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  :-)