The Sensitive Celiac Does IFBC and El Dorado County

Why would I, the Sensitive Celiac, even bother to attend a food-oriented conference? Read how I plan and participate in my food event of the year. Photo by Imei Hsu, October 2017.

You, with your hand raised. Yes, you, the one who carries an EpiPen, inhaler, and has a butt load of food allergies, intolerances, Oral Allergy Syndrome, Outdoor Allergies, and an Autoimmune Disease. Uh huh. I see you.

I believe this is your question after I tell you that I had a wonderful time at the International Food Blogger Conference in Sacramento. Your question is: How do you do wine tasting and eating out in El Dorado County and have a good time? Aren’t you scared? Won’t you get sick?

In fact, how do you EVER enjoy the holidays, socialize with friends, and navigate food allergy and intolerance nightmares out there in the real world?

Great questions! Two answers: 1. Fantastic preparation, and 2. Great hosts and chefs who know their stuff.

If you don’t have BOTH of these components when you enter a food-oriented conference and food-oriented events, you won’t have the kind of experience I did in El Dorado County for a day of eating and drinking. In fact, without these two components, you wouldn’t have much fun in any food-related event, which is why I typically won’t attend food festivals where the quality and preparation of food is much harder to vett or control.

Read on for my experience as The Sensitive Celiac at the food blogger event of my year.

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Why Attend IFBC 2017

Food Bloggers Conference

 

Disclosure : As an IFBC Citizen Blogger, I received a reduced conference rate in exchange for sharing three posts about my experience. This is the first of three. 

If it wasn’t for a little race called Ironman, I would have attended the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) 2016 conference, held in Sacramento, CA. But wait! What does an Ironman race have to do with interfering with plans to attend a food blogging conference?

Well, actually, Ironman training made a great many decisions for me in 2016, from what available time I had, who I socialized with,  how much and when to eat, and yes — even determining what conferences I could attend.

Last year, I spent 15-20 hours a week on top of my hours in the office as a private practice counselor, training for Ironman Mont-Tremblant. Every spare hour was spent in the pool or in the lake, riding my bike on a trainer or up and down hills, and running for hours. To do all those things, I also had to grocery shop, prep, and cook all my own meals and make my own race food.  Over time, my needs grew to the point that I could not eat outside my home, and could not spare even a day of food sensitivity by making inferior food choices. When the IFBC 2016 dates were announced, I realized they were just too close to the dates of my race, creating some risk for the Celiac athlete to try new food combinations or sample beverages. It didn’t make sense to put my race in jeopardy, so I took the conference off my plate (pun intended).

When I heard that the IFBC would return to Sacramento in 2017, my mind was made up: I would come back again. This was an exciting development, because I was really kicking myself for having missed the 2016 conference at that specific location.  This post is about why I’m attending IFBC 2017 as a “citizen blogger” for the second time. And it’s also about why you as a reader should care.

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New Year Celebration Mindshift

New Year’s Eve |  Celebration | Ideas

Wondering how to celebrate New Year's Eve and other special occasions safely? Cultivate a Celebration Mindshift, and you'll be making your own memories without the worry of food-related accidents.
Wondering how to celebrate New Year’s Eve and other special occasions safely? Cultivate a Celebration Mindshift, and you’ll be making your own memories without the worry of food-related accidents.

One of my pet peeves as a Food Allergic Person (FAP) happens almost every time I want to take part in large-scale celebration. Let’s say it’s an upcoming New Year’s Eve event at a beautiful hotel. The organizer is selling tickets to the posh event, and the tickets are available in a number of levels. Here’s an example:

1. Bells and Whistles. Pay $$$$ for tickets, and you get a premium table in the VIP room and seating, access to a full-food buffet, unlimited drink tickets, and arrangements for safe transportation to and from the event.

2. A Bell and A Whistle. Pay $$$ for tickets, you get a table in the main room, access to the full-food buffet, three drink tickets, and you arrange your own safe transportation.

3. No Bells and No Whistles.  Pay $$ for tickets, no table (stand up and eat), access to the full-food buffet, two drink tickets, and you arrange your own safe transportation.

4. There is no option #4 (except being told, “We can’t help you.”).

For the FAP and people on a medically-necessary diet, , packages #1 through #3 are useless to us (and in many cases, dangerous to us). You are paying for food and drink that you should not consume unless you are completely prepared to play roulette with your health and safety.

With cross-contamination, poorly marked foods, and unclear ingredients, you do not know what you are consuming. If you have food sensitivities, you may also encounter them when consuming alcohol, which most of us also know are highly discouraged if you have GI issues, Autoimmune Disease, or have multiple food allergies or intolerances, because alcohol can inflame your GI tract. And you know the saying: hell hath no fury like a GI tract scorned.

Every year since I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Disease and multiple severe food allergies, New Year’s plans and other special occasions  are an important consideration, and one that can be embedded with emotional stories as we try to celebrate with family and friends. This year, make sure you get through the maze not only intact, but with flying colors.

Let’s help you make New Year’s celebrations fun again, shall we? Continue reading

Five More Kitchen Must-Haves

Last year around this time, I wrote about five “must-haves” that ever person who wants to cook real food to improve their health should have in their kitchen, and now I’m ready to add five more for this year’s list!

When you are eating food you make yourself all year round with very few exceptions, not only should your food be the highest quality ingredients you can afford, but your kitchen tools and equipment should be things that work, get a lot of use, and are durable. They should also either save you time, or work effectively to help make your food tasty.

After the end-of-year gifts are unwrapped, and perhaps you have a little extra pocket money to purchase an item, I support your desire to invest in your health by turning your kitchen into a health center through the cooking of nutritious meals.

Here are my five must-have’s for this year (after you already scored on my five must-have’s from last year):

I keep this sous-vide immersion circulator on the counter top because it gets used often in our kitchen.
I keep this sous-vide immersion circulator on the counter top because it gets used often in our kitchen.

1. Sous vide cooking device. After receiving a Sansaire Sous-vide Immersion Circulator for my birthday this year (yes, I asked for a cooking device for my birthday!), I have discovered the joys of juicy, perfectly-cooked meats. What I didn’t fully understand was that sous-vide cooking is just the first step; what you do with the meat after it is cooked to perfection is completely up to you: sear it with a torch, braise it on the grill briefly, or deep fry it afterwards.

I have since poached eggs and salmon for the loveliest breakfasts, and created simple but beautiful dishes with lamb that look like they fell out of a fancy cookbook.

If a circulator device is too spendy for your budget, you can also learn to cook the sous-vide method using a precise digital thermometer and thick plastic Ziploc bags. Either way, if you haven’t tried sous-vide cooking at home, you will want to make one of these options a new must-have and must-do!

A panini grill pan gives you those beautiful lines across whatever you are grilling indoors on the stove.
A panini grill pan gives you those beautiful lines across whatever you are grilling indoors on the stove.

2. Panini grill pan. When it became clear that any kind of gluten-free bread and I were not meant for one another, I became obsessed with this idea that my food needed to still look like it could have panini grill marks seared across it. Yes, even a mini gluten-free pizza crust, for the love of bread!

And if you are among the fortunate who can have GF bread and some kind of dairy-free butter, spread, or non-dairy cheese, what would look better than those three dark stripes across the face of the bread from a panini grill pan? Calphalon’s Contemporary Non-Stick Panini Pan will get it done.

3. Travel Sized Blender. After traveling to several cities and staying in every kind of accommodations from an AirBnB to a Bed and Breakfast to a hotel suite, that one thing I can’t seem to do without is a blender.

Even if your destination accommodations has one, you can’t know if it was cleaned properly of your allergens, and you don’t want to put your hand down to the blade to try to scrape that bit of gluten, nuts, dried milk, or peanut butter off it. No no no.

Instead, try a travel sized blender, like the Magic Bullet Blender. For just around $40, you have a tool that you can make your smoothies, puree vegetables for a soup, or in my case, make my “bike food” for when I have long training rides. Goes into your checked luggage. They are not lightweight (none of them are), yet if you travel, it could help you make eating while on travel more healthy and safe.

I don’t have a picture of one for you because this is going to be my gift to me, after borrowing one from a friend who hadn’t used hers much. Happy Holidays to me (and my tummy!). When not on travel, it will be in my office, so I can make myself smoothies, protein shakes, and carrot ginger soup (my favorite).

4. Canning Tools (bottles, lids, pot for sterilizing). Of all the “must-have’s”, this one is perhaps the cheapest, yet packs a lot of punch in terms of what you can do for your guts and your food budget.

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Purchase mason jars and lids from your local grocery store, craft store, or kitchen and bath store. They are sold separately or in boxes of multiple jars and lids.

By purchasing food in season and either freezing it immediately until you have time to do some canning, or canning immediately, you can nourish your body with everything from fermented foods you make yourself, to your own low-sugar fruit spread, to summer fruits you may choose to eat in the dead of winter.

You can  buy mason jars with lids  from your local craft store, or alternatively opt into a jar and lid program where you can buy packs of lids, because it’s the lids that you need to replace more frequently for the best seal.

If you have never canned anything before and don’t have any of the necessary tools, you might want to start with a simple kit and buy some jars. If you have some of the pieces, then you might want to shop around to pick up just the tools you are missing. I’ve gotten into fermenting daikon root and cabbage, and canning fruit.

Avolon pot with pour spout and drain lid (two sizes, small and large holes). Perfect for gluten free pasta, melting foods, allergen free sauces. Keep your gluten eating family members away from your pot!
Anolon pot with pour spout and drain lid (two sizes, small and large holes). Perfect for gluten free pasta, melting foods, allergen free sauces. Keep your gluten eating family members away from your pot!

5. Pot with pour spout and draining lid. One of the ways you can produce a meal quickly with less mess and no need for a colander is to purchase a pot with a pour spout and drain lid.

For absolute safety, you can assign your pot to yourself and any family member who is gluten free, so you can safely drain your GF pasta without worrying about gluten particles stuck in the tiny holes of an old colander, which you will never be sure is completely clean on those old plastic ones, ick.

I cannot tell you how many meals I have produced in a single pot like this one. Makes clean up a breeze. I bought two of them from Anolon last year, and I use these pots frequently. You decide if you want the premium model with the copper bottom for even heat distribution.

Honestly, just limiting my must-have list to five items is really tough! Yet I’m looking forward to next December, when I’ll add five more after doing my own careful experimentation and in-the-kitchen research to help all your Hungry Minions make food fun again.

To your health, to your Happy Tummy, and to a gut-strong 2017!  Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

P.S. Need a stocking stuffer idea for your favorite cook-at-home best buddy? Try the Chef’n Kale, Greens, and Herbs Stripper. I use this to prepare kale quickly for dehydrating on my Cabelas Food Dehydrator, allowing me to carry greens with me on travel. Simply add hot water to rehydrate.

 

Travel Cooking Beyond Your Kitchen

I packed my bags carefully. Very carefully.

Styrofoam wrapped around a center frame of a 48cm road bike, headset velcro strapped to center bar, derailleur removed and placed in a red bag and velco strapped in the center of bike frame.
Do you know how to take apart a road bike down to the frame? I learned quickly, by packing my frame and wheels into a Ruster Armored Hen House.

Two standard sized bags weighing in each at 46 pounds and 26 pounds;  one carry-on backpack with my laptop, essentials, medication, and epi pen. Every item was carefully checked and double checked. We loaded them into the car, and my husband bade me farewell and good luck at the airport.

I was off to Maui, HI for a triathlon camp. Over a week’s time, we would be riding four challenging cycling routes, running and hiking through a variety of different terrains and elevations, and swimming in the ocean.

Black bag with red handles for bike wheels, and 62 linear inch black frame bag by Ruster Hen House, used to fly frame and wheel of a exercise equipment in standard size cases.
Want to fly your exercise equipment without being charged additional fees for oversized bags? Ruster Hen House does just that, in a bag that fulfills the requirement of being under 62 linear inches.

By the next day, I would have my bags unpacked, my dismantled road bike inside the two standard cases rebuilt, and I would be sailing down the coast of Maui towards the Maui Winery with the wind in my hair and water in my road bike bottles. However, man (or woman) cannot live on bread and water alone; in fact, I can’t really live on bread either!  I would need to be able to feed myself for the duration of the demanding camp activities, as the caterer had let me know that she would be unable to safely meet my needs while feeding everyone else. I opted to cook for myself.

Life’s most beautiful adventures across your state borders and across an ocean require you to think about travel cooking beyond the confines of your kitchen. All journeys are really not so much about what you take, but what you leave behind. What can’t you live without, regarding a week’s worth of food?

In my last post, I gave you a glimpse into menu planning so you could think like a pro when it comes to organizing yourself for cooking for at home. When you travel, it’s even that much more important that you learn how to save time and money by planning carefully what you will need to eat, and how to create tasty, nutritious food that you will want to eat, especially when you’re tired and worn out from all your fabulous activities throughout the day.

Keep reading to learn more about how to cook for yourself when you arrive at your destination’s kitchen, and what I did to improvise.

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Menu Planning Like a Boss

It’s that time again. It’s time to travel, and cook for myself outside my own kitchen!

Next week, I’m climbing into a plane and flying with my road bike to Maui to participate in a triathlon camp. Unlike the last time I travelled for the same camp, I’ll be responsible for about 90% of all my food and snacks for a very active week full of epic bike rides, ocean swimming and snorkeling, hikes through bamboo forests and red dirt trails, and running on beaches and trails on this beautiful island.

My chiropractor mentioned a truth that I found ironic. He said that a successful Ironman competition was not just about who was strong enough to go the distance — a 2.4mile swim, 112-mile bike course, and a 26.2 mile run – but who could  eat and drink enough to cover that distance!

When 70% of all surveyed athletes state that they have experienced GI distress during a race or sport performance, it’s a serious concern. So the Sensitive Celiac takes food seriously! And of course, I make food fun again by showing you just how easy it is, once you know what you need to eat, to simplify the process, organize yourself, and make tasty and nutrient-dense meals and snacks that will help you take on the activities of life that thrill you.

You might not ever do an Ironman, but I can tell you, just snorkeling in the ocean makes everyone hungry! Everyone needs to eat. Having food allergies and intolerances or a special diet means planning, preparation, and if at all possible, cooking your own food.

So, wanna know how to menu plan like a boss?

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