Gluten-Free is the place to be!

'Tis a fine Thursday afternoon if I do say so myself. I write to you from my desk where I am just about to partake in the joy of switching my work PC off for a whole 12 days and switch on that ever-exciting 'out of office' responder. Oh it is the simple things in life that bring this kind of happiness. This time tomorrow I'll be doing some last minute packing and running around in honour of our trip to Vegas. I still can't believe I'm going to Las Vegas. What a serious dream come true. The lovely man in my life surprised me with the trip for my 24th birthday and then a few weeks later we found out that we were expecting our little bundle of joy. The first question people asked me was 'will you still go to Vegas?' and we always said yes with a big smile on our faces. Admittedly though it has been a little bit of a worry because airlines such as Virgin Atlantic (that's who we are flying with) require your doctor to sort of 'sign you off' to travel on a long haul flight when you are past 28 weeks of pregnancy, and guess when I am 28 weeks pregnant? You guessed it, the day we're due to fly. Thankfully I have had a complication-free pregnancy and I am good to go (please God). I've been really lucky so far and have had no high or low blood pressure, no gestational diabetes, no sickness (other than the obligatory first couple of week) and in general I have felt really great for the past six months. Let's hope this continues for the last 12 weeks. It's a bit surreal to finally be at this point where we have our letters, documentation and now it's just the last minute organising and tomorrow we get to go and collect our dollars which I'm rather excited about. 

One of the biggest differences between my trip to Vegas now and perhaps what it would have been like pre-pregnancy is that little trusty pal of ours, alcohol. I definitely would have enjoyed a few luxurious cocktails and a couple of silly nights out with my man. How and ever, I'm taking one for the team and will of course not be drinking any alcohol. Instead we'll be shopping, sight-seeing, swimming, going to see some shows, enjoying the sunshine and enjoying all of the lovely food that the desert has to offer (desert, not dessert - though dessert in the desert will be great too). This got me to thinking, how would my mam find somewhere like Las Vegas? She is a coeliac, only recently diagnosed which means she has to stick to a diet that is free from Gluten and Wheat. This is surprisingly complex. A lot of restaurants and supermarkets are now catering for people like my mam, and also people who just choose to stick to a gluten-free diet for personal reasons such as weight loss. Gluten-free diets are all the rage in Hollywood. Basically no bread, pasta, noodles, cakes - stuff like that. Of course there are alternatives that can be bought in the likes of Dunnes Stores and Tesco but the unfortunate thing is that they are usually double the price. It's a complete joke in my opinion because my mam didn't chose to follow this diet. It's a health matter, and yet she has to pay double the price for simple store-cupboard items such as bread and pasta. Anyway, such is life, and c'est la vie and all that eh? Usually when we go to a half decent cáfe or restaurant there will be a couple of gluten free options but in general she is quite limited in what she can order. A couple of weeks ago she was in a cáfe with my nanny (which I won't name) and was literally not one thing that she could eat. This particular cáfe had an associated store which stocked lots of expensive gluten-free products but when she went in for lunch she could only order a plain coffee! Places like America have it sussed, and most restaurants will cater for all dietary particularities such as a gluten intolerance, vegans, vegetarians and diabetics. It's the 21st century so places are starting to recognise that the world is full of so many different types of people and we all want to eat out despite having certain preferences or dietary constricts. 

This leads me to the real reason I am here. Some of the products that my mam has found on the market have impressed her more than others and I really wanted to highlight two products that I can genuinely say that I really enjoyed before I even heard that they were gluten-free and since then my entire family have been really impressed by both. Some products on the market are so tasteless and resemble carboard so this is very exciting. Both brands are from the 'snack' department, and sometimes those can be the most difficult things to find, you know, something you can grab and put in your handbag to have on the go? Two of my favourite things - crisps and popcorn. 

The first product I want to talk about are Keogh's Crisps, all the way from Keogh's farm in lovely Ireland itself. This is a brand that I have just loved from the beginning. I first came across them about two years ago when they had a bit of a showcase at the Taste Of Christmas festival in the Convention Centre in Dublin. They had a lovely stand and I just remember their staff were so incredibly friendly and easy to talk to. They also had heaps of free crisps which are my ultimate weakness. I remember entering a competition on the day and I actually won a huge box of Keogh's Crisps. They were Roast Beef and Irish Stout flavour and I just remember loving the quirkiness of that flavour. They tasted absolutely amazing. I brought them home and my family loved them (particularly my stepdad who wouldn't be a huge fan of traditional-flavoured crisps. He's more of a 'ready salted' or 'roast chicken' flavoured crisp man). Since then I regularly bought Keogh's Crisps so when I discovered that they were Gluten-Free I was delighted. My mam started buying them and they soon became her favourite treat. While we were all having all sorts of goodies on a Friday night she would have her favourite flavoured Keogh's Crisps - Atlantic Sea Salt and Irish Cider Vinegar. My mouth is watering even reading this but these crisps pack a huge punch in the flavour department. They are so flavourful and just absolutely gorgeous. The lovely people at Keogh's Farm sent me out a few different flavours recently to try and now we have everyone hooked on them. And the best part? They're Irish and the company is a family owned business. Support Irish business and pick up some of these amazing crisps (or their potatoes which are also lovely). You will see them all of Ireland at the moment - I only saw them in Dunnes Stores today. Keogh's, I love your work, keep doing what you're doing! If you guys have any queries or questions about Keogh's products just head over to their really lovely website at http://www.keoghs.ie/






The second product that I am here to gush about is literally one of my favourite foods on the market at the moment and I am so delighted to see that they are more readily stocked in Ireland now. I give you, Propercorn. I remember the first time I ever tried Propercorn. I was in a lovely health food shop in the Swan Centre in Rathmines and in the corner of my eye I saw that there was a packet of popcorn advertising itself as, wait for it, "fiery worchester sauce and sundried tomato' flavour. Sorry, what? This sounded way too good to not try. I remember my mam telling me that years ago people would add Worchester sauce to their packet of crisps. I was completely sold on the idea and bought a pack. This soon became a tradition because I was absolutely in love with them from the first taste. I had never tasted Popcorn like this.  Fresh, Crunchy, Spicy and crazy flavourful popcorn that was just on another level to any other popcorn on the market. The bad thing though? I couldn't find them anywhere else! I brought some home to my mam one day because I noticed that they were Gluten-free and needless to say she adored them. Again, the lovely people at Propercorn in the UK sent me a nice little stash of different flavours to try and let's just say that it's been a Popcorn party in our house ever since. I just cannot get over how much flavour come from these funky looking packets of popcorn. A particular favourite in our household was the 'sweet coconut and vanilla' flavour. Doesn't that just sound so incredibly cool? My boyfriend brought them to work and some of his colleagues tried them and had the same reaction. The great thing about Propercorn is that they are now more readily available than back when I first tried them. I saw big jumbo bags of them in Spar on Dame Street very recently, and that is a very good sign. Shop owners and retailers, I seriously urge you to start stocking these because I have a feeling that this is only the start of the story for Propercorn. An amazing ridiculously delicious snack and the best part? Most packets are about 100 calories per bag. What is not to love? For more information on these gorgeous little packets of popcorn pleasure, please head over to their website at http://www.propercorn.com/the-story. You will thank me some day!