Thursday, June 25, 2015

Eating Closer to the Vine in the Mountains of North Carolina

This summer has been a much needed respite from the road. Occasionally that yearning to be somewhere tugs at me or I feel a little restless and that’s when we make a short trip through the mountains to the next town over and do some exploring. But, for the most part it has been nice to immerse ourselves in just being here in the beauty of Appalachia.

Black Raspberries aka Black Caps

The rambling vines of black raspberries reaching for the sun in my yard have been anticipated for weeks now and we finally got to pick their sweet tartness for the past few days. There are more than enough even in our small patch for both us and the birds. The mountains are full of wild flowers and other delicacies that grow wild in the summer like honeysuckle and Muscadine grapes left from someone who let them take over. One of my favorite memories as a kid was eating wild warm Muscadines, so now I pass that legacy onto Doodle whenever I can.

There has also been a little more time to get to know some of the local producers of fine products that steadily flow into the local farmer’s market in Ashe county. These people passionately love their craftsmanship and the pleasure it brings you as a customer and neighbor. It is part of the reason I knew I was home the minute we moved into our house.

Here are just a few you might want to know about:
Rose Mountain Farm and Butcher Shoppe - Pasture raised Berkshire pork, beef, and rabbit are all found in this quaint little butcher shop along with a wide variety of local products. Seriously, the best sausage I have ever tasted comes from Ann Rose who farms and runs the local butcher shop to West Jefferson.

The Garnet Rose Soap Company - Hand-made soaps that are made from essential oils, Shea butter, coconut oil and olive oil. Nothing but the best ingredients including local goat's milk in some of their options.

Heritage Homestead - Goats milk Chevre Cheese products that are as yummy as they are healthy. Be it spreadable Chevre or wedges of cheese, you will love their flavors and how much they care about their goats.

High Country Farm Tour - You can find all of the above businesses as well as a whole bunch more of these amazing farmers who may just need your business to continue making quality products. Please check out the Farm tour page and plan a visit if in North Carolina.

We have also been working on getting all organic hair products that are also allergen free into the hair salon I work in part-time, Bee Natural Organic Salon. The exciting news is we are planning on selling some of these Appalachian local organic products at each of the upcoming Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Events too! (The next one is in Raleigh on August 15) I can’t wait to share some of the products from people I have gotten to know this year. So stop into our booth and get some genuine quality items to try at home.

Until next time...Keep truckin' on and making positive changes to your allergy-free life.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Paranoia Can Destroy You But A Little Precaution is the Recipe for Success

When I first came into the world of gluten-free/allergen-free and celiac disease, I wondered why so many of the community were distrustful of outsiders. I can remember thinking that paranoia was rampant - That was before I spent eight years planning events and running support groups. The truth is that you and I are a captive audience to those who can think of ways to manipulate for financial benefit.

I have learned a whole lot from experience and am now not as trusting of a soul as I once was, obviously. The following will perhaps open your eyes and hopefully will keep you from falling victim to a price tag you can't afford:

1. Anyone on the planet can claim they are a "leader in the knowledge of celiac disease or auto-immune related disorders". There is no legal ramification to doing so unless they claim a slew of fake credential letters beside their name. I have known many speakers who try to claim so on social media and web sites. Some chiropractors have been known for doing so, not that there are not chiropractors who actually do make it their mission to be knowledgeable and provide scientifically based information because they do exist. But, we all know there is a fine line between scientific factual information and non-factual.
How To Avoid: Check the credentials presented to you thoroughly and/or look for peer reviewed journals written by anyone who claims bits of information and the title of "leader" or "expert". Current and past patients are an excellent way of getting great info on a medical reference. Do Google searches as they will give you the good and bad in reviews so you make an informed decision.

2. Anyone can run a webinar or self publish a book. Heck, I even run webinars! Just because someone does so does not make them an expert. I have also been a part of planning events with someone who I did not know was a sham artist, until I have done the event and felt the blow-back. Therefore don't always assume that if a panel has only one real expert that the expert is aware the rest of the "experts" are charlatans. They just used the real expert to make their product viable to you.
How To Avoid:  Seek out information, events, classes, and books which are backed by well-known organizations and professionals in the business. Do background checks on a presenter or author and always double check information given to you and don't take it at face value.

3. Buyer Beware: If you visit a web site full of alarmist statements or promises of cures and every three inches there is a "Buy Me" button to sell you information which is readily available elsewhere, you may want to exit stage left. There are a slew of these web sites now and navigating them makes my skin crawl.
How to Avoid: Just click out of that site immediately and don't give your contact information or they will hound you with alarmist emails to sway you into re-thinking your decision. Doing searches on information that makes you pause to question its accuracy is also advised.

4. Just because a restaurant has a gluten-free menu does not mean your meal could not be cross-contaminated. This rule is especially true with chain restaurants. I have worked with lots of restaurants all over the country who do take making your food very seriously, but for every one I find that does, there are at least a dozen who do not. Lastly, be leery of those that provide a menu without pricing in case they up-charge for special requests and if there is a disclaimer, find out what pre-cautions they do take.
How to Avoid: Talk to your food producers and establishments. If you get the feeling that tugs at your gut and says you can't trust it, 9 times out of 10 you are right. Eating out is a risk assessment we are left to make because they are not regulated by an outside entity to make sure their food is safe.

5. Speaker fees are running amok these days in our community, so if you are planning events/meetings/webinars, be sure to get the facts straight before agreeing to a speaker who may try to charge you an exorbitant price. If they are only speaking for 30 minutes, at what point does their fee become too much? $1500.00? $10,000.00? $25,000.00? Believe it or not, I have seen all of the pricing listed in email requests. So, if you wonder why some events charge a large ticket fee to attend, this could be why.
How to Avoid: Discuss with the speaker realistically what your budget is. Weigh out how well-known the speaker is and if they are going to bring enough attendees to your event to offset their expenses and fees. See if they can solicit any sponsorship to cover the fees. If not, tap into your local professionals and see if you can't avoid these fees altogether and keep your event affordable for attendees to attend.

I hope you have enjoyed this run down of some of the pitfalls that can happen when people or companies are trying to make a little money by selling to you. If even one tip helps one person, then I think it was worth it.

Until next time, keep on truckin' and keeping your allergen-free life as stress free and positive as possible.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gluten-Free in the Gateway Arch city of St Louis

We took a little break after the show in St Louis and had time to finally try all the amazing goodies that were there so I could write up a summation of them and share with you. St Louis is one of my favorite places to visit because the people remind me so much of the people here in NC, warm, pleasant, and welcoming. Being that I forget Missouri is still considered part of the South, the previous statement makes perfect sense.

My daughter and I finished our long drive by stopping into one of our favorite places, New Day Gluten-Free. They don't even allow gluten into their door and have dairy-free options to purchase. You can dine inside, buy items to take home like soup, lasagna, rolls, pizza, cupcakes, and strawberry shortcake, or order specialty cakes/cupcakes. We opted for a sandwich to eat there and a bag of goodies to travel with us. You won't be disappointed.

New Day Gluten Free: California melt sandwich and potato salad

Now onto some of the delicious items at the event...

Think. Eat. Live. - One of the most innovative companies with mixes to make goodies from their highly nutritional SunFlour. The samples were delicious and it was very refreshing to hear how nutritious of a punch each mix packed into it's sunny bags. Four times the nutrition naturally with protein and fiber covers many concerns we all have in this community. We have made their brownies and power bars with huge success at home and my kid loves them. They also carry pancake/waffle mix, muffin mix, and straight SunFlour. Definitely worth a buy online to try them out.

Think.Eat.Live brownie mix

Andrea's Gluten Free - We have loved Andrea's Gluten Free since we met them last year at the first event in St Louis and continue to use their products at home. They sell pre-made treats as well as mixes and you may soon see them in your stores even on the East coast as they expand. Andrea's gluten-free and nut-free fine flour is my favorite to use as all-purpose. They also have great pancake mix and I had my first taste of Gooey Cake at their booth. They recently have added pasta to their line up and after tasting two dishes that were lovingly prepared at the show, I loved their pasta texture and taste.

Andrea's Gluten Free blueberry pancakes made with NC blueberries

Feed Your Vitality - This local St. Louis company delivers anti-inflammatory Paleo, low carb, gluten-free meals that are also free of  soy, corn, dairy, legumes, high sodium, unhealthy fats and refined sugars, and yet they are still delicious! We stopped at their booth several times during the day to sample soups and dishes that were better than any other take out food you can possibly conveniently order and stay Paleo or healthier for that matter.

Feed Your Vitality offers delivery or pick up 

5 Gen Salsa & Sauces - I loved this family owned local company so much that I bought the three items they had for sale at the show: Ketchup, Salsa, and Bloody Mary Mix. The recipes have been passed down for five generations, hence their name. These are items with a kick to them and not at all like the processed ones bought in a store. The ketchup was amazing with shrimp one night. The salsa didn't even make it back home after a snack on the road.

Huga Bars - A new local company with delicious nutritious bars designed to mimic world renowned desserts that are naturally sweetened with things like honey and fruit and made with quinoa, flax seed and other healthy ingredients. You have to love a bar that does all that and offers us a chance to reminisce on treats like Dolce De Leche, Torte di Nocciole, and Turron.

Cowboy Chris' BBQ Sauce - We loved meeting a real mid-western cowboy in the hat and the works, and that is for sure what Cowboy Chris is. Although I am partial to Carolina BBQ, which is vinegar based and less saucy, I have to admit his sauces were yummy. Their company is local based to St Louis and definitely worth a try in your next BBQ dinner

There is so much more we could write about including the amazing dinner we had at Ya Ya's Euro Bistro, but you'll just have to join us in St Louis in 2016 to try all the abundantly good food! Until then, keep truckin' and making your allergy-free life better.

Grilled Hamachi at Ya Ya's Euro Bistro St Louis