Worry-free Weekend

I have been quiet for a couple of weeks and not without reason.  Two weeks ago I was tucked away in the middle of Virginia with an amazing group of gluten-free blogger friends.  Some I was able to meet in person last year at the Chicago Gluten-free & Allergy-free Expo.  The remainder I was meeting for the first time.  And you know what?  It was like we had all done this before together and were just doing it again.  Shirley (gluten-free easily) was our gracious hostess for the weekend.  Our little group also consisted of Johnna (Johnna’s 52), Diane (The WHOLE Gang), Kim (Cook It Allergy Free), Heather (Gluten-free Cat), Linda (Gluten-free Homemaker), and a friend of Shirley’s, J, from the support group she leads in her area.  

The best part of the weekend was the food.  There was so much glorious food (pictured below) and all of it was safe.  Well, we had one reaction to the gluten-free dairy-free Red Velvet vanilla cupcake, but that seemed to be it.  It felt so good to turn off the hypervigilance in a group of people and not worry about the food.  Heather and I were still around for Shirley’s support group and again we were in the midst of people, strangers to me, and I still did not need to worry about food.  It’s peaceful not worrying about the food someone else fixes.   We had some great dairy-free and vegan fondues, a spectacular angel food cake, a crab fest, green juices, detox teas, uncheese biscuits, guaco tacos, and so much more.  

We didn’t just eat though.  No.  We saved the pigging out for meal times.  The rest of the time we were enjoying each other’s company.  Shirley took us into Fredericksburg and we wound up on a horse and carriage tour of the town.  Then we walked around a bit, looking in shops, and Johnna and I shutterbugging around the streets.  We spent a lot of time sitting around talking and talking and talking.  It’s funny how being with bloggers makes it okay for laptops and phones to be used while we’re talking.  Not that I brought The Beast with me.  Nope.  The laptop stayed home.  I stuck with my nook and my phone.  That is all.  I could still check social media on those and that was all I needed.  The nook came in handy one night when the ladies who had read Fifty Shades of Grey goaded two of us into downloading it that evening to read later.  Yes, I’m not saying who is who to protect the not-so-innocent.  😀  The not-so-innocents are to blame with my current obsession being another reason I’ve been so quiet.  This is as bad as my obsession when I finally read all four Twilight books back to back, twice.  I might regale you with the tale of my obsessions one day.  

Johnna got us all to take a dosha quiz.  It woke me up to what I have been thinking for months now.  I am not feeling as well as I used to before moving to Cincinnati.  I attribute that to my ever-changing work schedule and the inability to have a sleep routine of going to bed and waking the same time everyday.  My vata is out of balance and going to bed and waking at the same time are up at the top to help balance it out.  Heather, Kim, and I took a walk around Shirley’s serene neighborhood one morning.  This was when Heather and I discovered we were likely at some of the same football games in high school.  Small world, yeah?  J introduced us all to yin yoga one night.  Of course the group of us wound up in a fit of giggles for a few minutes before we could really get into the yoga.  Sometimes you just need that laughing before getting into a meditative state.  I think we all agreed the next morning that we slept well that night.  I know it helped take some of the tension out of my whole body (a long drive that includes going through D.C. will do that to you, I was ready to stab someone somewhere along the beltway).  

What I really looked forward to was Shirley’s support group.  I could have left earlier in the day to spend more time with some other friends that I have in D.C. and Manassas. My curiosity drove me to stay for it though.  Stacy and Matt, The Paleo Parents and authors of Eat Like A Dinosaur, came to Shirley’s house that morning and hung out with us for a bit before we all headed over to the farm where the group was being held that afternoon.  They have the cutest kids with a most wonderful story of how their diet was able to help their oldest son in school.  I had a wonderful time and I think it sparked something in me.  Chaz even suggested that I should start a support group while I was texting him after the group.  Yes.  But not yet.  We even got to have Samoa Brownies made by Stacy and Matt.  I was in heaven.  I’m not big on the cookie even before I went gluten-free because they were way too sweet, but they are Chaz’s favorite.  I think he’ll like the brownies once I’m able to make them.  

My friend and his wife drove down to Fredericksburg to meet me for dinner Sunday night at Sammy T’s.  The best I could figure is that Jerm and I had not seen each other in about 18 years or so.  He was my neighbor from 6th grade through most of high school until his parents bought a house elsewhere.  His dad was also our pastor, so we spent a lot of time together at home, school, and church.  It was amazing to catch up with him all grown up now.  He sports facial hair and lost a lot of weight, but he still makes the same facial expressions I remember so well.  His wife is a delight, too.  They are expecting their first baby in September.  So happy to see him happy with someone because before we lost touch, I had never seen him with a girlfriend.  

I packed up my things at Shirley’s Monday morning and headed out to Manassas later on to see another friend I hadn’t seen in at least 5 years.  We can remember the last time we saw each other, but can’t remember the year.  We spent the afternoon and evening catching up and I got to meet her husband when he got home from work.  She had not met him yet the last time I saw her.  We fixed a big dinner of salmon, salad, artichokes, and Brussel sprouts.  Her husband was over the moon because she doesn’t fix salmon and he loves it.  After a breakfast of eggs over leftover salad the next morning, I was off.  It was another long drive in which Darth Vader attempted to take me through D.C. again, but I took a detour way far away from D.C.  

Some of my friends have already blogged about the weekend or what they did with what they were inspired to do while we were together.  You can go here and here and here and here.  Some of those links have recipes.  And one of those links has the recipe to the dairy-free cheese fondue along with a great video put together from pictures taken the afternoon we had it for lunch. 

I can’t wait to have another trip like this again.  

Sonny liked having so many of us around. He got a lot of attention and ate it all up!

Our first night together. Shirley, Diane, Kim, and Johnna.

Guaco-tacos with thinly sliced jicama as the “shell”

Raw doughnut holes. Wait, I mean…UNBAKED doughnut holes.

Never EVER drink coffee from a soup mug. If you can’t find the regular mugs, ASK. Lesson learned!

So thankful for green juice! And for Diane for making it for us!

The Linwood Sandwich (sans bun) at Sammy T’s in Fredericksburg

My favorite thing at Chatham Manor, Fredericksburg

Vegan BBQ and Oven Steamed Shrimp. Quite a lovely dinner!

Wonderful walking time with Heather and Kim

“Chedda Fondue” from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. So delicious we were all thinking of different ways we wanted to use it in other dishes. Waiting anxiously for a shipment from Amazon…

Heather joined us in time to taste the Vegan BBQ and have some Chedda Fondue.

It was dessert first for us one night. These are gluten-free & dairy-free from the Red Velvet Cupcakery.

Just a fraction of a bushel of crab for dinner. Messy eats, but so good!

An easy salad and quinoa tabouleh.

Shirley’s Crab Claws were the perfect cocktail to go with dinner.

Linda joined us for a day and one of the support group members stayed the night with us and led us in some wonderful yin yoga…but we wound up doing laughing yoga first.

The chocolate fondue. I’m still thinking about this wonderful stuff.

The angel food cake Linda brought (that we are all STILL talking about) and some of the fruits we used in the chocolate fondue.

I’m so in love with the fondue, I slathered it between two of the peanut butter cookies (recipe by Johnna) that I brought with me. I died and went to heaven.

Nothing like fresh eggs for breakfast! I even had Scrapple for the first time. And Shirley made her Brazilian Uncheese Biscuits.

Paleo Brownies made by The Paleo Parents. We couldn’t stop eating them.

The spread at the support group picnic. LOTS of veggies, fresh fruit, some paleo desserts, homemade kim chee (which Chaz was shocked I ate – homemade kim chee is so much better than store bought), bacon, and grilled fish.

The Paleo Parents and their kids. So glad I got to meet them and hear their story in person.

Went back to Fredericksburg and Sammy T’s for dinner with my friend, Jerm, and his lovely wife. We hadn’t sen each other in about 18 years and I got to meet his wife for the first time.

Breakfast – egg muffins using up some Chedda Fondue and other leftovers. So good!

I spent some time at Manassas Battlefield Park

I fixed salmon, Brussel sprouts, artichokes, and dressing for my friend and her husband when I spent the night with them in Manassas. My friend fixed the salad. Her husband was over the moon that he got to have salmon because she doesn’t like it, so they don’t eat it at home.

Fresh eggs over leftover salad for breakfast.

Me and my friend. We hadn’t seen each other in about 5 years. Or something like that.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies – Johnna, Johnna52 (under 52 sweets)

Jackfruit BBQ – Johnna, Johnna52

Allergy Friendly Chocolate Fondue – Kim, Cook It Allergy-Free

Green Elixir of Life & Golden Joy juices – Diane, The WHOLE Gang

Scrapple – Diane, The WHOLE Gang

Red Velvet Cupcakery (review) – Diane, The WHOLE Gang

Angel Food Cake – Linda, The Gluten-Free Homemaker

Samoa Brownies – Matt & Stacy, Paleo Parents (Eat Like A Dinosaur)

Crab Claws – Shirley, gluten-free easily

Brazilian Uncheese Rolls/Biscuits – Shirley, gluten-free easily

Oven Steamed Shrimp – Shirley, gluten-free easily

Kathi’s Great Salad – Shirley, gluten-free easily

Black Bean Breakfast Tacos

Using up some leftover slaw to top off the tacos.

I was intrigued by Mario Batali making tacos for breakfast on The Chew a few weeks back during his food stamp budget challenge.  I decided this was something I needed to try in order to bring more variety to breakfast.  I tried to find the original recipe for you readers, but The Chew’s recipe search isn’t always the brightest tool on the site.

I was in love from day one.   I seriously kicked myself for not thinking of this before.  The tacos have so much versatility that you can top it with whatever you want once you have the black bean mix on the tortillas.   You can also use lettuce leaves instead of corn tortillas to make this grain-free.  Want to use another type of bean?  Go for it!  Hate mushrooms?  Leave them out!  Want cheese?  Add it!  Can’t have eggs?  Use more beans and mushrooms!

I initially made it the way I’m giving you.  But I played around with it and used things like leftover coleslaw as the vegetable topping.  I have to say, the coleslaw gave it a nice crunch and a bit of an acidic bite that was refreshing for the morning hours.  It was a vinegar based coleslaw that Chaz made for dinner one night, but my Lemony Slaw would work, too.

Without further ado…

Black Bean Breakfast Tacos – makes 3-4 tacos

grapeseed oil or your choice of oil

3-4 corn tortillas (use lettuce leaves for a grain-free option)

1/4 cup cooked black beans (I cooked 1 cup of dried beans ahead of time and had them in the fridge ready to measure out throughout the week)

1 mushroom, diced (or sliced and torn into small bites)

2 tablespoons diced onion

1 egg, scrambled (omit for vegan option)

1/8 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1/8 teaspoon cumin

healthy pinch cayenne pepper

salt, to taste

1/2 avocado, diced

1/2 tomato, diced

fresh cilantro for garnish

(or instead of avocado and tomato, use any combination of veggies you want)

Heat 2 large pans over medium heat.  Add oil to one pan, enough to coat the bottom well.  In the other pan, add the tortillas and toast lightly (or to your preference on each side).  Remove from the pan when done and lay out on a plate.  Add the onions and mushroom once the oil is warm.  Allow the onions and mushrooms to carmelize and then add the beans and the chili powder, cumin, and cayenne.  Stir well.  Add the scrambled egg and then salt.  Keep stirring to get the eggs cooked through.  Once the eggs are done, divide among the tortillas.  If you are not using eggs, just cook the mixture until the beans are warmed through.  Top with your choice of vegetables and serve with a side of fruit.

An Open Letter to the Catholic Church Leaders

The altar at St. Damien’s in Kaunakai, island of Moloka`i. St. Damien’s is the rebuilt church of the former St. Sohpia’s, where I spent many Sunday mornings with my grandparents and witnessed many family members married there.

Dear Catholic Church Leaders,

I am dismayed that the Catholic Diocese of Columbus (Ohio) has ruled gluten-free hosts are to be banned because they do not contain wheat.  I had this debate with some people in my area about a year ago and it wasn’t pretty.  The Columbus Dispatch reported on this recent ban on June 1, 2012 and included this in the article:

Church law “calls for the host to be wheat and wheat only” because Jesus ate wheat bread with his apostles before his Crucifixion, said Deacon Martin Davies, director of the Office for Divine Worship at the Diocese of Columbus.

This is an antiquated law and the ban does nothing to consider the fact that the young girl in the article who was denied a gluten-free host or the millions of others living with Celiac, non-Celiac gluten intolerance, or wheat/gluten allergies  who are denied the same because we have a chronic illness treated simply by avoiding gluten in everything we eat, drink, and use on our hands and face.  We have no control over this disease other than the precautions we take.  We certainly did not ask for it.  And here we find ourselves being told, “No you can’t have something that will be safe, but you can have something that will make you sick.”

This.  Is.  Wrong.

God gave Moses ten commandments.  I see nothing about wheat in Communion hosts in those commandments.  Okay, so they were before Jesus’ time.  Those laws are things over which we have control and free will to choose to follow or not.  Even God saw the need for change as things change between the Old Testament and the New Testament.   Jesus gave us The Great Commandment.  In my opinion, the best one out there.  Love.  We can choose to show love or not.  Free will again.  

So tell me, where is the love for those of us who have no control over this disease(s) and must live a gluten-free life, yet wish to express our faith through receiving Communion safely?   Other churches (and by churches, I mean different Christian denominations) are allowing gluten-free hosts for communion, and here the Catholic Church stands, antiquated and refusing to budge.  Where is the change that needs to happen when food allergies and intolerances are becoming more widely recognized and diagnosed correctly?  Where is the compassion?

Refusing gluten-free hosts but allowing low gluten hosts is akin to poisoning your congregations members who cannot have gluten.  Jesus meant for the bread he ate to be a symbol, not what everyone has to eat in a recreation of the Last Supper on Sunday mornings.  I know through my faith and love for God that He would not want me ingesting something intentionally that makes me sick just because I was told I had no other choice if I wanted to participate in the sacrament.   Why subject us to man-made laws?  Anyone can discern that this is not God’s will.  This is man’s will, stubbornness resisting change, and a refusal to acknowledge that we are humans with human needs that need to be attended to individually.  This includes allowing gluten-free hosts and a separate wine glass for those who need to be gluten-free.  Just remember God sees into your heart and knows why you make these decisions.  I leave it to Him to judge you.  But, if you are making decisions based on old laws and not what’s best for your people, what really is your purpose?  

If you continue to refuse change and deny basic needs for food safety through Communion, you will lose church members worldwide.  This is not just an American thing.  There are people with these afflictions all over the world.  People will seek God elsewhere in other churches and your pews will be empty.  

Sincerely,

Debi Smith, God-loving human being with Celiac

P.S. – To those of you with Celiac, non-Celiac gluten intolerance, or wheat/gluten allergies, if your church refuses to accommodate your food safety needs in order to take part in communion, find another church that will.