Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gluten Free Dining in Chicago ~

Dining out gluten free in Chicago is pretty dreamy. I had no idea just how dreamy until I spent four days in the Windy City this month and was wined and dined in gluten free style all around the beautiful city! I was invited to Chicago to attend the Preceptorship Program through the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center (, due to the fact that I'm now sitting on their Advisory Board. It's truly an honor and I realize that I've finally found my small (but meaningful) place in the world of Celiac Disease support and research.

The entire four-day experience was a joy and a complete whirlwind! It all began on a very rainy morning in San Francisco on a flight to Chicago I was certain would be delayed or cancelled...but the gluten free Gods were watching out for me and my Virgin Airlines flight took off without issue, even landing early. My mystery host and ride from the airport was the Chair of our advisory board, Lisa. We had never met until she pulled up in front of baggage claim but I knew from the moment we first spoke on the phone this past summer, she was an awesome lady! Lisa's the kind of person who's energy and spirit transcends a phone line, immediately exuding such a wonderful sense of her lovely personality. Needless to say, our senses of humor aligned very quickly and we've decided that we're forever going to be GF colleagues and friends.

I was welcomed into Lisa's home by her beautiful family, as well as being welcomed during the week by all of the board members with such warmth and friendliness. I'm not sure if it's a "midwestern character trait" to be so friendly, or perhaps it comes from the fact that we're all passionate about the same cause, finding a cure for celiac disease, while supporting one another along the way.

One of the highlights of my trip happened shortly after Lisa and I met at the airport. She took me to a family favorite restaurant, DaLuciano's, ( in River Park just outside of Chicago...where they serve homemade gluten free Italian food that will make you weep. Seriously, I did when my plate of lasagna arrived! 

But even prior to the lasagna there was a smattering of deliciousness steadily arriving at our table. The sweet owner, Rosa, ordered several appetizers for us...fried mozzarella wedges (seen in above photo), along with bruschetta made with their freshly baked GF bread, and fresh garlic bread. It was a feast for the eyes and the stomach. It honestly took me several minutes to believe that all of this wonderful looking food was totally gluten free, and that I could eat it without concern!

One of the most impressive parts about DaLuciano's is the fact that the restaurant has two kitchens separated by a small hallway. One of the kitchens is entirely dedicated to gluten free food preparation! The other is the main restaurant kitchen. Let's just say, they take gluten free cooking very seriously there and to an entirely different level. It's an extremely professional operation.

They even have a dedicated gluten free hot oil fryer and separate prep areas, ovens...along with an entirely stocked kitchen that's never seen one crumb of gluten.

This is DaLuciano's gluten free freezer which holds all of the plentiful GF products their restaurant has become so well known for, such as raviolis, lasagna, cannolis, focaccia bread, pizzas and much more...

And please...let's not forget about dessert! Rosa creates her own hand-rolled gluten free cannolis, to boot! I hadn't eaten a cannoli or tiramisu in years until this fateful evening when it was impossible to resist the robust dessert options. It's not often that authentic Italian food is prepared gluten free with such care, passion, and knowledge. You see, three of Rosa's seven children have Celiac Disease, therefore, ensuring that every GF item on the menu has been carefully created by Rosa, herself.

The next time you are visiting Chicago you absolutely must visit DaLuciano's for lunch or dinner...or perhaps you'll decide to visit the Windy City for the sole purpose of dining there - either way, it's completely worth it. It will truly be a dining experience that won't easily be forgotten and the best part is...most of the GF foods at DaLuciano's can be purchased and taken with you! 

Buon Appetito e Buon Natale!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tieton Cider Works = Happy GF Holidays!

A cider/cocktail tasting of our own at Restaurant Zoe in Seattle!

I had the pleasure of working in Seattle this last week on projects for my Aunt and her husband's wonderful micro hard cider company, Tieton Cider Works. They've been producing cider now for over four years and their timing couldn't have been more perfect. 
The world of artisan hard cider has grown exponentially during the past five years in the United States, becoming the fastest growing segment of the alcoholic beverage market, with an astounding 65% growth rate this year alone. Simply amazing.

The other terrific fact, especially if you are a Celiac, is that hard cider is taking the beverage industry by storm, not to mention, offering those with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance another delicious and gluten-free beverage to add to our “safe to drink” list. I'm personally very happy to make room on my "favorites list" for this timely and delicious beverage! 

The photo above is a great example of hard cider's variety and ease of compatibility as the perfect base for cocktails, as well! The beautiful beverage in the martini glass was mine! I don't get to drink martinis given that Vodka (unless 100% potato) is on the big no-no list for a Celiac given that it's a pure grain alcohol. Our bartender, understanding the limitations of gluten-free cocktails, created a wonderful concoction using Chateau Pellehaut Armagnac Brandy, simple syrup, Tieton Cider's Wild Washington Apple Cider and a peel of lemon. It was smooth and just the perfect flavor combination given that the cider nicely tempered the brandy making it wonderfully drinkable...too drinkable!

On a side note - it's definitely worth mentioning to any and all Celiacs visiting Seattle or to you local residents, Restaurant Zoe is a safe-haven for those of us GF eaters. I was very impressed with every one of their servers and staff. All were so patient through my triple-checking of every item that I bit into and were very informed about the proper protocol for eating safely and gluten-free in a restaurant. From start to finish they didn't miss a step and the food was fabulous - really. Eat at Restaurant Zoe and of course, inform the staff of your very specific dietary needs, but trust that they do "get it!"

On to the fun stuff...for anyone who wants to taste and enjoy Tieton Cider Works varieties definitely keep reading. All the information you need to fulfill your holiday wish list, for even the pickiest relative is right here - and of course, what better gift for a gluten-free friend or family member (or yourself) than cider?! Remember to have plenty of cider on hand to share with friends, take to parties and serve with all of your holiday meals. And since we've abundantly established that cider is now the new food friendly beverage, order up! 
TSW has made it so easy for your shopping this year. You can mix their 750ml bottles, order a sample box of the 500ml bottles, try the new port style cider or ice cider, 
and join their cider club!

This is the new line up of all Ten of TSW's Products.   
Cider makes the perfect gift for everyone on your personal or business list.  Click here to purchase Tieton Cider Works Cider! You'll see that they have selected products to work together, and they give you the flexibility to make your own selections. Gift wrapping and your personalized message are included.

Wind + Frost  

Be among the first to taste new releases and special offerings including any Small Batch Releases for Members only. TSW Cider Club is on the website, and makes
a terrific gift for the cider lover in your family! It truly is the gift that keeps coming, with four different shipments throughout the year. 

The December shipment includes one bottle of Tieton Frost and one bottle of Tieton Wind.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

  tieton holiday

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving with Grace and Fear ~

During the most "thankful" week of the year for those of us in the States (and ex-pats abroad) celebrating our traditional Thanksgiving, the images of a gorgeous set table loaded with that perfect turkey and "all the fix-ins" may conjure up bliss for many...but for those of us who are Celiacs or gluten-intollerant, this holiday of grace actually proves to be the most fearful of them all.

A good friend of mine was recently diagnosed as gluten-intollerant in the midst of a very challenging year of ongoing health issues. She's taken on the diet with a lot of grace and determination and yes, there's fear behind some of her efforts but she's educating herself and, therefore, eliminating the feelings of impossibility. She's trading out fear for hope and the belief that her body is responding and will heal. I'm very proud of her and wouldn't have imagined anything less from this woman...she's a warrior.

With that said, she called me the other day with a tinge of trepidation in her voice and before she even explained her thoughts, I knew it was the dreaded "what in the h*ll can I eat safely during Thanksgiving" call! Having myself been diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2000, I clearly remember the first Thanksgiving meal my mother and I stumbled through while learning to substitute everything and terrified we would get something wrong. As the years passed our close family friends we grew up with, whom we've spent many a Thanksgiving meal, even began accommodating my diet in the midst of serving 15 others who were non gluten-free eaters. I recall that the friends who had a real grasp around how to cook were so gracious to accommodate my restrictions and would kindly set aside portions of mashed potatoes, cranberry, vegetables, using separate utensils and always with care. I will never forget their thoughtfulness and awareness even years ago before the gluten-free rage had arrived. It's the little things around a big holiday meal that remind me to be thankful to those who "get it."

I bring all of this up knowing there's a very real fear around social issues that arises when one is eating gluten-free and their life or health depend upon it. As my friend began to ask her questions around the topics of "what will I eat safely, how do I explain this to my in-laws, what will relatives think of me and my crazy diet?"...I could hear all the fear arise in her voice. Understandable. It's her first holiday sans gluten. My words in response to her questions were spoken from experience and learning the hard way, and I realized in the midst of our conversation that it was my blessing to be able to help her in every way that I can. I've been forwarding her lots of emails around gluten-free awareness, different cookbooks to try and tips for staying sane through the beginning stages of this new life. But all the "tips" don't give a person the self-confidence or trust when eating at a relative's home and out of their safe environment, now do they? Having had to break through that wall of fear and shame when ordering food out or eating in someone's home, I can attest to the fact that it's not easy. It takes courage to be "different" amongst family, friends and peers, but it's never a smart choice to sacrifice your health and well-being just to fit it...never.

Along the lines of "never"...I will never forget the day I was eating out at a steak house with a large group of family and extended family members. I was seated next to a relative (whom shall remain nameless) and when I was finished giving the waiter my very detailed and thorough gluten-free order (double-checking that he did understand me), my aunt looked at me and said, "wow, if I had to live and eat like you I would just slit my wrists!"...Can you just feel the love and support?! Given that my right hand was merely inches away from my steak knife I forced my hand back down to my lap, took a sip of my wine and smiled saying, "well fortunately for you, you can eat all the wheat you like." The irony of this story and example is that this relative was actually diagnosed as gluten-intollerant shortly after this lovely conversation took place :) Karma.

The best, seasoned Thanksgiving advice that I offered my friend and will reiterate here is this - be prepared and do not assume that anything you are offered at someone else's home or out at a restaurant is gluten-free. Ask many questions and know what is safe and what isn't, meaning know your ingredients...arrowroot is great for thickening gravy or sauce but NOT spelt!

Also, if you are eating at someone's home, do what I've done over the years - here's my best advice:

- Speak with the host in advance, alerting them of your diet and ask them to kindly walk through their holiday menu with you. Inevitably, there will be items you are not able to eat so fill in the gaps with gluten-free items you bring.

- Don't be embarrassed or ashamed to bring your own food: I recommend your favorite appetizer, small turkey breast, sides and dessert that's safe for you and just create your own plate. Keep it simple and fun!

- Don't EVER eat any turkey slices (even if the turkey is organic and GF) that has been cooked with stuffing!!!!!

- Ask your host to reheat your food items in separate dishes/plates.

- Remember to bring your own utensils, alleviating any cross-contamination issues (this is a biggie!)

- When it comes to dessert, either bake something in advance or pick up some gluten-free goodies or treats from a bakery you trust (visit: for restaurant/bakeries in your location).

When you're prepared you then alleviate the fear. And more than likely, the topic of your diet might even come up around the table in conversation. I've learned to use these discussions as a great opportunity to educate those who are asking and I guarantee that you'll peak guests' interests and they will pass along what they've learned from you out into the world. Use your time around the holiday table to be an advocate and when you do so with grace, the abundance of goodness will come back to you. I guarantee it.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving that's filled with delicious gluten-free goodness, and that you are seated next to a relative who displays empathy and kindness :)


Friday, November 9, 2012

Baked Cinnamon Apples ~

It's a wintry feeling night with cold rain falling and snow falling in the mountains. Not sure that I'm ready for the ensuing chill and layers of wool, but ready or not, here it comes.

In the shadow of the holiday spirit, which let me tell you is something I'm begrudgingly adapting to, it felt like the kind of evening to fill the house with the smell of cinnamon-y apples and spice. And since apples have been so abundant this fall it's the perfect fruit to create some delish and nutritious goodness from and so easy...and of course, sooooo gluten-free!

Baked Cinnamon Apples ~

- Gather half dozen fresh, organic apples (are were picked from a neighbors' yard!)

- Core apples making sure to remove the seeds

- Place apples in square baking dish and add small amount of water in dish to prevent apples from sticking

- Sprinkle apples with organic cinnamon, nutmeg and squeeze of lemon juice

- Bake at 325 degrees for at least 65 minutes

- Let apples cool on separate plate for 10 minutes

- Serve warm just as they are or add a dolop of creamy vanilla Greek yogurt

As I pulled the dish of beautiful little apples out of the oven the aroma was so wonderful mimicking the exact fragrance of a giant apple pie, sans crust. It's really quite something that our senses have the distinct ability to conjure up such instantaneous memories of holidays passed or special moments. I'm reminded of my grandmother's amazing talents in the kitchen and of her baking expertise. She would create a Thanksgiving dessert table that would have rivaled anything Martha Stewart created, with gorgeous pies and their perfectly shaped cut-outs of crust, cakes that were layered high and frosted with perfection, fudge, divinity and fruit cakes galore. It was always a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Special times to remember, indeed.

As I pull my cozy blanket around me to ward off tonight's chill while savoring my little baked apple, I'm reminded of the simple, sweet, good things that bring abundance to my soul and am grateful for tastebuds! On this night, take a moment to reflect on the gifts our miraculous bodies give to us each and every day...the little things we normally take advantage of and forget to stop and say a little "thank you" for...then go eat another baked apple...maybe this round, add some of your favorite gluten-free ice cream for good measure.

Goodnight and Happy Holiday (gulp) season to you ~

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gluten Free Hurricane Preparation ~

I realize that it would have been helpful for Celiacs caught in Hurricane Sandy, myself being one of them, to perhaps have read this blog prior to the actual hurricane and all the devastation that's been left in its wake, however, that would have required the electricity still being turned on! And as millions of us know, we've been without power for quite some time...and millions are still without. Here in Portsmouth, Rhode Island (just a few miles inland from Newport), we were lucky enough to have the lights back on this evening - a small miracle given the scale of this monstrous and damaging storm.

In the days leading up to this huge storm, it was truly hard to know which direction it was heading and which states/areas would truly be effected by its wrath. Having just arrived in Rhode Island this past Thursday night to visit family, we still weren't sure if this part of New England would be hit, so for the first 36 hours we were taking things with a grain of salt. As Sandy continued on her northbound path we started making lists of what non-perishable food and supplies we might need in the event the situation turned dire, or we were out of power for three-plus days. It all seemed rather straightforward until I was starkly reminded (duh!) that I'm the only Celiac in the family - out of seven family members, I'm it! That means I can't eat boxed whatever or survive on cold Spaghetti-O's or any of the other 'typical' unhealthy products that tend to rule when the elimination of stoves, refrigerators, and the use of kitchen supplies goes out the window. And being in this more rural, small city I was so relieved to remember that the Green Grocer, a delightful little market loaded with gluten-free products just down the road, would be my saving grace...and it has been!

I seriously thought about what I could safely eat after a few days when all perishable items have passed their prime and I'm left with only gluten-free products that can't expire, but would still offer some kind of nutritional value - - not so easy but here's the list I put together and supplies I've had on hand all week and still snacking on tonight as the rain is steadily falling. Fortunately, our situation did not turn dire...scary, yes and a very long night of super-high winds and pelting rain with the fear of trees falling on to my brother's home, but thankfully we were spared from any rising flood waters or other severe dangers.

The idea at this point is to be prepared, knowing that you can never be sure what life's going to throw at you or where you might find yourself -- be it a natural disaster or (as I can also thoroughly attest to) days of unexpected travel delays on foreign soil with nothing more than Larabars to sustain you!

Gluten-Free Hurricane Survival List:

First priority - Tons of bottled water!!

- Buy as many fruits as you know you can consume within a 72 hour period that don't require that much (if any) refrigeration: Bananas, apples, oranges, raspberries, blueberries.

- Same (obvious) rule applies for veggies and chopping and bagging will also make them more manageable: carrots, cucumber (slices), zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower.

Nutritional Bars: These little beauties can sustain me for days, assuming that I'm also drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated, while adding in some fresh fruit and bits of additional protein.
- LaraBar
- KindBar - LOVE the Cranberry + Almond
- thinkThin - Peanut Butter bars
- Nogii Bars

Granola: This is always a staple - can serve as breakfast, lunch or dinner or a great snack. I use almond milk with my granolas, which can be left un-refridgerated for several days without issue.
- Udi's 
- Trader Joe's
- Bakery on Main

Dried Fruits & Raw Nuts:
- I always keep bags of assorted fresh almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios loaded with dried cranberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, name your favorite and mix. They can maintain their freshness for weeks and provide a body with a good amount of fiber, omega 3's and protein. 

Chips, salsas and hummus: Though hummus is usually refrigerated, it can be left out for a day or two and remain edible and fresh. 
- Food Should Taste Good - I love all of their chip/crackers
- Blue Diamond Nut Thins - Delicious and fulfilling - can be used as mini-sandwhiches instead of bread
- Kettle Potato Chips
- Organic popcorn - can make in advance or buy bags that are prepared with olive oil and sea salt

I've been reminded once again that living a 100% gluten-free existence is a challenge. But never has it been more true than this week finding myself in the middle of my first full-fleged hurricane, with the fear of being dependent solely upon my own thorough preparedness. Though I didn't have to go for days on end without power or clean water, my gluten-free supplies I stocked up on were indeed good choices, and I felt secure knowing I could sustain all week, eating safely without any cross-contamination from the other six family members' crumbs!

I hope this blog and list will serve as helpful in the future for you in the event it's needed.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of our fellow countrymen here on the east coast who are in the midst of such peril and facing unbelievable challenges that lie ahead.

Be safe.

Sandy, please go away now!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gluten-Free Risotto ~

~ Delicious gluten-free cherry tomato & zucchini Risotto ~
I love Risotto, like a lot! Whenever I've spent time in Italy this dish, in its many varieties, has always been my 'safe' and staple meal that's always gluten-free and delicious. I mean if you can't eat amazing  risotto in Italia, then where on earth can you eat it, right?!

As summer's end slowly transitioned into a gorgeous fall out here in the west, the crisp and cooler mornings give way to warm, auburn-lit afternoons, that in turn melt into cool nights. This barometric transition seems to have a distinct effect on my taste buds causing them to long for warmer dishes, giving salads a deserved respite. So when my mom passed along this simple and colorful risotto recipe loaded with the colors of fall, I was very happy to oblige and bust out the saucepans and olive oil.

The beauty of this risotto is in the simplicity of ingredients and the fact that it's not ladened with creams or butter...okay, it only calls for 1tbsp of butter, but it's optional. The other treat that comes from cooking this dish is that it also calls for a 1/4 of white wine (not optionl!), which means that since you are required to open the bottle for cooking sake, it's almost a sin not to pour yourself a glass while actually cooking - are you following me here?...and who doesn't enjoy cooking and drinking, I mean really.

Now that there are some decent and semi-tasty gluten-free breads on the market, it's easy to accompany this dish with a simple yet perfect, bruschetta. Easy to make and just the right amount of crunch and flavor to accompany this heartier dish.

Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Gluten-Free Risotto ~

Makes about 7 cups:

In a saucepan heat and keep warm 4 3/4 cups gluten-free, low sodium (organic) chicken broth.
In another larger saucepan heat 1 tbsp of good Italian or Portuguese olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 small minced shallot, 1 1/2 cups arborio rice and 1/4 cup white wine and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup warm broth; cook, stirring, until almost all liquid has been absorbed. Repeat until all broth has been added. With the last addition of broth stir in 10 oz of halved cherry tomatoes; cook, stirring, until thick and creamy, about 6-8 min. Stir in 1 tbsp butter (optional), 1/2 tsp sea salt and 2/3 cup of shredded fresh Parmigiano Regianno; serve immediately.

Gluten-Free Bruschetta ~ 

Bruschetta is made up of very simple flavors, and is, therefore, best if you make it with the highest quality and freshest ingredients you can find, but that's always the case when cooking! 

- 2 lbs. fresh tomatoes (roma, heirloom, beefsteak...whatever is in season is best) 
- 1/2 fresh onion
- 4 cloves fresh garlic
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- Gluten-free bread (I recommend Udi's whole grain or Rudi's...or if you're fortunate enough to live in the vicinity of Sun Valley/Ketchum, I'd stop by Cristina's for the BEST gluten-free focaccia you've ever eaten! P.S...she ships!)

Using a sharp knife, dice the tomatoes as small as you can. I try to aim for 1/4" cubes and try to mush or break the tomatoes as little as possible. *If you're opposed to using raw onions, you can also lightly sauté the chopped onion in a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper - that's what I do. It adds a sweeter deeper flavor to the bruschetta, and is an excellent variation to this recipe. Next, chop the fresh garlic and add it onto the growing pile of deliciousness. Add in some fresh basil to taste.  I used 3-4 large leaves, but there's no "right" amount. Add in the (good) extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper and mix the ingredients thoroughly.  

*If you've got the time, let the mixture setup for 30 minutes in the refrigerator, if you don't it's also delicious when eaten immediately. It's best to time it around the risotto and prepare ahead. 

Depending upon what type of GF bread you've chosen, determines what size you slice the pieces...if it's Udi's or Rudi's, I suggest 'halving' the slices. A proper bruschetta would use real hot coals to toast the bread, but it's perfectly understandable if don't have access to a slow burning fire moments before serving dinner - you need to be in Italy for that! Toast the bread in a toaster, or under the broiler if you've got a big batch. Once the bread is good and toasted, remove it from the oven and use a pastry brush to paint each slice of bread with olive oil. Finally, pile as much of the bruschetta as possible onto the freshly toasted bread, serve, and enjoy!

Buon Appetito!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Perfect Fall Day...

"I envy the tree,
how it reaches
but never holds." 
- Mark Nepo 

Rarely do I choose to use the word "perfect" when I write or speak, as it conjures up so many illusions of unattainable circumstances or outcomes...however, when it comes to using this word in reference to the gifts and works created by Mother Nature, it feels quite substantiated!

Today is one of those fall days which makes you beg, wish, pray, hope for duplication. The light has changed and the stillness of tree branches has arrived. It's a brief respite before fall begins to slip into winter, bringing cold gusts of wind and capturing the exquisite "light" that's ascended upon us all for these precious few remaining weeks is a gift.

I carry my iPhone with me everywhere I go - it's the downside of the work I do but on the upside, my camera is always a swipe away, allowing me to capture moments in image that are worth keeping...
and sharing!

Happy Fall!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Vapor Trails....

The Grand Canyon is in view. I sat on the correct side of the plane this particular evening, grateful for the vista of such a work of art, personalized by Mother Nature, herself. 

What does it say about one's spirit or true character if they are to admit that some of their most enlightened and/or awe-inspired moments happen for them (okay, me) at 35,000 + feet above the earth? 

I'm lucky enough on this particular flight to be writing this post from the more comfortable front section of this flying vessel, a place called business class. Yes, I am drinking a cup of Chardonnay that's enlighten my mood a bit, on the tails of having to say goodbye to all whom I love the most this afternoon in So. California. As we speed past some of the most gorgeous cloud formations I've seen in a very long time I'm in congruence with the understanding of why a legend, such as Hemingway, experienced elations and inspiration in his writing endeavors via the tool and use of various forms of alcohol! At 35,000 feet, one simple glass of wine turns my own writer's brain on hi-speed...creating feelings of grandeur and effervescence for written words. Simple forms of beauty, such as thunderclouds and a view of the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, remind me of our planet's magnificence and splendor!

Flying in a plane is a privilege. It's a blessing in a sense, to view our planet from this elevated altitude and vantage point. Towering thunderstorms appear out my window like giant volcanos in the we swoop by I find myself mesmerized and starring at them as their formations twist and turn before my eyes, seemingly tempting us with their turbulence. But the jarring and shaking they throw at our airplane is no comparison to this thing called LIFE, which inevitably awaits our impending arrival far below. I've found out the hard way that bumps in the air are no match for the bumps that life inevitably offers up with gusto and enthusiasm. Though the same can be said for the beauty you see while flying as it relates to the beauty experienced throughout life...

A big jolt shakes me back into the present moment where I'm reminded, once again, soaring alone on this vessel through the sky, how thoroughly at peace I feel in these fleeting  moments of joy. The simple pleasures of a window seat.

A temporary "high" created by the likes of God, Mother Nature and yes...that cheap glass of Chardonnay. 

Bon voyage!

* On a gluten-free side note, I wanted to mention a great restaurant, LuLu California Bistro, located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, CA. We discovered this eatery on the way to the airport, realizing they offered a full gluten-free menu! The atmosphere is a mix of hip and retro, offering more glamorous dining inside, and a huge outside patio (with mist-ers for those roasting Desert days). The food was very good and I indulged in a bowl of GF pasta - such a treat. Everything in their kitchen is separated to ensure no cross-contamination and the wait staff is knowledgeable. The menu offerings are abundant and it's a restaurant I'll definitely visit again. 

Be sure to check out LuLu California Bistro the next time you find yourself in the Palm Springs area. 

Friday, September 28, 2012


I Heart Heirlooms! 

Did you eat your share of Heirloom tomatoes this summer, or maybe still eating them?! They have been simply fantastic and I haven't been able to get enough of them! Every Saturday I've found myself carrying home a brown paper bag filled with the most beautiful, imperfect and vibrant little jewels just begging to be paired with fresh mozzarella and basil, fresh from the garden, of course. 

Honestly, I had never really paid much attention to Heirloom tomatoes prior to spending a lot of time in Italy over the past decade. Growing up and living in California for most of my life, you would think I might have had more knowledge of this famous fruit (yes, a fruit). But until the flourishing of local, sustainable farmers markets came onto the scene over the past years, finding heirlooms was more of a treasure hunt rather than a profuse "find." 

When it comes to taste...I discovered this fact - "Heirloom tomatoes lack a genetic mutation that gives tomatoes an appealing, uniform red color while sacrificing the fruit's sweet taste. Varieties bearing this mutation, which have been favored by industry since the 1940s, feature fruits with lower levels of carotenoids and a decreased ability to make sugar within the fruit."

It's also important to realize there's a very serious movement around and behind the preserving of seeds given the tragic influx of GMO crops, plants, etc. taking over our Nation's food source. I have a definite and strong opinion about my food and it's origins, but I'll save that story for a future blog post!

Here's a wonderful and simple recipe for a delicious Heirloom and feta cheese salad that's still perfect for these "dog days of summer"'s still summer in the west, so enjoy! 

Heirlooms with Feta and Fresh Chives:


Cut tomatoes into thick wedges and serve with your favorite feta cheese,  some snipped chives, and plenty of cracked pepper. I also love to drizzle this salad with a great olive oil and some fig balsamic - Yum!!

Tomato Fun Fact:
The word tomato derives from a word in the Mexican Nahuatl language, 'tomatl'.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I love the word "grateful." It has more depth and a sense of appreciation to me than say its fellow synonyms, "thankful" or "appreciative." I remind myself often to incorporate this word and its meaning into my heart and vocabulary. This past week has proven especially easy to do just that.

Through a confluence of perfect circumstances (and some persistence), this week I've found myself being welcomed onto the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center Advisory Board! I'm still pinching my arm trying to believe this wonderful occurrence and opportunity are really taking place, though all of the board's warm and welcoming emails and phone calls should have convinced me by now this is my new reality. I couldn't be happier or more humbled or...thrilled! This group is truly doing amazing, ground-breaking work in the Celiac Disease world. Just this week they were honored by US News & World Report ranking Dr. Stefano Guandalini as one of the Top 50 (Top 1%) pediatric GIs in the country! And according to Executive Director, Carol Shilson, "the GI Section (which Dr. Guandalini runs) was ranked again among the Top 52 in the country (out of more than 400) at position #37."

Impressive beyond words. I have my work cut out for me but I feel I've finally found my place amongst such passionate and amazing advocates who are changing the Celiac world each and every day, bringing us all closer to finding a cure one day.

My role on the board is still to be determined, as I will serve as their first remote member, meaning that every other member is more-or-less based in or near Chicago. I applaud Lisa Aiken, the amazing board chair and Carol Shilson, brilliant executive director, for broadening their vision to include a west coast gal like myself, with the intention of bringing their fabulous work and awareness to this part of the country. It's a lofty task but I couldn't be more excited about all of the possibilities and of what's next...


There's another significant reason I'm writing this post and expressing my gratitude. You see, last Thursday I was involved in a scary situation while driving my car. It was nearly my last day on earth had it not been for the two seconds of time I was granted to look to my right and hit my brakes, avoiding what would have surely been a horrendous accident. No exaggeration necessary; only the truth. You see, I was driving on a normal city side street and this jackass-of-a guy completely ran his red light and came barreling into the intersection where I had the green light and was proceeding directly into his oncoming path. He was driving a large white utility truck with a big piece of equipment in between the speed he had gathered in order to race through the red light, combined with the weight of his vehicle + trailer, had he T-boned my car, I had the most profound feeling in that instant (while blaring my horn along with a variety of swear words) I would have surely been killed or horribly injured. No question.

In an split second he passed before my car and I was left stunned. As I pulled over to the curb, trying to compose myself and stop shaking, I was overcome by the realization that my life had just been spared. One person's very poor decision, most-likely made instantaneously and without thought of the repercussions, could have determined my last moments alive.

Clarity prevailed that afternoon as I sat in a church I stumbled into, finding the doors open and perfectly empty. For a long time I thanked God (and my Guardian Angel, Shanel...whom by the way, my sister-in-law commented has most likely become a chain smoker by now) for protecting me in that moment. I have so much more life to live, people to love and support, a world to see and let's not forget, my Celiac work that's really only begun. It wasn't my day to depart from the planet and I know it. Things have refocused for me very quickly and every day since last Thursday I've awakened saying, "thank you." I'm reminded of what's truly important and what to just let go of.

The flowers (above) were sent to me from my amazing parents. The card spoke of their gratitude for me "still being here." The truth is, I'm the grateful one, not only to have parents who would lovingly grace me with such generosity but for knowing that I have much work to still do, life to be lived, and all be damned, I'm NOT leaving yet!

If I might suggest or gently remind...tell everyone you love how you feel today before they leave for work, or even head out for a bicycle ride. We live on a fabulous spinning planet where every day is yet to be determined and every moment truly is precious.

I intend to continue changing my world with gratitude, so I'll be sticking around as long as possible ;)