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Tag Archives: Eating out When Traveling

Cook to Eat/ Crisis Management

Paleo Update Saturday, my father-in-law was released into hospice care to begin his end of life days. When these times of intensity happen in life, it throws us into a different dimension of activity outside our normal routine. “Regular” life stops for a bit to be replaced by weird schedules, by unusual demands and activities only needing to be done a few times throughout a whole lifetime. How many times does a non medical professional order a hospital bed, empty a catheter bag, etc.

I am learning a few key survival skills for times of intensity or crisis, especially if you are on a “true” Celiac diet, which is no grain whatsoever, ever:

1. Keep safe snacks on hand and packed in a “to go” bag that you can grab at a moment’s notice. You never know when you will get a chance to eat or find a restaurant or store where you can get safe food when jumping in the car to be by a loved one’s side. (I like bags of plain plantain chips, Trader Joe’s marcona almonds, and an apple as a bare minimum. If I have more time, I make a meal-salad in a mason jar, Paleo chocolate cookies, and a shaker jar with a scoop of Paleo friendly protein powder, and little snack baggies of each meal’s vitamin supplements.)

2. Do not skimp on good nutritious foods. Make yourself drink that veggie or protein drink, even if it is the last thing you want to do. Your body will keep you going in good form throughout the duration of intense stress because of it. (Do not cheat on the diet. It will only weaken your ability to handle the stress. The stress is making your body work overtime already.)

3. Get fully presentable (shower, wash hair, make-up, etc) every morning. You may have to go to a group gathering at a moment’s notice where you would be embarrassed in schlocky sweats and ratty T shirt.

4. Keep the gas tank of your car full at all times.

5. Bring enough water bottles to get through a 12 hour period. Hospitals and emergency agencies hide the water; I swear. Plus, even though you are doing essentially nothing–at least nothing physical—when sitting by a sick person’s bed, time disappears. Your thirst can rage. Your blood sugar can drop.

6. Try to get a good amount of sleep.

7. Try to keep up with your exercise routines. (I must admit; this is the one that I let slide most often. Sleep always seems to win over exercise.)

If you can keep on top of just these foundational things, it will help you manage the unusual time and activity demands in fairly good form, relatively speaking, until normal life can be resumed. This post is for all those attending last days of loved ones, attending births, or going through any of a myriad of life’s intense once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Below is the recipe to one of my favorite Paleo cookie recipes. This recipe by Carol Lovett is from her cookbook, The Grain-free Snacker. Check out her blog, Ditch the Wheat.


Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

2/3 cup coconut palm sugar

1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil

2 large eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons sifted coconut flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup dark chocolate chips, (I use Enjoy Life big chunky chocolate bits, because there is no soy, no dairy, no grain. Plus, who doesn’t love a big chunk of chocolate in their cookies.)

Yields 14 cookies

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350* F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Using a mixing machine, mix together the sugar and coconut oil.

3. Slowly add one egg at a time to the mixture. Add the cocoa powder, coconut flour and vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Lastly, stir in chocolate chips.

4. Drop the cookies by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart.

5. Bake for 12 minutes.

6. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to a wire rack to cool.

Note: Check out her blog or cookbook to get the extra notes for the prep of these cookies. I just included the basic directions. She gives more detail in her official recipe.

My Directions: In all honesty, I melt the coconut oil in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave; throw the rest of the ingredients sans the chocolate chips in a big Tupperware bowl; then add the oil when melted; stir like crazy with a wooden spoon; add two handfuls of chocolate chips; stir; plop on the parchment paper and bake. They always turn out great (except the time I used an egg substitute for my grandson who is allergic to eggs. Flat as a pancake that time.)

As you can tell, I usually cook without recipes. When I use them, I rarely follow directions completely, which does not always make for great baking success, but these cookies turn out in spite of my cavalier ways. (The Naked Chef, Jaimie Oliver, epitomizes my style of cooking. Love when he says in his cookbooks or on his show…”pour in a couple of glugs” of the designated liquid, but I digress.)   Seriously, these cookies have become my Paleo comfort food during times of stress. I recommend always having a batch on hand. I know I do. They freeze well, too.

Hats off to Carol Lovett and this yummy recipe!

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I’m Back!

After a nearly two year hiatus from blogging, I’ve decided to give it another go.

However, I am revamping the format just a bit based on the example of one of my favorite bloggers, The Drunken Cyclist, who divides his posts into different subject matter segments.

Mine will be loosely based on the three huge passions/interests in my life:

  1. Vineyard Update – tidbits of what the California Bay Area seasons mean when growing and managing a small home vineyard of Cabernet and Merlot grapes. Example, in 2013 we harvested one ton of grapes, but only half a ton this last October in 2014. The three year drought is taking its toll.
  2. Jedi Wine Making –experiences of my husband’s, friends’ and family’s, and mine learning to craft a decent wine in our little backyard barn (definitely a community endeavor)…with the guidance of Ted Medeiros, our local award-winning professional winemaker and Yoda mentor, who nicknamed me his Jedi student.
  3. Cook To Eat — continuing discoveries from my mind-blowing eating/cooking adventures and journey through Celiac Disease, (the disease where the body has damaged or is missing the genes to digest and process gluten.) After 17 years on the normal gluten free diet where grains like rice and quinoa are allowed, I had a massive relapse in symptoms and immune system damage in 2014. “Wait! What?” Thankfully, brand new research has proven that all grains and even legumes are dangerous for Celiac people. “Who knew? No more humus for me, sadly.” After a year of relearning to eat, cook, and travel safely on the new true gluten free diet, I am on the road to recovery, for the second time in my life, and eager to resume the blogging. “Whew! Glad the worst is behind me.”

I invite you to pick and choose to read and explore any or all topics. Hopefully, this new organization will make that easier for you and save you the time of slogging through things of no interest.

Welcome to Foodie meets Wine Maker meets Vineyard Manager.

Happy 2015!

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge Entry/ Subject-Fear

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Madman on the Loose, I Could Die Today

On a sunny bucolic vacation day, The Bam, bam bambambam of an automatic weapon splintered the birdsong and rustle of the breeze through the treetops.  “Wait! Were those real gunshots?  Was it someone target practicing? Should I be worried?” we sat on the deck in the sunshine, pondering.  “It is a bit countryish with huge lots in this little seaside enclave of vacation and retiree homes. People could target practice here, I guess. And yet…”

In the twenty years we had been coming to that cabin for a women’s retreat week, we had never heard anything like this.  After all, it is Cleone, a tiny community where the grocery store, post office, and gas pump are rolled into one, where the one restaurant (with consistently awesome Mexican food) opens whenever the owners feel inclined to cook or do business, where the community’s one claim to fame is MacKerricher State Park, a CA north coast refuge for sea otters, birds, tide pool creatures, plus a great place for whale watching on the spectacular headlands.  Cleone is a bedroom community of Mendocino and Fort Bragg.  We have always loved its reclusive air, a great place to get away, kick back, from the intensity of the Bay Area, where the population consists mostly of dog walkers, birders, cliffs-meet-the-sea nature-lovers.

“So what were those gunshots?”  Not hearing more, two of us decided to go for a walk out on the headlands.  However, when we got about 25 feet down the road, we saw two sheriffs with guns out, peering into the huge row of brambles and pine trees that separated our street from the one behind.  “Um, maybe we’ll head back to the cabin. That doesn’t look good.”

As soon as we got back and ushered our other friend off the back deck that faced the bramble patch, we heard Bam, bam, bambambam, again.  Next came the shouts, “Clear! Look to the north.”

“Oh s__t! We are directly north of the gunshot sounds!”  A  911 call to find out what was going on, had us sheltering in place with the knowledge that the sheriffs were trying to locate two suspects on the loose.  Just “knowing the suspects were in the brambles and could come out shooting at any time” was a surreal NCIS moment.

One of my friends said, “I know it is bad when they send up choppers to look for people, so we are probably okay, because none are in the air.”  Two seconds later, whomp, whomp whomps shook the windows of the cabin…for the next five hours, many times hovering directly over the cabin’s backyard. “Good times!”

We were at the point of fear where something inside the body changes.  Each of us tried to think strategically and find items in the room to protect ourselves, should we live through gunfire and actually encounter gunmen: cans of tuna to throw at the perps, fireplace poker to brandish in their direction, wine bottles to crack over their heads. Yes, we were gee-whizzes in a crisis!

A quick text from my husband admonished us to stay away from the windows.  Hard to do in a cabin filled with bay windows.  When the numbness of too much adrenaline set in,  one of my friends pulled out a deck a cards, said to sit down at the dinette table (in front of a bay window, of course)…she was going to teach us a really fun game.  I pulled out a bottle of wine from the previous day’s wine tasting in the Anderson Valley and three glasses, and said, “If I’m going down, I am going down happy.”  The other friend found the salty snacks, then the chocolate, and said, “Well, we need something to go with the wine.”  By the end of the five hours, three bottles of excellent wine had been drunk and every piece of junk food we could lay our hands on had been eaten. I can’t tell you the name of the card game we played at least 20 or 30 times, but it was fun in a crazy, I-am-going-to-enjoy-my-potential-last-moments haze.

True story.

Epilogue, there was only one gunman. During one of the volleys of gunfire, he killed a well respected sheriff in the community.  During another volley, the actual gunman was shot, but able to crawl away, into the brambles, where he died.  All of this took place one street over from our cabin. Part of me is still not “over” this senseless, horrifying event. The fact that two people were killed less than 250 yards from us is unfathomable.

On a brighter note- My recommendations when visiting the Mendocino Coast Area
Do stop and visit the wineries of the Anderson Valley.  Their terroir and weather is allowing them to produce some amazing Pinot Noirs.  This trip we discovered Drew Winery and their phenomenal 2010 Pinot. Hard to find now, because it sold out so quickly.
The Little River Inn is a great place to stay (just south of Mendocino) with vast panoramic ocean views and a good restaurant.
Try Wild Fish Restaurant near the Little River Inn for scrumptious fresh fish and a staff knowledgeable on adapting their menu for gluten intolerant Celiacs, like me.  Make reservations, because there are only eight tables.  Go just before sunset and catch the color splash over the ocean as the sun sets.

Grabbing-a-Bite-to-Eat Survival Kit

First, I hope you will forgive my five month hiatus from blogging.  A dear family member “passed.”

The other night, as I threw my three “must haves” in my purse running out the door in anticipation of grabbing a bite to eat somewhere in town, I realized how prepping for and anticipating potential problems when eating out had become second nature.

Usually on a spur of the moment decision to go out, my husband and I have no idea where we will end up.  We decide what types of food we want as we drive; then, cruise our local haunts to see which is the least crowded.  While I love this type of spontaneity, it can present challenges for a Gluten Intolerant diner.

Never fear, I have developed a simple three product survival kit:

1. A tiny container of GF salad dressing, because salad dressing can be a land mine of hidden glutens.    I get these wonderful little containers at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. www.bedbathandbeyond.comsalad drssg bottleWith three filled at all times in the refrigerator, each with a different type of GF salad dressing,  I can easily grab the one I want  in a split second.

2. A small bottle of GF soy sauce…in case a sushi attack drives us into a sushi bar;  (why eat sushi if you can’t dip it in thesoy sauce
soy sauce/wasabi mixture?)  Just found out last night, that our local sushi bar carries GF soy sauce.  Isn’t it wonderful how easy it is getting to eat out and how the new awareness of GF limitations and needs have infiltrated the restaurant industry?  That said,  I still bring my jar of GF sauce soy in my eating out kit in case we end up at the other sushi bar in town, which does not have GF soy sauce. Although I could put the soy sauce in one of the above plastic containers from BB &B, it can leak a bit if the liquid is as thin as soy sauce.  To be safe, I stick with the regular, non leaking soy sauce jar.  Don’t want to ruin another purse. www.san-j.com

3.  A slightly toasted hunk of my favorite GF baguette…for slurping up that amazing pre-dinner olive baguetteoil in Italian restaurants.  For some reason, watching everyone else at the table dip bread in olive oil and not being able to participate can make me nearly melt down.  It is one of those trigger points where I can instantly flip into self pity over being gluten intolerant.  But hey, I have solved it by pulling out my baggie filled with a piece of safe GF bread.  Then, the only thing I am fanatical about is to make sure I have my “own” plate or little bowl of olive oil, so I can eliminate all cross contamination by the wheat-bread-dippers at the table.  Who really likes sharing, anyway?  The baguette is a must-have at Greek restaurants for hummus and  baba ganoujs, too. www.againstthegraingourmet.com

My mottos are Do Not Get Left Out;  Do Not Stay at Home;   Get Prepared and Go!

Sure,  non GF people do not have to think ahead, plan ahead, or pack ahead to simply grab a bite to eat, but accepting, developing, and incorporating these simple tasks into my life has allowed me to embrace a normal, rich, fun life, instead of  shrinking into limitations.

So…go out and have fun (with a little preparation.)

Eating out When Traveling

 “How do you handle it when you’re glutened on vacation?” asked a fellow Celiac blogger.

The answer: questions, lots and lots of questions and a bottle of charcoal tablets to relieve the “food baby” bloating.  I have a running list of questions in my head developed over years of traveling that need asking at the three major types of restaurants: fast food and big chains, sports bars, and fine dining.

My husband and I have the travel itch running in our veins.  After only six weeks of eating solely at home when I was first diagnosed with Celiac disease, we were going a little stir crazy.  I was literally afraid to eat out and to risk getting a gluten reaction:  “glutenated, glutenized, glutened,” etc.  My husband, bless his heart,  thoroughly researched  the foods served at a Mother’s Day brunch at a local restaurant,  so I could dip my toe gently back into eating out.  I was so scared of the eighth month pregnancy bloat and ensuing gas pains  from accidentally ingesting a contaminated food that I stuck to cheese and fresh fruit that day with a shockingly okay experience.  (Whew!  Big milestone!)  Since then, I have traveled extensively with him with surprisingly few reactions.

Here are the most basic of basic things I learned, and they work in almost any country:

fast food is nearly always contaminated as a general rule;

bar food and happy hour food is nearly impossible, except for the occasional steamed mussels or plain salad with a plain grilled chicken breast on top;

fine dining with trained chefs is by far the safest way to go, but buckets of money are required.

Big Mom PurseOther practical coping strategies when eating out are carry a big Mom purse that you can stuff with emergency GF protein bars,  GF salad dressing, GF crackers or a crust of GF bread, and those little packages of GF soy sauce.   There is nothing worse than being left out of an otherwise safe hors d’oeuvre, because you have forgotten to pack a baggie of a few GF crackers or a bit of GF bread or baguette to dip in that great olive oil in Italy, for example.  I also hate eating plain sushi without the soy sauce/wasabi dip.  Somehow the joy is sucked right out of that dining experience without it, so bring those GF soy sauce packets.

When you do get stuck at a sports bar, stick with a dressing-less salad with a plain grilled chicken breast.  Put the GF salad dressing from your purse on it or ask for lemon wedges you can squeeze over it.  Anything else in a sports bar gets me a wild reaction.  Can’t quite figure out how they cross contaminate a bun-less plain burger, but they do. Can I tell you how sick I am of 15 years of salad with a flavorless chicken breast on top!  Just the thought of this meal makes my whole body want to gag. Those are the times I have to kick my inner self with the thought, “I am here to enjoy the company of my friends/family.”   If that doesn’t work, I go to the mantra, “It could be worse. At least I am mobile, have my sight,  my hearing, etc.”

Since we live in wine country, eating great food (homemade or from restaurants) and drinking fine wines are hobbies of pretty much…everyone.  Luckily,  after a few key questions (ok, maybe a lot) at restaurants with trained chefs, who understand where glutens hide in meal  preparation, eating out is not a problem.

Yes, my GF diet is expensive, but if I adhere rigorously to these guidelines, I can travel almost anywhere in the world and find something safe to eat.  (My husband always jokes that my Celiac foods and my requirement to eat at fine dining restaurants when traveling are the equivalent of a Beamer, Mercedes, or Tesla car payment.  Of course, he quickly follows that statement with “but you are worth it.”)

I concede that I do not always get to eat what I would really like, but safety must be the first priority with Celiac disease.  I understand, first hand, that “safety must come first”  from having Celiac disease damage not only my intestines but my whole immune system.  I just don’t go to “the cheat”  zone, after crawling slowly back from a nearly non-functioning body.

Just yesterday when discussing with a gluten sensitive person the myriad of questions  I ask wait staff and sometimes the actual chef, I heard the plea,  “But I don’t KNOW what questions to ask! Could you please list them on your blog?”

So, I will be starting a series of blog posts sharing the running list of restaurant questions I have amassed over the last 15 years of eating out.  If I can eat out safely, so can you…with a little attention to detail and a lot of questions!

Dedications and credits:

Today’s entry is dedicated to Karen for her blog post requests, and to Amanda’s post called Glutened on the First Day of Vacation, from her blog,  Celiac and Allergy Adventures,  celiacandallergyadventrues.wordpress.com.  The first quoted sentence and the words “food baby,” ” glutenated, glutenized, and glutened” in this post come from Glutened on the First Day of Vacation.