All Roads Lead to gluten-free Rome!

Well, my roads all certainly seem to... I've moved there twice! Anyone who knows me has undoubtedly heard me speak way too much about my love of all things Italian.... you'd think I'd have written about gluten-free Roma by now. I'm happy to share that I'm heading back for a couple of weeks with little on the agenda except for wandering. 

Nowadays it makes sense to spend some time on the internet learning from those who've travelled before you. I'm building up a list of places to watch out for - and hope that I'll discover a whole bunch more on my adventures as I wind through the cobblestone streets of my favourite city. 

Ci vediamo qui tra un po con i posti e il cibo migliore... e senza glutine!!


Gluten-free Crepes - Facile & Delicieux!!

no food styling here - last minute pic with my phone before I gobbled them down! 

My dear friend Danielle sent me this super fancy crepe pan over the holidays. I emailed her as soon as I cracked open the parcel, and told her that the gift made me feel French just owning it!

This is a very special pan made by De Buyer . It took me weeks to finally get up the nerve to "season" it as it is cast iron with some interesting beeswax coating. When I finally got around to the task, it was ridiculously easy... and the pan truly IS non-stick! We are trying to move away from teflon in our house. I'm now seeing it's not going to be that difficult to let go of after all.

Most gluten-filled goods with egg at the core, are typically easier to replicate. I snooped around the net for about 2 minutes and determined that we were looking at flour, egg, milk, salt and a little butter. You can multiply the ratios to meet the quantity you want to make. The quantities below made 7 crepes around 9" in diameter (ok, almost 8 - the first little tester out of the pan doesn't count!). It was just enough for two (enough, meaning a healthy quantity - we could have easily eaten twice as many). If you're hungry, consider this quantity below per person: 

Mix in a bowl: 
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup chick pea flour
pinch salt

Separately mix:
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 tbsp melted butter 
(warm butter is fine - but not hot, or it will cook the egg!)

Whisk the wet together, then form a well in the dry ingredients and pour the egg mixture into the center "well" whisking away to remove any lumps. I sprinkled in a little garam masala (I can't help myself - I put it in everything - but not necessary). Many recipes suggest that you make the batter ahead and let it sit. I didn't bother this round. I also like a recipe that isn't too precise - if you want to make slightly thinner or thicker batter, you'll simply get thinner or thicker crepes. 

Using the 1/4 cup measuring cup I had just used to measure the flour, I ladled the batter onto my new crepe pan (which was med/hot). Obviously a ladle would work equally well. 

Quickly swirl the batter around the pan to make an even crepe. You'll see the batter fill with tiny bubbles and the sides start to brown ever so slightly. Flip and cook the other side for about 30 seconds or less. Pile them up on a plate. I rolled ours and poured maple syrup on them - as these were really just "tester" crepes to try out the pan. Next time I'd  add berries, sliced banana... the options are endless, and when it comes to gluten-free breakfast... we are always in need of more options. 

For more gluten-free breakfast ideas - check out a related post HERE

Of course, crepes are not just for breakfast. My mom used to make gf crepes and use them to make gluten-free cannelloni when I was a kid. Next time I'm thinking I'll add a pinch of nutmeg instead of the garam masala and rolling them up filled with finely chopped spinach and fresh ricotta cheese. I'll try to take some better photos to share on the next round. Bon appetite!


Gluten-Free Joke

It's official - you can't go anywhere now without someone making fun of gluten-free mania. I've commented before that  "marketing" gluten-free label on products that would never even be suspect (jam, for example)...makes me crazy. 

Today you'll even see "gluten-free" marked on a bag of almonds. Ingredients: Almonds. On the same bag: Does Not Contain Gluten. In this case, I'd guess that the distributor is tired of fielding calls on their customer service line. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm DELIGHTED to see packaging with clear "Gluten-Free" labelling - but c'mon. When things that would never be suspect are touting this status as a selling feature - it's no wonder the gluten-free scene is taking a lot of knocks right now. I just saw a print done by a local artist titled "GLUTEN FREE POETRY". 

Celiacs - get ready... I feel the winds are changing once again. Your fashionable diet is, well, becoming more fun to mock than to follow. Perhaps I'll feel like a dinosaur in a few years when I order out at a restaurant and ask whether a dish can be served up "gluten-free". We'll find all of those gf cookbooks stacked up alongside Mr. Atkins in the used book stores. Of course... I could be wrong. In which case, good thing there is gluten-free coffee (and more importantly, cookies) available down the street!


Growing up Celiac - and the Sibling Experience

My little brother Paul was 2 when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. It only occurred to me much later in life that growing up gluten-free had an effect on his life too. My mom wasn't one to have much in way of processed foods in the house, but let's just say he probably saw considerably less Oreos and baked goods in general than the average kid of his day, because his big sister was a "celiac". 

I'm sure that my "special" diet, and the fact that it often required additional attention meant that Paul (and my parents, of course) got to eat what I was having, in a time when substitutes for flour-filled goodies just didn't exist. 

Today is Paul's 44th birthday, and I'd like to give a shout out to a kid who never complained (to me anyway!) that we didn't order in pizza or eat McDonalds or Duncan Hines cakes at our house, in part - because I couldn't eat them. 

I think it's important to acknowledge that often, the entire family makes sacrifices when one family member needs to alter their food. The person with the "needs" often overshadows the ones without. Sending out vibes of gratitude today - and extra special thanks to that cute little kid who never made me feel bad or ate things I wish I could indulge in (in front of me). Love you Paul!


25,000 + Visitors :) Grazie! Merci! Gracias! Danke!….

I was pretty excited to see the speedometer roll over on this blog as the new year unfurled. There are days when you post and wonder if anyone is actually getting anything from your efforts. 

For those who are regular visitors, you've probably noticed that posts have been pretty sparse over the last 6 months. I've been knee deep in a special project that is finally wrapping up after more than 8 years of incubation. I look forward to sharing more about it here sooooon!!!

For now, I hope you'll poke around the blog and check out some older posts through the tags on the bottom right side, or by hitting the banner to get the last 12 posts. I'll be back again on a regular basis in February to continue the adventure with you :)

Thanks so much for keeping me company here!!


taking a gluten-free specialty product break

The world looks very different today for a gluten-intolerant person than it did in 1972. I have watched the food options soar in the last 10 years to a point where I barely notice that I have a "special" diet anymore. I kept thinking that this fad was going to pass the way of the Atkins diet… but it seems that my people are everywhere now - and so is our food.

I am grateful, but I also think that there is a bit of a downside for an old-school celiac like me. Access to goodies at every turn and gf products that mimic foods I'd never even missed have entered my diet. Many are delicious. Many are also superfluous. I don't need a cinnamon bun. 

I've just realized that I  probably eat at least one "special gluten-free" cracker, bread, pasta or cookie every day. Not a big deal for some… but I used to live very well without these items.

I've been battling some health issues of late - as I get older I'm adding more autoimmune conditions to my list (I'm now at 4). Genetics and environment are key factors in autoimmune disease. I can't control the former - but I think it's time to put some controls on the latter. 

As part of my self care protocol, I've decided not to do anything rash like a cleanse… but I am going to take a break from all foods "produced" as gluten free. I'm going to lay off the specialty gluten-free bread, crackers, cookies, snacks… and try to go back to the diet I thrived on 10 years ago. 

Back to simple grains (millet, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat), organic protein, and tons of veggies… I won't be a saint - just the simple omission of packaged goods. Back to basics for awhile to see how the deletion of excess starches, xanthum and guar gums, etc., etc., has me feeling. (I already know the answer). If you are wondering what I'm talking about - take a look at a past post HERE

We buy very little in way of processed products at home - but somehow the gluten-free goodies have crept into the house as I've had a little entitlement to get over after years of having gone without. It might be easier to go without now, knowing that products will be on the shelf to enjoy in moderation when I'm feeling better. 

With the arrival of a new year, I figure the rest of the planet will be on a diet of sorts too. Whatever you're eating - may the new year bring you good health!


gluten-free dining out and holiday socials

Tis the season to be eating out more frequently - holidays mean gatherings of groups from the office, associations, teams… it's a time when larger groups book dinner out in restaurants you've never eaten at before. 

Today with so much hoopla about gluten-free… there are options. What frightens me, is that in many cases the establishment hasn't actually learned what gluten-free really means. Serving rice pasta that's cooked in the same pasta water as the wheat pasta (beware!), risotto made with the same pasta water (yes, this is common practise!), or fries cooked in the same oil as the battered onion rings, samosas etc. is par for the course. That's just for starters. There's the soy sauce in the marinade or the dressing, the bouillon used in the soup or sauce…. Those of us who live on a strict gluten-free diet know. Those serving a population that they believe to be following the latest trend - typically, do not. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm delighted that gluten-free living is being embraced and is helping more than just those with celiac disease. I'm very happy to live in a society that is starting to take healthcare to the level of diet before chronic illness requires stronger remedies. I love my gluten-free diet. It's just that today, I'm less trusting of the cavalier use of the term gluten free. I feel the need to throw around "celiac" in a restaurant while looking the server in the eye that pleas for them to take me seriously.  

A couple of weeks ago I ate in a restaurant for the first time and asked if the burger was gluten-free. The waiter responded by saying that it was provided I didn't have the bun. When I asked about fries, he said that they were made in the same oil as other gluten items. I immediately felt safer about the burger I'd just ordered (with a side salad). 

This weekend we were out in another new establishment which largely served pizza and pasta. They had risotto, so I asked about how it was made. The girl looked confused when I asked about the pasta water. When she came back she told me not to order it - not because of the water, but because even the kitchen didn't know what was in the bouillon. In the end I ordered the chicken - it was the only option on the menu. When in doubt, opt for simple (grilled or broiled, no sauce and clarify that something isn't dredged in flour first when it comes to meat and fish). Scare them with the thought that you might be ill right in the restaurant if you must :)

In the next two weeks I have at least 3 events that I can think of where I'll be dining with a large group in a restaurant I've never eaten at before. I will be perusing the menu on-line in advance and making a call before going to save getting lost in the shuffle of a big group. No one wants to get sick over the holidays… and this is one time of year where you're bound to find yourself outside of your comfort zone. I've written more extensively on holiday socializing HERE

Wishing you a safe and Happy Holidays!!


Virtuous Gluten-Free Ginger Cardamon Pear Cake

Pears mark the very end of in season fresh fruit here in Canada. I couldn't resist buying a whole basket even if I was the only one home to eat them. William was away on a road trip and I wanted to have lots of simple meal options on hand. Naturally, I figured it was a great time to bake.

Baking a cake can be a very dangerous act. Especially if you are home alone with a whole cake afterwards. For this reason, and because I knew I'd want the "cake" to supplement light meals, I opted to more of a "loaf". By that I mean there was almost no processed sugar in it at all. It does have loads of fruit (sugar) and crystallized ginger (sugar) that make it plenty sweet - but not quite dessert.

1/4 cup oil
1/4-1/3 cup brown sugar
3 organic eggs
1 ripe banana
1 cup chick pea flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1tsp gf baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1tbsp garam masala
1-1/2 tsp cardamon 
5 firm pears - diced
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped organic crystallized ginger

This is pretty darned healthy - so great for breakfast on the run, or warmed up with a cup of tea. Chick pea flour is high in protein and fibre. Fruit is also high fibre and integrating any fruit typically means a moister outcome without having to use much oil (not that I'm into low fat in any way - if it's good fat!). 

I'm pretty lazy when it comes to baking. I'm sure it would be lighter and possibly even rise higher if I mixed this in another way - but I'm happy with my lazy food processor, um, "process". 

Pulse the ingredients in a food processor in the order presented using the paddle attachment (not the blade). Oil sugar and eggs first until well combined. Whip in the banana and you'll have a paste. Now measure in the dry, pushing sides down with a spatula as necessary between pulses. Pears, ginger and walnuts go in last so they don't get pulverized into the batter. Pour into a non-stick or greased angel food or bundt pan. Bake for one hour in a 350 degree oven. 

If you eat a quarter of the cake in the first day by yourself, you can easily justify that you just ate a pear, some chickpeas and rice, an egg, walnuts and ginger with a trace of sugar sprinkled on top. I mean seriously - your practically a saint. 

I made this "cake" two weeks in a row as it was so easy and yummy. I preferred the first version when the pears were less ripe. Apples would work perfectly in this recipe - in which case I'd add raisins and or dates too. The point for me was to make it chock full of nutritious ingredients so that it could cover a meal here and there.  

This is very similar to the carrot ginger cake that I've posted about in the past. You can find that sweeter and slightly less virtuous recipe for that cake HERE


Gluten Summit… ONLINE & FREE!

My childhood friend Sarah is a well-respected naturopath (and responsible for getting me back on the road to health many, many years ago). She just sent me a link to an online event knowing that readers would be interested.

November 11-17 2013. 

Anyone can register - and it's FREE!! Just click on the big button for the Gluten Summit on the right side of this blog to go directly to their website. 

I recognize a lot of the well respected experts on the agenda - and one of them is Dr. Cynthia Kupper who wrote the introduction to my first book. I trust the content will be quality - and you can't beat the price!


Catelli Gluten-Free Pasta

I was recently asked if I'd be interested in reviewing Catelli's new gluten-free pasta. As a blogger you get this kind of offer quite frequently. This time I was curious enough to accept a box to try. 
I've posted on pasta before. After living two years in Italy, I have learned that pasta is not to be taken lightly… and that good pasta (gluten-free or otherwise) is not as fool proof as some think. It needs lots of boiling water - plenty of salt, watching, testing and an agile maneuver to drain it quickly before it over cooks. 

Never, ever, rinse the pasta. 

I'm very happy to report that this box of Catelli did not disappoint. William and I whipped up this dish on a night when we were way too exhausted to put much time or effort into the sauce. We chopped up red onion, bacon, and tossed in a (gasp) JAR of organic primavera sauce that we let simmer for 30 minutes. Just before serving we tossed in fresh spinach. We drained the pasta and stirred it into our nearly instant sauce. This simple dinner was totally terrific. Add a few candles to the table, and it was even romantic!

We loved the texture and consistency of the fusilli. It's a little bit heavier than the brown rice version we've been eating. This is likely due to a tighter shape but also the inclusion of other grains. It's made with both brown and white rice, corn and quinoa. Molto, molto buono. 

I am delighted to have a new option on the shelf to choose from. I'd love to know how the spaghetti fares. That shape can be rather tricky in the gluten-free category. While I've been cooking gluten-free pasta for more than 30 years… in my experience it's difficult to find long pastas like spaghetti and fettucini that don't clump together. I'll be giving Catelli's a test drive. For those of us with serious gluten restrictions, you'll be happy to know that this product is made in a strictly gluten-free facility. Grazie Catelli - e buon appetito!


Indian chick pea flour and sweets

As the cooler weather roles in, I'm starting to find the idea of baking more appealing again. The challenge is to channel that baking energy into something that won't lead to guilt:)

If you haven't baked with chickpea flour - I'd recommend you give it a go for it's high protein, low carb and high fibre content. It can have a bit of a "bean" taste to it, so I always include spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamon and or garam masala (typically the lot - because I LOVE these flavours). Take a look at a previous post HERE for a fantastic carrot cake recipe. HERE for ricotta muffins, and muffins in general.

chickpea flour carrot cake
As the gluten-free market swells, it's getting easier and easier to find gluten-free flours on the shelves of everyday super markets. Certainly, the organic and health food groceries are loaded with options. At the prices, you'd think that some of these "specialty" flours were new inventions.

I live in a pretty cosmopolitan city with numerous neighbourhoods full of authentic ethnic foods from around the world. Little India has to be my favourite. I've been buying my chickpea flour (also known as gram flour and chana flour) there for years. The bag in the photo above cost $2.99 Cdn for a kg (2.2lb) bag. The same quantity of chick pea flour from a "specialty" mill at my local health food shop would cost upwards of $15.00. 

I should state here that I'm totally against buying "cheap" food, especially when it's made on the backs of others. I'm addressing packaging and distribution costs here. Not to mention the marketing hype around what is gluten free. You can find JAM on the shelve labelled gluten-free these days!

If you need to see the words "gluten-free" stamped on your food to feel safe (I feel this way about oats because the milling process is so tightly aligned with the wheat flour channel), the brand pictured above states that it is fact gluten free. There's a recipe on this bag for onion bhajia (fritters) that I'm going to try soon. Watch for a later post!

Indian sweets come in many varieties - milk is the main ingredient in these ones. 
Finally - if you are lucky enough to have an authentic Indian grocer, you may find "sweets". Most are made with sugar and condensed milk, flavoured with nuts, saffron, cardamon... the texture is something between fudge and cheesecake. Mamma mia - I always eat WAY too many. There are a few varieties made with chick pea flour, and a number that are made with wheat flour (also known as sooji). I advocate for adventure in food - but not taking risks where your health is concerned. Always ask the proprietor for more information where packaging isn't available to clarify ingredients... and in the end, it's always best to trust your "gut" instincts when it comes to whether or not to indulge.

Alternatively, you can feel pretty virtuous about baking a big cake made with chick pea flour :) 


Sackville New Brunswick: Gluten-free

We have a place out on the east coast of Canada in Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy. We have no problem eating gluten-free here. In fact, there isn't a place to buy anything to eat unless you get in your car and drive to the Co-op in a neighbouring village.

While the view is glorious, we occasionally need to venture. This summer I made my second visit to Sackville, New Brunswick. Home of Mount Allison University. If you were a celiac kid going off to school, this place looks pretty ideal. Tiny school. Tiny town. Only a handful of places to eat if you include the coffee shops. 

This might actually sound more like a celiac nightmare... but here one of these places is an entirely gluten-free bakery and shop called The Cackling Goose Market. 

They make the most amazing gf carrot cake. Like, so good that Bill suggested we stop again on our way home to Toronto so we could have more for breakfast. 

For dinner, you walk half a block to Joey's, an old Italian restaurant that serves up gluten-free pizza and pasta and takes your concerns pretty seriously. The owner sat us down and made sure we understood he got it, followed by the server who re-iterated that she was aware I needed safe food.

Not too many readers are going to head to Sackville specifically for this purpose, but I thought that a number of anxious parents searching the net when sending their kids off to school might be comforted knowing that there has never been a better time to be gluten free. Having done this for more than 40 years, I still cannot believe how lucky I am every time I find GOOD safe food. 

Click on Cackling Goose and Joey's for links to more info. 
I hope that this summer you had equally wonderful gluten-free surprises. 


Plantain - an excellent gluten-free side!

It's been YEARS since I made plantain... I seriously can't believe I've gone so long without it. I mean - LOOK AT THESE GUYS!! Gorgeous, crispy and just a little bit sweet with a sprinkle of salt... mmmmmmmmmm!! 

What makes the gap in time even more unbelievable is how EASY these are to make. Thanks to my friend Doug, who taught me how to make these years ago. He has Dominican roots - and boy, can that man cook!

Here's how easy it is. Peel a plantain by cutting the top off and slicing down the sides to peel back. While it looks just like a banana, the skin is a lot tougher. 

Next, cut into slices about half an inch thick. Drop into hot vegetable oil (I use a pot shaped like a wok and only use enough oil to half submerge - not a fan of deep frying!) 

 Cook about 2 minutes and then flip and cook for another 2. Remove and place in single layer on paper towel. Sprinkle one side with salt.

Using the bottom of a glass press down on one side of the plantain to flatten. They should squish down and spread. Don't be afraid of salt here - as much of it will come off in the next step...
Now drop the plantain BACK in the hot oil - for about 1 minute each side. Remove and drain on paper towel until ready to eat (they can stay warm in the oven if you're fixin' other things...)

You want to make about one plantain for every two people if you're serving as a side (as seen here). Honestly, I could probably eat 2 whole plantain all by myself... they ARE a vegetable after all :). 

On that note, I used a green unripe plantain here. They are less sweet and less starch/carb at this stage. They are also firmer and cook up crispier. You can use this cooking method with ripe (dark) plantains too. They will be considerably softer and won't get crispy. They will also have a sweeter, roasted flavour. 

Either way, they are a wonderful change from grains, rice or potatoes and pair well with so many other foods. I think we'll be seeing a lot more plantain on our plates from now on.


Summer Potato Salad

We don't eat much pasta, grains or bread in the summer months. Summer spells potato salad. Take a look at these ADORABLE BABY POTATOES! 

We eat a lot of salad here. Shopping at the local organic farmers market over the last few years has helped open my mind - and my stomach to lots of new veggies and kept us keeping it fresh by following what's available by season. There has been a lot of asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb on our plates over the last months. I'm looking forward to moving into summer tomatoes so we can start using more of the basil that's taken off in our patio garden.

Potato salad is a great side for the BBQ, handy for the potluck - and always safer when you skip the mayo found in many classic recipes. Here are two of our current summer favourites:

Green Potato Salad (image at top of post)
3 tbsp salt cured capers
lots of chopped fresh parsley & basil
3 green onions chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated parmeggiano cheese
dash of olive oil and vinegar (white/red wine or balsamic)
salt & pepper
about 1 lb of the tiniest organic potatoes you can find

Pesto & Corn Potato Salad
1/4 cup fresh pesto (read labels on store bought pesto!)
1/2 cup or more corn cut from roasted cobs 
fresh basil leaves 
salt & pepper
about 1lb baby potatoes 

In both recipes, cook the potatoes in salted boiling water with skins on until tender. If potatoes are of varying sizes, cut the larger ones to the same size as the smaller ones so that they cook evenly. Drain and toss with other ingredients. So easy! Both of these keep well for a few days in the fridge, so make extra for the hot days when you don't feel like cooking!


Breakfast rut. Gluten-free start to the day.

the new juicer in action
It's no secret that breakfast is one of the most gluten-laden meals of most people's day. Cereal, toast, a bagel or muffin on the run.  A healthy, fast, gluten-free breakfast requires some planning if you want to have more than a banana.

There are plenty of gluten free cereals on the market these days. Most are just as chock full of sugar as the "regular" cereals  - and sometimes even more. While I've got an insanely sweet tooth - I'd rather not start my day with what equates to cookies floating in milk. Thanks to the growing gluten-free market we can also find a growing selection off waffles, bagels, muffins, cinnamon buns... you name it. The challenge is finding a HEALTHY choice.

I hate to admit that I've been on a bit of a bread binge of late. That huge shipment of free Udi's products certainly didn't help! I told myself that if you slathered gf toast or bagels in almond butter it was moderately healthy. I know I can do better.

hot rice cereal with raisins, walnuts and cinnamon

When I'm taking better care of myself, my winter breakfast has been Bob's Red Mill hot rice cereal. I also have a very simple cold or warm cereal in the form of plain buckwheat, millet or quinoa with soy or rice milk, sprinkled with raisins, walnuts and garam masala. This is very healthy, easy, and great use for leftover grains. It's delicious, and higher in protein than rice - but like anything, after a while I need a change.

Buckwheat with organic raisins, walnuts, garam masals and rice milk
Bill likes fruit and yogurt. I'm more of a veggie person than a fruit person. Truth be told, I like my sweet in the form of chocolate. Fruit and yogurt work for me when it's too hot to think of stirring hot rice cereal - or cooking up grains for future breakfasts. It's also a good option for road trips or when staying away from home.

chickpea flour muffins are high in protein and fibre

Once in awhile I'll bake some super healthy gf muffins made with chickpea flour, eggs, bananas, walnuts and lots of spices. These are handy for breakfast on the run - or to take with you when staying away from home. I like to keep a decent stash in the freezer. Keeping them healthier vs sweet means I won't be inclined to snack on them when I'm craving cookies.

When I'm trying to curb the toast habit, those are my typical "go to" breakfast items. Thanks to my friend Pina - I'm finally giving juice a try. Spinach, strawberries, fennel and pumpkin seeds would not normally add up to breakfast in my mind - but WOW! My first attempt with the Nutribullet was a winner. This is not an endorsement for the tool - in fact I had to go out to buy it twice, because the motor went up in smoke on the first one I bought. Number two seems to be a better piece of equipment.

Here's to day one!
I like the idea of having a carb-free breakfast - and incorporating protein in the form of nuts and seeds. Like anyone starting out on a new diet regime - time will tell, but this week I'm pretty pumped about what I'm hoping will be a breakfast makeover. 

I've never eaten this much fruit before - bananas, nectarines, berries, greens and seeds all blend together really well - no need for milk ingredients or milk substitutes, so perfect for people who are lactose intolerant too. Admittedly, pretty hard core healthy - and not for everybody.

If you'd like to read more about my super-easy muffin recipes see link HERE and HERE. I've posted about my quinoa breakfast HERE - and buckwheat HERE

I figure if you start the day healthy, you'll feel better about having fries for lunch :)


New York, Anna & the gluten-free adventure

My cousin Anna and I have been writing to each other from distant lands for more than 20 years.  Our mothers are sisters who both left England in the 1960's and head in very different directions. Anna's mum emigrated to Australia and my mum came to Canada. Last week we met for the very first time in New York City. Within minutes of meeting our pen pal status was elevated to great friends. 

Anna was a serious trooper when it came to trekking around the city to try famed gluten-free bakeries. Being a vegetarian she was quite empathetic to how restaurants were chosen, and was open to shopping in the Chelsea Market near our guest house (where we had a kitchenette) so that we could have some fresh foods at home and to pack for days of hiking the cityscape. A new adventurous food friend - this was sheer bliss!

First stop: Tulu's Bakery. I've linked all of the names of the establishments to their websites so that you can find out what you need. 

Despite the late hour, Tu-lu's door was constantly swinging open with people coming in for an end of day cupcake fix. 

We met a bloke named Benny here - who referred to himself as a "Glutard", much to Anna's amusement.  When she asked if he'd been to La Risotteria he was quick to share he'd been picked up not once but twice, by girls who were looking for a gluten-free boy toy. When we left, Anna wondered aloud if this might be Benny's best selling point.  

On to the grub - I ordered the cinnamon coffee cake loaf, a brownie and a chocolate cupcake. Anna opted for a selection of mini cupcakes (image above). In an unusual state of self control we actually made it back to our hotel with our loot in tow.  That loaf was gobbled up for breakfast the next morning with tea. We conferred that Tu-lu's had been worth the trek.
Babycakes is probably the most famous of the gluten-free bakeries in NYC. The owner Erin, has been on many TV shows and has published a beautiful cookbook. On our last night we made this our pilgrimage. 


Yowza. I just didn't know where to start! While this bakery is known for their cupcakes - I thought I'd try a donut and a madeleine as I'd never had either before. Worth. Every. Penny. Can't believe I showed such self control.. and a part of me is relieved that this place isn't too close or I'd be needing to run more often!        

One of the best things about food - is how it bonds us. In our gleeful perusal of goodies we got to know Hanna, who sat in the window enjoying a cupcake. Hanna kindly offered up a couple of her favourite gluten-free restaurants in the city. As our NYC visit was winding down, we didn't get a chance to try them this time - but I've linked to Nizza and Fiorello so that you can check them out. 
We ate at La Risotteria, which is without a doubt a "must do". According to Benny - you might even get a date out of it! This was my third visit to the establishment, and I can't imagine a trip to NYC without a stop here. Even Anna commented that her risotto was the best she'd ever eaten. I normally opt for pizza, but this round had the spinach and sausage risotto. SO GOOD!

There is something incredible about arriving at a restaurant where gluten-free bread sticks are greeting you! This place only seats 20 and doesn't take reservations, so unless you are willing to hang out for a bit - I recommend you go early. A special thanks to my Auntie Thea for treating us to this special night out on the town! 
Finally, a shout out to Benny's Burritos (nope, not the same Benny)...where we had yummy Mexican food - notations on the menu clarified the gluten-free factor, and there was a huge selection. The place is packed in the evenings (a good sign) so we did lunch. Bill and I have eaten here on previous visits and I always have a hugely satisfying meal. 

Looking forward to checking out Hanna's suggestions on our next visit to NYC.... but will miss having my dear cousin, the lovely Sunshine Anna by my side. 

If you're heading to NYC anytime soon be sure to bookmark this post. If you have other great options to share - please do so in the comments or on this blog's Facebook fan page HERE. If you come from a place where gf treats are hard to find... I recommend that you bring an extra suitcase to cart home some goodies... and bring some stretchy pants for the ride home :)