What are you doing this weekend? Do you have any big plans? Do you want some? Will you be anywhere near Chicago (“near” meaning even a quick plane ride away)?
Well. I know how I can help you plan your weekend. And I presume, that if you are reading my blog, you may just have a slight interest in what this event is all about.
The place to be this weekend is the 2011 Gluten and Allergen Free Expo.
If you had not guessed yet, I will be there and cannot wait for it. And apparently, it seems like the place to be if you have anything to do with a Gluten Free or Allergy Free lifestyle. It is an amazing who’s-who of the Gluten Free and Allergy Free world.
There will be over 70 Vendors, sampling and selling their products at what is expected to be the largest gluten and allergen free vendor fair in the Midwest. And there will be sampling, cooking, baking and nutrition classes led by top chefs, nutritionists, cookbook authors, and top bloggers. Just look at this hot list of Presenters
The Gluten and Allergen Free Expo, was founded in 2008 by Jen Cafferty of Gluten Free Life with Jen. She wanted to introduce Chicago area attendees to some of the leading culinary and health experts in the gluten-free arena. In the last three years, the Expo has grown to reach over 700 attendees throughout the United States and Canada and the title sponsor is now Living Without Magazine.
Why did Living Without get involved in the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo this year?
We want to support the Expo for a number of reasons. Overall, it’s a great educational and cooking event for the gluten-free and food-allergic communities. It offers two tracks, one for newbies and the other for more seasoned cooks so there’s a workshop for everyone. The vendor event brings in allergy-friendly manufacturers from around the country. I guess most important is that the Expo gives people with food allergies and sensitivities the chance to get together to share stories, exchange advice, learn new things and meet-and-greet. The networking opportunities are wonderful. The Expo reinforces the fact that this community is vibrant and vital, that there is a lot of delicious food out there, and that those of us on a special diet don’t have to feel isolated or alone. In fact, living without can be a lot of fun—and taste great, too.
What kinds of cooking demonstrations will you be presenting at the Expo?
Living Without’s food editor Beth Hillson will be presenting on the topic, “5 in 25”–how to take a few ingredients and make something delicious in a very short period of time. Here’s what Beth says about it:
“My operative words are quick, easy, versatile and delicious. I’m using gluten-free wraps and cupcakes to create all sorts of possibilities. Wraps for breakfast, lunch and dinner, appetizers, and even quesadilla (inside out pizza); chocolate and vanilla cupcakes filled and frosted in several ways–chocolate with SunButter; vanilla and chocolate with raspberry cream; chocolate bonbons (frosted and rolled in coconut) and orange cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting. I’ll talk about several other quick gluten-free, allergy-friendly ideas, including delicious pasta dishes.”
Many of my favorite chefs and bakers (regular contributors to the magazine) are also presenting–Mary Capone, Anna Sobaski and Sueson Vess. Carol Fenster was the magazine’s original food editor way back when.
Do you have suggestions for tasty, healthy substitutions for the most typical allergens, like dairy and eggs?
Yes. We include a page called Substitution Solutions in every issue of the magazine. The best replacement ingredient depends on the recipe, of course. Let’s look at dairy. Personally, I’ve been using a lot of coconut milk and coconut butter lately as dairy replacements. I like the way they work. But there are nice milk substitutions out there—rice, soy, almond (if you tolerate nuts), hemp. There’s a milk powder made from potatoes. Several months ago at Natural Products Expo West, I even saw milk made from sunflower seeds but this product isn’t on the market yet.
Eggs can be more challenging to replace, especially in baked goods. Luckily, Ener-G Foods sells a gluten-free egg replacer that works great in many recipes. Other times, you can use flax gel (1 tablespoon flaxmeal combined with 3 tablespoons warm water equals 1 egg), pureed silken tofu and even applesauce, depending on the recipe. Again, we explain how to use these substitutions and others in Living Without magazine.
What about ideas/substitutions for people on a gluten-free diet?
In addition to many new products (pastas, prepared baked items, soups, soy sauce, etc.), there are now wonderful gluten-free flours available with high protein and fiber content, as well as notable levels of nutrients. Sorghum, amaranth, brown rice, teff, millet, quinoa, almond, coconut flours are just a few examples. The right mixture in the correct ratios (flour to starch) yields excellent results.
The great thing about today’s market is there are more and more gluten-free products available in mainstream grocery stores. And many of these products actually taste great. In my option, there’s never been a better time to be gluten free.
What do you find are the most common misperceptions about food allergies?
I think the issue of what constitutes a food allergy and allergic reaction is confusing to many in the general public. The reason is that allergic reactions lie along a spectrum. Someone can react mildly to a food allergen with, for example, a slight tingling in the mouth or perhaps a skin rash. Someone else will react to that same allergen with full-blown anaphylaxis where they must be hospitalized to get symptoms under control. This type of reaction is life-threatening. Yet these are all considered a “food allergy” and an “allergic reaction.” Outside of the medical community, there aren’t different words used for varying levels of allergic severity, so people with life-threatening food allergies may not be taken seriously. This is a big challenge.
When it comes to celiac disease, I think that new research that distinguishes celiac disease from gluten sensitivity will reveal that a lot of people should, in fact, be gluten free even though test results don’t show them to be within the strict parameters of a celiac diagnosis. You can be very sensitive to gluten and yet not be diagnosed with celiac disease.
What advice do you want to convey to people with food allergies and sensitivities?
That you’re not alone and that there’s hope. That you can have a full, vibrant, healthy life with food allergies and sensitivities. That you can live well while living without.
How can people learn more about food allergies and Living Without?
Go to our website at LivingWithout.com.