“Gluten-free market booming, but researchers aren’t sold”

“Gluten has become a proxy for evil,” health researcher Timothy Caulfield told Marketplace co-host Tom Harrington. Caulfield is the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and a professor at the University of Alberta. “If you have gluten-free label on a food product, you know, it’s viewed as being healthier regardless of what the food product actually is,” says Caulfield. But a CBC Marketplace investigation reveals that many products with gluten-free labels break Health Canada rules, and add to consumer confusion about the issue.  ~Source: cbc.ca/news/business

Click here to read the full article on cbc.ca, prepared by Megan Griffith-Greene.

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GF Treats for an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Baby Shower

Recently, my sister-in-law, Eva, was honoured at an Alice in Wonderland-inspired baby shower… just two months before the anticipated arrival of my future niece or nephew! My mom and sisters and I had so much fun planning the details- a card box shaped like the Mad Hatter’s hat, red roses arranged in paint-dripped paint cans (“you can always paint the roses red”), pink flamingos (no croquet though!), a ‘guess-the-tea’ game (sure beats the ‘smell-the-diaper’ game!), framed quotes from the book/movie, skeleton keys, playing cards, etc… and of course theme-related desserts! With my younger sister being a Pastry Chef, the “regular” dessert planning was no problem at all (her beautiful dessert table display is pictured at the very bottom of this post). However, with the shower honouree being the one who usually prepares the gluten-free desserts for us (you know her best as Eva of Pastel Bakery), I was tasked with the challenge of taking over the GF desserts to give her a much-deserved rest on her special day! EvaShower2 copy

With inspiration from Pinterest, Catch My Party, Google Images, my Pastry Chef sister and my own crazy mind, I enjoyed creating the following gluten-free treats for Eva and I (pictured above):

To artfully display these GF treats (yet keep them safely out of the ‘gluten-contaminated’ hands of others at the party), I decorated a tall glass cake stand with blue tulle and a white ‘apron’ to look like Alice’s famous dress (pictured below) and placed ‘for-Eva-and-Mel-only’ signage on top (plus Eva made a “hands off!” announcement before the dessert table was officially “open”). Our family knows better by now, but it’s always best to be safe.

EvaShower1 copyIn the end, the shower was a success! Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, desserts, games and company! And most importantly, our guest of honour- adorned in her custom ‘Queen of Hearts’ headband- went home with a smile as big as the Cheshire cat’s!

Check out more of this party on Catch My Party.

How Fate/Nate Brought Me to ‘La Veranda Osteria’

The coolest thing happened not too long ago… I was visiting Nates Bagels & Gluten Free Foods in Concord, ON (where I re-discovered my favourite GF wrap). While chatting with Chef Pierangela about gluten-free restaurants in the city, she mentioned La Veranda Osteria in Etobicoke-Toronto, ON and said that I had to go there because it was amazing! Now it is not at all close to me geographically so I promised her that I the next time I was in that area I would definitely check it out…

…meanwhile, back at my house, the mail was being delivered, in which later that day I discovered an invitation to my dear cousin’s daughter’s baptism- church, followed by lunch at La Veranda Osteria!!! C’mon now, that’s fate!

I was lucky enough that my cousin arranged a special meal for me in advance- and what a perfect place to do so! The food was excellent- I would definitely recommend- and there was no expense of quality or food presentation. See for yourself…

GF/dairy-free pizza and focaccia

GF/dairy-free pizza and focaccia

GF spaghetti with tomato sauce

GF spaghetti with tomato sauce

Grilled veal and chicken

Grilled veal and chicken

Dining at 360 Restaurant (CN Tower) – GF Style!

MAPLE GLAZED CORNISH GAME HEN WITH WILD RICE AND SOUR APPLESMAPLE GLAZED CHICKEN (I MEAN “CORNISH GAME HEN” – FANCY!) WITH WILD RICE AND SOUR APPLES

Gluten-free and Dairy-Free Wedding Cake

The most beautiful gluten-free and dairy-free wedding cake EVER, prepared with love by Pastel Bakery. Click here to read the full post on PastelBakery.ca.gfweddingcake

 

 

Rehearsal Dinner at Fraticelli’s

The managers and staff at Fraticelli’s Italian Grill & Bar in Richmond Hill, ON were very knowledgeable about the gluten-free diet and I felt comfortable the entire time. Highly recommended!

Here we are with our bridal party and friends a few days before tying the knotHere we are with our bridal party and friends, a few days before ‘tying the knot.’

Fraticellis2A tasty dinner of gluten-free risotto and chicken.

(Not shown: the warm goat cheese and toasted pine nut balls that I devoured!)

High Tea at Shangri-La Toronto (w/ GF Options!)

High Tea with Family- pinkys up!Enjoying high tea with the girls – pinkys up!

Gluten-free options for Eva and I!Gluten-free options for Eva and I! 🙂

Good Times at the GF Expo 2013

Last weekend, my sister-in-law, Eva of Pastel Bakery (guest blogger “EA” below), and I enjoyed a day trip down to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the Toronto Gluten-Free Expo. We share our experiences below…

I’m So Excited (and I Just Can’t Hide It):
gfexpo2013-1MM: Leading up to the event, I was super excited! I knew that it would be a great show as I had gone last year, but I have to say I’m glad that they extended it to two days as last year was pretty jam-packed. I was anxious to see what new products the ‘new-comers’ had to share as the GF industry has grown so much in the past few years.
EA: I can’t say there was one particular booth I was looking forward to visiting.  I was just excited to see new products and the old ones I love, plus be able to sample, sample, sample in a safe environment.  It felt strange to not have to ask the staff at the booths if their product contained any gluten.  I will admit though I did ask this once, at the Piller’s booth, but only because they were making sandwiches.  The girl I asked did look at me a bit funny, but what can I say…force of habit I suppose.
MM: It was totally weird not asking “is this gluten-free?” haha! But, yes, that Pillar’s sandwich seemed too good to be true so thanks for taking one for the team and asking for us!

Get in my Belly:
EA: Oh my!  There were so many great products to sample like, the roast beef panini at the Piller’s Fine Foods booth and the chocolate fudge Super Squeezies Tubes at the Sunrise Soya Foods booth, just to name a few.  My favourite though, was a toss up between two: 1) Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss in Salted Caramel & Chocolate flavour.  It tastes like dairy ice cream.  It looks like dairy ice cream.  But boy, it ain’t dairy ice cream!  One spoon of this and it’s pure bliss – which I’m guessing is why they added this word to their product name, because it’s so true!  This was by far the best non-dairy ‘ice cream’ I have EVER had.  2) the frozen vegan pizza from Comensoli Foods.  It was nice to finally see a dairy free frozen pizza on the market.  It did not taste like cardboard and the ‘cheese’ they use is from Daiya Foods so it stretched just like regular cheese.  In my house, every Friday night is pizza night.  Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t take that long for me to put together a pizza, given I use pre-made pizza crusts, but sometimes you just feel like taking a break and having someone else make it for you.  Now there is a dairy free option I can enjoy.  I cannot wait to find this product in my local store.
MM: I totally agree with both choices! The salted caramel & chocolate “ice cream” and dairy-free pizza were awesome and probably my fav samples of the day! I also loved the brownie at the Good Bye Gluten booth (regret not purchasing some ‘to-go’) and, of course, my all-time fav, Sweets from the Earth‘s peppermint nanaimo bar! Too bad we couldn’t get to sample one of the vegetarian dairy-free burritos at Glutenfreeda‘s booth… and I couldn’t find my dark chocolate-covered almonds this time (the craving continues).

In my ‘Goodie Bag’:
gfexpo2013MM: Soooo many free samples, it was great! The Enjoy Life booth gave away some good ones; I can’t wait to try their new S’Mores Decadent Bar (that I’m saving… for now!). I was also happy to purchase some favourites at discounted expo prices, like Purest Extra Crispy Purebatter and SFTE peppermint nanaimo bars! I also bought some new products, like Sandwich Petals, the Ultimate Gluten-Free Flat Bread, and Tutti Gourmet cafe-flavoured fruit crackers, and picked up a free copy of “Gluten-free Living” magazine which I am looking forward to exploring.
EA: Again, lots and lots of free goodies such as Enjoy Life Plentils (addictive!) and Catelli Pasta (could not believe they gave away full size boxes!).  I myself purchased some CheeCha Puffs and some Bana Krisp Fruit Crackers.  And thanks Mel for the Sweets from Earth Caramel Pecan Bar (mmmm)!  If I didn’t have to take an hour bus ride north to get home, I totally would have loaded up with more goodies like some flour from Cuisine Soleil.  But, I was still happy to visit and explore the many brands/products both old and new.  The CheeCha Puffs I got were 2 varieties: 1) Salt & Vinegar, 2) Fiesta Salsa.  I sometimes find it hard to find these puffs in my local store so I stocked up and took advantage of the new flavour they had to offer (Fiesta Salsa).  Not too spicy but with a little kick at the end.  As for the Bana Krisp Fruit Crackers, these were so tasty and simple (just 4 ingredients!), I couldn’t resist.  I picked up the Cafe flavour which had a nice subtle coffee taste.  These make for a great healthy snack when you feel like something sweet but know you shouldn’t reach for that cupcake 🙂

If at First You Succeed… Buy Buy Again:
MM: I look forward to a trip to Nature’s Emporium soon so that I can buy some of the products we sampled! I will definitely look for that Comensoli pizza and, if all goes well with these Sandwich Petals, I will be down for some more as I love me a nice tortilla.
EA: The products which I will look for in store would be (in no particular order): 1) Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss in Salted Caramel & Chocolate, 2) Comensoli frozen vegan pizza, 3) Bana Krisp, and 4) Rudi’s Tortilla & Wraps.  I did not get to sample the Rudi’s Tortilla as they were preparing them with regular dairy cheese, but the staff at the booth said they don’t break when you roll them.  And from the flips she was giving the wrap while prepping, it looked to be true.  It would be nice to find a gluten free tortilla which doesn’t break when you try to roll it, so I will be looking for Rudi’s in store to test them out.
MM: Oh my, how could I forget about the ice cream! I will be looking for that again FOR SURE!

 

Final Thoughts:  
MM: Overall, I had a more positive experience this year compared to last year, as there was plenty of space to comfortably move around and enough time to freely ask the vendors questions. I was also happy to “Give a Shiitake” and donate a gluten-free product to the Second Harvest booth (though no one was there to receive it so I left it on the chair with the other donations). I thought it was a great idea to have this booth as people in need may be gluten-free, too. On another note, I half-joked to Eva that it would be convenient if the booths were set up more in ‘themes’ (i.e. – apps, desserts, etc.) so that I didn’t have to go from brownie to hummus to cookie to roast beef sandwich to muffin, etc. (my tummy was not happy with the mixture). Bottom line: the GF Expo is a fantastic event that I look forward to attending for years to come. Hopefully I’ll be able to check out some presentations next time also.
EA: All in all this was a great event!  So glad to see it was relocated to a larger venue vs. last year which was too crammed, plus now it was a 2 day event.  Expos like these are great because you get to experience new things and meet many of the people behind the product.  It also creates awareness, both regarding health and products.  The more attention we can bring, the more people will understand celiac disease/gluten intolerance and the more companies will realize they need to provide for the gluten free peeps out there. For the cost of a $12 admission (if you buy ahead online), it’s a great way to spend the day exploring and sampling.  It’s nice to go to an event where you don’t feel like the weird kid in the corner with the misunderstood food allergies.  Here we are all GF’ers, and those who are not, are welcomed with open arms and shown what they are missing 🙂
MM: Well said, Eva.

Did you attend the GF Expo in Toronto last week or perhaps in another city? Share your experiences below…