Gluten and Allergy-free Expo Recap

Bananas Foster Cheesecake by Cru Creations

I had an amazing time in Chicago this past weekend.  I’m not even sure I can do this all in one post, but I’ll try without making it too long.  If it’s too long, I’d say I apologize, but I won’t.  This was a great weekend full of information and fun.  If anyone is new to the gf diet or has food allergies, I highly recommend you go to the one in Dallas in October.  It is a great learning experience.

We went to the Vendor Fair on Friday and walked around for an hour sampling, sampling, sampling.  After being stuck at tables just to be polite and not jump in front of people, I realized there was no need for waiting if I wasn’t really wanting to check out a particular vendor.  Let the jumping begin!

AllerEnergyhad samples of their corn-free marshmallows and gf soft pretzels.  The marshmallows were light, fluffy, and better than those bagged marshmallows I grew up eating.  The pretzels felt a bit dry, but they were also cut into bite size pieces and I don’t know how long they were sitting there.  They were popular though.  I saw a lot of people buying them.

Brittany (Real Sustenance) does a demo of her gf dairy-free Chicago Deep Dish Pizza on the Main Stage

Gluten Free Oats had some granola out made from their certified gf oats that was heavenly.  Forrest was happy to take some time to tell me about the history of the company and his diagnosis.  He was diagnosed at 2 1/2 with Celiac and as a teenager he wanted to give back to the Celiac community.  The company is family owned and the flour is not ground until you order it.  Unless, you are able to buy it in stores.

Go Picnic has lines of picnic boxes, meal boxes, and care packages.  They have an all natural line, gluten-free line, vegetarian line, vegan line, and kosher line.  I was especially drawn by the gf care packages.  Perfect for my friend, Caity.  She just finished her undergraduate degree, but will be going on to Med School in the Fall.  She’ll tell you herself that she’s lazy and doesn’t want to spend a lot of time fixing things to take with her to school.  If any of you have young adult children (oxymoron?  Spawn just sounded too comic book-ishy and progeny sounded too uppity) in college with Celiac or gluten intolerance, this might be a good idea.  The meals sound great for traveling, too.  Especially if you don’t have time before a big trip to fix gf edibles for yourself.

Cru Creations makes New Orleans inspired gluten-free vegan cheesecakes.  The owner/founder, Jay Williams is originally from New Orleans, but like me, has lived in many places.  I had a chance to have a conversation with him at

Lauren-Lucille (The Celiac Diva) helps Jasmine Jafferali demonstrate simple exercises for improving digestion on the Main Stage.

the VIP party Saturday night (me and Chaz were Shirley Braden’s date) and I’ll be doing a complete review of the cheesecakes in another post.  I’ll just say, they were a hit.  I kept hearing, “Did you try that cheesecake?”

Gfree Connect is a new business that collects gf products from manufacturer’s and then distributes them to subscribers every quarter.  Great idea for those of us who don’t want to spend $4-6 for a box of cookies, crackers, or chips for just a taste of them.  We all know there is some pretty awful gf products out there (some of it so awful I don’t know how they stay in business).

There was a little gf store there that I wish I could remember the name of and can’t find on the vendor list.  They had two types of Jovial pasta.  I read about this product not long after moving to Cincinnati last Fall.  Sadly, the closest store was 2 hours away and I didn’t want to order it from Amazon if I wasn’t ordering other products.  I was excited and was drying to dig my wallet out of my backpack when Chaz asked, “What are you doing?”  “Getting out my wallet,” I replied.  He’s so great.  He pulled out his wallet and gave me the cash to buy one of each.  I plan on using one of them this Friday with some shrimp and tomatoes.

Woodchuck and Magners both had tables and were giving small samples.  Fortunate that Woodchuck’s was on the

Carol Kicinski does a demonstration at the Main Stage.

other side of the Rudi’s table.  I was sampling a bit of grilled cheese on Rudi’s bread and had nothing liquid to help wash it down.  I’m not a stranger to Woodchuck, but they have a new Summer cider out which I tried.  Light, crisp, and I wanted more.  I tried to find it in the grocery this morning, but they still had the Spring cider.  Magners Irish Cider was more wine-like to me, but just as good as Woodchuck.  I would drink either one.

I have to be honest.  There were so many vendors and ones that I already knew about and skipped over.  Plus, all the samples were filling me up.  Thank goodness for all the packaged samples I still have!  Enjoy Life Foods was very generous in their samples.  It was like they were throwing them at me.  I wasn’t saying no either since the samples were all of their products I haven’t tried yet.  I’ve never been disappointed with any of their products that I’ve bought.  One of the packaged cookie samples I took was the Vanilla Honey Graham.  It was like a combination of ‘Nilla Wafers and graham crackers.  I was imagining using them for banana pudding, s’mores, and pie crusts…all while eating the one cookie.

Udi’s was there with their breads and their new hot dog and hamburger buns.  Everyone got to try the buns at lunch on Sunday.  On the way to the lunch area, I thought I saw someone from my class taking a plate with a burger witha

Hot dog with mustard and dill pickle (no relish on the table!) on an Udi's gf hot dog bun

bun up to her room.  I thought, no way.  We got to the buffet table there they were, mounds and mounds of Udi’s gf hamburger and hot dog buns.  I heard about them, but promptly forgot.  I had to choose between hot dog or hamburger.  I’ve done gf burgers both bunless and using gf rolls I baked.  It was time for a hot dog because the last gf hot dog bun I tried (Kinnikinnick) was a miserable failure.  Made me sick every time.  I even tried their doughnuts and those made me sick, too, so I stay away from them.  I know other people love that brand, it’s just not for me.  Anyway, I was over the moon having a hot dog again that didn’t make me sick.  I enjoyed every bite.  Just make sure you freeze the buns and warm them before use.  They are pretty dry and fall apart easily if you don’t.

I could go on and on about all the products and vendors.  But, I still have to tell you about the classes!

Saturday morning we were running a bit late because classes started earlier than we thought and I got sick at breakfast.  I didn’t realize there was stuff in my omelette that wasn’t supposed to be there until I was halfway through and starting to feel it.  I don’t always pay as much attention to my food as I should when I’m hungry and I’m always hungry at breakfast.  I had to leave the table early and by the time we got to class, we had missed Dr. Stephen Wangen’s class, Healthier Without Wheat and we were late to Silvana Nardone’s class, Innovative Lunch Ideas.  Then,

Kelly Brozyna (The Spunky Coconut) makes her gf bagels with the kids. Tasty stuff! Better than store bought.

I had to leave Silvana’s class early and missed the rest of it while dealing with being sick and reporting to the restaurant staff and sales manager that I got sick and how.  They immediately addressed it with the kitchen staff and the hotel did not charge us for breakfast or Sunday’s breakfast.  I at least got to see Silvana make her  Jalapeño Popover Waffles (which I intend to make this week) and to hear about her new venture, Easy Eats.  Chaz was sweet enough to save a sample of her Chocolate Dipped Doughnuts.  Even though I was feeling yucky, I tried it after I got a lot of water in me and I loved it.  It was so much like cake, so I’m going to say that was my first bite of cake in a year and a half.  Heaven.  But those waffles of hers had me craving them and I don’t even like Jalapeño Poppers.  I guess it just means you can put anything in a waffle and I’ll eat it.  Kinda like a runny egg over anything.

I managed to make it back in time for Anne Byrne, The Cake Mix Doctor.  I have not used a cake mix or pancake/waffle mix since removing gluten from my diet 14 months ago.  So it was interesting to see her using the Gluten-free Pantry mix.  Call me crazy.  I just never used mixes before going gf, so why start now?  Anyway, I had more cake.  She made a Honey Bun Cake and a Strawberry Cake.  The samples were more than sample size.  They were full serving sizes and silly me at the entire piece of Honey Bun Cake and by the time the Strawberry Cake came around, I could only handle a bite.  After that class, some of the classes, Chaz and I shared the baked goods.  Anne shared some wonderful stories about her time learning from Julia Child.  For some odd reason, I found that to be the coolest part of the class.  To each their own, right?

Marlisa Brown educated the class on the different gluten-free grains and made a tasty falafel with tahini sauce.  I actually missed some of the class because I was with Brittany (Real Sustenance) at the Vendor Fair walking around and talking to Silvana.  Chaz said Marlisa was hilarious when I sat down and he was right.  Lots of laughing for the rest of class.

After lunch, we had Lee Tobin from the Whole Foods Bakehouse and then Beth Hillson.  It was great to hear both of them tell their stories, especially since their own journey’s have influenced the availability of gf products on the market.  Both of them are also

Cybele Pascal and Stephanie O'Dea at the Books & Blogger's table just before Stephanie had to leave.

involved in the 1 in 133 Summit happening tomorrow in D.C.

The following day, we started off with allergy-free (and gf) biscuits from Welcoming Kitchen.  They rethought several ways to use biscuits, including an allergy-free french toast.  It was yummy.  You never would have known it was allergy-free at all.  They have an allergy friendly cookbook coming out in June and it’s available for pre-order!

Next was Stephanie O’Dea.  If you haven’t seen me share her videos or recipes, you have missed out.  Whether you are gf or not, her slow cooker recipes are spectacular.  I had a chance to meet and chat with her the night before and gosh darn it if she doesn’t have the biggest heart ever, I don’t know who does.  I have her Carnitas in the slow cooker right now…

I missed the first part of Mary Capone’s (Bella Gluten-free) class (I was pal-ing around with Brittany again and saying goodbye to some new friends), but Chaz saved me a sample of her bread.  I think and O. M. G. is appropriate here.  Fluffy.  Light.  Same texture as regular bread with gluten.  Different taste, but it was something I would make for a good sandwich.  Or french toast.  She mixed up the batter right there in class and let everyone come up to see what it

Kim (Cook IT Allergy-free) shows us her iPad app. If you are new to allergy-free cooking and have an iPhone or iPad, this would be a good investment.

should look like and feel like.

After lunch it was Shirley Braden in da HOOOOUUUUUUUSE!  This is how well-respected she is in the blogger community.  Many of the gf bloggers that were still at the Expo came in for her class.  She made her Flourless Pizza and her Crustless Pumpkin Pie.  It was her first time making her pizza with Daiya cheese and she didn’t know how it would turn out.  When we got the samples, they were limp because the Daiya didn’t firm up like regular cheese will in the oven.  It was still good though.  Her Crustless Pumpkin Pie (also dairy-free) was much better than the recipe I used during the holidays.  Chaz was licking his fingers and even licked the paper plate.  He hates pumpkin pie.  Guess what recipe will be used from now on?

We ended our classes at the Expo with Joel Schaefer, Allergy Chefs, Inc.  He was very engaging even before he really started the class.  He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to food preparation in food service kitchens for people with food allergies and gluten issues.  If anyone with a food allergy or gluten issue has been to Disneyland, DisneyWorld, or Disney Cruises, and had a good experience, he’s the one who was behind helping bring that about.  And heck, a chef who worked as an instructor at Kapiolani Community College?  That was just awesome.  His coolness factor increased just from me reading that in his bio.  He kept us laughing throughout class and mostly with his, “Power toooooools!”  I can’t say I blame him for loving power tools.  I think the class also had a collective foodgasm when the samples came out.  Tom Colicchio’s, “Too busy eating,” comment would have applied if you asked me how it was while I had it in front of me.

I missed a few things!  At breakfast Friday, I was able to order waffles off a menu at a restaurant.  I was so excited about this fact that I forgot to take some food porn of the waffles.  Me.  Ordering waffles again.  I never thought that would happen.  As soon as I bit in I was thinking about Iris’ Mochi Waffles.  Since she couldn’t be there, I guess she was being channeled through my waffles!

We met Carol Kicinski and her husband at the Vendor Fair on the first day.  I admit, I was a bit shy at the time and didn’t get a picture with her, but her husband made sure to get her when I bought her cookbook so she could autograph it.  We spent a few minutes

My favorite part of the Expo!

talking to her before letting her get back to business.  Those who know me well, now I really am shy at first.  If Carol’s husband had never gone to get her, I never would have asked for an autograph.  I missed out on an autograph from Jason Scott Lee despite being 100 feet away from him because that’s how shy I can be.

I got to meet all my blogger friends and made some new ones.  It was a lot of fun and I wish it had lasted longer.  I’m looking forward to the next time we are all together.  I loved Stephanie’s idea of going on a Disney Cruise together.

Thank you to Jen Cafferty, for putting this whole event together and the one in Dallas later this year.  Your had work paid off!

To all of you in this last picture, Wendy Kaho (Celiacs in the House), and Hallie Klecker (Daily Bites), I enjoyed the time I got to spend with you no matter how brief it may have been!   And Shirley, thanks for asking me and Chaz to be your dates!