Air Travel with Celiac and Nut / Food Allergies

This is what a simple weekend trip away looks like sometimes for me, so getting trapped in an airport as someone with food allergies is a pretty big nightmare. You never know when a connecting flight will get cancelled!  It never ceases to amaze me how few choices exist, even in some fairly large airports!

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As someone who not only has celiac, but also a nut allergy and some additional sensitivities, it’s no easy feat to have a long layover or face a potential unexpected stay in an airport due to delays, etc. Even a long flight presents quite a challenge (if your symptoms are anything like mine, no way you want to risk trusting airline food)! Bringing some chips, pretzels, or crackers that suit your allergies is a good start. Be sure to put them in a hard-sided case like Tupperware so they don’t crush. Also, homemade snack mixes or granola bars are good options. Some of my favorites are pictured below; but those are just snacks really, so what about covering one or more actual meals?

For me, I’ve found packing gluten free, nut free cereal in a Ziploc-type round container (seen below) is easy.  You can usually find milk to add while at the airport and cereal’s not a terrible meal. Just pack or find a plastic spoon and the Tupperware-type container can double as a bowl. It doesn’t need refrigeration or heating, so it’s good to have for any length of time. Glutino PopTarts are another hearty prepackaged option.  However, this doesn’t address much of a protein need.

For that, sunbutter is an option. Beef jerky can be a good option if you’re only on a domestic flight, but usually meats and fresh produce can’t be taken internationally. Likewise, the GoPicnic boxes may suit your needs (most don’t suit me now that they contain pumpkin seeds and the crackers have soy).

(P.S. With international travel, have a plan AND a back up plan. I learned in some places you pre-clear customs out of the country, so when I brought gluten free nachos to the airport in Canada from a safe restaurant out in town, I found out I had to clear customs at the same time as security.  So, I had to scarf down what I could before tossing it, which completely foiled my plan for a safe dinner before the flight and long layover!)

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                 Basic ice pack                     Photo credit: Alibaba

For planned long flights or layovers, I’ve found taking ice packs frozen solid is allowed through security, so sometimes I take frozen lunchmeat and frozen ice packs, plus some bread and make a sandwich. I also like to take cheese sticks using this method. This may only work on the flight leaving home, depending if you have a freezer at your destination, but at least it’s a solution for part of your trip!

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I always bring a few slices of gluten free bread (again in Tupperware-like container so they don’t get squished). In addition to other items I mentioned, if you can find hard boiled eggs in the airport and some mayonaise and mustard packets, you can make a fairly safe egg salad sandwich. Many airports also have tuna in a can or foil pouch, so you could make a tuna salad sandwich. You can also consider bringing your own pouch of pre-packaged tuna or chicken with you, unless international regulations will stop you from doing so. You might also enjoy the canned salmon and vegetable meal from St. Dalfour (I found these on Vitacost.com).

Smuckers individuals

I’ve also brought other bread items that don’t need to be kept super cold, like crepes or gluten free pancakes and can usually find some safe jelly packets or butter and syrup packets at a McDonalds or Burger King type restaurant. You can also consider getting some of these individually pre-packaged items (like hot sauce, jelly, ketchup, mustard, mayo, butter, syrup) by buying them online or at your grocery store or saving a few from your favorite restaurant and bringing them through security in your liquids bag! The environmental waste of individually packaged items is frustrating, but it’s important to stay safe, especially when traveling with food allergies, so give yourself a break and make up for it the rest of the time at home!
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Another option is the “just add hot water” macaroni and cheese cups, oatmeal cups, or cup o’ soup (if they make them for your allergies). If you can’t find them in the cups, just take the packets and a Ziploc-type container or use a coffee cup.  You can usually ask for a cup of hot water at any coffee place and mix away. Similarly, I’ve also asked for cups of ice after security to add to Ziploc-type bags to keep food cold. Sometimes it’s free, but even if you have to pay a little for it, it’s worth knowing you have options, right?

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I also always make sure to bring an extra set of clothes. This is good advice in general in case the airline loses your luggage (or you unexpectedly have to gate-check your rolling carry-on), but especially with celiac, if you should get sick unexpectedly, it’s important to have back up options!

 

(As always, check the labels of items to ensure they’re safe for your allergies. I did not receive any compensation for the brands mentioned, they are just based on my personal preferences or experiences!)

Tio Pablo – Totally gluten free Mexican food in Richmond, VA!

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Its humble entrance

Tio Pablo’s Mexican restaurant might not look like much outside and it’s an area of downtown Richmond being rehabbed, but an all gluten free restaurant warrants a try anyways! While some folks have said it’s not the best neighborhood at night, I have not felt unsafe during our several visits during the day. It’s conveniently located just off I-95, within 2 blocks of  the train station (Main Street Station) and the city’s farmer’s market.

The interior of the restaurant is small, but has nice theming.

       Chips brightened

 

The joy of an all gluten free restaurant means the chips are safe!

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Queso dip, chips, side of potatoes, and side of rice.

 

The queso cheese dip is not to be missed!

 

 

 

 

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Carne Asada taco

I must say the carne asada taco looks simple, but the flavor is fantastic! They use all corn tortillas and since it’s all gluten free, there are no cross contamination concerns. These corn tortillas blow all others out of the water in terms of taste and texture, too!

The menu has a wide variety of proteins from chicken to carne asada to shrimp and more. There are vegetarian options like sauteed cactus or sauteed vegetables. You can choose to get them in tacos, tostados, or gorditos.
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They also have some other entrees, like this Quesadilla Grande, which uses a thicker and larger corn tortilla and is filled with meat, cheese, and veggies. So yummy! There are sides like rice, beans, or roasted potatoes that are quite good. Breakfast is served on Saturday and Sunday 10am until 3pm also!

Dessert includes gluten free Cheesecake of the Day (habanero pictured–unique but delicious) and gluten free Tres Leches Cake. They also have flan, but I haven’t tried it yet.

In addition to being entirely gluten free, nothing contained peanuts, and the tortillas are vegetarian, so no lard, making multiple safe pork-free options.

I was not compensated in any way for my review, I just couldn’t wait to share such a great place with you! Knock on wood, they don’t make any major changes, because this place is fabulous!  You can view their full menu and find their phone number and address on their website at http://www.tiopablotacos.com.

Shield’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA – Gluten free review

So first, I have to apologize as this is not up to the level of my normal review and it’s devoid of pictures, but I wanted to share the content nonetheless, in case it could help some of you.  I was in Williamsburg recently for work and the group chose Shield’s Tavern for our working dinner. It was very difficult to even find out if there were gluten free foods available, as the restaurant is run by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, so not quite like a normal restaurant.Colonial Williamsburg common license

Shield’s Tavern’s website (https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.com/eat/shields) makes no reference to gluten free, but an article on them says gluten free is available. So, after calling the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, they said there is gluten free available, but couldn’t give me more information about which dishes were gluten free and if they had nuts or pork, so I had to nervously go to dinner without a clue!

Fortunately, when I got to the actual restaurant, they were able to inform me that all the entrees could be done gluten free. I see one lists couscous, so I hope they know to replace that with rice. I picked what the safest option seemed to be, the Molasses Grilled Flank Steak.  It’s listed as “Grilled Flank Steak with Molasses, Garlic and Ginger Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and Three Sister Vegetables.” I’m happy to report I did not get sick (and I’m extremely sensitive) so I would consider this place safe, but the dish did not have a lot of flavor so I wouldn’t be in a hurry to return. I also verified it was also pork and peanut free, especially because seeing “West African” flavorings can sometimes indicate peanut or peanut butter, so as always, be sure to check if you dine there with whatever meal you’d like to order.

The tavern is as it was originally built in the 1700s, so there are candles (now electric and wick), but not wired lighting and their chairs are very hard and uncomfortable, in keeping with what was available in that era. It’s rather crowded, but a unique experience for those interested in the colonial era. Musicians played in front of the restaurant on the street and occasionally came tableside to play a fife or stringed instrument that resembled a cross between a mini-harp and a guitar.

Boatwrights Dining Hall allergy review

Boatwrights Dining Hall allergy review – gluten free, pork free, nut free (also pumpkin seed, arrowroot, and sorghum free)

A review of Disney World’s Port Orleans Riverside table service dinner option, themed with a partially built ship and boat wright tools, pictured here:

Many of your know I love Disney World–not so much for the characters like
many others, but because of their amazing allergy protocols! Most of Disney
World’s owned restaurants do a great job of keep people safe and most of them do it while providing great tasting food. We visit family in the area so we frequently add a few days in Disney World before returning home, specifically because of their generally good allergy protocols (knock on wood they stay that way!). One of the great recent additions that acknowledges the heavy allergy population of visitors is their allergy menus:

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However, sometimes one falls short on taste and that’s how I feel about Boatwright’s Dining Hall at Port Orleans Riverside. They kept me safe, and for that I’m grateful, but the food was horrible! The rolls served were the normal GNI gluten free rolls and were fine, but the appetizer of Colonel Peace’s Pieces were terrible–they had no flavor or spices in the batter and the remulade sauce sadly didn’t help!

I didn’t feel like any of the entrees were good choices (except Voodoo Chicken and waffles, but I can’t eat Disney’s waffle mix because I cannot tolerate arrowroot or sorghum), so I went with steak, green beans, and potatoes–one would think it’s hard to mess that up, right? Wrong. These green beans had no flavoring, were rubber texture, and the steak was rough and flavorless. The mashed potatoes were decent, but not amazing.

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The position of the lights throughout the restaurant also were not good, as the lights on the sides of the wall made both my husband and I a bit dizzy! You can see how harsh the glare is in the photo below. For dessert, I ordered the butterscotch creme brulee, only to find out it was a No Sugar Added dessert! (I avoid sugar substitutes and normally don’t have to mention this on top of my many allergies, because typically the menu denotes it, but this time it did not.)

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I must add that I really enjoyed Port Orleans Riverside as a resort, but this was a major downfall, as we always like to spend at least one day where we don’t leave the resort–a rest day, which means there has to be decently good food for a few meals. There is no sit down location open for breakfast (just the quick service) and this is their sit-down dinner option, disappointing dining for an otherwise great resort!

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Easy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – Gluten free, nut free, soy free

Easy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – Gluten free, nut free, soy free

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This past week was Snowmaggedon 2017 for Virginia Beach and so it was a great time to bake!  I’ve been craving oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for a long time and haven’t made them! I don’t think my body likes oats (even gluten free ones), but I was too tempted and had to try again!20170107_184932

Since I was already snowed in, I didn’t have the ability to get additional ingredients, so I searched the internet for an easy recipe using what I had on hand. Many called for addition xanthan gum, which I didn’t have.  So, I modified a few of the recipes and combined them for a winner:

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0.5 cup butter, melted
2.5 cups gluten-free old fashioned oats
1 cup Betty Crocker Gluten Free all-purpose rice flour blend
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
0.5 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1.5 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla
1.5 cups chocolate chips*
*(I mostly used Enjoy Life mini chips and threw in some No Whey NoNos for a monster cookie taste, both of which are top 8 allergen free)

1. Melt butter.
2. In medium bowl, mix oats, flour blend, baking powder, baking soda and salt. (These are the ingredients in blue and underlined above, to make it easier.)
3. In large bowl, mix brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add melted butter. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Stir in oat mixture (from medium bowl) until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Let dough stand 15 minutes.
4. On parchment paper-line cookie sheet, drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart.
5. Bake 12-14 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Store tightly covered.

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Now these cookies do spread out a lot and end up fairly thin, but they stay soft, which is amazing!  They also feel like an even bigger treat per cookie because they’re so big, but it’s because they are quite thin, so don’t feel too bad!

This does make quite a lot of cookies (35-40), so feel free to share some with a neighbor or co-workers (they’ll never know they’re gluten free)!

I think you could easily sub raisins for chocolate chips, if you prefer. You could also half the amount of chocolate chips and add nuts, if you don’t have a nut allergy.

Additional Allergen adjustments:
I think you could make this dairy-free easily with non dairy butter substitute.
I’m not sure how egg-free would work, but let me know if you try it!

Enjoy!

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We made our visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia at the end of July/beginning of August, which was accidentally perfect timing for Natal Day. It’s the birthday of their city and a bit like a mini 4th of July here in the states. There were musicians, performers, and food stands along the water front which made it a great time to visit! The weather was perfect, while the rest of the US and most of Canada was roasting in unusually high summer heat.  Aside from the tourist recommendation, I know this is a blog about food. That said, Natal Day comes with many restaurants closed and limited menus at others, so this is what we were able to find for dinner at Murphy’s, which was right along the waterfront and was one of the few that I was able to read about beforehand that had gluten free options.20160801_204206

As one might expect, the menu is seafood heavy. I wasn’t starving so decided an appetizer might be best. Appetizers marked gluten free for Natal Day were:
Bacon-wrapped scallops, Mussels, Lobster Dip, and Seafood Chowder.

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I choose the lobster dip and it was a large portion and delicious!

 

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Dinner options include: Nova Scotian whole lobster, Molasses Salmon, and BBQ Chicken Supreme.

Dessert included a chocolate torte that was gluten free, but I couldn’t get a straight answer about if there were nuts or nut flour, so I opted to try one of the ice cream stands we had seen.

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Imagine my surprise when one of the ice cream stands (Black Bear, I believe it was called) had gluten free cones! Even a brand I knew–Edward and Sons. Unfortunately, there servers didn’t have a lot of knowledge about which flavors were gluten free and they weren’t marked, so I stuck to vanilla and chocolate.  They graciously cleaned scoops for me, so all in all it was a good, sweet ending to our first Natal Day!

Gluten free at Boston Pizza in Halifax, Nova Scotia

I apologize it’s been a while–I thought I had covered the rest of the Halifax restaurants completed, but I had not. Another restaurant we went to while in Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) was Boston Pizza. It was not a planned place to eat, but we walked past it hungry after we arrived in Halifax proper from the airport.

Boston Pizza is a chain and we had eaten at one in Niagara Falls safely a few years ago, so I stopped in to ask if they had the same gluten free options and they did. They have oven baked gluten free wings and delicious Kinnikinnick gluten free pizza crusts–one of the very few I’ve found that aren’t thin and crispy.  I often use these at home in fact for pizza since discovering them in Canada (they’re available at my Kroger in Virginia).

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While I have to say this location was less well versed in gluten free than their Niagara Falls counterparts, with careful questions and guidance, it was suitable for a convenient meal and delicious! It’s just around the corner from the main bus stop getting into town, and a block or two away from the Marriott waterfront, so a great location.