New Jersey Gluten Free Expo Preview

Guess what’s back???? Only my favorite event of the year, The Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo! If you’ve spent at least 5 minutes on my blog you can see that I am a HUGE fan! This year will be my 4th (!!!) Expo!

Here’s the spark notes version of the GFAF Expo:

  • Two Days, One Ballroom, HUNDREDS of Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Vendors all sampling and selling their AMAZING products!

Have I sparked your interested yet? Here’s a link for tickets:

If I haven’t, how about these photos from my experiences?

Or how about this schedule of classes you can attend at the GFAF Expo….

Still don’t have your interest? Well you’ve made it this far into my post so you have to be somewhat interested. So checkout my previews and recaps from 2 out of my 3 prior expo experiences. (The first happened before my blog was born)

Atlanta 2015 GFAF Expo

New Jersey 2015 GFAF Expo

Are you drooling yet? No? Well check out the list of vendors for this year! Glutino, Enjoy Life, Feel Good Foods, Udis, Veggie Fries….



Yeah I know, me too!

So you could say I’m an experienced expo visitor however I am still SO excited for this year. With all of the amazing vendors, it is important to arrive hungry and not to waste your stomach space on foods you know you already love. For example I already know I love Glutino. Obviously I am going to stop to support my favorite brand and try their new pretzels but I regret wasting my stomach space on them when I could try something new. Like a bagel from Sweet Note Bagels.  I was dying to try their products on my last expo trip but didn’t have the stomach space for it. This year I am determined to save stomach space for them.

Here are some of the vendors I am prioritizing my stomach space for this year:

  • Sweet Note Bagels
    • I know I already mentioned them above, but they have rainbow bagels!! I’ve never had a rainbow bagel before!
  • Banza Pasta
    • I am definitely looking for a new (healthier) brand of mac and cheese
  • Betty Lou’s
    • Their nut butter energy balls look AMAZING!
  • Chebe
    • Their bread mixes look so moist!
  • Brazi Bites
    • My sister saw them on Shark Tank and has been trying to get me to try them. The GFAF Expo sounds like the perfect occasion.
  • Maninis
    • Gluten Free Ravioli? Yes please!!
  • Incredible Perfectly Free Frozen Treats
    • The photos of these remind me of Mochi! I wonder what it tastes like? I guess I will have to wait until October to find out!

There you have it. If you made it this far in my post I must have convinced to attend the GFAF Expo, so here are the details:

What: GF & AF Expo

Where: Meadowlands Exposition Center

When: October 15 & 16

How to get tickets: 

*** From now thru 10/14 take 20% off w/ code ADVANCE


Gluten Free Finds at Smorgasburg!

Hello Friends! It’s been a while since I had a new post. It hasn’t been for lack of adventures, but more the lack of time to write about them. This weekend’s adventure however deserves a post!

If you’re in the NY/NJ Area you’ve most likely heard of Smorgasburg. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an outdoor market on Saturdays and Sundays in Brooklyn. It’s a place for foodies and Instagrammable moments. (The number of times I heard the phrase “I have to Instagram this before we eat,” was insane!) The amazing view of Manhattan is not a bad accessory to the photos.

This was my first trip to Smorgasburg and before embarking on my journey I decided to do some research. My research consisted of gluten free spots at Smorgasburg, best stops at Smorgasburg, and tips for Smorgasburg. There was a lack of information online about gluten free options at Smorgasburg, but once I got there I was pleasantly surprised!!! There were a ton of places that had signs for gluten free options! (Many more than I actually tried.)

When you first get there I definitely suggest doing a lap (or two) before deciding on your food options. It might be crowded but it’s definitely worth it. Explore all the options before deciding on where you want to eat. I only did one lap and I actually regret it. I was too quick to decide and realized afterwards there were other options I wanted to spend my $ and stomach space on. Also, heads up the food is expensive at Smorgasburg. Gluten Free eaters are used to spending a little more on food but these prices were a little crazy.

Anyway, enough of the money. Lets talk about the food! 😍

My main stop for lunch was at Red Hook Lobster Pound! I got the Naked Maine Style Lobster Roll. Right on their sign they said if “Gluten Free order it Naked!”  I didn’t need to explain why I wanted the Lobster Roll on a plate with no bun.

I would give the lobster roll 4 out of 5 stars. It was amazing, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have ordered it another style, but for $19 it wasn’t a lot of food.

For my next stop, my sister and I decide to try Raindrop Cake. We wanted to know what all the hype was about. The people at the stand were well-educated and said everything was Gluten Free.



I have to say, I am not a fan of raindrop cake. There is no flavor and it’s a weird texture. You feel like you are eating sugar and flavorless jello. We did it to say we tried it, but I would definitely spend your money elsewhere and just take a picture of someone else’s.

After that, my sister wanted an Ice Cream sandwich. I took her there while keeping my eyes out for other options. We went to The Good Batch and when we got to the front of the line I was shocked, they had TWO gluten free ice cream sandwiches!!! A strawberry and a mint one. My sister (who is not gluten free) chose the mint one and I decided to take a bite. Holy mackerel!! It was the most amazing thing I have had in a while and I am not a huge mint ice cream fan. My sister was in heaven too! I totally recommend it! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 out of🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟!! Skip all the lunch options and go straight to dessert!


To wash it down I got an Arnold Palmer Slushie with Peach from Kelvin Slush Co. which was great too!

My only regret of the day was getting the lobster roll instead of food from the East Coast Poke stand. It looked amazing! I didn’t ask if their stuff was gluten free though because it was already too late and I didn’t want to torture myself. edit: upon doing research on East Coast Poke all of their fish is marinated in soy sauce or teriyaki. I am now happy with my decision to have the lobster roll.  🙂

Some of the other stops I didn’t eat at but had GF options…..

Home Frite- The line was the second longest of the entire fair so I am sure they were amazing. They only served french fries so no concerns about shared oil and cross contamination. According to their website all of their sauces are gluten free too!

Korean BBQ/Tacos/ Buns- I feel like a terrible blogger for not taking a photo of this stand, but there was a stand that had four items. Two of them were gluten free and you could get any of the other two made with gluten free buns.

edit: Doing more research to find the name of the stand that had the gluten free buns I realized more had gluten free food that I completely missed.

If you are Gluten Free and going to Smorgasburg here are a few tips of advice:

1- Go early. It opens at 11 a.m. and the “early bird gets the worm” falls true for this one. Beat the crowds, especially if you want to ask questions about gluten free options.

2- Go early or late in the summer. Going in July when it is 90 and humid isn’t fun. It suppresses your appetite and you lose patience with the crowds really quickly. Also all the ovens, fryers and stoves from the stands don’t help with the heat. Major props to the people working the stands.

3- Do your research ahead of time, but research with an open mind. What I mean is, do your research on the most popular stands and the different food options they have so you have an idea of what you want when you get there, but keep an open mind with what you want because it might not be gluten free or there might be better GF options out there.

4- Ask questions, if you aren’t sure if something is gluten free, don’t give up, ask! You might be surprised.

5- I said this at the beginning, but do at least one lap of the place when you get there. Explore the different options before making your decisions and see which places have GF labels on their signs!




Eating Gluten Free at College

Having Celiac Disease in college is a challenge and one that I was able to overcome. For many students picking a college, food is not the deciding factor. They are aware that college food is college food no matter where you go. For someone with Celiac Disease however it is an extra challenge and adjustment. I was fortunate enough to do the Pre College Program at Emory which exposed me to my dining choices. The chef had to make a special meal for me but that was not ideal. He didn’t understand that Celiacs have a sensitive stomach and that I could not tolerate spicy food. Towards the end of my two week visit I started avoiding the dining hall and just going for the salad bar. I lost a lot of weight during the program and my mom made me promise that if I went to Emory for college that I would have to better explain my sensitivities to the chef to ensure I had more than just salad for dinner every night.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to! During the year between my pre-college summer and freshman year Gluten Free became a lot more common, to the point that they were going to put a Gluten Free station in the dining hall! It took a lot of learning and adjustments that first year but Emory tried their hardest! They held focus groups with the gluten free students to find out what was working, what didn’t work, and what kind of food we wanted to eat. We also were able to provide feedback in terms of the best brands of bread to buy, the cereals, etc because most of us had our allergies for many years. This also allowed me to get to know other gluten free students, especially those who had cars and could take me to the grocery store if I needed to, because they understood my situation.

In the dining hall itself, someone would always be watching the Gluten Free station to make sure only those students who were gluten free were eating there. (I even got yelled at a few times for taking food from the gluten free station if I had other food on my tray) There were separate fridges, microwaves, and toasters to avoid as much cross contamination as possible. They had cards at the beginning of each semester that we had to pick up an Emory nutritionist that said our allergies were registered with the school and that we had permission to eat at the station. Most of the workers would start to recognize you after a few weeks, but the first few weeks of each semester they were extremely helpful. There was also one chef dedicated to the gluten free station and she would prepare the food in a separate section of the kitchen to avoid any cross contamination. She was always looking out for us. She would bake us brownies and put together bags of gluten free trail mix each day. During midterms and finals would bake double the amount of brownies and double the amount of snacks so we could take stuff to the library.

During my freshman year I was only glutened once and considering the dining hall serves thousands of students a day I would say that is pretty incredible. It was the second month of the gluten free station’s existence and I was glutened because the person who monitors the gluten free station was out sick that day. One worker didn’t understand what gluten is and put regular pasta out at the gluten free station. I realized very quickly that something was not right when I sat down at the table and looked around and saw that my friends (who were not gluten free) were eating the exact same shape and consistency of pasta. I immediately stopped eating it and had a salad instead. As soon as Emory realized the mistake, they emailed all the gluten free students warning them of the mix up and alerting us all that they were going to make a better effort to educate all of the staff on the gluten free station so it never happens again.

During that year, I became friendly with the nutritionist that worked with Emory Dining to provide feedback and suggestions. I discussed with them a few different ideas in order to avoid mix ups. One suggestion I made was when serving something like pasta, they should put an unopened uncooked bag out for students to see what the pasta should look like. People can read the ingredients on the bag to ensure it is gluten free and if the bag contains penne and spaghetti is out at the station, they can immediately know that something is wrong and alert a manager. They wouldn’t do that for fear of students stealing the uncooked pasta, but they place a menu out each day so students know what is supposed to be served. They have also made an effort to make something different from the regular stations to avoid any mix ups. For example if they are serving pasta at the regular station, it will be beef at the gluten free station, that way if pasta is sitting out and the menu says beef, there is also a way to identify a possible mix up.

As I have become older, I have started to cook more of my meals and eat less at the dining hall, but each time I check in, they tell me more and more students are registering a gluten allergy which not only improves the quality of the food but increases the selection. The food doesn’t sit out for hours because the higher demand forces them to change it out. Emory will be getting a new dining provider this summer but I am confident that with the amount of gluten allergies registered at Emory, the quality of the Gluten Free station will only improve!

The Gluten Free and Allergy Expo Take 2!!


I am so excited to announce that I will be an official blogger for the Atlanta Gluten Free and Allergy Expo!!! My mom, sister and I went to the expo two years ago in New Jersey and it was such an incredible experience! It’s basically a gluten free girls dream, samples, on samples, on samples, on samples, and EVERYTHING is Gluten Free!!


(My goodie bag from 2 years ago)

Every year since that amazing experience I have wanted to go back, but being a student at Emory I always seemed to be in Atlanta when the Expo was in New Jersey and in New Jersey when the Expo was in Atlanta. This year, as soon as I found out I would be in Atlanta for its return, I circled the date on my calendar and told my roommate who is Gluten and Dairy Free to block that date off of her calendar!

I am so excited to go again and try all of the new products and samples from my favorite brands. I am also excited to meet some of the local places that I never knew existed. The way we originally found out about the GFAF Expo was because of my grandparents. They were in Stirling, NJ and ran into a bakery called Gluten Free Gloriously. The bakery told my grandparents that they were low on stock because they were busy preparing for the GFAF Expo. My grandma called me and introduced me to the Expo, (I have since ordered multiple birthday cakes from Gluten Free Gloriously) and soon after I bought my ticket to the expo and was in awe. There were many local vendors like Gluten Free Gloriously! Although I only have a month left in Atlanta before graduation, I am so excited be introduced to more incredible local Gluten Free Vendors at the upcoming Atlanta GFAF Expo.

Join me and Gabe at the GFAF Expo on April 18th at the Cobb Galleria Center! Right now only tickets are 20% off! You can purchase them here using code ADVANCE. You can also get a FREE 1-year subscription to Delight Gluten Free Magazine if you purchase an Expo ticket online thru 4/17.


Want FREE tickets?! Stay tuned for tomorrows post as I will be providing instructions for how to win tickets to the 2015 Atlanta GFAF Expo!!

For more information on the expo visit

Italian Adventures and Gluten Free Finds

This past Summer, I took a trip to Italy. When I was first diagnosed with Celiac we had gluten free cards in foreign languages. (see my previous post) But when we reached Italy. Sensa gluten was understood everywhere we went. Celiac disease is actually more common in Italy which makes it a joy to travel there.  During our trip we visited Lake Como and Venice. Here are some of the food highlights!

Day 1: Lake Como

 We landed early in the morning but were not hungry for lunch so that consisted of Melon and Fragola gelato at the Fox Shops in Switzerland, but for dinner we ate at L’Orangerie with special guest chef. They had a 7 course tasting menu but I picked out my courses all made special for me gluten free. Which consisted of spaghetti pomodoro, black cod, and duck. For dessert I chose peach sorbet. Everything was delicious.  Definitely a great way to start the eating adventures in Italy.


Day 2:

How many years has it been since you had a croissant? For me? 10! And it was delicious! Made special for me at the hotel! It was the greatest breakfast surprise of the trip and it was only day 2.


Day 3: Milan

We decided to ditch the lunch reservations and find  gluten free pizza. My dad found a place that was “right here”. Well 4 miles later he realized he never zoomed in on the map and it wasn’t quite “right here” but we made it to Le Specialità and found great gluten free pizza!


Day 4: Verona and Venice

We made a pit stop in Verona on the way to Venice and took a recommendation from the driver for a restaurant. We tried to explain to him that we wanted a place that had gluten free options. He didn’t really understand but we took his suggestion of Bottega di Vino anyway. It was great. They had not only gluten free options, but amazing bread and pasta. We had to ask twice if the bread was gluten free because we didn’t believe him!


We arrived in Venice and our first stop was Restaurant Da Ivo! One of our family favorite restaurants. They have THE BEST gluten free bread and I was so excited because last time we were there they had a special zucchini flowers that were incredible and thank goodness they had it as a special again because it’s one of my favorite dishes. We also shared shrimp and figs with shrimp to start which were also good but not nearly as good as the zucchini flowers. For dinner my sister and I shared seafood risotto needless to say we are going back later this week again 🙂


Day 5:

Venice adventures continue. We ate lunch at Harry’s Bar and enjoyed some delicious gluten free penne and prosciutto with melon. For dinner we dined at the hotel where I had gluten free penne with bolognese sauce.


Day 6:

Da Ivo take 2. For our last night in Venice we returned to Da Ivo. I was very unoriginal and ordered everything I ordered last time, but it was so good! You can’t blame me. On our way out we asked our waiter for a gelato suggestion and he said Gelato Fantasy was the best gelato nearby. While we were waiting on line my mom said to me “I wonder if they have GF cones?” I don’t know what made me look up at that point but I did, and THANK GOODNESS I did. Because above the servers on a shelf there was a big box of Gluten Free Cones. What a fantastic way to end our trip!


If you are looking to travel out of the country and are on a gluten free diet, Italy is one of the most accommodating countries when it comes to sticking to a strict diet and their food is incredible. Did I mention every time I found something I liked I bought more to bring home 🙂


Traveling in a Foreign Country When You Are Gluten Free

Today someone I know is leaving for study abroad in Africa. She does not have Celiac Disease but is gluten intolerant. My friends started asking her what she is going to eat there and how she will communicate her needs, because one of the main staples in their diets is wheat. She didn’t think about it until that moment but realized it would be difficult. Fortunately I was able to tell her about Gluten Free Restaurant Cards. A tool that I relied heavily on after my diagnosis.

These cards translated what Celiac is, what I can or cannot eat and what will happen if I eat gluten. These cards came in every language you can imagine and I have used them in Spain, France, and Italy. With the invention of technology these cards are compiled in an app with translations for pretty much every language you would want. Unfortunately for my friend they did not have the language she needed, but they had one that was similar that she will be able to use this semester.

These cards have become second nature to me after using them for 10 years but I realized they are not something everyone knows about. If you are traveling abroad anytime soon, I hope these will help! You can download the app for the iPhone here


A Happy Healthy Decade

In honor of the 10 year anniversary of my Celiac Disease diagnosis, I decided to start a blog about my gluten free adventures. I figured the most appropriate way to start my blog would be by sharing my story.

When I was first diagnosed I only knew two people who had Celiac Disease, my family friend and Elizabeth Hasslebeck. Gluten Free wasn’t a fad then. It was rare. No one knew what gluten was and trying to explain it at a restaurant was not easy. And it wasn’t anything like the Jimmy Kimmel Video, because these were waiters serving me food and if they messed up I got sick.

We first noticed something was up in the Winter of 2004. I had just started Middle School. I went from a grade of 100 to 400, I was making new friends, dealing with a new school and new surroundings. I had to wake up an hour earlier for school and carry my books with me as I ran from class to class with only 4 minutes in between. I went through a lot of social changes that were tough and would make most people want to stay home from school, but I had a different reason. I was sick. I had terrible stomach aches all the time, I couldn’t focus, I was tired and I couldn’t pick my head up from the table at breakfast. I would sit down to dinner at night and eat 3 meals yet I weighed only 60 pounds and I was getting thinner by the minute. You could count my ribs and I couldn’t wear pants without cinching them as tight as they could go.

It didn’t take long for us to see a gastroenterologist. However, my doctor was convinced that my symptoms were not Celiac. It took my family friend a few years and six doctors to find out she had Celiac so we convinced the doctor to test me for Celiac. Eight tubes of blood later and almost passing out, the results were in. We went back to the doctor and he said “wow I don’t know what made me think it was Celiac but I guess I was right!” Although we were happy to find an answer, this started a rough few weeks of learning how to control my new diet, and dealing with a doctor who really didn’t know what he was talking about.

The doctor told me I would need an endoscopy to confirm the results, but in order to do so, I needed to start my new gluten free diet immediately. My mom made an appointment to see a nutritionist right away because we had no idea what gluten free meant. The nutritionist told me that I shouldn’t be on a gluten free diet before my endoscopy because my body would repair itself and the endoscopy would be inconclusive. We were so lost because the doctor said one thing and the nutritionist said another. It was the day before Thanksgiving and we were supposed to get on a plane to Florida and we didn’t know whether I should be gluten free or not. My mom found information on a pediatric Celiac doctor out of Baltimore and decided to go out on a whim and email him. He fortunately emailed my mom back immediately to help answer some of our initial questions, including whether or not to go on a gluten free diet before my endoscopy. (The answer was no)

I went for my endoscopy and it was a normal procedure nothing too crazy. The results of my endoscopy came back while we were in Disney World  and my doctor decided it was a good idea to inform us of the results through a voicemail. Great doctor. We were in the middle of Disney World and now had to all of a sudden change my diet. By this point we were vaguely familiar with the new diet because of the meeting with the nutritionist before my endoscopy.

We came home and saw my doctor to learn about my a new diagnosis, we start asking him questions. He responded with, “next time you come see me you will know more about Celiac than I do.” My mom was very upset, as any parent would be after finding out their 11 year old has an autoimmune disease.

We ended up making an appointment to see the doctor in Baltimore who helped my mom the day before Thanksgiving. He and his nutritionists had all of the answers to my questions and introduced me to my new lifestyle.

I can’t say that I’ve had Celiac longer than most people and I can’t call myself an expert, but I can say that I’ve been through a lot and I am extremely fortunate to be happy and healthy over 10 years later.

What is Celiac Disease: (the short answer)

Celiac Disease is a genetic autoimmune disease where gluten destroys the lower intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, oats and barley. Gluten destroys the villi in the lower intestine and prohibits nutrients from being properly absorbed into the body.

Melanie Pre-Celiac
Melanie Pre-Celiac Diagnosis
Melanie a few short months post diagnosis
Melanie a few short months after diagnosis