Friday!!!! Faces of Philly :)

This week flew by for me... like super fast. It's mother's day weekend... my mom is in town!!! so I've been ready for the weekend since two weeks ago. haha! Hope you all have a fabulous weekend... do something awesome for your moms =)

Here are some of the super awesome people I met in the last week (or so...)
Chris Dima - West Chester

Antman - Extreme Ink Tattoo, West Chester

David Capilli - Camden

Prom night! They were too cute... had to take a pic=)


Gluten Free is Me:/ Celiac Awareness Month!

Yes... I'm one of those people: the difficult, million question asker, gluten free eaters. I never thought it'd be me... but here I am. I was diagnosed more than two years ago now and boy, oh boy has it been a journey.

May is Celiac Awareness Month! Whoop whoop=) so let's celebrate... I've got my gluten free cookies ready to go today.

A Little Background
To fully understand how horrible of a process was in the beginning, you have to understand how I eat. I enjoy all things that most 8-year-olds like: pizza, cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, brownies, cookies and ice cream.

After being told I had to figure out a new way to have those things... I almost had a food melt down.

Finally Figuring It Out
I have to admit... I've cried looking over a few menus. In the beginning it was overwhelming. The things I normally was drawn too at restaurants weren't part of what I could have anymore... and not everything you need to know is listed on most descriptions.

I have an amazing support system of family and friends who helped me through. One girlfriend had been living gluten free for 8 years (I had no idea!)... she taught me the ropes of navigating menus and another helped me find a way to enjoy treats/desserts again.

***I'm not a doctor... or gluten free expert, but I've gotten a lot of questions recently from people who are newly diagnosed/recently interested... so I thought I'd put it all the things that helped me in one place to help those who find themselves exactly where I was a few years ago.

What Am I Supposed to Eat?!
I know... it's so hard to figure out at first.  For the most part I do meat and vegetables... all outer grocery store stuff. If I can't see it in its original form I don't even bother trying. A lot of frozen stuff has gluten in it as a thickener or preservative... or processed near gluten... so watch out for that if you go the packaged food route.

 I do a lot of crock pot cooking too because I never have time to stand in the kitchen during the week. Toss it all in there and just walk away... I feel so old saying I do this... it's a necessity of life. Thank you Grandma for this Christmas present=)

For meat and vegetables that have breading... I just use almond flour and season it with garlic powder, salt and pepper. if you want it to stick a little more... add a little rice flour. 1/4 cup rice flour with 3/4 cup almond flour. But the almond flour works just fine with an egg wash. I've made amazing chicken parm this way. I've also had a lot of luck with Bob's Red Mill all purpose flour. I've made biscuits and gravy with this... so yum.

When buying gluten free pasta... the rice tastes better than the corn. At least I think so. In Philly we are amazingly lucky because there are places that make fresh pasta.  Ahhh... Italian market how I love you=)

Things you don't think about that have gluten in them!!! soy sauce, beer, champagne, ice cream. You can get gluten free soy sauce or liquid aminos (it's the same thing). I usually tote a bottle of this around with me when I go get sushi... or I just get it to go. Frozen yogurt is usually safe... just ask or check the back to be sure.

Breads!!! Udi does some pretty good breads... the trick is they all have to be toasted with butter, otherwise they taste dry. I've even made cinnamon toast and grilled cheese and it tastes pretty good. I've had no luck with any of the breads in the frozen section. Something about freezing it just doesn't taste okay to me.

I love pizza... so I've taken to microwaving string cheese and dipping it in marinara sauce. It's sorta like cheese sticks and reminds me of pizza. It's quick and super easy.

is a pizza dough recipe that's worked pretty ok for me. The Gluten Free Goddess is a blogger with a lot of great gluten free stuff in general... so def scope out her stuff.

All that said... I usually try to stay away from gluten substitutes like bread and pizza. I crave it sometimes, so I will make the gluten free version but I think I feel a lot better when I just stay away from that stuff period.

Just a bit of advice:  Make sure to get enough fat... avocados, cook with butter or coconut/grapeseed oil. If you don't get enough fat you may have problems going #2. haha. Really that's not funny... but it is. Sorta. haha.

My Eating Out Go To Spots
yummy yummy tacos=)
Mexican=) was always so easy. Leave off the flour tortilla... ask for corn if possible. Make sure the chips are corn and not flour and for the most part you're pretty good to go. It's pretty easy... which is why I ate a lot of Mexican at first. ha! The one thing to watch for is the cheese sauces... especially at the fast food spots.

Sandwiches: Jimmy Johns was my saving grace when I first started out. The have "unwich" versions of their sandwiches... all wrapped in lettuce so no bread! Another easy spot for me was Jason's Deli if you have one near you.

Philly is an amazingly easy place to eat out for the gluten challenged. It was just named the friendliest gluten free city... whoop whoop! Sorta helps that the national Celiac foundation is in the area;) Some of my fav gluten free spots so far: Shake Shack... amazing burgers and fries are done in a different fryer=) (it's been hit or miss for me if the fries ruin my day... but as long as it's not too busy... doesn't seem like the oil jumps over and contaminates them for me... below is an explanation as to why this is important) and Slice... some of the best gluten free pizza I've ever tasted. We ha

I ate half the pizza before taking a pic... smelled too good to wait=)
I literally spend my weekends eating through the city... so I will try to update you on my food adventures as they happen. I haven't really tried the pasta/Italian world yet... so feel free to shoot me suggestions.

and of course there is an app to find stuff when you're eating out... "Find me gluten free." Celiac Diva also has some good stuff for eating out. Plus, we in Philly have an amazing blog: that rates local products and restuarants. Super super helfpul=)

Basic gluten free rule to eating out: soups and sauces almost always have thickeners in restaurants. Just ask... most places know now and can tell you. Fryers can be awful for your tummy. Ask if the french fries are fried in the same oil as say the chicken tenders. Even if they are separate... sometimes the oil will jump into the next fryer... so be careful with this.

Sweet Tooth
I love sweets. Like loooovvvve!. So there have been a few saving graces for me to make this gluten free life livable. I'm obsessed with Aleia's baked goods. The chocolate chip cookies aren't soft, but they taste great! and there are cocount and chocolate macaroons... 30 calories for 2 of em! so totally guilt free and gluten free.
 I actually love baking... and this made life a little hard at first. My girl Maggie gave me this amazing gluten free flour recipe for all things baking. You just mix it up and use it for the exact same amount in any recipe that calls for regular flour. I make big batches and just keep it in a flour container. I haven't had a single problem with any recipe yet. If you aren't ready to commit to making your own flour... Bob's Red Mill all purpose flour is really pretty good... I'd say 90% of what I've made with it has come out nicely.

1c brown rice flour
1 ¼c white rice flour
1/4c potato starch
2/3c tapioca starch
3/4c sweet rice flour
1/3c cornstarch
2tsp xanthan gum

So this is one of my favorite gluten free recipes for treats I've made so far... apple spice cupcakes with cream cheese icing. My doorman didn't even know they were gluten free=) and yes... he is super awesome to taste all my experiments.

1/2c of softened butter
1 large egg
1 1/2t baking soda
3/4t nutmeg
1c sugar
1 1/2c of flour
1t ground cinnamon
1/2t kosher salt
1 1/2c of applesauce
1t of pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, first blend together the butter, egg and sugar. Then add the flour, baking soda, spices and salt. After it starts to form a crumbly dough, pour in the applesauce and mix together.

It doesn't take long for these to cook right up... just keep an eye on it in the oven. It usually takes 11-15 minutes for the cupcakes. I then put some cream cheese icing on top... and it's amazing.

Cream Cheese Icing:
1 stick of butter
1 package of cream cheese
3/4c of powdered sugar

Mix powdered sugar a half cup at a time until the icing is firm enough. Good test: get a spoonful and see if it drips when you turn it upside down. I like to stick the icing in the fridge overnight to help it set up a little stiffer too.

Gluten or No Gluten... It Must Taste Good!
I don't judge food based on how it tastes verses other gluten free stuff... I just judge it on how it is supposed to taste verses the real stuff. I've learned a lot about flavors and textures since starting this journey... and I'll try to share some of that with you guys as I go along=)

Good luck to you if you're dealing with this as well... it's really  not as bad as it seems;) Feel free to ask away... I'll tell you what I've figured out works for me and help however I can. I was pretty lucky to have the fab women in my life who helped me... gotta pay it forward.

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