Sunday, June 27, 2010

BatStar Adventure Tours

This past week I had a wonderful opportunity to join my boyfriend and his family on a sea kayaking adventure in Clayoquot Sound. It was a fully guided tour for 5 days and 4 nights of kayaking and camping in open ocean and on sandy beaches. 

Many of you have probably heard of Clayoquot Sound before, as it's been the center of many disputes between loggers and environmentalists and was covered quite heavily in the news .... at least here in B.C.  It started back in 1984 when 90% of Meares Island was slated to be logged. Blockades were set up in protest and the First Nations Nuu-chah-nulth won the right to impose a legal injunction on logging. In 1993 disputes arose again when 2/3's of the old growth forests in Clayoquot Sound were slated to be logged. One of the largest protests occurred resulting in over 850 arrests, with activists chaining themselves to trees. This remains the largest peaceful act of civil disobedience in Canadian History (too bad we can't say the same thing for G20). Since then there has been more cooperation between the forestry industry and environmentalists and there are several old growth areas in Clayoquot Sound that are protected, including 'The Big Tree Trail,' a popular tourist destination maintained by local First Nations. The beauty of the area is inspiring and one can easily see why so many fought to protect it. 

My boyfriends family has done several tours with BatStar Adventure Tours before and have become regulars because of the great experiences they've had. When I was asked to join them on a family vacation I was deeply honoured and quite excited for the trip. However, being a Celiac who's had a few bad experiences with guided tours before, I was also apprehensive at being away from any other source of food for 5 days. I was unsure as to how knowledgeable BatStar was with Celiac Disease and how to prepare food for Celiacs. They assured me that they have relatives with Celiac and had been able to accommodate many Celiacs before me, but when I saw the menu for the week I was left a little uneasy. There sure where a lot of gluten related things on the menu. 

The tour starts by arriving at the owners B&B in Port Alberni. The first night dinner is wherever you find it (I recommend Boston Pizza's gluten free pizza by the Walmart) and the morning is breakfast on the B&B. That is when I first started feeling more comfortable about how the week was going to pan out. They provided me with homemade gluten free muffins as an alternative to what everyone else was eating. I'm usually pretty leery about homemade baking, but I didn't have any reactions, so that put me at ease right away. Once we were in kayaks and heading towards our first lunch spot, the original menu had been to have buckwheat noodle salad. Now if the buckwheat noodles are 100% buckwheat, then they would be fine, but most aren't, so when I discovered that the salad had been switched to a mixed rice (white and wild), that eased my concerns even more. The rice salad was amazing and I really need to find out what was in it ... it was quite citrusy and refreshing. As the days went on, I discovered that the guides really knew what they were doing when it came to my food. I overheard them talking to each other "I just handled the wraps so you make Tiffany's food" and making sure everything was done separately to avoid cross-contamination. They also consulted me frequently on anything they were unsure of, letting me decided what I was willing to take risks on or not. On kayaking trips with only open outhouses and a limited amount of toilet paper, I don't take any chances. 

The trip wasn't without small mishaps, but that's when being prepared (see blog 2 postings ago) comes in handy. The guides were supposed have been given corn tortillas for my lunches, but they never made it into the kayaks, so it was lucky that I had brought some along just in case. Dinners were always fantastic and there were some alternatives for breakfast, but some breakfasts and snacks were lacking in the alternatives so a little gf bar alongside the fabulous fresh fruit salad every morning did the trick and some homemade trail mix from nuts-online filled the voids.  As a result of being prepared and the fantastic working knowledge of the guides on how to feed me, I was not hungry and grumpy the entire trip. 

Speaking of the trip, it was pretty interesting and fun experience. Kayaking for several days and being a beginner, it takes a bit of getting used to being damp all the time (once your clothes get wet, they stay wet), but the beaches we camped on were always well sheltered and wonderfully sandy on the toes. We got to see quite a bit of wildlife. I saw a crazy amount of whales and they came pretty darn close to our kayaks, but I never seemed to get my camera out fast enough for them. Seals, starfish, seabirds, were a plenty and we even saw some river otters too. 

The guides were great with local knowledge and were fantastic cooks (everything was made from scratch with fresh food and herbs) and were always on top of what was going on. They even had hot tea ready for us to sooth or stomachs on a slightly rough day for those of us who get a little motion sick. How they managed to find hot water in their kayaks after hours of paddling is beyond me. So, bring a small dry bag with some easy breakfasts (Gluten Freda's instant oatmeal and Glutino bars), small bag of corn tortillas and some snacky things (nuts, cookies,etc) with you for just in case moments and you will have a fantastic time with BatStar Adventure Tours.

My Nuts-Online Customized Trail Mix 

2 cups of Cashew pieces (or any mixture of preferred nuts)
1 cup of Dried Fruit Mix
1 cup of Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup of gluten free Chocolate or Carob Chips

Add all ingredients to a plastic resealable bag, shake to mix and enjoy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Apple, Peach, Blackberry Crumble

Life tumbles along throwing you left and right, up and down. Sometimes it sends you high with lots of love, friends and endless giggles and sometimes it sends you low with feelings of loneliness, lifelessness and sadness. Everyone handles these moments differently. Some people hide into themselves, some people get angry, some people hold grudges, some move on and forget. Me, I  try to keep busy to keep my mind from over thinking things, as we girls tend to do. If you are lucky (like me) these little low moments are far and few between, but they do happen and I think they are important. They have the potential to teach us more about ourselves and how to learn for our mistakes. They teach us how other people cope and what they need to handle situations. And sometimes after more than two years with someone you still have no idea what the hell is going on :)

Don't worry, I'm not going through anything tragic here, just a little spat with the significant other and personally I think it's just because he's a man and needs more space than I do. He's been cooped up with me in a new town at a new job with no friends around and it's only a matter of time before he's going to have to express these frustrations ... which is of course why I went for a walk to the ocean this evening, by myself, to give him his space. But as girls tend to do, we over think things and come to the conclusion that our worlds are falling apart when they are not. I find writing about situations makes me feel better about them almost instantly ... like lifting weights off your shoulders and making you feel light as air or at least a little lighter. Listening to the waves crashing against the shore also helps. It's a reminder that the world keeps on moving and that some things never change. They are always there if you need them. I watched the sun set and was reminded of a proverb that always helps me feel better if I'm in a low moment, 'turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you'. I saw that saying on a card in a gift shop one year when I was going through a lot of difficult times and it really hit home with me and has stuck with me ever since. 

The saying brings hope and sunshine and warmth when you might be feeling anything but. Something else that also brings hope, sunshine and warmth is dessert. Who doesn't reach for a piece of sinfully dark melt in your mouth fudge brownie when they need a little pick me up.  Or warm hot out of the oven ooeey gooey chocolate chip cookies. We (Celiacs) can make all of these things in our versions and they can taste amazing, but they are not always quick. One dessert that is easy to make and not all that bad for you (I mean it has fruit in it) is apple crumble.

Apple crumble can be made the traditional way with 100% pure uncontaminated oats, but new Celiacs are supposed to wait a year before they try oats, as some people are sensitive to oats and some are not and you need a healthy digestive system to be able to determine if you are the sensitive type. So alternative toppings can be used instead. The recipe below has an alternative topping that I was working on by myself for quite a while trying to figure out the perfect ratios and then perfected it after trying Elana Amsterdams recipe.

Spicing up the good 'ol Apple Crumble is also an easy thing to do. You can add almost any fruit you like to the base. Just remember to adjust the sweetenr/sugar level to the type of fruit you use. If you use a tangy vegetable like rhubarb, add a bit more sugar so that your dessert isn't too bitter.

Apple, Peach, Blackberry Crumble


2 large Apples, peeled and sliced
3 large Peaches, peeled and sliced 
1 cup fresh or frozen Blackberries
1/4 cup of Honey
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Nutmeg


2 cups of Almond Flour
1/2 cup of Buckwheat Groats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of Margarine, melted
1/2 cup of Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all of your fruit in a bowl with the honey, nutmeg and cinnamon. Then transfer to a greased 8x8 glass baking dish. In a separate bowl mix together almond flour, buckwheat groats, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar. Then pour in melted butter and stir until the mixture forms crumbles. Spoon this over top of your filling. Place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Serve while still warm. Can be topped with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream or whipping cream.

This dish will warm you and your spirits up and can make a great dehydrated camping dessert! Just bake the filling and topping separately and then dehydrate the filling (do this shortly before your trip as I'm not sure how long the non-dehydrated topping will last). To revive it, just add some boiling water (start with 1 cup and go from there) and simmer over a camp fire or stove. Once it looks plump again, spoon some out into individual dishes and sprinkle on the pre-baked topping and voila it tastes like it just came out of the oven!