dont's," somehow muddling from aisle to aisle reading every label five or six or seven times to make sure you got it right! I must say that being diagnosed in 2008 sure offers another universe of products and information, beating the heck out of our choices five or ten years ago, but with that's all relative. A new diagnosis is daunting to say the least, regardless of how many flours and products are safely labeled and on the shelf.

But I digress...

Back to our delicious baking class.

The first part of the baking class was how to blend flours - four different blends to be exact. This can be tricky I've learned the hard way, so learning a bit about combining other proteins and starches to perform the same job as the missing wheat was very helpful...and walking away with some great flour blend recipes was even more helpful. I'll post all of these later for you to try. It's quite a science I am discovering, to get just the right combination of flour, xantham gum or guar gum, vinegar, etc. in order to get your GF goodies to rise to the occasion.

We broke up into teams, each two or three-some assigned to either a scone(s), spritz cookie or my favorite, the black bottom cupcakes. As we set to the task of creaming, folding and the scraping of bowls, I had this sudden sense of joy come over me and fill me all the way up to the top with happiness. There I was, baking with my mom and laughing about how the cream cheese measurement couldn't possibly be correct, meanwhile the mother-son team next to us went about creating some delicious scones and might I add how talented an eleven year old boy can be in the kitchen! As we sipped some Whole Foods brand wine and chatted loudly with one another the whole scene just felt so natural and effortless and yes, FUN.

Throughout the class we would all mingle to check out one anther's progress and spy on what the other was creating - all the while "oohs and ahhs" could be heard and compliments were flying. I noticed how we all would spontaneously share our own anecdotes for living a healthy and abundant gluten-free life and how supportive each and every one was to the other person- too bad the world couldn't operate on the same level as our baking class - with kindness and support.

As goodies are rotated through the oven and out onto the counter top, we would all gather around the hot baking pans like children on Christmas morning, so eager to see what Santa had left. The one thing I always get a kick out of when attending any Celiac function, is standing back and watching how excited everyone becomes over a fresh ANYTHING out of the's like controlled chaos and let me say, we don't hold back...I mean, we're polite and everything...but a bit aggressive when it comes to ensuring that our plates are overflowing with fluffy, tasty treats!

For take home container of joy.

Our class was so enjoyable and informative that we all voted to have another - so stay tuned and I'll keep you posted on the upcoming details. We were all inspired by delicious goodness. And not only will a hot, gooey cupcake keep us coming back for more, but so will the connections and friendships that are made in a simple class like this one, or connecting on-line with another Celiac and sharing tips with one another or a favorite restaurant. It's never been so clear to me as in this year since I began this blog, the need for community and how you can befriend a perfect stranger on the Internet just because you both have this funny auto-immune disease that won't allow you to absorb and digest wheat. I've become fast-friends with a gal who lives back east and had found my blog site. Through a connection to my hometown of San Francisco and our enjoyment for sharing GF tips with one another, we now have a genuine interest in each other's well-being and it all began through an email asking for some advice on living and managing life as a Celiac - these are the connections that brighten my day and remind me that the world is truly is small, and we are not isolated at all - quite the contrary. All this is a round-about way of suggesting that the world of Celiac is vast and growing each and every day, so jump in and use your baking knowledge and general understanding of this disease to help someone who was just diagnosed or simply needing a new this one.

Spritz Cookies/yields 36 cookies ~

- 1/2 cup (4 oz.) butter at room temp

- 1/2 cup (4 oz.) sugar (unprocessed)

- 1 ea. egg, room temp

- 1 cup (6 oz.) white rice flour

- 1/2 cup (3 oz.) Flour Blend(3/4 white rice, 4 cups Potato starch, 5 Tb Guar gum, 1/2 cup Albumen)

- 1/3 cup organic raspberry jam

Preheat over to 375, then cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Blend in egg and egg white, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix flours into the mixture just until incorporated. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Fit a piping bag with a #6 inch star tip, folding over the top of the bag to form a cuff. Fill the pastry back with the cookie dough. Pipe the batter into the shapes the size of a quarter onto the prepared cookie sheet then garnish the center of each cookie with a small dollop of jam. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden brown.

It's all about community.

It's all about baking really great goodies to share with those you love.

What are some of your favorite Gluten-free goodies?

Enjoy and be well ~

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gluten Free Goodies - A Baking Class

Well, it's almost holiday time and that means the ever-impending onslaught and mass abundance of goodies and sweets that begin to appear in all corners of the office, at social gatherings and everywhere in between. For Celiacs, the holidays do seem to pose their share of hidden dangers and holiday blues, especially because eating anything "mainstream" is on the no-no list...but have no fear, the answer is here...well, that is if you live in the Reno, Nevada area.

Whole Foods Market in Reno (and I'm sure all over the nation - check with YOUR local market) is offering a "Gluten Free: Savory and Sweet"(Hands-on)baking class this Friday, November 14th from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m., in their Culinary Center located at 6139 So. Virginia St. They are charging $25 per person which includes all instruction and baking materials/ingredients.

The evening class promises to make "sweet" dreams come true, as the culinary staff will be guiding us through the steps of how to bake a Black Bottom Cake with Cherry Compote, Cheddar Cheese Scones and delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies - now what Celiac could pass that up - not I!

For more information or to sign up call (775) 852-8023 or email:

See you there - and 'tis the Season!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Gluten-free "Normalcy"...Happiness in a Bowl or Two~

It's not often that a Celiac is able to walk into a lovely Italian restaurant, or restaurant of any kind, and sit down to order gluten-free pasta that's made to order right off of the regular menu! Well, recently it was my lucky night as this delicious "Genoa" shrimp, pesto-cream, and pine nuts with gluten-free fettuccine pasta dish you see above was just what the doctor ordered...and it was fantastico! The pasta was light and held its shape perfectly, and the entire time I was eating this savory dish I kept pinching myself that this was a gluten-free dish being served in a terrific and authentic feeling Italian wine bar, in the U.S...for a minute I thought I was back in Italy - it was that good.

I was able to order this wonderful dish at a Boise restaurant, Asiago's Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar on W. Main Street. It's quite a savvy and hip eating establishment with a cool bar and wine cellar used for dining and wine tastings. Asiago's also has enjoyable window seating and a lovely patio that opens up onto the street...did I mention the enoteca-styled interior with a mural of "the boot"...AKA..Italy carved out nicely on the main-facing brick wall. Delizioso!

If you are a Celiac or not - definitely visit the lovely Asiago's Wine Bar and enjoy feeling like a "normal eater," as you order off the large two-paged menu and for an hour or two, feeling like you're dining abroad.

Last week I created a new gluten-free Taco recipe and thought I would share this tasty and spicy Mexican dish with you...and it is also happiness in a bowl or on a plate.

We decided on chicken tacos with 100% corn tortillas, along with tasty black beans, some fresh-seasoned rice and yes-oh-yes...Sangria - Ole!

I prepared this chicken taco dish with a bit of a kick, though I didn't actually realize how much of a kick...pheeeew! It was a simple meal that can be added to or minimized according to your individual taste buds~ Serves 3-4 people.


- 2-3 (organic) chicken breasts, chopped

- 1 sliced onion (any kind)

- 1 orange and yellow chopped peppers

- 1 small can of chile verde (all I found were gluten-free)

- 2 Tbsp. of good olive oil

- 1 Tbsp. of garlic salt

- 1 can of organic black beans

- 1 small can of organic corn

- 1 package of quality maize/corn (only!) tortillas of your choice

- 1 package of manchego cheese

- 2-4 servings of steamed basmati rice

- 2 sliced avocados

- 2 diced tomatoes

- 1/2 chopped head of butter lettuce

- 1 jar of your favorite salsa (we chose a local favorite)

First, I would prepare the rice in your steamer and get that started - takes about 20minutes...then I simply browned the onion and then chopped up up the chicken breasts and placed them in the skillet with the olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Let the chicken start to whiten on the outsides, then add in the chopped peppers and sautee for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to keep from browning too much. After 10 minutes (or when the chicken is well on it's way to being cooked) add in the chile verde sauce - now, I unknowingly used the entire can and though tasty, whoooo, light'em up baby. I would advise using 1/2 the can...or to your preferred taste.

As the chicken is cooking to perfection, combine in a saucepan the black beans and corn after draining both and let simmer on low-med heat. Then chop the tomatoes, avocado and lettuce and place on separate serving plates and shred or crumble the manchego cheese and voila...your toppings are ready to go. I also highly recommend making some guacamole to top off your taco/tostada dish.

Lastly, steam your tortillas or make your own like I did - muy bueno! Then it's the fun part - the creation of your own tacos!

Do you layer with beans first...or cheese and then the rice, or perhaps you start with the delicious chicken verde and then pile on the goods - it's all up to you and rest assured, it most likely tastes equally delicious in the tummy, no matter how you stack it! Just don't forget to add salsa and plenty of guacamole. Your taste buds will thank you.

If you have a favorite GF taco recipe - please share them.

Enjoy and Ole~

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Gluten-Free Dining in Denver ~

Over the past few weeks I have made two trips to Denver, as mentioned in my previous post, - one to visit family and the other last week for work. During both trips to the Mile High City, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the knowledge of celiac disease and eating gluten-free is fairly prevalent. I always worry a bit before heading to a new location, or different part of the country/world, not knowing what the level of celiac awareness will be, but on these two particular ventures to Colorado I was very happy and excited with what I found!

In my opinion and from my experiences, I have found that eating out at perhaps more "up-scale" restaurants seems to be a safer bet vs. faster food or even take out. I don't mean this to sound "snobby" in any way, shape, or form, but it seems that higher-end restaurants want to get it right and take more care with their meal preparation—now, I realize that this is by no means a 100% guarantee for eating safely just because you are paying more for your food, but from my experiences I have found that wait staff and chefs seem to be much more educated when it comes to eating gluten-free, under these circumstances.

With that said, the two Italian restaurants that I visited in Denver were both terrific. Truly, one of the highlights of this week's business trip to Denver was discovering the restaurant Panzano, in downtown Denver on 17th Street. At first I was a bit alarmed with the limited "bar menu" we had to choose from given the time of day, but I quickly learned that our server was very educated on eating gluten-free. He guided me through the menu and went out of his way to create a gluten-free Caesar salad, and wonderful antipasti plate that was fabulous, but the best part of the experience was when our server asked if I would like my own basket of gluten-free focaccia bread! Uhhh, "what did you say?" I replied...I continued, "Are you SURE it's gluten-free and safe"...he responded "Yes, it is" and they do all the fresh gluten-free baking every day in their bakery that's designated for celiacs and not contaminated. In that case I said, "PLEASE bring me some bread! And wow, was it delicious—I ordered two plates!

The next time any of you are in Denver, I encourage you to visit either or both of these great restaurants and enjoy all the delicious choices offered and care given to you during your meal. I also received a great post from one of my readers with some additional GF eating spots in Denver that sound terrific...

If you haven't already, on your next trip through town check out Watercourse Foods, on East 17th. They're a vegetarian establishment with many gluten free options. It possesses a nice, bright dining room and it's a very popular place and comes highly rated.

The same owners also run the smaller "">City 'O City" cafe/bar on 13th, just a few blocks away. Its smaller establishment I'm told, with a more hipster crowd, and their wheat free pizza is terrific.

Enjoy and safe travels!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Gluten-free in the Mile High City ~

I've always wanted to visit Denver...and I'm not talking about just dashing through their uber-cool airport to make a connection - a real visit to the Mile High city to experience some of what it has to offer. My brother is working there temporarily for a few months, which provided me with the prefect excuse to use some miles for a nice weekend get-away, just in time to see the gorgeous fall foliage in all its many colors and shades of autumn, and I definitely wasn't disappointed!

As a Celiac, there's always a bit of apprehension as to where and what I will find that's safe to eat when visiting a new location, but I did a bit of research and felt confident that Denver would be clued into what "gluten free" dining is all about...and I was correct in my assumption (phew!). So our first night out to dinner consisted of a lovely salad from the Whole Foods salad bar, just down the street from his apartment due to a very late arrival, but I'm happy to report all was well with that meal.

Our second night out we walked to a fun restaurant called Ted's (as in Turner) Montana Grill, which is pretty Eco-friendly AND guess what...they have a gluten-free menu which came as a great surprise. I dined on a very delicious fillet (beef that is, because they do offer bison), a scrumptious sweet potato and grilled asparagus. The manager even came over to go through the menu with me, ensuring that I understood all of the dishes that were safe to eat and made sure I was comfortable, which was very kind.

The third night out found us dining downtown at Prima Ristorante, in the heart of the theatre district. We found this lovely Italian restaurant on - love that sight for finding new restaurants, wherever you find yourself. The restaurant was great and offered a delicious and fairly authentic Italian menu with a warm and cosmopolitan feel to the decor and experience. Our server was from Belarus (as in the former USSR country, as she explained) and was very familiar with gluten-free eating and double-checked everything I ordered with the chef. She helped me decide upon an antipasti of roasted asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, with a chunk of dry Fontina cheese, drizzled with olive oil. My "secondi" or entree dish was so fresh and delicious but could have used a tad more salt - it was a piece of grilled salmon over a bed of fennel and fava beans, with mushrooms and Roma tomatoes. Delizioso!

A day trip to Vail was also on our list, so Saturday morning we grabbed our cameras, warm jackets and headed west to the Rockies. The fall foliage has just turned and the golden hues were breathtaking and endless. The 1.5 hour drive went by too quickly and there wasn't enough memory on my camera to capture all the orange leaves I needed to snap up. Vail was not what I expected nor what I had visualized in my head for years, but have no fear, no disappointment here. Vail is a quaint and Euro-village-like with a darling shops and restaurants that back right up to the lengthy slopes sliding down the mountain. I was happy to find there seemed to be no "attitude" floating around Vail whatsoever. It felt quaint and comfortable, and surrounded by gorgeous fall colors dripping off the Aspens, while the crisp fall air began to settle into our bones.

On Sunday, my last day in Denver, I convinced my brother to visit the Denver Art Museum with me. He's such an art afficianado...ha. Truth though, this museum is world class and very impressive. From the eye-catching and amazing sculptures all around the museum campus, to the beautiful clean lines of the museum walls, and the angles they create against the Denver skyline - wonderful. NOT to be missed!

So, not only can you eat gluten-free and very well, visit gorgeous scenery, world-renowned ski resorts, and an incredible museum, but you can also just take a wonderful stroll around the town and take in some lovely sights in a very cosmopolitan city. In my case, the highlight of the trip was spending valuable time with my awesome baby brother and exploring a new city together. So great!

Oh...and don't miss your chance to say hello to these guys while you are in town...

Be well...traveled.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ole! Gluten Free in the Bay~

So...I fully intended to snap lovely photos of the incredible Tapas that my dear friend Alison and I savored and devoured during our "girl's" evening at Va de Vi in Walnut Creek last weekend, but instead...we became entranced by the "Mystery Reds" wine flight that we were this was the only snap shot we came away with!

The joy of visiting Walnut Creek is watching this once tiny town, transform itself continuously into a chic, Little House on the Prairie-meets Rodeo Drive (for the shopping only, not attitude!) kind of spot that one can never get tired of walking all around, finding delicious little spots to eat at, such as Va de Vi. Earlier this year, a friend had told me about this Tapas bar and bistro, so this past reunion weekend with my dear pal Alison seemed the perfect time to check it out.

I had called ahead to the restaurant to make reservations, but most importantly, to ask if a Celiac was safe and able to eat there. The answer was a resounding, "Yes, we are very familiar with gluten-free eating"...and they were. Our waiter, though a bit over-hyped about his job, was VERY diligent about me being able to eat safely and well! He even went through the entire Tapas menu with me and helped choose our delicious Spanish delights. It was a huge relief and I trusted that he knew what he was talking about, and thankfully he did. Each plate that arrived was a vision and perfectly gluten-free.

It always delights me to rediscover over and over again, just how well a Celiac is able to eat/dine and how many delicious foods and flavors are out there for us to savor. It's also exciting to me when I find a new restaurant that "GETS IT!" So the next time you are visiting the East Bay/ Walnut Creek area be sure to visit Va de Vi and please, please order the Pomme Frits...ils sont cest' manifique!!

By the way...I did guess the origin of one out of the three reds we were tasting - it was a delicious 2004 Artessa "Elements" Cab Franc/Syrah/Tempranillo from the good old Napa Valley - love the California reds.

Eat well.

and...Eat delicious food!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gluten-Free Birthday Wishes ~ Spanish Style!

So I just recently celebrated my birthday...however, which year doesn't really doesn't matter, right?! It was a joyous celebration with family and friends sharing laughs, good conversation, delicious wine, and an almost-all gluten free menu to boot!!

I was determined to create a delicious and safe menu that didn't contain one ounce of gluten even though I, the birthday girl, was the only Celiac at the party. Now you might be wondering about the beautiful little desserts you see above...thinking, "those look too good to be true"...well sadly, you are correct. Those were all specially hand-picked desserts for my guests, however, you can see a blurred vision of my sweet little chocolate cake below, candles included!

My biggest regret of the night was being so caught up in all the excitement and chatter and running around, that I completely forgot to snap a few photos of the most delicious Basque Tortilla de Patata and Los Pimientos that my sweet friends from Espana made for us all to indulge in. My beautiful friend Nere, created two of the most perfect looking Tortillas I have seen, other than the delicious ones sitting on some bar in San Sebastian. They were a meal in themselves and my guests were ohhhing and awwing with every bite. The same went for the gorgeous platter of burnt-sienna colored Pimientos con ajo y aceite de oliva (peppers with garlic and olive oil) that our wonderful amigos de Pamplona prepared to pair with their fabulous vino de Navarra in Spain. Check out their website - it's fantastico!!

Here's a gluten-free recipe for Basque Tortilla de Patata:

- 4 Slices Bacon

- 2 tsp Sliced Green Onions/tops

- 3/4 tsp Salt

- Dash Pepper

- 3 Med. Potatoes

- 1 tbs Snipped Parsley

- 1/8 tsp Dried Thyme, Crushed

- 4 Large Eggs

In 8-inch skillet cook bacon until crisp; drain, reserving 2 T of drippings. Crumble bacon and set aside. In same skillet combine reserved drippings, peeled, thinly sliced potatoes, onion, parsley, salt,thyme and pepper. Cover tightly; cook over low heat until potatoes are barely tender, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring carefully once or twice. In small bowl beat together eggs and milk; pour over potato mixture.

Cover and continue cooking over very low heat til egg is set in center, 8 to 10 minutes. With a wide spatula, loosen sides and bottom and slide potatoes
out onto serving plate, or serve from skillet.

Aside from our muy delicioso Tapas, I also served some tasty gourmet-style all beef hamburgers I found at Whole Foods. There were a variety of fresh-seasoned flavors to choose from, such as basil, sun dried tomato and mozzarella burgers or a jalapeno and herb burger and my favorite was the mushroom and mozarella burger. They are all so delicious and are sure to please any hamburger connoisseur! In keeping the menu fun but low-key, I also found some delicious Kettle gourmet chips in a variety of flavors that ARE safe for Celiacs and so tasty, you won't be able to eat just a few. The final touch was all the hamburger fixings, which included fresh garden tomatoes, sliced onions, butter leaf lettuce, pickles and all the GF condiments one could need for a burger!

Not only was the party such a delight, but so was the satisfaction that came from hosting a gluten-free party where everyone walked away totally satisfied and sated. It was a lovely evening filled with delicious food and a wonderful guest list.

Here's to next year and eating safely for the next 365 days!!

Viva Espana!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Place of Inspiration ~

The past couple of weekends I was luckily enough to spend time in one of my favorite locations on the planet, Sun Valley, Idaho. There's something truly magical and spiritual about the Big Wood River Valley, the beauty of Mt. Baldy and the way the sun sets behind the Sawtooth Mountains.

I had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Sun Valley Writer's Conference since last year, and though I wasn't able to attend the entire weekend program (who knew this was so hugely popular!), attending the individual seminars and lectures was easy as pie...gluten-free, of course! This year's theme was Frontiers in a Changing World, and I was lucky enough to hear five amazing authors speak, including Kati Marton, Ian Buruma and the charmingly funny Frank McCourt, just to name a few.

Being the aspiring writer that I am, I was truly in awe of these great storytellers and their gifts of putting life onto a page with some ink and creative thought. Listening to their insightful world-views and ability to discuss such a vast variety of topics reminded me that life is a journey, and boy do I need to make sure I learn something new each and every day I'm able to take it in. Not only were the authors words so alive and genuine, but they were supported by the magic of the venue, Sun Valley!

Throughout the weekend there was delicious food to be found and eaten, as well. The town of Ketchum, just one mile from the Sun Valley Resort, is so delightful and charming and warm and happy and...oh, I could go on an on. I am SO at peace in that place, I cannot begin to describe the blanket of warmth I receive when my feet are planted in that town. I'm digressing... there were quite a few great restaurants I visited that not only prepared my gluten- free dishes correctly, but staff totally GETS IT! They understand eating and living gluten-free in this little place on the map of the for any of you Celiacs out there who find themselves in this part of Idaho, feel safe to indulge your taste buds at the following little haunts and enjoy:

~ Desperados Mexican Cantina - YUMMY!

~ Vintage - A charmingly cozy new bistro inside a historic Ketchum cabin

~ Ketchum Grill - A favorite of mine

~ China Panda - Obviously - Chinese food

~ Baci - A great Italian Cafe and Wine Bar

I am already looking forward to next year's conference and to the endless possibilities that await me between now and next August 2009. Between now and then, I intend to do a lot of reading and writing on this blog and hope that in the next twelve months the Celiac world will also be the beneficiary of some exciting and earth-shaking discoveries in research and a good, moist chocolate cake!!

Be well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Celiac Disease Hitting Mainstream News ~

Happy Thursday!

It seems like every week there's another article popping up throughout the mainstream media talking about the ever-growing prominence of gluten-free foods and Celiac Disease. This week is no exception - USA Today ran an article titled, "Gluten Free Foods Gaining Popularity" so have a read and pass it along to your Celiac and non-celiac friends, as well.

It's not a great article, in my opinion, but the fact of the matter is Celiac Disease continues to garner more media coverage, bringing more and more awareness to this country, so we'll take what we can get. There are some good links included in the story, but darn it, they left out my Blog! ha

Let me know what you think of the article. I'm curious.

Have a wonderful, gluten-free week and weekend.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Celiac Support ~

It's August already! How can this be? Seriously? It was just June, then suddenly July 4th arrived and now it seems that everywhere we turn in our society we see all the signs of promoting "Back to School"...and to be honest, I'm feeling pretty slided. Due to my last bought of gluten poisoning that happened on July 2nd, these past six weeks have literally been a blur of coming out of the Celiac brain fog, trying to feel human and eat again, while slowly getting back into some sort of a normal life and routine. And from the abundance of comments, feedback and helpful tips I've received from so many of you, it helps me to know that I've been supported by so many, in so many ways and that I'm certainly not alone.

Some great comments and VERY helpful tips came my way via the blog that I also write for on the website, as well as what's been posted here. I must say that each and every time I read one of your comments, I am moved by what so many of you are going through, each and every day. I have to say that in 2008, it is quite astounding to me that soooooooo many adults and children are suffering needlessly by still not being diagnosed properly and left to suffer, search, and anguish on their own while trying to find a diagnosis. Something has to be done to expedite this process. It literally breaks my heart to read some of the comments I've received and to know that this disease deserves MUCH, much more attention by medical professionals across our nation.

I'll politely step down from my soap box right now, but the fact of the matter is...if you live in the United States and are an undiagnosed Celiac, your quality of life is going to suffer for quite a while (tremendously so, in some cases) and all the boxed, gluten-free goodies from here to China (okay, it's the Olympic spirit) will not make things better. However, in many western European countries children are automatically tested for Celiac by the age of six. That's pretty astounding and amazing, in my opinion.

In the spirit of summer-time breakfasts on the patio and in the warm August sunlight, I thought I would post a yummy waffle recipe that I have been enjoying! I found it in my new favorite magazine, Living Without:

Best Morning Waffles
Serves 4
To save time in the morning, mix batter the night before, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. Stir the batter in the morning while your griddle heats up. If batter is too thick, add more milk. Using an egg substitute isn’t recommended for these waffles.

4 eggs
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter or vegetable oil
1 cup milk of choice (plain-flavored rice, soy or almond)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups brown rice flour*
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Beat eggs and sugar together in mixer bowl until light and frothy. Add oil, milk and vanilla and mix until well combined.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt. Add to egg mixture and beat on low speed until well combined. Batter should be thick.
Pour a small portion of batter into a well-oiled waffle iron and cook until done. Repeat until all batter is used.
*TIP For lighter waffles, use 11/2 cups brown rice flour and 1/2 cup sorghum flour.

TIP For banana-nut waffles, add 1/2 ripe mashed banana to liquid ingredients; add 1 tablespoon ground almonds or pecans to the dry mixture. For blueberry waffles, add 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries to liquid ingredients. (If your family prefers waffles with consistent texture, puree blueberries in the blender before adding them to the batter.) If batter is too thin, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time.

For special occasions, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate chips—a special treat your kids will love. (Your waffle iron will need special clean up after this batch!)

Finally, I thought it would be beneficial to post an upcoming calendar of Nation wide Celiac events coming up now through fall 2008. There are some great opportunities to mingle with hundreds of other Celiacs, try new products, and learn learn learn about what's going on with medical research and what might hopefully be on the horizon that could aid in faster and proper diagnosis of those with Celiac Disease.

Be well and enjoy the wonderful summer days, gluten-free, of course!

Here's to abundance and support. Thank you all for your goodness.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cause of Celiac Disease Uncovered?

There's some important news that was just published on July 24th in MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine's consumer health web site. The gist of it is that researchers believe they have finally answered a basic question about the cause of Celiac Disease -- where in the body does the wheat protein gluten enter one's system?
Note:(*this news item will not be available after 10/22/2008).

I've been keenly interested in learning more about Dr. Alessio Fasano, medical director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He's an integral part of this research and of this study just released. He's from Naples, Italy and is now practicing in the States. I just read a great article about him in the June/July issue of Living Without, and I highly recommend you doing the same. The more we all know about the research being done on our behalf, the more supportive we can be of the process.

Enjoy this article and share it with every Celiac you know. A special thanks to Kerry Seymour, (a noted Nutritionist in the Reno area), who is also the leader of our Sierra Nevada Celiac Group.

Information is key for us all!

On one other note, I just finished reading Gluten-Free Girl's latest blog post regarding the birth of her baby girl, born last Monday. My heart and prayers go out to Shauna, The Chef, and especially to baby Lucy - for a full recovery and many, many deep breaths.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Slowly Coming Back to Life ~ The Gluten Hangover

This delightful bowl you see above has become my new "best friend." It's an Italian remedy/recipe to use when one's stomach is causing them great grief and a bit too much time in the bathroom - I also call it, my gluten hangover recipe.

Since I haven't been able to consume much more than Brown Cow non-fat vanilla yogurt, a banana here and there, and rice, since consuming gluten on July 3rd, this recipe has come in handy and at least been tolerable by my poor stomach that's been SO compromised. The recipe may not sound that great, but it does seem to help and provides a bit of nutrients:

1/2 - 1 Cup of steamed Jasmine rice

1 Slice of organic, salted butter

1/2 Lemon - squeeze the entire lemon over the rice, including some of the pulp

1 Tbsp. of grated Parmigiana cheese

Salt to taste

The next time (though I wish this on no one!) you are suffering from the same gluten "side affects," give this little number a try.

Another little dish I created out of desperation to eat something with protein, was a similar type rice-bowl but with some added flavor and freshness.

1 Cup of steamed Jasmine rice

1 Slice of organic butter

1 Handful of cherry tomatoes

1 Handful of fresh Ciliegine Mozzarella

1 Tbsp. Drizzle Fig Balsamic Vinegar - to taste

Salt to taste

Mangia Mangia!

Thankfully, my severe brain-fog and exhaustion have semi-lifted and now I'm left with the challenge of being able to give my body some nutrition. The difficult part for me comes from dealing with a stomach that takes nearly a month to get back to normal...whatever "normal" really is for a Celiac. I'm not sure if others of you out there deal with this, but after I consume gluten, my poor stomach can be nauseous for weeks, so eating is quite a challenge.

I did manage to venture out from my house this past Saturday though, and headed to my local farmer's market where I picked up some delicious tomatoes (pictured above), some local honey, and a bottle of this yummy Fig Balsamic Vinegar that is starting to make me very happy. It's what I used to flavor the above recipe, but it can be used in so many different ways, and when I'm finally back to eating lettuce again, you can be sure I'll use this vinegar to create several dressings.

The line of balsamic vinegars is from a business in Napa, CA that has created some wonderful flavors of oil and vinegars that are all gluten-free, I am told. I called their headquarters to double-check! I think the bottles and packaging are also clever and look good sitting on your kitchen counter - ha!

In addition, I also managed to venture out to the Gluten-free tour that the Reno Whole Foods offered last Wednesday night. There was a good turn-out for the event, with nearly 20 Celiacs on-hand to learn all of what the store has to offer. Some of the products I am already using on a regular basis, but I did learn from the guide and from chatting with other Celiacs, of a Thai food line that's completely GF and everyone seemed to rave about them. The line is Thai Kitchen Products

I picked up my first bottle of their Pad Thai Sauce and as soon as I'm recovered, I'm chomping at the bit to try out this exciting product and create my own Thai dishes!

One other tid-bit that I would be remiss in not mentioning - in the middle of my gluten poisoning, I have received two acupuncture treatments from the amazing Dr. John Diamond. He's such a blessing. He tried to actually de-sensitize me via acupuncture to gluten, due to my body being so toxic. It's a work in progress, but I will say that the treatments definitely calmed down my adrenal system and at least "calmed" some of my symptoms.

Let me just say that if you happen to be a Celiac and live in Northern Nevada, this man should be on your support list of doctors.

Thanks Dr. Diamond!!

Well, that's all the energy I could muster up for this post but I do hope some of this information is helpful.

Be safe.

Be well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Painful Mistakes with Gluten ~

I've been sick...I mean really sick from consuming some form of hidden gluten last Wednesday afternoon at lunch. In spite of being super careful and aware all the time when I eat out, and usually hitting my same haunts that I know to be safe, I still fell victim to the miscommunication and oversight that happens sometimes for Celiacs.

Here's the abridged version of the story. Last Wednesday I met my mom for lunch at the new Reno Whole Foods; it's fantastic and 52,000 SF of glistening goodness and tons of gluten-free products. I was so caught up in the excitement of all the perfectly poised salad bar items and the gorgeous prepared foods area, that I became a bit mesmerized and not as careful as I obviously should have been. I was pulled to the Mexican taco bar area, enticed by the delicious looking chicken and beans and rice and ...mmmmm. I told myself, "okay, just be super careful and ask questions and you'll be fine"...yah.

I went with the "plain" cubed chicken breast, a small portion of the sauteed peppers prepared with olive oil, salt and pepper, no tortillas (just to be super safe) and a small scoop of their famous mashed potatoes...okay, I didn't exactly order a traditional Mexican-style plate, but I was trying to be so cautious and safe, omitting the corn tortillas juuuust in case. I was just about the walk away with my steaming plate of fiesta-fun when I hesitated and asked for a small scoop of GUACAMOLE...da da da daaaaaaa. I asked the server if it was gluten-free, but knowing English was not her first language, I should have taken it upon myself to have either asked another employee to be certain, or just passed on the green-goodness...because something about the look of it set off my intuition.

That's all I should need to know, but I still ate it hoping that the server was correct and I was good to go.

We were both very wrong.

Within two hours of going back to my office I sensed that tenderness that hits the small intestine when its been compromised with gluten. I knew I was in trouble...and eight days later, I'm still dealing with the inability to eat very many solid foods (or food at all) and feeling so exhausted and nauseous. I know the symptoms are different for everyone, but these are some of mine.

I'm just going to say that I LOVE Whole Foods for many reasons and at this point I'm even trying to partner with our local WF marketing person to create even more Celiac awareness in our region with classes, tours, etc. They are great about creating awareness for their customers. But what I did learn today, is that the "prepared foods" section of the Reno store is not by an stretch, a gluten- free environment, hence the cross-contamination or added gluten (food starch) in some form, in the guacamole I ate. I didn't know this - now I do and my sole message today is for all of you to triple check where you shop and purchase prepared foods, or check at your own Whole Foods, because each location is different. I also learned that the Reno location has a "scratch" bakery on site and next to the prepared foods section, so there's definitely some flour flying around. I was told by the WF employee that they cannot even guarantee the salad bar area to be 100% GF - so eat at your own risk in those parts of the store. Seriously.

On a much happier note, I did find out that the Reno store is offering a Celiac/Gluten-Free product tour next Thursday, July 17th at 6 p.m.. Call the store for more details: Whole Foods Market -5695 S Virginia St, Reno -(775) 829-8666. Don't miss this opportunity to tour the store and learn more and more about what a Celiac can and cannot eat.

Stay tuned for more news from Whole Foods, as I hopefully get the opportunity to assist with their Celiac awareness programs in the near future!

I do hope that this post will help some of you with making good food choices when eating out. I know it's helped me realize that no matter matter how busy or how many customers you hold up, or how much extra time it takes for an employee to research what you are asking them about gluten, it's always, always the correct way to go.

It's our safety and our quality of life at stake.

One last thing - it always takes me at least two-three weeks to heal after I get poisoned, and knowing that everyone is so unique, I would be very interested to know how long it takes others of you out there to heal when this happens to you?

Be well~

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happiness ~

This past week was filled with delicious food, little surprises and the beautiful San Francisco Bay. But before I get to all of that AND to mentioning some restaurants that you won't want to miss, I needed to post an update from last week's risotto story...and this enlightened clarification comes straight from the mouth of a real Roman in Roma. So here goes...classic Italian style:

1)"Risotto is a classic Italian side dish that uses short grain rice (one variety is basmati) that releases lots of starch during cooking so the finished dish is very creamy and rich."

"Nop, risotto is a main dish."

2)"If you order risotto and they serve you farro in Italy you are allowed to bring them to the court. Risotto is not farro!"

Classic response.

Now on to other happy tales. Visiting my hometown of San Francisco is always a true pleasure - the beautiful fog that rolls in and out over the shores creates this "heavy" air that is so wonderful and just envelopes all in its path. Happiness comes to me from the smell of the Bay and the salt water, the profound beauty of such a unique skyline and the indulgent pleasure that comes from eating at some of the City's wonderful restaurants, and doing so safely.

A dear friend and I escaped to SF last weekend and found ourselves dining at one of our favorite Basque restaurants, Piperade, which I've mentioned before on this blog. It's so exciting to eat out at a restaurant that completely understands gluten-free eating and takes great care in ensuring that your meal is perfect and without sacrificing any of the flavor. It's hard to believe that it's possible to indulge in such deliciousness, but this weekend in SF I felt as though I was so safe and able to dine with abandon, which is a rarity, to say the least.

Listen to what we ate...Pequillo peppers with cream cheese and raisins, ham Bayonnese with this amazing goat cheese, a Halibut entree that melted in my mouth with pleasure and delight AND...the famous Piperade "koka"...a scrumptious flan-like dessert with a texture that's "out of this world," as my friend described it...she was so right!


The other restaurant I must mention, for any of you ever visiting the City by the Bay, is the well-known, Slanted Door. It's located in the northeast corner of the wonderful Ferry Building.

"The Slanted Door is a modern Vietnamese restaurant that showcases the abundance of produce as well as ecologically farmed meat, game and poultry found at farms around the San Francisco Bay Area."

I couldn't have said it any better! So not only did we have the most amazing and attentive waiters assisting us throughout the meal, but each new exactly what I could and could NOT eat and literally went through the entire menu with me, helping to choose all of our courses - they essentially planned an entire gluten-free meal for me, on the fly! How amazing is that?! Honestly, after my order was carefully crafted, I didn't even care how the food tasted...I was simply so floored and excited to be in such a civilized and informed eating establishment, filled with a caring and enlightened staff.

The meal was quite simply - F A N T A S T I C ! I asked my friend, who had eaten at the restaurant several times before, "do you notice an absence of flavor without the soy sauce?"...of course I was feeling a bit badly about her possibly missing out on a fusion of flavors...she kind of snickered at me and responded, "are you kidding me...this is amazing. NOTHING is missing!" First we devoured this green papaya/tofu salad that caused us to both roll our eyes and dream of a bottomless bowl of this goodness. Then came the Halibut and its accompaniments that were too mind-boggling to even try and describe - Just order it for yourself and be the judge! And last, but certainly not least...the cellophane Asian noodles with chunks of my best pal William says, "it was a party in my mouth." Celiacs...Eat at this restaurant. You will experience safe abundance and happiness here.


So since I was on such a GF roll last week (and as I'm writing this I am really realizing how true that was)it's my great pleasure to announce the grand opening of the Reno Whole Foods! A total of 52,000 SF of perfectly lined shelves, a pretty delicious looking bakery, a coffee bar, pizza bar, a culinary center...shall I continue? Yes, I shall...because the best part of that entire store is of course, ALL of the fabulous gluten free products lining shelf after shelf after shelf. If you live in Reno, you must check this new store out.

These little delights that I found inside the "Gluten-Free" freezer at Whole Foods were and are the reason for me racing to work every morning lately. NO, not to check email...but to pop one of these SWEET Azna Gluten Free Cinnamon ROLLS into the oven and stand there watching the frosting melt, just dreaming of how each sweet, chewy, gooey bite is going to taste. There's only one problem...they are too small. So I try to slowly eat each swirly layer, one bite at a time -


See you at Whole Foods and truly take in and enjoy the fact that in 2008, those of us who are Celiacs are truly blessed to have the variety and volume of products NOW that we do. Ten years ago...heck, three years ago the shelves of our favorite and progressive markets and grocery stores looked nothing like they do today. For this fact, I am ever-increasingly grateful and excited. Keep demanding (in a smiley way) that these products are created and that the knowledge and abundance keeps growing, keeps flowing.

Happy shopping.

Happy eating.

Happiness to you all ~

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Waiters we love...Risotto we eat ~

Just when I thought I had mastered the skill of ordering gluten-free, I was reminded once again, just how CAREFUL a Celiac must really be when eating out at a restaurant.

So the story goes...headed to a great restaurant in Truckee, California over the weekend called Moody's Bistro & Lounge. It has a great atmosphere, with Jazz bands playing on the weekends and a really cool and sultry bar, along with fun patio seating and a diverse and delicious menu. I've eaten there several times in the past few years and have always done so safely.

After perusing the menu, I decided upon the Risotto entree - I just love Risotto - Who doesn't?! This dish offered a plethora of garlic and buttery goodness, according to the menu description and the waitress or server's recommendation. I was sold!

Order away!

Now, whenever I have eaten Risotto in a restaurant (or in Italy) it's always been made of Arborio or Basmati Italian white rice, which is exactly what I expected would appear before my eyes and into my tum-tum. I was excited...but when our very well-educated server reappeared at our table she alerted me to the fact that when she put my order in to the chef, she double-checked that everything was gluten-free - and learned that their Risotto being served that night was actually Farro whole wheat pasta NOT rice, as it normally is. Wow!

Here's a proper definition of what I was about to eat, so make no mistake:

"Farro is a whole-grain relative of wheat and spelt with a flavor reminiscent of hazelnuts and barley. When cooked, each grain retains a firm, chewy texture, which makes this risotto practically impossible to overcook. You can find Farro in most Italian grocery stores and in the bulk section of many health food stores, but if you are coming up empty-handed, spelt will make a decent substitute."

And here's a photo of Farro so that you can recognize it's texture and appearance:

Here's a description of what I usually buy and/or order:

"Risotto is a classic Italian side dish that uses short grain rice (one variety is basmati) that releases lots of starch during cooking so the finished dish is very creamy and rich."

Our server and I conversed for a few minutes about this situation and she explained how and why she is informed and educated about gluten free eating, as are their chefs. I told her that she was literally, my life-saver that joking around about that fact. I would have dug into that bowl of delicious Italian goodness never knowing that I soon I would be facing a night of misery and WEEKS of suffering from being so poisoned.

After our dramatic realization and reordering a delicious Kobe 8 oz. steak, I sat quietly in my chair for a few moments feeling so thankful (and stupid) that this woman was educated enough and cared enough to have gone the extra step to ensure that she knew and I knew exactly what I was eating AND and that I would be safe.

It was also a stark realization that I need to re-arm myself with more information and rededicate myself to asking the vital questions each and every time I order my food, whether I'm certain of the ingredients or not. So to all of you out there...take this advice from someone who's been ordering gluten-free for eight years...Always, always double or triple-check that what you are about to eat is 100% safe and gluten free.

The next time I visit Moody's, I'm going to seek out my "life-saver" waitress/server and thank her again for taking the time to be educated and for watching out for my safety.

Here's a delicious and totally gluten free Risotto recipe that you're sure to love, created by my favorite Gluten Free Girl.

Eat well, and as I always say...


Friday, June 13, 2008

Reality check…Celiac style ~

I have a confession to make…but before I blurt it out there for all the world to read (or maybe just my devoted readers)...I need to premise the confession with the fact that I’m a positive person, to my core, most of the time, overall…and hopefully a positive Bloggerette, as well!

OK – now I feel better.

So here goes my confession - I feel like garbage today…or perhaps it’s even been for a few weeks now, with no certain reason or tangible explanation other than perhaps, it's simply the woes of a Celiac. Though we can feel a million times better when we live gluten free, I still believe that Celiacs are more susceptible to issues that others don’t face and my “100%” is not the same as a healthier person’s…I’ve been compromised. That’s just a fact to live with. Today, in particular, I haven’t felt well at all. So I’m left here to ponder everything I’ve eaten…which wasn’t much. The only possible culprit could be some of the bacon bits or pieces on my delicious salad that I was finally able to eat at 2:30 p.m. this afternoon. But here’s the thing that you can all understand…I’ve eaten at this lovely café Voila, many times and have ordered this salad at least six times before, and never with any issue. Today I was even extra careful to make sure they replaced the Blue cheese with Feta, just to be on the double-safe side…but now here I sit, sipping a small glass of Cabernet sauvignon (because I swear red wine does help when you get poisoned or have an upset stomach…NOT that I’m saying make a habit of it…wink) pondering WHY it’s so tough to be a Celiac sometimes, while other days it is an amazing blessing. Do I see any heads nodding in agreement out there?

Here’s the other thing – if it’s not that I had a gluten mis-hap, then there’s a strong possibility that it could be my other fantastic auto-inflammatory disease rearing its ugly head once again, Endometriosis. I figure that so many of you have written to me sharing your very personal health stories and issues, which I greatly appreciate, that it’s a safe forum to divulge ALL of my issues that are completely connected back to having Celiac Disease. So here’s my really important question for any and all women reading this post - Have you ever suffered through or lived with the combination of Celiac and Endometriosis? There’s always “safety in numbers,” as well as, support, so I would love to hear from anyone who’s living with the two. Greater insight is always appreciated.

At this moment I’m toying with the thought of delving further into all that is involved with the pain, bloating, exhaustion and mystery of Endometriosis but I would prefer to wait and see if I hear form any of you out there …and later perhaps, I’ll compile a more detailed post that could include other’s perspectives and experiences of what it’s like to live with both diseases, while remaining sane and with a quality of life that every woman deserves. The last comment I will make about this, however, is that there IS a connection between these two diseases. I have always known this…for years I would try to express my ideas and feelings about this to my doctors, only to be dismissed like I didn’t know what the heck I was talking about. That is until I found my dream Celiac doctor and Gynecological surgeon – both in Reno, Nevada. Who would have ever guessed? All the years of traipsing around California in search of certainly “the best” doctor we could find, and all the while, both of my angels were in The Biggest Little City. In case any of you live in this area, here is their contact information: Dr. Yamamoto of Digestive Health Associates and Dr. Crawford of Women’s Wellness Center. Let’s just say…they both get it!

So now that I feel better after spilling my “downer-feelings” out to all of you…though you are most likely feeling a sense of blahhhh, especially after my last peppy-Parisian-post with yummy photos of croissants we can’t eat! Ha Ha. But hey, sometimes a girl just has to let down and let it out. I know that you will all understand.

It’s a never-ending quest, this life as a Celiac, isn’t it? In my opinion, it all goes back to encircling yourself with a wonderful support group of folks who truly care about you and have your back, just as you would, theirs. Listen, there are MANY, MANY worse health issues or diseases I could be laden with in this life; I always remind myself of that fact. However, it doesn’t take away from our little cross, either. But at the end of each day, even this one, I am reminded of the Celiac Circle we share and are all apart of, and that brings me great comfort (tonight and always) and many blessings.

I will share a new website that a previous boss of mine forwarded to me this week – it’s called Gluten Free Drugs and is a source of information for GF drugs, both over the counter and prescription. The multiple lists of categorized information are in PDF format and it appears to be quite a little wealth of very important information. Please take a look and bookmark this baby!


There it is – my one positive suggestion and paragraph in this entry! See…ultimately I am a “glass half-full” gal…just not every night!

And, if you are wondering about the lovely photo at the top of this post, it was taken at 7 a.m. from the first tee of La Costa Golf Club in San Diego – that photo fills me with hope and a sense of renewal each time I see it – like the fresh start to a new day.

Be well.


Be happy.