GFAF Expo Chicago 2016 Highlights and Recap!

I'm late to the re-capping game for the GFAF Expo in Chicago. After 2 weeks on the road, I was and am in a whirl, and the sheer amount of new products, and stories, I discovered in the Windy City were enough to knock my socks off. Add to that the travel I love, blazing Spring skies, new friendships, celiac-planning-researching-food-safety-searching, and a 2nd brilliant event with GFAF Wellness in St Louis...and you get OY.

Margaret (of MI Gluten Free Gal blog), CJ, and Christina!
BLOGGERS? Probably. Celiac? HO YES.

But here, at long last, the recap -- and it's good:

This year, the Chicago GFAF Expo was a wicked showcase of whole foods and naturally gluten free goods to an extent that it never has been before. This was a highlight for me, and a relief, and it I had a blast sampling food no longer so hell bent on mimicking gluten-filled favourites that it lost its unique flavour and strengths in the process.

From nuts and seeds (nut-freed and seedy offerings, nutty-sans-soy) to diabetic-friendly paleo, from sweets to suppers, the expo highlighted some opportunities, and the fact that we all have options, even if we're medically prescribed a custom diet. Gluten-free? It's an adventure, and the newest companies and foods I found, along with old standby's -- are here to fuel it.

I love that most of these businesses are small, and not just making product, but intentionally making good on the gluten-free wave, through doing good. Whether B-corp certified, or not, they're using their visibility and profit to fund service projects, celiac awareness education, nutrition support for underserved populations in and out of the Western world, and support undernourished children across the globe.

THE NEW KIDS ON THE G-FREE BLOCK (capsule reviews)

Chickpea pasta, mates? Go for it. Founded by a 23 year old who wanted to make the food we love "love [us] back", Banza wins with quality -- and with nutrition. These shells and elbows are gluten-free, with a dash of tapioca flour, and nothing else, and they have the heartiness and hold of truly good noodles; not to mention, they pack 14 g protein in per serving. Non-GMO, small biz, this product is celiac-amazing.


Waffles? Use Cooqi. These flours blends were an ace find for me -- organic, whole grain and ancient grain, and somehow the blend manages to make the fluffiest waffle and pancake on the block.


This tiny company was a huge find. Naturally gluten-free, and deceptively simple, the 3 varieties of Gorilly Good are just that: good. Seeds, nuts, chocolate and banana (depending on which flavour you choose) make up the gist of the grist. But they're delicious -- proving simple stuffs that highlight naturally GF ingredients often make up the best food. They're also fair-trade, organic, and packed in single-serve for easy celiac-travel stuffing., I'll say again:  Surprisingly simple, highly satisfying. I loved the flavours. I'm used to trail mixes. But this was different, and better. All organic, fair-trade, and delicious . Great on a breakfast of yogurt. Excellent kid-fare. Er, excellent me-fare. Celiac-safe.


Buns and bagels, breads and wraps -- BFree Foods, out of the Emerald Isle, just re-covered gluten-free traditional trouble bases, and trouble-shot at least 3 easily.  The gluten-free bread has got excellent hold, texture, and taste --toasted or untoasted. The bagels are light, but not chalky, with a good chew if not blazing toasted. The dinner buns/rolls were stellar, seeded, and nicely crusty.  I loved meeting this company at the expo: They're goods are good, simple, and light. Soy-free, vegan, sugar-free, and non-GMO as well. Check back for full product profile and giveaway in the near future.


Check out deep dish pizza here. But higher up on the radar, Kiki has developed a takeaway bag that allows -- or will allow -- diners to have their pizza pies cooked safely in the same oven with gluten-ful pies. It looks to be a brilliant development for nixing risk of cross-contamination, and a necessary take-along on travel for anyone needing a strictly gluten-free diet. (Also, PITA bread -- very excellent pita bread.)


Best. Granola. Ever. Kitch Fix takes almost everything out. Somehow, this removal manages to put everything like flavour, nutrition, texture, taste IN to this paleo, gluten-free, grain-free mix. Oy. I've been sprinkling the Cacao flavour on my nut-butter toast, over coconut milk chia pudding, and on top of my smoothies. Lightly sweetened with maple syrup. Real lightly. Still tastes like the best of sugar-sweet stuffs. Quite celiac-safe. And? OAT-free.


Very brilliant nut butter company out of Wisconsin, founded by a team of two blokes who explicitly state: This brand is out  to make something that fuels and supports human lives and growth. Not throwaway purchases. Not something "just to be consumed". Something that sticks the ribs -- soul and stomach-wise. Yum Butter has that going for them, but it wouldn't succeed without also being a bloody brilliant bundle of good nut blends. YUM makes Sunflower, Almond, Peanut, and Cashew butters, blended with superfoods and goji in recyclable, easy-squeeze packaging, as well as 2 specialty blends -- Protein+Probiotic Almond and, Peanut Chocolate Espresso. These nut butters are really-really good. They are world-changing nut butters. In quality -- organic, fairtrade, small-batched -- as well as in mission. Because what I love as much as the flavours and nutrition in these nut butter is the fact that each time you buy a package, you feed a mother and child in need. Truth.

Celiac-safe, and intentionally of-service -- Yum Butter was and is a huge find from the GFAF Expo. Check back for a full profile, and giveaway!

Amongst old gluten-free friends... OLD KIDS, NEW EATS,  SAME GREAT GOOD


I always enjoy Bob's. They've been a go-to from the time of my celiac-diagnosis, and I know their integrity is peerless when it comes to gluten-free grains, transparency, and celiac-safety.

But new find! Bob's has got PROTEIN POWDER. A simple blend of chia and hemp, in Vanilla, Chocolate, Chai or Plain, this is new. Plant-based. Gluten-free. Great addition to cereal, milks or smoothies for a meal-upper, healthy weight gain, or athletic plan, and great slightly nutty, sugar-free sweet taste and texture.


Beans plus chips -- oy, always naturally gluten-free, and always a bloody YES< yes? Beanfields makes it easy. Beans ARE chips. Corn-free crisps from this family-owned business are brilliant, and I got to connect with Angela (of Celiac Hashi Girl) and the Beanfield table to try new Black Bean flavours, and the BBQ and Ranch.


Canyon always has my respect for its double quality of celiac-safe-testing and comitment, and consistency of product. Their tag line is love bread again. How about gluten-free bagels? That too. If you need to eat gluten-free, you can eat a PB sandwich with their 7 Grain and feel quite normal -- because it really doesn't taste "good BUT...", it just tastes good. They also use organic ingredients when possible, and ancient grains to provide nutrition -- so important to the celiac diet -- on top of great taste.


Raw, naturally gluten-free, nut and seed crackers, cookies, and now protein bars Cacao Mint flavour,
amongst others. Not old, but new to me -- I'd never met the Go Raw team or their product. But it's another in the line of Gorilly Good -- really good, really simple, simply sweetened, celiac-safe, naturally gluten-free. I love their cookies and raw seeds.


Another old friend. They do make oats. But guess what? They batch test at under 5ppm.

They also have a brand-newish flat bread, in 3 flavours. Oy. Celiac-safe. But also flatbread. This is a capsule comment. But I'll be doing a full giveaway and write up later this Summer.

NOW FOODS (Sugarless Sugar)

Well, on top of their Gluten Free Living Line (baking mixes, quinoa, and quinoa pasta), NOW makes almost everything. I'm writing up their protein powders and supplements at the moment for a full display of the celiac-supportive options they offer, and their benefit to in imbalanced gut. But the rather brilliant new product at the Expo was their single-packet Sugarless Sugars. My grandmum was in heaven. She has diabetes. These little packets aren't chemical-crack-jobs of artificial sweetener. They're a blend of stevia and monkfruit, can be used teaspoon to teaspoon for sugar, have no peculiar aftertaste, and use whole extract without fillers. (Most stevia products blend with corn or dextrose for cost, and to ameliorate taste and texture.) Epic win, gluten-free, and diabetic-gut-friendly, from NOW.


Pascha: Organic, top 8 allergen free, fair-trade... I love Pascha. I put their chocolate chips in everything, from crepes to smoothies to cookies and muffins. But they now make a Chocolate spread "milk" chocolate that tastes like M&M's (made with rice milk).
that's fruit-sweetened, and it's indescribably good. They also intro'ed

I can haz all the Pascha? Some of the kids I work with know Pascha now; and since I introduced these little celiac and food-allergy fiends to the chips, they always ask, "Miss CJ, do you have samples? Of chocolate?"

Another good thing about Pascha...a little goes a long way. This helps on the budget, if you need to buy allergen-free, you can make Pascha last (even if you really don't want to...).

SWEET NOTE BAKERY (gluten free bagels)

These crazy bagel-ladies aren't crazy...unless you mean crazy inventive and crazy-good-gluten-free-bagel-makers.

A huge highlight -- pun intended: Sweet Note's naturally brilliant (and I mean naturally dyed-brilliant-golden-and-orange as well as delicious) Sunrise Bagels. Free not just of top allergens, including nuts, eggs, soy, wheat, and dairy, these chewy New York-style rounds are also non-gmo and preservative free. "Clean eating" often gets confused with RESTRICTIVE eating. But I think treats like these bagel ladies brilliant bagels are more in line with the term...they don't have chemicals. They're perfect. But they're not a plate of vegetables. They're not "right" eating -- they're great eating: and wholly gluten-free with a passion. Not to mention, brilliant. Brilliant in triple-meaning -- good eats, gluten-free, and bright enough to shock you awake any morning.


Check back for the Cafe Review, as well as a link to the write-up of this fully dedicated gluten-free bakery and eatery in Chicago in GF and More Magazine.

But in the meantime: Superb is an understatement when it comes to the food -- altogether gluten-free in categories traditionally drenched in wheat -- that the founder and chef of Wheat's End provide. From bagels to cake, waffles to popovers, Wheat's End meets the celiac right where they find themselves at their wit's end with wheat. And it makes a celiac want to cry, it's so good.

But the food also sneaks up on the callously gluten-eating sort as well. The manager told me a hilarious anecdote about a diner who refused to eat that "gluten-free stuff". Pretending he could give the bloke some "normal" food, he brought him back a bagel or waffle, saying it had gluten. The customer scarfed it, loved it...and then found out it had actually be gluten-free all along.

That's Wheat's End, in one nutshell. If you're in Chicago, stop in. If you're not, order online.



...provides customised nutrition plans and consults, along with medical grade food products and supplements to patrons. I met Stefanie, the USANA rep at the Expo -- and she wasn't just a rep, but the 2nd in the nation for this organization whose mission is to reach and aid those threatened by poor-nutrition, digestive disease, and lack of resource.


I loved these picture books written and illustrated by Tara Murray, a celiac herself, who was diagnosed when no one knew what to do about this bugger of an autoimmune disease. Her books, and her whimsical comic illustrations, are great fun, educational in a light way -- they neatly plug facts in between the story and rhyme -- and interactive. I enjoyed them. But they're wonderful for children diaganosed with celiac disease. They take away the suffocating sense of alone it's so easy to be broken by as a child when food becomes fearsome. 'Tara was also bloody brilliant, personally, and I hope to partner with her on Tumbling Gluten Free and work with her publishing business in the near future.

I am highly impressed with the integrity and vision of USANA. The above is a plant-based protein powder with a nutritional profile keenly appropriate to helping celiacs recover from wasting and gut disbiosis. A full company and product profile is upcoming. I know I have a few clients who could benefit from the resource USANA offers. I also love their vision of sustainability, which includes reducing waste so as to better balance global resource, and build avenues to reach those in critical need of the human necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.

In closing, the Expo had a heap of highlights. But I think the top was the balance tipping towards products that can bring out the strength of naturally gluten-free, without merely mimicking old-hat gluten-full food. It takes creativity, openness, and flexibility to do that. Just as exciting was seeing the stories woven into the work, the companies like YUM, like BANZA, out of many others -- who are building good out what could have been just "business", supporting individual human lives through their message and love of safe and good food.

Tumbling Free,



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