A Recap and Top Picks from the 2012 Gluten Free Living Now Expo
Monday, October 22, 2012
Editors Note: Indianapolis recently held a gluten free expo which I was not able to attend. Fortunately for us, my friend Pam Newlin was able to go in my place. She has guided me through my quest to heal my family through diet and I knew she’d be the best choice for this post. Pam is an experienced parent on a mission of raising her children in a conventional world using unconventional methods. She and her husband practice co-sleeping, comfort-driven, gentle parenting techniques. Although she slips now and then, she tries to reserve the yelling only for the voices in her head. Pam has a seven-year-old boy with autism, a five-year-old girl who thinks she is a princess, and a baby boy who learned to walk before she and her husband could re-babyproof the house. On the very rare occasion when she catches a moment to breathe, you can find her turning chaos into keystrokes at www.gfcfautismomma.blogspot.com. For now, here is her takeaway from the event, plus a few recommendations for those looking for allergy friendly foods. Caution: You will be hungry by the time you’re done reading!
If you are one of the millions of people who eat a gluten-free diet – or any kind of restrictive diet – at some point you have probably felt deprived of your favorite foods. Or perhaps, you have replaced your old favorites with new ones… but finding recipes for a variety of delicious meals and preparing them at home on a daily basis is simply starting to wear you down. I get it. As a wife and mother of three young children, and someone who has spent much of my time for the last four years catering to multiple dietary restrictions, believe me when I say that I totally get those feelings of having no desire to set foot in the kitchen for another minute, another hour, or – dare I say it – ever again.
With those dinnertime blues making appearances a bit more often than my comfort zone will allow, this year’s Gluten Free Living Now Expo could not have come at a better time. It is the perfect event to rejuvenate my determination to keeping my family gluten-free. In a way, the expo is a life preserver held out to me in order to keep my family from falling off the gluten-free wagon. It is a chance to gain further knowledge into gluten-free cooking and to add to my repertoire of meals. It is an opportunity to discover new ways of packing more nutrition into kid-friendly foods. After all, my kids are why my family began this gluten-free journey in the first place. With such an opportunity for learning to be had, perhaps they should call it the Gluten Free Learning Now Expo.
This year’s Gluten Free Living Now Expo was October 13th & 14th on the northside of Indianapolis. My husband and I were already planning to attend this year’s Expo, so when Rebeca asked me if I would like cover the event for The Average Parent and Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery, I was more than happy to oblige.
There were vendors of all types smiling and chatting it up with attendees. There were booths for whole foods, snacks, breads, pastas, desserts, condiments, raw honey, restaurants, craft supplies for children, makeup, vitamin supplements – you name it. There was at least one vendor at the Expo for virtually every type of gluten-free product or specialty diet-related service one can imagine. Every food vendor we came across was offering samples of at least one of their products, while some offered several different samples. At only $5 for general admission (and free for children under 10!) and such a vast array of vendors featured at the Expo, it would seem only the pickiest of eaters or the tightest of penny-pinchers could possibly walk out of there feeling hungry or robbed of their hard-earned dollars. My family and I only made it halfway through before we were all bellyachin’ and wishing we could eat more, but there was such a variety of foods to eat and only so much stomach in which to put it.
We came across some absolutely lovely people and several companies we had never heard of before. We got meal ideas and recipes from nearly every company offering ingredient-type products (as opposed to those selling already prepared foods) and insight into companies we can order prepared foods from online. I am still amazed at some of the wonderful foods out there offered by companies that, up until seeing their booths at the Expo, we never even knew existed.
Here are some of the highlights:
When we first entered the banquet hall, we started with our hometown favorite and local health food store, Nature’s Pharm. Pictured here is Amber (left) and Sonya (right). Sonya is with the Greenwood location, where I shop regularly. She is always friendly and generous with her offers to help assist me to my vehicle. She, as well as many of the Nature’s Pharm family, call me by my first name and always make me feel welcome in the store.
There were even a few super stars. Mrs. Indiana 2012, Carrie Owens, was at the Expo with Mrs. Alaska 2012, Dasha Estalilla and Mrs. United States 2011, Shannon Ford. You might wonder, as I did, what in the world the association is between pageant queens and a gluten-free expo. All three of the pageant beauties claim to have needed dietary restrictions at some point in their lives and Shannon Ford now follows a paleo lifestyle.
But, let’s be honest, the real superstars were some of the amazing products available to sample. Pictured at left is Tim, who was handing out samples of Rudi’s new tortillas that he had made into quesadillas. As I mentioned before, the opportunity to attend the Expo was made available to me by Rudi’s. Yes, I was slightly compensated for my time by Rudi’s. That fact aside, please know that I have not been swayed in any way, nor am I lying when I say the Rudi’s tortillas are the very best gluten-free tortilla I have ever tried. They are soft, pliable, and ataste great! They are more than just a product to settle with in order to have a gluten-free tortilla. The best part? They have flavor! Honestly, I reluctantly gave up a long time ago on recipes calling for tortillas because, up until now, none of the gluten-free tortilla options on the market satisfied my standards of 1) being palatable and 2)being pliable when rolled or folded like an enchilada or taco. As a person who loves dishes made with a southwestern flair, I feel like Rudi’s gluten-free tortillas re-open a whole world of options to my family that we have missed out on since I stopped buying gluten-free tortillas years ago. An added bonus for people who eat a lower-carb and/or a high fiber diet: the Rudi’s tortillas offer five grams of dietary fiber, bringing the net carb count to twelve grams. They come in three flavors: Plain, Spinach, and Fiesta.
Indianapolis’s own Earth-concious chocolatier, Endangered Species, was at the Expo. If you are unfamiliar with this company, I encourage you to read up on their mission on their website. “Endangered Species Chocolate donates 10% of net profits to organizations that support species, habitat and humanity.”
Pictured at left is Nancy, mother to the owner of Bee Free Gluten-Free, Jennifer Wiese. Nancy is one of those women who is just as cute as she can be and is the perfect person to have representing your company at an event such as the Expo. She simply draws people in with her warm smile and generosity with sampling the goods. What do I like about Bee Free? Well, first off, located in Noblesville, Indiana makes Bee Free a company that is pretty close to home for me. Second, they make a kickin’ gluten-free pizza crust. Third, they offer a wide selection of products for people with nearly any diet restriction imaginable, including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and paleo, all at reasonable prices. As if all that is not enough, Jennifer is also the mother of a child with autism, just like me.
This Allergen Free Oatmeal Cream Pie from Annie May’s Sweet Café was a whopping ten ounces! Let me start off by saying that something made with oatmeal would never be my first choice for a dessert. However, in an attempt to go beyond the limitations of my almost exclusive preference for chocolate-laden desserts, I purchased this allergy-friendly oatmeal cream pie. I do not know what others think when they pick up an individual oatmeal cream pie like this and feel the heft of its weight and see the label confirms the fact that Little Debbie for certain did not bake it, but I can say it made me, personally, wonder why anyone would need a ten-ounce cream pie. Had I not been sensible, I would have tried a taste of the one I purchased while I was still at the Annie May’s table. And by “sensible” I really mean that waiting until we returned home to taste it was probably the dumbest idea I had that entire day because, once we were home, I could not whip out another $5 bill and buy a second one. I took one bite of that ginormous thing and wonder transformed into greed. That greed brought on a sadness within me. My husband and I try to teach our children by example and that meant I would have to share with my kids and husband. I am ashamed to admit to that greed and sadness, but I did not want to share, darnit. It was that good. (My only warning is that this is definitely not for those avoiding sugar, as the “cream” inside is made with powdered sugar and is very sweet.)
We nibbled on foods at the Expo from so many companies offering downright fantastic products but if there was a list of those who “Got It Right,” Truly Wize Gluten Free Bakery would be at the very top. One taste of their Chocolate Decadence Cake provided me with enough evidence as to why it has been featured on CBS’s Rachael Ray Show, NBC’s The Today Show, in Yoga Journal, and is sold in stores nationwide such as Whole Foods and others. The founder of Truly Wize, Caren Weaver, is committed to creating delicious desserts using only the freshest, purest ingredients produced by those who practice sustainable agricultural methods. She avoids the use of several of the top food allergens as well as artificial colors and flavors. When I think back to that little bite of cake I tried at their booth, “superior” is the word that comes to mind. It is no surprise, as I would expect nothing less than a superior performance by a CIA-trained chef. That’s the Culinary Institute of America, also known as THE culinary school, for the non-foodies out there.