The 2015 GFE Retreat

Back: Johnna, Me, Shirley, & Linda Front: Valerie, Katie, & Diane Photo from Johnna Perry, used with permission.

Back: Johnna, Me, Shirley, & Linda
Front: Valerie, Katie, & Diane
Photo from Johnna Perry, used with permission.

I just spent an amazing weekend with some of my favorite people. It’s been two years since I last blogged about getting together with friends at Shirley Braden’s for a retreat. It was another year of menus with multiple dietary restrictions, but no one ever felt deprived.

Johnna's Scout Cookies. Chaz immediately wanted one when I texted him a picture.

Johnna’s Scout Cookies. Chaz immediately wanted one when I texted him a picture.

Most of us arrived Thursday. Shirley had vegetarian chili cooking in the slow cooker and Jennifer whipped up her famous salmon cakes. Right before dinner, Shirley baked some sweet potato biscuits and Linda made sure her Chopped Veggie Salad was good to go. There was also wine and Johnna’s Scout Cookies. And how can I forget her sriracha cashews?

No one went hungry and everyone ate easily according to their needs. Notice how healthy doesn't have to be boring?

No one went hungry and everyone ate easily according to their needs. Notice how healthy doesn’t have to be boring?

While we sat in the living room chatting and checking social media, I autographed a couple of books my friends brought. It was an honor since packing space is a premium when we come to the retreat and my book is pretty thick. I enjoyed a Viennese Tea Cookie and a Penguino from Mariposa, a gluten-free bakery based in San Francisco that Diane ordered some treats from.

This is what I finished and published instead of creating new recipes. I wouldn't take back that decision at all.

This is what I finished and published instead of creating new recipes. I wouldn’t take back that decision at all.

Just a few of the Mariposa treats. All gluten-free, most are vegan. Penguinos, croutons, graham crackers, & Viennese tea cookies. Thanks to Diane for ordering & shipping them to us.

Just a few of the Mariposa treats. All gluten-free, most are vegan. Penguinos, croutons, graham crackers, & Viennese tea cookies. Thanks to Diane for ordering & shipping them to us.

The next morning, I made a meatless variation of my Winter Hash, using Japanese sweet potatoes and spinach. We topped it with leftover chili, egg, and avocado. We took our time getting ourselves together for the day and before we left for our trip into Fredericksburg, the goodies I ordered from Annie May’s Sweet Café arrived. Let’s just say some of my friends discovered a new kind of crack in the Mini Oatmeal Cream Pies. We also pulled out the Kite Hill brie style cheese to enjoy on some of the Mariposa batard. I thought the cheese needed to be baked with some preserves. We also had Treeline cheese. Both cheeses are nut based and so much like real cheese that I wished they had been around when I had to be dairy-free. I can still enjoy them now though. They are both great brands to look out for if you miss cheese. (And better than the popular faux cheese with tons of ingredients, imo)

Meatless Winter Hash, leftover Veggie Chili, egg, avocado, and bacon. Great way to fuel up!

Meatless Winter Hash, leftover Veggie Chili, egg, avocado, and bacon. Great way to fuel up!

Brie style cheese from Kite Hill on Mariposa gluten-free, vegan batard.

Brie style cheese from Kite Hill on Mariposa gluten-free, vegan batard.

Treats from Annie May's Sweet Cafe. Ginger Cookies, Lemon Cookies, and Mini Oatmeal Cream Pies. Everyone was happy.

Treats from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe. Ginger Cookies, Lemon Cookies, and Mini Oatmeal Cream Pies. Everyone was happy.

We wandered around downtown Fredericksburg, checking out stores that looked interesting or that we visit yearly. I usually find a Christmas gift or two, but this year, nothing screamed out: BUY ME! We stopped briefly at Kickshaws, a small market run by a friend of Shirley’s whom we met last year. She wasn’t in the store when we arrived, but they are working on expanding and adding a kitchen and they are now serving some pre-made foods and goodies. I spotted a delicious looking egg salad sandwich in the case (I’m a sucker for a good egg salad sandwich), Johnna bought some gluten-free, vegan brownies, and Valerie bought the gluten-free, vegan Peaches & Cream cupcakes. As for me, I bought some local ground coffee (you can never have too much coffee) and a snack package of green olives. I ate the olives on my flight home and they were DELICIOUS.

If only I could take the TARDIS to visit my friends ALL the time. Talk about having your cake and eating it too with all that wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

If only I could take the TARDIS to visit my friends ALL the time. Talk about having your cake and eating it too with all that wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

Kickshaws had a wonderful array of gluten-free, vegan treats on display. The brownies were divine and the peaches & cream cupcakes were pure bliss.

Kickshaws had a wonderful array of gluten-free, vegan treats on display. The brownies were divine and the peaches & cream cupcakes were pure bliss.

When we were done, we headed to Bistro Bethem for dinner where I ordered a delightful Bordeaux Blanc, the chef created two special vegan dishes for our table, and Katie Oliver joined us. While Katie isn’t a gluten-free blogger (or even need to be gluten-free), she is a friend of Shirley’s who introduced the two of us on Twitter a few years ago and it’s been BFF fun time ever since.

Not only did we have the menu items to choose from, but the specials on the board too. They were able to easily modify dishes to our needs. I ordered a Caesar Salad (no croutons) and the Stuffed Quail. I was not disappointed at all. Upon checking out the dessert menu, Johnna and I decided we needed to try the Butterscotch Pots de Crème and the Lemon Parfait. Johnna ordered one of each for the table to share. And Valerie ordered a blackberry sorbet. The Butterscotch Pots de Crème was my favorite. Let me tell you, it is a joy to be able to go out to dinner and pass something around, not worrying about getting sick.

Does this look unhealthy, bland, or like any of us were deprived? You can find great food with multiple food restrictions while traveling. Photos and photo collage by Johnna Perry. Used with permission.

Does this look unhealthy, bland, or like any of us were deprived? You can find great food with multiple food restrictions while traveling.
Photos and photo collage by Johnna Perry. Used with permission.

Back at home, after chatting, laughing, and getting into comfy clothes, Johnna made some milkshakes. We had to check the Basil Hayden’s for quality control first though. It’s required. Bourbon drinkers have to make sure the non-bourbon drinkers are getting the good stuff. Johnna used the leftover raw chocolate ganache in the Vitamix that Valerie made for raw tarts, bananas, ice, bourbon, homemade bourbon chocolate sauce, an avocado, and probably a few other things I missed while my back was turned coating the inside of the mason jars with the chocolate bourbon sauce. She garnished the milkshakes with coconut bacon and the brownies she bought from Kickshaw’s. I wanted to lick the mason jar clean, that’s how good they were. We also had some of Linda’s Chocolate Coconut Candy that she brought with her.

Did someone say chocolate?

Did someone say chocolate?

The next morning, I started off with a Ginger Cookie from Annie May’s Sweet Café with my coffee. While I love ginger and don’t mind a heavy hand with ginger in baked goods and dishes, I know it’s not everyone’s jam. These cookies were perfect with coffee (as I imagined they would be when I ordered them) and had just enough ginger to keep non-ginger lovers from being overwhelmed. Later, Diane toasted some the Mariposa batard and smashed some avocados to top it with, and Valerie made Key Lime smoothies using what was leftover in the Vitamix from the filling she made for more raw tarts. The breakfast was so simple and delicious in that simplicity.

This might have been my favorite breakfast of the weekend. I can't decide yet.

This might have been my favorite breakfast of the weekend. I can’t decide yet.

We ate dinner earlier than usual because Linda had to leave early. It was a whirlwind in the kitchen with Johnna making grain-free, vegan japchae and grain-free, vegan “crab” cakes. I think we all helped in some way or form. Just don’t tell anyone that I added lime juice to the “crab” cakes that wasn’t supposed to be in it. It’ll be our little secret, okay? For us meat eaters, we had real crab to pick apart and pick through.

One of my favorite pics of the weekend. I'm pretty sure it's because of the crab.

One of my favorite pics of the weekend. I’m pretty sure it’s because of the crab.

We weren't the only ones sad to say goodbye to Linda.

We weren’t the only ones sad to say goodbye to Linda.

Later, Shirley drove me, Katie, and Johnna down to Rick’s at Fairview Beach for drinks and sunset. Johnna and I hopped out to the beach for pictures (and I took off my slippers). I saw my first sun dog and we listened to No Green JellyBeenz. Decent band.

A Castaway that tasted like cough syrup because I didn't mix it first. I'm thinking that any alcohol intended for consumption should NOT taste like cough syrup. It was better after I mixed it, but once you get that idea in your head, that's all you think.

A Castaway that tasted like cough syrup because I didn’t mix it first. I’m thinking that any alcohol intended for consumption should NOT taste like cough syrup. It was better after I mixed it, but once you get that idea in your head, that’s all you think.

Grounding...

Grounding…

2015 GFE Retreat 172015 GFE Retreat 182015 GFE Retreat 19

We returned home and had “fourth meal.” The raw vegan tarts that Valerie made (from the Choosing Raw cookbook by Gena Hamshaw), baked Kite Hill “brie” with mango jam on Mariposa batard, and S’mores dip made with Enjoy Life chocolate chips and Dandies marshmallows (Mariposa gluten-free graham crackers and Johnna’s homemade vegan graham crackers). I went a little overboard and warmed up the chocolate bourbon sauce and added that to the S’more on my plate.

So many goodies that we all had a little of each.

So many goodies that we all had a little of each.

The next morning, we made bibimbap pizza using the leftover japchae and topping it with a fried egg. I know it’s technically not bibimbap, but c’mon…a fried egg on pizza! We said goodbye to Katie [insert sad Debi face here], did some art journaling, and said goodbye to Diane, Johnna, and Valerie. We totally forgot to try the Peaches & Cream cupcakes that Valerie bought from Kickshaws, so I got one out. I’m not necessarily a peaches and cream lover, but the cupcake was delicious and really felt like I was eating peaches and cream.

Me & Katie...check out her sass! One of the many things I love about her.

Me & Katie…check out her sass! One of the many things I love about her.

Leftovers on a Mariposa gluten-free, vegan pizza crust. We wound up just eating them with our hands.

Leftovers on a Mariposa gluten-free, vegan pizza crust. We wound up just eating them with our hands.

With everyone gone, I finished the book I was reading, The Ruins by T.H. Hernandez, who happens to be a friend I made when we were both focusing on our gluten-free blogging. We fell out of touch when she stopped blogging and reconnected as fellow authors. Funny how life works, yeah?

Shirley and Mr. GFE (yes, I finally got to meet Mr. GFE!) took me to Dockside at Colonial Beach for dinner. I chose the Norfolk style scallops and pretty much demolished my food. Hello, baked potato! Goodbye, you yummy thing.

I want a baked potato just looking at this photo. I know, I'm crazy.

I want a baked potato just looking at this photo. I know, I’m crazy.

I made some Earl Grey tea and indulged in the Lemon Cookies from Annie May’s Sweet Café Sunday evening. It was a great pairing with the flavors complimenting each other.

Before I knew it, it was Monday afternoon and I was saying goodbye to Shirley, Mr. GFE, and Sonny.

Even though I had an EPIC bar in my bag, these olives that I found at Kickshaws were a tastier treat on the airplane.

Even though I had an EPIC bar in my bag, these olives that I found at Kickshaws were a tastier treat on the airplane.

The weekend was indulgent, none of us was deprived of anything despite our varying needs, and once again, Shirley makes us feel as if we are home away from home.

Returned to the grind as soon as I was at the gate and continued on the plane. The Downward Spiral won't write itself!

Returned to the grind as soon as I was at the gate and continued on the plane. The Downward Spiral won’t write itself!

Pissing In The Gluten-Free Cheerios

CheeriosThere is so much controversy surrounding gluten-free Cheerios right now. They are all over store shelves and it’s causing a divide. On one side are people who are encouraging people to eat them and eating it themselves. On the other side are people like me who are staying far from them and will never encourage anyone with any type of issue with gluten to eat them.

First, General Mills is mechanically cleaning oats instead of using certified gluten-free oats. This could change based on Tricia Thompson’s (Gluten-Free Watchdog) last conversation in which they stated they were looking to source “some” oats from growers following purity protocol. I quoted some because it’s not all. If you’re like me, if a product containing oats isn’t using 100% certified gluten-free oats, then I put it back on the shelf. My hope is that GM’s will move from some to all.

Second, some of the tests have had results as high at 90ppm. My thought is that if you are making a gluten-free product, the test results should be in a small cluster with an occasional slightly higher result (this is my opinion based on my psychology classes in statistics and methodology). Knowing that there has been one result that high, I don’t feel comfortable…because with my luck, I would get one of those boxes and be sick for weeks. NothanksIlikenotbeingsickallthetime.

Third, just because other people say it’s okay, I never jump on the bandwagon. I weigh the facts and the options carefully. You should too. Just because people say they don’t react, doesn’t mean the gluten isn’t doing damage while they enjoy bowl after bowl of cereal. There are a lot of things we all miss, but I refuse to do more damage to my gut just for something I might miss. I still won’t eat Domino’s gluten-free pizza.

It is a fine line to be in the public eye, blogging and using social media to spread the word about gluten-free living. It would be irresponsible of me to say, “Hey, gluten-free Cheerios are safe to eat because we have those awesome labeling regulations now.” No, it doesn’t work that way, especially with something this controversial and iffy. Research, dig, do due diligence. You owe it to your health (and that of your family if you’re the one making decisions for gluten-free family members) to do so and not just take someone’s word for it who you happen to follow on Facebook or read their blog.

If someone has to use a qualifying statement like, “If you have Celiac or are extra sensitive, you shouldn’t eat/drink this.” IF it is that serious, no one who is gluten-free should be eating or drinking said product. I won’t use gluten-free Cheerios until I’m certain they will be safe for EVERYONE.

Some articles by Tricia Thompson on gluten-free Cheerios:

General Mills “Gluten-Free” Cheerios: Comment from Gluten-Free Watchdog

More Thoughts on Gluten-Free Cheerios

Gluten-Free Cheerios: Take Two

After some discussion on the gluten-free easily Facebook page, Shirley has encouraged everyone saying they reacted to the gf Cheerios to contact General Mills and the FDA. I feel it is important to contact both and not just one. GM needs to know that their product and how they are processing and testing it is not meeting true gf needs. The FDA needs to know that a labeled gf product is making people sick. 

 

Pumpkin Maple Bacon Oatmeal

Pumpkin Maple Bacon Oatmeal

Pumpkin Maple Bacon Oatmeal

First thing, the winners drawn last week in the Real Jules, Real Good Giveaway did not contact me so I did a re-draw. Jennifer C. and Chris, congratulations on winning gfJules™ Instant Gluten-Free Oats! Please email me at debi.v.smith@gmail.com with your mailing address by next week Wednesday, January 28th, 5pm EST.  Jennifer, I hope you and your daughter enjoy the oats. Chris, I hope you like the oats as much as you like Jules’ flour.

The first thing I made with oats while trying them out was this Pumpkin Maple Bacon Oatmeal. I had homemade pureed pumpkin in the refrigerator to make risotto, but I knew I had enough for a hot bowl of oatmeal. And if you’ve followed me for awhile, you know how much I like the pumpkin maple bacon combination. Plus, it’s been some time since my last pumpkin recipe.

Pumpkin Maple Bacon Oatmeal – serves 1-2 

1 cup water

1/2 cup gluten-free oats

1/4 cup pureed pumpkin

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

salt

cooked bacon

In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add oats and stir occasionally. Once most of the water is absorbed, add pumpkin, salt, and maple syrup. Cook until the oatmeal reaches your desired consistency. Dish into a bowl and crumble at least one piece of bacon on top.