Pack your bags! We're going around the globe... gluten-free!

When I was officially diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2009, one of my first thoughts was "how can I travel and see the world if I can't eat any good food?".

Then it hit me... If there was ever a good excuse to travel, this is the perfect one! Being gluten-free doesn’t have to mean taking something out of your diet. It can mean putting a lot more in... a never ending experiment. What better way to discover new food then to travel and look for it?

Now, I’m combining my love for travel with my love for gluten-free food and taking you on an adventure with me around the globe as we explore living and loving the gluten-free life.

Got your passport?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Warm stew on a cold, fall day

There is nothing like a warm home cooked meal during the fall months that you can just snuggle up with. Here is a recipe for a stew that is sure to be a healthy fall favorite.

Beef & Root Vegetable Stew
By: Sandy Pomeroy, Cooking Instructor, Goodness Me! - Hamilton, On

1 lb. stewing beef
2 tbsp coconut oil or ghee butter
1 organic onion, chopped
1 clove organic garlic, chopped
1 cup peeled and chopped organic carrots
1 cup peeled and cubed rutabaga
1 cup peeled and cubbed yams
1 cup peeled and chopped organic parsnips (optional)
1 tbsp sea salt
1-3 inch piece wakame, crumbled
2 cups gluten free beef or chicken broth
2 cups water
2 tbsp arrowroot flour (can be bought at your local Bulk Barn)

Brown beef on all sides over medium heat in coconut oil. Remove to casserole dish or slow cooker. Add onion and garlic to pan and saute until softened. Remove the onion and garlic and add to the beef. Pour a little beef broth into drippings in the pan and bring to a boil. Remove and pour over beef mixture. Add water, remaining beef broth, wakame, sea salt, carrots, rutabaga and parsnips.

Slow cooker: Turn to high and let simmer about 4 hours. Add in yams and simmer another 2 hours.
Oven: Place casserole in 325 degrees Fahrenheit oven. Let simmer for 2 hours. Add yams and simmer for another hour.

When beef is really tender and vegetables are soft, drain off the juices. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk arrowroot and stir to thicken. Pour gravy back over the vegetables and serve.

From my home to yours,

The Gluten Free Passport

Monday, July 4, 2011

Nutritious Fast Food?

It does exist!

I recently discovered a great little site from a co-worker called Weelicious. I fell in love with it instantly because it prides itself on creating recipes that are “quick, easy and nutritious made using fresh, but minimal ingredients”. For those who lead a busy lifestyle, who wouldn’t love this site? The other thing that I loved is that it holds an educational piece for families. The author of the blog (and mother of 2), Catherine McCord, encourages readers to teach their children about healthy food and make cooking a family affair that becomes fun for everyone!

This website holds recipes that are great for any age (from infants starting on solid foods to school-age kids and even adults) and includes a ‘search by food group’ section that includes recipes that are gluten free. I have tried a number of different recipes from this site and would love to share some of my favorites with you:

Thai Curry Cellophane Noodles (see picture below)
Kale and Avocado Salad
Chewy Granola Balls
Roasted Honey & Cinnamon Chickpeas

Both the chewy granola balls and roasted honey and cinnamon chickpeas were crowd pleasers amongst my friends and family and will definitely appear at many social gatherings to come. Plus, they took minimal time to make and are creations you can scrape together with little notice. I am often a fan of using agave nectar in sweet treats and substituted agave nectar for the honey in the chickpeas recipe which worked out fabulous. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Happy experimenting!

The GF Passport

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beer Season!

Once the weather hit about 18-20 degrees, everyone knows it's beer season and beer companies everywhere start to ramp up their ads... "Brava, the beer of summer!", "Corona, find your island", "Molson Canadian 67, you can have a little, or you can have it all". If you're a Celiac, your beloved beer options become a bit slim. If you find yourself pondering what you can drink this summer and you find yourself asking "Is there a great gluten-free beer out there? Does it actually exist?" The answer to both is yes.

Unlike several years ago, today's Celiac surge has created a handful of great gluten-free beer products and can be found at your local and participating LCBO's. To introduce them, here are the main competitors - La Messagere, New Grist and Nickel Brook Gluten Free.

No matter what kind of beer you have, the science behind beer boils down to including about four main ingredients: malted barley, hops, yeast and water. The main problem here is that barley (along with wheat and rye) falls under the gluten category which is off-limits to those with Celiacs Disease. The main difference with these gluten-free beers is that they are made with sorghum, a nice alternative. The other interesting thing about these drinks is that they are not technically allowed to be called "beer". This is due to the fact that to be deemed a "beer", the drink must contain at least 25% malted barley.

When finding the right gluten-free beer for you this summer, keep in mind that none of these products will ever replace regular beer, but they make a damn good gluten-free option and a gluten-free option is better then no option at all. Finding the taste and quality that suits your fancy is a bit challenging (and can be frustrating), but keep an open mind and be sure to have more than one can ;) You will find the taste grows on you faster than you might think!

For some helpful reviews, visit:

Cheers to beers!

The Gluten-Free Passport

Cheese... a necessity in life

If I could only choose to eat one type of food for the rest of my life, it would be cheese. If I were to have the last meal of my life, you bet it would be cheese (paired with a great glass of wine of course). Cheese is hands down a staple food in my life and I'm quite passionate about it. It doesn't really matter what kind, I just love them all!

When traveling to Thailand in 2009, cheese was not something I saw very often and when I did, it was for breakfast when I ordered a cheese omelet. For lack of a better description, a cheese omelet in Thailand is basically scrambled eggs with a plastic Kraft singles slice served on top. Not exactly what anyone would hope for. I quickly found that cheese was not a staple in the Thai diet and was hard to come by. So for the 2 months I travelled in Thailand, I went cheese-less. For those of you who ever travel to Thailand, note this in your travels there.

On my way over to Australia last summer, my girlfriend and I stopped over in California for a few days. We stayed in Santa Monica right off of Ocean Ave and found a great little weekend market in the streets. Markets are truly hidden gems. The reason I love them so much is because when you are traveling, you rarely plan on finding them, but rather, they find you and you always find great things there. You can find great food (both fresh and exotic), clothing, crafts, jewelry.... and you even find great people. At this Santa Monica market in particular, I happened to find the best cheese! While walking through looking for some lunch, we came across the Spring Hill Cheese Company stand. We sampled numerous different cheese samples including some flavors that were completely new to us...smokey jack and garlic jack. Truly in my glory sampling as much cheese as I could, I didn't think it could truly get any better. But just then, I found my ultimate favorite cheese...... vanilla bean! More of a creamy cheese dip then anything, it really did melt once it hit your lips. Pairing perfectly with fresh fruit, we bought the biggest tub of vanilla bean cheese dip we could get our hands on, bought some some fresh strawberries and hit the beach to indulge. We didn't make it very far before noticing we had finished the whole tub of cheese and though we felt a touch embarrassed for stuffing our faces, we both agreed that it was worth every scoop! For those traveling to Santa Monica, CA, I urge you to look out for the Spring Hill Cheese stand and try the vanilla bean cheese dip for yourselves. I promise, you won't be disappointed! Check them out online, they also accept online orders (for cheese fiends, it's dangerous, I know).

More cheese please,

The Gluten-Free Passport

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Great Gluten-Free Grillin

Despite the rainy weather we have been having, yes... it`s grilling season! The smell of sizzling meat and veggies on the grill is one of my favorite things about the summertime. The Waterloo Record posted an article today that included recipes for great summer grilling rubs. Many summertime grilling sauces and marinades found in your local grocery stores may contain gluten, but when made from scratch, of course, they can be gluten-free!

Try out some of these favorite bold flavors on your grill and grill up something great this summer!

Tex-Mex Grilling Rub

50 ml (1/4 cup) kosher salt
30 ml (2 tbsp) brown sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) ground black pepper
2 ml (1/2 tsp) cayenne pepper
5 ml (1tsp) cumin
5 ml (1tsp) paprika
2 ml (1/2 tsp) onion powder
5 ml (1 tsp) garlic powder

In a blender, or spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, grind all the ingredients together. Store in a sealed jar or plastic bag. Makes 1/2 cup.

Log Cabin Grilling Rub

50 ml (1/4 cup) kosher salt
45 ml (3 tbsp) maple sugar
5 ml (1tsp) ground black pepper
10 ml (2tsp) mustard powder
10 ml (2 tsp) dried thyme
2 ml (1/2 tsp) cinnamon

In a blender, or spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, grind all the ingredients together. Store in a sealed jar or plastic bag. Makes 1/2 cup.

Moroccan Grilling Rub

50 ml (1/4 cup) kosher salt
5 ml (1 tsp) ground white pepper
10 ml (2 tsp) ground ginger
10 ml (2tsp) ground coriander
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground allspice
2 ml (1/2 tsp) cinnamon
5 ml (1 tsp) ground mace
2 ml (1/2 tsp) cayenne pepper
5 ml (1 tsp) turmeric
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground cardamom

In a blender, or spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, grind all the ingredients together. Store in a sealed jar or plastic bag. Makes 1/2 cup.

Seven Pepper Grilling Rub

50 ml (1/4 cup) kosher salt
45 ml (3 tbsp) brown sugar
2 ml (1/2 tsp) red pepper flakes
2 ml (1/2 tsp) cayenne pepper
5 ml (1 tsp) ground black pepper
5 ml (1 tsp) ground white pepper
5 ml (1 tsp) pink peppercorns
5 ml (1 tsp) sweet paprika
5 ml (1 tsp) smoked paprika

In a blender, or spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, grind all the ingredients together. Store in a sealed jar or plastic bag. Makes 1In a blender, or spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, grind all the ingredients together. Store in a sealed jar or plastic bag. Makes 1/2 cup.

Friday, May 13, 2011

In search of freshness

If you know me, then you know that I love to bake. Since I became Celiac, I love to bake now more then ever before. I recently purchased the book Gluten-Free Baking Classics (2nd Edition) by Annalise G. Roberts. When I bake, I pull most of my recipes from internet which takes a ton of time and patience which then turns into confusion. Confusion because there are so many recipes out there, but you try desperately to narrow it down to one that you hope and pray might turn out the best because with gluten-free baking, there is a lot of trial and error. This confusion then turns into compromise. Compromise because after countless hours of recipe searching you agree on one. And finally, compromise turns into.... you guessed it, either success or an epic fail. Because gluten-free baking can be a tricky thing, I feel that every gluten-free baker needs a staple baking book in his/her kitchen to get them started. I, myself, have a ton of gluten-free cookbooks, but not one strictly dedicated to baking. I decided to fess up with myself and purchase my very 1st baking book.

The book was delivered just in time just in time for my girlfriend’s upcoming birthday. Like opening your first gift on Christmas morning, I went ga-ga over all the wonderful baking recipes that faced me. Some new, like chocolate ricotta muffins, gingerbread cake and linzertorte cookies (what does that even mean?)... and of course, some oldies but goodies that take you back to mum or grandma’s kitchen – fresh baked bread, cinnamon buns, banana nut muffins and the classic (everyone’s favourite) chocolate chip cookie. I’m not even crazy about bread, but by simply reading their titles, my mouth waters – cinnamon bread, pecan raisin artisan bread, golden Italian bread, soft pretzels and the list goes on... yum!

My first impression of skimming through this book was obviously a good one, but after reading the first 2 pages, it became very clear as to why this book was such a great purchase for me. Roberts points out that when you ask any Celiac what foods they miss the most, you always get the standards – bread, cake, cookies, pasta, pizza, etc. Yes those who are gluten-free miss these things, but what they really miss is the “real pizza, really good bread for sandwiches that won’t crumble, real crusty, chewy Italian or French bread, really good cake that’s not dense and gritty, really good pie crust that doesn’t taste like cardboard” (Roberts, p.1). And Roberts is exactly right. We miss the taste and texture and the emotional attachment to all these great foods. We miss the normal and fresh taste since many gluten free baked goods that are store-bought are often found in the frozen food isle. I can relate. You go to the grocery store and you pass that familiar frozen food section where you find all sorts of new gluten free products. If you are like me and haven’t been a Celiac all your life, the same thing happens. Suddenly you begin to have, as I like to call them, food flash-backs. A food flash-back is when your brain triggers a past fond memory that you’ve had with a specific type of food. The point is, you buy that frozen loaf of bread thinking you’re going to take it home and make the best grilled cheese sandwich of your life because you actually remember having the best grilled cheese sandwich in your life. When you finally make that sandwich, your fond memory gets crushed by disappointment because that grilled cheese sandwich you made is just not the same. To make matters worse, you probably paid about 8 bucks for that loaf of bread. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this occurrence. I’m tired of craving the freshness that I’ve been missing.

Roberts states something else that really sticks with me. She says “I believe that what and how we eat affects our quality of life. Food can make us happier and healthier and it’s a manageable ingredient in our daily lives”. I’m going to keep this quote near as I continue on my gluten-free journey. We have the ability to give ourselves the fresh food we crave so badly, it’s just a matter of finding a little bit of time and having an open mind. I’d like to share with you the 1st recipe I’ve made from Robert’s bake book.

Enjoy and cheers to fresh, home-made food!

The Gluten Free Passport

Gluten-Free Yellow Layer Cake
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 ½ cups of Brown Rice Flour Mix (2 cups Brown Rice Flour, 2/3 cup potato starch (no potato flour), 1/3 cup tapioca flour)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 cup canola oil
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
2 cups of your favourite icing (I chose coconut)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 round 9-inch layer cake pans with parchment or wax paper and spray with cooking spray.
2. Beat sugar and eggs in large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute (or use a Kitchen Aid if you have one).
3. Add flour, salt, baking powder, xanthum gum, oil, milk and vanilla and beat for about 1 minute.
4. Pour batter into prepared pans (two 8 or 9 inch pans). Place into oven and bake for about 35 minutes or until center springs back when touched and cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan.
5. Place cake on a rack for about 10-15 minutes. Invert cake layers onto another rack, peel off parchment and cool completely.
6. Place one cake layer on a platter and spread 1 cup of icing over top and sides. Place second layer on top of the first and spread remaining icing all over cake. Garnish with anything of your choice 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Travel GF to Riviera Maya

I found a wonderful GF travel article in the Quebec Celiac Chapter newsletter this past week written by their President, Louise Pearl. For those of you hoping to travel to Mexico.... I'd love to share her tips and story with you. Here's a bit of inspiration...

``I was lucky enough to travel to Mexico (just before it became a bad idea) and just in case you feel like giving it a try here are a few tips. I went to The Grand Sirenis Mayan Beach Resort. This was my first time at an all-inclusive resort and
needless to say I had a few hesitations. I called first, spoke to guest services and was reassured when they said they deal with GF requests often. Sure enough they did a great job.

First thing you should pack is a gluten free restaurant card in their native language (in this case Spanish). If you search on the internet you can find them in most every language. Make many copies as you will hand them to your water or Maitre D or the chef at every meal and they sometimes do not return from the kitchen. Other
times they come back with food stains!

Rules #1 Always find the Maitre D or the head chef. Explain your needs and do not eat from the buffet. At first they would tell me what was safe for me in the buffet but after I explained the possibility of cross contamination when people serve themselves they were always very happy to make a GF version in the back for me of just about anything on the buffet. Por favor, gracias and a smile go a very long way. After a few days, the Head Chef would recognise me when we met anywhere on the site and always came to say hi. Be nice, say gracias and give him a tip, they don’t
often get tipped because they are mostly in the kitchen. Trust me it goes a very long way in making your stay delicious!

Rule #2 Another tidbit I learned, if you leave a tip as we do here, on the table when you are finished your meal it will go to the server. If the Maitre D was the one who communicated your needs to the chef and took care of you and your intention is to thank him or her, giving them a tip directly is the way to go. Otherwise the waiter who simply cleared away the plates will the one to benefit. We have to remember that salaries are not enough to feed their families and the few tips they get are very important to them so make sure it goes where you want.

Rule #3 Drinks! Hey it’s not a vacation without some tropical drink. Just make
sure you avoid the “blender drinks”. Most often the blenders are not washed
most always they are just rinsed leaving some of the previous concoction behind to contaminate your drink. Options such as Mojitos are made directly in your glass not in a blender and they do the trick of satisfying your need for something wet,
sweet and tropical. All the water they use in food preparation, drinks and ice
is safe but do not drink the water from the tap in your room or elsewhere on the site.

Rule #4 Remember to bring reef walkers, you know those water shoes to protect your feet. The Mayan shore is rocky and I saw more people with cut feet in one week than I ever did before. If you have inexpensive water shoes you will enjoy the ocean so much more.

Rules #5 Learn to say Si, when a massage therapist comes up to you on the beach and offers a free back massage! I am not kidding, it happened. It is their way of the spa, but I didn’t tell him I was going anyway with or without the freebie. This deserved a “muchas gracias”.``

Enjoy and begin your sunny trip planning!