Monday, 23 June 2014

The Short(ish) Goodbye


So after many years blogging here and living through what feels like many versions of myself - the loss of friends and family members over the last year - has definitely thrown perspective of what I value into sharp focus. I think it is time to down tools and stop blogging. I shall be closing out my Facebook page and my Twitter feed too. I'm of two minds about it. I would like to stay on blogging, but quite frankly I'm just too busy in the real world to keep this as a hobby. So at the same time I am glad to be finishing up as I will now have more time to continue with my 'outside' life.

I think I am a bit disillusioned with the whole gluten free scene. Not the community - you guys rock, but with everybody outside of it. Mind, there are elements within the community that are stagnant and so in a way prevent things from evolving and improving through motivations that are are beyond my understanding. I'm an idealist at heart. 

To those bakeries, shops and restaurants that have offered me gluten free options that are actually NOT gluten free - a genuine screw you. Stop marketing your food as gluten free when they are clearly made in a cross contaminated environment. Don't advertise gluten free and then put in the small print (or maybe not even include small print) that they aren't suitable for people who have coeliac disease or for those who are intolerant. Just stop. They are not gluten free, so please why even write those words down, except to dupe some unsuspecting person who will just get sick. Just to be clear - if there is gluten present in your food because of cross-contamination, then your food has gluten in it - therefore not gluten free, no matter what alternative ingredients you use. 


So why do you even bother using gluten free ingredients? Clearly there is a cross contamination issue, so what's the point? At least there was a notice informing the buying public. There are far too many bakeries doing this sort of thing. I can actually feel my blood pressure rising.



Another classic. Friends with gluten? Honestly, I am NOT friends with gluten. I do not want food that is friendly with gluten. This sign was meant to indicate that there were gluten free options available (which incidentally were also not gluten free due to cross contamination, so I guess in a way, it is actually gluten friendly). Clear signage, eh.


To those bakeries, shops, restaurants, small businesses, big businesses and everyone who has ever offered me gluten free options that are actually gluten free - I am indebted. Thank you for showing this rather fed-up and jaded girl that there are decent people and businesses out there who really do want to go out of their way for their customers, who actually want to produce high quality, decent, SAFE food and environments to dine in. You have shown me that my options are not as closed off as I first thought they were when I first started traveling my (unfortunately, very necessary) gluten free road. *insert brass band and firework display of gratitude here*


Stock Image


I only wish I had the conviction and back bone to be a hard core, brilliant gluten free activist (see Gluten Dude  http://glutendude.com for inspiration), but alas, I am just one small voice on a small island that has lost some of its will to keep going.

So to close, thank you to everyone who accepted me with virtual open arms. You lot are an incredible backbone to rely on when isolation, seclusion, frustration and exhaustion seem to be my only friends. Your kind encouragement and brilliant debate kept things good. So I humbly thank you for your interaction, sharing your stories, general online banter and putting up with me when I didn't even make sense to myself or could not make sense of what I was trying to convey.

I will still keep this blog and its pages up and published and I will probably continue to update my beer blog on occasion. If anybody wishes to reach me for whatever reason - my email will still be active glutenfreephotos[at]gmail.com So apart from that - thank you for taking the time to drop by over the years and keeping me company here.

I'll leave you all with a summary of what I've learnt in the 9 years of being gluten free:

Always read the label, always.

Do look beyond the 'gluten free' label and make sure you're not poisoning yourself with other unhealthy & harmful ingredients.

Never chance a 'made in an environment that handles gluten' food item.

Try and eat natural, seasonal foods. The longer the shelf life of a product, the more likely it is not good for you. Avoid.

Go to your GP for regular check-ups and blood work. 

Don't ignore your health. If you feel something's up - that means there is something up! Look after yourself.

Accept the fact that you're going to get 'glutened' sometimes, no matter how hard you try not to. (There's secret gluten everywhere!)

Make sure you always carry emergency gluten free food rations before you go out the door.

Eat a gluten free meal before you go out with your mates for an evening. Sounds silly, but trust me - this is worth doing, especially if there is no advance planning of where you're heading out for the night.

It's okay to feel frustrated by the world and its lack of understanding.

Have a sense of humour, but not at the expense of who you are or your own personal struggle and dietary needs. You are not a target.

Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself. Whether to your family and friends who don't quite understand why you are gluten free, or to restaurant/hotel/B&B/etc., or simply demanding a better availability of gluten free food in shops - food is your only medicine, you should be allowed to eat decent quality, safe food and not be limited.

You are not alone - there are literally hundreds of thousands of people living on a necessary gluten free diet. Get onto social networking sites and start expanding your support base. Twitter is a great place to start. There are so many fantastic gluten free bloggers out there. 

Spread the word! Be your own gluten free campaigner. If you know people who are experiencing symptoms similar to coeliac disease or gluten intolerance or have family members who have coeliac disease, encourage them to get a blood test. Help educate your circle of peers. 

Don't give up on yourself or your diet. The health implications are tremendous. You are too valuable.

Like I said, most importantly - always read the label. Always. 

Yours,

Kel
The GFP x









Thursday, 19 June 2014

Product Review: Veronica's Snacks - Crunchy Creatures


Earlier in the week, I received an email from a representative over at Veronica's Snacks http://www.veronicassnacks.com inviting me to try their new range of gluten free baked corn snacks named Crunchy Creatures. Having previously reviewed some of the Veronica's Snacks range (http://glutenfreephotos.blogspot.ie/2013/07/product-review-veronicas-snacks-munchy.html) I was definitely game to try these out. 


 


I received 3 Cheese Crunchy Creatures bags x 30g and a Cheese Crunchy Creatures multi-pack that contained 5 x 15g bags. Crunchy, munchy happiness indeed. I do love a decent gluten free snack. I was delighted to try these out. I am more than happy to promote an excellent, Irish, gluten free business and Veronica's Snacks is just that. These are clearly aimed towards a younger audience and my daughter was very willing to help me taste test them.

The packaging is colourful and fun. The mascot is a tyrannosaurus and his dinosaur friends, which you will soon be able to read more about on the site, are known as the Crunchy Creatures. The bag is clearly marked with a gluten free label on the front and the back reads that they are suitable for vegetarians and coeliacs. The crossed grain symbol is present. They are also 100% organic - I love that.

These snacks are:

- Baked not fried 
- Contain no artificial colours or flavourings
- Organic
- Contain no trans fats
- Contain no GMOs

It's nice to see a child friendly gluten free snack coming onto the market. There will soon be three flavours to choose from: Cheese, Salt & Vinegar and Spicy Tomato. Yay!

I really liked these. There is something irresistible about eating a dinosaur shaped snack. The kid in me comes out. The cheese flavour is not over-powering and is well balanced so that the actual corn taste of the snack is not lost. I would not know this was a baked snack. Very crunchy, very, very moreish. They did not last long! They are a really great alternative to crisps and to be honest, I would choose these snacks over a packet of crisps any day - they are that tasty. The novelty of dinosaur shaped corn snacks is one that I don't think I could get tired of!

 



There's not much else to say, but go ahead and grab a bag when you see one. If you need an excuse, just say that you are buying them for some children and then sneakily keep them to yourself. Though it is fun to share - simply to play with the dinosaurs!


Copyright Veronica's Snacks


Read more about Veronica's Snacks story here: http://www.veronicassnacks.ie/our-story

Find Crunchy Creatures on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/crunchycreature 
Find Veronica's Snacks on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/veronicassnacks

Find Crunchy Creatures on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CrunchyCreaturz
Find Veronica's Snacks on Twitter: http://twitter.com/veronicassnacks





Sunday, 15 June 2014

Product Review: Glebe Farm Foods


Back sometime in the middle of May, I received an email from someone over at Glebe Farm Foods http://www.glebe-flour.co.uk/gluten_free/home.php inviting me to taste test their range of food. I've only ever seen Glebe Farm Foods in passing at the odd health food store, however I have never tried anything by them before so I was happy to be introduced to something new. 




So the fine people over at Glebe Farm Foods sent me a staggeringly generous selection of their products.

I received:

Gluten & Wheat Free Strawberry Oat Granola Crisp
Gluten & Wheat Free Maple & Pecan Oat Granola Crisp
Gluten Free Oat Fruit Muesli
Gluten Free Porridge Oats 
Gluten Free Oat Bran Porridge
Gluten Free Carrot Cake Mix
Gluten Free Sultana Scone Mix
Gluten Free Cranberry & Blueberry Muffin Mix
Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix
Gluten Free Seeded Brown Bread Mix
Gluten & Wheat Free Oat Flour


Glebe Farm 'Night Mission' Gluten Free Beer*
Glebe Farm Side-R Ciders**

*The review for the gluten free beer can be found over on my Gluten Free Beer Blog here: http://glutenfreephotos.blogspot.ie/2014/03/the-gluten-free-beer-blog.html

** I will not be publishing a review of the ciders, as I intend to hopefully, one day have a gluten free cider blog published, which will then include these ciders. I am making no guarantees as to when I will get around to doing this!!

How indescribably amazing is all that! I didn't know where to start. I was originally going to blog separately about each product, then I had a rethink and decided that it was probably best to keep the reviews in one place. So ready yourself for a lengthy post! You would expect lots of pictures of delicious muffins and cakes, but alas, my clearly deprived and famished family were too quick for my camera to get decent shots of the different mixes I baked with. Unfortunately porridge does not photograph well - so I didn't even attempt to take any photos.

~ ~ ~

So I began with the granola's. I'm a sucker for granola. It is one of my favourite things to have for breakfast (well, maybe apart from pancakes!) - it's always a treat to tuck into granola.

You'd expect to see tasteful shots of the granola about now, but I'm going to admit - the granola's were the first to go out of the lot. No camera work - I was too busy eating. I would personally love to see bigger bags of the granola - they weigh in at 370g, but to a granola fiend like me - I can horse that lot into me in two days!

The granola did not go soggy in milk. It was filling and the taste was good. The packaging clearly marked that it was tested to be gluten and wheat free and that they use wholegrain oats. I am thankfully in a position where oats do not bother me. I can eat them all the time. So I'm grateful that they are not off the menu for me. My only issue was with the Strawberry Oat Granola, there were raisins in it. I wasn't expecting that and they weren't listed on the front as an ingredient - so slightly disappointed.

If you like granola - I'd say Glebe Farm granola's are for you. Not too sweet. My favourite was the Maple & Pecan one. So good.

~ ~ ~

Next up are the Thanks For Franks bars - I'm going to be honest with you on this one, I am not a fan. Mostly because I do not like raisins in snack bars. The granola bars were filling, but I wasn't that keen on the taste.

They are clearly marked with the cross grain symbol on the packaging and looked very inviting to eat. If you like lots of fruit in your granola bars, these are for you. I gave them out to my friends who definitely enjoyed them. Straightforward and satisfying were the words given to me to describe them.

~ ~ ~

So moving onto the gluten free porridge, the gluten free oat bran porridge and the gluten free oat fruit muesli. Overall, these three porridgy (not a word, I know!) type cereals were a hit for me. Even the fruit muesli, though I had this one in small doses, due to the fruit content. Somehow I can take fruit better served in a hot breakfast - go figure!

The packaging clearly marks that these products are gluten free, high in fibre and made with sustainable wholegrain oats. Porridge is a great way to set yourself up for the day and it was pretty filling. The taste factor gets a thumbs up from me.

~ ~ ~

So on to the mixes - the packaging on all the mixes clearly marked them as gluten free. There were very straightforward instructions detailing how to bake everything. There were egg free suggestions that directed me to their website and there was a list on the front of each mix declaring what the mix is free from. For example, the cranberry and blueberry muffin mix lists itself as: gluten free, wheat free, corn free, dairy free, soya free and egg free. However, I used buttermilk or milk, eggs and butter (as required), when I baked with the mixes - so really, it all depends what your dietary requirements are and then bake as necessary. 

The mixes were great. The scones came out beautifully, the cakes, everything. No complaints. If you want something easy and convenient - these mixes pretty much tick all the boxes. So go forth and bake!

 ~ ~ ~

Everything reviewed for this blog post was clearly marked as vegan/vegetarian and gluten free.

Apart from the fact that you can pick up Glebe Farm gluten free foods and mixes in shops across the country (see their Irish stockists list here: http://www.glebe-flour.co.uk/gluten_free/stockists/Ireland.php), they also ship straight to your door. I'm all for convenience. So browse their online shop and treat yourself! http://www.glebe-flour.co.uk/gluten_free/shop.php





You can read more about Glebe Farm's story here: http://www.glebe-flour.co.uk/gluten_free/about_us.php 

Find Glebe Farm Foods on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GlebeFarmFoods
Find Glebe Farm Foods on Twitter: http://twitter.com/GlebeFarmFoods