Gluten-Free In Los Angeles: Breakaway Bakery

 

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Uncle Chaz and Obi-Wan start off the arcade experience with air hockey.

Happy new year! Did you think I was done with the road trip? Not even. Life just got in the way is all. But I’m back to finish up the trip and telling you about all the great gluten-free eats we had in completely gluten-free places.

After leaving Fresno, we headed for Los Angeles. For those of you who have followed me for a while, you know going to L.A. means time with my bestie and her family. There was much galavanting about town and hanging out at the house. Obi-Wan was excited (if you can’t tell from the first picture) to play some games with Uncle Chaz.

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Dawn made me this amazing travel journal for my birthday. It is my bullet journal with my tasks, calendars, and address book. When I’m at appointments and take it out to schedule my next one, everyone oohs and ahhs over the peacock. Peacocks are worthy of those reactions. I loved this so much I ordered a custom made one from her to use only for my writing stuff – if you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or my Facebook author page you may have seen the pictures I shared of it when I got it in the mail. If you want one of your own, head over to her Etsy shop – DevilleRouge Designs – and you can request a custom order.

While Obi-Wan was in school the next day, we met up with bestie and Mara Jade in Pasadena at the Container Store. Yes, the Container Store. Who doesn’t love a good container? I gave Mara Jade a Hello Kitty we found at the mall the day before and this happened while in another store:breakaway-bakery-5She was actually loving on her and hugging her and then she stopped like she knew I was trying to get a picture of her adorableness. Still cute and I will always love this photo. breakaway-bakery-6

We hung out at Obi-Wan’s school for a little festival one afternoon. We all got shave ice and while Obi-Wan was playing a game, Mara Jade decided that Uncle Chaz’s shave ice was the only one for her. Uncle Chaz was a good sport.

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This is how she rolls on Rodeo Drive.

Dawn and I ran off one morning with Mara Jade to the poshness of Beverly Hills. Granny and Auntie Carol used to take me to Rodeo Drive when I was younger when I’d visit and then once a year when we moved to Encinitas. It was a thing for the three of us that my sisters never really cared for (but they came with us one year) but once Dawn and I were besties, it became a foursome. With Granny and Auntie Carol gone, we still go in memory of them and now we get to pass the tradition on to Mara Jade. Win-win. Also, Mara Jade was not impressed.

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We went to The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns and while I usually get a selfie with Obi-Wan (which I did) I thought, let’s get Mara Jade in on the action. Too bad I still didn’t figure out that I needed to clean the front lens on my phone. Oops.

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In memoriam: Wes Craven. One of my favorite directors.

 

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In memoriam: Leonard Nimoy.

The morning after going to The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns, Chaz and I drove down to Breakaway Bakery. Everything made in the bakery is free of gluten/wheat, dairy/casein, peanuts, tree nuts, gums, soy, and GMOs. Additionally, many items are vegan – like all the donuts.

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Starting from the top left going clockwise: vegan Snickerdoodle with vanilla glaze and cinnamon sugar, vegan salted chai caramel, vegan cocoa cinnamon with chocolate glaze, and vegan chocolate chip with chocolate glaze and vanilla stripes. The donuts are cake donuts, so if that is the type you prefer, you’ll love these.

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From top left going clockwise: lemon blueberry muffin, lil mint scoutie cookies, strawberry pinch cookie, and chocolate cupcake. My favorite of this bunch, the strawberry pinch cookie. There was much more to be had in the bakery and it was really hard to not buy one of everything. You can check out their menu on the website to see what I mean.

One of the things that makes Los Angeles easy to travel to is the amount of places that do gluten-free right. Sure, there are places that cater to the “fad-only” but far more often we find the places that take the time and effort to ensure minimal cross-contact in kitchen both in prep and cooking.

 

Grain-Free Mediterranean “Bulgar” Salad

With Papa & Granny in Kent, WA

With Papa & Granny in Kent, WA

I have a story for you today to go with the recipe. I know I haven’t had a lot of stories to go with my recipes lately. Most of the recipes were either inspired on the spot in the kitchen while trying to figure out what to do or something I toyed with in my head just because I thought it sounded good before toying with it in the kitchen. I’ve also been getting my story telling out through my creative outlet on Chocolate Wasteland so I don’t feel the need to tell as many stories here. That can be a good thing when all you want is a recipe. But today this recipe has a background and if my bestie reads this she’ll probably roll her eyes because I’m going the long way ’round to tell this story.

Back in the early/mid 2000’s, Chaz kept messing with the Atkins Diet. I tried it with him once and lasted four days. In 2004, he decided he wanted to do the South Beach Diet. He gave me the book to read and I agreed. Then Granny’s health went downhill. Fast. Towards the end of the first week of the elimination phase I had to fly out to California to see her to say goodbye. I found my way to the Tustin Whole Foods on the way to my grandparents house after picking up my rental car just outside the John Wayne Airport in Orange County and picked up a salad from the salad bar. I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of healthy options at the house.

Given the stress that weekend, I stayed on track. By Monday, I was calling my boss to extend my trip because the hospice nurse felt Granny would not last the week. I was not going to fly back to Kentucky just to turn around and fly back for a funeral. My bestie drove down from L.A. to spend the afternoon with me, Granny, and the aunties and distracted me with jewelry-making and clothes shopping. When you intend to travel somewhere for a weekend, you don’t have enough for a week. And I definitely didn’t have the clothes for California weather.

Granny passed some time Monday night/Tuesday morning. I found her in her in the hospital bed in the den, one eye closed and the other half open. The humming of the oxygen tank filled the air but I knew something was amiss when I started talking to her before I reached the bed. It is amazing how working in an environment full of crises trains you to be calm and methodical in the face of your personal crisis. I checked for a pulse and breath. She was ice cold to the touch, no pulse, no puffing of air coming from her mouth or rising and falling of her chest. I quickly skirted Auntie Jude sleeping on the futon in the living room and went directly to the bathroom where Auntie Boogie was getting ready for jury duty. It wasn’t until my aunties were at Granny’s side and crying that I finally broke down.

They made the phone calls to hospice, the funeral home, Papa’s care home, the church, and my mother. We brought Papa over so he could say goodbye to her. The funeral home came for Granny. Hospice came for the bed. My mother, sisters, and niece drove up from Encinitas in time to meet with the Pastor. By the time my mother and sisters left, we each had tasks to complete for the week. That night my aunties and I returned to Auntie Boogie’s condo in Fullerton rather than staying at my grandparent’s. We went through a bottle of wine while talking, laughing, and crying together.

Being myself with Auntie Boogie and Granny

Being myself with Auntie Boogie and Granny

The next day, Auntie Jude called my mother from Granny and Papa’s while we were getting the house ready for guests to see what she had done from her list. Nothing. She took a nap after getting home because she had “a bad day.” To say I lost it is an understatement. I went on a screaming tirade until I couldn’t scream anymore. I had another one back at Auntie Boogie’s that night as the three of us shared TWO bottles of wine. There are things you can’t un-see or undo. I will always have that image of Granny laying in that bed lifeless and pale burned in my memories. I will always have the memory of shoving feelings and emotions aside to check for vital signs instead of giving in to them instantly. I had a bad day and yet I was still functioning. I was cleaning the house. I was making and writing up thank you cards. I was taking calls. I was searching for Bible verses for the memorial service. I was angry I was doing more for Granny’s memorial than my own mother.

After the first screaming tirade, before returning to Auntie Boogie’s and engaging in another one, I was sitting at the kitchen table staring at all the food neighbors and friends had been bringing over since the weekend. Up until that point I was staying on track with South Beach. Homemade Persimmon cookies and I were having an intense staredown. I was having a very bad reaction to my mother’s excuse for not doing her tasks. I demolished a few of the cookies. I felt better. And that’s when I realized that trying to be vigilant about the diet I was on by choice was silly while I was under so much stress. When I talked to Chaz later and told him about the cookies he laid into me. That’s when I fired back with, “Granny just DIED and you want me to worry about a diet? Screw that. I’m eating what I want until I get back home then I’ll pick up with it in the phase you’re in.”

I didn’t go overboard with the foods I shouldn’t have been eating. I didn’t sit and polish off an entire bag of cookies and a pint of ice cream or a pizza. I had the one moment of emotional eating with the Persimmon cookies and the evenings with my aunties and a bottle of wine. That weekend, my sisters and I took my niece to Rodeo Drive. Granny and Auntie Carol used to take me to Rodeo every year I visited from out-of-state and when I lived in Encinitas. We would eat a picnic lunch in a park between the shopping area and the residential area. We “shopped” on Rodeo and Beverly Drive. Then we ate dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Or sometimes we’d eat lunch there and walk everything off while shopping. I had cheesecake in Granny’s memory and all those memories with her in Beverly Hills and her snickering smile when we spotted a good deal.

Goofing off on Rodeo with Dawn

Goofing off on Rodeo with Dawn

The next day, Auntie Boogie and I went to Rodeo with my bestie. In high school, Granny and Auntie Boogie let me bring Dawn along. More cheesecake was had. It wasn’t the same without Granny, but we carried her with us in our hearts and enjoyed the day despite her absence.

Tuesday came around and I was on a plane back to Louisville, Kentucky. True to what I told Chaz, I jumped right back into the diet with him in the phase. There was no point to going back to the beginning. Sometimes you just have to hop back in where you left off instead of returning to Start. I didn’t beat myself up over getting off track and I didn’t let Chaz beat me up either. This wasn’t like I knew I had Celiac or food allergies at the time. I wasn’t trying to recover from alcohol or drug addiction who fell off the wagon. It wasn’t life or death and I didn’t let it become life or death. It was a simple change in diet I chose to make. That was the first lesson this taught me and I carry it with me when I’m supporting friends who are trying to make healthier changes and they can’t seem to stay on track. I tell them, it’s okay, just get back on track and keep going until you fall off again then repeat. The point is to just keep going forward.

The second lesson is how to substitute what you know for something different. On South Beach it is a shift from refined grains to whole grains. It really wasn’t too hard to do that. But when it came to cutting out/down on processed foods before going gluten-free I would sit and think, I did it on South Beach, I can do it with this I just need to figure out an option. And that’s how I process every time I’ve had to remove something. There are some food allergies for which there is no substitution. I don’t like the dairy-free cheeses and now with all the other food allergies they are not an option anyway so it was a good thing I never relied on them. Some people like using baking soda/powder and apple cider vinegar (ACV) as a yeast-free option in baking, but it is not entirely yeast-free. Yeast is used to ferment ACV and other vinegars. There are some vinegars which are not fermented with use of yeast. But to try to keep track of them and each brand would be too much so I do without vinegar completely.

So what does all this have to do with the Grain-Free Mediterranean “Bulgar” Salad in the title of the post? Everything. There was a bulgar wheat salad I made frequently even after we stopped doing South Beach months later. It was just good. South Beach taught me how to think to substitute and with looking at doing the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP) the years of substituting different vegetables for grains has me ahead of the game as far as being ready to go without going insane trying to figure out what I’m doing. South Beach is also tied to my memories of Granny’s death as she left us as I was in the beginning stages. It’s all tied up together in my head and so I had to get it all out together.

I used grated cauliflower in place of gluten-free grains in this recipe. I tried to make it once with quinoa but Chaz hates quinoa so I don’t use it unless Chaz isn’t home. But on AIP, quinoa isn’t allowed anyway. You can keep the cauliflower raw in the recipe instead of cooking it like it did, but to me it tastes better when you lightly sautée it. Cauli Mint Salad

Grain-Free Mediterranean “Bulgar” Salad – serves 6

1 head cauliflower, grated

1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

1 cucumber, seeded, quartered, sliced

1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil, divided (2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons lemon juice

salt

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and coat the skillet. Add the cauliflower, season with salt, and stir often until it is tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add cauliflower, tomatoes, mint leaves, and cucumber to a medium mixing bowl. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup (I prefer the latter), add the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Whisk together until emulsified then pour over the salad and mix well. Serve at room temperature or chill before serving.

 

When Tradition Gets Tossed Out the Window

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Last year’s tree

I like traditions.  It’s the passing down of culture, stories, special moments from one generation to the next.  Holidays are a time where traditions are focused on most.  Holiday baking, present wrapping, trimming the tree, decorating the house inside and out, singing carols, watching old Christmas movies and stop animation movies, traveling to be with family, waking up early Christmas morning to open presents, Christmas breakfast, and Christmas dinner.

A friend of mine passed away back in 1998.  She had battled health problems for many years and I counted myself fortunate to have seen her just a few months before her passing.  She flew out to surprise me for our wedding reception.  In truth, she was the first person I cooked for with food restrictions when she first got sick.  I wrote down everything she couldn’t have and then dreamed up everything else she could have.  She was a great woman who left this world just a few days before Christmas.

I had difficulty getting excited about Christmas for a while after that.  I did the decorating and did the shopping, but I never felt the absolute glee in all the preparations through the years.

As soon as I started looking forward to Christmas again, Papa passed away just a couple of weeks before Christmas in 20o4.  I was in the middle of wrapping presents to take with us to spend what we all felt would be our last Christmas with him.  Papa, ever the jokester, decided he didn’t want a sober Christmas and went to be with Granny instead.  I can’t blame him.  I would have chosen to be with her, too.

We all still spent Christmas together and since Papa wasn’t around to keep booze away from, we all got a bit toasted.  In his honor of course.  He would have wanted it.

Somehow in the midst of preparations at the home of my grandparents, knowing I would never step in it again, and trying to enjoy being with my family, all I could hear was my mother saying things like, “We have to have the spiral cut ham.” “We have to have Dad’s egg nog.” “We have to make chili.”  I believe my aunties told her if she wanted it, she had to take care of it.  All I remember was thinking, “Are you serious?” and then wanting to smack her.  Instead, I had Chaz fix me another drink and I went back to watching movies with my siblings and cousins.

This was the moment where I decided that even though I have all these traditions from both sides of my family passed down to me, they really don’t mean a thing if I’m not enjoying time with my family.  It doesn’t matter that for the last few years I haven’t trimmed the tree.  It doesn’t matter that I’m spending less time trying to make the perfect bow and instead wrapping simply.  It doesn’t matter that I haven’t converted all the holiday recipes and that I haven’t had Granny’s Pecan Rolls for breakfast on Christmas in years.  What matters is that I get to spend the day with Chaz doing whatever we feel like doing.  What matters is that I cook what I want to cook and it doesn’t have to be the same thing every year.  What matters is I spend less time worrying and thinking about tradition than I do worrying about the time I have on special occasions.

Auntie in JFK Plaza, Philadelphia, PA

Auntie in JFK Plaza, Philadelphia, PA

This may seem huge to some of you who may stick to tradition every year, but at heart, as much as I love tradition, I like breaking them and making new traditions.  If Chaz and I had a real wedding ceremony there wouldn’t have been tradition.  No matching bridesmaids dresses.   No wearing white (I look awful if I’m all in white).  No grand churches.  No wedding march.  No being given away (it was the 20th century for goodness sakes).  When I was sick before the hypothyroid diagnosis, I went without throwing my yearly New Years Party, a tradition from Granny and Papa I had followed for years.  Even if we didn’t have people over because I was just too sick to entertain, I did make the traditional pot of chili.  I think that is one tradition I never stopped no matter what.  New Years day is chili.  I haven’t done the party in years because of work and even though I’m gone from that fun box store, I won’t be partying this year because I’m just too sick to entertain again.  Chili will be made.

No, the tradition frenzy is no longer in my life.  When I feel it start to come on I remind myself about what is really important about the holidays.  It is why I redeemed some miles and flew to Allentown, PA last month to spend a couple of days with one of my aunties.  I had to take advantage of any opportunity to spend time with any family members no matter how sick and exhausted I was.  This year is no different from any other and with all the losses in my life I’m holding on to my time with Chaz even more.   I have a heavier heart today because of another loss.  I’m imagining how two of my friends are going to manage their first Christmases without their wives.  I’m imagining how my auntie, uncle, and cousin are going to celebrate their first Christmas without Jonathan.  I’m wishing for my younger years of spending Christmas with either Granny and Papa or Grandma and Grandpa, but thankful for the years I had with them.

I’m thankful I regained control of my life and I’m taking back my health, yet again.

I’m thankful my doctor diagnosed me before I wound up in the hospital because I kept pushing and pushing myself.

I’m thankful for Chaz, who has been extremely supportive of me doing what I need to do for myself.

I’m thankful for my family and friends who have become family.

I’m thankful for you.

It is time to just be.