Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My 200th Post!

Hey guys! This is my 200th post!

When I started this blog, I thought I'd hit 200 in the first year, but I was being silly when I thought I could blog every day. Well, sort of silly. I did blog every day for a while, and it really helped me in the beginning. Eventually, I stopped needing the daily vent and I stopped having new gluten-free adventures every day.

I've been thinking for a couple of weeks of what to do for my post #200. It seems like kind of a big deal. Maybe I'd make a new recipe? Maybe I'd do a round-up?

Well, I have big news to share instead!

I am moving to Saskatoon! This small town girl is about to live in the big city!

I start a new job up there on August 11th, and my husband will move up when we have a place, which hopefully will be September 1st. Things might get a little weird in the interim, so bear with me.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Why I Love Vintage

There's a quilting store here in town; it's the only place within an hour's drive that sells fabric, so on a whim, I wandered in, hoping to find something to make a dress out of. I chatted with the lady working, an older Polish lady, and told her I wanted to make a dress. She told me she just sold cotton and fleece, things to make blankets with.

I meandered over to the sale rack, and picked up a colourful print. "Could I make a skirt out of this?"

She laughed. "Maybe a poodle skirt."

"Right. Like a 1950's circle skirt?"

Her eyes lit up. I realized she had been joking, and when she realized I wasn't, she just got so excited.

Every time I talk to older women and ask advice on how to do my hair, or genuinely ask about fashion and makeup of forgotten times, their eyes light up. I'm sure they're used to young people snubbing the bygone ways, and they're happy to hear someone is interested in their lost arts.

This. This is one of the reasons I love vintage. I love when the elderly lady tells me all about the day she got her tea towels, and I love learning the perfect way to place a set of hot rollers. I love learning about anything mid-century, and my favourite people to hear it from are the ones who were around.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I bought the fabric. It was half price, and I bought more than I needed for $20.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Street Fairs + Celiacs

Recently, there was a street fair here in town. They shut down one of the main streets, and set up booths, vendors, games and stores all the way down the road. My hubby and I actually ended up going for at least an hour on three different days. He knows a lot of people, and a lot of people wanted to stop and talk to him.

There were probably at least 12 different food booths. When we got hungry on the first day, I told my husband he could eat wherever he wanted, I would surely find something.

I started out at the sushi restaurant. Except that I'm realizing I can't really eat sushi. I used to just get crab rolls, but I found out recently they use imitation crab, and the one package of imitation crap that I could check the ingredients on contained wheat flour. Most of the rolls are various types of tempura, which just plain doesn't work for me, and then anything cooked, like squid, doesn't work because it may be contaminated while cooking. That leaves the salmon rolls, and I'm possibly allergic to salmon (*I've never had enough salmon to determine if I am allergic, but my doctor told me to just avoid it anyways). And all that leaves is veggie rolls. Which are good, I guess, but not filling or satisfying.

On the second day there, I just gave up on sushi, and hunted through the other food booths. The one that is famous for fried chicken was also selling taco in a bag. I asked to see the bag of chips they use, and happily they were zesty cheese Dorritos that also say Gluten-free on the back, so then I asked the fellow what they add to it. The expected sour cream, salsa, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and beef. So I asked about the beef. At that point, the guy asked what I was looking for. I told him wheat or gluten, so he checked the beef, and then asked me if soy protein was okay. Hooray!! I can eat the taco in a bag!!

I then had three tacos in bags over the next two days. I couldn't find anything else that I could eat, besides lemonade, frozen chocolate-dipped bananas, and shaved ice.

The other celiac moment for me was when my husband saw a couple that he knew and took me over to introduce them. The fellow popped a mini donut in his mouth, brushed off his hand, and stuck it out to shake my hand. I apologized, and told him I couldn't shake his hand. I then, of course, had to explain and he was completely flabbergasted that shaking his hand could be a risk for me. But at the moment, I was drinking a smoothie. I kept stirring the drink with the straw, and I explained that if I shook his hand and then touched my straw, I could easily get sick. I felt like such a jerk for not shaking his hand, but I just saw the mini donuts in one hand and freaked out.

I'd like to forget about my celiac, and I'd love to pretend the whole world eats the same food as I do, but events like street fairs remind me how unusual I am, and how difficult my dietary needs are.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Chili's Grill & Bar in Regina

I don't spend a lot of time in Regina, so I don't know it very well. When my husband and I decided to meet my brother and his wife in Regina for a late lunch, I pulled out my phone and did a quick search on Urbanspoon for gluten-free friendly restaurants. Chili's came up, and I am always in the mood for Mexican food (even lame Canadian-ized Mexican food), so I basically insisted we go there.

When we got there, I flipped through the menu, hunting for anything that said anything about gluten-free. On the very last page, I found a note that said "Gluten menu available upon request."

First of all, restaurants really need to work on their phrasing. I don't want a "gluten menu". I want the exact opposite of a "gluten menu". I also don't want "gluten friendly menus" like most restaurants offer. I realize their intent, and I understand that a "gluten friendly menu" will have gluten-free dishes listed, but I would prefer if they called it "Gluten-free friendly" or "Gluten aware" or something that actually suggests there is no gluten.

Anyways... I tracked down a hostess and asked her for a gluten-free menu, and she said "We don't have any." I pointed out the note on the menu and she explained, "Yeah, we used to have them, but our whole menu changed so now we don't." Okay, so you got new menus. I get that. But your new menu says you have a menu for me, but you don't, because you got new menus. Hmmm.

Whatever, I can handle that. The hostess said the waitress would be able to point out some options for me, so I waited for the waitress. When she came, I explained I have a gluten allergy, and asked what I could eat. She said "Well we have corn tortillas available, so basically whatever you want."

Umm, no. Nope. It doesn't work like that. But okay, I'll play your game. My husband wanted an appetizer of chips and salsa, so I asked about that, and she said the chips are corn chips.

"Okay, but are they deep-fried?"


"Are other contaminants deep-fried as well?"

"I don't know."

"Can you check?"

She ran off to the kitchen, although I already knew the answer. I wasn't having any chips. I really just wanted to prove a point, and make her realize how severe my gluten-free-needs are.

When she returned, I asked about the fajitas. She didn't even ask which fajitas, she just told me I could get them with corn tortillas. Well, the chicken on one was marinaded, and on another it was rubbed. Either could contain gluten, so I sent her back to ask again. She came back telling me the marinade was a lime-something-or-rather, so I could have it. I gave up at that point, and ordered those fajitas.

The fajitas were delicious, and I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I was also really frustrated. In my opinion, that was not a gluten-free-friendly experience, but rather an "I'm sure you can eat something" experience. If they'd actually had a gluten-free friendly menu, I might have had a fine time. As it was, I did enjoy my food, and I didn't get sick, but I just really wasn't impressed with the service.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend this place. If you have strict gluten-free needs, find a different restaurant. If you want Mexican food, there's a ton of places that make better Mexican food. If you want to go to Chili's, go to Chili's, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Chili's Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, 7 July 2014

Gluten Free Butter Pecan Cheesecake Truffles

As I said in my last post, I made two desserts for the wedding. I immediately settled on sugar cookies for the first dessert, but the second dessert took a lot of brainstorming. I wanted something that would travel well, be spectacular, unique and gluten-free. I wanted something in small servings, but we already had cookies and tarts. 

After a couple weeks of thinking and searching, I put it off for awhile. Then one of my favourite blogs, EZ Gluten Free, posted a recipe that I thought sounded pretty perfect. The best thing was that I could make it several days ahead. Since I had a lot of things to do the week before the wedding, I made it as early as I could.

The recipe does include a lot of chilling time, and one ingredient did require some hunting down, but the actual work didn't take all that long and I managed to get some other things done will the ingredients were chilling.

Also, seriously, does it get better than Butter Pecan Cheesecake Truffles?

So you really need to click through and read that recipe, but to sum it up for you... You brown some butter and brown sugar on the stove, then mix it with some cream cheese and vanilla. The cream cheese mixture goes in the fridge to chill, and you mix some chopped pecans with some crushed cookies. The very specific gluten-free pecan shortbread cookies were the hardest thing to find, but I did find a pack at the health food store. Also, it's the only ingredient that is explicitly gluten-free. If you don't care about gluten content, just use regular pecan shortbread cookies.

Once the cream cheese stuff is chilled, you scoop up little balls of cream cheese and roll it in the pecan mixture. Once every little ball was rolled, I put them into containers between layers of plastic wrap and froze them for several days. I kept the containers frozen until it was time to leave for the rehearsal dinner. The wedding (and rehearsal dinner) was all in a town two hours from home, so I put the truffles in a cooler until we got there, and then they went back in a freezer. A few minutes before the reception, I pulled out some mini cupcake liners and plopped each truffle in a liner on a table. It took maybe five minutes. Right away, they were frozen solid, but they warmed up pretty quick, and by the time the last one was devoured they were still a little cold.

Overall, these worked perfectly for what I wanted. They didn't take long to make, they kept well, and they travelled just as well. Oh, and they delicious. Everyone who had one told me they were amazing.

Except my sister (the bride). Apparently, she doesn't like cheesecake. I knew that, I guess, and she didn't mind, because there were plenty of other sweets. The groom, on the other hand, told me that I'm going to go visit them and make these. I don't think he even cares if I visit, as long as he gets more of these.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Wedding Sugar Cookies

My sister wanted a few dessert options for her wedding, and she wanted at least one of them to be gluten-free. I volunteered to make two desserts, because the more I make, the more I can eat. I knew right away that I wanted to make sugar cookies.

When I made sugar cookies for Christmas, I used a mix from Kinnikinnick. I loved the mix, so I decided I'd try it again. To give the bride a taste before the wedding, I made them again for my birthday. So this makes the third time I have used Kinnikinnick's Sugar Cookie Mix, and I can not say enough good about it. It's easy to make, quick and simple to put together, rolls well, and re-rolls just as well. The cookies are easy to bake (there's a two or three minutes of flex room where the cookies are neither under-cooked nor burned) and every time I've made them, people keep exclaiming that they don't taste gluten-free!

 For the wedding, I made two boxes, just to make sure there would be enough. I made them shaped like little brides, little grooms, cakes, churches (even though they weren't getting married in a church) and hearts. I made all the cookies in one night, along with doing multiple other things for the wedding, and then I stacked them on a couple plates and wrapped them up for a few days.

When I had time again, I iced and decorated them with some royal icing and sugar crystals. For the royal icing I used:

1 cup gluten-free icing sugar (I used El Peto brand)
1 - 2 tbsp milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla

I only made this much at a time, but I had to make four batches to decorate all of the cookies.

I wanted to decorate them with coloured sugar crystals. I found all sorts of colours of sugar at Bulk Barn, but I couldn't find black, so I bought some extra white and some black Wilton Icing Color. I mixed the white sugar with some black color until the crystals were evenly black, and then I spread them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and put them in my oven on the lowest temp (180F, I believe) for ten minutes at a time until they seemed dry.

After icing a few cookies, I let them dry for a minute or so, but before they were completely dry, I sprinkled some sugar on top.

My sister's wedding dress was cherry red, so I made red brides, black grooms, white cakes and churches (each topped with a tiny silver ball) and red hearts.

Of course, I didn't get a picture of the table before several of the cookies were devoured. Along the back of the table are the leftover favours - little bags with Hershey Kisses and mini peanut butter cups, and the far edge of the table has some truffles that I also made, and will tell you about later!

At the end of the night, there were maybe ten cookies left behind, and probably eight of them were grooms. I'm not sure why the little guys were so much less popular. Possibly because it left a few people with coloured lips. After baking the sugar, there was a lot less colour transfer, but before I put the sugar in the oven, my hubby ate a spoonful and his lips, tongue and mouth all turned bluey-purple.

Nonetheless, I would highly recommend Kinnikinnick's sugar cookie mix, and if you want them to look spectacular without a lot of work, a bit of royal icing and a spoonful of sugar goes a long way.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

My Brother's Wedding

My older brother and my older sister are twins. They spent most of their life sharing things. They haven't shared clothes much, but they shared photos, attention, friends, and every single birthday. They also decided they would share the summer they both got married! My brother was married six weeks ago, and my sister was married just this past Saturday. I've been meaning to share photos from my brother's wedding, but I've been putting it off. Before I have photos of my sister's wedding, I guess I'll show you photos of my brother's.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Celiacs at Weddings, the second

My eldest sister married the man of her dreams this weekend!

Yes, my brother got married a mere six weeks ago, but hey, now my family is done with weddings for a few years!

If you remember the last wedding, my sister-in-law made sure the cake was gluten-free for me (she served cupcakes for everyone else), and one of the teenage boys there turned out to also be a celiac and he was really happy about it.

Well, if my sister-in-law is thinking of me, I can promise you that my own sister is thinking of me! Most of the meal was gluten-free as well (except for the buns!). As for the cake, it had four layers, and each layer was a different flavour. The smallest layer was a gluten-free white cake.

When it was time to serve the cake, my mother, two of the bridesmaids, and I each grabbed a layer, a knife and a cookie lifter and we each served out the different flavours.

I, of course, grabbed the gluten-free layer. As everyone lined up, they'd ask me what each flavour was, and I'd recite "Gluten-free white cake, lemon cake, carrot cake, orange-chocolate marble" and everyone would immediately file past me. A few moms of kids took the white cake because their kids wouldn't like the complicated flavours, but most people turned their nose up at gluten-free.

Except for one woman who got in line and asked "Which one was gluten-free?" And I recognized that face. It's the "Wait, I can have cake?!" face. I handed her a slice and asked if she was a celiac. She was. So I also pointed out the table of sugar cookies that I made, and told her they were safe as well. I didn't talk to her again after that, but I met her son who was a bit younger than I, and he expressed how happy, grateful and excited she was that she could have some cake. He passed on: "I would never wish this on anybody, but I am so happy the bride's sister has celiac, too!"

I think that sums up how I feel too. I would never wish this on anyone, but it makes me glad when I have more options, or when I have someone who really understands how I feel.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Birthday Sugar Cookies

I love baking, and I especially love when people enjoy my baking. When I first started eating gluten-free, I baked a couple of things that people did not enjoy. Over the last while, it's always been a bit of a gamble. Sometimes the things I bake turn out amazing and no one can believe they're gluten-free. And sometimes I keep the whole batch at home because no one would really enjoy it.

However, when you bake out of a box, you take all the gamble away. Every time you make a box mix, it turns out exactly as expected.

As such, whenever I'm baking something for something or somebody, I usually buy boxed mix. It kind of feels like cheating, but I want to convince everyone that gluten-free can be amazing, not that even experienced bakers make gross gluten-free food...

Anyways, I made Kinnikinnick's sugar cookie mix last night, in celebration of my birthday. My birthday is actually on Sunday, but I have Monday off work, so today is the closest work day to my birthday.

My mom gave me a big bucket of 101 cookie cutters for Christmas one year, and a friend gave me a couple moustache-shaped cookie cutters for my birthday a couple years ago, and I got a unicorn-shaped cookie cutter for my birthday this year. I dug out a couple of dinosaur-shaped cutters from the big bucket and made the most awesome collection of cookies ever! I kind of expected to find some birthday-themed cutters in the big bucket, but I decided a few of my favourite things would work way better anyways.

Everyone at work kept saying how sad it is that I made my own birthday treats. I hardly think so. If someone else made them, I wouldn't be able to eat them.

Oh, and I can not speak highly enough of Kinnikinnick's sugar cookie mix. No one believes they're gluten-free, and they were really easy to put together. Anybody could do it.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Jack Keaton's

I was never one of those girls to order a salad and to tip-toe around a burger. I like real food. I love barbequed food. I love ribs, and pulled pork. I do enjoy my fancy shmancy quinoa and kale salads, but there will always be room in my heart for a slow-roasted half rack of baby back ribs. Always.

I discovered a restaraunt in Regina and I've been there twice now, but will definitely be going again. Jack Keatons BBQ & Grill didn't sound like the kind of place I could eat, but it is. Their BBQ sauce is gluten-free, and although they don't have any gluten-free bread, the only non-sandwich main I couldn't eat was meatloaf. The sides were a little more difficult, out of the eight or so normal options, I only had three GF options.

 The first time I went, I was starving, so I ordered the sampler plate, and I still took home some leftovers.