Monday, May 31, 2010

Be Prepared

"Be Prepared" ... that has been the motto of Girl Guides and Boy Scouts since it all began. I have often referenced it (having been in guiding as a youth and as a leader) when I have been in situations where people are in awww of the fact that I have done something that required foresite. Sometimes it is as simple as being the person who lugged firewood down a 3km trail because she knew that the beach had little wood to scavanage. It came in handy for those people who had only brought hot dogs for dinner and there was no wood to be had to make a fire ... good thing I packed that really annoyingly heavy load in even though I had brought a camp stove to cook my food on. The funny thing is, I actually passed by a troop of Scouts who said, "now that's being prepared!" 

Okay, so that is on the more extreme end of things and I am often caught unprepared, usually for rain which is a very frequent occurrence around here, so you think I would have learned by now. One of those things that I should have learned by now and for the most part I have, is being prepared with food. My former supervisor at work used to harass me all the time (in a joking manner of course) about how I was always eating or always carry a bag full of food. Part of the problem that helped him think that I was always eating is that I'm not a breakfast person and cannot eat first thing in the morning. So I wait a few hours and have breakfast at the office or on the road. Then I would eat my lunch at my desk while working as I had used my lunch break for a walk instead ... so my eating times were off the norm. The other reason is that, as a Celiac, I have to carry back up food with me all the time. 

If you are newly diagnosed, this trick will save your butt in endless situations and it all ties back to being prepared. I have endless stories and scenarios of being hungry and grumpy from when I first was diagnosed when I didn't know any better and until now when I just didn't have the energy to think ahead. But being lazy was/is never worth it. What am I getting at? Well, if you travel a lot or are going somewhere new where they (friends, restaurants, events) claim they can accommodate you safely, bring back up food! It is as simple as that and here's why. If you are anything like me (super sensitive) and not willing to take risks, you will find yourself in situations quite often where you might not get as much food as you were hoping or any at all.

I'm on the road a lot for work and have to travel all over Vancouver Island. I stay in a lot of places for short stints and long stints and sometimes have to take ferries to the smaller islands at weird ungodly hours. As a result I have found myself discovering that the place I'm working at today doesn't have a working microwave and all I brought was microwaveable gluten free Thai noodles. I have discovered that the ferry I'm in line for is delayed and I ate my lunch earlier and am still hungry ... oh and I'm on a little island that doesn't know what the word gluten free is. I've had to work through lunch and rush back to work to avoid overtime and can't eat my warmed up soup while driving and so on ... and that's just work. 

On the road I've discovered that airports are utterly useless for feeding Celiacs. Sure you can order special food on a plane, but what about the hours between flights you spend in airports while your friends mow down on burgers or doughnuts and you can't even have the salad because it has unknown deli meat on it? How about trying to find a restaurant to eat at while on the road in small towns? How about forgetting your snacks in your backpack that got stowed in the hull of a ship and watching your friends fill their boots with burgers and chips while you try to make that half eaten gluten free cookie last another 5 hours. Or going to restaurants where they say they can accommodate you and what they meant was, you can have a house salad with no dressing.Or like when I was first diagnosed, assuming that just because most of things in your house are now safe to eat, going over to a friends for the weekend, that you will be able to eat just fine there too? That is a big mistake .... you can't have any of their condiments and they won't have half the stuff you are used to eating. Just remember the first day you found out you had Celiac and filled up boxes of food that you had to give away because it wasn't safe anymore? That is what everybodyelse's kitchens are filled with.

Okay, enough with my ranting ... obviously I've had my fare share of stuck without food scenario's and when I am without food I get frustrated and grumpy, sometimes a little bit weak in the knees and sometimes a little teary eyed. It's the grumpy teary eyed bit I'd like to avoid the most and the bit that being prepared gets rid off. Basically bring food with you everywhere. Leave a few gluten free bars in you car's glove box or trunk for emergencies, leave one in your purse and leave one at work because your works emergency earthquake rations are 90% Wheat. If you don't know what the conditions are like where you are going, pack a lunch that doesn't require heating or utensils (that you didn't bring with you) and pack some basics ex: rice crackers, peanut butter, apple, cheese and gf pepperoni? whatever works best for you! If you are traveling for several days bring a cooler and fill it with things that you might not find as easily in a regular grocery store and if at all possible request a hotel room with a kitchenette. If you are traveling internationally, well you might want to give me a few tips because I haven't worked out all the quirks yet, but snacks galore seems to help and whatever you do, don't rely on the complimentary breakfasts (they are almost always muffins, danishes, toast and unsafe sausage).

I was reminded of this being prepared motto recently at a Girl Guide event. It is the 100 year of Girl Guiding in Canada this year and in order to mark it's anniversary British Columbia Girl Guides decided to celebrate it by having one giant sleep over with 7, 800 girls at the Pacific Colosseum. As a leader there, the event was a bit chaotic to say the least, but it is run entirely by volunteers, so what can you expect. At least the girls had fun! The only thing that worried me is that dinner was non-existent. The people in charge didn't understand what it is to be Celiac, mostly because we don't have the immediate reactions and threat as someone with anaphylactic allergies, so they try their best, but just do not understand.  So I was given a bag with gluten free burger buns and told to stand in line for dinner with everyone else. Once I got there, there was burgers with bread crumbs in them and chicken with seasoning and all grilled together. The could not guarantee anything. Good thing I saw this coming and brought some snacks (beef jerky and a Kind bar), so that's what I had for dinner. I was too busy making sure our pack of girls were doing okay to worry about food and the snack and breakfast that was provided for me worked out fine. But that scenario worried me for the young girls who were told they would be okay. I hope that they and there caretakers were as prepared as I was and it is this scenario that reminded me of the Girl Guides motto 'to be prepared.' This motto should really be adopted as the Celiac motto, because we really do have to spend a lot of time thinking about food and where our next meal is coming from in order to remain happy healthy people.

Knowing what works best for you will come by trail and error, but always carry something with you, even if it's just an apple because you never know what the day will bring you!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Carob Quinoa Cake (with a hint of blueberry)

Quinoa, pronounced "keen-wah" is one of those weird and wacky grains that a Celiac often discovers first when they start branching out. Technically it isn't a grain, it's a seed, but it's similar in texture to cous cous (which we can't have) and cooks up like a grain, that it ends up getting that title. It's a very versatile little seed and I see it most often served as a side dish for an entree (like rice) or as a light flavorful salad. I've even seen it and used it in some desserts because when you add it uncooked to a cookie or granola bar type recipe, it puffs up when baked and becomes this lovely little crunchy goodness. I have never seen it used as the main flour ingredient for a cake. That is, of course, until a co-worker sent me an article from a former local paper the Times Colonist. It was entitled "Crazy About Quinoa" and had a recipe in it for a moist chocolate cake. I definitely had to try it!

Below is an adaption of the recipe printed from the Times Colonist. There wasn't a whole lot to adapt as it was already gluten free, but I substituted chocolate for carob, milk for coconut milk and added some blueberries to the mix. To get a stronger blueberry flavor next time I think I would add some blueberry tea to the water that the quinoa was cooked in, or just go for a stronger flavored berry like blackberry. The cake was delicious and I had a few people at work ask for the recipe. It's quite easy to make and it makes two cakes so you can do what I did and save one for home and share the other, or you can freeze the second one or just stack it and make a layered cake. Enjoy!

Carob Quinoa Cake (with a hint of blueberry)

2/3 cup white or golden Quinoa
1 1/3 cups Water (try adding blueberry tea)
1/3 cup Coconut Milk
4 large Eggs
1 tsp pure Vanilla Extract
1 cup of fresh or frozen Blueberries
3/4 cup Butter, melted and cooled
1-1/2 cups Sugar
1 cup Carob Powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow the quinoa to cool. Lightly grease two 8-inch round or square cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Combine the coconut milk, eggs, blueberries and vanilla in a food processor then all of  the cooked quinoa and the butter and continue to blend until smooth. Next dump in sugar, carob powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt and blend well. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake on the centre rack for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan before serving. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Diaper Cakes

No, I haven't gone crazy. I know that you can't eat a diaper cake, but this blog isn't solely about gluten free baking, it's also about living life too. Part of life is having friends, family and co-workers bringing about new life and that has been happening a lot lately.

I'm still waiting for my biological clock to tick in that regard, but I do love how cute all things 'baby' are. I also have a bit of a crafty side to me. Growing up I had the hardest time deciding if I wanted to go to art college or to get a science degree. I went with science as I figured it would pay better, but to this day I still wonder if I made the right choice. But I am happy with what I do and what better way to get those crafty/artsy desires out then to create something beautiful and meaningful for an upcoming birth. A diaper cake fits the bill perfectly.

I first learned how to make a diaper cake by watching this video by Becca:

It explains everything in easy steps. Her cakes use 96 diapers, but I've gotten mine down to about 66 (1 jumbo sized pack of newborn pampers) in order to save a bit of money by using pie pans instead of pizza pans and omitting the inside layer. These cakes aren't cheap, so if you have a friend who's floundering on a gift idea, get them to pitch in financially. They start around $50 and can go way up from there depending on what you decorate the cake with and what you hide inside it (usually baby shampoo's/moisturizers that will fit in the center of the cake easily).

These cakes are really fun to make and you can personalize them to endless degrees. If you have someone in your life that is expecting, and you need baby shower ideas, I highly recommend a diaper cake.

Update: Since this post I received a comment in regards to the diaper cakes not being environmentally friendly. Had the comment been written in a constructive manor I would have gladly shared it with everyone, however, it wasn't very nice.  There was truth to it though, diapers are not the most environmentally friendly. I should know, I have a degree in Environmental Science. But Environmental Science does not an Environmental extremist make. Most of my cakes have been for co-workers in different offices, so I don't know them personally enough to ask them if they prefer disposable diapers or re-useable diapers, but that is something that I would recommend doing if the diaper cake isn't a surprise. 

Another option is to make a towel cake. That is what I did with my latest creation. I used a fuzzy baby blanket on the bottom layer, receiving blankets in the middle layer and wash clothes in the top layer. This cake was to yet another co-worker that I couldn't ask about their diaper preference, however we were going to give the cake several weeks after the baby was born, meaning the diapers might not fit. So I opted for the more environmentally friendly option and the version that didn't require me knowing the current height and weight of the baby and went for a 'towel' cake. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Upcoming Event - Gluten Free Fair in Vancouver

I saw this posted on Living Gluten-Free Community's site and followed it to Choices Market website and figured that this was a good thing to spread the word on. So if you are in Vancouver for May 29th, 2010 you might be interested in attending the 5th Annual Gluten-Free Fair. I've cut and paste the information from Choices website below for your information:

Gluten-Free Fair - Vancouver
Choices Markets and the Canadian Celiac association have joined forces once again to host the Fifth Annual Gluten-Free Health Fairs. The lower mainland events take place at the following dates:

St. Mark’s Anglican Church, 1805 Larch Street in Vancouver Saturday, May 29, 9am-2pm
Choices Markets’ South Surrey location, Sunday, May 30 from 9am–4pm.

Gluten-free living doesn’t have to be boring—this is what Choices’ Annual Gluten-Free Fair hopes to make clear for those living with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. From 9:00am–12:00pm, the event will kick off with lectures by the following experts:

- Dr. Hugh Freeman, MD, Gastroenterologist, Researcher & Professor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.
- Desiree Nielsen, RD, Choices’ own dietitian & Dietian Advisor for the Vancouver Chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association
- Dr. Arjuna Veeravagu, ND Naturopathic physician specializing in Gluten Intolerance

Those who are new to the gluten free diet will gain a solid understanding of Celiac Disease and the gluten-free diet. For Celiac veterans, this event will offer insight about the many conditions associated with Celiac Disease and how to maintain optimum health.

Choices’ Dietitian, Desiree Nielsen stresses the importance of helping people get past simply surviving without gluten: “Living Gluten Free is about more than just finding gluten free foods. As we learn more about the nature of gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease, we have the opportunity to go beyond just gluten free. We have the resources to help people thrive with a nutritious diet that explores new foods and cuisines and makes food fun again.”

Celiac disease affects 1 in 100 people, but 97% go undiagnosed. Some of the many symptoms of celiac disease include unexplained low iron, recurring or persistent diarrhea or constipation, stomach pain, bone and joint pain, depression, infertility, recurrent miscarriages, and migraines.

Space is limited and registration is necessary for Choices gluten free fairs. All who register for the lectures will receive a complimentary gift bag full of coupons and delicious gluten-free goodies.

To register for the Vancouver event, call Choices Markets Kitsilano at 604-736-0009.

To register for the South Surrey event call Choices Markets South Surrey at 604-541-3902.

Admission fee is $15 at the door. All net proceeds will benefit the local chapter of the Celiac Association.

For those interested in tasting just how good gluten-free can be, there will be complimentary samples of gluten-free foods available from 11:00am–4:00pm at the South Surrey Event. Sampling is open to the public, and registration is not required for food samplers.


The Canadian Celiac Association is a volunteer-based registered charity that provides resources and support to people with celiac disease. It also hosts and promotes public awareness and research initiatives within the community. For more information on the Vancouver chapter of the Celiac Association, visit

Choices Markets is recognized as one of the leading suppliers of gluten-free products in Western Canada and is proud to carry an extensive line of food for all types of dietary needs. Choices is also the only grocer in BC with its own Rice Bakery that specializes in hand-made, gluten-free foods.