Posts Categorized: Guest blog

a decade of celiac disease

April showers bring May flowers and Celiac Awareness Month! This picture was taken in 2013, when Lily was 7.


May is Celiac Awareness Month! To kick it off, we want to spread some awareness about celiac disease. When I say “we,” I actually mean my daughter Lily—otherwise known as the Gluten Free Garage muse—who was diagnosed at age 3. Now 13, she has been living with celiac disease and living her best gluten-free life for one whole decade. That’s so hard to believe because I remember the day she was diagnosed like it was yesterday. But, I’ve got to admit, gluten free has come a long way since then!

I started Gluten Free Garage when Lily was 5. I told her it was going to be a big party where she and other people who were gluten free could eat whatever they wanted without worrying that they’d get sick. She was all for it and GFG quickly became her favourite day of the year. Every year she would beg to be a guest speaker. She was relentless. Finally, in 2017, when Lily was 11 years old, I agreed to let her lead a speaker session. In a match made in gluten-free heaven, Almond Butterfly Bakeshop sponsored it and led a cupcake decorating workshop after her talk.

This year, I was going to ask Lily to write something commemorating her decade of celiac disease. I decided to re-read her GFG talk from two years ago and realized that it holds up pretty well. She thought so, too. Upon reading it again, I was kind of blown away by the fact that she wrote this two years ago. She did most of it herself and asked me to help her with the scientific bits about the disease.

Here it is, “The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from Having Celiac Disease” redux, from the mouth of my gluten-free babe. We hope you can glean something from it. We hope it inspires you. And, if you have a child with celiac disease, we hope you share it or read with him or her!


Lily speaking to a packed house at her guest speaker session at GFG in 2017.


The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from Having Celiac Disease 

Hello, my name is Lily Eklove. I’m 11 years old and I have celiac disease. I was diagnosed eight years ago, when I was 3. Today I’m going to talk to you about “The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from Having Celiac Disease.” Let’s start from the beginning, but first, here’s a joke.

Why did the gluten-free person cross the road?
To go to Gluten Free Garage!

1. What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. When someone with celiac eats even a crumb of gluten, it causes an immune reaction that damages the organ in your body called the small intestine. The small intestine has lots of small structures that look like fingers, called villi, which help the body to absorb nutrients. In someone with celiac disease, gluten attacks the villi and causes them to become flattened or injured. When this happens, your body can’t absorb any nutrients and, over time, you can go on to develop some serious health issues, like infertility, neurological problems and even cancer.

There are more than 300 symptoms related to celiac disease. When I was diagnosed, I was on the verge of being anemic because my body wasn’t absorbing iron from the food I was eating. [Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues.] It made me feel tired all the time so I took a lot of naps. My other symptoms were that I was super bloated and I had tummy aches. And then I started throwing up a lot, which is why my parents took me to the doctor. Also, my hair wasn’t growing and neither was I.

The good news is, once I went gluten free, my tummy and my whole body started to heal and my hair started to grow (as you can see).

The only treatment for celiac disease is to not eat any gluten. Which brings us to…

2. What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein in certain grains like wheat, rye, barley, spelt and kamut. It can also be found in oats through cross-contamination, which is why it’s important to eat only oats that are labelled uncontaminated. The thing that sucks is that gluten is mostly found in foods like pizza, pasta, bread and pastries, because these products all contain flour commonly made with grains that contain gluten. But, thankfully, we now have gluten-free flour to make all these foods safe and possible for the gluten-free people of the earth to eat! Gluten can also be hidden in other less-obvious products, like salad dressing, sauces, cooking sprays and even licorice, which is why it’s really important to read ingredient labels.

3. How gluten affects me.

Just a warning: This is going to be a TMI story.

When I eat gluten—by mistake, obviously—it usually takes about two hours for my body to react. What happens to me? OK, here it comes, are you ready? I can’t skip this part, I’m here to give you information.

My stomach gets so bloated like there’s a big beach ball in it. I get excruciating stomach pains, like somebody’s karate-chopping me from the inside. And then I throw up, a lot, until there’s nothing left. I’m usually in the bathroom for about four hours. Then I fall asleep. One time at a friend’s cottage when I got glutened and went through the whole ordeal, my dad’s friend came into the bathroom when I was lying on the floor and said to my parents: “I didn’t think our kids would be passed out on a bathroom floor until they were in university.”

For the next couple of days after I get glutened, I feel tired and kind of out of it and sometimes my tummy still hurts.

This is how gluten affects ME, but everyone with celiac reacts differently. Some people with celiac don’t have any reaction to gluten, they are called “asymptomatic.” But even though they don’t get sick, eating gluten is still doing damage to them on the inside, which may be worse than having a reaction because at least if you have a reaction, you know you’ve eaten something with gluten…but I’ll let you decide.

4. When it comes to taste, not all gluten-free foods are created equal.

If you eat a really good cupcake at one place (like Almond Butterfly, for example), don’t assume that the cupcakes at another gluten-free bakery will be as good or even good at all. This can also work the other way around. When I was diagnosed my parents made our entire house gluten free. We tried so many different products because, to be honest, some gluten-free foods taste like cardboard. As my mom says, it’s all about trial and error.

5. Gluten-free foods are not more or less healthy than foods with gluten.

It all depends on what you eat. If you’re eating lots of processed foods and gluten-free cookies and donuts and cakes, it’s not healthy. Dessert is dessert. Treats are treats. Some gluten-free foods contain lots of sugar and other stuff that isn’t good for you. The best gluten-free foods for you are the ones that are naturally gluten free, like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt…you get the picture. If you’re a carnivore like me, there’s also chicken, fish and meat. Bottom line: The gluten-free diet is medicine for people with celiac disease.

6. Cross-contamination is real.

Cross-contamination happens when a food that is gluten free gets contaminated with gluten because of the way it is prepared or cooked. I absolutely hate getting cross contaminated. I get so constipated and can’t get it out for days. My tummy hurts, I don’t feel like eating, and I’m so uncomfortable. It’s the worst feeling. So how can I make sure that I don’t eat a food that is cross contaminated? I have to speak up. For instance, when I go to a restaurant even if it seems obvious that something is gluten free, I have to ask the waiter how it is prepared (to be honest, most of the time my mom asks but I’m learning by listening to her). Let’s take French fries. Most of the time, fries are naturally gluten free, unless they’re coated in flour. If they’re made in a fryer where other foods containing gluten are also fried, then they are not officially gluten free because the oil is contaminated. The fries will be cross contaminated. Trust me, this happened to me on vacation. If your waiter isn’t sure, ask to speak to the chef or manager. Don’t be shy—this is about your health. Which leads us to our next lesson:

7. It’s important to find my gluten-free voice.

This is the voice that asks questions and speaks up, even when I don’t want to make a big deal or bring attention to myself. In order to be healthy I have to find my gluten-free voice so I don’t get sick from the food I eat. Sometimes I get embarrassed when we eat out and my parents ask all kinds of questions, but I know that one day I’m going to have to ask those questions myself.

8. When in doubt, don’t just trust your gut.

That’s right, I said DON’T!!! If there’s ever a situation where I’m not 100% percent sure if I can eat a certain food and the person who prepared it isn’t sure, I won’t assume that I can eat it, even if it’s something that looks insanely good. GET THE FACTS by asking questions and reading ingredients, which you always have to do. Do not just trust your gut because if there’s a 50-50 chance, there’s a good chance that you can eat it but there is also a good chance you can’t and then you’ll end up getting sick, which, trust me, is NOT worth it.

9. It’s OK to have to eat different.

When I go to birthday parties or sleepovers, most times I have to bring my own dessert or snack and don’t get to eat what everyone else is eating. You might think this would make me feel sad or lonely or left out, but it doesn’t. We are all different from each other and just because I have to eat different foods doesn’t make me weird or freaky. It’s ME that makes me weird and freaky! Besides, I can basically have the same foods as everyone else, just the gluten-free version! My diet doesn’t define me. It’s part of me, but it’s not ME.

10. Good things can come from bad or not-so-great things.

I feel lucky that I was diagnosed at such a young age before any serious damage happened to me from eating gluten, because for most people it takes an average of six to 10 years before getting a proper diagnosis. I won’t lie, getting diagnosed with celiac disease was a bummer. But, if I didn’t have it, Gluten Free Garage wouldn’t exist and YOU wouldn’t get to come and enjoy all the yummy food!



This year at Gluten Free Garage we are running two speaker sessions about children with celiac disease:

11 – 11:45 am Panel Discussion: Raising kids well with celiac disease

12 – 12:45 pm What’s Up, Doc: Celiac disease in children

We will also have a meetup for parents and kids in the Kids Courtyard (sponsored by Fiesta Farms) with cookie decorating courtesy of Hype Food Co. and other activities. Follow @glutenfreegarage on Instagram for updates.


guest blog: Italpasta dishes it out

Italpasta‘s Ultimate Vegan Gluten-Free Pasta Salad


We are just days away from our favourite event in the city—Gluten Free Garage! And we couldn’t be happier to be supporting the GFG team again this year.

If you have attended Gluten Free Garage in the past, you know that our booth is BUSY—and that we’ve run out of plates two years in a row :/  Embarrassing, we know, but it just means that our #glutenfreepastalovers can’t get enough of our gluten-free pasta samples!

This year, we’re dialing it up a notch. We’ll be sampling THREE different recipes: Penne with Basil Tomato Sauce, our Ultimate Vegan Gluten Free Pasta Salad, and a Vegetarian Lasagna using our new Oven Ready Gluten Free Lasagne.

But that’s not all! We’re also sponsoring a GFG speaker session with the very talented Irene Matys, a local farm-to-table advocate and freelance food stylist who is a regular on The Marilyn Denis Show. Check out her mouth-watering Instagram account @TheSpicyOlive1 and look at the gorgeous farm-to-table Kale, Basil Pesto and Zucchini Gluten Free Lasagna that she created for Gluten Free Garage!

If you think that looks good, Irene is going to show 50 lucky GFG attendees how to take their gluten-free pasta dishes from ordinary to extraordinary with a few tips and tricks. You won’t want to miss her “Say Ciao to Boring Bowls of Pasta” presentation on Sunday May 27th at 12 noon! Everyone who attends will receive a gift bag with Italpasta gluten-free pasta samples to try their hand at saying ciao to boring bowls of pasta! Line up about 15 minutes early outside of the Wychwood Barns Community Gallery—it’s first come, first served.

We can’t wait to see our gluten-free pasta lovers at the 2018 Gluten Free Garage!


Irene Matys will show you how to take your pasta to the next level!



guest blog: Neal Brothers turns 30!


Gluten Free Garage is one of our all-time favourite events! Not only do we get to share lots of yummy gluten-free goodies with everyone, we get to introduce exciting new brands and looks!

This year is especially exciting for us, as Neal Brothers Foods turns 30. That’s right, the big 3-0, the dirty thirty, whatever you call it, we’re turning it! We are so happy to be at this point; Neal Brothers Foods has become so much more than a brand. It is a distribution company, it is a family, it is a household name, and it has brought various innovations to the market over the years.

This year will be no different. Not only are we changing up the outside of our packages, we are also changing up some of the insides as well! Don’t worry, all the favourite snacks (corn salsa, blue with flax tortillas, etc.) are staying exactly as they are. But we have completely overhauled our pasta sauce and organic salsa lines. Our pasta sauce line is now 100% organic. In addition, we have added a flavour, Greens & Pepperoncini, to make a total of six all-organic delicious sauces. New formulations are currently out on the market in new packaging! Our organic salsa line has also had some tweaking, with new packaging and a new formulation inside, giving a fresher and lighter taste!

We can’t wait for everyone to see and try these tasty new products! At Gluten Free Garage, our new logo will be on display while we sell the favorites: kettle chips, cheese snacks and our new organic white tortilla! Stop by to check out our show special, we promise you won’t be disappointed! At the Neal Brothers booth you’ll also find:

enerjive quinoa crackers

Primal Kitchen dressings and marinades

Chickapea gluten-free pasta (with only two ingredients)

YumEarth candies

Hippie Snacks sesame snacks


Neal Brothers at the 2016 Gluten Free Garage!


Neal Brothers Foods has been a sponsor of Gluten Free Garage since the very first event in 2012! Look for their booth at the Wychwood (east) side of Artscape Wychwood Barns.


bring a non-perishable GF food item to GFG!

WIFEY KNOWS BEST: Jessica Danford (aka Gfree Wifey) is on a mission.

Last year Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank saw 990,970 client visits to the 100-plus food programs that it supports. When we consider that 1% of the population requires a gluten-free diet and that celiac disease is becoming one of the fastest-growing autoimmune diseases, access to safe food for all is a growing concern. This issue is often overlooked or not taken into account because most food programs are at capacity or struggling to provide to the clients they have before they can even consider food restrictions.

One of the reasons I started the GfreeWifey Foodbank last year is to use my position as a positive influencer in the gluten-free community to bring greater awareness to celiac disease while advocating for access to safe food. As someone with celiac disease who has used the help of food banks and food programs in my past, I feel passionate about this and am now in a position where I can champion for the cause. In April I donated $1,000 that we raised for the Daily Bread Food Bank!

I do short-burst fundraising for local food banks and food programs to provide safe gluten-free food to people in our communities. If there is an organization you know of that needs support with access to safe food—whether it’s a food bank, before-or-after school program, soup kitchen, breakfast club or other food support system—please let me know. I will gladly learn about what they do and find the best way to support them.

I will be at Gluten Free Garage on May 27th to meet everyone and collect non-perishable gluten-free food items for The Canadian Red Cross. The Red Cross provides emergency relief hampers with 3-4 days’ worth of food every two weeks to people who are in a vulnerable position and have been referred to the program by a professional. This is one of many organizations that have expressed they are at capacity and staggering to keep up with the demand, let alone provide safe food to people with dietary restrictions like gluten intolerance and celiac.

I invite you to open your cupboards and bring a non-perishable
gluten-free food item to Gluten Free Garage!

There will be a collection bin at registration. If you forget your item at home, you can  “buy two, donate one” at the event—it’s also a terrific way to support your favourite gluten-free vendors who will be there!

Many people struggle to afford food—and we know how costly gluten-free food can be! A gluten-free diet is a necessity for 2 in 100 people. It is not a trendy lifestyle choice. It is mandatory in order for people with celiac to recover and maintain their health. Let’s work together to END HUNGER close to home.

Please join me in providing access to safe gluten-free food by donating something from your pantry that’s on this most-wanted gluten-free grocery list:

  • crackers
  • flour blends
  • rice
  • pasta
  • canned beans and vegetables
  • soup
  • soy sauce and condiments
  • pancake and muffin mixes

For more information about me and the Gfreewifey Foodbank, please go to

—Jessica Danford

Joy to the world

When life gives you lemons, make these no-oven, no-bake lemon tarts!


The second I saw these bright lemon tarts in a recent edition of the Joyous Health newsletter, I had to have the recipe. How creamy and divine do these look? I’m so happy to share the recipe here with you.


Joy McCarthy will be speaking about gut health at Gluten Free Garage from 1:15 to 2 pm


These tarts were created by none other than holistic nutritionist and bestselling author Joy McCarthy, a woman who completely embodies her name. You just have to follow Joyous Health on Instagram to know what I mean. Lucky for us, Joy is returning as a vendor and a guest speaker to this year’s Gluten Free Garage! Be sure to stop by her table, where you’ll find her cookbooks, Joyous Health and Joyous Detox, along with her organic teas, body care (balms, body butter, deodorant and more) and new hair care products.

Joy will be giving her 45-minute talk “Gut Feeling: How your microbiome affects your mood, skin and stress levels” at 1:15 pm on Sunday May 27 at Gluten Free Garage. The microbiome encompasses tens of trillions of microbes that live on you and in you. The food you eat daily, your natural health supplement regimen and your lifestyle can either support these microbes or hamper them, allowing bad bacteria and yeast to proliferate. It’s absolutely fascinating how these microbes impact your mood, your skin and even your stress levels. In this session, you’ll learn about all the delicious and nourishing gluten-free foods you can eat daily to support a joyous microbiome!

Please note: All speaker sessions take place in the Wychwood Barns Community Gallery at Artscape Wychwood Barns. The entrance is off of Wychwood Avenue (the northeast side of the venue). Space is limited so please arrive a few minutes early and form a line.

“I wish my words could adequately describe it. I will try…it’s tart, sour, sweet, fresh and bright. Like an explosion for your salivary glands.” —Joy McCarthy


And now for Joy’s lemon tart recipe, which we know you are sure to enJOY!

(makes 4 tarts)


For the bottom:
1 cup macadamia nuts
¼ cup almonds
10-12 medjool dates, pitted
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil

For the filling:
3 large eggs
1 tbsp lemon zest
¼ cup honey
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp of coconut oil
1 tbsp coconut butter

dollop coconut yogurt
chopped macadamia nuts
coconut flakes


To make the bottom crust, place all ingredients into a food processor and blitz until crumbly.

Using 4 individual tart pans, evenly divide the bottom crust between them. Press the crust down firmly. Refrigerate or place in the freezer until it sets, about hour in the freezer or a couple of hours in the fridge.

Meanwhile, make the lemon curd topping. In a large pot on the stove on low heat, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest and honey. Add the lemon juice, coconut oil, vanilla extract and coconut butter and continue to whisk on medium heat until everything is melted and the mixture starts to thicken. This process may take 10-15 minutes.

DO NOT STOP WHISKING :) Whisk continuously until it thickens.

Once the bottom crust is set, pour the lemon curd mixture into each cup. Put back in the fridge or freezer and wait until it’s set to enjoy. It will take about an hour in the freezer and a couple of hours in the fridge.