Saturday, July 25, 2015

Vacation Rentals, Gluten-Free Safe

Vacation Rentals, Gluten-Free Safe

One of my favorite ways to travel or take a break is using Vacation Rentals. I always seem to travel with a troop…anywhere from 4 to 40 people…and we very seldom stay in hotels.  If we’re not on a Cruise Ship somewhere…we’re in one of these private homes.  From screened huts in Peru, to mobile homes in Florida, log cabins in Tennessee, thatched cottages in Ireland and even a castle in Scotland…Vacation Rentals are a great way to go!  They come in absolutely every size, shape and location you can imagine, from dirt cheap to as extravagant as you can dream, there are very few limits.

And the best part? My own kitchen!  Traveling Gluten-Free can be a real challenge at times and I love being able to prepare my own meals on occasion, on my own terms without worrying about someone else’s carelessness.  Yes, we do eat out when we travel.  But we also love to eat in as well.  I will admit travel with people who love food as much as I do really makes the trip so much more enjoyable.  And we all love to immerse ourselves in the local culture which means local food as well.

We have one rule when we travel…we never eat, shop, or explore anything we could do at home. That means when we shop for Gluten-Free food we stick to local as well.  And it’s a lot easier than you’d expect if you eat real food…fresh fruits, vegetables & proteins. I’ve also found that countries outside the U S are truly much more Gluten-Free safe than I had imagined.  I still use my Triumph Dining Cards all the time…even when grocery shopping and I can’t read the labels.  And yes, we were able to find a Gluten-Free Haggis in Scotland…but I won’t tell you what I thought about it, you’ll need to find out for yourself.

Generally, the kitchen in our Vacation Rentals have been pretty clean and neat.  There is NO maid service but they do have a cleaning crew go through the house from top to bottom before you move in and then again after you move out.  So the kitchens have never really been a problem for me.  The first thing we do upon arriving is inspect the house, find our bedrooms and begin making a note of items we’ll need to shop for.  Usually tops on the list is soaps & paper products for the kitchen, bath and laundry. 

I check out the kitchen.  Glass is my friend!  I love finding glass and ceramic dishes, glasses, cups, bowls and baking pans!  When in doubt…wash it out!  Plastic gets shoved to the back of the shelf…I don’t like using it.  Pots & pans take a ton of abuse so I inspect them closely.  Scratches, dents, unknown burnt bits…those get shoved to the back of the shelf as well.  If I have to, I’ll purchase my own trusty fry pan to use while I’m there and then simply leave it behind when I’m gone.  I absolutely dislike aluminum…but if needed I’ll sacrifice my dislike and purchase aluminum baking/roasting pans and foil…simply to protect myself.  I’ve also been known to convert the entire kitchen to disposables if absolutely nothing in the kitchen is safe to eat from.

Can this get expensive?  Perhaps.  But not so much when you consider my share of renting the house can be as little as $10.00 a night!  You probably won’t find any hotel that cheap…and if you do you might not want to walk outside alone. And if eating unsafe food puts me into a hospital in a foreign country…well, I don’t think that's very cost effective either.  So I consider the costs for my Gluten-Free safety and put those right into my travel budget too.  And since we all eat the same food we all share the food budget as well.

When we shop we like to stock the kitchen with only the basics.  Good simple things that can be converted easily into a tasty meal.  Here are some of the basics we shop for, you'll need to adjust according to your needs - Bacon, Broth, Butter, Chicken, Chips, Coffee, Creamer, Dish Soap, Dried Fruit, Eggs, Fresh Fruit, Fresh Vegetables, Garlic, Hamburger, Hand Soap, Juice, Milk, Nuts, Oil, Onions, Paper Towels, Pepper, Potatoes, Rice, Salt, Sausage, Tea, Toilet Paper, Trash Bags, Snack Bars, Sugar.

Breakfast foods…since we normally don’t leave the house without a good hearty breakfast first.  Snacks…don't forget stuff that’s not too tender and can easily be thrown into a backpack or purse for the day.  Drinks…I’m sorry, I don’t begin my day without my coffee.  Basics...salt, pepper, onions, garlic, oil, butter, etc.  We try to stay away from processed foods...UNLESS...we find something particular to the location that is clearly marked Gluten-Free. Normally, I don't eat that sort of thing at home, but on vacation or a break I love to indulge and try new things.

I never leave the house without eating breakfast first...and I always carry something with me for our day out.  Others may stop and eat whenever, wherever they want...for me it's not so easy so I make certain I'm prepared. Dinner is always a planned event, whether we shop and make it at the house, or find a restaurant in our travels where we can all stop and enjoy a great meal.

Oh...and if you were wondering...the pictures on this page are all Vacation Rentals we've used over the years :-)  They're easy enough to find if you can Google.  In the U S use the key words "Vacation Rental" and the location you're interested in.  Outside the U S use the key words "Self Catering" along with the country you want to search.

Carolanne LeBlanc

Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
               Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
               101 Imperial Palm Drive
               Largo, Florida  33771

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tips for surviving a NON Gluten-Free Home or Vacation

Tips for surviving a NON Gluten-Free Home or Vacation

We had a great question come up at our Support Meeting and I thought it was worth passing on to you.  "How do you survive a vacation or visit with family or friends who not only DON'T have a Gluten-Free home...but who don't even have any clue about what Gluten-Free is about??"

Well, I have to admit that I've been there and done that one too.  I love my family and friends...they're very much aware of my issues with Gluten and they really do try.  But for the most part...they haven't got a clue.  I'm also one of those people who insist we should all do our best to take responsibility for ourselves.  So while I appreciate all the help I get from family and friends I know that my life and my health are in my own hands.  So I've had to figure out a few survival tricks along the way.

CRUISING:  Before the first dinner seating go straight to the Main Dining Room and talk to someone.  They are sooooo incredibly helpful…but if they don’t understand what you want ask for someone who can.  Then tell them you require a Gluten-Free meal and ask what you need to do to guarantee that.  Each ship is slightly different…but you need to get your message in early.  Normally you will be assigned a special person who will help you order at each meal.  I love the special attention and I make certain to tip that person well and in CASH at the end of my cruise.

DAY TRIPS:  First...I always travel with  Seriously, I always carry meal bars - Lara Bars, PureFit Bars, ThinkThin Bars - they're small enough to keep in my pocket or purse and when everyone else can stop and eat whatever they want and I can't then I can munch on a bar that will carry me through. I would never have made it through Ireland without them. Try to stay away from chocolate only because it can get pretty messy on a warm day. 

FAMILY & FRIENDS:  When I go back home to New England I stay with family & friends.  The first thing I do is confiscate (or buy) a good fry pan.  It doesn't need to be a large pan...but it must be in immaculate shape...NO scratches.  You can cook anything in a good fry pan.  Then I keep the pan with my personal stuff...wrap it in paper towels and hide it right in my suitcase.  That way I'm certain no-one else will 'Gluten' it when I'm not looking.  When it comes time to eat...I pull out my fry pan.  I can even make toast in that fry pan...a little butter on both sides of my bread...and a quick minute in my fry pan and I have toast.

FLYING:  As soon as you book your flight…call and request a Gluten-Free option.  It doesn’t matter if they tell you they can’t do it…call anyway.  Then ask for a Supervisor and ask again. It doesn’t matter if they tell you they still can’t do it…ask anyway.  YOU may not get what you want…but you’ll be helping others in the future.  When you get onto the plane and they start coming around with those little carts…ask if they have any Gluten-Free options.  It doesn’t matter if they tell you they still can’t do it…ask anyway. My carryon carries food!! You CANNOT carry liquids, or jelly, or even fresh fruit…but you can carry Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, dried fruits & nuts, cookies, crackers and candy or chocolate.

HOSTESS:  I've also carried a bag of Pamela's Gluten-Free Pancake mix all the way to Peru.  It was heaven to have fresh hot pancakes every morning for breakfast.  My hostess at the Anaconda Lodge even made some up for my packed lunch when we all went on a trek through the Amazon Jungle.  Imagine my glee when I opened my little lunch box to find pancakes layered with homemade pineapple jam and fresh fruit!!  When we were leaving she handed me a little package for the plane lunch she said.  It was Thai rice with vegetables, wrapped in a banana leaf and tied with a vine...incredible!!  Thank you, Wadee!!

PLASTIC ZIP-LOCK BAGS:  I know…it’s probably the most wasteful thing I do.  But when traveling they come in soooooo handy!!  So I pack a few quart sized and few gallon sized freezer bags. I just think of them as my wall of protection.  I don’t waste valuable food space in my carry-on with soaps & shampoos…they go into a zip-lock bag and into my checked baggage.  Wherever I’m staying I put my food into zip-locks to protect me from inquisitive fingers and flying Gluten.  Once I’ve opened an item I intend to use…into a zip-lock it goes to keep it fresh and bug-free.  I don’t know about you…but I don’t like eating bugs any more than Gluten…even when they do get fried up nice n crunchy and served on my dinner plate. {Shudder}

RESEARCH: Before venturing out of my own little comfort zone I always spend time doing research.  At home I’m known as the Google Queen…I can find out just about anything through Google.  Two things I ALWAYS research are foods and bathrooms…yes, bathrooms.  After doing this for nearly 30 years I want to know what is available for public restrooms.  I’ve also learned to pack those travel sized anti-bacterial wipes and pocket tissues…several packs are always in my suitcase and I always keep one of each in my purse when out and about.

SHOPPING:  As soon as I get to where I’m going I ask for the nearest Health Food Store and pick up a few essentials for my stay...pancake mix, pasta, bread.  I LOVE Tesco!!  I remember hunting for a Health Food Store in Scotland and discovering Tesco Grocers.  My travel mates found me standing in front of a WHOLE wall of just Gluten-Free food. I was awe struck!!  I swear I could hear Heavenly Choirs in the back ground.  My travel mates got a good laugh at the bemused look on my face…that’s because they understood :-)

SUITCASE: I pack crackers & cookies…my treats that I might not be able to find wherever I’m going.  My favorites are the Glutino Wafers & Schar Snack Crackers - strong, tight little boxes that won't get squished in my suitcase.  There's nothing worse than opening a pillow bag or loose cookie tray filled with nothing but crumbs.  Disappointing.  Especially when everyone else is enjoying an evening cup of tea or coffee and a snack and I’m left with crumbs. The only time I might break this rule is to tuck a pillow bag of Glutino Yogurt covered Pretzels into the top corner of my suitcase…I love those things!!

TRIUMPH DINING CARDS:  I never leave home without them.  Honestly.  They have become a permanent item in my purse.  I’ve used them so many times, in so many different languages, in many different countries as well as at home that the plastic sleeve that holds them is paper thin, worn & torn and I’m going to have to switch to a paperclip soon.  I wonder if Triumph has come up with a little travel case yet?? These little cards have saved my tummy more times than I want to know.

Carolanne LeBlanc

Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
               Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
               101 Imperial Palm Drive
               Largo, Florida  33771