Monday, March 2, 2009

Gluten-Free at The Loft

Next meeting! This Saturday, March 7th, 11:30-1:00, at The Loft, Princess Anne Street, downtown Fredericksburg.

With March ushering in National Nutrition Month, the Vegetarian Group will be hosting a speaker this month on the topics of celiac disease, gluten intolerance and gluten free living. Eating low gluten or gluten free diets can actually be a way to focus on more natural, healthy foods. Shirley Braden, the leader of the King George Celiac and Gluten Intolerance Group, will discuss how eating gluten free is easy if you take this “real food” approach. Shirley has been gluten free since 2003 and believes that many health issues can be resolved by taking gluten out of our diets. To learn more about this guest speaker and find some recipes, visit her website, Gluten Free Easily, at

Because so many members of our Veg Group and even the Fellowship are finding that they have gluten sensitivities, we always welcome gluten-free dishes at our monthly potluck meetings. However, because of this month’s topic, we encourage everyone to try to make a gluten-free dish to share! Two other websites of interest include, where you can find a celiac and vegetarian friendly registered dietitian in our area, and, an online vegetarian and vegan celiac disease community.

As always, we encourage members and visitors to bring their own place settings (so we don’t have paper or plastic waste), although we always have extras on hand! Donations are accepted in lieu of potluck vegetarian or vegan dishes. Please note our location change! Frederick Heller, of Frederick’s restaurant on Princess Anne Street in downtown Fredericksburg (just a short distance from the old Fellowship and across the street from Hyperion) has graciously offered his Loft above Frederick’s for our meetings! Meet us upstairs at 11:30-1:00 for a delicious and informative time! Wondering what to bring? Read on for some ideas!

The UUFF celebrated the beginning of its annual pledge campaign this year with the Gourmet Gala, an evening of food, friendship and fun! Each table was headed by two hosts, who coordinated the potluck dishes for their table within a theme. This table was the vegan, gluten-free one (one of several vegetarian ones that night) with a Mediterranean theme and what a spread we had! Homemade hummus and gluten-free crackers (especially Mary's Gone Crackers) started us off, along with a Greek Salad.

Roasted, sauteed and spiced veggies accompanied a Mediterranean stew and a North African one (flavored with peanut butter - yum!) along with perfect rice, iced tea, dried dates and almonds, and fresh fruit.

Of course, you can't have a great meal without a great dessert! Gluten-free desserts can be difficult, but, like vegan desserts- they just require some label-reading, substitutions, and extra thought.

This pistachio-chocolate halvah (a Turkish fudge featuring tahini) was a sweet ending to the night, as was the dessert pictured above and here...

A gorgeous (gluten-free, vegan, of course!) chocolate cake, topped with fresh raspberries. Wow!! Everyone kept stopping by our table to admire our desserts. Next year, I envision more competition to be seated at this table!

A Greek Currant Cake, made with lots of extra-virgin olive oil (I refuse to use Rachel Ray's acronym - ugh), was also made gluten free with a gluten-free flour mix by Bob's Red Mill. It is readily available at most local grocery stores now.

Here are some beautiful roasted veggies from our January meeting....

As stated above, remember that our new location for our monthly Veg Group meetings will now be held at The Loft, above Frederick's in downtown Fredericksburg. Frederick Heller, owner of both establishments, is eager to create a new menu of vegan, gluten-free and healthier options and has offered his space for the next year of Veg Group meetings, as our own fellowship building is being constructed. I leave you with a shot of that North African stew - come with an empty stomach and open mind!

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