My favourite “healthier” gluten-free snacks of the moment

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I am always trying to eat healthier and spend less money on food. These two goals often conflict and I vary in my level of success on both fronts. You could say I have really good and really bad weeks. I try to always keep my desk and mini fridge at work stocked with snacks that are on the healthier side. Bottom-line is that stocking up on healthier gluten-free snacks helps keep you from eating unhealthy alternatives (chips and chocolate for me) and from being tempted by potentially unsafe meal options that could contain gluten. There are not many 100% safe gluten-free options near my work and the safe ones are on the more expense side. Packing a lunch and having healthy snacks on hand make gluten-free life so much easier.

Snacks to stack up on:

  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews and pecans(always make sure they are gluten-free and stay away from seasonings if they don’t specify they are gluten-free)
  • Yogurt (I prefer plain greek yogurt and I add things like granola, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup and fruit)
  • Gluten-free crackers
  • Nut butters
  • Gluten-free granola
  • Gluten-free energy bars (perfect for a pre-workout snack)
  • Fruits (my favourite to keep at work are green apples)
  • Veggies and hummus
  • Cheese
  • Lots of tea

A few of my current go-to’s (I took the pics in my office):

Rise Kombucha

I love Rise Kombucha, particularly the green one, which is mint and chlorophyl. It is refreshing but definitely does not fit in the budget category at all at around $4 a bottle and $9 for a larger bottle. I love the taste, it’s refreshing and I find it is good for calming an upset stomach after a getting gluten poisoned.

http://www.risekombucha.com/en/faq/

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Luna Bars

Luna bars are now gluten-free and are a great snack to keep in your purse/bag or desk for when you are starving. Half a bar is great for a pre-workout snack. I love the Nutz Over Chocolate flavour.

http://www.lunabar.com/

Bakery on Main Granola

I like to buy this granola when it’s on sale and keep it in my desk. My favourite is the Nutty Cranberry Maple. It goes great with yogurt and is also good on its own.

http://bakeryonmain.com/

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What are some of your favourite gluten-free snacks?

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Happy New Year!

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Wishing everyone a happy, safe and gluten-free New Year! May 2015 be healthy and happy for you and your loved ones and filled with yummy gluten-free meals that feed the soul.

My friend Nat did a great piece on celiac disease on CTV News this past week that talks about the difficulties of eating out in Montreal for those of us with celiac disease. I am also interviewed at the beginning (that’s me making gluten-free toast!). This piece is great because it features two great places to eat gluten-free without worries in Montreal: Louise Sans Gluten, a great dedicated gluten-free bakery/store in Dorval and Ottavio’s, a delicious BYOB italian restaurant that serves gluten-free certified pizza and pasta.

http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/celiac-disease-makes-gluten-free-a-necessity-not-a-trend-1.2164363

And if you got gluten poisoned during the holidays you need this post from Gluten is my Bitch. I always feel like someone else finally gets it when I read her posts about getting poisoned. I too can’t resist a social occasion and sometimes end up at home with severe stomach problems and crying to my family and friends and promising to never eat out again…until the next birthday or oh so important group dinner…

https://glutenismybitch.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/crappy-holidays/#more-7846

To all those new to the gluten-free world: You can do it!

Happy and healthy in the kitchen

Happy and healthy in the kitchen

Taking on a strict gluten-free diet can be scary and this fear can keep us from our ultimate health. For the first few years of my diagnosis while I was in my early 20s I was overwhelmed by the idea of being 100% gluten-free. It was too hard. Too time consuming. Too confusing. Too isolating. Too restricting. Too much missing out on good stuff! It wasn’t until I continued to be sick and learn more that I realized enough was enough. My illness was real, I was slowly seriously damaging my body and I needed to take care of my self because no one else would.

Talking to a friend of a friend today and motivating her to take the steps to start a gluten-free diet to treat her health problems and get tested for celiac disease reminded me of all those fears from years ago. Fear is normal but focusing on your health and little steps will get you through it.

My tips on how to start a gluten-free diet  and deal with the fear of the unknown (for those who need to be strict in their diet and exposure to gluten):

  1. Read and learn as much as you can. Many doctors and even gastroenterologists don’t know a lot about celiac disease or the effects of gluten on inflammation and auto immune diseases. It was through my own research I learned that my terrible canker sores were a sign of celiac disease. There are lots of website about celiac disease and healthy eating. A few of my faves are Gluten Is my Bitch, My New Roots and Oh She Glows. I have also found my local library has a lot of gluten-free cookbooks. Before buying I like to check them out to make sure they are worth the purchase. I love this cookbook “It’s All Good” by Gwyneth Paltrow because it’s a “secret” gluten-free cookbook filled with healthy and pretty simple recipes that happen to be gluten-free. It features lots of clean recipes and ideas for flavourful and good for you food.
  2. You will make mistakes and it’s ok. One thing that was hard for my mom and I who are perfectionists: not realizing the hidden sources of gluten. We often felt defeated but it’s a learning process. Don’t feel bad about making mistakes just learn from them and keep moving towards a gluten-free life! My friend tried to make me a gluten-free feast this past weekend and then realized the cooking spray he used had flour in it!?!? He felt so bad but it happens and that’s how you learn what to avoid. We just whipped up something else for me to eat and it was no biggie at all!
  3. Take this as an opportunity to make positive changes.  A gluten-free diet done right is healthier and I now follow a much much healthier diet than I did when I was a 20 year old student living off of bagels and diet cokes.  The limited choices available for eating out of the house has forced me to learn how prepare meals and be organized about packing lunches and snacks.
  4. RELAX. Let’s not forget about stress and how it can worsen digestive symptoms and your overall health. Exercising, meditating, journaling  etc. are good ways to reduce stress. When I have been gluten poisoned but not in my I can hardly get out of bed stage, I find a light run sometimes helps my symptoms and helps lessen the pain. Stressing about gluten only complicates things for your digestive system.
  5. If you don’t know how to cook it is never too late to slowly learn the basics. If you don’t already cook start with learning how to make an easy salad dressing, stir fry, omelette, soup and pasta dish. You don’t need to become an amazing cook but being healthy and gluten-free is a lot easier if you can make a few things at home in your safe kitchen and pack some lunches for work. And speaking about safe kitchens I am currently lucky to live alone but if you share yours with someone who eats a lot of bread they need to slowly learn how to keep the kitchen gluten-free friendly for you. Also- don’t go kissing people who have just eaten a huge sandwich or chugged a pint! Sounds ridiculous but if your aren’t using the same toaster as one that has had bread in it you shouldn’t be kissing someone who just ate a bunch of it.
  6. Focus on the foods you love that are already gluten-free. Mine are: potatoes, rice, seafood, goat cheese, eggs, greens, chocolate and wine. Focus on all the good stuff and things you can make to replace the stuff you are missing. Nachos, home made french fries, most meat dishes have always been gluten-free. This is helpful when eating out, which is where most of my panic still comes from. I try to avoid eating at restaurants that have no clue what gluten-free is or think it’s in normal rice and potatoes. My friends have gotten great at accommodating my diet and those few times I have to go somewhere I am not sure about, for example for a birthday, I will call in advance, check the menu and talk to the manager and if I’m still not sure I will just have a glass of wine. You aren’t being picky you are making sure you are not made seriously ill for the next few days/weeks.
  7. Tell the haters to shut-up, in a nice way. There will still be a few people that don’t get it and will tell you to just eat bread or it’s all in your head and just ignore them. People who love you will slowly learn with you and help you out with your new lifestyle. My friends pick me up new products and love trying new gluten-free recipes but this didn’t happen over night. The important people in your life will learn not to double dip in the shared containers. Peanut butter, butter, jam, mayo, cheese etc. And you will learn to always serve yourself first at a group meal before bread gets into and all over everything. When I go away for the weekend with friends and or people I don’t live with I will write my name in bold marker on the top of containers I want to keep gluten-free and tell everyone that they can use them but cannot double dip any utensils that have been used on or near bread products.
  8. Now is the best time ever to be gluten-free! There has never been more certified gluten-free products. They are almost everywhere. Always read your labels and when you are uncertain check online and or call the company.

Yes it can be overwhelming to drastically change your diet but feeling healthy feeds so good. More specifically not feeling like I was being slowly poisoned to death was the biggest push to continue following a strict diet. Not spending my life lying in a ball, running to the bathroom or staying home having a date with the washroom is to this day the reason I will never ever ever eat gluten again on purpose!

You can do it! Good luck and feel free to send me questions!

🙂

Gluten-free in Italy: Cinque Terre Region & Liguria

Pizza at Netuno in Rapallo

Pizza at Netuno in Rapallo

Sailing for almost two weeks in Italy with my best friend and her friend sounded too good to be true but I was worried about my diet. Thankfully Italy in general is accommodating to gluten-free diets and my travel partners were amazing in adapting to my diet on the boat and were happy to share gluten-free meals with me at restaurants. As I mentioned in my previous post about Rome, I tried my best to be prepared which included stocking the boat with gluten-free crackers, breadsticks, cookies and pasta. Most of the products in Italy are individually wrapped in portions which was great for eating on the boat. We ate breakfast, lunch and a few dinners on the boat. Pesto pasta was our go to dinner and to simplify things in our mini kitchen we would make gluten-free pasta for everyone or make mine first. My friends were careful and I just had to explain how I couldn’t use the same utensils as were used on bread etc. Gluten-free is difficult in any kitchen, never mind a mini-mini one but keeping things simple made it easier. Luckily my travel partners were up to the task of being amazing GFBFFs and made it a lot easier for me, they even scouted out gluten-free products and found me gluten-free gelato in random places.

As we were moving from port to port each day and had limited access to the internet I wasn’t able to research gluten-free friendly restaurants in advance but found great places to eat in most of the towns we were in. I always say it’s important to try and be easy going and positive when traveling gluten-free. It’s a challenge but with a positive attitude it’s a lot easier to navigate a gluten-filled world.

Overall, Italy was amazing as always and being able to eat and have people understand celiac disease everywhere I went made for a great travel experience.

Delicious pesto pasta made by my GFBFF Andrea

Delicious pesto pasta made by my GFBFF Andrea

Lots of products like this prosciutto were labeled gluten-free

Lots of products like this prosciutto were labeled gluten-free

Even the yogurt was labeled gluten-free

Even the yogurt was labeled gluten-free

Nettuno, Rapallo

We ate at Nettuno twice as the food was great, it was full of locals and they had great gluten-free options including all the pizzas on the menu and most of the pastas. The pizza is made on its own tray to keep it celiac friendly. Both my pizzas were amazing and my travel partners had great meals as well. I couldn’t contain my excitement when we decided to dock here a second night. We got margherita pizzas to go to eat on the boat the next day as it’s an easy meal while sailing.

Pizza at Nettuno

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The non-gluten-free 1 meter pizza for my friends

The non-gluten-free 1 meter pizza for my friends

Margherita Pizza on the boat the next day

Margherita Pizza on the boat the next day

La Prua, Lavagna

La Prua didn’t have a million options but I had a great seafood risotto and there were a few other options as well.

http://www.paginegialle.it/lavagna-ge/bar/prua

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Portofino

The restaurant we chose on the Main street on the water had gluten free penne. It’s good to ask if they have gluten-free pasta when you are walking around looking for a place to eat.

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Manarola (Cinque Terre)

In this small town there were two places I saw that had gluten-free faranita. Il Discovolo had an entire gluten-free section and a lot of gluten-free products for purchase. The owner was super helpful and stepped out to explain what what was gluten-free in store and explain how things were kept separate. My friend was super excited by the “gluten-free limit zone” in the display case. I ordered a delicious panini with tomatoes and mozzarella. Riomaggiore also had gluten-free farinita.

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Delicious Farinita

Delicious Farinita

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Happy waiting for the train with my gluten-free panini from Il Discovolo

Happy waiting for the train with my gluten-free panini from Il Discovolo

Gluten-free in Italy: Rome

Italy Gluten-Free

Travelling gluten-free is always a challenge but it’s a challenge I will always happily accept. Celiac disease will never keep me at home and particularly will never keep me from Italy! The last time I visited Italy for a month I was 19 and hadn’t yet been diagnosed as celiac but I sure was. On our backpacker budget of $40 a day (including travel) my friends and I were eating bread, nutella, pastries, pizza, paninis and more bread. To say I had stomach problems would be an understatement but at the time it was normal to always have stomach problems. Now more than ten years later I was curious to see what Italy had to offer in the gluten-free department. I was looking forward to eating in Italy as I had heard that they were very accommodating to gluten-free diets. My consensus after two weeks visiting Rome and some of the coast north of Rome is it’s a pretty good place to travel gluten-free if you have normal expectations and are easy going about it. Not once did someone not know what senza glutine was. Everyone I spoke to understood what it meant, which doesn’t always happen in Montreal. As usual, airports and small cafés do not have good options but most restaurants were able to at least make me salad and fish, while most had risotto or gf pasta and quite a few places had pizza that was safe for celiacs. In Italy they understand that for celiacs eating gluten-free is not just a diet but a treatment for a disease.

Packing lots of snacks for any trip is always very important when travelling gluten-free. For the flight I brought a sandwich and snacks and for the trip things like gluten-free granola to add to my yogurt for breakfast, nuts and Larabars were key. Once I was in Rome I picked up some gluten-free products at the grocery store in the Termini station. Before I left I researched restaurants and saved maps detailing how to get there them from my hotel on my phone. In less than 48 hours in Rome I had two pizzas, pasta and two servings of gluten-free gelato.

Fatamorgana

I highly recommend Fatamorgana in Rome. Not all gelato is gluten-free and it can also get contaminated from cones. At Fatamorgana all the gelato and the cones are %100 gluten-free. I went to two different locations and all the flavours I tried were amazing. I recommend mapping them out so you can find one in whatever area you are in. I wish I could eat it everyday!

http://www.gelateriafatamorgana.com/web/

Gluten-Free Ice Cream from Fatamorgana in Roma

Fatamorgana

Gluten-Free Ice Cream from Fatamorgana in Roma

La Scaletta

The pizza here was delicious. It’s in a super touristy area but it’s a great place to grab a glass of wine and gluten-free pizza if you are near the pantheon. I was very happy to have my margherita pizza and a glass of wine after a long day traveling.

http://www.lascalettaroma.it/

La Scaletta GF Pizza

La Pilotta

This restaurant near the Vatican is also a little touristy but they can make almost the whole menu gluten-free. It’s a great spot to stop for a quick lunch if you are in the area. The margherita pizza was delicious with a great crust!

https://plus.google.com/107935115050249984501/about?gl=ca&hl=en

Pizza at La Pilotta

Mama Eat!

This restaurant was highly recommended online for gluten free-dining. It is in the Travestere area and I think there must be better options around. Based on the good reviews I tried it but the food was so so. They have a gluten-free menu which is what I think draws people to the restaurant but my salad was the worst I had in Italy and my spaghetti carbonara was not great. I make a much better one at home!

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Where to buy products:

Pharmacies and grocery stores usually had some gluten-free products for sale. If you are moving around like I was I recommend stocking up on some pasta and snacks as it is hard to know what will be available. The tiny grocery in a little port town had a gluten-free section while a much larger store in a bigger town did not.

Tips:

  • Research and map out restaurants that are recommended by other gluten-free travellers. I saved photos of maps to different restaurants on my phone and also mapped restaurants that were recommended on a paper map. The streets in Rome aren’t on a grid so it’s a good idea to map out the places you want to eat if you aren’t using GPS.
  • Print a celiac card in Italian: http://www.celiactravel.com/cards/italian/
  • Pack snacks.

Part 2 of my trip coming soon!

Lots of gluten-free products!

Lots of gluten-free products!

Gluten-Free in Montreal: Baked to Go

Baked to Go Gluten-Free Croissant

I am no longer buying frozen gluten-free bread. Baked to Go is a 100% gluten-free bakery a few minutes from my house on St Laurent above Rachel. To say it’s amazing to have a gluten-free bakery around the corner is an understatement. It’s even more amazing that all their  rolls, bagels, croissants and breads are soft and delicious. The products are fresh enough to eat as is but they also taste great toasted or from the freezer. I much prefer to freeze their bread than buy overpriced freezer burnt bread at the health food store. To add to all this goodness, their products are also affordable considering they are gluten-free.

I personally prefer their bread products. The sweets I tried were good but I can make cookies and brownies at home. It’s bread that I am too lazy to attempt. Their bagels are the best gluten-free made in Montreal bagels I have tried. They were fresh enough that I was able to eat them untoasted two days after buying them, which anyone who is gluten-free would know is a gluten-free miracle. Their croissants are obviously not exactly like the real deal but are pretty close and very delicious. Their fresh rolls (hamburger buns) were amazing with a little butter. I haven’t had a roll that soft and normal since I first went gluten-free over 10 years ago.

I definitely recommend a visit if you are in the downtown area or you can order some of their products online.

http://baked2go.ca

4255 Boul. Saint Laurent
Montreal, Quebec
H2W 1Z4, Canada
Tél: 514-844-3232
info@baked2go.com

Baked to Go

Baked to Go Bagels

I have been poisoned! How to cope after a glutening

Egg Drop Soup and movies in bed is a pretty good cure!

Egg Drop Soup and movies in bed is a pretty good cure!

It sounds dramatic but it’s my term “I have been poisoned”. I even say it at work when someone asks why I haven’t been in the office for a few days. While at first people don’t get it, those who matter know what it means. It means I am exhausted, have been feeling terrible and all around I am not having a good time. A bad gluten-poisoning can have me in bed for a few days and not feeling right for up to 2 weeks.

Post gluten-poisoning it is easy to see the whole world as a gluten-filled nightmare full of wheat and cross contamination. Getting sick definitely reminds me to be careful but it sometimes happens when you are careful and that’s just a reality.

My simple non-scientific tips to making a gluten poisoning better:

  1. Don’t stress. I used to panic and get so upset that it definitely lengthened my symptoms. Severe stress about the pain and missing work etc. will just make the symptoms worse. Try your best to rest and not think the worst. Since I have worked on not catastrophizing when I’m feeling sick from gluten my symptoms have been easier to control and do not last as long. Even though it can be terrible it is not the end of the world. You will feel better soon!
  2. Everyone has different trigger foods; gluten-free foods that you are sensitive to and that you should avoid when you are feeling glutened. Mine are dairy, alcohol and heavy foods. So figure out your triggers and try to eat smaller amounts of easy to digest food until you feel better. I also take gluten-free and dairy free probiotics.
  3. While it may be hard to eat make sure you get enough liquids and water.
  4. Sleep as much as you can.

This egg drop soup is my favorite recipe to make when I’m sick with gluten-poisoning or a cold. This recipe for simple and easy egg drop soup from Gimme Some Oven is perfect. This soup is super simple and easy enough to make when I’m feeling weak. All you need is some gluten-free broth, eggs, gluten-free cornstarch and green onions for a basic soup.

This soup is super easy to make and easy on the tummy.

This soup is super easy to make and easy on the tummy.

Gluten-Free Passover Dinner

Toasting friends and a great gluten-free seder.

Toasting friends and a great gluten-free Passover dinner

The title of this blog comes from my friends and family who are my GFBFFs (gluten-free best friends forever). I am very blessed with a group of friends who are very accommodating to the fact that I have celiac disease and constantly go out of their way to assure I can eat safely whether it be at one of their homes or when we are out.

This was on display this past week when my friend invited us all over for a Passover dinner that was 95% gluten-free and 100% vegetarian. I always find it easier when cooking for a group to keep the meal 100% gluten-free or at least to keep the non gluten-free items completely separate, in this case we prepared the glutenous part of the meal in a different area and served it separately. Here are some ideas to help make your next Passover more gluten-free friendly.

On the menu:

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup: We used a gluten-free mix and added garlic, onion, carrot and celery to the broth.

Vegetable Latkes made with potato starch and “matzo meal” made from gf kosher for passover crackers: we didn’t really use a recipe. We grated carrot, zucchini and onion in a food processor, removed the excess liquid and combined the veggies with eggs, potato starch and the crackers (which had been pulsed pulsed in a blender). Then we fried them in oil. It was that easy.

Flourless chocolate cookies: http://food52.com/recipes/19209-divine-gluten-free-chocolate-cookies-no-seriously These were delicious and according to the hostess easy to make. A great anytime gluten-free recipe.

Prepping Dinner

Two of my GFBFFs Prepping Dinner

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup Mix

Gluten-Free Matzo Ball Soup Mix

Gluten-Free Kosher for Passover Crackers

Gluten-Free Kosher for Passover Crackers

Gluten-Free Veggie Latkes made with zucchini, carrot and onion

Gluten-Free Veggie Latkes made with zucchini, carrot and onion

Flourless Cookies

Flourless Cookies

Gluten-Free Travel: Tips on how to travel without getting poisoned

Traveling in Turkey: at least coffee is gluten-free.

Traveling in Turkey: at least coffee is gluten-free.

I needed to escape this winter and took a last minute trip to Cuba with my mom. All-inclusives in Cuba are not known for their great food so you can imagine the gluten-free situation. They definitely did their best to accommodate my diet but as expected I ate a lot of fish, rice and snacks from home.

This trip inspired me to share my gluten-free travel tips.

Gluten-Free Travel Tips:

  • Always bring some real food onto the plane with you (particularly important if it will be a long flight). Never trust that a plane or train will provide you with a gluten-free meal. I am averaging about a 20% success rate in the gluten-free meal department, with the “meal” being even remotely edible about 40% of the time when it does arrive. Those two percentages combined gives us some pretty bad odds. Here is some news: people with celiac disease do not eat stale rice cakes with jam for breakfast. SHOCKER! Basically always bring some great food with you and you can be pleasantly surprised if an edible meal comes your way, which is much better than the alternative of being a crazy crangry person “But your airline confirmed 3 times that they would have a gluten-free meal!!”… Now I order my gf meal and when they say they don’t have it bla, bla, bla and I will get a $25 credit on my next booking I can block it all out and reach for my fresh meal in my carry on!
  • Snacks, snacks, snacks!!! Always make sure to pack your favorite snacks. Crackers, granola, nuts and Larabars are my faves. While traveling for a few weeks in Turkey my crackers traveled well and were a great starchy option to pull out when we were served cheeses. Granola and nuts are perfect to snack on or throw in yogurt. And Larabars are a must for the bottom of your bag when you realize you can’t eat a thing on the menu. Always bring more snacks than you think you need, your non-gf travel partners will want some snacks too. In Cuba there weren’t any desserts I could eat so that pack of gluten-free chocolates from home was essential.
    Quick list: granola/protein bars, granola, pretzels, crackers, dried fruit, nuts, miso soup packets, protein or meal replacement powder (ex: Vega), chocolate…
  • Print out a gluten-free travel cards in almost any language. This website has cards that explain gluten-free food preparation in 54 languages! I have used these cards in Turkey, Cuba, Costa Rica and Croatia.
  • Do your research. Before going to Turkey I researched gluten-free options and found out that it wasn’t super well known and that most of the rice dishes had barley. Knowing what foods to avoid and printing out some maps to gluten-free restaurants made the trip a lot easier.
  • Relax! While traveling with an allergy can definitely be f***ing annoying it’s definitely not the worst. You’re on vacation! Focus on the amazing parts of discovering somewhere new, it will help you forget that you can’t eat that croissant/baklava etc. It definitely helps to be prepared, both physically and mentally, with snacks and the knowledge that you will have days where you eat only apples, wine, and Larabars. C’est la vie. Note: This last tip is important but doesn’t really apply as well if you are  traveling for work. I will admit that traveling for work is not my favorite from a gluten-free perspective. Not having a access to a kitchen for a week while working long hours  and not knowing where to eat safely can definitely be downer.

Have any tips you want to share?

Gluten-free breakfast in Turkey with crackers brought from home.

Gluten-free breakfast in Turkey with crackers brought from home.

A Larabar is a beach bag essential!

A Larabar is a beach bag essential!

At least mojitos are gluten-free...

At least mojitos are gluten-free…