On going gluten free.

So… I have some dietary restrictions. I have some food allergies, several intolerance’s, and quite a few sensitivities. It certainly affects the food choices I make, the way I cook, and the recipes I develop.

(Beware: entering Too Much Information Zone.)

I don’t digest many raw veggies well, including raw vegetable juices which I tend to expel. I am allergic to the whole curcumvitae family of fruits and vegetables (squash, melons, cucumbers). I have a shellfish allergy. Since my daughter was born I have become intolerant of eggs . I have oral allergy syndrome and so my body sometimes, but not always, thinks certain foods are pollen and attacks them. I am allergic to almonds and sesame. In the last few years I have become completely intolerant of gluten. I am allergic to soy. Cruciferous vegetables are extremely challenging for my body and the last time I ate beets I inexplicably couldn’t keep them down. Who knows why. You may think I sound like a hypochondriac but one thing I have learned above all else during my puny life as here on earth is that NO ONE WANTS TO LIVE THIS WAY. So if someone says they are allergic to something and could you please make a substitution to a menu item the very best thing you can do is happily agree. I promise it will make their day if you are able to accommodate them rather than call them a lunatic or imply they are a challenging customer. I guarantee you they already feel like one.

My first year without soy or gluten I struggled with surprisingly severe depression. Bread was my first food love and baking was one of the reasons I got into cooking. Learning to live without gluten was very hard. Fighting off cravings was hard. A friend of mine who went through a similar transition about a year before me used to get “the donut shakes” and would pace her house trying to quell a severe need to eat donuts. I was never a huge donut fan before going gluten free but I got “the donut shakes” a few times after quitting gluten. It is such a crazy thing to have to live without all of a sudden. Your body basically has decided that the most common food in your life is poison. You know it hurts you so so badly, but all you want to do is eat a loaf of bread. The whole loaf. Everyone else is eating the bread and they’re all fine. But to you the bread is now poison! It is crazy, you feel crazy, you wonder if it is worth it, and you resist committing to stopping for a long time.

After consulting an allergist and a gastrointestinal specialist and not getting very many clear answers about why all this started, what were allergies vs. what were intolerance’s, or if I could ever hope to eat these foods again I decided to cut out all potential allergy triggers from my diet and work towards reincorporating what I could, where I could.
I am extremely thrilled to have gone through this process at a time when so many gluten free options are commonly available. It made the whole thing immensely easier and significantly cheaper than I imagine it would have been even 5 years ago.

I feel like I have not come a super long was towards reincorporating foods since then but looking at the variety of what I can prepare for myself and order in restaurants I am now content. It is occasionally still challenging, but I feel SO much better physically that I regret those times when I fall off the wagon (which certainly does happen) and happily hop back on it again. Because, to be honest, chronic diarrhea is no body’s friend.

My food goals for this year are pretty simple. I want to keep adding or reintroducing foods to my diet (working on the ones I classify as sensitivities), I want to continue to focus on developing recipes that my body can handle, I want to add a greater variety of foods to my diet, and I am consciously trying to eat at least 1 L or so worth of well cooked vegetables a day (mineral balancing recommendation). I hope to move back towards having a normal gut, but have also realized that my circumstances have forced creativity. I also have a deeper appreciation that people face all kinds of challenges everyday and all we can do is try our damn hardest to practice kindness towards each other. You just don’t know how another persons shit might be messing with them. Like literally.



bbq season

Alright folks. I know I have been gone from this blog for a long while but I haven’t totally abandoned it. Being a mom and working full-time and keeping house is just about more than I can handle at the moment. The extra things in life seem to be slipping away. I was finally able to spend some time in my garden yesterday and managed to prepare three out of seven beds for the growing season. I am counting the one spit of garden that surrounds my patio as its own space. This WILL be the year that I finally tackle the bishops weed growing there and relocate those silly shrubs. This I do swear.

Well it is definitely nice enough to bring out the BBQ and get grilling. I would challenge anyone reading this blog to think way outside the box for this BBQ season. Yes, we all love hotdogs and hamburgers but is it so much to ask for some fun condiments or a switch up in the burger mix? Should we always only be presented with grilled steaks smothered in bbq sauce? This summer I would ask you all to take some time and really plan out a few quick and easy bbq menus that would totally thrill and surprise people. I will do my part and provide you with some recipes (coming soon) to round out your repertoire. Let me know if there is anything you currently make on your grill that you think is different or unique. Maybe I can post one of your recipes up here also. Some thoughts I am having right off the hop are:

1. Crazy burgers – lets garlic and cheese those patties up. Go for some blue cheese and spinach with a nice roasted garlic mayo as a spread. Your guests will be amazed! Or do something southwest-y will a chipotle aoili, smoked cheddar and roasted corn patty.

2. Switch up the condiments and sides – I am personally really tired of seeing the same coleslaw/pasta salad/potato salad trio at every BBQ I attend. Lets do something with fresh produce from the farmers market! Cucumber and dill salad, bean salad, curtido, panzanella, grilled focaccia with dip (so delicious. go to Elements: the restaurant for happy hour and eat this. yum. yum. yum.), new spreads, new condiments and fixings for your mains, make a chutney.

3. Let us take a page from the 60’s and do up a proper party theme. Down to the bevvies. Pick a country. Make their food and drinks into a bbq. Done. Gimme any country and I will tell you how to make this work. Go on. Try me.

4. STOP BEING AFRAID OF MEAT OTHER THAN PORK AND BEEF AND CHICKEN! Geeze. Really. Go for the crazy sausages at Deluca’s or the beautiful lamb chops you’ve been eyeing. Research or ask your butcher for the best way to marinate and cook that cheap cut of meat. Then find a way to do that on the grill.

5. Marinades and Cures. Make some. Try some. Love it. My most popular marinade for chicken at the moment is simple : lemon peel (taken off a lemon with a peeler), lotsa garlic, sprig of thyme, some parsley, smoked soy sauce (or regular), canola oil, salt, cracked pepper, thinly sliced onion. Gold.   

6. Enjoy this weather. Winter is coming.

Have a great summer everyone! I hope to be back soon with some follow-up BBQ lovin’. Taker easy!

gearing up

Ben Kramer’s team 2009

Iron Chef Centrex 2011 draws ever nearer. The dates for this years food show are March 20 + 21 and it will be held at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, as per usual. If anyone is interested in checking the competition out please DO IT!!! We have 8 competing teams from Winnipeg’s finest restaurant, hotel, and foodservice operations. The winning team last year was Ben Kramer’s from Diversity Foodservices at the U of W and the runner-up was Alex Svenne’s from Bistro 7 1/4. What an astounding round! They put so many plates up the judges could hardly keep up with tasting them! We had a blast!

This will be the third year that Melissa and I have run the Iron Chef Centrex competition. Each year it has gone a little more smoothly so we are feeling pretty pumped about 2011. We had no idea what we were getting in for when we originally approached Centrex about reviving the competition as an element of the show. We walked in to the tradeshow the first year to start setting our mise en place up and both of our jaws dropped at the size and scope of our display. WOW! Centrex has been absolutely wonderful and it has been a very co-operative process to keep the competition running each year. We value their support and the resources that they provide us with. It has been great working with the organizers and getting a glimpse of what goes into planning and running a show of that size. I am proud to be a contributor to their success.

So far for this year we have seven teams confirmed. There is one more spot up for grabs. Melissa and I are planning some exciting things for the competition this year. They are secret things though! I’ll try to remember to blog about how everything goes after the fact.

Two teams battle it out

I still need to find my judges. I have 21 judging spots to fill. I generally contact about 40 people trying to fill the positions. We have three judges per round and try to keep things as fair as possible by including at least one chef, one supplier and one celebrity in each judging panel. Last year we had awesome judges. I was super appreciative of the time they took to come down to the show and that they participated in our competition. I was especially excited for the enthusiasm with which they approached their task. I really hope I can convince them to come back for Iron Chef Centrex 2011.

 Melissa is the champ who mainly takes care of organizing the common table and sourcing our products. She was a superstar the first year we did this as I had an infant to lug around with me everywhere. I wasn’t as involved as I had hoped to be, but she totally rocked it. I think (/hope) that I made up for it last year. We usually spend the week prior to the competition running around gathering equipment, supplies and food products. We spend most of the day saturday portioning out ingredients for the teams common tables. We give them set quantities of most things, like arborio rice for example. Last year we gave them 200g. We try to keep our common table pretty basic and have ingredients that we can foresee being used in at least three or more different ways. We also want to provide enough diversity to provide the teams with creative options when they are given their secret ingredients. We want them to put up great plates and we want to facilitate the creation of them. We have switched up the common table ingredients a little bit this year. We hope that the chefs are excited by the changes. And while we continue to get questions from them regarding the inclusion of molecular gastronomic additives and chemicals we have once again used the basic rule that “you want it, bring it. But bring enough to share between EVERY team.” We want this competition to showcase basic culinary skills. If you are crazy enough to spend part of the one hour time limit making carrot pearls as a garnish for your dish, by all means bring in the sodium alginate and calcium chloride. We would have to ensure fairness by making such things available across the board though.

Team Mirlycourtois 2009

So last year our competing teams came from: Provence Bistro, La P’tit France, MTS Centre,  Bistro 7 1/4, The Fairmont Hotel, Glendale Golf and Country Club, Bonfire Bistro, and Diversity Foodservices. Everyone did an amazing job and I hope that they had as much fun cooking their food as we did watching them serve up dishes to the judges.

This years competition will take place March 20 and 21. We start the one hour rounds on Sunday at noon and go on until 5:30 pm. The semi finals will again be held on the Monday of the show and will be at 11am, and 12:30 pm with the finals taking place at 2:30 pm.


I’m getting excited for the competition already. I hope that y’all come on down and see the show. The semi finals and finals are always pretty fierce. There is $1000 of prize money at stake as well as some serious bragging rights. Take ‘er easy and have a great week.

Iron Chef Centrex 2009