Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Paleo Coconut Pecan Banana Bread

One day before Christmas I was looking for something healthy I could make to nibble on that my family might also enjoy. And, I’ve been having a serious sweet tooth since I’ve been instructed by my naturopath to go sugar-free. Well what’s a girl to do on a holiday with tons of chocolate, cookies, pies and cakes floating around in front of her?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Paleo Style Eggs Benedict

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And if you knew me personally, you'd know that I love to eat and never pass up a chance to make - or eat - a good meal. I also don't function well without eating something in the morning and you certainly don't want to be around me starting my day hungry and grumpy!

Last Saturday I was getting ready to head to the farmers market over on Pico and Centinela. It's close to my house and J&J grassfed beef is usually there which is my main reason for going.

But first... breakfast!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Coconut Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

I've been really good with my sugar, gluten and dairy free diet lately. It's the only thing that keeps my body from reacting with inflammation, caused by a diet high in carbohydrates, sugar and unfortunately, antibiotic use. And right now at the beginning of the winter holiday season, I have always been susceptible to strep throat, so no sugar keeps it at bay. I also think I might have food intolerances, hence the gluten free part of this. I've been seeing a naturopathic doctor to pinpoint the cause, and so far prior to tests, she suspects food intolerances and candida as well.

I really like my naturopathic doctor. For those of us suffering from the unknown and what many traditional doctors sometimes dismiss as depression or  being "all in your head," when you know that's not the case, you look for someone that will really listen and care. With naturopathic doctors, you get a lot more one-on-one time. The idea is to investigate the root cause of disease, not cover up the symptoms which is what takes place in most cases of western medicine (or at least in my experiences). I could continue on about this, but will save that for a separate post another time.

Onto the reason you are probably here  - COOKIES!

These cookies are good for those following a paleo lifestyle. Most paleo peeps don't eat grains or sugar. While I've used some sugar, it is quite minimal.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Grass Fed Beef Crock Pot Chipotle Chili (and Bacon Wrapped Dogs)

Last week started getting a bit colder here on the westside of Los Angeles so I pulled out my winter clothing to prepare. I started wearing sweater tights and scarves with my dresses. Brrr! Not that we Angelenos can ever really complain about the weather; I know many east coast cities recently received a generous dumping of unexpected snow and rain, and many lost power and were probably shivering under their blankets for a few days. The only thing here that happens for the most part is we freak out and can't drive in the rain. I never can understand that - why do people seem to drive even crazier in the rain here? It's like an instant panic sets in and we become maniacs behind the wheel. My heart rate goes up just thinking about it. Road rage.

I digress.

Most people regardless of the time of year, associate food with comfort in some sort of way.  I am no different. I think this increases during holidays - we meet with family, share recipes,  eat too much and then lay around the house in a food coma.  Here in Los Angeles, the temperature has dropped just enough for me to start thinking about what comfort foods I want to make.  I wanted something hearty that sticks to your ribs.

Mmm... ribs. Okay, we'll save that for another post. I could never be a vegetarian.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Benefits of Homemade Broth - and a Lemon Chicken Soup Recipe

For the last week I have been slowly introducing myself to the GAPS diet.  GAPS stands for the Gut and Psychology Syndrome, a book by Natasha Campbell-McBride M.D. The book focuses on the link to gut health and your overall mental and physical health. The diet is said to help heal damaged digestive systems, which in turn can also substantially help many conditions, such as Autism, Dyslexia, Depression, Dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD, Schizophrenia, and any other condition that has a link to gut dysbiosis. I am suffering from this imbalance, which I believe caused systemic candida and a host of other symptoms.

The diet recommends you use the bones from chickens, beef etc. to make nutrient dense broths that help your immune system. You know, the way your grandmother made soup before all of these MSG laden and artificially flavored broths were so common in supermarkets? And trust me, it tastes so good.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mrs Winstons - Healthy Salads, Sandwiches and Smoothies

Mrs. Winston's Green Grocery has been voted the best salad bar in Santa Monica and Los Angeles (check out Yelp's reviews), and when you go you'll know why. This health food store and lunch spot boasts high quality produce and are eco-conscious (the salad containers are made form post-consumer plastic bottles). Everyone from vegans, vegetarians and just those who want delicious, organic whole foods will love the large selection of salad bar offerings. Other salad bars can't compete!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grain and Gluten Free Almond Pancakes

This recipe is good for a light, fluffy "Paleo" version of the All-American pancake. I found the recipe and customized it after reading Mark Sisson's Paleo site "Marks Daily Apple."

The great thing about pancakes is they are so versatile. You can add apples, bananas and walnuts, blueberries, or maybe some mini chocolate chips. Recently I made some with unsweetened canned pumpkin, fresh grated ginger and cinnamon. Add whatever you like!  Here is the basics, you do the rest:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Border Grill Los Angeles

Working in downtown Los Angeles is quite convenient when it comes to food, since there are so many amazing restaurants and food vendors to choose from, most within walking distance. But since I'm eating gluten free and currently dairy free, most of the time I bring my lunch to work. However on Fridays, I sometimes like to go socialize with coworkers, unwind with a drink and enjoy a good meal to start off the weekend.

Situated on corner of 5th and Figueroa below the Union Bank building is Border Grill, a modern Mexican restaurant that focuses on the cuisine of Oaxaca and the Yucatan. What I love most is that Border Grill uses seasonal, local and organic produce whenever possible, and the meat and dairy is raised without the use of hormones and antibiotics. And they are allergy friendly! Need I say more?

During this particular visit, I ordered the turkey tostadas. The server and manager were very helpful and took every precaution to make sure my meal was gluten free. Made with grilled turkey meat, black beans and tomatoes, roasted corn and cotija cheese atop of shredded lettuce with a flavorful Caesar dressing, the tostadas were not heavy even for a summer day. They were tangy and refreshing, as was their pomegranate lemonade!

We ate our meal on the outdoor patio overlooking the city skyline of the financial district. I especially liked their flower boxes containing brightly colored Lantanas, and their funky retro sunny pink and orange floral table cloths. It made me feel like I was a kid back in my great grandma's backyard. The ambiance set the mood for a fun lunch.

If you can't make it for lunch, check out their Happy Hour Monday through Friday - 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Border Grill also has locations in Santa Monica and Las Vegas. If you're a food truck fan, you should track down their Border Grill truck roaming the streets of Los Angeles.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gluten Free Snack Ideas

If you've read my blog, then you know by now that I enjoy cooking and opt to eat whole, healthy and naturally gluten free foods. However, there are times when I want a fast and healthy snack or breakfast that isn't going to take long to prepare.  Here are some of my favorite gluten free, (and many dairy and sugar free), bites and snacks.

  • Organic peanut butter and sliced Granny Smith apples. You can drizzle honey or agave for some sour and salty sweetness. Also good is banana with any kind of nut butter. 
  • Smoothies. I like almond milk with blended organic coconut butter, frozen mixed berries, vanilla bean and a dash of agave syrup. Make sure to add in the coconut butter through the top of the blender while running, otherwise the cold will cause the butter to harden and will not mix thoroughly.
  • Avocado halved, sprinkled with sea salt, lime, crushed black pepper and Tapatio. Or, add a few tablespoons of pico de gallo. Good healthy fats will keep you full. Eat with a spoon! This is one of my favorite go-to snacks.
  • Almond meal muffins or pancakes. I buy almond meal at Trader Joes or Whole Foods, and add vanilla, eggs, cinnamon and whatever fruit you want. You can also make your own almond meal. Good source of protein and vitamin E. And since I brought up almonds.....
  • .....Nuts! I love raw or roasted almonds, a handful of walnuts or macadamias - chocolate covered are good if you can eat sugar. I like to buy raw almonds and roast them in the oven myself; they taste better to me, maybe because of their freshness. And it fills the house with a wonderful aroma.
  • Chocolate lover but don't want to eat a lot of sugar?  Get 70-85% dark chocolate - I like Trader Joe's or Lindt dark chocolate. You can mix it up and eat it with a handful of nuts, or make mini peanut butter "bites" by spreading nut butter between a few small blocks. 
  • KIND Bars are my favorite when I cheat (no sugar for me most of the time). They have many flavors - my picks are the Cranberry Almond and Almond Cashew Flax. The Peanut Butter and Strawberry bar tastes just like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!  The lowest sugar version is the Nut Medley.
  • Two spoonfuls of coconut butter. (By now you are seeing a trend and know I am a nut butter freak. It's one of the best sources of protein and healthy fats out there, and keeps you full.) I like Artisana
Here's more:

  • Fresh cut veggies and homemade ranch dressing. For netter nutrition, homemade or store-bought hummus will add protein and fiber and make your snack stick with you longer.
  • Roll-ups: sliced meat, cheese, pickle spear and spicy brown or Dijon mustard
  • Organic cheese and gluten free crackers. I like Schar and Crunchmaster brands. Rice crackers are good too.
  • Gluten free cereal. I like Chex or Envirokids brands. Milk, or almond/coconut milk with blueberries or freeze dried strawberries. Nom Nom.
  • Hard-boiled eggs are one of nature's best protein-filled snacks! I grab one of these on my way to work along with a Kind bar and coffee.
  • Sliced fruit - I like a mixture of blueberries, strawberries and kiwi fruit. Try a grapefruit, orange, and strawberry salad with chopped mint. Very refreshing.
  • Tortilla chips - I like the  Food Should Taste Good brand in jalapeno or sweet potato flavors.  No artificial flavors or MSG/yeasts.  Try some hummus with these. 
  • Kozy Shack sugar free tapioca or chocolate pudding if you can have dairy.  They use inulin which is a natural root fructose sugar. Maybe add in some raspberries, blueberries or strawberries?
  • Cookies - I like Trader Joes gluten free gingersnaps. I've recently discovered the Gluten Free Goddess cookies sold in the areas of Venice and Santa Monica. She is an amazing baker and her blog is great, too. I think you can order her baked goods on her website if you aren't local. Trust me, you'll be glad you did. 
  •  Tea of coffee.  Sometimes you're not really hungry and just need something to sip on while reading a book or watching the boob tube. I like Yogi Tea organic ginger tea. It soothes an upset tummy, too. 
Okay, all this food talk is making me hungry!  Off to make some almond meal raspberry peach muffins! I'm looking forward to spreading a little butter on top of a warm, straight from the oven treat.

Go make yourself a snack!

Gluten Free Chickadee

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Coconut Curry Soup with Sweet Potato

I love Thai food. Sweet, spicy, tangy - there are so many flavors in one bite.  I especially love coconut milk. Coconut is known for having the good kinds of saturated fats that promote heart health, boosting your immune system, and increased metabolism. The lauric acid in coconuts has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, too. Coconut milk is so versatile, and since I can't eat dairy right now, I use it in a lot of ways I would milk - baking, smoothies, and coffee (SoDelicious makes a good coconut ice cream, too.) And since I'm not eating much sugar, either, I find its subtle sweetness satisfies my sweet tooth.

One of my favorite recipes right now is Thai coconut curry soup. Now that fall is on its way, this will be one of the comfort foods I plan to make when I can snuggle up on my couch with a good book, enjoy a bowl, and warm my bones.

Tip: Use full fat coconut milk, as low fat doesn't give enough flavor in my opinion.  Fats are an essential part of our diet.  The low-fat fad is over, didn't you know?

2 T olive oil or coconut oil
2 medium chicken breasts, cubed
2 cups organic free range chicken broth
1 can full fat coconut milk
half yellow onion, diced
julienned red bell pepper
4-6 T fish sauce
1 T freshly grated ginger root
1 clove minced garlic
1 small minced Thai chili
1 tablespoon curry powder (I use McCormick but you could use a yellow curry paste)
2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed (red potatoes will do as well)
dash turmeric
juice of 2 limes
chopped cilantro for garnish

In a large pot on medium heat, add oil.  When hot, add in onion and bell pepper and cook until it starts to become tender, just a few minutes. Add garlic, Thai chili, ginger and chicken, and cook for a few more minutes to start incorporating the flavors. Lower heat to medium-low and add coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, and remaining ingredients, except lime juice and cilantro. Cook at medium-low, let simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are somewhat tender but not fall apart. When almost ready, add juice of limes to taste.  You may want to add more or less - I find I like a lot of lime juice to give it that tanginess.  And if you can have sugar, you may want to add in a bit of brown sugar, but I find it's delicious without it.

I might also add in a bit of cayenne if the Thai chilies don't give it enough kick, or if I don't have them on hand. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

If you are like me you will have 2 or more bowls and go into a food coma.

You'll have to forgive me for the stock photo, but the pictures I took were accidentally erased from my hard drive, and I couldn't let a good recipe go to waste just because of this!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Visit Your Local Farmers Market for Health

I believe in whole foods. No not the grocery store sometimes referred to as "whole paycheck." What I'm referring to are fruits and veggies, and animal proteins like free range chicken and beef, without the use of antibiotics, and preferably fed more grass than grains, and wild fish.

Simple meals made with whole foods remind me of my great grandmother's cooking. My great grandmother Margie grew up in Texas, picking cotton in the fields, working hard in the heat of the sun. I didn't know her parents, but I'm sure most of their food came from their farm or one close to home. I can't remember much in their house that was processed food. Most meals consisted of a roast chicken, or maybe a ham or pot roast, and don't forget the mashed potatoes with real butter, and a side of veggies like spinach, green beans or broccoli. One of my favorite memories was of an old-fashioned ice cream maker that she preferred to use when peaches were in season, and man oh man, did we ever look forward to that. There's nothing like homemade ice cream. Cream, milk, eggs, sugar, fruit and salt - that simple.

Margie eventually moved to Long Beach, CA with my great grandfather Alfred, and started a family. She had two boys around the age of 20, and in turn my mom was born about 20 years later. My mom would drive us to visit on weekends, and Margie would always ask my mom, "Are you feeding these skinny girls?" She would feed my sister and I non-stop to try to fatten us bony kids up. We were very skinny girls, and no matter how much we ate, we never gained weight due to our fast-paced metabolisms. Whatever she made for us, they were almost always simple whole foods - usually nothing with more than a few ingredients listed on the label, or no label at all.

Nowadays there has been a sharp increase in the amounts of convenience foods that contain a large list of ingredients; many being sugar or high fructose corn syrup, simple carbohydrates, bad fats and oils like canola and cottonseed that are toxic to our immune systems, and many a preservative or flavor enhancer that overstimulate our nervous systems. Most of these foods are scarce of any real nutritional value and cause your insulin to spike and pancreas to work overtime, which can eventually lead to a host of diseases like diabetes.

I feel most people have lost their connection to whole foods. We have lost our enjoyment of the simple things in life and what it can bring to our health and well-being. It is so easy to go through the motions of visiting a supermarket and mundanely grabbing whatever is on the shelves. We live in a fast-paced society, and these lifestyles are catered to by many a food manufacturer, and mostly to our detriment. We lose sight of what we are putting into our bodies, and this catches up to us in forms of ailments and chronic diseases. And when we start to get sick, we don't stop to think that it could be how we are fueling our engines; instead we reach for a magic pill to cover up the symptoms.

I am a key example of this.  After years of taking too many antibiotics and a diet high in simple starches and consuming more sugar than I realized, my body became unbalanced with systemic candida and I ended up in the hospital due to severe muscle inflammation - resulting in fluid in the lining of my lung.  Fun, eh? Three years later, I am still battling the effects of this today - fatigue and mood swings, memory and concentration problems, and many other symptoms like joint pain. It is very difficult to recover from and I am on a strict diet trying to regain my health.

Nowadays, I want to know where my food comes from. I truly believe that food has a pharmaceutical quality, and you are what you eat. I try to visit a farmers market at least once or twice a month to buy local, organic produce, healthy fats like avocados and nuts, and grass-fed meats and wild fish. I enjoy strolling down the aisles listening to street musicians and conversing with all of the interesting people who appreciate whole foods too.  It gives me a feeling of being part of the community I live in. No matter how urban my surroundings, I find it reassuring that I can go to the farmers market on the weekends and feel like I am in a different world altogether.

On my last visit, I bought grass fed beef to make stuffed cabbage, fennel for salads and stews, crunchy sweet Asian pears, and organic blueberries to add to my almond meal pancakes, gluten free cereals and smoothies. When I was drinking milk (I'm not now due to the sugar content and candida issue), I would buy raw milk from Organic Pastures. I believe that there are many nutrients we miss when drinking pasteurized milk. Curious about raw milk? Check out this site and read about the benefits. Also check out what the highly regarded Weston A Price Foundation has to say.

I try to carry on the traditions of many of the recipes my great grandmother used. I still remember those hot summers when my sister and I would enjoy cool, creamy homemade peach ice cream out of fancy sundae bowls. There were smiles all around. And that's how food is supposed to make you feel - good.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Riega Foods Cheese Sauce Review and Giveaway!

Most of the time I like to cook sans processed foods. But I'll admit, there are days when my schedule is filled with activities and sometimes you want a little convenience. This is where Riega Foods cheese sauces come in. These mixes can help create a fast, delicious and gluten free meal for your family.

Recently Riega Foods sent me a complimentary box of their cheese sauces to sample.  When it arrived I found boxes of Pepper Jack, Alfredo, Yellow and White Cheddar sauces.

I noticed on the back of the package under the ingredients listing, they mention it is "made in a factory and on machinery that also processes: milk, eggs, wheat and soy."  This concerned me, so I emailed Riega to get more information.

I received quick and detailed email back that reassured me about their gluten safety procedures.

"Vanessa, Thank you for the email. To answer both of your emails I will explain our processes and how we ensure our products are gluten free. Please understand that I have family members and friends that cannot eat gluten and I understand the medical issues that can result from unintended digestion of gluten. I started this company with the full understanding of what needs to happen, and we do not just put gluten free on our products because we don't use wheat, rye or barley.

To ensure our products are truly gluten free we test after production every single batch after it has been packaged. We send this to a third party, because they have no interest in the outcome. We use the University of Nebraska FARRP Lab (CSA uses same lab). I have attached a recent report to this email, so you can see. To date, every batch of our finished cheese sauce has come back as below quantifiable levels (5 ppm) for gluten. To me that is the only way you can ever ensure a product is gluten free, whether it is made in a gluten free facility or not. As a note, not all companies test and not all companies with the gluten free logo's on their packages test every batch.

In regards to the product, the final mixing and packaging is done in a shared facility, but as you can see from our testing reports we take steps to ensure their is no cross contamination. The facility itself is a number of small rooms, which contain each individual piece of equipment. Each room can be closed off and once production is finished the entire equipment and room are cleaned. It is hard to explain without seeing the facility, but with our cleaning procedures and testing protocol there is no chance of any type of cross contamination. It is possible that from time to time a machine also handles a product that contains wheat, but again with the setup of facility and cleaning procedures there is no cross contamination. This is not a manufacturing environment like bread, cookies, or something where a machine is difficult to clean at some point. The machines used to mix and package can be broken down 100% and cleaned. Same for the room from top to bottom.

I hope that helps explain all and makes you feel more comfortable. Please understand that we have family members and friends with gluten issues and I take the level of gluten very seriously. It is why we disclose so much about our procedures, testing and environment. Their are ways we could build some gray areas into they reporting system, but I just will not do that.

If you still do not feel comfortable with our products, then I understand. I believe everyone must make informed choices, and I hope that we can help you do that about our products. Please just let me know.

Brad Gampper

PS. As a side note I had actually posted something about this on a facebook group earlier this morning. You can read it here."

I was really happy to hear that they test their products to ensure safety. And the levels have come back at under 5 ppm - less than the proposed standard the FDA is considering using. This made me feel comfortable trying their sauce mixes.

First, I tried the traditional yellow cheese sauce. Directions call for you to cook 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of your favorite pasta and mix. I prefer 1 cup pasta as I like my sauce extra cheesy. Just add some butter and a little milk (or substitute of your choice if you don't eat dairy) to your cooked noodles, and "voila!"  Mac and cheese.  It was quite good. You could add some mixed veggies, paprika ( I LOVE paprika) and maybe a little red pepper to spice it up, or just enjoy the cheese and noodles on their own.

The other night, I tried the Alfredo sauce and mixed it with some rotini rice noodles as a side dish to my favorite dish - Chicken Piccata. The sauce was creamy, with a hint of garlic and parsley.

These would be great mixes to take camping along with some gluten free noodles, or traveling to a family or friend's house where you aren't sure if there will be something for you to eat.

Another bonus to this is that you can use your preference of pasta. Some of the pre-packaged white rice pasta mac and cheeses are a bit bland to me, so I like to buy brown rice noodles for more taste and fiber.

Riega Foods website lists where you can find their products, and they also have an online store. I've seen these at Whole Foods and Fresh and Easy, and they sell for about $1.39 a package, so they are quite affordable for people on the go.

If you want your favorite store to carry this product, download this form and take it to your grocer to make a request.

Thanks Riega for a convenient... and yummy gluten free product.


To win 4 packets of each kind of sauce, (total of 16 yummy sauce packets) please enter by Wednesday August 31 to enter for your chance to win:

  • Tweet and post a link to this article
  • Comment on your Facebook page (if you have one) with a link to this article, and;
  • Leave a comment on this blog related to this topic

I will randomly choose and contact 2 winners by Wednesday September 7th.

Good luck!!!

- Gluten Free Chickadee

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Journey to Gluten Free

Jeremy and I Christmas Season a few Years Back

I believe I've always had a food intolerance or celiac (still in process of confirming diagnosis.) Growing up, I remember having reoccurring throat infections from age 12 to now. In high school, I developed anxiety and a bit of fatigue - which I didn't understand at that time - I just thought I was a "lazy" teenager. I felt like this nervousness kept me from joining in to many social functions. I also had digestive issues, which I attributed as symptoms from the anxiety and nervousness. I was told that stress can do weird things to your body, and although I know that's true, I know that's not the cause of my symptoms now.

Out of high school, I landed a job as a customer service rep at a health insurance company with help from my mom, whom also worked there in another department. We commuted together an hour each way from a nearby valley. This was hard on me; I couldn't handle the stress and started having panic attacks. Maybe it was because it was my first real job? I mean, I never had to deal with "grown-up" responsibilities before.

At work, I remember having loose stools and embarrassing gas after breakfast. I thought maybe it was lactose intolerance from my lattes, but I didn't always get this after drinking milk so I was stumped. My doctors chalked it all up to depression, and soon after I began taking Zoloft. I was on this for close to 5 years. I would stop taking Zoloft, but only after I went gluten free later down the road. My moods seemed to get better while on antidepressants, but my digestive problems did not. In the last few years I have had some embarrassing situations and close calls where I had to be near a bathroom due to uncontrollable bowel movements.  Maybe I had IBS?

Two years ago at the age of 32, it became even worse. My muscles started tightening and I was always very tense. Again I thought it was stress and tried working out at the gym several times a week. It didn't help much. These pains slowly turned into debilitating muscle spasms where I was out of work for days on end. I couldn't lay down in bed and slept upright with pillows propping me up. I took a chair massager to work with me to get through the day. Not fun at all. I began seeing a chiropractor, which seemed to help only temporarily. I remember one day I went in to get a therapeutic massage, I was in so much pain that I sat huddled in my robe in the corner of their bathroom crying. Along with these pains, I was having brain fog, joint pain, digestive problems, trouble concentrating and memory issues. I remember always "searching" for words that I couldn't seem to find. I was falling apart and it was frustrating.

Then one day during all of this, walking upstairs to my apartment I realized I was completely out of breath. That night I slept on the couch because I couldn't get comfortable in bed. I had horrible chills that night and knew something was terribly wrong. The next day, I walked to my doctors office near my work (have no idea how I was still working as I really was getting nothing done due to the pain and other symptoms), an xray showed a large amount of fluid in the lining of my right lung. I was immediately checked into the hospital and was told there was an underlying infection and would need thoracic surgery. I was really scared. I was in the hospital with a chest tube for more than a week. Everyone said how unusual it was for a then 32 year old to have this illness. I mean, I was healthy right? How did this happen?

But in all honesty, I really wasn't. One of my friends jokes with me whenever I get sick that I always have had some kind if illness, and he is right. In my 20's, I had endometriosis, the cartilage in my knees was falling apart, and then of course there was the tonsillitis and strep almost every year. Where was all of this coming from? Were they possibly all related?

After the thoracic surgery I thought I would get better, but I didn't seem to be healing the way I thought I would. I still had chest pain, joint pain, brain fog, severe fatigue and an inability to concentrate. I lost my job two months after my surgery. Doctors had given me broad-spectrum antibiotics for about 6 weeks. (Later I would find out what a detriment this was to my body due to a candida overgrowth.) Since doctors could not find a reason for my health issues, and didn't seem interested in helping me further after my surgery (tried to push pain pills and antidepressants), I started doing research and went through several self diagnoses. First I thought it was my moldy apartment, so I moved. Symptoms got a little better but not much.

After no help from doctors, I started researching an had an "a-ha" moment. Could it be Celiac or a gluten intolerance? I immediately began following the diet, and what do you know, my symptoms lessened. Today my brain fog, anxiety, joint pain and digestive symptoms are significantly reduced. I rarely feel joint pain, and it is nice not to have panic attacks anymore. About 5 months ago, I stopped taking Zoloft and find I don't need it now.

Still, I believe I have a lot of healing to do. Due to the broad spectrum antibiotics, I believe I have a candida overgrowth. I think I may have had this even before my thoracic surgery. I remember a few months before I got terribly ill, I had a throat infection, and took antibiotics. Within a week I was vomiting, and my health went into a downward spiral from there. I think that all of my healthy bacteria was gone; this left a door open to candida, molds and other pathogens. I started getting better eating gluten free, but as soon as I started eating GF breads and baked goods I became ill again. I suspected yeast and sugar. I heard somewhere that many celiacs have other allergies or sensitivities. Today, I am not only eating gluten free, but yeast and sugar free. Whenever I backslide and eat sugar or yeast (I'm always gluten free), within a day I begin to feel ill and inflammation builds. So, I've learned to adjust my lifestyle.

I can't say it was easy in the beginning. Going gluten free, I've had many setbacks. While in the learning stages, I've had a few bouts of accidental gluten ingestion. It's been a challenge learning to read confusing labels. And there was a time I went through denial and backslid, only to get sick again.

There are days where I feel sorry for myself and just want to devour a Philly cheese steak. I have to remind myself that my health is on the line and I'll regret it if I eat a pretzel with cheese at the mall. Parties and family events are hard. Some restaurant management look at you like you are speaking a foreign language and don't know what gluten is.

But now I'm in a groove and am pretty comfortable with my new diet. I've found new foods and new places to eat. And you know what?  I eat healthier than before and that's a good thing. I also keep a food journal in case I get sick and need to look back at what I might have done wrong. I try to focus on the foods I CAN have instead of those I can't. And my boyfriend has been very patient with me, adapting with dinner and groceries. I am fortunate as he is really supportive and knows how much better I feel as a result of my diet. I've always been into nutrition, but this has really opened the door to true healthy eating! It's a good thing for me that I love to cook. I really enjoy using whole, organic local produce and visit the local farmer's market several times a month. It's good for our bodies, the environment and the communities we live in.

While I still don't know for sure if gluten is the real cause of all of these illnesses, until proven otherwise, I know this is a much heathier way of eating for me and I will continue to do what helps me heal. I can only hope that my story will help others and those with health issues like mine will be able to listen to their bodies and find the right path for themselves as well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Udi's Snickerdoodle Cookies

Last week I got a case of the afternoon munchies while at work. In addition to eating gluten free, I've also been on a sugar and yeast free diet. I have symptoms of what I think is a candida overgrowth and the doctors are still trying to figure this out, but it almost completely goes away when I cut all sugar and yeast out of my diet. However, I can't deprive myself forever, so I decided I deserved a treat and walked to the local Ralphs supermarket in downtown Los Angeles. I wasn't sure what this market would have for a gluten free selection, but was pleasantly surprised.

On an aisle ending, I found a gluten-free stand with crackers, pasta, and cookies. I saw the Udi's Snickerdoodles, and immediately got excited. I felt like a kid waiting for her mom to hand her a popsicle. I used to enjoy making these cookies with my mom and sister during the holiday season, and really miss these. I began to think they would probably be a let-down to the Snickerdoodles I remembered in my gluten-filled days.  I was wrong.  These cookies were soft, chewy and full of cinnamon sugared yumminess.  Oh man, these made a perfect end to my day.

If you aren't familiar with Udi's gluten free foods, you can see their products here.  They make bagels, bread, pizza crusts, muffins, and recently, came out with hamburger and hot dog buns that are really delicious (mentioned in a previous review.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Schooby Dooby to Ruby's Diner - Udi's Gluten Free Buns!

 Last week the man and I went clothes shopping at the Citadel Outlets (I LOVE the Maz Azria store there) near downtown Los Angeles. We were looking for a place to power our batteries before our afternoon shopping spree.  Jeremy (the man) suggested Ruby's, which is also at the outlets.  I was a bit hesitant, due to it being a "burger and fries" type of establishment. For those of you that live in Southern California or the few other states they are in, you may know about Ruby's Diner.  I used to get their chili dogs when I had junk food cravings. Their breakfasts and salads are quite good, too. But when I went gluten free about a year ago, I cut out many restaurants because I was unsure about eating at these places due to cross contamination issues, and lack of variety for someone like me. Ruby's was one of these places.

But when I sat down and looked at the menu, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Ruby's now carries Udi's hamburger buns!   Yahoo! I ordered a turkey burger with pepper jack, bacon and avocado.  I love me some avocado.  But what was even more amazing was that I was sitting in a restaurant eating an actual burger on a BUN!  I was in heaven and my boyfriend could tell. I savored every bite.

The staff was very accommodating.  I talked to the manager when ordering to ensure that not only would I have a gluten free burger, that they would assure me that they would take extra precautions to prevent cross-contamination.  I saw him communicate with the kitchen which made me feel quite comfortable.

I was a happy girl.

As a reminder, whenever eating out, even if a dining establishment advertises gluten free items, I highly recommend talking to the wait staff, or the manager if you feel better doing so, to ensure the kitchen is trained and/or is willing to ensure there will be no cross contamination. Many gluten free items are becoming more available, but remember that some think that this is due to the health trend that some are practicing, and not because they are actually intolerant to gluten or wheat.  Always communicate your needs.

Ruby's Diners are in California, Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Hawaii and New Jersey.  they advertise the gluten free buns on their website, but call ahead first to make sure they carry it at the location you plan to visit.

If you are not familiar with Udi's, can out their website of wonderful gluten free foods here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

MSG: Food For Thought

I was looking at a bag of chips the other day, deciding if I wanted to eat them. I looked at the ingredients (which I do with everything, since I am now a label reader due to gluten), and found it to have "autolyzed yeast."  Why you say, would chips need YEAST in them? Well..... this is another term used for monosodium glutamate, i.e. MSG. You'd be surprised how much MSG is used. It is in dressings, gravies, chips, crackers, lunch meats, soups, and even in cosmetics and shampoos! I'm still trying to wrap my head around that last one.

What is MSG? MSG is an amino acid, or in other words, a protein building block, which causes an excitatory process within our neurotransmitters, or nerve cells. When you have an excess of glutamate, it can cause overstimulation and result in death of nerve cells. It is shown that people who have strokes can have an excess of glutamate in the brain. Drugs are being developed to block glutamates, so we know that there is a delicate balance in this situation of having too much of this substance. And this substance can cause reactions in some people such as migraine headaches, upset stomach, fuzzy thinking, diarrhea, heart irregularities, asthma, and/or mood swings. Fun stuff, eh?

People argue that since the human body creates glutamates, that glutamates are not bad. But these man made glutamates have contaminants from being processed/created chemically. And it might even be that too many glutamates - man made or natural - in excess are not good. If you'd like to learn more, here is a site that explains this in more detail.

And manufacturers are getting sneaky about their labels.  They will list "no added MSG," which means it is in there because a processed flavor enhancer already has it in its ingredients! See this site that provides names for all of these hidden sources of MSG.

I'm a big proponent of knowing what is going into my body, especially now knowing that gluten has had a negative effect on my system and well being. So why then, would I want anything unnatural in there either? I believe my body is my temple, and you are what you eat. Better safe than sorry. And I definitely don't let my government decide that for me. Educate yourself and be well.

Update to this post:  Although I usually post about gluten-freee foods, I feel that MSG is closely related to this topic. Many of us who eat gluten free look for healthy alternatives. For those who have sensitive digestive systems due to the intolerance or celiac, we try to cut other items out that can exacerbate the problem, and MSG can be one of those ingredients.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mediterrannean Tuna Salad with Rosemary and Lemon

I woke up on this Sunday morning with the light of the summer sun pushing its way though my bedroom curtains, almost as if it was calling for me to get up and seize the day.

Out of my comfortable bed and into the shower I go.

Summer is my favorite time of year. I’m an outdoors girl, and I’m at my best when out amongst nature. This morning, I decided to hike to the top of a local spot not too far from my home in the San Fernando Valley. The sweetness of native flowers and the clean smells of grass calm my mind and soul. At the top, I climb a few large boulders that overlook the valley below. Everything is so quiet from up here, and I can hear myself think. It’s a great way to start the day.

Sundays for me are usually reserved for errands. After my hike, I visit the Hollywood farmers market for local organic fruits and veggies, and maybe a filet of salmon or grass-fed beef depending on the menu I’ve planned. I love coming here for the large variety of produce and to people watch and enjoy the street performers that provide music while I shop. Then it’s back home to my kitchen, preparing my gluten free lunches and snacks for the week ahead. Later on in the day I might enjoy a leisurely book on my patio with a cold glass of herbal iced tea or lemonade, or watch a movie sprawled out on the couch.

When I came home from the farmers market late this morning, it began to rain. Unexpected and a bit strange for an 80-degree day. It was one of those brief summer storms that don’t happen often in California. It only lasted for a few minutes, but the smell of fresh rain through my window on a warm summer day added to the relaxed feeling I have while working in my kitchen.

Using an oven isn't very appealing during hot summer days, especially in my small apartment. During the summer months we tend to opt for salads and lighter meal options, and meals I don't have to cook are much more appealing due to less work and time. I've been trying to consume more Omega 3 oils lately, so this week I decided to make a tuna salad. I've been bored with the usual mayo-based tuna salad, so I found a Mediterranean version to inspire me, which is healthier and lighter. Instead of mayonnaise, I used a base of olive oil, lemon juice and zest, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. The lemon zest and juice along with the rosemary are a great way to add some flavor without adding unnecessary fat and sugar that many salad dressings contain.

The parsley contributes a clean, green taste that perfectly compliments the tart, sunny taste of the lemon. It lingers on my tongue, and always put a smile on my face. Fresh, light and flavorful.

I hope you enjoy this salad and the summer as much as I do.

I decided I couldn’t wait for lunch tomorrow, and filled up my bowl with yummy goodness.

Mediterranean Tuna Salad

I prefer to use all local, organic produce. Support your local farmers!

1 4-5oz tuna steak or can of albacore tuna (I used a 5 oz can of Wild Planet tuna)
1 15oz can cannellini or garbanzo beans
1 small bunch of  haricots verts, blanched and chilled
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 bell pepper (I used green, but I prefer red or yellow)
2-3 T chopped flat leaf parsley 
1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 T virgin olive oil
1 T dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
juice and zest of 1 lemon
coarsely ground fresh pepper
sea salt to taste

Health Benefits
Cannellini beans provide fiber, and have twice as much iron as beef. They also include molybdenum, which helps the body create detoxifying enzymes that can prevent headaches. Olive oil contains high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, which helps control bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises the good cholesterol (HDL.)

Enjoy salad chilled in a bowl. Makes 2-3 servings. 

I submitted this on the Food Renegade site for Fight Back Friday. Check it out!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gluten Free Homemade Taco Seasoning

With all of those pre-made mixes out there that tend to have one too many ingredients, I decided to make my own taco seasoning.  Not only do I know it is gluten free, but I know I'm not eating other unnecessary preservatives, additives and flavor enhancers (MSG) that can be in these seasoning packets, not to mention hidden gluten. Some companies won't tell you if their products have been manufactured on the same equipment that also processes wheat or other glutens. Ugh.

So here is an easy recipe that tastes great with steak, chicken or hamburger meat. Or if you like, sprinkle on fajita veggies while cooking and put on top of some refried beans in a taco shell.

1 Tablespoon Chile Powder
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or red chili flakes (add more depending on level of spice you prefer)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 3/4 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt (prefer sea salt)
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


Monday, July 25, 2011

SURVEY: When Were You Diagnosed With Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity/Intolerance?

The purpose of this post is to ask those in the community to tell their  story about the road to diagnosing Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance.

I myself am still working on getting an accurate diagnosis regarding Celiac disease.  I believe I have this versus the gluten intolerance based on my symptoms. When I eat gluten, it takes me a few hours to a day and then my symptoms manifest in the way of sore joints, fatigue, poor concentration and achy muscles. I refuse to eat gluten in order to be tested... I just feel so darn bad when I do, so isn't that enough of a diagnosis in itself?  With that said, I still want to know for sure.  I want to start trying to have children soon, and I want to rule out any other potential health problems or risks. For example, it would be good to know if I have vitamin deficiencies and low bone density etc.

The challenges I have had with physicians has been nothing short of frustrating.  I know however if I just keep trying, I will finally find someone who has experience and knowledge with Celiac, so I try to stay optimistic.

I'm interested in learning how long it took others like me,  and challenges you have faced along the way. Were you eating gluten free before your diagnosis? How long did it take to find a doctor that was knowledgeable or that took you seriously? Were you misdiagnosed first? What tests did you take (biopsy, blood test, gene testing)? Or, have you decided to skip the official diagnosis, and chose to just eat gluten free because you know your body and what makes it feel better?

I'm really curious to see every one's answers and look forward to future discussions about this. I look forward to hearing from all of you!

Here is an article from about the average time it takes to be accurately diagnosed:
Average Time to Diagnosis 10 Years

Gluten Free Cinnamon Chex Cereal

I'm a big breakfast person. Anyone who knows me knows that if I don't eat in the morning (or miss any meal for that matter) I will be one grumpy chick. Stand back!  So I make a point to get my sustenance and start the day off right.

It is so nice to finally have a variety of cereals that I can enjoy again. I've been enjoying gluten free plain rice Chex for some time, but General Mills recently introduced other varieties such as the Cinnamon Chex. The cinnamon variety has a hint of cinnamon and sugar, is crunchy and not too sweet.

I like my chex with almond milk and a sprinkle of freeze dried strawberries on top. You could also use this to make a snack mix with fruits and nuts or crumble on top of puddings and ice cream. Go on, get creative.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spicy Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Thai Coconut Lime Rice

One of my favorite foods lately is coconut milk. It's so versatile; you can use it in baking and cooking. I'm a big fan of Thai cuisine, and I've been making this Thai coconut rice for a few years that I absolutely love.  I add Thai basil, lime zest and chicken broth to bring out the flavors of the coconut milk. To accompany the rice, I also had some jumbo shrimp on hand, and made a simple marinade with some garlic and lime, and wrapped them with bacon. If you're a vegetarian/vegan, you can skip the bacon, and the marinade will provide more than enough flavor. For the rice, you can also omit the chicken broth if you prefer, and use water or vegetable broth.

Here is a simple and healthy meal perfect for a warm summer night.

Thai Coconut Lime Rice
2 cups white jasmine or Basmati rice
2 cups coconut milk
1 3/4 chicken stock (or water/vegetable broth if you are vegetarian/vegan)
Grated rind of one lime
Finely diced fresh Thai basil
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan, and cook uncovered on medium-high until it starts to boil; cover and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes. Test the rice; you may need to cook another 5 minutes or so. Then turn off and let sit for 10 minutes. Make sure to leave the lid on to keep the rice warm while you make the shrimp.

Meanwhile, prepare marinade and shrimp

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Garlic-Lime Marinade

10-15 raw-jumbo shrimp (works best if you leave tails on) Tip: Make sure they are RAW shrimp.  Cooked shrimp being cooked again become rubbery and just don't taste right.

Garlic Lime Marinade 
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients below and marinate shrimp for 10 minutes in the following:

Juice of 1 lime, add a bit of zest if you like
Finely minced garlic or garlic powder
1 Tablespoon olive or coconut oil.  (I like coconut oil personally since the coconut and lime go together very well)
Sea salt
Cayenne pepper or finely diced Thai chile if you like heat

I prefer thick cut applewood smoked, or uncured bacon. The length of the cuts of bacon will depend on how big your shrimp are. There is no need to use a toothpick to secure your bacon; just make sure the bacon end is on the under side of the shrimp when you lay it on the baking sheet. Cook shrimp on the grill for 3-4 minutes - it is done when the bacon is fully cooked. You can also do this in a broiler but it will take a few more minutes.

Fluff rice with a fork and serve.  I like to lay the shrimp atop the rice and serve with a simple salad of tomatoes and red onion.

Serves 2, with left over rice for the next day!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Artisana Organic Coconut Butter

Oh my.... I just found the next best thing to peanut butter.  Maybe better.

Artisana raw coconut butter.  It is heavenly.  I came across it at a local health food store in Burbank I frequent called Full O' Life (I'll do a review for them later) where they had coconut oil, and coconut butter.  I wasn't sure which one to go with, so I went for the one in the pretty package (after I verified it was organic and virgin.)

What is the difference, you ask? Well for starters, coconut butter is a whole food, which includes coconut meat and the oil.  It is best used in salad dressings, smoothies, frostings, spread on toasted gluten free bread... it is very versatile. Or, you can just enjoy it by the spoonful, like I've been doing lately.  Coconut oil is just that - oil. It is more translucent than the coconut butter, and better to cook with. Both are somewhat hard at room temperature. You can store them in your cupboard as they need no refrigeration.

Why is it healthy, you ask? Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which helps fight off harmful bacteria and fungi in your body. This is why I am using it (the joy of celiac complications.) Although it is a saturated fat, it consists of a medium chain of fatty triglycerides, and studies have shown they reduce the bad kind of cholesterol. Americans eat too many omega 6 fats, and not enough omega 3's. This is where the omega 3's of coconuts come in. Apparently, not all saturated fats are bad. Here is a link to an article by Dr Mercola about coconut oil. A few benefits mentioned in the article:

  • optimize metabolism and regulate body weight
  • reduce risk of diabetes
  • good for your heart
  • fights degenerative diseases
  • great for hair, skin and nails

And the butter is so delicious, creamy, and healthy. What, you want some?  Go get your own!!!

 Any information on this site is not to be taken as health advice.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trader Joe's Indian Fare - Cheap, Healthy and Fast Gluten Free Meals

A quick post here.... has anyone tried Trader Joe's Indian Fare? You can find this vacuum pouched food in the section near the rice and condiments. I may not be an Indian food connoisseur, but I know what I like. It's a tasty, healthy, cheap (about $2), and FAST meal. While at work it took me 3 minutes to heat up, and - voila!  The Jaipur Vegetables, which I eat with or without rice depending on my level of hunger, hits the spot. Its great when you want some warm, hearty comfort food - diced potatoes, peas, carrots, cashews in a creamy tomato base with a hint of spice. Yummy party in my tummy. They have many other options of Indian Fare such as Madras lentils and Punjab Choley (with garbanzos.)

Nutrition Facts: 120 Cals, 11g fat, 370 Sodium, 10g carbs (great for lower carb options) 4g fiber, 7g protein and 3g sugar

It is so good that instead of eating the recommended serving - half a pouch - I gobbled up the extra serving, too! As the Beastie Boys would say, "Check-ch-check-check-check-ch-check it out." Okay,  now I'm showing my age a bit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Local Cafe With Gluten Free Options - Marie et Cie

Sometimes finding a decent gluten free meal, snack or goodie on the go can be challenging. For example, today my boyfriend wanted to go to a cafe to get some writing done and asked if I'd like to join him. I hadn't eaten lunch yet, so I needed a cafe or diner that provided a casual atmosphere where we could hang out for a while, but also had something I could nibble on.

Located in Valley Village on the corner of Colfax and Riverside Drive is an eclectic Parisian family-owned cafe called Marie et Cie. They offer sandwiches, pastries and snacks from local artisans, some being gluten-free. Most items are health-conscious; they like to use natural sweeteners such as agave and use local, organic ingredients whenever available to reduce their carbon footprint. They also sell organic fair trade coffees and teas. It's a great place to come and relax, have a bite to eat, write, surf the web and even people watch. They also have a gift shop and furnishings section where you can find unique items.

We arrived midday and just in time before the line went out the door. Looking at their refrigerated and pastry case, I saw many gluten free options: grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes and olive oil, gluten free cookies and gluten free scones. I think they even had crustless quiches. Yay!  This is the place for me.

I ordered a chai tea and a couple of grape leaves (which turned out to be darn good) and pulled up a chair so I could work on my blog. About 10 minutes later, I just had to go back and buy a Linzer cookie I was eyeing earlier.  The cookie was made with almond flour, a touch of maple syrup and thumb printed with a gooey gob of raspberry jam, one of my favorites. The cookie was huge, and I tried to eat only half, but I hadn't had sweets in a while and couldn't help myself from devouring all of it.  Smiles.

There's something about a local mom and pop type establishment that makes it more appealing than your every day chain.  I know its nice to be able to have consistency and know the product you are getting, but sometimes, you come across a family owned establishment that just makes you feel lucky to have it in your neighborhood.  Maybe its a sense of community. Or maybe its the gluten free sweets.  I think its a bit of both.

Marie et Cie

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Yosemite National Park Serves a GF Meal

This weekend I joined my company for their annual Yosemite trip. My coworker Sarah and I left work midday Friday and carpooled about 6 hours from Los Angeles to Curry Village located in Yosemite Valley. I was really excited to go; I've been to Yosemite several times during my youth and a few times in the last 10 years, so there’s a lot of nostalgia there for me. I’m glad my coworker and friend Sarah accompanied me on the trip up; we gabbed like high school girls do and we were there before we knew it.

When we arrived we were told by registration that the bears were definitely out and about. That didn't bother me really; I've been going camping since I was a kid so the idea of seeing bears actually makes it more exciting for me. We were told to keep all of our food in a bear locker outside our tent (you already know this if you are an avid camper.) My coworker was surprised to learn that you had to keep your toiletries in it, too - anything that could smell yummy to a bear could interest them - so, into the locker they go! This especially goes for cars.

I DARE you to leave food in your car!!
Our humble abode

Employees from our engineering firm (I'm a marketer, not a geeky engineer - let's get that straight) came from northern and southern California, and from our global locations in Haiti, Italy and Istanbul. Saturday morning we awoke bright and early to meet at the outdoor amphitheatre for a company picture – which, I might add, I missed due to standing in line for 15 minutes at the cafĂ© for a cup of coffee. I do have priorities, you know. Besides, who in the world I’d like to know, plans for a company picture at 8:30 in the morning? Sheesh. We then broke up into groups depending on what level of hike we wanted to go on. After the head honcho tried to convince us to go on the killer 13-mile hike with him, which would last about 8-10 hours (like that was going to happen), Sarah and I chose to go on the Vernal and Nevada Falls hike. I’ve been on this hike several times and it’s always a favorite for me. It is a moderate hike with a consistent incline to the top. The path is parallel to the falls, and as you get closer to the falls, you get drenched by the spray of the rapids. At that point if it is hot out - as it was Saturday - you are welcoming a good cool-off! Here’s a picture of Sarah and I at the top (you can see we are a bit soaked!)

The lovely ladies of Yosemite

After the hike we decided to relax by the pool and meet up with some friends and coworkers. And by the way, what is better than enjoying a leisurely afternoon by the pool soaking up some rays while looking at some of nature’s most majestic views in the world? Nothing in my opinion. But then, I’m a bit of a tree hugger.

After creating more freckles in the sun at the pool (I don’t really tan well due to my Irish-Norwegian heritage), we went to get gussied up for our company dinner at the lodge. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a bit stressed thinking about whether they’d be able to accommodate my gluten free needs. The dining manager informed me that almost everything being served at the buffet that was planned for our private party – barbecue ribs, chicken, beans, salad dressings and rolls – had icky gluten in them. Eek. However, the chef was educated about gluten free cooking and was able to whip me up some herb-roasted chicken, potatoes and vegetable skewers. Here was my meal:

Bon Appetit!

I was so happy that I didn’t have to go back to my tent and eat salami and cheese for dinner! It was a pleasant experience to be able to sit and enjoy a wonderful dinner and conversation with my colleagues. I enjoyed getting to know many of the staff I talk to over the phone on a weekly basis.

For other options outside of the dining room... while at the gift shop and convenience store, I saw many gluten free options for making your own meals, like brown rice spaghetti, and a few gluten free mixes! The world is changing my friends, and for the better.

Too bad this was such a fast and furious trip. We arrived on Friday evening and left on Sunday morning, but I’ll never turn down a chance to enjoy the great outdoors – and good company, too.

And lastly, our final stop before leaving. My favorite post-card worthy view of Yosemite Valley:

My arms look slightly "buff" here, don't you agree?
Good times. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Popchips Go Certified Gluten Free!

Has anyone else heard about this or am I just late to the game??  Per their website, Popchips have become certified gluten free!

Now, if I can just get over this yeast intolerance/sensitivity I'd be in good shape.  At least I can eat their plain Popchips which are still very tasty.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Reasons to Eat Organic

Image Courtesy of Simon Howden

I'm a big supporter of purchasing organic foods. Why, you ask?

1) Toxins. Toxins pollute soil and your body.

2) No GMO's. Certified organic foods cannot be genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Science suggests that GMO's can pose many significant health risks to your body and the ecosystem.

3) Support Your Local Farmer.  Buying from local farmers is an environmentally responsible choice, because you are not contributing to pollution caused by global transport of foods.  Why eat an apple from another state or country when you can buy it from your local farmer?  Check out your local farmers markets. Trust me, it even tastes better, and your body will thank you for it.

4) MYTH: Organics are More Expensive.  Large-scale food production tends to be cheaper because they are given government subsidies. And it may also be that the farmers who grow the food are not being paid a fair wage.

There are so many reasons to buy organic and these are just a few. Remember: You Are What You Eat!!!

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

On the last day of a family visit and being a holiday weekend, we decided to celebrate the 4th of July and take my brother-in-law to Santa Monica, where we decided to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.  While I'm not much for chain restaurants, I do like seafood, and most everything I've had here (pre-Celiac) has been tasty. I found a gluten-free menu online, but was disappointed to learn when I called that they were no longer officially advertising it. Seems they may have been burned by a GF customer in the past or made a mistake? That's my guess. However I was told that they could still accommodate me, and that their kitchen was fully educated in cross-contamination prevention, which made me feel better.

I decided on the Accidental Fish and Shrimp

Mahi mahi with cajun shrimp, tomatoes and jasmine rice, topped with a lemony garlic butter herb sauce.  The fish was moist and flaky and the sauce was tasty.  Me likey.

There was one slight snafu - I was assured by our server that the sauce was gluten free.  The manager walked by, and so I decided to make sure.  The manager replied with, "I think so."  What?  I told him I needed to KNOW so.  So he went and checked with the kitchen and returned to tell me it was indeed gluten-free.  Whew!  My heart rate went up there for a minute or two.  Moments like this are a Celiac's worst nightmare.  My boyfriend started to apologize about making the recommendation, but it's not his fault as this could happen anywhere. 

So all in all, I had a decent experience.  Not sure why they can't advertise their gluten free menu with a disclaimer that says they cannot fully guarantee cross-contamination.  Me thinks they don't want to advertise the menu since it can be a hassle accommodating the gluten-free requests.  I have one answer for that - We aren't going to disappear anytime soon so get used to it!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Celiac with Yeast and Sugar Sensitivity

This last week my boyfriend and I have had family visiting from out of state, and I've been a bit loose with my diet, and have paid the price.  Not that I've eaten any gluten, but I've also been eating yeast and sugar free for a while - and this is where I have been slacking. You see, I think the damage caused by gluten and antibiotics in the past have affected my intestinal health. I'm feelings the affects tonight - sore joints, moodiness and fatigue, and inflammation in my lung where I think I have yeast overgrowth. I start to feel the affects of this about 1-2 days after I deviate from my diet.

As if the gluten free diet wasn't challenging enough, the yeast and sugar free makes it even harder.  Tonight I am filled with frustration and can feel the tears welling up as I write this.  But I can't feel sorry for myself for long. I have to suck it up and realize that I can be strong and fix this by eating healthier.  Some people have cancer or other life threatening diseases. Not that there isn't a seriousness to this, but I hope you know what I mean.

To give you a back ground about me - a couple of years ago I ended up in the hospital with a chest tube in my lung to remove a large amount of fluid. I was also having serious back muscle spasms. The doctors couldn't figure out where it came from - no fungus or bacteria.  A virus? Who knows.

Months later when I just wasn't fully recovering, I had an "a-ha" moment and started eating gluten free, where I immediately started getting better. Significantly less brain fog, joint pain, and inflammation, and no more fatigue. But its been an uphill battle learning the ins and outs of this lifestyle - reading labels, finding restaurants that will accommodate me, and accidentally getting glutened. Its tough out there.

And now I realize that my yeast and sugar issues are worse than I realized.  Sigh. So now I'm starting a strict yeast-free diet as well. I can do it!!!  Reeling in the positivity  :-)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Petco Stadium Goes Gluten Free

Yesterday I went to Petco Stadium in San Diego to watch the Padres vs. Kansas City Royals game. While I'm not much of a baseball fan, my boyfriend is, and I do love an outing to the ballpark and all of the sights and smells that come with it. I especially love San Diego, the ocean, and beautiful summer weather they are currently having. My brother in law is in town from Kansas City (hence the Royals game), so we decided to head out so the boys could enjoy the game, while I enjoyed some sun.

Before going, I went online and called the stadium, and was surprised to learn they have a gluten free stand! The stand is located in Section 108. They serve Redbridge beer made by Budweiser which isn't bad - and hamburgers and hot dogs - on gluten free buns... YEAH!!  They sometimes have PopChips, but were all out.  This was fine with me because I don't eat items that are made in a facility or on equipment that manufacture wheat or gluten.  Just my preference.

Here is the menu up close

 I settled for a cold, frosty beer.  Ahh, that hit the spot.

Here is a link to the Padres A-Z guide if you look under healthy food you will see they mention the concession stand. Then look on the website map to help you find the stand.

Here is a list I found of other ballparks around the nation that have gluten free options (from Can We Eat That? blog site)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PF Changs Gluten Free Menu

My brother-in-law is out for a visit this week, and so we decided to go out for dinner and a movie.  Naturally for me, apprehension kicks in.  Will I be able to get service? Can I be confident there are no cross contamination issues?  We decided on PF Changs China Bistro in Sherman Oaks.  The general manager came to my table; he reassured me that my meal would be gluten free. He said that they had a separate wok and cooking station for gluten free food, and the kitchen staff were fully trained. Even the plates they used were marked differently to identify the gluten issue. They even brought me my own sauces.

For an appetizer we decided on the GF lettuce wraps, and for the entree, I ordered the Singapore Street Noodles... shrimp, chicken, vegetables and rice noodles stir fried with gluten free sauce. Both were delicious.

It was nice to feel confident that I could enjoy an evening out without the stress of trying to explain my food intolerance to someone who looks at me like I'm speaking a foreign language, or worry that my salad is going to arrive with croutons.  Thanks PF Changs for making a good evening even better. I hope more restaurants follow their lead.

Next on my list to try is Pitfire Pizza in North Hollywood.  I hear they serve pizza crusts supplied by The Sensitive Baker.  I can already taste my Hawaiian pizza....

Monday, June 27, 2011

What is Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance?

From a link on the website

Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is a genetic disorder that affects at least 1 in 133Americans. Symptoms of celiac disease can range from the classic features, such as diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition, tolatent symptoms such as isolated nutrient deficiencies but nogastrointestinal symptoms. The disease mostly affects people of European (especially Northern European) descent, but recent studies show that it also affects Hispanic, Black and Asian populations as well1. Those affected suffer damage to the villi(shortening and villous flattening) in the lamina propria and cryptregions of their intestines when they eat specific food-grain antigens(toxic amino acid sequences) that are found in wheat, rye, and barley3Oats have traditionally been considered to be toxic to celiacs, but recent scientific studies have shown otherwise. This research is ongoing, however, and it may be too early to draw solid conclusions.
Because of the broad range of symptoms celiac disease presents, it can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms can range from mild weakness, bone pain, and aphthous stomatitis to chronic diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and progressive weight loss.3 If a person with the disorder continues to eat gluten, studies have shown that he or she will increase their chances of gastrointestinal cancer by a factor of 40 to 100 times that of the normal population4. Further, gastrointestinal carcinoma or lymphoma develops in up to 15 percent of patients with untreated or refractory celiac disease3. It is therefore imperative that the disease is quickly and properly diagnosed so it can be treated as soon as possible.

Based on the figure mentioned above we can extrapolate the total number of people in the United States with celiac disease: 2.18 million (based on the total population: 290,356,0285). It is very important that doctors understand just how many people have this disease so that routine testing for it is done to bring the diagnosis rate in line with the diseases epidemiology. Testing is fairly simple and involves screening the patients blood for antigliadin (AGA) and endomysiumantibodies (EmA), and/or doing a biopsy on the areas of the intestines mentioned above, which is still the standard for a formal diagnosis.

The only acceptable treatment for celiac disease is strict adherence to a 100% gluten-free diet for life. An adherence to a gluten-free diet can prevent almost all complications caused by the disease3. A gluten-free diet means avoiding all products that contain wheat, rye and barley, or any of their derivatives. This is a difficult task as there are many hidden sources of gluten found in the ingredients of many processedfoods. This site is designed to help people with celiac disease get diagnosed, and make life easier after their diagnosis. Those who are interested can read the story of my diagnosis.