Posted in Uncategorized

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

post

Posted in Boston Recommendations

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 πŸ™‚

Posted in Beverages, Coffee!, Mom Life, Recipes

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 πŸ™‚

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.

Posted in Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Life, Tips and Tricks

So You’re Going to Plan A Wedding…

Yes, the draft of this post has been a work-in-progress for over a year now. Literally. I started it in May of 2016 just a few weeks after our wedding…and then life happened.  June of 2016 brought a move to Boston, August brought a new job, and then with Fall 2016 came news of our little bundle of sunshine and suddenly time was consumed by a combination of typical baby prep and slightly less typical “how to eat safely and handle pregnancy with celiac” research and appointments. Thus, the wedding post was left occasionally touched, but never quite finished. (Don’t worry, the baby ones are a work-in-progress too…so maybe by 2019 I’ll finish those?? πŸ™‚

This post is going to address two different scenarios: planning a wedding (or any major event really) when you are the one with food allergies/intolerances, and also some tips for planning a wedding where some of the guests have food allergies/intolerances (which honestly these days is pretty much guaranteed at any event).  So pour yourself something warm (it’s -2 degrees as I’m writing this) and here we go!

Scenario A: You are the one with food allergies/intolerances

Here is my advice to anyone planning a wedding, allergies or not: Choose what is most important to you about your big day and stick to it. And by choose I mean you actually have to choose 1 or 2 things and let those be your guide. I know all the wedding magazines, Bridal books, and Pinterest boards make it seem like you can (and should!) have everything and anything you ever wanted crammed into your day. From someone who has planned a wedding and been a part of many over the past few years, this is not the reality. The chances that your “dream photographer/videographer” will be available the same day as your “dream venue” on a day when the weather is desirable, there isn’t a holiday involved, there isn’t a conflict with a close family member’s college graduation, AND you’re not part of someone else’s wedding, are pretty slim. Unless you want to be engaged for 3-5 years. Which if that’s what you really want, go for it. (Remember choose what matters to you and your fiance(e) and stick with it!)

Here is the thing: planning a wedding involves so many decisions. SO MANY. I know everyone tells you that but it’s actually true. And if you go in without any concrete decisions to guide you, trust me it will get overwhelming really quickly. For example, for me the two most important things (and of course I mean aside from “be married by the end of the day”) were a) the church and b) the food. I could not imagine getting married anywhere except the church which had become my home in Baltimore (actually, Towson) and where I had taught for 4 years. Once we met with the priest and parish secretary (never underestimate the power of a parish secretary) and had a choice of dates that the church was available, it was pretty easy to settle on the date we wanted. That simple (OK, maybe not quite so simple) decision automatically made life so much easier because it immediately eliminated certain venue choices. Was I intrigued by the idea of a wedding reception at the Baltimore Zoo where a penguin would come to cocktail hour? You bet I was. But I called and they already had a wedding on March 19th so no more decisions to be made, just cross it off the list and don’t look back. The same was true with a variety of DJ and photography choices- if they’re already booked that day, time to move on. Again, this is why you really need to choose YOUR important things first. If you only want a certain photographer, get the available dates from him/her first and then the other details will have to fall in line accordingly. Trust me, it will be your saving grace to start narrowing down options.

The next important detail for me (not surprisingly) was the food. Now, as a bride/groom/person being honored at a big event, the choice of how to handle food allergies/intolerances is completely yours. Most venues/caterers will provide you-safe meals and serve everyone else gluten-filled, dairy-filled dishes. You might say “Nope, I want everything at my event to be completely me-safe so I don’t have to worry about it”. That’s also totally reasonable, and though a little more challenging, still very do-able. As for me, I fell somewhere in between. I knew that my wedding was the one day in my life where I wanted to feel included in the celebration with everyone else. I didn’t want a great catered meal for everyone while I had a plate of plain baked chicken and steamed broccoli. On the other hand, I was not going to spend the crazy amount of money it would require to host an entirely Katie-safe wedding where honestly the food may or may not be all that tasty. So we came up with the perfect-for-us solution. Cocktail hour would be lots of non-Katie-safe hors d’oeuvres because we would mostly be taking pictures anyway. We chose one dish that was Katie-safe and a plate was set aside for the bridal room and we also stashed some Utz potato chips in there for me to snack on between photos…but I figured why limit everyone else when I wouldn’t be at cocktail hour anyway.

Enjoying my Utz potato chips during cocktail hour!

Dinner was where it mattered to me that the food be delicious but I could also safely enjoy what everyone else was having. So what other option could there be but one of my deepest loves: Chipotle. That’s right, Chipotle catered our wedding. And it was everything I dreamed it would be. Not to mention, they were so excited about it that we got a discount AND some Chipotle merchandise waiting at our door when we returned from our honeymoon. Everyone ate well (as far as I know) and I got to sit next to my new husband in my wedding dress looking around a room filled with everyone I love while enjoying a chicken burrito bowl. Seriously though, does life get any better?? (Granted this was before I ate the same burrito bowl at the hospital right after our little guy was born this year, but that’s another story for another time.)

A handwritten card from our new friends at Chipotle corporate!
Eating Chipotle at my wedding. Dreams do come true.
We arrived home from our honeymoon to a box of goodies from Chipotle!

And then as far as dessert, we ordered a little Katie-safe cake for us to cut into and enjoy but then filled the rest of our cupcake tree with delicious (and much cheaper) gluten-filled cupcakes for the rest of the guests to enjoy. If you live anywhere near Philadelphia, drop everything and head right to Sweet Freedom. They are amazing- and even made sure I didn’t miss out on the cake-tasting experience before the wedding.

For us, it was the perfect night and I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. However, as you’ll learn if you’re planning an event, there are very few venues today that allow outside catering to come in. Most places either have on-site catering or an approved list of caterers who are allowed to serve at events. Although this initially irked me, after some conversations I realized it’s actually for very practical reasons: lawsuits abound over improperly handled food, allergen contamination, etc. so it is in the best interest of a venue to only allow trusted caterers on the premises. So for me, this choice to have Chipotle and only Chipotle as my dinner option ruled out most venues in the greater Baltimore area…and in hindsight I’m so glad it did. I absolutely loved the woman who ran our venue and she was like having a built-in wedding planner that came with the hall. I loved that we spent the day before our wedding at the hall setting everything up with our family and bridal party. I loved that everything had a personal touch. We put coffee beans in our centerpieces (I mean, we re-met over coffee and you know my love for coffee!), we had pies on each table, my students helped fold programs during the week leading up to the wedding, one of them handwrote all of our placecards during her study halls, and even our wedding cake topper was a gift from a student who asked her brother to make it for us on a 3-D printer and he sent it to us from his class at Duke. It really felt like an event that was put together by everyone in our lives.

Again, I am not saying this is best for everyone. If you know that you want to spend the day before your wedding relaxing with family and friends you don’t often see, then don’t choose a place where you set everything up yourself. If you have a busy schedule and you’re not into DIY, then don’t choose your wedding as the time to start DIY-ing everything from Pinterest. (Again, maybe pick a project or two. Any more than that and you’re heading down the rabbit hole). I worked at a wedding venue in high school and college and I can tell you the wedding planners at those genuinely care about what they do and put a lot of love into the set-up of events so if that’s the best option for you, then do it and enjoy the freedom it gives you to just live in the moment and enjoy your weekend.

In summary, here are my recommendations for anyone planning a wedding (allergen-related or not!):

  1. Choose 1 or 2 non-negotiables. Whether it’s food, venue, photographer, date, etc. just decide on those and make the rest of the decisions to ensure that these non-negotiables become reality.
  2. Own your decisions. Sticking fast to your 1 or 2 non-negotiables does not make you a Bridezilla. (Unless your non-negotiable is something outlandish- see recommendation #3) There were people who told me to give up on my Chipotle idea and just settle for the baked chicken, but I knew what I wanted so I didn’t give up that easily. (Again, please refer to #3)
  3. I cannot encourage you to have non-negotiables without a caveat: make sure you have “that person” in your life. You know, the one who can lovingly but honestly say “Sorry, having your entire wedding party consist of beloved puppies from the animal shelter is not a good idea. Please stop with the crazy”. Now yes, you have your soon-to-be-spouse as one of those people, but sometimes you both get so caught up in the crazy and wanting to make sure the other one has everything he/she wants that it is helpful to have someone on the outside. I’m pretty sure that’s why there is a bridal party to begin with. Use them, listen to them, and thank them for keeping you sane πŸ™‚
  4. Ask for help. Planning a big event like a wedding is a lot of work. A LOT. Not to mention you still have the rest of your life going on: full-time jobs, one of you planning a move (I’m going to side with my grandfather on this one and choose to believe that everyone still lives separately until the wedding), and all your other regular life commitments. We had the help of my students of course, but we also had friends pick up the food for us, one of my bridesmaids picked up the Katie-safe cake and drove it with great care from Philadelphia, and countless people helped us with set-up, decorations, etc. People love to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  5. Wegman’s does amazing bouquets and flowers for a fraction of the cost. Just make sure you check the temperature in the refrigerator where you store them so the water doesn’t freeze, thus killing your bouquet (true story- but totally not Wegman’s fault. I’d use them again in a second). See #7- hiccups happen, but they make for great memories!
  6. Remember that this is one day of your life. One very important day, yes. But just know that whether you spend $5,000 or $50,000, life will go on the day after and you may want to use some of those thousands one something that lasts a little longer. But that’s your call. I found my dress at a wedding dress consignment shop outside DC and to this day I am so grateful that I found a dress I loved so much but cost much less than a month of rent πŸ™‚
  7. Enjoy yourself. There is a lot of stress that goes into planning a big event. You will get overwhelmed at some point and may find yourself in line at Chipotle one night almost in tears because they want you to decide between white and brown rice in your dinner. That’s when you need to step back and remember what this day/event is really all about. Details matter, yes. But when all is said and done, as long as you are married, you are happy, and everyone is healthy, nothing else matters all that much. (Trust me, I worked many weddings. One time a glass candleholder exploded all over the cake. Shards of glass were in the cake- and even then that bride managed to laugh by the end of the night) I never thought it would snow in late March, but it made for better wedding pictures than I ever could have hoped for!
  8. Plan your meals wisely leading up to the wedding- and that includes the rehearsal dinner! I only ate things I personally cooked for the 2 weeks leading up to the wedding (including packing my own food for the rehearsal dinner) because I was not taking a chance at getting glutened/caseined, etc. and feeling sick on my wedding day if I could prevent it. Again, your call but something I would 100% recommend.
  9. Have SCOPE on-hand. Seriously, though. We bought enough of these on Amazon for favors and we still have leftovers that we use to this day. Trust me, both of you should get to eat what you want at your wedding and still be able to kiss each other safely.
Scope: don’t get married without it!

    Scenario B: Your Guests Have Food Allergies/Intolerances
    This applies to pretty much anyone getting married today because odds are at least someone at your wedding has food restrictions. When it comes to handling this sometimes delicate situation, here are the options I think you have…and again, I really believe that any one of them is acceptable. And that’s coming from a frequent wedding guest πŸ™‚
    • Option A: You’re having your wedding at a venue with a full kitchen that offers a wide variety of options to meet all kinds of dietary restrictions. Great, just make sure to include a spot on your response cards for food restrictions (*NOTE: This is especially important if you’re inviting a plus one for anyone. You may think you know which friends and family members have food allergies but Cousin Charlie’s Plus One could have celiac and you’d never know.) Once you give that information to the kitchen or coordinator at the venue, your job is pretty much done. Unless they say there is some restriction they can’t accommodate. In that case, your job is simply to make sure that guest knows. As someone with food restrictions, I am telling you it is not your job to track down a meal for that person. As long as you are open and honest ahead of time, the guest will figure out a way to get or pack food. The only time I would say you should go farther is if the person is close family or in the wedding party. In that case the person would have to be with you for pictures and wouldn’t really have time to procure food elsewhere so in that case I’d say work together with them to find a solution. Otherwise, you’re welcome to go above and beyond but it is certainly not expected.
    • Option B: You’re bringing in your own food from the outside and it will be buffet or self-serve. Usually this information is stated on the invitation (or assumed because guests aren’t asked to choose a meal). Again, I would recommend a place for food restrictions OR at least a contact name for someone who does have restrictions to reach out to. (This does not necessarily have to be you: again, delegate!) Also, buffets can be dangerous for the food-allergic (people tend to mix up serving spoons or drop items into different trays where they don’t belong) so if you can arrange for the people with allergies to go through the buffet first, that would make a HUGE difference. Again, your decision entirely but just make sure to communicate the plan to any guests with food allergies so they can plan accordingly.
      My best piece of advice: include a contact on the invitation.
      Then the job is out of your hands!
    • Option C: You have a million and one details to worry about. The menu is what it is and you are not trying to accommodate 15 different food needs. This may sound harsh but I 100% think this is a reasonable mentality.(Again, slightly different for family and bridal party consideration) I can’t speak for everyone with food allergies/restrictions but for me, I am fortunate enough to be a part of your big day. I get to witness your vows, share in your toast,  dance at your reception, and bask in the happiness of your wedding day. If I can’t eat anything provided and be confident that I won’t get sick, that’s totally fine with me. I am the master of packing snacks and warming up food in my hotel room. I always scarf down some Utz chips or the equivalent on my way to cocktail hour so I can enjoy myself without sipping wine on an empty stomach. Also, if the wedding is out of town, you better believe I have scoured the internet for the nearest gluten-free, dairy-free bakeries to try out. I am going to try it out regardless of whether there is food for me at your wedding…I’ll just adjust how much I buy (maybe). As above, my only request would be communication. Just let the guests know, this is what the food is. Then the responsibility is on me to take care of myself. I know not everyone will agree with this option but I really think, unless your wedding is a 3-day affair in the middle of the woods, a guest can get by just fine with proper notification.
    If there is a takeaway from that, my best advice as far as planning a wedding for guests with food allergies is COMMUNICATE. I honestly think the best thing to do is have a spot on your invitation that gives contact information for the food coordinator or whomever you want to field allergy responses. Then the burden is off your shoulders and the person with allergies knows who to get in touch with, because trust me the last thing we want to do is bother you either!

    This is one of my favorite moments of all-time. And thankfully, our amazing photographer caught it πŸ™‚
    The reality is that every wedding is different but there tends to be a universal truth: you will never please everyone. So my advice to you would be please don’t even try. You will only stress yourself out unnecessarily. Just be open and honest with people and let them know what decisions you have made and what you need from them in order to make your day the best it can possibly be.
    As for me, I would not change a thing about our wedding day and I find such joy in the privilege of sharing in other people’s big days. At the end of the day, food isn’t what matters most. It is the little moments of joy, the bright smiles, and even the heartfelt tears that fill my soul at a wedding…and no amount of Katie-safe food can do that πŸ™‚
    Posted in Boston Recommendations, Dairy-Free Ice Cream

    When Late September Feels Like Summer…

    I’m not sure about wherever you’re reading this, but here in Boston it feels like summer today even though the calendar says September 26th. Though the unseasonable weather certainly poses some challenges (do we turn on the A/C in September??), there are also some undeniable perks. Boston winters come early and last long…so the days of long walks with the little guy are numbered…and I’m savoring every single one. Also, this gives me a few more days to procrastinate in finally switching over to my Fall wardrobe and digging the Fall decorations out of the scary abyss that is our “seasonal items” closet. And last but not least, this little heat wave gives me a chance to enjoy a treat I probably would otherwise pass up: pumpkin ice cream.

    Yes, this is my actual cup of ice cream. The pumpkin and gourd were just in the window and I couldn’t resist!

    Now I’m sure that paragraph already has your mind running through some questions but we’ll deal with the most obvious: 1)Katie, pumpkin ice cream- are you in denial? You still can’t eat dairy; and 2) if there is such a thing as Katie-safe pumpkin ice cream, why can’t you eat it everyday this Fall? Well, the great news is yes, there is such a thing! And as for the second part, well I can’t explain it but I’ve never been someone who enjoys cold things like ice cream in cold weather. Even back in my dairy-filled days, I was never one of those people who could down a bowl of ice cream on a January night. I made an exception some years for an ice-cream birthday cake, but other than that I said farewell to ice cream in August and hello again sometime in April or May.

    So with the thermometer reading somewhere around 80 degrees, I laced up my walking shoes, packed the little guy in the stroller, and we set off on the one-mile trek to one of my favorite places in Boston, FoMu, for a delicious cup of Katie-safe Pumpkin Caramel ice cream. Now I mentioned this place briefly in my overview of new Katie-safe places in Boston, but it really has come to deserve its own post. This place is 100% vegan. That’s right- an ice cream shop that is 100% vegan. What’s even better for me is they also clearly identify the other major allergens in their products and they have MANY options for friends like me who have to avoid both gluten and dairy. On top of that (I know you’d think it couldn’t get better) they have coffee! And not just plain coffee (though you can certainly get that too), but lattes, cappuccino, etc. AND you don’t have to ask “Does this come in a dairy-free form?” BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL DAIRY-FREE (which also means no dairy cross-contamination to worry about). There are also seasonal beverages like a caramel apple cider that I’ve only read about but you better believe I’m counting down the days to October.

    Now I could go on and on about this place, but I’ll just give you the highlights for now:

    • 100% vegan
    • all ice cream is made from scratch
    • ice cream is preservative-free
    • all baked goods and inclusions are made in the FOMU bake shop
    • all allergens are clearly marked (and since everything is handmade, they know whats in it!)
    • gluten-free cones are available!
    • GLUTEN-FREE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES!! (sorry, that one blew me away)
    • it is 1 mile from our apartment (the Allston location that is)
    • There is so much more but you can read about it for yourself on their website
    Gluten-free ice cream sammies!!
    ( Side note: Is “sammies” a Boston thing?? I never heard it before moving here.)
    Look at all those delicious treats you can take home!
    So many cone choices…including gluten-free cones!
    Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the ice cream is made with a coconut milk base…so clearly there is a hint of coconut in every ice cream. That means if you’re not a coconut lover, it might not be for you. HOWEVER, I would strongly suggest you try it because I’m not a huge fan of coconut myself, but mixed with the right flavors I have to say I have found several winning flavors at FOMU. And the best part is they will happily give you a small taste of any flavor so you can make that determination before you gamble on a whole cup of something! (If you have a coconut allergy, you have my sincere condolences and I apologize for not warning you at the top of the page:-(
    This came out a little blurry but the menu changes constantly (hand-made remember!)
    Here were the treats when we were there AND allergens are clearly marked πŸ™‚
    Now the important question: how do you experience this wonder for yourself?? Well, Boston friends, it’s pretty simple. There are locations in Allston, Jamaica Plain, and South End. I personally have only frequented the Allston location but I imagine they’re all as quaint! You can also find their ice cream sold in various specialty shops throughout Boston. I know for certain they sell it at the Whole Foods in Brighton but I know they stock in many places so if you contact them, I’m sure they’ll be able to give you the latest list.
    Non-Boston friends, you just have to come visit me! Actually, that’s not true at all (but still, please come visit!) because FOMU ships to the 48 contiguous states and DC. But really, come visit. The little guy and I are more fun than the FedEx delivery person. That’s a fact πŸ™‚
    Now the little guy and I are off to sit in the yard before this last dose of summer fades. But if anyone wants to make the mile-trek, we’re up always up for a FOMU adventure (even twice in one day)!
    Posted in Tips and Tricks

    Soy, Soy…Boy Oh Boy

    Soy. It is something I rarely thought about prior to my Celiac days. I vaguely knew it had something to do with tofu, but aside from that I knew very little about it. Fast forward to my dairy-free/soy-free diagnosis and suddenly soy became a very important concept in my life. You see when you become dairy-free, things that are labeled vegan catch your eye…because even if you’re a carnivore like me, that designation means that there is no dairy and hence you can check one of your allergens off the list. Of course, you soon learn that vegan products more often than not contain soy (and sometimes gluten too) so as someone who has to avoid the magic trifecta (gluten, dairy, and soy), you are left standing in a gluten-free, vegan cafe where you can eat next to nothing, bewildered and wondering how eating out became this complicated. I feel you…virtual hug from me to you, my friend.

    Now for those of you with immune systems that react to gluten, casein, and soy, there are rarely opportunities for me to say I have good news for you. I mean, many gluten-free items contain milk; everyone gets excited for you when something is lactose-free…but sadly for you that doesn’t mean much because there’s still casein (the milk protein your body reacts to) in there even when the lactose is removed; most dairy-free products replace the cow’s milk with soy milk or soy-containing butter substitute…in other words, it’s a landmine of missteps just waiting to be danced around. I can’t tell you the number of times over the past 5 years (I know, who can believe it’s been 5 years since dairy and soy were added to the mix??) that I have turned over a bag of gluten-free pretzels or a dairy-free chocolate bar (a rare find!) only to find the bold letters emblazoned on the package: CONTAINS SOY (As the physicist would say, tears on my pillow). HOWEVER, today I do have some potentially great news for some of you, and it all has to do with soy.
    Note the warning: contains soy. Not safe, right?? (Hmmm…)
    If you look carefully at the label of certain products containing the warning about soy, you might see that the only seemingly dangerous ingredient mentioned is something called soy lecithin. As someone who knows little about the process of soybean harvesting/refining, you (like me) probably put the package back on the shelf, perhaps with an exasperated sigh, and trudged onto the produce section where you know safe food is waiting. Well, what if I told you that many of you might actually be able to safely enjoy those delicious products you just put back on the shelf??
    Soy again…
    It was last summer when a nurse finally mentioned something to me about soy and soy lecithin being quite different. (Note: This wasn’t even a nurse taking care of me…we just happened to be working together at the Pregnancy Center where I volunteer and chatting about food restrictions over lunch. Divine intervention I tell you.)  She was the first to let me in on the well-kept secret: soy oil and soy lecithin, though derived from soybeans, rarely contain the protein in soy that causes the reaction in most immune systems (by the time they are processed). Well, you better believe I ran right to my trusty Google. Sure enough, I found countless articles to support what she had said here, here, here, etc. Since last summer (Thank you, University of Nebraska -Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Food Allergy Research and Resource program), there has even been an additional study which came out with these magic words:
    Soy lecithin does contain trace levels of soy proteins and these have been found to include soy allergens. However, apparently, soy lecithin does not contain sufficient soy protein residues to provoke allergic reactions in the majority of soy-allergic consumers. Many allergists do not even advise their soybean-allergic patients to avoid soybean lecithin when it is included as an ingredient on food products. From this practical standpoint, we can surmise that most soybean-allergic individuals do not react adversely to the ingestion of soybean lecithin.” 

    Now, please note that this is true for MOST people who react to soy. There are of course people who are extra sensitive to soy for whom this may not be the case…so I would recommend what most of the articles suggest: consult your doctor/allergist. Fortunately, because my reaction to soy was always much less severe than my reactions to gluten or casein, my doctor gave me the clear to try it. Not only did I feel fine, but my bloodwork last August confirmed it: no reaction to soy lecithin! (Insert cheering and jumping here!) Bring on the KIND bars and the gluten-free pretzels!! (Not a moment too soon either since just a few weeks later I was pregnant and let me tell you, those KIND bars and pretzels were a lifesaver while trying to snack and teach 2nd grade at the same time- all while growing a little human.)
    So, in summary, if you are a soy-allergic or soy-averse individual, I would encourage you to talk to your doctor. I would completely understand if your reaction is, “No thanks, I feel great now- why take the chance?”, especially if soy is your only culprit. However, if you’re a gluten, dairy, soy trifecta- I’m here to tell you that you’ll be amazed how much this small nugget of information can change your life. Granted, you have to be extra vigilant because some dairy-free products contain both soy lecithin AND soy protein (AKA the dangerous one) so don’t get lazy on your label-reading. And of course, soy lecithin is an additive with its own list of potential hazards (though it seems like everything is that way these days) so please read and make an informed decision that is best for you!
                                               
                                                               One of these is safe…
    …the other is not!
    I hope this news brightens someone’s day/month/summer as much as it did mine last August. (And I’m sorry it took me almost a year to share…I told you I have quite the backlog of half-written posts!) Now hopefully someday I can have some similar great news about casein or gluten! But until that day comes, I celebrate the mini-victories…with KIND bars and gluten-free, dairy-free (but soy lecithin- containing) chocolate pretzels.