Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo: The Recap #GFAFExpo

Disclaimer: I was provided admittance to the Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo in Schaumburg, Illinois this past Saturday, April 12th at no cost to me to facilitate this post on The Eclectic Element. All opinions and expressions below are 100% mine and mine alone unless otherwise stated. 

Recently, this past weekend in fact, my nutritionist-to-be friend and I set out on an epic roadtrip adventure early Saturday morning to head into Schaumburg, Illinois for this year's 2014 Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo! Thankfully I had the foresight to knock myself out with a Benadryl induced coma the night before to achieve some amount of sleep before getting up at a pre-destined time of 5:45 am to start the ritual of getting ready.

 7:15 am rolled around, she picked me up, and we were off!

From where we're located it was about an hour and a half drive and we actually made it there in good time and with no issues. Two girls with mapquest directions and a GPS as that's a true miracle (you know how "reliable" mapquest and GPS are), especially if you throw in the fact that half the drive into the city we took back-roads to avoid tolls.

Illinois tolls will break you and your wallet before you know it.

Anywho, we arrived and were blown hurried inside as not to miss any of the gluten and allergen free excitement!

The Arrival

The Omission Beer booth was where the blogger meet and greet would be taking place at 10:00 am, so as soon as my friend was safely checked in and eagerly off to listen to the first speaker of the day, I got my official I'm-a-legit-important-person badge and I was off to seek out the booth so I wouldn't be late!

Of course I ended up being way early so I wandered around a little bit scanning my surroundings and finally sat down at the table provided for us bloggers and waited. Slowly my fellow bloggy people started arriving until it was time to learn about Omission's gluten free beer and their gluten extraction process.

The Expo

After the blogger meet and greet was over, we all set off in our respective directions to check out the nearly 5 to 6 rows of gluten free, allergen free companies that came to spread awareness of their name, their individual stories, and, of course, their goodies!

Wandering around and talking to a lot of these companies from the small mom-and-pop operations to the big well-known and trusted brands, I found, aside from the physical products they offered to sample, I enjoyed the stories the most.

What was the idea or initial concept that got them started? Was it a simple need in their personal lives for something gluten or allergen free? Or did they see a growing market for gluten or allergen free products and decide to venture into the entrepreneurial world? The stories that answered these questions and the stories that explained how these companies went from initial idea to standing, talking to me that day is what intrigued me and what captured my attention the most.

 The Friends

Whenever there's an event like this one that brings together bloggers from all over, you know you're most likely going to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. I'm lucky that I got to do both this time around!

I made plans on reuniting with Ashley Sears of Crunchy Frugalista whom I had met at last year's BlogHer. We had so much fun then that I couldn't wait until we met up and hung out again! Below you can see we all had a blast at the expo, especially at the Enjoy Life's photo booth...

Then I ran into my new bloggy bff Andrea Joy of Lazy Gluten Free when perusing the Red Apple Lipstick booth. We bonded over our mutual love of the lipstick shade Berry Blast and it was an instant bond for life! 

Oh, and who can forget chillin' with the GFAF Expo Yogi of GoPicnic! What's a conference or expo without at least one mascot running around?

The Goodies

There were row after row, booth after booth of delectable gluten and allergen free goodies ranging from sauces to soups, candy to baked goods (oh, so many baked goods), to energy bars, subscription services, authors, and even pretty cosmetics.

Sadly we weren't able to experience both days at the expo so there were many booths we weren't able visit but that didn't stop us from hitting as many as we could between the time we got there and the time the expo closed at 3pm!

There were a great deal of products that my family and I buy on a regular basis, which I will say was so exciting to see in person. Instead of being star-struck by a celebrity I was star-struck by foods!

I would say a good majority of the expo's booths were food or beverage related and of the food and beverages available, there was a LOT of baked goods and sweets. Brownies, candy, pie, ice cream, and many cookies.

Just a few of my favorites were Red Apple Lipstick, Ethel's Edibles, Coconut Bliss, Elyse Wagner, and Ardenne Farm!

The Recap

Fabulous known and newly discovered companies. Delicious gluten and allergen free products. Connecting with friends. Broken camera (sad panda Kayla).

All in all, this was a tremendous experience for myself and my nutritionist friend and I'm so happy that I was healthy enough to actually make it! I was worried when I initially filled out the form to be an official GFAF Expo blogger that I wouldn't be able to make it since it was a good month in advance, but thankfully the universe graciously allowed me this fantastic experience.

Of course following this epic adventure I payed dearly and am still paying but it was SO worth it!


For those of you who attended this year's Chicago Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo and would love to borrow some of the pictures I took, please feel free to contact me through my email and I'll send you the un-watermarked, un-edited photos. All I ask is for credit and a do-follow link :)

And for those people who want to see more of the pictures I took, send me a friend request on Facebook to check out the full album in all its glory!


Win It Wednesday(4/16)

Win It Wednesday is a day for showcasing, browsing, entering, and linking up contests-Have a contest that needs a little extra exposure? Feel free to link it up!

NOTE:: Linking up your contests on my Win It Wednesday linky below automatically puts them on my Ongoing Contest Linky.

DOUBLE NOTE:: You only have to submit your contest link ONCE because I manage the ongoing list myself, deleting contests as they expire.


 Win RAL Lipstick in 'Oh My Guava' & RAL Eyeshadow in 'Chocolate Martini'!!

Ends April 17, 2014

Enter Here

Win a BioBubble Premium Pet Aquarium Kit!!

Ends April 22, 2014

Enter Here

Win a Delicious Wholesome Sweetners Gift Basket!!

Ends April 30, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Inspirational Tuesday(4/15)

Image Credit

The sea
isn’t a place
but a fact, and
a mystery ...

--Mary Oliver

I'm still dreaming of visiting the ocean, sticking my toes in the sand, basking in the sunshine...

What inspires YOU today? 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kirin Ichiban Japanese Beer Review & Gluten Free Ginger Honey Chicken Recipe #MC

Disclaimer:: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Millennial Central for Kirin. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

I admit, I miss beer. When I happen to go out to a bar or a restaurant and opt for some sort of alcoholic beverage, it's usually harder liquor instead of beer, but not because of the reasons you might think! Contrary to popular belief, I quite enjoy a good tasting beer, however because of the wheat and gluten that most beer usually contain, I can't drink it often.

That being said I'm fortunate enough to be able to cheat every now and again and splurge on a delicious cup or bottle of beer or two. Not often do I come across new beer that I'd like to try but when I do, that's when I gladly cash in my 'cheat chips.'

So when I first learned about Kirin Ichiban, one of Japan's oldest breweries with a history dating back to 1888, I knew my cheat chips were going to inevitably be cashed, especially after I received Kirin Ichiban and Kirin Light to try!

But before we dive into the beer, quick fun fact! The company gets its name after the mythical Kirin beast, the half dragon half deer pictured on the company's bottle. It is said the beast is a symbol of well being, promoting serenity and prosperity.

I'm such a mythology lover!

Recently, Kirin Ichiban has partnered with celebrity chef Candice Kumai to bring their Japanese-style beer together with oriental inspired meals, pairing wonderful beer with delicious food just in time for the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival!

Known in Japan and around the world for being 'Beer at it's Purest', Kirin beer is a 100% malt, first press beer which uses a First Press brewing process, guaranteeing only the purest, most flavorful portion of its ingredients are used, making for a smooth, full bodied beer as a result. Since we're also talking about food, Kirin Ichiban pairs quite well with traditional Japanese dishes as well as modern Asian cuisine.

Kirin Light offers the full flavor of Kirin Ichiban, but at just 95 calories and this particular lighter beer pairs beautifully with healthier Asian dishes. 

If this pairing of Japanese beer and Asian cuisine intrigues you you'll really want to follow Kirin's Facebook Page to take advantage of the recipes and pairing tips they'll be sharing throughout the year! 

Since I was challenged with finding an oriental inspired recipe to pair with one of these two Japanese beers, I set to work and found the perfect balance of healthy and downright flavorful, all in one simple dish.

Challenge accepted!

Gluten-free Ginger Honey Chicken

(Makes 6 servings)

Adapted from Marc Matsumoto


-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
-3 tablespoons San-J Organic Tamari Wheat Free soy sauce
-3 tablespoons sake
-3 tablespoons honey
-1-1 1/2 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
-1 teaspoon olive oil
-Chopped scallions and sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

 1. Firstly, cut the chicken thighs into small, bite sized pieces. In a bowl combine soy sauce, honey, sake (any plain sake will do), and finely ground ginger and whisk together until fully mixed. Once you're done cutting your chicken thighs add them to the marinade mixture, hand toss for optimal coating and absorption, and let sit for 30 minutes.

2. Once thoroughly marinated, heat up a medium sized frying pain, add your olive oil (you can use canola oil or vegetable oil, too, depending on preference and or availability) and make sure to coat the bottom of the pan fully. Now you're ready to add your chicken! You will have a good deal of bite-sized pieces which you will add to the pan one by one in batches. You want a nice crispy brown look on either side of your chicken pieces which only takes a couple of minutes to achieve on either side.

**Note:: Since you have sugar in the marinade you created you're liable to burn your chicken if the pan is too hot. If the pan is too cool, the chicken won't brown because water will leach out so you must adjust your temperature accordingly!

3. Once the chicken is evenly browned on both sides, transfer it to a plate and keep repeating this process until all your chicken is cooked and transferred. If you have any extra oil in your pan after this process, use a paper towel to wipe it down.

4. Next, you'll use the rest of the remaining marinade in your bowl and add it to the already hot frying pan with 2 tablespoons of water to dilute it a little bit, which you will bring to a boil over medium to high heat. Once you've achieved boil status, add your chicken back to the pan and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed back into your chicken giving it a beautiful shiny coating.

5. This step is optional but you can garnish your chicken with scallions and sesame seeds. My mom enjoys her sesame seeds toasted so you can go the extra mile and toast yours before adding them to the chicken, or you can top your chicken right out of the seasoning bottle.

**Note:: I highly recommend adding the chopped scallions because not only do they look pretty but they add a tasty punch of flavor!

While I paired the Kirin Ichiban with my meal, my parents opted to pair the Kirin Light with theirs and really enjoyed how perfectly it paired with the chicken! I got to sip on both beers and while I thoroughly enjoyed both for various different reasons, I think I prefer the Kirin Light for this particular recipe. It aided in complimenting the chicken's sweet and zesty flavoring with a light, crisp, and refreshing boost.

By the way, the only reason that I did not include the words gluten-free in the graphic below advertising this particular recipe was due to the beer included in the picture. While my ginger honey chicken was, indeed, made with gluten-free ingredients, the beer is not gluten free.

Did you know: In Japanese culture, it is require that you never fill your own glass, you never let another person's glass get completely empty, and when everyone is ready to drink, you toast by saying 'Kanpai' (pronounced kahm-pie).


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Win It Wednesday(4/9)

Win It Wednesday is a day for showcasing, browsing, entering, and linking up contests-Have a contest that needs a little extra exposure? Feel free to link it up!

NOTE:: Linking up your contests on my Win It Wednesday linky below automatically puts them on my Ongoing Contest Linky.

DOUBLE NOTE:: You only have to submit your contest link ONCE because I manage the ongoing list myself, deleting contests as they expire.


Win a Beautiful 3 Piece Handmade Pinch & Prep Bowl Set from Center Ceramics on Etsy!! 

Ends April 10, 2014

Enter Here

Win your Choice of Any Pair of Shoes from White Mountain Shoes!! 

Ends April 21, 2014

Enter Here

Win the Entire Line of Kristian Regale Sparkling Beverages!!

Ends April 21, 2014

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