VILLA Restaurant does not disappoint!

I've never been disappointed with my food at VILLA Restaurant.  (Examples one, two and three.)  I visited again last night and of course had to document my meal.

Get ready to drool...

Gluten-free and vegan chocolate cake
Surprisingly, this cake contained no gluten, eggs or dairy.  While I found it to be a little on the dry side, it was packed with chocolate and was a great way to end a meal... whether on your own or shared.
Primavera with gluten-free noodles
I strayed from my usual Alfredo pasta and went for this Pasta Primavera.  Yum! Spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, olive oil - cooked to perfection!
Pizza Pollo with gluten-free crust
I didn't eat the Pizza Pollo... I'm a veggie.  But I was told it was really good!

Visit VILLA Restaurant if you're looking for great Italian food in Toronto!


Easy Quinoa Salad

In my attempt to copy one of my favourite dishes at a restaurant (The Beet, Toronto - Buenos Dias Wrap) I checked out the listed ingredients on their menu and came up with this quinoa salad recipe.  It's pretty much just quinoa mixed with pico de gallo.

Easy Quinoa Salad
Vegan, gluten-free
1 cup quinoa
1 - 2 tomato
1 mini cucumber
1/4 onion
Fresh cilantro, to taste
1 lime or 1/2 lemon

Cook quinoa according to pacakage directions.

While quinoa is cooking, chop tomato, cucumber and onion into tiny pieces.  Mix together in a bowl.

Add chopped cilantro and citrus juice and toss with veggies and quinoa.

Avocado - either you love it or hate it!  I personally love it.  If you're preparing as a wrap, just throw some quinoa salad in with some avocado, cheese, tomato slices, beans or anything else you see fit.  Enjoy!


Cutco Knife Giveaway!!

I am super excited about this one guys!  I recently was in contact with the amazingly friendly people from Cutco Canada who asked me to review their knives... 

And also host a giveaway!

I was immediately excited - I had heard such great things about these knives but never actually had the chance to own one.

They sent me a package with three products:
From left to right:
3721 - Santoku–Style Trimmer
2166 - 5" Petite Santoku
1501 - Vegetable Peeler 
Retail value: $239 CDN

CUTCO has been in business since 1949 and is known for what is called a Double D® edge. It’s like 3 straight edges recessed between the points so it cuts clean - not like the ripping and tearing that you get with serrated edges. The points help protect the blade itself from hitting the cutting board, plate, etc which can dull a knife. On average the Double D® edge stays sharp about 7-10 years before needing sharpening.

All CUTCO knives come with a Forever Guarantee.  If you are ever unsatisfied with the performance of your CUTCO knife, they will fix or replace the knife for free.  You can also send in your CUTCO knife for free sharpening, you just pay for the shipping and handling.

I have been using my knives and the peeler regularly for the last few weeks and I can't believe I went so long without them.  Slicing and chopping has never been easier and more precise.  They are fantastic knives and I know they will last me a lifetime.  Seriously, I don't think I'll ever need to buy knives again.

Oh, and check this out... the products are made in the USA! (When is the last time you saw that?!)

What kinds of foods are you most looking forward to cooking with the help of your new CUTCO knives and CUTCO peeler?
Tell me which product you would love and why.
  • Post your entry in a comment below before 11:59 EST on Sunday, April 29, 2012 and you will be entered to win one set of CUTCO products (as described above)
  • Please include your name (as it appears on Facebook) or your Twitter handle in your comment so I am able to contact you when/if you win!  If you do not have Facebook or Twitter, please ensure I have a way to contact you.
  • If you enter more than once (please don't) only your first comment will be considered.
This contest is open to Ontario residents only! (This is Gluten-Free Ontario, after all) The winner will be chosen by CUTCO and I will post the winner's name by Wednesday, May 2 2012 on Facebook, Twitter and on this page.

Comments on this blog require approval - please only post once and I will approve them at a later time.


Toronto - Bunner's Bake Shop

A little over a year ago, Bunner's Bake Shop opened in the Junction in Toronto. 

3054 Dundas Street West (North side)
Toronto, Ontario
(647) 352-2975

Everything they make is vegan (dairy-free and egg-free) and gluten-free!  Yeah, that's right, all you gluten-free people out there... it's like being a kid in a candy shop, except it's a bake shop.  And everything is gluten-free.

Vegan Gluten-Free Creme Filled Eggs - $4 each
I should point out that it was difficult to get an idea of the size of this Easter egg.  I was imagining a fairly small chocolate egg and they turned out to be much bigger than I had pictured.  I went on Thursday with the intent of picking up some of their Vegan Creme Filled Eggs for Easter.  I bought two.  They are gone.  No chocolates for me on Easter.  Mine didn't quite look like this image that I grabbed from their Facebook Fan Page.  The filling definitely didn't fill the inside, but I am glad it didn't.  It was very sweet and filling the inside would have been too much.  Overall, I would purchase this again.

Vegan Gluten-Free Pizza Pocket - $5
Wow, never thought I would get to eat a pizza pocket again!  The crust was perfect and while I thought it could use a little more filling, the taste was great.  Just like I remember the gluteny pizza pockets of my childhood.  I actually had this pizza pocket as a midnight snack.  Remember doing that when you were a kid?  Joy.

Vegan Gluten-Free Curry Pocket - $5
I should mention that I don't normally like curry... I bought this on a whim, because it was sitting there in the display case begging me to buy.  I do not regret that decision.  Just the right amount of spice and chick peas made this an item I am definitely looking forward to purchasing again.

Head on over to Bunner's Bake Shop.  You will not regret it.  The staff members are super friendly and they really take the time to make sure their products are top notch.


My Journey with Celiac Disease! 6 Year Anniversary!

It's my Celiac anniversary - I've been gluten-free for 6 years!

Ever wonder how I got here?  How Gluten-Free Ontario was started?

I remember it like it was yesterday...

I was in my first year of college (Police Foundations, if anyone's interested) and living life to the fullest.  Partying, going to school, studying, working.  Looking back, I'm surprised I found time to sleep.

Life suddenly came to a halt just into my second semester - I was sick.  I missed two straight months of school and work... and obviously gave up on the partying, too.  (Sound familiar, anyone?)

I had friends(?!) telling me (and others) that I was faking it to get out of work.  Faking it to get out of school.  Oh yes, I love faking sick to spend day after day at home in bed.  I love wasting thousands of dollars on education and textbooks.  (I did finish the semester and the rest of the program, by the way, and managed to get honours.)

I had multiple doctor appointments each week and numerous prescriptions and tests.

It was the afternoon of Friday, April 7, 2006 that my family doctor's office called.  They told me I needed to come in that afternoon before they closed... whenever I could make it there, they'd squeeze me in. (Yes, I know my doctor is awesome!)

After all of the tests I had been through leading up to that day, I was confused what she was calling me in so urgently for.  Usually the receptionist calls and tells me to make an appointment some time in the next couple weeks.  She wanted me there that day... that can't be good.

She sat me down and told me I have Celiac Disease and needed to follow a gluten-free diet for life.

I left the doctor's office, with half of me thinking, ha, there's a name to what's wrong with me and all those people who thought I was lying to get out of school and work can shove it!

The other half of me was thinking, aw crap, now what?  What am I supposed to eat?

I went to Loblaws on the way home from my doctor's office for some much needed gluten-free food. (Having worked at no frills for 3 years, I knew they had no special food for me.)  To my surprise, Loblaws had a pretty good selection!  Remember, this was 6 years ago and I had never heard of gluten-free food or Celiac Disease until a couple weeks before my diagnosis.

My first gluten-free meal that evening was potato pasta which I paired with some tomato sauce.  Wow, that meal was an utter failure.  The pasta was nothing like wheat pasta, it was quite disgusting and mushy and tasted gross.  I thought I was doomed to a life of crappy foods.

Little did I know, there was tons of companies out there who actually care about the quality of their food.  Some you can't even tell are gluten-free!! Plus, you can make lots of yummy foods with simple ingredients.

I learned early on that you can either be bitter about having Celiac Disease or you can choose to look at the more positive things in life.  I chose to see the positive side and help others find the good things in life.  I'm slightly obsessed with food... and I feel it is my duty to try all gluten-free food that is available :)

I was tired of all the American websites and support groups discussing restaurants and products that we don't have in Canada.  About a year after diagnosis, I started a group on Facebook called Ontario Celiacs.  It was a place for me and others to share local gluten-free information, like what kinds of products were out there, what stores had a good selection and restaurants that offered a gluten-free menu. 

I was all about trying to keep my life as normal as possible.  Normal to me was having the ability to go to restaurants with friends and family and continue enjoying pizza and pasta, even if it was gluten-free style.  This meant being aware of which restaurants could cater to my needs.  I spent hours seeking out restaurants with gluten-free options and gluten-free menus.  In my conversations with other Celiacs online, I realized that not everyone was familiar with the discoveries I had made about which restaurants offered food for us... and an idea came to me.

I would toss together a quick list of restaurants in Toronto that had gluten-free food.  But why stop there?  What about all of Ontario?!

Gluten-Free Ontario was born on July 31, 2007. 
(Well, that's when I bought the domain... the rough draft of the website was up a bit before then.)  I had no idea how much it would grow in the following years.

In 2010, I made a Facebook Fan Page for Gluten-Free Ontario just out of boredom one day and I actually got a few fans.  In early 2011, I started posting random pictures of food I was eating, products I was buying and the page started growing.  People were interested.  I started updating the Facebook Fan Page daily and paying for some advertising.  And here we are, 4200+ fans later and going strong. UPDATE: As of September, there are over 6700 fans.

One thing that surprises me is how much awareness has increased, even in just the 6 years that I have been diagnosed.  I see articles, television segments and big companies coming out with gluten-free food, not to mention the HUGE number of restaurants catching on, as well.

A little about me... currently, I manage a health store and am taking some nutrition courses.  (Yeah, I ended up not being interested in that Police Foundations stuff after all... haha big surprise there.)

What do I want to be when I "grow up?"  I haven't quite figured that out yet... but you betcha, it's gonna be something related to Celiac Disease.

I want to thank all of you for being amazing and supportive of my journey with Celiac Disease.  This story turned out much longer than I intended... sorry about that.

Do you have any stories about your gluten-free journey you'd like to share?


Vegan Alfredo Sauce - GFCF

Alfredo is one of my favourite dishes.

Being dairy-free sucks.  Well, wait a second... maybe not.

I made this dairy-free Alfredo sauce and it was really good!  Nice taste, with great creamy texture.  I would like to thank Daiya for making their products!

Oy, I should have measured but I typically don't like to be precise with these kinds of things... so I will take an educated guess. :)  The following is enough for one serving but you can adjust accordingly.
 Vegan Alfredo Sauce

1 tbsp vegan butter
1/4 cup Mimic Creme Unsweetened
2 tbsp soy milk, unsweetened
2 scoops Daiya, mozzarella
Black pepper
Fresh parsley

Melt vegan butter over low heat.

Add Mimic Creme and soy milk and simmer for 3 minutes until hot.

Remove from heat and add Daiya.  Stir.

Add chopped fresh parsley, nutmeg and black pepper to taste.
I tossed in a few pieces of red pepper and brocolli.  It would also work well with mushrooms and/or chicken.

Oh and I used Rizopia Fettucine noodles.


Gluten-Free Tax Credit in Canada

The following post was originally written by me in October 2010, with some modifications for 2011 taxes.  Please note that I am not an accountant or a tax expert.  This is my understanding...

If you're anything like me, it's April and you haven't done your taxes yet.

As any Celiac knows, a gluten-free diet can be very expensive.  According to this article:
"Gluten-free foods, on average, cost a whopping 242% more than regular, gluten containing foods!"
The good news for my Canadian friends is there is tax deduction information listed on the Canada Revenue Agency site.  In order to qualify for this, you MUST:
  • have a note from your doctor stating that the diet is necessary AND
  • save all receipts for gluten-free products purchased AND
  • calculate the difference in cost between GF items versus regular gluten-filled items. 
You may claim this "incremental cost" of your gluten-free diet.  The CRA website includes a sample chart showing how to determine incremental cost.  (Keep reading to completely understand what all of this means for you.)

I found this information about medical expenses on the CRA website:
Only expenses in excess of the lesser of $2,052 (federal, for 2011) or 3% of net income can be claimed.
You are probably asking yourself, "But what does this mean?!"

Well, I decided to investigate further and let me show you, based on the 2011 tax year, my understanding of how this works...
You must spend over 3% of your net income (after taxes) annually in medical expenses.  The last column in the chart above gives you an idea what that figure looks like per month so you can see how it compares to your monthly spending on gluten-free foods and other medical expenses.

If you have multiple people/dependents (kids) in the same household that must follow a gluten-free diet, or you have a lot of other medical expenses, it would probably be much easier to surpass the 3%.  But you DO NOT get any credit for the initial 3%.

According to my friend Nikki, who is studying to be an accountant, you are entitled to a 15% credit on the amount above the 3% (or above $2052, depending on your income).

   Example: In 2011, Mary's net income was $40000 and she spent $1600 on medical expenses (incremental cost of gluten-free food, dentist, prescriptions, etc).  Three percent of her annual income is only $1200.

   1600 - 1200 = $400
   0.15 x 400 = $60

   Mary would get a $60 tax credit.

I personally do not have the patience to keep all of my gluten-free receipts. Also, I do not have many other medical expenses so I really don't think I spend enough each month to make a claim necessary.

What are your thoughts on the tax deductions for gluten-free medical expenses?

Have you filed a medical expense claim for your gluten-free diet?  I would love to hear your experiences.


Jax is nominated for a gluten-free award!

(Yes, I enjoy referring to myself in the third person.)

Anyway, I've been nominated for an award!
I received an email a couple days ago, reading:
You, your client or boss has been nominated for the inaugural FOGGY (Free of Gluten) Awards presented by Find Me Gluten Free. This is the first awards program in the gluten-free industry to honor the individual people that shine light on the gluten-free industry.

Aww shucks!

I am in the Top 40 Under 40 category, going for the title of 2012 Young Executive of the Year.  Wouldn't you love to see someone local win?!  I am up against people like Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Steve Nash, Novak Djokovic and some other pretty big people in the gluten-free world.  I am honoured to represent Canadians everywhere.

I would certainly love to win and I would like you to vote for me please!

Please and thank you!


Cupcakes that look/taste like Hostess! from Katz

Katz Imaging Custom Cakes
Alright, so... I posted this picture on my Facebook page and there was outcry for this delicious cupcake.

If you're in the Greater Toronto Area or in the Golden Horseshoe, you can order these chocolate masterpieces (and more!) from Katz Imaging Custom Cakes.  Kathy, the creator of these gluten-free goodies, is in Mississauga and you can also make an appointment to pick up from her.  Custom orders are available, as well as dairy-free and egg-free baked goods.

Kathy offers a wide range of gluten-free cupcakes (see below for some more pictures).
Katz Imaging Custom Cakes
To be completely honest, I'm not sure that I had ever actually eaten a gluteny Hostess Cupcake... my parents didn't often buy sugary treats when I was younger.  

I almost immediately dove into the chocolate cupcake with the swirl on top when I received the cupcakes.  Wow, heaven!  Was not expecting it to have the cream in the middle, especially after Kathy had told me that they were also dairy-free.  Yum!  I can't imagine that the gluteny packaged version would taste so fresh and have such great texture.

Yeah, I went there.  Better than Hostess. 

Up next, this chocolate delight.  (Sorry, I'm not sure of the names of these cupcakes.)
Katz Imaging Custom Cakes
Same texture as the first cupcake, but without the cream in the middle and this fluffy chocolate frosting.  Perfect for any chocolate lover!  The cupcake has a rich, almost brownie-like quality.  The added chocolate chips (dairy-free!) on top were also a nice touch.

And last, but not least, this chocolate cupcake with raspberry frosting.
Katz Imaging Custom Cakes
This cupcake was also delicious.  Just a hint of raspberry in the icing complimented the chocolate cupcake perfectly.

If you are in the GTA or Horseshoe area, I encourage you to order something from Katz Imaging Custom Cakes.  You will not regret it!