Essential Oil Q&A + Simple Sweet Tooth Recipes

This is a long one, guys.

I didn’t mean to leave you hanging after that last post, but life went a bit crazy.  I took another trip to Glasgow, I had crochet orders coming out of my ears, I had foolishly scheduled both of my classes to submit essays on the same day, and we had what amounted to a four-day Valentines extravaganza involving buses and trains and concerts and Dublin and running here and there with the hopes of making it anywhere on time.  We survived by the skin of our teeth (what does that even mean?).

I have had several questions since my last post about essential oils.  Two of the main ones have been: ‘What does it mean to use an oil?’ and ‘What does a typical day using essential oils look like?’  I’m really glad I was reminded of the first question because it was actually one of those things I originally wondered and forgot to share.  The second one will differ, of course, depending on what an individual’s needs are, but I can show you what my day looks like.

What does it mean to use an essential oil?

I think the term ‘use’ is a bit vague, and it’s because it is there to encompass loads of things.  The main ways to use an essential oil are by diffusiontopical application, and, in some cases, ingestion.  I only recommend Young Living essential oils, especially for ingestion, because I can trust their processes and protocols.

  • Diffusing an oil puts it into the air in tiny particles.  You can smell it, changing your environment the way that a candle or a good soup on the stove (It is me we’re talking about, after all.) does.  It also means that you are breathing it into your body.  It can affect your mood, change your breathing, and can even remove bad smells and toxins from the air.
  • Topically applying an oil simply means putting it on your skin.  It can be particularly useful for things like blemishes, burns, cuts, etc. where you want to affect a specific place on your body.  It can also be helpful for muscle aches and joint pains because you can apply it directly to the sore spot.  Topical application is also good for oils that you can’t or don’t want to ingest or diffuse (They don’t all smell great.).  Some oils should be diluted before applying because of their strength.
  • Ingestion is not something you should do with all essential oils, but many of them are labelled as safe.  You can buy empty capsules to swallow them, and some you can even drop onto/under your tongue if you like the taste of them.  Ingesting oils can be helpful for things like helping to combat a virus or easing digestive discomfort.

What does a typical day using essential oils look like?

When I wake up, I usually already have a pile of work ahead of me.  Often I’ve gotten a ton of student emails while asleep — the wonderful part about living five time zones away from your students — and I have either (or both) student work to mark or crochet orders to fill.  Whatever is on the agenda, I typically need help focusing first thing in the morning.  I stick on the diffuser with lavenderpeppermint, and lemon.  This trio is super-helpful in reducing sinus inflammation, which prevents those sinus headaches I used to get daily, and it’s very light and uplifting.  The diffuser, itself, acts as a humidifier but doesn’t produce any heat, so it helps with the early-morning dehydration grumpiness.

diffuser

Go, little guy, go!

Because I have hormonal issues ranging from thyroid to reproductive to digestive to sleep, I use some oils in the morning and one at night.  I put Progessence Plus blend on the insides of my wrists and rub them together, and I do the same with Lady Sclareol blend on my ankles.  These spots are really good for getting into your bloodstream faster because your veins are so close to the skin there.  I also use a roll-on of cypress on the tops of my feet and hands to help with circulation. [I tried cypress for my awful circulation on a bit of a whim since I got a bottle in a kit as a present from my mum. I actually have before and after photos of my toes taken only three days apart to show the difference it made, but I figured nobody really wants to see my stinky feet.]

When I let Zoe outside for the first time in the morning, I pop over to the fridge and grab my bottle of Ningxia Red juice.  It’s made with whole crushed wolfberries (you may also know them as acai berries) and a handful of oils already mixed into it.  It gives me a mental and physical boost and helps to balance blood sugar throughout the day.  I can always tell when I forget to have any of it because I’ll start to really drag around 3-4pm.  It only takes a little bit — think of a shot glass — so I usually mix it equal parts with coconut water to give me extra electrolytes, too.

ningxia red bottles

Juice juice juice

About a half-hour before I have lunch, I make a capsule to take.  I use grapefruitpeppermint, and Thieves blend and swallow it with a glass of water.  Grapefruit helps digestive motility and aids in metabolism issues.  After seeing a dietician in the past few months, I learned that I actually have slowed my metabolism by not eating enough food most of the time.  It shocked me because I love food, but I don’t get hungry all the time and often let myself get too busy to stop and take care of myself.  Peppermint eases digestive discomfort; pain when eating was yet another reason why I avoided eating throughout the day.  I actually don’t experience pain when eating anymore. Whoo!  Thieves helps my immune system by fighting off anything I might pick up and boosting my natural immunities to the world around me.  That’s right — I don’t have to be sick all of the time!

Most of the time, I will try to have a salad or a green smoothie for lunch.  I try to have a little fun with it.  When I make my salad dressing, I will often add lemon essential oil to it.  It doesn’t separate in the oil and vinegar like lemon juice can, and it’s just easier to handle.  If I’m making a smoothie, I might add the grapefruit oil (instead of taking it in a capsule) or any other ingestible oils that sound good at the time.  All of my oils help me in some way, so I’m not wasting them by adding them to my food — I’m just finding another way for them to help me.

Day 7

Don’t tell me you wouldn’t gulp that down.

In the afternoons, I usually get a bit stressed out, so I’ll put the diffuser on again, this time with peppermint and Release blend.  I was given the bottle of Release for free at a meeting I attended in town; I have to admit I probably never would have bought it myself because it (and some of the others) has a bit of a silly name to me, but it was exactly what I needed at the time.  It helps to, well, release stress and bad emotions, while the peppermint uplifts.  It’s the perfect mix for a slump.

Before bed, I put EndoFlex blend on the arches of my feet.  This oil is one of the most important for me, as it’s the other side of the hormonal equation for me.  I use it before I go to sleep so that I can truly rest.  It is what has made the biggest impact on my rest cycles and what actually allows me to wake up feeling less tired than when I went to sleep — you know, like you’re supposed to.

The very last thing I do is put the diffuser on one more time.  It helps me to get to sleep and stay asleep.  Most nights, I’ll diffuse orange, cedarwood, and Valor blend.  I use orange a lot (you may have noticed) because it is great for triggering natural melatonin release, aiding sleep but also calming nerves throughout the day.  I actually bought it ‘just because’ one month, and it turns out it’s my favourite. Coincidence? Cedarwood is great for breathing issues, and it has helped me to not wake up reaching for my rescue inhaler at night.  I used to need it at least once through the night — my breathing was inhibited enough that I would wake in a panic — and again as soon as I woke up in the morning; I don’t need it at all during the night, which is clearly a good thing for my lungs, but it also means I’m not working up those stress hormones while asleep. Valor is in the mix for another type of sleep discomfort altogether.  Since I added it into the nightly routine, CB has stopped snoring.  I didn’t even notice the difference — because I was asleep! — until we were in a hotel recently.  Once the chainsaw started up, I had a devil of a time drifting off.  It wasn’t until I read about Valor reducing snoring that I put it all together.

If that all sounds like a lot, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) Most of the time, I’m only using 1-2 drops of each oil. A 5ml bottle has just over 80 drops, and a 15ml has about 250 drops. 2) I haven’t taken anything else (other than my inhalers, and I’m working on that!) in months — not pain relievers when I threw out my back, not Sudafed when I got an awful cold and sinus infection, not sleep aids for my life-long insomnia. My essential oils have completely replaced medications for me.

Bonus for your sweet tooth

One of the things I like to do (like I mentioned with my lunch above) is add essential oils to sweet treats.  One of my favourite oils to use is orange because it just tastes great.  I have used both it and peppermint in milkshakes and chocolate-banana-shakes (four drops per shake).  At Christmas, I made little chocolate candies with a few drops of orange essential oil and sea salt — if you’ve ever had a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, the reviews were better for mine than his, though I don’t have a fun orange-shaped mould.  Considering today is Shrove Tuesday, I think we might find a way to make some specialty-flavoured pancakes after dinner tonight!

Want to know more about essential oils? Leave me a comment or send me an email!  If you’d like to order, you can go here to sign up and get your starter kit. Four of the oils I mentioned above come in the Premium Starter Kit, along with others and a diffuser!

Much better, Delta!

"Gluten-free" breakfast, January

“Gluten-free” breakfast, January

This picture is the breakfast that I was given on January 6, 2013 on a transatlantic Delta flight.  If you’re not familiar with Special K cereal (which I was not), here is a close-up of the label.

Special K label

Special K label

I know it’s blurry, but I think you can read it well enough.  The second ingredient is “wheat gluten”.  There is also an allergen warning which reads “CONTAINS WHEAT AND MILK INGREDIENTS”.  I can understand the confusion — it says “Lightly Toasted Rice Cereal” — but, as a major company, you have to pay closer attention when a passenger asks for a special meal.  Just because the first ingredient is rice does not mean that it doesn’t have wheat.

I complained.  I do that.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  No one wants only a banana for breakfast, especially when they’re travelling and have allergies which might mean it’s the only meal they’ll eat that day.  If you were with me, you’ll be happy to know our voices were heard.  Here was my breakfast on April 10, 2013:

So. Much. Better.

So. Much. Better.

Since I couldn’t get a great picture before I devoured it, I’ll tell you what it is. It’s an Udi’s Gluten Free Foods Double Chocolate Muffin, and it was delicious.  I can even forgive them for insisting that everyone wants orange juice with breakfast for giving me something so yummy.  What an improvement, Delta!  Because I’m just as vocal when I’m impressed as when I’m disappointed, I’ve let both Delta and Udi’s know how pleased I am.

Edit: Is it a coincidence that I just received my first-ever Delta flight survey?

Peanut Butter and Better Labeling

There’s a new law involving gluten labeling working its way through the US government.  It sets guidelines about which products can be labeled “gluten-free” and which products cannot.

Well, it’s a start.  I think it’s very important that companies not put “gluten-free” on their packaging if the product is not, in fact, gluten-free.   What the US really needs is the requirement to label all gluten-containing foods.  I think the UK is behind the US in a lot of ways when it comes to dietary restrictions, especially when it seems no one understands that being vegetarian means that, no, you actually don’t want sausage. But it’s just a little sausage. No. You can pick it out. No.

What the UK does have going for it is an intense allergen labeling system.  I can go through the entire candy aisle and see exactly why I can’t eat anything but Dairy Milk. A Celiac with a milk allergy is just screwed — but they can easily know that they’re screwed!  I spend a lot less time in the shop, reading all the labels; I pick one up, see “contains gluten”, put it back down.  Now that I’m in the US for a wee while, I have to remember to be ever more vigilant.

I have always had a love-hate — okay, it was more like hate-hate, if I’m honest — relationship with breakfast.  For years, I never knew why.  The fact is that breakfast is mostly meats and breads in different combinations.  In the South, we had grits.  Grits I liked.  Grits I could stand.  I’m really iffy about eggs, I had to pass on the bacon and sausage, and I never knew why toast left me feeling gross.  Even the quick-and-dirty options were bad because they were mostly Pop-Tarts and pastries.  All of my reasons sounded like excuses to miss the most important meal of the day: I get tired when I eat breakfast; I get nauseous when I go to gym class after eating breakfast; If breakfast is supposed to increase and sustain your brain power, why can’t I concentrate when I eat it?  Even now, I never look forward to breakfast, and — horror of horrors! — I still usually skip it.

Not a paid advertisement. I just like the stuff.

Not a paid advertisement. I just like the stuff.

When CB and I were visiting my parents over Christmas, my mother opened her pantry to reveal a treasure so bright and shiny: Gluten-free Chex Cereal.  As I explained, I’m not into breakfast, and cereal is no exception.  Typically, my thoughts go to “Yes, I’d love a bowl full of that thing that makes me bloat up like a balloon!”, but there are a lot of flavours to try.  Plus, it reminded me of getting a bag full of homemade Chex Mix for Christmas (We called it trash.  I don’t know why.  It’s better not to ask these things once you’re grown.).  Get this: it’s actually good.  I mix different ones together in the same bowl — another no-no in the Sydney Book of Rules about Food — and dig in.

Since she opened the pantry that first time, my mother has been saying, “I thought you might could use them for a crust for something.”  Well, I finally indulged her. Hello, gluten-free peanut butter pie.

Peanut Butter Pie

If you don't like peanut butter, look away now.

If you don’t like peanut butter, look away now.

Ingredients:
For the crust:
3 cups gluten-free Chocolate Chex cereal
1 tablespoon honey powder
2 tablespoons almond flour
pinch of salt
1/2 stick of butter (57g)

For the filling:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
8oz cream cheese (usually 1 package), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 5oz whipped cream (I don’t know how to measure it. It was half a tub of Cool Whip — for shame, Sydney!)

Hardware:
2 mixing bowls
pie dish
small microwave safe bowl
wooden spoons or other stirring utensils
measuring cups and spoons
oven
refrigerator
microwave (for melting butter)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.

Crunchy.

Crunchy.

In one of the mixing bowls, crush up the Chex cereal.  I use my hands because I am classy.  You don’t want it powder-fine; you should still be able to see what it was. Add in the honey powder and almond flour and mix to combine. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir into the bowl. Spoon the mixture into the pie dish and press into the base and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes.

Crusty. I had a picture both before and after baking, but it looked exactly the same.

Crusty. I had a picture both before and after baking, but it looked exactly the same.

In the other mixing bowl, stir together room temperature cream cheese (Okay, I’ll admit that I didn’t leave it out to get to room temperature. I put it in the microwave for 19 seconds. Yes, 19. If you want someone to make sense, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you want pie, stick around. I like your style.), icing sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla. It’ll be a bit tough to stir, and you’ll probably wonder if you’re really just making a mess. Try to form as even a consistency as you can.

The point at which I thought it was a goner.

The point at which I thought it was a goner.

Much better.

Much better.

Add the whipped cream to the mix, bit by bit. You want to fold it into the peanut butter mixture. You do NOT want to stir or beat it together because the whipped cream has the air that gives the pie its creamy texture. Like I said, I used a bit more than half an 8oz tub of Cool Whip. I would say that I would have whipped my own if I had Ruby with me, but my mother has a stand mixer, and I totally didn’t do it.  Once you have it all mixed together, just make sure your crust (and the pie dish) is completely cooled and spoon it into the crust. Spread it around however you want.  I don’t make things pretty. I just make them tasty.

I think it would be good with shaved/grated chocolate or mini chocolate chips on top of it. We only had regular chocolate chips, and, since it doesn’t go in the oven, I thought they would be a little much.  Leave the pie to set in the fridge for at least an hour.  You’ll want to take this one somewhere you’ll have to share it, or else you’ll be tempted to eat it all at once.  Peanut butter is good for you, right?!

Back in Business and on a Roll

I’m back on the internet and back in the kitchen.  I feel like Freddie Mercury dancing around, singing, “Don’t stop me now!”

First of all, check out this awesome present I got from my sweet husband:

28 pieces of Pyrexy goodness

28 pieces of Pyrexy goodness

He ordered it online, and it arrived at my parents’ house the same day I did.  One of the pieces shattered in delivery, but it appears it was faulty packaging.  I didn’t want to take the chance of sending the whole thing back and getting another broken piece, so I opted for a partial refund.  Now I have a 27 piece set! I used nine of the pieces last night, on a whim, to make something I’ve been craving for weeks. I found a recipe online that looked good, but it was vegan.  I’m still not vegan.  I have no interest in going vegan ever again.  Once I started changing the vegan items for others, I started playing around more and more with the ingredients until it barely resembled where it started.  I think I must have said “Well, it’s an experiment anyway!” and “Oh, I hope this turns out well!” about 50 times as I was making it!

While they’re not the same as cinnamon rolls, these guys acted as my main inspiration:

And, yes, I do mean the ones that come in the plastic.

And, yes, I do mean the ones that come in the plastic.

I remember eating these bad boys with my dad.  I don’t think I have ever just taken a bite out of one.  I always had to peel it apart, layer by layer, until I got to the softest, most cinnamony part of the center. I don’t even know if pecan swirls actually have pecans in them because that’s sure not in my memory.  All I know is that, as I started to work on my dough in the kitchen last night with my father as my assistant, I couldn’t wait to pull apart some pastry.

Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Ooey Gooey

Ooey Gooey

Ingredients

For the filling:
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup honey powder (if you don’t have honey powder, substitute more brown sugar)
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans, chopped and divided
dash of salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted

For the dough:
2 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all purpose flour (if you mix your own, go for brown rice, tapioca, and potato starch)
3/4 cup sorghum flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I used 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and filled the measuring cup up to 1 1/2 cups with plain milk — I thought the lemon might be too sour in the dough — and let it sit for about 5 minutes), divided
7 tablespoons butter, divided and melted
Spray or extra butter for pan

For the icing:
3 tablespoons cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup icing sugar
Half of the chopped pecans from the filling mix
3 tablespoons buttermilk (from the dough division)

Hardware
Large mixing bowl
Two small mixing bowls
Three small reserve bowls (milk, flour, butter)
Bowl or pan for melting butter
Pie dish or other round baking dish
Wooden spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
Oven
Microwave or stove for melting butter and heating milk
Whisk
Knife, spoon, and fork
Parchment paper, cling film, or Press ‘N Seal Wrap (worked for me!)

Directions:
Depending on how fast or slow you are in the kitchen, you can go ahead and preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. I waited to start until I was kneading the dough to preheat because I’m slow.

Go ahead and measure out your vinegar and milk, if you don’t use buttermilk, and let it rest to the side.

For the filling, combine the brown sugar, white sugar, honey powder, cinnamon, half of the chopped pecans (1/8 cup or so), and salt in a small mixing bowl.  Stir together with a fork.  When you are sure it is combined, stir in 1 tablespoon melted butter.  When well-combined, it should look like wet sand.  Set aside.

Start on your dough by combining the all purpose flour and sorghum in the large bowl.  Measure out about 1/2 cup and put in a reserve bowl to the side.  Back in the big bowl, add in baking powder, baking soda, and xanthan gum and stir with the wooden spoon.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the milk mixture in a bowl and set aside.  Heat the remaining milk mixture in the microwave or on the stove.  You DO NOT want it boiling or steaming hot.  You only want it warm.  Slowly mix 3 tablespoons of melted butter into the warm milk.  Because the milk is warm, the butter should not curdle the milk and the milk should not congeal the butter back into solids.  Add the milk/butter mixture into the large mixing bowl, stir a few times, and add 2 1/2 more tablespoons of melted butter into the mix.  Stir with the wooden spoon until you can feel resistance and cannot see any lumps of flour (about 45 seconds for me).

Put down a layer of whatever paper you choose for your work surface. I used Press ‘N Seal wrap because it could “stick” to the surface and was thick enough that I could use it as a tool.  If you do use Press ‘N Seal, just make sure that the adhering side is DOWN; the smoother side should be facing up toward you.

Sprinkle about 3/4 of the reserved flour on the surface and dump your dough on top.  Yes, it is a lot of flour.  Yes, you will need it all. Begin working the dough with your hands and kneading in all the flour.  It will be very sticky, and you will probably think you’ve done something wrong.  Keep going!  Once you have integrated all the flour and you’re starting to notice it looking like a real dough, sprinkle the rest of the flour onto it and knead into the dough.

Once you have it all looking nice and like it might have a promising future as a pastry, spread or roll it out into a 10″x12″ rectangle.  If you want a lot of swirl with thinner sides, spread it a bit further than 10 inches, but maintain the 12 inch side. Take 1 tablespoon melted butter (if you’re doing the math, you should have 1/2 tablespoon left!) and spread it over the middle of the dough, all the way to the edges. Go back and get your filling mixture you made earlier and cover all but the very edges of the dough with it.  There is a lot.  I like it that way.  If you want a higher pastry to cinnamon ratio, use a bit less.  But, then, if you don’t like cinnamon, why are you making cinnamon rolls?

Now for the fun part.  It’s where I found the Press ‘N Seal saved the day.  I literally lifted the front and used it to roll the dough over on to itself.  If you are using a different surface, it may do the same thing. If your dough wants to stick, you might need a metal spatula to pry it up.  Once you have the first roll, lightly press down — you don’t want to mash it into the other side, but you do want it to know where it belongs.  Continuing rolling until you have a log.  If the dough splits open at the end, patch it up.  If it’s in the middle, it probably won’t matter.  Cut the log into eight 1 1/2″ slices — I actually cut some of mine thinner and thicker to make some crispy and some smooshy.  It’s up to you.  Arrange them in a circle around the pie dish, and then squish some in the middle, too.  Press down with your palm to spread them out enough to touch.  Brush with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter.

Bake for 24-25 minutes, but, as always, check on them before the timer goes.  You don’t want your hard work to burn because your oven is different than mine!

While they bake, mix up the icing. Whisk together the cream cheese, cinnamon, icing sugar, and buttermilk until it is combined.  I never remember to sift the icing sugar, so it took a little elbow grease to get the lumps out.  Stir in the chopped pecans.

When the rolls are done, let them sit for five minutes before icing them.  Use a spoon to drizzle as much or as little icing as you want. Do not, however, let your mother dunk her finger into the icing bowl. I would pour the whole bowl of icing over her cinnamon roll before I would let that happen!

Oh, and these guys are great the next day.  Store them in the fridge and pop one in the microwave for about 25 seconds to get it soft and warm again.  They are almost just as good.  Trust me, I just did it.

You can let your mother scrape up some of the cinnamon meltinessat the bottom of the pan.  She'll probably do it whether you allow it or not.

You can let your mother scrape up some of the cinnamon meltiness
at the bottom of the pan. She’ll probably do it whether you allow it or not.

Brava, Sligo!

pancakes

When I decided — with my husband and his family — to go on a weeklong holiday in the west of Ireland, I honestly wasn’t sure if I would end up starving to death while we were gone.  After all, “gluten” seems like such a foreign word in rural places, and let’s just forget about “Celiac”!

To my extremely pleasant surprise, it turns out that Sligo, Ireland is a Mecca for Celiacs.  I was even able to do something that is a no-go in the big city of Belfast — eat breakfast in a restaurant!  I’m so happy that my favourite little town in the world is able to cater for my particular needs so well.

It appears that the reason Sligo is so Celiac-friendly is because of the hospital in town.  In 2010, they began testing and trials based around Celiac (Coeliac) and Hemochromotosis (“iron-overload”).  Apparently, the incidence of Celiac diagnosis in northwest Ireland is very high, and gluten-related investigations in Sligo’s hospital sit at about 2,000 cases per year.  That number is extremely high when considering Sligo is a very small place.  Sligo now has the technology to perform Celiac testing in house, rather than sending the materials to Dublin for processing.

I was previously in Sligo in 2008.  Though I can honestly say that I wasn’t looking for gluten-free options in restaurants, I do know that nothing caught my attention back then.  (Having many restrictions on my diets, I tend to pick up on available options and the fine print that says to ask your waiter if you have any allergies even if they do not relate to me.)  I can only assume that the more the community learns about Celiac, the more likely they are to provide options for their own citizens and vistors.

The following is only a guide.  Since a lot of the information I found before heading to Sligo was quite old, I thought I would offer an updated account of what I found.  It’s not exhaustive — I didn’t go door-to-door, restaurant-to-restaurant (though it does sometimes feel like what I do!).  These are the places I discovered. [Note: Everything food-related in Sligo seemed to be a bit pricey.  I was tempted to say that about all the restaurants.]

Bistro Bianconi, Tobergal Lane, Sligo town
I think we ended up eating here three times over the week.  Pizza, pasta, etc.  It’s a nice sit-down restaurant, but it doesn’t require dressing up.  Everything we tried was great, gluten-free or not.  They have gluten-free pizza bases and pastas.  They don’t charge more for them, and they don’t look at you funny when you order.  The four course early-bird menu wasn’t entirely Celiac-friendly (soup, Caesar salad, garlic bread for starters), but the regular menu is always available.  Their ice cream was gluten-free, and they had a lovely pavalova on for the dessert of the day once.

Osta Cafe, Garavogue Weir, Sligo town
Ok, I’ll admit it.  I ate their pancakes on four different occasions.  But, in my defense, they have several different options!  While there are not a ton of gluten-free choices on their menu, a simple breakfast is well-handled.  There are scones (I had a plain one with jam and butter.) and muffins (Mine was raspberry and coconut.) baked every morning.  Gluten-free pancakes come with the following options: lemon, butter, and sugar; cinnamon-infused berry compote and greek yoghurt (seen half-eaten above); local honey, greek yoghurt, and sliced almonds; bacon and maple syrup . . . and I’m pretty sure I’m missing something.

Bella Vista, Shore Road, Strandhill
Strandhill was a beautiful little place not far from Sligo town.  It’s famous for its surfing (no swimming allowed), but the view is amazing.  Of course, everything on the west coast is the Atlantic Ocean, but you really feel like you’re looking out into the ocean from Strandhill.  As far as I can tell, all the businesses in Strandhill are on one road — Shore Road.  We passed by a couple of restaurants where I could have eaten (a lot of Asian cuisine is safe if you know what to look for), but we stopped at Bella Vista because there were a lot of options.  I think the place is a bit under-staffed, but hopefully that was only a temporary problem.  They also charge €2 for changing a pasta or a pizza base to gluten-free.  I ordered tagiatelle a la pollo.  It turned out that they had actually run out of gluten-free tagiatelle, and the waitress was too busy to ask me if substituting spaghetti was okay until it was being presented to me.  Of course, I was fine with it, but why bother asking if they had already made the decision?  My husband, CB, would like to point out that you should discourage anyone non-gluten-free in your party from getting the steak sandwich.  Everything else was good.

The Yeats Tavern, Drumcliffe
The Yeats Tavern is just down the road for where W.B. Yeats (and his wife! Don’t forget his wife!) is buried.  Otherwise, it seems to have nothing to do with the poet.  Regardless, I had a very decadent meal here.  It started simply enough — their vegetable soup is gluten-free, and they have a lovely note just under it on the menu that says “Ask your server for gluten-free bread!”.  And, what a lovely piece of bread it was!  My main course was a special of pan-fried chicken smothered in roasted peppers and covered in a thick slice of goats cheese, which was baked to form a crust. It was drizzled with balsamic vinegar and pesto.  It also came with a choice of potatoes — the dinner menu does not mention that the chips are not gluten-free, but I noticed it on the early-bird menu posted at the entrance — where I chose the buttered new potatoes and stole a few sneaky bites of CB’s garlic and cheese au gratin (we checked on their Celiac status!).  For dessert, they have gluten-free ice cream, around which they formed several options, and a chocolate brownie with a “gluten-free alternative”.  I didn’t find out what that alternative was because I opted for an ice cream dish with bananas and toffee — surprisingly light and refreshing!

Poppadom, O’Connell Street, Sligo town (no website)
Considering my love for Indian food, I knew I would be visiting this restaurant again after a positive experience four years ago.  It did not disappoint (except that CB wanted Peshawari naan and did not find it on the menu — he got on just fine with his regular naan).  I always find myself customising my meal in Indian restaurants as of late, and they were more than happy to provide exactly what I wanted.  We were confused that there was a tasty chicken option on the early-bird menu (which we missed) that wasn’t on the main menu, though I can’t remember what exactly it was.  Best yet was that, after a warm and muggy day, they had an air conditioner!  I know, I know: I’m a spoiled American and my husband is an over-warm Irishman, but we like our cool air.

Tesco store, O’Connell Street, Sligo town
This entry is the one real oddball on my list because it is not a restaurant.  However, I can’t speak on my time eating in Sligo without mentioning shopping at Tesco.  They had a great selection of gluten-free flours (even Bob’s Red Mill!), mixes, sauces, breads, and other food-stuffs.  I found things I haven’t been able to find anywhere up North.  In fact, we indulged a bit on some sourdough bread (well-sealed) and a box of deep-pan pizza bases to bring back home with us!  There were some mini baguettes from a gluten-free bakery in Cork (who knew?!) that made for great sandwiches for the days’ adventures (believe it or not, we did more than eat!).

And, in case you were wondering why I’m so shocked at the gluten-free selection, this was the view from our bedroom window every morning!

cattle