Tag Archives: gluten free

Gluten Free Barcelona

September has been another busy month with a long weekend the first week and now two wedding weekends in a row. Kay has a week more holiday than me, so we always try to go away the weekend in September when I get a local holiday for work.

Tickets that weekend were surprisingly expensive everywhere, so instead of going to Venice as I really hoped, we ended up booking a flight to leave for Barcelona on Friday at 10:30pm and arrive back home the following Monday evening.

Here’s a little teaser of our trip:

We had a great time enjoying some sun for once!

Kay was in charge of activity planning while I researched food and he cheekily asked his Spanish colleague to give him a city-guide and thought his work was done. So since neither of us had looked up transportation passes or info about attractions, we didn’t realize that instead of buying a 3-day transportation pass, we could have gotten a combination museum/attraction pass that we usually like to get when we do city trips. We also didn’t realize that booking tickets ahead of time to Sagrada Familia is almost a must and we didn’t realize the 3-day card started at 11:30pm counts 11:30pm to midnight as one day, and we couldn’t use it on Monday anymore. Darn you, Barcelona!

Overall it really was just a chilled weekend going to different Gaudi sights, churches and stopping here and there for sangria in between eating tasty food with wine. I was in heaven!

Sagrada Familia was out of this world. We ended up booking tickets online on Sunday for Monday and it was a really special experience to see a church of this caliber during the construction process. You can really appreciate how much work and money truly goes into buildings like this!

I again did my research about where to eat gluten free, complete with maps, directions and opening hours of several restaurants. Allergy Chef was a very helpful website!  I always over prepare and pick out 3X as many restaurants as we need, which was good because Baci D’Angelo Patisserie, the bakery we tried to go to on the first Saturday was closed… and both of us were quite hungry as we made our way to Copasetic instead.

Copasetic turned out to be ah-mazing.

The man running the restaurant was extremely friendly and helpful, with a great sense of humour. He told us that the chef eats gluten free, so I felt really safe ordering food and the food was delicious!

The options were great too. They offered English, French and Greek combo breakfasts with gluten free bread, pancakes, crepes (!) and more, often with organic ingredients.

We ordered combo breakfasts the first day and split a crepe because we were so hungry. It was a ton of food, as the guy warned, but sooo scrumptious! Seriously, I want to go eat there every weekend!

On Sunday we went back again and I ordered a savory crepe for my main and we split pancakes. They were some of the best gluten free pancakes I’ve ever had!

I would have even gone there for dinner, but we thought we should try to find some traditional tapas places. We ended up going to Bar Ramón on Saturday night because it was close to our hotel, but the tapas were kind of disappointing, especially when they said the ones we ordered would be gluten free and they came with a big bowl of bread.

We weren’t full, so we headed to Lolita Tapería and really enjoyed finishing the night there. It was such a fun little diner and the staff were very friendly.

On Sunday we went to Tapeo for dinner. It seemed a bit touristy to us, but I also didn’t care because they were very good about the gluten free food there as well.

We finished out the weekend going to Allium for breakfast on Monday, partly because Copasetic was closed, but the breakfast was not as celiac friendly as I had hoped and the partially uncooked eggs kind of made me feel sick all day.

After we saw Sagrada Familia on Sunday, I was starving and really wanted to find one of the Conesa sandwich locations I’d marked on the map. It was the kind of local food joint I would not expect to be able to eat at and Kay was worried about it when we went because they made sandwiches and looked like they all were toasted on the same grill, but they had a special grill for the gluten-free sandwiches (yay!) and I could even have some side dishes like brava, fried potatoes.

Conesa did not disappoint! It was a yes, yes, YES. It was such comforting greasy food that I really miss when salad is the only gluten-free dish on the menu.

We finished out the day sitting in a plaça enjoying one last pitcher of sangria. I would go again, maybe when Sagrada Familia is finally finished so I can see it in all its glory. 🙂

Gluten-free Homemade Muesli

As a typical American, I came to Switzerland eating cereal for breakfast. Kay, on the other hand, ate a very Swiss breakfast of freshly sliced bread slathered in butter and jam. For years it went on this way. He had his bread and I had my cereal.

One could argue about the healthiness of either breakfast, but eventually Kay switched over to the dark side so that he could be a little faster in the morning and sleep a little longer. Slicing bread and doing all that buttering and spreading takes a long time! But he didn’t switch to conventional brand cereal like me… no. He started buying ingredients to mix his own muesli so that it would be healthier and less sugary than whatever I was eating.

I called it “Pferd Futter” or “Horse food” because that’s what it looked like to me.

Anyway, I more or less stopped eating cereal in an effort to incorporate more fresh fruit in my diet and then with the celiac diagnosis and Kay’s absence, I didn’t even want to think about cereal and how depressing it is here. We don’t have Chex in Switzerland. You can buy gluten free cornflakes from Migros and Coop, and from Coop you can also buy chocolate crispy rice for kids. From non-specialty stores, that’s it!

L-R: Bio cornflakes: 2.20CHF for 300g ($2.45 for 10.5OZ) / Schär cornflakes: 2.90 for 250g ($3.23 for 8.8OZ) / Schär Flakes Milly Magic 123: 4.95CHF for 250g ($5.51 for 8.8OZ)

You can’t even buy most normal muesli ingredients in the store without them being laced with gluten. I can buy puffed amaranth from Migros, but all the soy flakes are coated with malt flavoring, making them a no-go.

So why don’t I just let Kay buy his normal muesli ingredients and let it go? Crumbs. CRUMBS. Or shall I say, dust. Every time Kay makes muesli in his tupperware and every time he gets some out in the morning, cereal dust flies into the air and all over the counters.

If that cereal dust happened to be wheat-y, barley, malt or otherwise gluten-y… it would be all over our counters. And because we are in a hurry in the morning, that gluten death trap would be there in the evening too. Cleaning up his muesli mess is not one of Kay’s strong suits, but if he did… I would have to worry about him contaminating the dish towel and then forgetting to change it out with a new dish towel. I know… anal. But with celiac, you have to be.

There’s always a question of how much gluten is bad for you, but in my own home, I would rather not doubt what I am eating. I don’t want to worry about wheat particles flying around while I bake, nor do I want to question what the dish towel was last used to clean. Nope. Gluten-free cereal for all is the way forward.

But since oats are a no-no the first year, I wanted to find a way to make oat-free granola to mix with those boring cornflakes. I’ve been lurking on Against All Grain and found this recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Granola, so I had to try it out!

First I soaked the nuts overnight which is supposed to break down the phytic barrier and give the granola a nicer crunch. Kay just thought I was crazy to be soaking them in water and then dehydrating them.

All chopped up and ready to be baked. We have a convection oven, so I used that instead of going out and buying a dehydrator, but after baking 3-4 hours at 75ºC/170ºF, the muesli still came out pretty moist.

I didn’t feel like baking it longer at this point, but I would definitely bake it longer next time. I feel like buying a plastic dehydrator from the store seems like a waste of money when we have an oven with airflow, but maybe I’m wrong.

I threw all the muesli in Kay’s new GF cereal container with GF cornflakes, buckwheat flakes from the health store, puffed amaranth balls, and millet flakes from the health food store. Then I poured it in a bowl to mix before putting it back in the container.

This muesli is delicious! It smelled heavenly and it had a lovely autumn flavor that had me wanting to start eating cereal again too!

See all that mess up there? Haha… homemade muesli is still quite messy, but I don’t have to worry about it being a gluten mess now! And by watering down the expensive health store gluten-free alternative flakes with homemade muesli and cornflakes, I can feel better about the cost of our gluten-free muesli.

Even if you aren’t gluten free, you should go try this muesli out! It is seriously delicious!

De-Glutening the Kitchen

In February, my doctor asked that I keep eating gluten before my biopsy in order to confirm the celiac diagnosis 100%. But they faffed around for most of March faxing appointment requests so I had no idea how long I would have to keep eating gluten before a test would take place. I was annoyed when they called me the day before the appointment to tell me that the biopsy would be the very next day.

During March it seemed like all my symptoms had gotten worse. I was more bloated than ever, extremely anxious and depressed. I felt like I looked legitimately pregnant and my skin was incredibly itchy, waking me up in the night and driving me insane during the day.

I had never felt so uncomfortable in my own body before and I became self-conscious when I looked in the mirror. I felt fat and I felt ugly inside.

Kay happened to be across the world for work during these weeks which made my anxiety and depression worse. Instead of reaching out for friends, I isolated myself in my house and wandered from room to room each night reading ingredients and crying. I cried more than I had in a long, long time.

I kept hoping that this was all a bad dream and that I would wake up soon. Like many celiacs before me, I was focusing on the foods I could no longer eat. It felt like food was the enemy and that my kitchen was a source of grief instead of joy. I resolved that as soon as my biopsy was over, I would switch to gluten free and completely rid gluten from our kitchen.

Kay was totally on board for making our home a gluten-free home and honestly, it was easier to plan and clean while he was gone. Knowing that cleaning would be a very cathartic process for me, I decided to document it  with a stop motion video. I started cleaning on the Friday after my biopsy and Kay came home that Sunday evening while I was finishing up.

Cleaning the kitchen was a very emotional process where I tried to let go and accept my reality. I had researched what I needed to purge and went about removing any food containing gluten as well as all of our plastic and wooden utensils, cutting boards, plastic bowls, almost all of our tupperware, our blenders, bread machine, toaster, waffle iron, mixers, plastic measuring cups, cake pans, silicon baking forms, non-stick pans with scratches and some items too difficult to clean gluten off properly.

In between removing things, I gave literally everything in the kitchen a good scrub, including the new build cabinets which had accumulated a lot of dust and dirt in and behind them from construction settling.

Getting rid of perfectly good, albeit older kitchen items was not so difficult, but reading the ingredient labels on the food and accepting that I will no longer eat all of these things was hard. Cleaning the flour off the recipes in my recipe box was even harder.

I neatly stacked all the food and old kitchen items on the dining room table so that we could dispose, recycle or give them away later. When Kay came home, he looked through the food items with curiosity and was surprised by all the things he found. Foods we never though about gluten being in… random things from spices to soy sauce to bouillon and sprinkles. Gluten shows up seemingly everywhere.

I don’t think I have ever been more happy for him to come home from a trip. I needed him so much.

I’m glad I documented my process, because this photo says it all. It has all my hurt and pain and Kay there, holding me together and loving me all the same. It reminds me how much I love him back.

After the de-glutening I stopped crying every day. I bought fresh, safe food from the grocery to start filling the kitchen again, I explained to everyone at work that I would have some immediate diet changes and I started preparing to replace the glutened kitchenware.

It’s only been seven weeks now since I changed my diet and I’m still adjusting and still working through the mourning, denial and now intermittently the “anger stage”, but I’m happy that I have stopped crying and am trying to focus on the adventure of cooking and trying lots of new foods.