The Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo

by Maggie on May 4, 2011

We just got back from a fantastic weekend in Chicago, Illinois.  We went to the Gluten Free and Allergen Free Expo and it was so fantastic.  I am so glad we took the kids, it was such a great gluten free adventure for all of us.

Friday night we went to a pasta dinner at a restaurant called Maggiano’s.  Gluten free pasta at an Italian restaurant!  It was such a treat.  We were lucky to share a table with Amy (from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free) and her husband Joe, as well as Brittany (from Real Sustenance) and her husband Rich.

The highlight of the night was when we passed Callum (our gluten intolerant four-year old) the basket of bread and told him he could have some.  I wish I had a picture of his face to share with you!  He was thrilled, “I can eat this bread?“.

Saturday began with breakfast at the hotel (the conference was held at the Wyndham in Lisle, Illinois ).  There was an entire buffet table dedicated to gluten free food!  And they were even serving gluten free waffles.  My kids were in heaven.

Callum appreciated the breakfast options more because he’s a little older and has been diagnosed for a year and a half.  He’s used to having limited options in hotels or restaurants.  It was such a treat for him to be able to order anything he wanted.  Udi’s Gluten Free sponsored the Expo so we were treated to their bagels, muffins, and breads all weekend long.

We spent the rest of Saturday in Chicago sightseeing with the kids.  We took them to The Field Museum which was so cool!  They have an underground bugs exhibit right now where you actually go into an artificial underground and the bugs are as big as the kids.  It was a pretty fascinating experience for all four of us!

Saturday night was the blogger party; a chance to socialize with our fellow bloggers and presenters.  It was so great to have the chance to socialize and mingle with this group.  I had the chance to meet and chat with so many great women who are doing so much for the growing gluten and allergen free community.

Sunday was my day to really explore the conference and hit up a couple of the cooking classes and demos.  I started by checking out the vendor fair which was so overwhelming, in a really good way.  I was impressed by the amount of vendors and the amount of participants.  It was incredible.  I took Callum and Liv with me and they were having a blast trying out all of the goodies.  I can’t tell you how amazing it was to be able to say to them, “Yes, you can have that!” again and again.

Hallie from Daily Bites & Silvana from Silvana's Kitchen

Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and yours truly

I went to cooking demos by Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free (where she also sold out of her new cookbook) and Shirley from Gluten Free Easily.  I took Callum and Liv to a cooking demo by Kelly from The Spunky Coconut.  We made her Foothills bagels (from her new cookbook).  Oh my goodess, they were amazing.

Me and Shirley from GFE

Kelly from The Spunky Coconut and yours truly

A huge thank you to the sponsors (especially Udi’s) and more importantly to Jen Cafferty from Gluten Free Life With Jen.  She is the woman behind the Expo who put in a tremendous amount of work so that other people could learn more about gluten free living (and be able to eat safe gluten free and dairy free meals).

We’ve pretty much decided that we’ll be back to Chicago next year, but if you want to get in on the Expo action before then, check out the Dallas, Texas Expo in October, 2011.

Planning on travelling with your gluten free and allergen free kids soon?  Check out my post from last summer about holidays with kids. You’ll also get my recipe for kale chips. Mmmm.

P.S.  I also need to thank my Mom and Dad for taking good care of our pup Ringo while we were gone!  And of course Pete for tagging along and supporting my Expo adventure.


{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy @ Celiacs in the House May 4, 2011 at 7:26 am

You captured the essence of last weekend. There were so many inspiring women there. I just loved getting to meet you. My son would have been the kid to take to the Field Museum with all the dinosaurs. Your kids remind me of traveling with mine when they were little.

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Maggie May 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Thanks Linda. I could’ve gone on and on and on! It was so great to meet you too (and your gorgeous daughter). Traveling with kids can be challenging at times, but I just love sharing everything with them!

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Debi May 4, 2011 at 8:16 am

Great post, Maggie! I had a great time, especially laughing at the cuteness of your kids. I think I had the same reaction as Callum when I realized the waffles on the gf menu really were gf. “I can have that?” Of course I really wanted the pancakes, but they were out.

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Maggie May 4, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Thanks so much Debi! Too bad the pancakes were out! It’s been so long since I’ve had restaurant pancakes. Mind you I was pretty happy testing the Udi’s stuff since I can’t get it here :(

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Zoe May 4, 2011 at 9:25 am

That sounds like so much fun, Maggie, and it’s super seeing you all there together and having a great time! It sounds – and looks – like it was also a great experience for your kids. I’m always so happy when my brother can eat the food with complete ease and confidence that it’s safe for him. I can’t make any promises but maybe next year I can make it to the GF Expo, too. I hope! I just learned about it too late so there wasn’t enough time in advance to plan, etc., especially when I’m living with my family and I’m not really the one in charge. I’m still a kid. ;) Anyway! Perhaps next year.

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Maggie May 4, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Zoe next year I am going to swing by and pick you up so you can come along! Tell your Mom and Dad I’ll take care of you :) xo

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Cece May 4, 2011 at 10:27 am

Maggie,

Thanks again for coming to the expo! We are so glad you had a great time, and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

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Maggie May 4, 2011 at 5:46 pm

My pleasure Cece. Thanks for all that you guys did to make it possible! What a great event.

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Kim - Cook It Allergy Free May 4, 2011 at 11:03 am

Maggie, it was SO SO amazing to finally meet you. I just love your energy and spirit. I just wish we could have had SO much more time together though. ;( I cannot wait for the chance to hang out with you again. If you ever make it to the Southwest, there is an allergen friendly house with beds for all of you. My kids would have a blast with yours. ;) Love your write-up about the weekend. I kept thinking the whole time how much fun my kids would have had, being able to walk around and try anything off of any of the tables! But there would have been no way to bring them while we were at that booth all day long. Next time, though, I may just bring my mom along WITH the kids! ;)

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Maggie May 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I agree Kim, I loved meeting you in person! So great to chat with you and spend a little bit of time together, you’re right it was not enough though! Thanks so much for the invite, you’re so sweet. We would LOVE to come to the Southwest! I think bringing your Mom is a great idea! She’s probably love it too! And Callum and Livvie would have some playmates in the pool :)

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Kim - Cook It Allergy Free May 4, 2011 at 11:03 am

Oh, PS. I just love Pete too (and his choice of books and authors)! ;)
Just wanted to throw that in there!

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Maggie May 4, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Kim great minds think alike! Haha

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Hallie @ Daily Bites May 4, 2011 at 11:43 am

It was wonderful meeting you, Maggie! Even though we didn’t spend that much time together, the time we did spend made me feel like we’d been friends for years. :) Love it when that happens.

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Maggie May 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Thanks Hallie. I was so happy to meet you too. I have such respect for you and your blog! It’s so great to be around like-minded people, isn’t it? I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon!

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Alta May 4, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Sounds like it was a great time! I can’t wait until the Dallas one!

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Maggie May 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Alta you and Amy will have so much fun at the Dallas one! I think Shirley will be there too.

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Jen Cafferty May 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I am so happy that you and your family had such a good time. And thanks so much for the recap of the weekend! I am running around like a lunatic all weekend so I love to be able to look back at people’s pictures and comments and take it all in. Thanks again for all you do for our community! We are so lucky to have such an incredible group of people helping everyone.

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Maggie May 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Thanks Jen. It was an honor to be invited! You’re doing amazing things and working so hard for so many people. It’s incredible. I’m in awe of you :)

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Zoe May 4, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Maggie – you’re so sweet! :) xo back

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Alisa Cooks May 4, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Aw, love the pictures and absolutely loved meeting you!!!

How wonderful for your little ones too. It is so great that you brought the whole family.

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Maggie May 5, 2011 at 5:30 am

Thanks Alisa – It was so great meeting you too. You do so much for the dairy-free community! I am really loving your book Go Dairy Free, it’s such a great resource.

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Shirley @ gfe May 5, 2011 at 9:14 am

Oh, dear, dear Maggie, it was such a delight to meet you and your amazing family! I’m so glad that you guys made the southern trek into the U.S. so we could meet you in person! Such a great post describing all the events, too. Love that your family got to experience so many wonderful things for the very first time. Just seeing their faces with the joy and wonder on them (in person or in Pete’s photos) was a real treat! They really could be child models–beautiful kids from beautiful parents. :-)

xoxo,
Shirley

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Maggie May 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Thank you Shirley. It was so lovely to meet you too! We had such a good time, it’s hard to believe that it’s already been a week! Thanks for the compliments about my babies :) Hope you had a lovely visit with your friend! xo

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Nicole@GFonaShoestring May 5, 2011 at 11:32 am

How great that you went to Maggiano’s! We go there quite a bit, and they are always so accommodating. My son always feel so at home there. It’s a pleasure. Sounds like you had a great time at the Expo! Wish I could have been there….

Warmly,
Nicole

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Maggie May 6, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Hi Nicole – Maggiano’s was very accomodating! I would love to have one near by. It’s always nice to have a few options for those nights when you just don’t feel like cooking!

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Ricki May 5, 2011 at 6:42 pm

It sounds like such a fabulous weekend, Maggie! Love the photos and “hearing” about it. Glad you had so much fun, too. I am hoping to one day make it to one of these events so I can meet the rest of the gang!

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Annie May 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Maggie I love how you thanked Pete for ‘tagging along’ – I’m sure eating all those treats was a dream come true for him! Its so nice that the kids finally got to eat whatever they wanted too. And I can’t believe how big they looked in the photos! I guess they do really grow up as fast as everyone warns. :)

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stephanie @ gluten free by nature May 7, 2011 at 8:01 am

Maggie –

I couldn’t be at the Expo – but I loved loved loved seeing your photos and hearing your recap of the weekend. It makes me smile that you had such a wonderful time and that you were able to bring along your family. Such a treat to see you with all the familiar gluten free friends like Silvana, Kelly, Amy, Shirley and Hallie.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Stephanie

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Maggie May 8, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Thanks Stephanie! Happy Mother’s Day to you too. Glad you liked the post. It was pretty amazing to be able to meet such great bloggers.

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Heather @Gluten-Free Cat May 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm

What a great recap! It was so great to meet you. I think my favorite event was the VIP blogger party. It was great to get to know everyone!

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Maggie May 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Thanks Heather! I agree, the blogger party was so much fun! And I loved meeting you too. Can’t wait to meet up again soon.

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Patricia Taylor July 6, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Hello Maggie, I live in Brazil and have done recently a allergy test and have just discovered that I´m very allergic to gluten, milk (not only lactose), soy and eggs. It is being very hard to find products for me so I decided to start cooking. Can you try and help me develop some pasta dishes without these ingredients? I´m thinking of some different snacks also and breads.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Patty

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Maggie July 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Hi Patricia – Thanks for the note. Are you a vegetarian? Most of my pasta dishes are vegan. Our favorite is pesto using nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese. Usually I just saute a variety of vegetables, add some tomatoes and some nutritional yeast, and go! I’ll keep you in mind and let you know if I find anything else. Here’s a link to a great gluten-free blog http://jenncuisine.com/ . She has pasta recipes and is a meat-eater. Hope this helps a little!

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