Celebrating isn't what most folks feel like doing when they're diagnosed with celiac disease.
After all, what do people do to celebrate birthdays and holidays? Often, they eat. Birthday cake, Christmas cookies, stuffing on the Thanksgiving platter -- and all those things usually contain gluten, a grain protein that people with celiac and gluten intolerance must avoid.
But the array of gluten-free products has grown exponentially in recent years, along with awareness of celiac and related diseases. So perhaps the upcoming conference presented by the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health and the Pittsburgh Gluten Intolerance Group is appropriately named.
It's the "Celebrating a Gluten Free Lifestyle Conference" from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Four Points Sheraton in Cranberry.
With three speakers and a vendor hall featuring products and free samples, the conference is geared for people who have celiac or gluten intolerance, their families, medical professionals, and even people who suspect they might have the disease. But Kathy Sepesy, one of the organizers and an employee of the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health, said this conference will focus more on children than other Pittsburgh-area gluten-free conferences she's attended.
These are the speakers:
• Amy Macklin, a dietitian at the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health, has a child with celiac disease. She will address parents and children on the topic of "Friday Night Sleepover Survival Guide" at 9:15 a.m. She will also lead a hands-on children's activity at 10:30 a.m.
• Also at 10:30 a.m., Dr. Ram Chandra, gastroenterologist at Children's Hospital, will speak on "Early Childhood Celiac Disease."
• At noon, Dr. Kofi Clarke, gastroenterologist and head of the celiac team at the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health, will speak on "Celiac Disease --Testing and Follow Up After Diagnosis."
Admission to the conference is free, but attendees are asked to bring along a gluten-free food item to donate to local food banks.
For more information, go to pittsburghceliac.org and click "News and Events."
Oktoberfest: All-you-can-eat buffet, beer, music, karaoke, door prizes and more. 7 to 11 p.m. tomorrow at Boston Spectrum, Boston, Pa. $30 advance; $35 at the door. Proceeds benefit LifeSpan Inc. (lifespanpa.org), a service organization for seniors. For tickets: 412-464-1300 ext. 156.
Taste of Italy: Homemade wine tastings and competition, hors d'oeuvres, wine baskets and ticket auction. 6 p.m. Saturday at the Sons of Italy Frank Ricco Lodge in Brownsville. $35 advance, $40 at the door; proceeds benefit Brownsville Area Revitalization Corp. Tickets: 724-785-9331.
Wine and Croquet Festival: Croquet playing, wine and food pairings and live music. 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Succop Conservancy, Butler. $35. For ages 21 and older; proceeds benefit the Audubon Society. deercreekwine.com.
Nakama Celebrity Chef Cook-Off: Live music, cash bar, silent auction and a hibachi-style dinner prepared by surprise local celebrities matched with Nakama chefs. Past celebrities have included Louis Lipps, Johnny Angel, Tandy Baumann, Guy Costa, Charlie Batch, Luke Ravenstahl and more. 5:30 p.m. Monday at Nakama, South Side (dinner served at 7 p.m.). Tables of 10 start at $2,000; proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. 412-321-4422 ext. 17 or cff.org/Chapters/wpa.
Herbes de Pittsburgh XI: Herbal Harvest: Presentations on harvesting, preserving and winterizing herbs, hands-on cooking and craft projects, herbal market, book and bake sales. 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 27 at Old Economy Village in Ambridge. $20; proceeds benefit the Western Pennsylvania Unit of the Herb Society of America. Registration is required by Oct. 20. Information: westernpahsa.org.
Roger Mooking: The TV chef and soul musician demos recipes and tips for everyday exotic meals. 11 a.m. Saturday at Giant Eagle Market District, Bethel Park, and 3 p.m. at Market District in Wexford. Free, but register ahead at marketdistrict.com.
Locally grown lunch and food fair: Naturality, a Chatham University student group, celebrates Food Day (a nationwide promotion of healthy, affordable and sustainable food) with a locally grown lunch ($7) and fair from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Anderson Cafeteria on campus.
One local business planning a booth at the Celebrating a Gluten Free Lifestyle Conference is Murrysville's Gluten Free Zone, a newcomer to the local gluten-free scene.
Co-owner Ali Barbish was diagnosed with celiac disease three years ago and found it hard to locate gluten-free products she liked.
"We went around trying different products at grocery stores," her husband, Paul Barbish, said, "and what we found was that they'd get something in that we liked, but then once the pallet was gone, you wouldn't see it again for weeks or months. There just wasn't a very big selection."
So the family began attending food shows and delving deeper in their research, deciding eventually to open their own gluten-free store to expand the offerings for themselves and others.
Everything in the store is gluten-free; some products cater to people with other allergies, too.
The store also has a lunch counter serving gluten-free sandwiches, soups and pizzas. Co-owner Melanie Mills, Ali Barbish's mom, makes baked goods such as doughnuts, cookies, cupcakes and -- popular this fall -- pumpkin gobs. The store doesn't make homemade breads yet but does sell a variety of breads from outside vendors.
Aside from the homemade baked goods and lunch foods, the store also sells dry goods, frozen and refrigerated items, grab-n-go foods and booklets of gluten-free recipes. Many recipes are also posted on the store's website (yourglutenfreehealth.com); see post-gazette.com/food for the family's recipe for "Aunt Laura's Cheesy Potatoes," which Mr. Barbish recommends for the upcoming holiday season.
The store still is building its clientele, but Mr. Barbish says business is going well.
"We just wanted to give people more choices because we know how hard it is" to start the gluten-free journey.
Aunt Laura's Cheesy Potatoes
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 12-ounce cans gluten-free condensed cream of chicken soup, such as Pacific Natural Foods brand
- 1 heaping cup sour cream, or more to taste
- 1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 32-ounce package frozen hashbrown potatoes, such as Ore-Ida
- 1/2 cup crushed gluten-free corn flakes, gluten-free crisped rice cereal or potato chips
In a skillet, melt butter. Add onion and saute until transparent. Remove from heat.
In a bowl, stir together the onion mixture, soup, sour cream, cheddar, salt and pepper. Mix in the hash brown potatoes.
Pour the mixture into a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover with crushed cereal or potato chips.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 1 hour.
-- Gluten Free Zone, Murrysville
Rebecca Sodergren: firstname.lastname@example.org