Chicago Gluten and Allergen Free Expo: News and Nibbles

As I sit writing this post, I am nibbling on Enjoy Life's new Mega Chunk chocolate chunks, one of the several new products unveiled at last weekend's Gluten and Allergen Free Expo held at the Wyndham Hotel in Lisle, IL. The Expo, founded by Jen Cafferty and presented by Living Without Magazine, is in its 4th year and has grown in popularity each year.

I attended the Gluten and Allergen Free Vendor Fair on Friday, April 29th, spending nearly 3 hours touring over 60 different vendor booths, sampling products and talking with the vendors. I came home with a grocery bag full of samples and am excitedly optimistic about the world of gluten and allergen free product offerings. Here is a highlight of what's new in 2011.
Sweets
Enjoy Life

Enjoy Life introduced several new products at the Expo this year, including Mega Chunks. These are semi-sweet baking chips that are gluten free as well as dairy, nut and soy free. My daughter and I also sampled their Double Crunch Nut and Gluten Free Granola and 4 varieties of cookies: Sugar Crisp, Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, and Vanilla Honey Graham. All cookies had a thin, crispy sweetness to them.

Andean Dream

This company, started in 2006 by an Los Angeles businesswoman, focuses on quinoa-based cookies and pastas. The quinoa used is organic Royal Quinoa, grown in Bolivia. They currently offer 5 varieties of quinoa cookies, ranging from Raisins & Spice to Orange Essence and Coconut. The result is a unique, mildly sweet, and nutritiously dense cookie. Added bonus: The individual cookie wrappers are made with a vegetable-based material that is completely recyclable!

Cru Creations

What a find! A delicious gluten and dairy free cheesecake continues to elude me, but when I tried Cru Creations' sample of their Bananas Foster cheesecake, I was sold. Their gourmet cheesecakes are made using various nuts and coconut oil, to help achieve the silky creaminess of gluten and dairy-filled cheesecake. They offer flavors reminiscent of New Orleans (Coffee & Chicory, Praline, Bananas Foster) and currently sell a Key Lime flavor at The Happ Inn Bar & Grill in Northfield. Their boutique desserts are currently available for order via phone or email, but they are working towards national distribution.

Crackers and Chips
Blue Diamond
Moving from sweet to savory, Blue Diamond had several new product offerings for snacking. They have Baked Nut Chips in three varieties: Sour Cream & Chive, Nacho, and Sea Salt made from brown rice and almonds. Both the Nacho and Sour Cream & Chive varieties contain milk, so I only tried the Sea Salt flavor. They have a nice crunch and are thick enough to hold up to dips and hummus.

El's
Spicy snacking was on-hand at El's booth. They are the only producer of gluten-free bagel chips that I am aware of and now also offer Medleys (Zesty Mix). Both snack foods contain flaxseed and a spice mixture that give them a robust taste with a hint of heat.

Wellaby's

Continuing my quest for the goldfish cracker replacement, I had my daughter sample the Classic Cheese Ups at Wellaby's booth. Her feedback? A firm thumbs up. Wellaby's also produces several varieties of crackers suitable for spreads or a glass of wine, as well as mini crackers. Extra bonus - they produce their crackers in a dedicated gluten free facility.

Crunchmaster
Similar to Blue Diamond, Crunchmaster produces a variety of rice crackers. They have been making their rice and multi-seed crackers for years from naturally gluten free ingredients such as sesame, quinoa, amaranth and flaxseed. This results in crackers that are tasty as well as having some protein and fiber.

Breads

Udi's
Based in Colorado, this baker of delicious bread was on-hand with two new product offerings in time for summer: hamburger and hot dog buns. All of their breads have a delicious taste and texture and these buns do not disappoint. Udi's recently announced the launch of their Ancient Grain bread line: Millet-Chia and Omega-Salba. These breads will pack a more nutritious bang for your bread slice buck. At the Expo, Udi's also offered samples of their gluten free granola made from certified gluten free oats.

Rudi's
Strangely similar in name, location, and taste but separate from Udi's is Rudi's. Also makers of delicious bread products, I sampled their Cinnamon Raisin bread at the Expo. Toasted with Earth Balance spread, I had visions of enjoying this toast with coffee and the paper on a quiet, sunny morning. Rudi's just launched multi-grain hot dog and hamburger buns for the summer grilling season. I can't wait!
 
Against the Grain Gourmet
Up to this point, I have not been able to enjoy the airy breads, rolls, and bagels from Nancy Cain's Vermont-based business because they contained milk. She now offers cinnamon raisin bagels and rolls that are casein free. I am looking forward to purchasing these once they become available very soon in the Midwest.

Beverages

Woodchuck Cider is one of my favorite alcholic beverages since being diagnosed with celiac. It has a crisp, sweetness to it and is a good alternative to beer. I have always enjoyed their Amber cider and was pleasantly surprised to know how many other flavors they make. Over the last two and a half years they have been creating seasonal varieties such as Maple Brown Sugar for spring, Blueberry for summer, Pear, Granny Smith Apple, and even Pumpkin for fall.

New Technology

Three new products caught my eye as great ways of using technology to help those with celiac disese and other food allergies. Allerbling, out of Redmond, Washington makes clever wristbands for children with various charms to indicate which foods that particular child may be allergic to. The full kit comes with 2 wristbands and 8 charms indicating such allergies as peanut, wheat, dairy, egg, tree nut, and coconut.

Kim Maes, founder of Cook IT Allergy Free, was demonstrating her software for making recipe finding quick, easy, and allergen free. You can now download an iPhone and iPad application  that can customize her recipes to accommodate various food allergens, save these recipes to a grocery list, and keep them easily organized.

GlutenToxHome was demonstrating their at-home gluten detection kit. The scientist in me was instantly intrigued by the product. The home kit contains two test strips that contain the G12 antibody that detects gluten in wheat, rye, barley and oats. The tests can be adjusted to detect gluten levels that exceed 20ppm (the current standard for "gluten free") or down to 5 ppm. A user mashes a small amount of the food in question, mixes with water, and then dips the test strip into the sample. A kit containing two test strips is $28.

There were many other vendors in attendance, and I cannot include them
all here. Kinnickinnick, Glutino, San-J, and AllergyFree Foods are just a few
offering everything from sandwich bread to sauces and chicken nuggets
for quick and convenient meals on-the-go.
Overall, it was a great experience for those new to living gluten free as well as those that have been following an allergen free lifestyle for years.

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    Rachel Young

    I've been gluten and dairy free since 2008 and hope to share recipes and resources I've discovered for living with celiac.

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