Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gluten Free, Allergy Free Expo

This weekend I made the trek to Lisle, IL for the Gluten Free, Allergy Free Expo and it was well worth the drive.  After a month of unlucky run-ins with gluten contamination (see Monday's blog post), it was refreshing to be in a room where I could eat so many items.  Everything was gluten free and there were also a lot of egg and dairy free foods available.  It made me realize how paranoid I’ve become, as I couldn’t shake my vigilant need to read through every product ingredient to check for gluten, eggs and dairy.  The vendors must have thought I was crazy.  Even after reading the ingredients, I double-checked to positively confirm I was able to eat everything.  It was amazing!!  I really couldn't believe it!  I tried a lot of awesome products and met lots of great gluten free bakers, like Kelly Brozyna (Spunky Coconut), Amy Green (SS & GF) and Elana Amsterdam (Elana’s Pantry). 
I also met Alisa Fleming, author of Go Dairy Free, a guide and cookbook for people with lactose / casein intolerance.  She gave me a copy of her book, so keep an eye out for a blog post where I will review her book and recipes.  I've only had a chance to skim through the first few chapters, but so far it is great!  I love her detailed overview of different types of dairy substitutions available and am happy to see many of her suggestions are free of soy which I try to steer clear of most of the time.  More to come on Alisa's book when I've had a chance to read and try some of her recipes.  For now, here are some of the expo product highlights:
Andean Dream – Cookies made with quinoa flour and free of dairy, eggs and gluten.  Most baked goods on the market are made with rice and potato flour, so it’s great to see a product using quinoa flour which is much healthier and high in protein, vitamins and minerals.  These cookies were low in sugar, not too sweet, but still a satisfying treat.
Cru Creations – Gluten free, vegan cheesecake.  I tried Bananas Foster flavor and it was great!  Very surprising that a cheesecake mostly made out of nuts, dates and coconut oil could taste so deliciously similar to cheesecake.  I wanted a whole piece!
No Nuttin’ – Products free of nuts, dairy, eggs and gluten.  I tried the Blueberry Maple granola and Energy Explosion trail mix which were both delicious.  No Nuttin' also has granola bars which I would like to try soon.  Seems like a good option for a snack on the go - always a good idea to carry a back up snack in case there are no gluten free / dairy free options. 
I know we’ve all heard of Bob’s Red Mill as one of our favorite spots for gluten free flours and mixes.  They gave me a gluten free pizza crust mix that can be made using flax seed instead of eggs.  I plan to test it soon and am going to host a pizza party with gluten free pizza crust and different cheese replacements (along with goat cheese, of course!).  I recently tried making various nut cheeses and the cashew ricotta came out really well.  I’ll blog about it all soon and let you know how everything turns out. 
These are just a few of the amazing products I tried at the expo.  It was a great experience and I enjoyed finding great new products and talking with others who suffer from allergies.  Can't wait til next year!

On a separate, but related note, you may have noticed the 1 in 133 banner on my webpage.  1 in 133 is an important organization working towards FDA standards for gluten free product labeling.  Seven years ago, the FDA was tasked with developing and implementing gluten-free labeling.  These standards are still not complete which has left all of us gluten allergy sufferers at risk of eating contaminated foods.  And there are a lot of us out there!  18 million Americans suffer from gluten sensitivity and 1 in 133 people in the US have Celiac Disease!  Those stats are enough for me to know this is an important cause.  Please support this important organization by signing the petition or making a donation.

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