A new beginning

I love these. I called them wishing flowers when I was a kid. We used to close our eyes, make a wish and blow.  If all the seeds blew off, your wish would come true.

I love these. I called them wishing flowers when I was a kid. We used to close our eyes, make a wish and blow. If all the seeds blew off, your wish would come true.

September has always felt like a new beginning to me.   Maybe it’s old memories of getting back to school,   or the end of Summer bringing the new start of Fall.  Whatever it is, it brings a sense of starting again, a chance for renewal, which I absolutely love.  Well, I’m going to take liberties with this feeling of renewal right here.  As many of you already know, my dedication to bringing understanding and information to the celiac community or anyone struggling with their health has become  a life mission for me.   While I’ve been doing just that at my bakery every day and working to finish up my book; with such massive undertakings, sadly this blog has been neglected.  No Longer.  There have been so many things I’ve wanted to share over the past few months with you. Stories about some amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at the bakery, recipes I’ve wanted to share, and oh yeah my new TROOP!  I recently welcomed a golden retriever puppy named Brooklyn Magoo to my brood.  (Pics soon).  But before I spill the beans on all these happenings I wanted to kick of September with a story of strength and starting fresh.

About a week ago I was out in the Hamptons by the beach for some rare down time.  Even more rare was the opportunity to do dinner with my sister (who is also celiac), her husband and my niece and nephew.  We went to an uber cool place that in the past had done ok by my sister and I, but this was during the day. For a girl with Celiac Disease, going to a restaurant in the middle of the summer, by the beach, on a super busy weekend night can be nothing but scary. Belittling. Humbling. Scary.  Regardless, we all sat down, had a bit of wine and my sister deferred to me to do the ordering.

For us, I picked a salad with absolutely no dressing and the branzino with roasted tomatoes.  We had this before and had no trouble.  I could see the waiter was busy and distracted as he took the other orders at the table.  When he came to me I told him: “I am a severe celiac and cannot have any gluten and absolutely no dairy.”  I always make sure to look them straight in the eye and follow up with this statement: “I don’t have an allergy and I’m not on a diet. I have a disease and if there is gluten in this dish I will wind up on the floor, right here in the restaurant.” I always say it very nicely, but you can tell I’m dead serious.  I then said to him to please check with the chef if it would be ok to do PLAIN olive oil and lemon for dressing.  He scribbled some words down on his pad and said, “That dish is fine”  I replied “Do you mind just checking with the chef?  I’d appreciate it.”  He said “fine”.  I could see he was a bit rushed so I stopped him before he fled away. “Please let me know if it’s too busy to accommodate me, it’s no problem really”.  He scurried away, and when he returned a minute later he said it would be fine.

Minutes later a salad was placed in front of me as shiny as a new quarter.  I looked at the supposedly plain salad and immediately knew that was not the case.  Without hesitation I sent it back and my boyfriend went to get the manager for me.  A very nice woman came to the table and when I explained the story about my disease she stated her grandmother had celiac and she totally got it.  I said “I dont mean to be a pain but I will be extremely ill.  It’s not a diet for me.” The waiter then stated that ” about half the people that come in now request gluten free so not everyone can be celiac, I think it gets the kitchen confused”. She assured me she would take care of it.  This statement made me so ill of course. For all those choosing gluten free to be cute or in “fad” or whatever, you are not making it any easier for those with an actual disease!  But ok, on with the story. Salad course complete, now on to the main.

The main course finally arrived and my sister took one bite and told me not to eat it.  She said she could taste something not right.  For my sister to speak up in this instance is unlikely.  She usually just eats it and suffers for weeks.  Of course I was already suspect of everything, but my sister had just confirmed it.  Was this really happening again?

Now here’s the transformative moment folks: instead of calling the waiter over and insisting they prepare it again, or getting upset, or eating it and suffering,  I put my fork down and pushed the dish away from me. When the waiter came over and asked if it everything was ok, a sense of calm came over me.  I wasn’t going to feel bad, or get mad, or try and make him understand something he really had no desire to, I was going to simply and honestly state what I felt. I looked him straight in the eyes and said without apologizing first or after, “I’m not going to eat it.  I don’t trust it and I refuse to be ill”.

The waiter was taken aback.  He said “the chef said it was fine”.  I said, “I’m sure he did his best but I will not be eating it, thank you.”  As I sat there and the manager came over as well I kept my story the same.  Brief, calm, pointed and at peace.  I sat there and watched everyone eat and enjoyed the conversation and realized how empowered I felt.  In this situation I had always apologized or felt bad or felt like a pain but this time I didn’t.  I felt like I honored myself and my body in a way that it needed to be.  So much of this disease renders you powerless at times.  The autoimmune disease, as celiac is, is the one in charge every day.  So taking back a moment of power was a moment that lasted and lasted. I had a lovely evening with my family that night, I wasn’t sick from anything that I might have eaten and I walked out of the restaurant feeling proud.

At this time of new beginnings I ask you to take your power back as well and stop apologizing for the disease you did not ask for.  Honoring yourself and your health tastes much better than anything you could ever possibly eat.

I will be speaking with you soon

be well


Ducks in a Row – It’s the Small Things That Make Me Smile!

Keeping the ducks in a row…

I was recently asked by my amazing Doctor here in New York City, Dr. Fratellone, to bake my deliciously moist carrot cake cupcakes for his wedding that was happening very soon. My doctor is also a Celiac and dairy and soy free so already knew the challenges in finding quality foods and baked goods that are not just loaded with filler ingredients to make them taste good. And since I love to bake and decorate – the idea of being a part of and creating something special for his “big day” was a honor and I was up for the task!!

The request was for 50 regular size cupcakes and one large cupcake, all adorned with these awesome yellow rubber duckies dressed in tuxedos that he provided. So I rallied up My Troops, devised a plan and headed to the kitchen to get to work!

The outcome was better than we expected! Not only did they taste amazing but after seeing 50 black and white polka dot wrapped cupcakes in line with suited up ducks sitting on top I knew this was one of my favorite final products! I could not wait to deliver these to the groom and see his reaction, and hoped he would be as excited to share these with his guests as I was with him. I also wanted to share this story and the pictures with you!! This was a reminder that it’s the small things that make me SO happy and that putting a smile on someone else’s face makes me smile on the inside and out!!!

Prepping the Troops!

Ready for delivery!

To keep up with the latest from Dr. Fratellone you can follow him on stitchyourwaytoahealthyheart.blogspot.com

Ever Onward,

Jennifer Esposito

Surrender, A Lesson In Grace

You might have noticed my posts have slowed down and even stopped as of recent. No, I did not give up on our crusade for speaking the truth about celiac disease and my endless quest to make delicious nutritious gluten free foods to share with you. Sadly, one of MY TROOPS unfortunately has become quite ill. It has been a hell of a time to say the very least but I MUST believe that with every dark spot there has to be some light. RIGHT? Well I was in the dark and having a rough time finding it. I knew my pup would pass one day, I just wasn’t ready for it now. Until my beloved 65lb Bernese Mountain dog, Betty Boop, showed me a valuable lesson one day. One I will never forget and I wanted to share it with you, especially at this time of year – of new beginnings. I hope this story inspires you to look at each moment differently.

About a month ago I was working on a yummy biscuit recipe in my kitchen for an upcoming post when Betty Boop came over to me, nestled up beside me and dropped to the floor. I had just taken her to the vet a month prior for a full check up and she received a clean bill of health (doesn’t that sound familiar) but I knew something was not right so I rushed her to the ER. A long 4 hours later, I was told that the best thing to do is put her down. The doctor said she had about 4 tumors in her liver and one had burst and she was bleeding internally. Devastation is not the word. I can not remember crying that hard in years, possibly ever. I lay next to her on the cold hospital floor trying to wrap my head around what was happening. She was weak but still happily wagged her tail at the slight suggestion of a belly rub. With every friend that came to visit us that night she looked at them as if to thank them for coming. She seemed so happy to be surrounded by the people she loved most.

A wonderful surgeon at the hospital, Amy Canter, sat down on the floor with us and offered her advice. She said that if it was her dog she would operate to stop the bleeding first and most important but at the same time she would really be able to see what was going on inside her. It was a risky surgery but the thought of possibly having more time with her was what I needed to hear. If you have read any of my blogs at all you will already know that I am a fighter and I was ready to take this on for her. But was she up for it? I did not want to be selfish and keep Betty Boop in any pain but when I looked into my furry friend’s eyes she still had life in her! She looked back at me with all the trust in the world and laid her life in my hands with peace. After talking with loved ones and the surgeon I decided to push forward, proceed with the surgery, and pray for the best. I kissed her on her head, told her I would see her again and they wheeled my friend off to surgery. Happily, two hours later she came out of surgery and she was doing well. Just 3 days later I took her home from the hospital along with a diagnosis of a rare aggressive cancer that would probably take her within months with no hope of remedies offered.

Now at home, with that wonderful bit of information and no doctors to guide me or answer my many questions, she is dressed in one of my t-shirts so I didn’t have to see her shaved scarred belly. “Now what?” I thought. What did I just do? Am I suppose to just sit by and watch her die?!! There had to be something or someone I could call that could help!!! I must DO something!!! I scoured the internet researching her cancer. Researched the best doctors, herbal remedies, advice on diets and read tons of recommendations from others who dealt with this before me. My mission was underway! The next couple of days were filled with doctor appointments, lengthy conversations with holistic professionals, more researching, reading and lots and lots of crying. It seemed every time I looked at her I would break down. Sleeping for me was little to none. Every time I heard her move I would get up to check on her and make sure he wasn’t in any pain.

One of the best doctors I found offered some experimental chemo but that promised nothing. The worst part was I had to administer it to her! Poison! Poison that would most likely make her sick to her stomach. Something I didn’t even know if I could do, especially with no real hope offered. What I WAS doing though was what I knew best, helping her through food! I had found a cancer diet on line and was up at 6 am to prepare fresh cooked meals for her. Meals that consisted of exact proportions of protein, vegetables and good fats. There was also a cottage cheese flax seed mixture that I was whipping up. I had become a mad scientist! And Betty Boop laid in the kitchen with me watching me as she always did. She would look at me with her big brown eyes apologizing for not eating what I just worked so hard to make. I even started to puree her food and administer it through a turkey baster along with herbs that she was now on. Anything to help her get stronger for some more time with her or who knows… maybe cure her. This may all sound crazy to some but I needed to give her as much love and care as she has given me through the years. And although I was exhausted from this undertaking and so extremely broken hearted, I was just NOT ready to let her go.

That next weekend I planned a trip to her favorite beach spot. Anything that would make her happy and my dogs love the beach! What dog doesn’t?! Last summer when we found a very special and quaint place in the Hamptons that they just adore. When we arrived at our beloved spot it was an early gorgeous and sunny morning yet quite windy, so the beach was empty and just SO beautiful that describing what we saw would not do it justice. Betty Boop and her counterpart Frankie Beans howled as we pulled up and as soon as we got out of the car we made immediate contact with the sand.

I had never let them just run freely though. Due to too many people on the beach or me just being flat out scared of them getting washed out to sea by a giant wave. So I ran with them up and down as many times as I could… 2 to 3 times tops. We sat on the sand for a moment catching our breath. I looked over at her catching her breath and of course started to cry, I thought maybe I had made a mistake, maybe this was too much for her. I got up and started for the car but she pulled back as if to say “no way lady, I want to stay!” I pulled her leash again, and again she resisted. This was one strong terminally ill dog! I called her name and went to lift her now 65lb rump in efforts to get her to the car, yet she stood her ground. I finally gave in and started a SLOW walk back down the beach but that was not good enough, she wanted to run! She pulled and pulled on her leash. Still worrying about her being too tired, getting caught in a wave, her fate, worrying about EVERYTHING, I turned again for the the car. But Betty, as goofy as she is, always has a way of starring right through you. Well she was starring in that moment and NOT budging, begging me to undo her leash and be free. Without another thought I swallowed my fears, reached down and unhooked her leash. She took off like a bird let out of a cage!

There was so much excitement in her, so much energy, so much LIFE. It was in that moment that I realized that I had been looking at my dog and focusing on the fact that she was dying instead of appreciating the life she still very much had and wanted. She ran in and out of waves and up and down the beach. Barked at birds that flew by, she was having a ball. She was so very joyous! Dancing around carelessly with such grace, all with her 4 tumors in her belly and not giving a damn about any of it, she was alive and happy IN THAT VERY MOMENT! Thoughts of tomorrow did not even exist. Fears of the future were something she didn’t even know. I watched her and felt my whole body go calm. It was the first time in weeks my shoulders weren’t up around my ears. It was in that moment that I surrendered to the reality of life and let her go, in my heart. I had sense of grace that I don’t recall ever feeling. Witnessing this beautiful creature carelessly, freely moving through the sand. I needed to thank her for the many smiles she brought to my life, all the love she gives me that will never be forgotten and just accept that her time with me is almost done. I decided am going to let life BE, exactly the way it is, not the way I want it to be. It was a true lesson in life from a soaking wet pup that was now plopped at my feet covered in sand and happily wagging her tail.

Since that day on the beach we have continued to enjoy every single moment together and I take mental snap shots of her in my mind to keep always. When I leave her for a few hours I make sure to hug her tight before I go. She no longer gets forced to eat what she doesn’t want to and those chemo drugs have been in the garbage for weeks. These days her meal of choice is filet mignon and she is down to one great herbal vitamin. How long she has I do not know. It is not for me to know. That burden does not lie at my feet. My job is to make every moment count and cherish it as though it is the last. A lesson I think we all can learn.

Ever Onward,

Jennifer Esposito

Happy… Thanks… Giving!

A few months ago I was having some tea with a friend at a restaurant uptown. There was a couple sitting quite close to us and was in a pretty heated debate. My friend and I tried not to notice, and continued our conversation to give them their space. At least until the gentleman leaned over and said “can I ask you ladies for your opinion on something?” As he proceeds to tell us about their discussion the woman looked horrified. You know, it was one of those man/woman debates that we have all had at times. Us being non bias (yeah right!) we sided with the lady and she suddenly became light-hearted and all smiles. We ladies must stick together! My friend and I finished our tea, said goodbye to the couple, and left.

A few weeks later I happened to be at an event and there sitting next to me was the same man. He introduced himself as the “crazy man” from the restaurant. Of course I remembered him I said and we laughed about that funny evening. Ok, now a third time! Just last week there he was again sitting a few seats away at a round table at a charity event I was attending. I arrived late due to work and quietly made my way to my seat as the presentation was already in progress. I nodded hello to this familiar face and sat quietly as food was being served. Good looking food too! Food of course that I wouldn’t dare touch. Everyone at this round table of 10 ate and noticed that I wasn’t. I usually say no to these preset dinner events because I don’t ever want to waste the food or money. Also sometimes the questions become way too tiring as to why I’m not eating. When ever I feel like it’s a bother to answer such questions and want to shy away from these events, I remember a certain Gluten Free book…  Someone had bought me this oh so popular book.  A nice gesture, but even the cover of this book irritated me. It was gimmicky and referred to a gluten free lifestyle as a diet and said something about weight loss as well!! Arrrggghh!!! One of the biggest problems with people not being diagnosed properly  is because of this light attitude about celiac. It is an auto immune disease and should be treated as such, not a diet!

Before throwing this book out the window, I decided to look inside. I came across a chapter about what to do in social situations. It said to be ready to change the subject, at a party or dinner you should be ready with facts on your favorite sports team or a funny story. REALLY?????????  I screamed when I read this and a few of the other antidotes! I thought to myself if we don’t talk about this disease in REAL way then we are going to keep up this charade of  people suffering silently. If people don’t start demanding answers to their health questions then where does that leave us? Sick, alone, and telling nonsense stories and talking sports when really we feel sick to our stomachs? I thought to myself when I read this,  I would never do that.  But, do people really want to hear about your auto immune disease at a party? Probably not. There is a way to politely express yourself yet still educate someone in the process. And that’s exactly what happened that evening at the charity event.

Once the presentation was complete everyone finished their dinner and started to chat. A huge piece of filet mignon covered in sauce, potato graten and bread lay in front of me as I drank water in hopes of quenching my appetite. Didn’t quite work. The familiar man noticed I hadn’t touched a thing and made a comment. Something like “why aren’t you eating? …dieting?” I thought about a response for a second. I mean, he was across the table, did I want to shout out, “I HAVE AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE” across the table?  Probably not. This table really didn’t seem like the forum for an autoimmune disease discussion. So I just said politely that I have a many food allergies. His eyes popped open, not expecting that answer and said “so does my wife, she is horrible.” I looked at him not caring anymore about the table and said “does she have celiac disease?” He said immediately “yes, and so does my son!” I always find people are happy to hear that someone else understands what this truly means.  That was all I needed to start my conversation.

Before I knew it most of the table was talking about celiac and gluten. I found a couple at the table who knew of an organization of mothers with allergy ridden children.  Another man knew nothing of this disease but was fascinated and wanted to learn more. My familiar friend went on about how his wife was undiagnosed and suffered for so long that he just believed that she was just lazy.  He said that she was so bad at times that she would just pass out. He suggested we exchange numbers with the simple hopes that his wife and child would finally have someone to talk to who understood. I told him I would do more than commiserate with her.  About a week after the function, I’m happy to say, I dropped off a care package full of some of my favorite baked goods! Chocolate chip cookies, rosemary olive oil bread, pancake mix, and banana pecan chocolate chip muffins. I expected nothing in return but maybe a happy email.  What I did get was not only one happy email but several. I also received a picture of the family eating my cookies and smiling.  Especially smiling, the seven year old.  If you can help one person feel better,  or just make them smile, by a cookie, a kind word or by understanding what they are going through, then your day is complete.  So was I right in not sitting quietly and avoiding the question as to why I’m not eating and stating my disease for the table to hear? I say most certainly YES.  Please do the same..

Ever Onward,

Jennifer Esposito


I wanted to share the beautiful letter and picture I received that in turn made MY day so much brighter too. Hope it puts a smile on your face also:

Hi! I just wanted to start by saying thank you. It is truly amazing the random coincidences in life. Not being able to eat gluten has been difficult but once I took it out of my life, it’s amazing how much better I feel. It was like I was always in a cloud, I was always exhausted and therefore moody and cranky. My joints always ached. My stomach was always bloated and uncomfortable. I was just told I was lazy.

I feel like a new person. I read your story online and realized so many have similar stories.  Anyway tonight Andy and I gave our sons the treats you sent over. My younger son said , “mom pinch me I must be dreaming.”  Andy and both my boys were devouring the treats, I had to remind them it was gluten free.

Your food is amazing. Please let us know how we can order. I have many friends with children who have a gluten allergy as well and know they would be very interested.

Again, I can’t thank you enough for going out of your way for the crazy couple who interrupted you during your dinner at Ciprianis:)

You are wonderful to have shared this with us. Jennifer’s Way is spectacular!!

Thank you,

Laughter, the Best Medicine

One might say, what does your soul or being soulful have to do with food? Well my opinion? EVERYTHING. What you eat not only nourishes your body, but your mind and soul as well. You know how good it feels to sit down and share a good meal with friends. You also know with just one smell of baked cookies or bread or whatever, brings a smile to your face. It’s not a coincidence these things happen. Our senses all work together and send a direct response to ones body. Happy, sad, glad, HUNGRY. When you take gluten away you will feel deprived, at first. There is no easy way to put that but as I said it. It’s true at first you might feel lost, angry, scared and yes depressed. If you are depriving yourself and are undernourished by the food you are having or NOT having, your body, mind and yes your soul will feel the same.

When I went through the physical withdrawal (which was hard… to say the least) with this disease when I got off gluten, it was extremely difficult. After those symptoms of detox eased a bit, I was still left with a mind and soul that was hurting.
What to do?

Ease your undernourished or deprived soul.

First thing, you need to breath in and digest, and this is BIG pill to swallow, that you are not the same anymore. If you have been diagnosed with Celiac or believe you have it or a gluten allergy. From here on out things will change. Everything you thought about food HAS to change to be healthier and feel better.
I remember about a year after my diagnosis I was still waiting to feel like “myself” again. What I finally realized was that that self I was waiting for was gone. Things were different now, I was different. The way I ate, the way I dined out, the way I took vacations, the way I socialized and mostly the relationship I had with myself. I HAD TO take care of myself if I wanted to live healthy. I had to learn what really nourished me. What things made me feel healthier, better, happier. This included food as well as my surroundings. All of those answers lie in your soul. I know it sounds corny but think about it. We all have that inner voice that tells us things. Whether we listen or not that is your choice. I believe it’s your body’s way of telling you what it needs. It tried to tell me for years what it wanted and DIDN’T, better yet couldn’t have. This is the time to SLOW down and LISTEN. Take time to make meals that nourish. Take time to smile at what’s in your plate, then what’s not. Surround yourself with people who understand or at least try to. Sometimes the closet to us find it hard to adjust to your new lifestyle as well. Take this time to clean out not only your refrigerator but your life. Things that make you feel bad in anyway. I know that’s easier said then done. But stress causes real damage to the immune system, so why not try and makes things simpler. The last thing a weekend immune system needs is MORE stress. Try and alleviate or somehow rethink the things that stress you. Not easy but necessary. The single most important thing you can do to alleviate some stress is have a sense of humor.

LAUGHTER, as we all know is the best medicine. So why not practice it everyday!

When I was at my very worst I have to say some friends were profoundly absent. Whether you understand or not, it is hard on people around you as well. Although I believe true friends will stick it out. Everyone deals with things differently. I was very fortunate to have a few sted fast friends, that on my worst days would be there. The one thing they always did was make me laugh. The couldn’t ease my stomach ache or help me eat gluten again but they ALWAYS made me forget the woes of the moment and laugh! Find a friend (MY FRIEND RALPH) that does that for you, watch a funny movie, lighten up and find humor in everyday things. My dogs became constant amusement for me as well. Look at FRANKIE BEANS & BETTY BOOP to have a laugh. Just the simplicity in what makes them happy in turn made me smile. Don’t let those little things go unnoticed anymore.

Take time, make a healthy meal and have a laugh.

Ever Onward,

Jennifer Esposito