Nourished Festival!

I have to be honest: when I first heard about the changes coming to one of my favorite events of the year, I was less than thrilled. (Full disclosure: I rolled my eyes as I read the email.) After all, I’m only human.

I’m a human who cannot eat the tiniest crumb of gluten or casein without sending my immune system into absolute chaos. So as I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with people who adopt “fad diets” or even “fad lifetsyles”.

As someone who cannot enjoy the occasional cupcake or slice of bread, it can be frustrating to understand why a person who is fully capable of doing so makes the choice to give up such treats willingly. So when I first saw that the festival had somewhat rebranded to include paleo and keto lifestyle choices, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go back. (I’m telling you- jealousy can turn you into an irrational person.)

However, once I came back to the computer and actually read through the details and description, I realized I was hasty in my judgment. (I guess maybe we’re just a little possessive of the things we love sometimes so we’re initially resistant to change.)

First of all everything at the Expo is still gluten-free (I was worried about that one!) but there are additional categories for nut-free, paleo, keto, and plant-based diets.

Though paleo, keto, and plant-based diets are sometimes a choice, the reality is that many people do require these diets for their health. And even for people who don’t officially require these diets, if someone feels better following a certain diet, then I should be there cheering them on toward health and happiness- not harboring a grudge.

So now that I am back to my original level of excitement for this upcoming event: here are the details you need to know.

What: Nourished Festival

Where? DCU Center– Worcester, MA

When? Saturday July 20th and Sunday July 21st 10 AM – 3 PM

Why?

More than 70 vendors (and counting!) showcasing their gluten-free products, providing samples, and coupons, of course!

Designated booths for products that are also nut-free, paleo, keto, or plant-based

5 classes related to gluten-free cooking, adapting to a keto/paleo lifestyle, and entertaining with a variety of food allergies in mind

Sign me up!

If this sounds like a weekend you don’t want to miss, come join me! Tickets are available here. ($15 for a one-day pass, or $20 for the weekend) BUT I have some tickets to give away so send me a message through the “Contact Me” link and tell me which vendor you are most excited to see at the Expo for your chance to win free tickets!

I hope to see you there!!

Some of my haul from the last Expo!

The Mystery of Grocery Shopping (AKA Deciphering All Those Labels)

When I was new to the gluten-free world, one of my biggest challenges was deciphering those confusing gluten-free (maybe??) labels at the grocery store. I wish I could say it gets easier with time. In some ways it does, but I’ll be honest, you’re in for a lifetime of detective work. Fortunately there have been some legal changes since 2013 in an effort to make this process less of a mystery, but as you’ll see below, they still leave you with a few cobwebs to clear.

If you have walked through a grocery store lately, chances are you saw more than a dozen products bearing a gluten-free label. Most grocery stores have an ever-growing gluten-free/natural products section which of course fills your heart with glee because that means so many more safe options for you, right?? Well, the answer is maybe, depending on your level of sensitivity.

The mysterious land of gluten-free food…

When I was diagnosed in 2011, there were no official FDA requirements for gluten-free labeling. Thankfully the Celiac community is a passionate one and their efforts led to the FDA issuing Gluten-Free Label Laws, which were passed on August 5, 2013 and went into effect a year later (August 5, 2014). You can read the full text of the FDA statements here but allow me to give you a concise summary.

FDA Gluten-Free Label Requirements

  • Sets the acceptable limit for gluten in a product at 20 ppm (parts per million)
  • States that products with the gluten-free label must be either inherently free from gluten-containing grains OR derived from a gluten-containing grain, provided that it has been processed to remove the gluten, to a point which measures below 20 ppm
  • Classifies gluten-free as a voluntary label (meaning manufacturers can decide whether or not to include it on their packaging)
  • Requires food imported into the United States to meet the same requirements if using the gluten-free label
  • Does NOT require manufactures to test for gluten in their products but the FDA will randomly test products to confirm compliance

Now let me start by saying that I am extremely grateful for the measures taken in 2014 in that at least I can be (relatively) confident that anything with a gluten-free label contains less than 20 ppm of gluten. However, the FDA law still leaves me with some concerns. First, because manufacturers are not required to test final products to ensure 20 ppm, I have to make sure it is a company (or person) that I trust. The good news is that in 2017, the FDA released data of their sampling and of the 250 products sampled, only 1 failed/was recalled. Second, the reality is that 20 ppm can still be too much for some people. In the FDA’s defense, this is the threshold agreed upon by the “celiac experts”, but every person’s sensitivity can vary. I’m not saying the number should necessarily be decreased- I just wish there was a way this was included on the label so that newly-diagnosed patients in particular, were aware of the threshold. Lastly, the labeling law does allow for manufacturers to use other phrases, such as “not made with gluten-containing ingredients” without meeting the established requirements. For a new shopper, that can certainly be confusing.

So now that I might have you feeling even more overwhelmed, there is good news too. You might have also come across products with that little certified gluten-free symbol (as opposed to just the phrase written on the package somewhere).

This little symbol is about to become your best friend.

This is because the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG) developed the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) which provides 3rd party certification of gluten-free products. Again, you can read all the specifics here but the basics are below.

Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)

  • Requires that all ingredients AND finished products with this logo contain 10 ppm of gluten or less
  • Does not allow any barley-based ingredients in a product
  • Requires annual inspection of equipment, raw materials, and finished products in order to maintain certification

In other words, a product bearing this logo has been certified to be safe sometime within the past calendar year. You can add those products to your cart with as much certainty as you can probably find these days.

So of course now this begs the question: should you only buy items with the certified gluten-free logo?

Only you can make that decision but I will tell you for me the answer is no. Yes, I do feel safer when I pick up a new product with that logo; however, leaving out any product without the logo would mean giving up some wonderful, safe options for me. While the gluten-free certification is a great process for consumers, it is both expensive and time-consuming for the manufacturer. It states on the GFCO website that it can take anywhere from 6-18 weeks to get through the certification process and even then, new packaging has to be printed which includes the label so it will be even longer before it gets on the store shelves. Also, for a small start-up company, the cost of certification (and then annual inspection) might just be out of budget range for the first few years. This is why I love the chance to meet creators of new products at Gluten-Free Expos because I can talk to them in person about their products and production process and decide for myself whether it is safe for me.

So now what??

I know, I may have just added to the confusion in your life with all this information so let me leave you with a Cliffs Note version of how to navigate the puzzle that is grocery shopping in a gluten-free world.

Labeled Gluten-Free: Proceed with relative confidence that this item contains less than 20 ppm of gluten and should be safe for most consumers with Celiac or gluten sensitivity

Certified Gluten-Free: Proceed with strong confidence that this item contains less than 10 ppm of gluten and is most likely safe for consumers with Celiac or gluten sensitivity

Labeled Not Made with Gluten-Containing Ingredients (or some variety of that phrase): Put it down and walk away. This phrase is not held to the FDA standard of gluten-free. It means exactly what it says: the product is not made with gluten-containing ingredients, but also the manufacturer doesn’t have the confidence necessary to put the label gluten-free so it may or may not test below the 20 ppm threshold

No label at all: This is where common sense kicks in. The FDA designated gluten-free as a completely voluntary label so you may see it popping up on anything from bottled water to diced peaches if the manufacturer thinks it might help the product to sell. However, that also means there are many inherently gluten-free products (canned fruit, frozen vegetables, etc.) that will not have any kind of gluten-free label or logo- because it just isn’t in the best interest of the manufacturer to go through that whole process. Again, this is where you have to decide what is best for you and your body.

I hope this little guide helps you (slightly) in your quest to navigate your new grocery shopping world. I will say that if you are shopping for gluten-free guests, I would recommend choosing certified gluten-free items because it will likely put their minds more at ease. Of course, you can also touch base with them about brands or products that they know are safe for them. (I’ll have a future post about hosting gluten-free guests)

Last but not least, if you do have an adverse reaction to a product which is labeled gluten-free, the FDA has established two ways to report this information. You can contact FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s Adverse Event Reporting System at 240-402-2405 or by email at CAERS@cfsan.fda.gov or you can reach out to an FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator for the state where the food was purchased. You can find the number for your state listed here. We have to stick together to keep each other safe- if a product makes you sick, you can help prevent it from happening to someone else.

Now, happy (and safe!) shopping! I promise, you’ll get the hang of it 🙂

Is There Life After the Chocolate Bunny? (5 Years Later)

5 years ago I posed this question when writing about my first dairy-free Easter. I was making a batch of Katie-safe peanut butter eggs this week and pulled up that old post to double check the ingredient ratios. (Yes, sometimes I have to look up my own recipes.) As I read I could remember so distinctly how I felt: sad, wistful, grateful, confused. I was still mourning the way life had once been, but was also so incredibly grateful to wake up feeling healthy each day. Keep in mind, I was 28 at the time; just imagine how it feels for people who are much younger.

The good news is, here I am 5 years later and that mix of feelings is so foreign to me now. Now I feel nothing but joy and excitement as we look forward to Easter celebrations…and not just because I miss Twitter and the screentime I gave up for Lent.

I have found SO many Katie-safe options. (Of course, having a toddler brings a whole new sense of wonder to the celebration too.) I have learned that there was no need to ask that question in the first place- because even in a world that no longer includes dairy, you can still have a chocolate bunny!! Not to mention, plenty of other chocolate treats 🙂

You can find SO many Easter Candy allergy lists out there with a quick Google search. However, I want to share with you some of the treats I have personally ordered (and eaten!) so I can give them the Katie stamp of approval and feel confident that you won’t be disappointed. Just keep in mind that Easter will be upon us in just about two weeks (hopefully the Spring weather will come along too!) and some of these allergy-safe treats need 7-10 days for shipping so…

…if the Easter Bunny has baskets to fill for kids (or grown-ups!) dealing with food allergies, now is the time to make sure he knows where to find the best options.

No Whey Chocolates

Yes, there is a reason I’m listing No Whey Chocolates first. They are AMAZING. As in, double check the ingredients list because this can’t possibly be dairy-free, amazing. And there is no reason to fear because all of their products are free from the 8 major allergens! They’re also vegan, Kosher, and free from artificial colors and flavors. They have an ADORABLE line of Easter products this year…and if you sign up for their emails, they often have promotions where you can try a product for free (with another purchase). Plus, what might be most exciting (to me anyway) is…THEY NOW HAVE PRODUCTS ON AMAZON. That’s right, Prime members, you can procrastinate with the knowledge that 2-day shipping can be yours! (But I wouldn’t because you never know what will sell out as Easter gets closer)

Katie’s Recommendation: Literally anything on their website…but if pressed I’d say the Truffles can’t be beat.

Amore di Mona

Now this is definitely a fancier product, so this might be great for the adults your life (teacher gift!). They even have some cute bunny-shaped treats this year. This chocolate is also alarmingly delicious (I definitely checked the ingredient list again on this one too) but all of their products are free from gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts. They also use only organic, kosher, non-GMO, sustainably-sourced ingredients…and there is NO refined sugar. (I know you might be skeptical, but trust me this will change the way you think about chocolate.) You can order directly from the website, use the store locator to find products near you, OR you can find them on Amazon too!! (I promise this is not an Amazon Prime ad…it just seems like it.)

Katie’s Recommendation: This Perfetto 3 Pack. I mean, chocolate and coffee?? You can’t go wrong 🙂

Free2B

All of the products made by Free2B are free of the 12 major allergens instead of the typical “Big 8″(sesame, corn, mustard, and coconut are the additional 4). The sunbutter cups are the perfect size for an Easter basket- and the perfect surprise for anyone with a peanut allergy. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of their Snack Breaks until today, but based on how much I love their sunbutter cups, I’m excited to try them next! You can use the store locator to find the products near you (if you have a Whole Foods, chances are you can find them there) or you can place an online order. Right now everything on the website is 30% off! (But I’m not sure how long that will last.)

Katie’s Recommendation: Definitely the Dark Chocolate Sun Cups. Of course now that I have seen the Dark Chocolate Peppermint Snack Break, that is what I personally want to try next 😉

Enjoy Life

This brand is probably most familiar to you since they are now in most conventional grocery stores. They have a huge selection of products, which seems to be constantly growing, and everything they make is free from 14 common allergens. That’s right, 14! I will be honest and say that if you’re looking for a chocolate, I would recommend one of the brands mentioned above. (Though Enjoy Life does have some cute Easter designs this year if that matters more than taste.) However, their Protein Bites and Crunchy Cookies are phenomenal and would be a perfect (non-Easter-themed) addition to any Easter basket.

Katie’s Recommendation: The Double Chocolate Crunchy Cookies…or if it’s a gift, the 10 Snack Trial Pack!

Make sure to remind the Easter Bunny that anything ordered online needs some buffer time to arrive- so he should probably order this weekend 😉 However you celebrate the holiday (and holy day) this year, I hope it is filled with joy, faith, happiness, hope…and a you-safe chocolate bunny, of course.

A New Beginning…

Hello friends,

I know I disappeared for quite some time- it turns out that raising an infant (now toddler) when you don’t live near family doesn’t leave much time for writing, experimenting with recipes, researching new products, or (let’s be honest) sleeping. A few months ago I realized that between raising our little guy, working part-time, contributing to the local moms blog, and traveling all over to see family and friends, I was feeling overwhelmed. I made the decision to take a step back and put this blog on hold so I could soak up my time with our son without that nagging feeling that I should be doing something else (like writing).

That being said, over the past few weeks I have had a few conversations and experiences which made it pretty clear to me that it is time to write again. And so here we are.

You will notice a few changes:

  • Most notably… the new website! After some conversations with readers and a few companies who sent products for me to try, it became clear that it is easier to have a web address that matched the blog name so I’m trying it this way- for a year anyway 🙂 It is still a work in progress so please be patient as I get all the kinks worked out.
  • Though I will post on the blog regularly, I will have more frequent posts on my Instagram page. Sometimes a new product find is awesome, but doesn’t necessarily warrant a whole blogpost, so if you’re not already following @cupofcoffeewithkatie on Instagram, you can use the link on the right (or below if you’re on a tablet/mobile device) to do so.
  • There will be more resources for Catholics who are diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. This has been a topic close to my heart for some time now, and honestly one of the driving forces behind my decision to start writing again.

Those will be the most noticeable differences to begin with, but we’ll see what happens as the blog continues to evolve. For now, bookmark this new page and welcome back . I can’t wait to pick up where we left off 🙂

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It’s That Time of Year Again! (7 Reasons To Be Excited about the Gluten-Free/Allergen-Friendly Expo)

That’s right: it’s Expo time!!

Expo 2016: my first Worcester Expo!
By Expo time, I mean the 2018 Gluten-Free/Allergen-Friendly Expo in Worcester,  MA. Now those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that Expo weekend in July is like Christmas for me. For those of you who are new to the blog, I encourage you to read some of these summaries of past expos but I will also entice you with some photos from last year’s Expo in Worcester, Massachusetts. It is an amazing weekend surrounded by you-safe foods and people who totally understand what it means to scrutinize every label and stress about eating out. If that is not enough of a reason to make you want to head toward Worcester, read on for 7 reasons to be excited about the Expo.

1) Donuts. 

That’s right. All of these donuts were available for sample, and for purchase of course.You can also find them in the freezer section of some local grocery stores. However, at the Expo you often get to try flavors you don’t see on store shelves: like pumpkin spice! It may be July, but there are no rules when it comes to trying out flavors at the Expo.
(Thank you, Kinnikinnick Foods!) 

2) Pizza.

Yes, that is a slice of gluten-free, dairy-free pizza, courtesy of Still Riding Foods.Though the Expo is entirely gluten-free, the vendors are also very allergen-aware when it comes to other common trigger foods. Many booths will offer other allergen-free options beyond gluten-free, and each booth is clearly marked so you don’t have to worry about whether you’re accidentally ingesting something you shouldn’t. Plus, this is the one place where everyone seems to understand the term “cross-contamination”…and takes it seriously.
Thanks, Still Riding Foods!

3) Muffins and cookies.

This is one of those finds that make the Expo my favorite event of the year. I had never heard of Goodman Gluten-Free before last year when a kind employee offered me a sample of a cupcake at their booth. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was the best cupcake I have had in a long time. The muffins are just as delicious. Even better: I found out they carry these products at my local Star Market! Fortunately Goodman’s is no longer a once-a-year treat for this girl.
I can’t say enough good things about these treats from Goodman Gluten-Free.

4) Bagels

I still remember the moment I tasted my first Greater Knead bagel (though it was a Sweet Note bagel back then!). It was like a little piece of my pre-celiac life returned at the breakfast table. Last year they sampled a new product: bagel chips! The bagels never disappoint, and though I can buy them year-round at Wegman’s (thank goodness!), they always have some special flavors on hand at the Expo that can only be ordered online during the year. Plus, the women who started the company are the sweetest, most enthusiastic people you could ever hope to meet. And they wear bagel skirts. Need I say more?
Thanks, Greater Knead!

5) Beer

Now I’ll be honest: unlike many celiac patients, beer was not a great loss for me after my diagnosis. It was never something I really loved and I’d actually take a cider or glass of wine over beer any day…even before  it made me sick. But there is something about finding a display of gluten-free beer (and not the gluten-removed kind that I wouldn’t trust) that just draws you in. Again, I don’t love beer to begin with but if you do, the taste is the closest to regular beer that I have found. Plus the fact that it’s from a 100% gluten-free brewery and gastropub makes me really want to visit Portland, Oregon.

Cheers to Ground Breaker Brewing!

6) New friends (Or new memories with old friends!)

As I have said in past posts, there is nothing quite like being surrounded by people who just get it; people who know how hard it is to navigate dining out safely, eating on the road, attending holiday parties where you can’t eat anything, etc. You also see familiar faces as the years go by and it can be fun to catch up on where life has taken you since the last Expo.

7) Last but not least: free tickets!

What’s best is I have some free tickets to give away! All you have to do is click here to fill out the entry form here by next Tuesday (July 10th) and I will pick the winners on Wednesday, July 11th. 
Lastly, for those of you who have been following this blog for awhile, you know the posts have been few and far between since our little guy arrived. Because time is pretty short these days, I’m going to start posting short “Featured Favorites” on a more regular basis, and then still have the occasional longer post with recipes, etc. So keep an eye out for some new featured favorites as Expo Weekend approaches.

Did I mention free food???

I hope to see some of you soon in Worcester..AKA the happiest place in Massachusetts…for one weekend anyway 🙂

Mid-Afternoon Mocha (AKA My Motherhood Essential)

It is no secret to those of you who have been reading for awhile that I love coffee. In fact, even if you’re new to the blog, the title and the cover photo make that pretty easy to decipher. What you may not know is that I didn’t really drink coffee until I became a teacher. Yes, I drank a variety of steamed milk beverages throughout high school and college (ah yes, the days of Dunkaccinos- anyone else?? Do those even exist anymore??) but I didn’t pick up the true coffee habit until my first year of teaching in DC. Then in the years following the habit evolved into nothing short of a passion. Of course as many of you know, I had to make the switch to decaf around Fall 2015 because my body suddenly decided caffeine was no longer a friend, but a foe. The silver lining is that I didn’t have to make a switch to decaf during the early days of my pregnancy, and no one found it at all suspicious that I was drinking decaf before I shared the news. See, there is always a silver lining if you look hard enough…or wait awhile.

Coffee = Love.
(Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash)

Anyway, fast forward last Spring and again another big life change only deepened my love of/passion for the gift that is coffee.  I know so many people warn you that there is no tired quite like parents of a newborn tired, and while I do agree with that assertion, I think people leave out an important piece of the parenting puzzle: the sleep deprivation continues. Is it better than those newborn days? Absolutely. You will get more than a 90-minute stretch of sleep (hopefully). But at least in those early days, you’re likely on maternity and/or paternity leave, there are plenty of people offering meals, laundry help, etc. and you hopefully started out without a massive sleep deficit (unless you’re one of the unlucky ones like myself who didn’t sleep super well toward the end of pregnancy). As your baby progresses through all the challenges of growth spurts, travel, teething, and the “insert-month-here” sleep regression, the sleep deprivation only continues to accumulate. Not to mention, you might be back at work and you don’t have a newborn anymore so people expect you to be a functioning member of society again and usually aren’t showing up at your door with random casseroles and offers of assistance.

So what do you have to sustain you- aside from the cutest little snuggle-bunny you could hope for? That’s right, coffee. And thankfully for me, since Little Man was born my body decided it was more than fine with caffeine again. So coffee and I now have an even closer relationship, something I wasn’t sure was even possible. I am also fortunate because I live in a city. There are five coffee shops (soon to be 6) within a half-mile walk from my front door. We still brew a large pot at home every morning, but sometimes when I need that mid-afternoon pick-me-up, Little Man and I trek to one of the local establishments for a breath of fresh air and a dose of caffeine. However, as in most of the country, this winter has been a cruel one in Boston. Not to mention when you’re living in one of America’s most expensive cities, #budget factors in. So lately I’ve developed a bit of an afternoon naptime routine: Little Man goes down for his nap and I enjoy a delicious homemade Mocha, usually while I run around trying to get a few things done, emails sent, and phone calls made without interruption. (I’m a part-time Director of Religious Education for a local parish this year so the at-work hours are great, but it leaves some administrative tasks for naptime.) Granted that means the days when Little Man skips his afternoon nap can be doubly difficult, but such is life with a little one.

Every once in awhile I savor a moment of calm during naptime.

Given the fact that winter has lasted quite long this year, I have had plenty of time to try out different recipes and have finally arrived at one that I love: it is simple, quick, and delicious. Granted, I am fortunate to have some fantastic coffee accoutrements at my discretion thanks to our wedding registry and various gifts from family. All you need is cocoa powder, sugar, hot water, milk of your preference (almond for me!), and espresso!
Mommy’s Magnificent Mid-Afternoon Mocha (only 5 ingredients!)
 1 Tablespoon Hershey’s cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon hot water
3/4 cup almond milk*
double shot of espresso

1) First mix equal parts cocoa powder and sugar in the bottom of your mug. I personally use a little less than a tablespoon of each for my perfect taste but you may need to adjust according to your own taste.

2) Add a teaspoon of hot water so that the cocoa powder and sugar create a mocha syrup of sorts.

3) Heat 3/4 cup of almond milk* in a frother and start brewing your espresso.
(You can just warm it but I promise the frother makes a big difference!)

DeLonghi EC702 espresso maker

Chef’s Star milk frother

4) I pour half of the espresso into the mug, then add the milk, and then add the remainder of the espresso. I like to think it better distributes the taste 🙂

5) Mix and enjoy!!

*I feel like I need to give a strong recommendation regarding the almond milk. I have made many a beverage over the years with various brands of almond milk and the frothing never really works. Even baristas at coffee shops will warn me that almond milk doesn’t really do that. However, I recently found these two varieties which create the kind of froth I used to only visualize in my dreams of dairy-filled days gone by. 

#1 personal favorite: Mooala!
My personal runner-up: So Delicious Organic Almondmilk

Wherever you are in life right now- whether it’s an actual baby keeping you awake, an older “baby” that still has your heart and your worries, or a proverbial baby (like a start-up, a new job, a new life adventure, etc.) that keeps your mind racing at night, consider me your personal cheerleader. You’re not alone, there are countless others sitting up with you in the dark at 3 AM, and it will all be worth it in the end. And in the mean time, we have coffee.

I offer this as just one caffeine-filled option to brighten your day (and your eyelids). And though every once in awhile, an outing to your favorite local coffee joint is a much-needed treat, this should carry you over through the other days…and leave a much smaller dent in your bank account. The next time you find yourself fighting that mid-afternoon energy battle, brew yourself a hot cup of mocha deliciousness and think of me doing the same in my little corner of the world.  Cheers to you, my friend. May your coffee be hot, your body be re-energized, and your (probably brief) moment of calm be beautiful.