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Saturday Morning at the Farmers’ Market

Summer is right around the corner!  Last Saturday morning, our local farmers’ market opened its stalls for the first time this season.  And what a morning!  The sky was blue and the temperature was warm.  A little after 8:30 a.m.,  I walked to our outdoor market to check out the goods.  I had to hurry.  SweetCheeks Kitchen made an early morning post on Facebook that they were bringing their gluten-free and vegan donuts!

SweetCheeks Kitchen, a specialty kitchen based in Almonte, Ontario, is run by the mother and daughter team of Sharon and Kristen Lloyd.  All of their sweets, salads and soups are gluten-free and vegan.  Last October, my husband and daughters surprised me with the most delicious birthday cake made by these two adorable ladies.  It was chai-flavoured – I think the 4 of us finished it in one entire sitting.  I have since had the pleasure of sampling their sweets and dishes at our local coffee shop, Equator Coffee Roasters, and more recently at some of our grocery stores.  Right now, I am addicted to their Power Balls – a raw, truffle-like dessert that melts in your mouth without the guilt.

On opening day at the market, Sharon was kind enough to pose with me for a photograph.

sweetcheeks

I arrived at the SweetCheeks booth just in time to scoop up the last few donuts.  I am not at all surprised that these donuts went so quickly.  They are deliciously light with the perfect amount of sweetness!  They are also baked and contain no added oils! 🙂 Later, I felt like mother-of-the-year when I presented a plate to my daughter and her friends.

donuts

I made a few more purchases that day.  One farmer was selling some beautiful looking organic greens.  I picked up a bunch of wild garlic (or wild leek) and made a pesto sauce to serve over brown rice noodles for dinner.  I also found a bunch of mizuna greens.  These greens are similar to arugula but with a milder flavour.  They made a wonderful addition to our evening salad.  As well, rhubarb is in season, so I couldn’t pass on purchasing a couple of bundles of freshly cut stalks.  This morning I made the most delicious rhubarb muffins sweetened only with maple syrup. (Recipe coming!)

This photo shows a bundle of mizuna greens and wild garlic.

greens

I look forward to many more Saturdays at The Almonte Farmers’ Market.  Do you have a farmers’ market in your area? If so, what treasures can you find?

Let’s talk about SIZE

The Canadian Celiac Association has been an invaluable resource in our quest to adhere to a gluten-free diet.  I encourage anyone who has been recently diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, or anyone who has close friends or family who have, to get in contact with this association and your local chapter.   It is through the Canadian Celiac Association that I learn of new gluten-free products on the market and what products and restaurants are deemed safe for the gluten-free consumer.

Now that the kids are back to school and our holidays are over and done with, I finally had a moment this morning to pick up my recent copy of the Canadian Celiac News (November-December 2012).  One of the headlines particularly sparked my curiousity – “Size Matters: Two package sizes may mean different ingredients”.  The article was brief, but big in my eyes.

I was shocked with what I read.

This article compared two package sizes – the consumer size (products sold in grocery or natural health food stores) and the food service size (products for restaurants or other dining facilities) of the same product.  Specifically, it addressed Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, Heinz Worcestershire sauce and Renee’s Caesar Salad Dressing.  These three products are typically used in the restaurant industry.

Now, for those of you who have followed a gluten-free diet for some time, you may be aware that Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce is absolutely not a food option.  It contains malt vinegar.  (If you are interested in a gluten-free Worcestershire sauce, I love The Wizard’s Organic, Vegan Worcestershire sauce sold at my favourite natural food store). You may also have learned that Renee’s Caesar Salad Dressing and Heinz Worcestershire sauce are both gluten-free.

In the past, my husband and I would occasionally frequent a couple of kid-friendly restaurants with our two daughters and order Caesar salads.  These restaurants were chosen not only for their cooperation in providing a clean, “non-contaminated” plate for our gluten sensitive daughter, but also for their use of Renee’s Salad Dressings in all, if not most, of their salads.  A Caesar salad, without the croutons and bacon, was always seen as a safe food choice.

Surprise!  This is not the case!  Indulging in a Caesar salad with Renee’s Caesar Salad Dressing at your favourite restaurant, may make you sick if you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.

Yes, Renee’s Caesar Salad Dressing is gluten-free in the consumer size, but not gluten-free in the size sold to the food service industry.   However, you may find it comforting to know that other Renee’s dressings in this size do not contain gluten.  Only the Caesar Salad Dressing, food industry size, contains gluten.

The same goes for Heinz Worcestershire sauce.  Your bottle at home is gluten-free, but the food service size is not.  Chances are your favourite restaurant is using the food service size in its food.  It’s cheaper to buy in bulk, right?

The opposite is for Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce.  It is gluten-free in the food service size where it is made with white vinegar, not malt vinegar.  Eating a hamburger at a restaurant with this sauce on the ingredient list, is safe – but I must add…..not at all healthy or compassionate….my food blog is gluten-free and vegan, after all!  😉

Now, how confusing is that?  It is challenging enough to have to read labels and ingredient lists!  Now we have to be concerned with the SIZE of the product!

The Canadian Celiac Association encourages its members to read ingredient lists carefully, each and every time,  and to speak to the chef in restaurants and other food facilities about food preparation and practises.

Some of you may feel a little wary about talking to restaurant owners or chefs about their food.  Personally,  I have found that more and more owners and chefs are more than happy to discuss their dishes and are more than willing to offer choices that will keep you and your family healthy.   A good restaurant will want your business and a good restaurant will have knowledgeable staff who are aware of the most common allergens.

Eat well and stay healthy!

Our Journey to a Gluten-Free Kitchen

bailey

This is a photo of my daughter taken one early Spring morning.  She had a desire for “Sour Cream n’ Onion” Kale Chips – her favourite gluten-free, vegan snack – for breakfast!

Our daughter is the reason for us having a gluten-free kitchen.

Our journey towards a gluten-free kitchen has been a rocky one. It has involved an outrageous number of appointments with doctors and specialists, as well as a number of evasive tests. Unfortunately, this is the case for many suffering from Celiac Disease or a Gluten Intolerance.

Celiac Disease is a genetic, autoimmune disorder that, if left untreated, causes damage to the mucosa of the small intestine. As a result, the body has a difficult time absorbing the essential nutrients it requires – iron, calcium, vitamins A, D, E, K, and folate. Without these nutrients, an individual may suffer from headaches and fatigue. Anemia and malnutrition are almost inevitable if this disease goes undetected. Celiac Disease is not something you can “outgrow”. It is a life-long disorder with the treatment being a life-long gluten-free diet.

Gluten is the insoluble protein found in grains such as, wheat, rye, triticale and barley. There are also hidden sources of gluten in processed and packaged foods, cosmetics, and certain drug products. The Canadian Celiac Association states that “particular care should be taken in the selection of soups, luncheon meats and sausages”. A person with Celiac Disease must read the list of ingredients on all labels, each and every time. *Manufacturers have been known to change ingredients at any given time.

According to the Canadian Celiac Association, one in every 133 Canadians have this disease. This number represents the number of Canadians that have been diagnosed. It is believed that the prevalence of this disease is actually much higher.

The problem with Celiac Disease is that not all individuals have symptoms, yet even without symptoms damage will occur to the membrane of the small intestines. Some symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, lethargy, irritability and dermatitis herpetiformis. These symptoms can also vary in extremity from individual to individual.

If Celiac Disease is suspected, a blood test and intestinal biopsy is usually performed. The individual being tested must be sure to follow a diet containing gluten prior to this test. That’s right – they must eat foods laden with gluten for several weeks in order for this test to be successful. This often involves a great deal of pain and frustration for the patient. If the biopsy shows damage to the small intestine, then a Celiac Disease diagnosis is confirmed.

My 9-year-old daughter does not have a confirmed diagnosis of Celiac Disease because she has never had the intestinal biopsy. By the time a decision was made for her to see a Gastroenterologist, I had her following a gluten-free diet and she was feeling a million times better. It did not make sense for my husband and I to put her back on gluten and make her ill for weeks just for a result that we knew would only come back as positive. This was five years ago.

As a toddler and preschooler, our daughter was in pain. My husband and I would often find her crouched in a corner holding her belly. She was irritable, lethargic and had difficulty sleeping. Our daughter would also vomit at the drop of a hat. She more than often experienced chronic diarrhea and her blood work repeatedly showed that she was anemic. Her cognitive development was suffering as well. It was difficult for her to focus on a specific task for even a short period of time.

At the age of 4, she was given a blood test, as preliminary screening, to detect Celiac Disease. My husband and I forked out the $200 and waited patiently for the results. They came back negative. We were told that she absolutely did not have the disease. We were told that she may have difficulty digesting milk and we were told that some kids are “just like that”. However, off of dairy, she was the same.

Over the next few months, she missed many days of nursery school and many out-of-the-house functions. So, I took a deeper look into the cause being food related. I asked for a referral to an Allergist.  A skin prick test was done and it showed that she had no allergies. At this point, I was in tears and begged for help. This doctor then referred us to a Gastroenterologist at our local children’s hospital, but still insisted that food was not the issue. The appointment was finally made. We had nearly 9 months to wait.

Not knowing that she must continue to eat gluten foods for a biopsy,  I put our daughter on what is known as an Elimination Diet.  I was just so desperate to find answers as to what was making her sick.  I wish I was aware of the Elimination Diet years ago.  It was challenging – for some time, our daughter was off soy, dairy (lactose intolerant is a very common misdiagnosis of gluten intolerance), nuts, eggs, gluten and some fruit all at once!  It was during this time that I realized gluten was the enemy.

I then started her on a gluten-free diet. Her symptoms began to diminish.

When she was clearly beginning to feel better, my husband and I decided then that our home would be a gluten-free zone. I understand that this is not recommended by health professionals.  However, I have not found a good reason why the rest of my family should not eat gluten-free foods in the home. (Honestly, we are not 100% gluten-free like my 9 year old. We try to make gluten-free choices outside the home, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen).

According to Danna Korn, one of the leading authorities on the gluten-free diet, and author of many books including, “Living Gluten-Free for Dummies”, having the whole family eating gluten-free is expensive, can put a strain on relationships if everyone is “forced” to adhere to the diet, and it’s not reality – the world is filled with gluten.

Processed and prepared gluten-free meals can definitely be expensive. It’s also important to keep in mind that some of these meals may be void of valuable nutrients.  Although there are good products on the market, I recommend to others on a gluten-free diet to eat meals rich in a variety of whole foods.  This will certainly cut down the expense.

Our kitchen has been gluten-free for over five years now.

A few times over the years, our daughter has accidentally consumed a food containing gluten. The result put her in a great deal of pain. This experience has led her to be extra diligent about her food choices outside the home.

Our daughter will get to see a Gastroenterologist this upcoming January. This past summer, she was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, also an autoimmune disease. Her Rheumatologist is recommending this visit. This shocking diagnosis has now led us to a diet void of inflammation triggers. (A future post for uberdish!).

Despite this, our daughter appears to be a happy, healthy child. She is active in many different activities in and out of school.

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this post, please understand that it is not “normal”. No one should ever be in pain after eating or suffer from diarrhea for hours at end. Please discuss your symptoms with a health care professional and please be open to the exploration of food allergies as the culprit.

If you have been recently diagnosed, I understand that a gluten-free diet may be overwhelming. It does get easier. The Celiac Association is a wonderful resource. As well, I hope uberdish provides you with mouth-watering recipes and the encouragement to continue a diet that brings you great health.

Uberdish News

We woke this morning to a beautiful blanket of thick frost.  The thermometer read minus 8.6 degrees Celsius.  Thank goodness I took the time this past weekend to dig out our hats, mitts, and winter jackets.

If you haven’t already done so, please check out my About Angela page.  After what feels like several hundred drafts,  I finally posted it!!

Also, uberdish now has a FACEBOOK page!  I hope you will have a chance to visit it. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Uberdish/515251645152231

As for Twitter…I’m working hard on it.  I hope it will come very soon.

Have a very happy Wednesday everyone!  Thank you for visiting uberdish!

An Uber-Delicious Lunch

Yesterday, my husband and I had my mom over for a late afternoon lunch.  Considering that this is day 5 of my raw diet,  I decided that I would make a protein-packed mixed green salad with a few  surprises.

First surprise –  COLLARD WRAPS WITH CASHEW AND WALNUT PATE

collard wraps

These wraps are so delicious and nutritious!  They are a great alternative to flour or corn tortillas and, in my opinion, they travel much better.  I have taken collard wraps on car trips and to various  outings and they always hold up nicely.

To make collard wraps, take one collard leaf and remove its stem to form two halves.  Each leaf will make 2 collard wraps.  Lie each leaf flat and spread a heaping teaspoonful of cashew and walnut pate along the bottom of the leaf.  Add long strips of sliced cucumber and green onions.  I added some grated carrot and sunflower sprouts, as well.   Roll each leaf up lengthwise and place on it on a serving dish.

CASHEW AND WALNUT PATE

  • 1/4 cup each of ground whole raw cashews and walnuts; set aside (you can grind nuts into a powder, but I like to leave mine with chunkier bits)
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon unpasteurized miso*
  • 1 teaspoon green nori flakes*

Place celery, vinegar, garlic, miso, and nori in a food processor and pulse a few times until you have small pieces.  Add ground cashews and walnuts and mix.

* miso – a fermented paste, often made from soybeans,  full of live enzymes and bacterial flora

* nori flakes – a seaweed that grows off the coast of Japan, high in iodine

Second surprise – Maple Candied Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds

    I found this recipe in “RAW FOOD, Real World” by Mathew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis.   These “can’t-stop-eating-snacks” were made in my dehydrator* (112 degrees Fahrenheit/44 degrees Celsius for about half a day).  If you own a deydrator, I would encourage you to use it,  but, if you don’t, you can put them in your oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit/163 degrees Celsius for about 10-15 minutes.

  • 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (if using a dehydrator, soak for a few hours then drain)
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Toss the ingredients in a bowl and spread on a dehydrator tray or a lightly greased cookie sheet.

* Dehydrating food at low temperatures allows the food to maintain its live enzymes, nutrients and vitamins.   Did you know that raw pumpkin seeds are packed with protein (100 grams of seeds provide 30 grams of protein!)?

Third surprise – KOMBUCHA!!

kombucha

I didn’t make this kombucha.  This is Synergy’s Gingerberry with a cocktail pick of organic cranberries.  Kombucha is a fermented, sweetened tea full of probiotics.   I have been addicted since my first sip.

When I was a kid, I loved to go out for dinner with my family to restaurants that had a salad bar.   I just loved the idea of choosing my own ingredients and mixing my favourite veggies together to make a satisfying and delicious meal.

Today, late night dinners in our house often consist of a salad bar.  When it’s just too late to start cooking and “take out” is not an option, this salad is IT!  I like to spread out the ingredients in small bowls on my kitchen counter and hand each member a dinner plate to go to it.  Kids love it because they get to choose the gems for their greens, not mom.

ubersalad

This was my salad this afternoon.  It looks busy, but it was awesome!  I started with a big handful  of organic, mixed greens.   I then tossed in a variety of chopped vegetables (peppers, cucumber, and green onions – that was what was available in my fridge on this day) and some jicama sticks.  My fridge also had in store a wonderful variety of nuts and seeds (raw sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and almonds)  and I tossed them in the dish, too.  For my mom and husband,  I finished it all off with some maple, candied pumpkin seeds and my homemade salad dressing.

ANGELA’S SALAD DRESSING

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • dash of Bragg’s liquid soy seasoning
  • squirt of agave syrup
  • minced garlic clove
  • splash water

Stir with a fork and pour over salad mix.  Enjoy!

I hope this post inspires you to make your own collard wraps and salad bar lunch!  Be creative.  If you have some mixed greens and veggies in your fridge, why not throw a salad together.  Simple. Easy. Fast. Delicious. Uber-Nutritious.   Gotta love that!

*** A BIG THANK YOU to my mother, Valerie Dale, for coming to lunch with her camera.  My mom took photos of our collard wraps, salad, and kombucha!