The holidays are full of gluten. Left, right and center, there is nothing but gluten. Everyone makes and gives baking, there are dinners constantly, everyone has at least one Christmas party to go to, and then of course there is Christmas day! A lot of people who try to avoid gluten-free, or just eat less gluten give up over the holidays. I know several intolerant people who are just saying Oh well, and feeling sick because there is too much temptation.
But as a celiac, I don't have that luxury. So how did I survived the holidays?
Well, my husband is home. We survived eight weeks apart, and most importantly, neither of us were diagnosed with anything life-changing. Or really anything at all. In fact, nothing of major note happened at all. Isn't that beautiful.
Since this is my blog, and I get to say whatever I want here, I'm going to tell you the truth.
I've been freaking out a lot.
Especially on Friday. I was very nervous on Friday. It's not going to make a lot of sense to a lot of people, but I got the fairly life-changing diagnosis call on the day that M finished school last time. In fact, I got the call while he was being driven home. I had wanted to go pick him up, but there was something he wanted to go to before I could get him home, so he hitched a ride.
If my diagnosis had come in the middle of a work day, while M was just at work, or while I was home, eating lunch, or during any normal, run-of-the-mill moment in my life, I would be over it by now. I would have repeated that exact moment over and over again until that specific set of circumstances would be manageable. But it didn't. It happened during a set of circumstances that had never happened before, but would happen again.
I'm pretty good at staying off-topic, but this one is way out there. I have a love of makeup. Lately, I've been looking for and trying out gluten-free makeup, but sometimes I don't bother. It's bad, I know the risks. I mean, I use gluten-free shampoo! You'd think I would use gluten-free lipstick...
Anyways, I found this website and fell in love. Ipsy(aff link) is a makeup subscription service, dreamed up by Michelle Phan. You fill out a quick questionnaire, and then once a month, Ipsy sends you a little makeup clutch with 4-6 full-size products, for only $14.95/month! It's $10/month for Americans, but us Canadians have to add $4.95 shipping. Which I'm still okay with! This month, I got five products, which averages each product at $3! Plus I got a makeup clutch.
I'm a huge fan of getting mail. Opening my mail box to find anything that's not a bill is a great feeling. When I opened my mail box to find a hot pink bubble wrap envelope, I got so excited. It's all about presentation.
I'm not going to say I'm an expert on banana bread, but there are twelve loaves of banana bread in my kitchen.
I used the same recipe for each one, which is why I'm no expert. I thought about trying a different recipe for them all, but that would require a lot more time, effort, footwork (different ingredients) and I can't possibly taste them all, so I wouldn't have results for you!
I'm not going to say this is the be-all-end-all of gluten-free flour blends. I'm not even going to say this is the only flour blend I will use. I'll more than likely use a different grain every now and then, and I'm perfectly happy to use store-bought blends. But if I want a big mix of flour that I can use confidently, this is the one I will turn to.
If I don't need a lot:
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup potato flour
1 cup tapioca starch
Pour each flour into a large bowl and stir gently with a long spoon, or dump them all into a large ziplock bag and shake gently.
If I need a large batch of flour:
1 lb brown rice flour
1 lb white rice flour
1 lb coconut flour
1 lb potato flour
1 lb tapioca starch
I needed the largest pot in my kitchen, and then I stirred gently with a wooden spoon, and a whisk once the tapioca starch was less likely to get everywhere.
It's important to note that coconut flour is very dry. When I use this flour, I always add a little more liquid to whatever I'm making (applesauce, banana, water, milk, yogurt, etc). I also add a little xanthum gum, about one teaspoon per "batch". I'm admittedly not very precise with my xanthum gum.
I signed up for a baking exchange at my work. The concept is that you make a dozen "somethings" for each person who signed up, and then you go home with a dozen other "somethings" from each person. It means you get a bunch of holiday baking, but you only have to work with one recipe! When one of the girls ran around asking everyone if they wanted to sign up, I was conflicted. I love baking, you know that! The idea of making a whole bunch of baking and sharing it sounded splendid! But there was no way I would be able to eat any of the other stuff... Oh well! I signed up anyways. I figure I'll take some home for M to enjoy, I'll share some with my family during the holidays, and I'll leave some up on my desk for everyone at work (who didn't want to bake) to enjoy.
I picked banana bread. I figure one loaf of banana bread is equivalent to a dozen cookies, and I saw these adorable loaf pans at the grocery store. They're cardboard and silicon oven-safe loaf pans that are cute enough to gift the baking in. They're reusable, and come with a bag and a red ribbon for each pan. Easy-peasy giving and presenting. Plus, I won't have to wash my loaf pan a bazillion times.
Twelve people signed up, which means I need to make twelve loaves of banana bread for Friday. That's not too hard, right?
Except that the only evening I have off this week is Friday.
The next stop on my dairy-free expedition was grilled cheese sandwiches. I can pretend I planned it that way, but I'll be honest. M and I were talking about what to eat one Saturday and I announced I wanted grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. However, I can't eat bread, cheese or tomato soup! Well, at least not any of the "normal" kinds. Since we needed some other groceries, M and I went to the grocery store and picked up a loaf of Udi's gluten-free white bread and a pack of Daiya Swiss Style Slices.
It's a love that has been fostered in me by my mother, through years of rolling cookie dough, giggling as we cut out shapes, watching magic happen underneath the beater blades and best of all, staring through the oven door as whatever I made takes shape.
I've reiterated this a few times, but I'm a creature of habit. Once I find something I like, I stick to it. I love trying new things, but I like safe, familiar things even more. As such, there are a few restaurants that I eat at much more often than anywhere else. Boston Pizza on Main & Thatcher is one of those. Maybe because I know people who work there, maybe because they've treated me so well, but either way, it's always the first place I mention when someone asks where I want to eat.
I've hesitated to write a review because I recognize that I'm very biased. I've heard from other gluten-free people that they're aren't so accommodating, but I find them amazing. They do have a gluten-wise menu that you can ask for, but I typically just order off the regular menu and make adjustments. I don't order the same way at other Boston Pizza locations, but the staff at this one know my husband and I. Over the past few months, I have ordered some pretty crazy things. I often pay an extra dollar or so for a substitution, but I don't mind.
A couple weekends ago, I decided to brave something unknown. Going to new restaurants makes me anxious, even when they have amazing gluten-free-friendly reviews. A new restaurant opened downtown not too long ago, and I haven't really heard much. I mean, I know people who went, and they said the food was good, the atmosphere was nice, etc, but they really aren't going to know how the place treats a gluten allergy. Suffice it to say, I was nervous.
But, feeling adventurous, I went to Brown's Social House! The service was incredibly friendly. The hostess asked if we'd been there before, and quickly explained their menu. The waitress was was friendly. I told her I had a gluten allergy, so she said she'd grab a manager. A minute or two later, a very nice gentleman appeared and walked me through the menu, bottom to top. Yes, bottom to top. I don't know why, but he even commented that he always starts at the bottoms of menus. Anyways, he pointed out every dish I could eat. They'd all need substitutions or accommodations made, but there were several options for me. Some of them sounded sub-par without the bread component, but a few sounded even better like that. Like the breakfast burrito I ordered.
There is a 100% gluten-free and nut-free restaurant in Saskatoon called Leyda's. I've been wanting to go for months, but I always end up trying on Sundays, and they are closed Sundays! Finally, this past Saturday, Banana and I found a chance to go!