Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Life Hiking Spa -- Day 5

On my last day, I did the early morning Stretch class, then breakfast before heading for home. The picture is of the back of the Inn, where there is a nice patio for lounging between classes.

Here are my thoughts about the trip, both good and bad.

First, let me say that I think it was a total win from the point of view of a Traveling Celiac. Other than Disney World, I haven't ever been anywhere that was more aware of gluten, and it was a heck of a lot healthier than anything The Mouse has ever served me. I especially loved that they paid so much attention to alternative grains for everyone, not just as an accommodation for me. One of the guests claimed that before I got there, dinner one night had been a lasagna where the pasta was made from Jerusalem artichoke flour, so I might have been able to eat that! Nifty.

As a hiking retreat in general, there were a few ups and downs. Many of the guests commented that the hotel itself was a bit long in the tooth. It is definitely in need of some updates, but that lack of luxury is what made it possible for them to provide this experience so inexpensively. For the most part, everything had a bit of a shabby chic charm, except the pools. The outdoor pool is permanently broken. Apparently it hasn't been operational for two years. The indoor pool is really is a serious state of disrepair and I don't really think they should be allowing guests in it at all, let alone holding classes. Nevertheless, I think the total package offers good value for the money.

One thing I regret not knowing before I came, you can wear sneakers on the beginner hikes. I brought two pairs of hiking boots and only one pair of cutesy sneakers, because I thought only boot were allowed. I ended up with an unnecessary bruise by wearing those clunky hiking boots on a 5 mile hike on a paved road, and it limited my participation in further hikes. Bring a good pair of athletic sneakers/cross-trainers to the exercise classes and also wear them on any of the beginner hikes/ nature trails. Also, they had backpacks available, but if I were to do it again, I'd go buy one of those really nice hiking backpacks at REI, instead of lugging about their big ol' army backpack just to carry one piece of fruit and a bottle of water.

I wasn't there long enough to actually "lose weight," of course, but I did feel healthier and a lot more confident in myself and my ability to live a healthy lifestyle, so I am glad I went.


Friday, July 23, 2010

New Life Hiking Spa -- Day 4

This photo is of the tent where the morning Stretch class and afternoon exercise classes take place.

I made it to the 7 am Stretch class this morning (go, me!) and had my usual scrambled eggs with the tapioca tortilla. I keep forgetting to ask for salsa on the side, but they bring it once I ask.

This morning I chose the "Walk and Cook" activity instead of one of the hikes. We took a 3 mile walk around the surrounding neighborhood, staying mostly on sidewalks and residential areas. There were a quite a few hills so it turned out to be a pretty good work out, but much gentler than anything we had been doing. After the walk, we watched our instructor Janet do a cooking demo. First she juiced some carrots, oranges, pineapple, and ginger for us to drink. It tasted like an Orange Julius to me, probably because it was frothy. Yummy!

Then she made a what she considered a "burger" out of sunflower seeds and rice. I liked it. It was quite tasty. But I think the word "burger" should be avoided as this resembled a burger only in shape. However, as a Sunflower Croquette, it would make a nice side dish. Here's the recipe:

4 cups sunflower seeds (finely chopped in food processor, but don't puree it to a paste)
3 cups cooked brown rice
1/8 cup of onion or shallot, diced
About 2 cups of vegetables (she used carrots, parsley, and red bell pepper)
1/4 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt

Blend in food processor, until blended but not mushy. It will need to be sticky enough to make a patty, so add a little water if needed. Form into patties and brown in a skillet with a small amount of oil (she used safflower; I would use olive oil). Serve hot.

We only got a small taste (they are still watching our calories for us) so I was glad when lunchtime came around. Lunch is always a soup, followed by a small entree. Today the soup was French Onion (a little sweeter than I would have expected) and a chicken Caesar salad. The waitress remembered me today and brought me mine without croutons. I didn't even have to ask. Yea!

Dinner was a special treat. All day there had been rumors that there would be steak served that night, but I pretty much assumed it was about as likely as a suprise excursion to Burger King; however, when dinner came, there it was on the menu. Steak! It was a small filet, the size you are SUPPOSED to eat -- the size of a deck of cards. It has a beefy sauce that was very nicely seasoned, and the meat was served medium rare. The meat was slightly tough, and I'm not sure if that was because of the cut of meat or because it was slightly less rare than I am used to eating, but it was good. It was served with perfectly steamed snow peas and quite possibly the best corn I've every eaten. Since I had eaten so much, I "virtuously" skipped dessert -- a fruit cup. LOL

Overall, I have been really happy with the food here; a surprise, since I do have a few "food preferences" and I've had to eat a few things I wouldn't eat at home. They do say that hunger is the best sauce.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Life Hiking Spa -- Day 3

This morning I skipped the Stretch class, which I regret. It's my favorite class here at New Life. But at 6:45 am, I just couldn't pull myself out of bed. Still, I managed to be up in time for breakfast at 7:30. There was a choice of an omelet with sun dried tomatoes and basil or plain scrambled eggs, both gluten free. I went with plain scrambled and asked them to substitute the tapioca tortilla for the whole wheat muffin. It came with just a dab of delicious blackberry jam (the kind that makes you want to lick the plate to get every last drop) and a slice of cantaloupe and a very tiny garnish of three blueberries and a slice of strawberry.

I was hoping to do the intermediate level hike today, to give myself an extra challenge, but when I put on my hiking boots I realized I had a large bruise on my ankle and the boot was pressing on it. On the beginner level hike you are allowed to wear sneakers, so I had to change into those and go on the "nature walk." It was still a 5 mile walk, though, so I got my exercise for sure. It was a beautiful walk down 2 miles of gravel road along a lake, then a 1 mile loop through the woods, then back along the road we came in on. I especially loved hearing the frogs croaking along the lake shore.

Lunch was served back at the spa, where we had a wonderful zucchini soup (the recipe is on their website) and little English-muffin pizzas. Mine, of course, had to be made on the tapioca tortilla, but it was good. It was loaded with a lot of mushrooms and black olives (not my favorite), but by this point I am learning to eat what I'm served to avoid being hungry in the afternoon.

After lunch we took an excursion to the Rutland Area Food Co-Op (that's it's name). I didn't buy anything, but they did have a number of gluten free items, including Bob's Red Mill mixes, Mary's Gone Crackers, and Kind bars. So it would be a good place to stock up if you were in the area. Our guide was there to talk about alternative grains such as millet and quinoa, which of course I already know about, but don't serve often enough. Perhaps I'll get motivated to try millet again when I get home.

There was an evening Yoga class, then off to dinner where we were served a choice of tofu or salmon with an orange glaze. Needless to say, I chose salmon. It was well-prepared and the sauce was good. It was served with a brown rice and spinach pilaf and steamed veggies. Up until this point I had not been concerned about the lack of salt on the table, but the rice was bland and really needed a bit of salt. Fortunately, a fellow guest sitting at my table had a secret salt shaker that he has been sneaking into the dining room in his pocket -- LOL! He generously shared, and the rice was quite good with just a small sprinkle of salt.

I should say that dinner is always served with a salad, but I've gotten tired of eating them. The field greens and celery are ok, but I've never been a fan of raw onion, bean sprouts, or radishes. At least there are never any croutons on them!

For dessert they served strawberries Romanov, which I was told I could eat, but the server mistakenly put one in front of me that was garnished with wheat germ. Fortunately, I was suspicious and asked what was on it. She apologized and went back to the kitchen to get an ungarnished serving.

I had a massage tonight for my poor weary muscles and I am having a glass of my Vermont wine while I type, but I had best get to bed if I want to get up for the early morning Stretch class. Good night!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Life Hiking Spa -- Day 2

This morning it was a little hard to pull myself out of bed, but I reminded myself that a) I really enjoyed Stretch class yesterday and b) I actually paid money to do this. So off I went to the 7 am Stretch class, followed by breakfast.

They served breakfast burritos (on CORN tortillas) filled with scrambled egg. There was a side of salsa and a side of beans. The burritos were delicious, especially with the salsa, but the beans left a lot to be desired. They were a bit "al dente" which is a word that should never be used to describe beans. I only ate a bite of them, which is really a shame because there are so many really wonderful low fat ways to prepare mexican/ refried beans, but these were a little sweet and definitely too crunchy. The fruit cup was grapefruit and bananas with coconut flakes. The coconut was a nice change of pace.

Our morning hike was 5 miles along the Appalachian trail, with a stop at a pretty waterfall. On our return, we had carrot ginger soup, which was served warm and was reminiscent of a cream of tomato soup. Then we had a tabbouleh salad made with quinoa (this is what they served to everyone, and it was gluten free) with a side of goat cheese and crackers. Since I couldn't eat the crackers, they had substituted a side of hummus. Goat cheese without crackers was too strong a taste for me and I didn't eat much of it.

In the afternoon, I couldn't take it anymore and snuck out to the store. I bought a bottle of Vermont wine (Snow Farm winery's Rose Red) and some Vermont cheese (Cabot's Tomato Basil Cheddar). I had a box of Mary's Gone Crackers in the car and I decided to spend a few hours relaxing with some wine and cheese and a good book (The Autobiography of Santa Clause by Jeff Guinn). Screw pilates.

When I got to dinner, they had thoughtfully noted on the dining board that they only item on the menu that was not gluten free was the salad dressing (which contained tahini). I ordered the combo plate, which is a smaller portion of the meat entree with a small portion of the vegetarian entree. The meat dish was chicken stuffed with spinach and feta cheese (very good) and the veggie entree was a red pepper stuffed with a pilaf made of brown rice, quinoa, and millet (delicious). It was served with some steamed zucchini and yellow squash (a bit limp). Dessert was fascinating, if not particularly tasty. It was a frozen banana puree. The only ingredient is banana, so it was remarkable how similar the texture was to real ice cream. They drizzled it with a tiny bit of chocolate sauce and an almond on top. I think it would have been better with more almonds, especially slivered instead of one whole. I ate about half of it.

My stomach has felt great since I got here. I think that the combination of no gluten cross-contamination, no fats or processed foods, increased roughage, and lots of exercise has been great for my digestion. Of course, it's a lot easier to put this into practice when someone else is cooking your meals for you. Still, I have gotten some good ideas on how to improve our diet once I am back at home.

Cross your fingers that I make it through yet another hike tomorrow morning! Sandy

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gluten Free at the New Life Hiking Spa - Day 1

I arrived Monday evening at the New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vermont. I was nervous about so many things... can I really do this? Will I be lonely? Will they leave me for dead at the top of the mountain when I collapse from exhaustion? But mostly, will there be anything I can eat?

The meals at the spa are highly regulated -- this is a weight loss program. There are two options for each meal -- vegetarian and not vegetarian. If I can't eat one of those two meals, I'm going hungry. That's not really how I want to lose weight.

Before the trip I called and spoke with the owner, Jimmy LeBron, who assured me that the kitchen was used to handling special diets and that they make all their own food from scratch. When I got here, I discovered that one of the employees is gluten intolerant as well, so I began to relax.

Dinner the night I arrived was delicious and there was no gluten in anything except the dessert. I had a salad, pork with apple sauce, steamed veggies with balsamic vinaigrette, and potatoes with chickpeas. They brought me a fruit cup in lieu of dessert, and I think I got the better deal. The "carrot cake" looked pretty dismal to me.

The next morning, I was up for Stretch class at 7:00 am, then off to breakfast. The waiter was serving a choice of three meals, and the only one without gluten in it was a blueberry smoothie with hemp protein. Let me just say... hemp is not something I want to eat ever again. It was god-awful. Fortunately, a woman who had been there several days told me a secret. You can ask them for plain scrambled eggs. Hallelujah! The waiter let the kitchen know I was there and they sent out a "tortilla" made of tapioca with my eggs so that I would have a carbohydrate with my meal. The eggs were yummy and I even asked for, and got!, salsa to go with it. It was a meal to make this Texas girl very happy. (For the record, I should note that several other guests loved the smoothies, and one said it varied a great deal from day to day depending on who made it.)

Tuesday's hike was in Woodstock and we wouldn't be back in time for lunch, so they packed us a sack lunch, and they kindly made a special one for me using the tortilla wrap instead of bread for my sandwich. The sandwich had turkey and hummus with shredded carrots and chopped tomatoes. In addition, there was an orange and a little baggie of trail mix with nuts and dried fruit. Then we had a little time to shop in Woodstock and many of the participants went straight for the coffee shop to get a caffeine fix. I went with them, but instead of coffee I had a smoothie made from non-fat yogurt and fresh strawberries. It went a long way towards erasing the memory of that horrible hemp concoction.

After the hike, I made the mistake of scheduling an early massage BEFORE the yoga class. My plan was: massage, then dance aerobics, then yoga, then meditation class, then dinner. I was full of pep when I headed off the massage. After the massage I went night-night and didn't wake up until dinner. Next time, I will schedule the massage for the evening instead.

For dinner, I chose the vegetarian option of red beans and rice with mozzarella. It was a good sized portion and very filling. It was not a cajun rendering of this dish, it was more like eating a lasagne, hearty and rich, but not spicy at all. It was served with salad and green beans. Again, I substituted a fruit compote for dessert, which was a very dry looking apple tart with a mountain of oats on top. I'm pretty sure I was better off with the fruit.

So far, I am feeling very good about the whole experience. I have been well fed with healthy, gluten free food in managed proportions so that I don't overeat. But if worst comes to worst, I still have leftover pizza from Monday in my room fridge if I get desperate. Let's hope I don't have to resort to that.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Gluten Free in Nashua, New Hampshire

I was meeting a dear friend of the family for lunch in Nashua, and I choose to have us eat at Speaker's Corner in the Crowne Plaza hotel, as they have a gluten free menu and had many favorable reviews on the web. I definately made a good choice!

The restaurant looked a bit too fancy on their web page, but the actual restaurant was not at all intimidating. Nancy and I sat outside on the patio and I was given a gluten-free menu (laminated!) and told that during lunch the items listed under entrees were not available, but that everything else was.

That left plenty to choose from including pizza, nachos, chicken tenders, shrimp cocktail, mussels, burgers (with bun!) and salads.

I'm still not over my bad burger experience at 99's, so I decided to try the pizza. It was very tasty. The crust was thin but not too crisp, and the sauce and cheese were both good quality. It wasn't the sort of pizza you would rave about, but it was very satisfactory. I also had a side salad with a delicious zinfandel vinegrette salad dressing.

If I had the chance to go back, I'd like to go for dinner. Several of the entrees looked intriguing and out of the ordinary, such as Carciofi -- veal medallions, artichoke hearts, asparagus, and fresh herbs in white wine garlic sauce, for example. Mmmmm. It is always a nice treat to find something different to eat on a gluten free diet, instead of relying or plain chicken or steak every time.

Nancy and I skipped dessert (I am on my way to weight-loss camp) but they looked good too, especially the flourless chocolate raspberry cake or the caramlized bananas.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

GF in Manchester, New Hampshire

For lunch, my mother in law made me a fantastic sandwich on a Schar bun. I mention this because it was a lot better than hamburger for dinner at 99 in Manchester, NH.

99 is a chain restaurant that has a gluten-free menu. I asked for, and received, a copy of the gluten-free menu at the podium. It was a pretty good selection -- hamburgers on a gluten free bun (more on that later), prime rib, steak, and salmon. Sides included garlic mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, or a baked potato. They also offered an ice-cream sundae for dessert. Child's portions of the steak were available.

I ordered the bacon cheese "steakburger" and I was excited to have a hamburger on an actual bun. Unfortunately, the bun was crumbly and dry. I do give them points for having a bun at all, but gluten-free has come a long way recently, as my Schar bun at lunch shows. Udi's makes fantastic bread and bagels, and I recently had dinner at a restaurant near Dallas (Boomerjacks) that had one of the best chicken sandwiches I ever tasted -- on a gluten free bun. So I think the days of crumbly hamburger buns should be over.

The burger itself was tasty, but a bit greasy. However, the star of the show wasn't on the GF menu -- it was on the drink menu. My mojito was excellent!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gluten Free New Hampshire

I am visiting my in-laws in Derry, New Hampshire at the southern end of the state. After a few days here, I will be leaving the kids with their grandparents and heading to New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vermont, where I will hopefully be shedding a few pounds in their weight loss program.

But for now, I am on vacation and not yet officially "dieting" so I was thrilled to discover that little Londonderry, NH has a gluten free pizzeria called Julianos.

Hmmm... Derry and Londonderry. I don't really know why New England towns are named like this, but Londonderry is immediately adjacent to Derry, and the pizza place is located in Derry Plaza, which is in Londonderry, not Derry. Confusing.

Once we got there though, we knew we were in the right place -- they had written "gluten free pizza" on the windows in shoe polish, so there was no doubt. I was practically bouncing with excitement. I ordered a gluten free pizza with ham and fresh tomatoes. The tomatoes were chopped up pretty well, so they were easy to eat. Sometimes fresh tomatoes are served artistically rather than functionally and they can be hard to eat, but these were perfect. The crust was tasty and not too tough. The sauce reminded me of Sbarros pizza -- the stuff they sell by the slice in the mall. Not a fancy top-of-the-line pizza, just good old fashioned American pizza. Yummy.

Any of their toppings can be added to a gluten free crust (10 inch only), except for eggplant, hamburger, and breaded chicken. They also offer some pasta dishes: gluten free chicken, veal, or eggplant Parmesan, gluten free cheese lasagna, and either chicken pesto or broccoli in a garlic cream sauce, over gluten free ziti.

I did try their GF dessert -- cannoli, and I wasn't really impressed, but kudos to them for trying.

Fortunately for my "diet", I brought this home to my in-law's house and paired this pizza with a huge salad, so hopefully I haven't done too much damage to my weight loss plan. Also, my father-in-law placed my leftover pizza in the same box with the non-GF pizza, so I won't be over-indulging by eating leftovers tomorrow. Oh, well.

For more info on Julianos visit their website at


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Going to the Dogs – Or Americana Gluten Free

The last week of June, the Cayuga Wine Trail in the Finger Lakes of NY had their Grapehound Festival. I bid on five items in the Silent Auction to help spur things on. I “won” all five items! One of them was a gift certificate to the Crystal Lake Cafe at the Americana Winery.

Steve and I went there for dinner on July the 3rd. It was the slow hour and we were the only people in the restaurant, which is open till 8:00 pm. We got there just before five. The restaurant does not look fancy, but the food is all made fresh there at the cafe.

I have eaten there before and they were very helpful about the gluten free diet. I asked if I could have the mussels, the seafood stew and the veggie kabobs over a salad, and they said I could. Steve and I shared the mussels, and I was beginning to think maybe I should not have also ordered the stew, but in fact, the stew was stupendous (pun intended). It had a couple mussels in it too, but also some salmon and a couple of shrimp. It was really really delicious.

The salad was also just exactly the way I like a salad, very light dressing over romaine, with chick peas, cherry (or maybe grape) tomatoes, a little cucumber and some red onion and a little crumbled cheese (chevre?) Two skewers of nicely grilled vegetables lay over the salad and the presentation was quite lovely. With my dinner I had a glass of Americana’s Semi Dry Riesling. It was a good choice.

There are several good restaurants in the Finger Lakes for gluten intolerant people. The cafe at Americana Vineyards is one of them. Go there! It’s worth it.