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Friday, June 21, 2013
Happy Gluten-Free Fun Summer

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Thursday, June 20, 2013
Gluten-Free Greek at Ovelia
Astoria, New York is a very Greek neighborhood. It is also where I call home. My Greek grandmother grew up here and 9 years ago I decided to move here which made my grandma very proud. "You are going back to your roots!" she said shortly after I moved here. I love it in Astoria and cannot imagine living anywhere else. I am a short subway ride from Manhattan and my rent is cheap for a bright, beautiful, BIG 2-bedroom apartment. Take that Manhattanites living in a shoebox-sized apartment.  :-)

With many Greek neighbors, comes lots of Greek food. I have blogged about Ovelia Psistaria in the past but want to share once again about how great this restaurant is to the gluten-free community. Ovelia has been so welcoming to me and feeding me gluten-free food over the past few years. Last year they were even certified gluten-free by GIG. Ovelia has hosted two New York City Meetup events where the entire 8-course meal was gluten-free. Yes, eight courses of gluten-free Greek deliciousness. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable about their gluten-free menu, which is clearly marked with GF and V (vegan) icons. I love supporting small businesses and with food this good, I think you should make the trip to Queens the next time you are in Manhattan.

Learn more about Ovelia in this video. Pay special attention around 1:19 to see the GLUTEN-FREE highlighted on the menu.



View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Gluten-Free Fun: My Celiac Story
This story was originally written for a blog that is no longer active so you cannot read the whole post. I thought I would republish my story to share my 32 years of living with Celiac Disease with my Gluten-Free Fun readers.


Gluten-Free Fun: My Celiac Story
My Celiac story is longer than most, spanning more than 30 years. Although it was a long and bumpy ride at times, I truly believe being gluten-free for almost my entirely life and having Celiac Disease molded me into the person I am today.

I was a very sick toddler. I stopped growing and, I was not thriving as a 2-year-old child should. After months of visits, my pediatrician told my parents that based on my symptoms my illness could be anything from irritable bowel syndrome to giardia. In early 1981, I started seeing a pediatric gastroenterologist on Long Island, NY. I spent close to a week in the hospital and went through a battery of tests, eventually diagnosed with Celiac Disease. My doctor at the time was 29 years old, only one year out of his residency, and responsible for changing my life forever. I was discharged from the hospital and my gluten-free life began immediately. Within weeks, I started growing and acting like a normal toddler.

Being only a toddler, my parents were responsible for navigating the scarce gluten-free scene and were desperate for knowledge and safe food. They were at a loss as to where to turn for help. There was a lot of trial and error with getting me safe meals. My doctors did as much as they could to guide my parents, but they still felt alone and confused about raising a gluten-free child. Remember, this was 1981. There was no internet and researching gluten-free diets and finding a support community was a difficult feat. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that we even found our first support group. Today, I run the largest Celiac Disease Meetup group in the world. My how times have changed!

In kindergarten, my gastroenterologist decided to give my parents the option of giving me a gluten challenge. During this challenge I would be able to eat any foods I wanted, even ones containing gluten. I vaguely remembering talking to my teacher and telling her it was ok for me to eat pretzels and cookies for one day only. Needless to say, I was extremely sick and bed-ridden for the days following. My parents agreed with the doctor to keep me on the gluten-free diet forever since I would not outgrow Celiac Disease. There were so few gluten-free items available locally so my mom started ordering my food by the case from Ener-G Foods. To this day, she still has a separate freezer that is stocked with gluten-free food when I come to visit.

Throughout adolescence, my teens, and my college years, I found sticking to the gluten-free diet to be very challenging at times. Looking back, I think my lack of knowledge of the long-term damage of ingesting gluten as well as my personal youth rebellion  lead me to “cheating” by eating gluten-filled food. I was probably worst during my college years because I felt like the college cafeteria could never safely cater to me. I was one in thousands so why should I ask the kitchen to prepare special foods for me. I got terribly sick with mono at the end of freshman year and I fully blame it on my horrible diet. I was sick for days on end and sophomore year I lost a ton of weight because I was so ill. By junior and senior year, I no longer ate in the cafeteria and I was getting back to being healthy again. I am in awe of the gluten-free options I see for college students today. I wish I had those meal plans and options when I was away at college in the late 1990s.

Fast forward about five years after college when I started working and living in New York City. Although I had been gluten-free practically my whole life, I realized I longed for a gluten-free community to socialize with in the city. In 2003, with the help of the internet, I discovered the New York City Celiac Meetup group. In August 2006, I organized my first dinner for the group, becoming the lead organizer a few short months later. Now more than five years later and with close to 200 events under my belt, the NYC Celiac Meetup group is over 1650 members and I truly have found my gluten-free community.

In 2007, I started my blog Gluten-Free Fun as a way to show the world that being gluten-free should not stop you from living your life. As someone who grew up with Celiac Disease, I wanted my readers to realize that life is not over at your diagnosis. I usually like to keep my blog upbeat and informative, while being honest with my readers. I am by no means a medical expert, but I write about my personal experiences and stories about people I meet. I also include product reviews, restaurant suggestions, and more. I love the interaction I get with my readers through the blog, Facebook, and Twitter. I have met some really wonderful people through my blog and I wouldn’t exchange that for anything.

In 2011 while in the Czech Republic, I launched my second blog Gluten-Free Globetrotter. This website combined my two passions: being gluten-free and traveling. Although I had gone on family vacations my entire life, I really embraced travel about six years ago. When planning a vacation, I spend a lot of time not only researching the top attractions but places I could safely eat gluten-free. I not only wanted to share this information with others, but also wanted to encourage those with Celiac Disease to travel the world and not be scared about eating gluten-free domestically and abroad. The blog is just shy of a year old and I am still really excited about my Gluten-Free Globetrotter website. I just wish I had more time to travel and explore gluten-free options around the world!

Growing up gluten-free wasn’t easy and I took a long time to truly accept who I am as a person with Celiac Disease. As an adult, I know now I have a unique perspective of growing up gluten-free in a gluten-filled world for the past 30+ years. I am passionate about sharing my gluten-free experiences and expertise with others. If I can help just one person through my leadership of the NYC Celiac Meetup group or through my two blogs, then I feel like all of my time effort is worth it.

Erin Smith





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Monday, June 17, 2013
Celiac Disease in 1986
When I tell people that I was diagnosed with Celiac in 1981 they are usually shocked. First there are the kind people that say "There is no way you are old enough to have been gluten-free that long!" (Thank you!) Then there are the skeptics that say "Your doctor actually knew what Celiac was all the way back then?" Finally, there are those that say "Wow, you are lucky that you found out so early on in your life. You don't know how hard it is to change to a gluten-free diet." I usually have a similar response to all three comments which is "I really do feel like my doctor saved my life when I was just 2.5 years old." It's true. Even if I haven't been the healthiest person in the world, I truly believe my early diagnosis saved me from years of misdiagnosis and illness that I see and hear all too often from my readers and friends.

When I was in second grade, I was in the gifted program at school. This meant leaving my elementary school on a weekly basis to attend an accelerated program at another school. It was challenging and honestly a lot of pressure for an eight-year-old. Nevertheless, I was in this program for a good three years throughout my elementary and middle-school years. My major project for the gifted program was creating an informational table about Celiac Disease for doctors and hospitals. I was to create an interactive display including information, diagrams, and educational materials about Celiac Disease.

Remember, I was 8 years old when I did this project in 1986. There was NO Internet. There were very few books, if any, on the shelves in the local library. Almost all of my research for this project came from interviewing my doctor who was only a resident and less than 30 years old at the time. This was a very difficult project for anyone to do at the time, especially a 2nd grader!

My mom recently discovered my brochures from this project in her basement and I thought I would share them with my readers. Who knew that more than 30 years later, I would share this with an audience of this size on a blog totally focused on living a gluten-free life.

I found some of my notes in this brochure rather amusing, yet spot on for an eight year old. "You don't want to walk around" after eating gluten is an especially amusing gem. Enjoy!





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Friday, June 14, 2013
New Gluten-Free from Betty Crocker and Giveaway!
Although I am off the sugar for the rest of the month, I was excited to learn that Betty Crocker has expanded their gluten-free baking line. I am already a fan of their gluten-free yellow cake mix as well as their gluten-free brownie mix. From what I've seen, these are the most widely available gluten-free in regular supermarkets. Now, Betty Crocker has added gluten-free sugar cookie mix as well as an all-purpose gluten-free rice flour blend to their product line. This is great news for people that like to bake but don't have the time to measure out their own flour blends. As soon as I can eat sugar again and need to bake something for a party or BBQ, I am going to try these gluten-free mixes



GIVEAWAY!


In honor of this announcement, I was sent a baking kit to use for all of my gluten-free baking. The better news is that I have a kit to send one of my readers too. Your gift kit will include a baking tool set and an 8-inch square cake pan, with a retail value of $60.



Here's how to enter using Rafflecopter:





a Rafflecopter giveaway


If you decide to leave a comment, don't forget to include your email address!


Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Trader Joe's Almond Butter Crisis
For those of you following me on Twitter, you know I have a serious addiction to two things: sweet potato chips and Trader Joe's Unsweetened Almond Butter. Both of these foods have gotten me through this annoying elimination diet since they are both considered "ok" to eat. Probably not the best food choices in the world, but they aren't banned from my diet.

Much to my dismay, it has proven very difficult to find the Trader Joe's Unsweetened Almond Butter. I've been two a Trader Joe's in Manhattan, NY and one in West Hartford, CT. Both had empty shelves. My mom went to two Trader Joe's on Long Island (NY) and she also found a hole where the unsweetened almond butter once lived. I finally spoke to an employee at Trader Joe's and he said there was an almond butter shortage and they rarely got deliveries any more. This sounded slightly unbelievable but I took his word and went on the hunt for more.

I finally did find some almond butter at Trader Joe's Chelsea and bought three jars. At $5.99 a jar, this is by far the cheapest unsweetened almond butter on the market and if I knew how hard it would be to find it I would have bought more. Yes, there are other almond butters on the market but I refuse to pay more than $10 for only 6-10oz at most. That is just craziness.

Fast forward about 3 weeks since I finished my last jar and I am in a severe drought and having withdrawal symtoms. I tried sunflower butter but it just doesn't cut it. Insert sad face here. I rarely write to companies but I was missing my treat and my elimination diet has led me to do some weird things (don't ask!). Yesterday, I got this response from Trader Joe's:

Hi Erin,
Thank you so much for contacting us. We sincerely apologize for the stock issues we have had with our almond butter. Each store is able to order only one case (12 jars) at a time, and delivery is not always guaranteed. 

There is a delay in sourcing the raw materials, so production of the almond butter will be slowed until at least the end of June. Please know that, going forward, we are working hard to be able to keep this product on the shelves at all times - we love it, too! 

Regards,KerryCustomer Relations

One case at a time?! 12 jars for a city of 8 million people?! Almond sourcing issues?! Trader Joe's get it together. Ship some more of that almond butter to Manhattan, PRONTO. Gluten-Free Fun needs her fix!


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Monday, June 10, 2013
Happy National Iced Tea Day
Today is National Iced Tea Day. As someone that drinks iced tea by the barrel during the summer months, I was excited when Rooibee Red Tea sent me free samples of their unsweetened tea. I have been trying (and sometimes failing) to stay away from coffee over the past 8 weeks while on my elimination diet. I clearly have a reaction to coffee and tea is a great alternative. Rooibos tea is naturally caffeine-free and gluten-free so this was a great sample to try. The unsweetened tea has a flavor so mild that it didn't really feel like I was drinking tea at all. It was light and refreshing, almost like a flavored water. I preferred this tea at room temperature although I will definitely try it with lots of ice like I do my other iced teas. Read on for more information about Rooibee Red Tea including where it comes from and available flavors.

Cheers to you on national iced tea day! 


According to my contact at Rooibee Red Tea:

"If you’re not familiar with rooibos, it is a bush that grows only in South Africa. Tea made from rooibos has been enjoyed by South Africans for generations and has recently gained popularity in other parts of the world, including the US, because of its health benefits and inherently sweet character. 
Rooibee Red Tea is the only bottled, ready to drink USDA-organic rooibos tea on the market and comes in five delicious flavors: Watermelon Mint, Peach, Unsweetened, Cranberry Pomegranate and Vanilla Chai. All Rooibee Red Tea varieties are high in antioxidants, naturally caffeine free, gluten free, offer a full serving of Vitamin C and are low in calories. 
Rooibee Red Tea was created to offer a family-friendly, naturally caffeine free tea as a healthy alternative to high-sugar juices and sodas that many are consuming all summer long. Rooibee Red Tea rejuvenates without stimulants and refreshes without anything artificial."



Financial compensation was not received for this post. A sample product was gifted from the company. Opinions expressed here are my own. 

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Event: Gluten-Free Indian Cuisine and New York Wines


Wednesday June 12, 2013 from 6:15-7:45p.m. 

Do you enjoy Indian cuisine? Do you like New York? Do you drink wine? If you answered yes to even one of these questions, this class is for you!
We have expanded this class to include more wine and more food pairings! This time we tackle Indian fare with New York wines. You heard me right, we have an expert Chef in Indian cuisine which will be a terrific pairing with the cool climate wines of the Finger Lakes. We will use all our senses in this class to showcase food and strive toward wine pairing perfection.
Have you ever felt intimidated by wine? Choosing a wine to go with your dinner make you nervous? This class will also give you some easy guidelines to look as if you know something about wine, even if you don't. 
We will cover topics such as:
  • Going to or hosting a party?What type of wine should you bring/have?
  • How to order off a restaurant wine list
  • How to hold a wine glass
  • How to identify what you like (or don't) about wine Tips to pair your wine and food
You'll be able to ask anything about wine and get helpful tips to pick the perfect wine to go with any situation. 
We will taste at least four great value wines from  New York featuring the Finger Lakes (think wines like Riesling)  along with wines from Long Island and Hudson Valley that you can enjoy all summer. In addition, Chef Mahima will prepare, present and provide three perfectly paired noshes of Indian fare. All food will be gluten free as well!!!
With these nuggets of knowledge, you'll be in the coolest wine-nerd in the room! 
Prerequisites
You must be 21 years or older to attend, bring photo ID. Before class, feel free to email me your personal wine experiences so we can use them as discussion points in this session.

Sign up today!

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