Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in Chicago, IL

 I just had the most amazing weekend! It was like a gluten free vacation for two days with the celebrities of the gluten free world. Where was I? In Chicago at the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo. The Expo is the creation of Jen Cafferty, President of Gluten-free Classes. In only four years, The Expo has grown to reach over 10,000 attendees throughout the United States and Canada. Jen Cafferty and her team of notable chefs, cookbook authors and nutritionists present cooking demonstrations and educational sessions.   In addition, the event includes a Vendor Fair with over 70 GF companies from across the country. To know more about Jen click here.

While there, I had the pleasure of assisting in some of the cooking and baking classes. I was excited to wear my Mrs. Alaska apron too. I had it specially made for the occasion. (see photo above) The first class I helped with was The Italian & Asian Adventures. Laura B Russell, author of The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen, was first up. My friend, Sueson Ross Vess, of Cumin & Clove, emceed the class while Laura and I cooked. Laura demonstrated to the crowd how to make a Quick Barbaqued Pork and Barabqued Pork Fried Rice as well as her delicious and highly coveted Gingery Pork Pot Stickers! I may have eaten the entire plate that she made! ;)
Sueson Ross Vess, Laura Russel, and I

After, Laura, the men of DaLuciano's Italian restaurant in River Grove, IL stopped by to share their recipe for Bruschetta bread and meat sauce for their own pasta. The executive chef of DaLuciano's, Rose Libreri, has 7 children and 4 of them have Celiac Disease. She found herself not being able to serve them most of the traditional Italian dishes she grew up with so she made it her mission to provide wonderful fresh Italian food from the finest ingredients that were free of gluten. Everything on DaLuciano's menu is gluten free.
 After lunch, I spent some time walking around the Expo and found a lot of my favorite vendors. Udi's was there as a major sponsor making pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches.
 I also met up with some familiar faces from Enjoy Life Foods. Scott, the CEO, and Joel, the CFO, were there promoting their new Plentils chips (see photo below). Enjoy Life Foods is one of my favorite company because they are not just gluten free. They are free of the top 7 food allergens which is great for others like me who also have dairy and soy allergies. While the Light Sea Salt Plentils were my favorite, two of the new Plentils flavors are Dill & Sour Cream and Garlic & Parmesan, are dairy free despite their names! Very exciting news for those of us who miss the dairy flavors. Lentil powder and potato starch are the first two ingredients in each bag and are a great light snack!
While at the Expo, I was also given the opportunity to speak to the attendees about living a Heart Healthy Lifestyle with Celiac Disease. Heart Disease effects 1 in 3 Americans and Celiac Disease increases you risk of heart disease 30% over the regular population. As a former Cardiovascular ICU nurse, I feel I am uniquely suited to educate my fellow Celiacs of this risk.
 Why are we more at risk? In one word - inflammation. Celiac Disease is an inflammatory disease and the inflammation that occurs does not just stay in the gut. It occurs in the vascular system as well.  Arteries that are inflamed are more at risk for clots and fatty tissue build up that could block blood flow. Most Celiacs also tend to have diets higher in fat, sugar, sodium, and calories due to eating prepackaged gluten free food. Part of my lecture included information on eating heart healthy and the importance of exercise. With diabetes and Thyroid disease occurring simultaneously in more Celiacs than the general population, diet and exercise are even more important to focus on.
 I also had the pleasure to meet Kyra Bussanich, owner of Crave Bakeshop, and notable gluten free personality of Cupcake Wars fame. She was featured on the 100th episode of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network and won with all here cupcakes being gluten and dairy free!
I also had the pleasure of meeting Pamela of Pamela's Products. Her chocolate chip cookies are the best on the market. 
Overall, the Expo was an amazing experience. I recommend that any gluten or allergy free person visit one if they have the chance. You never know who you might meet!

No comments:

Post a Comment