Tuesday, September 16, 2014

College Food Adventure

In college, a lot of big decisions tumble in your way. Classes to take, majors to pursue and the all-important question, "Do I really have to read that 50 pages of Linguistics for tomorrow?" (Clue: the answer is yes). For me, though, another question popped up: Do I want to eat at the cafeteria?

For most, this isn't even an option. At Point Loma Nazarene University, if you sleep on campus, you eat on campus too. Last year, I had my dietary bumps, but overall the caf and I were buds

And Kendall and I were food allergy caf buds!

But then, over the summer, it all changed. The chefs who'd become my buddies in food and life left and a new dining manager joined the party. No more "special meals." No more gluten free fridge.

 I've met with the dining manager several times and he has big dreams for the caf, such as gluten free students being able to walk in and order on the spot from a variety of safe options. I have no doubt that, in time, it will become a reality

Pretty...but not so filling.

But as days became weeks with only lettuce and chicken as my cafeteria meals, I didn't have time to wait. Or weight to lose. So, even though I love the cafeteria staff and the idea of not having to make all my meals, I finally snipped the umbilical chord. Starting today, I'm responsible for all my own meals. Gulp

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared. I know how to cook, but I'm no culinary Michelangelo. I have time, but I don't want cooking to become another part-time job. I didn't like the cafeteria foods or worrying over whether they'd have something for me to eat (trust me, there were nights they didn't), but I liked brandishing my silverware with friends at my side. 

Food and these faces? The perfect combo!

But, as I woke up this morning free of frets over when I'd go to the caf, what they'd have for me to eat and how long I would need to wait, I knew I made the right choice. No matter the challenges ahead, I can't help but feel like this is a blessing in disguise.

I see blessings in the intensification of my previous goal of growing some of my own food. I gave a sneak peak of my foray into the gardening club on my last post. Zeke the Zuc ring any bells? This year I have my own plot and just planted my first rows of crops. In a few weeks (and months) time, baby beets, radishes and rainbow chard will be popping out of the dirt. To me, there's nothing more magical than the process of transforming a seed into an edible delicacy. We'll soon find out if I have the right to call myself a wizard

So CUTE! (The strawberry!) 

The zucchini I scored weeks ago is still barely alive and has enlivened too many meals to count! Two days ago, I left the garden spotted with dirt but loaded down with a huge bag of unclaimed goodies. The rainbow chard and kale will decorate my dinner tonight. And the mini strawberries? The largest only matched the size of my pinky, but they tasted sweeter than candy. Sure, I won't be able to live off the earth, but any dollar saved at the grocery store goes towards another meal

I also see blessings in my roommate Bri, who is as big of a health foodie as I am. I walked into our dorm room yesterday, my mind still on the philosophy notes I was memorizing, and stared at the odd mixture overflowing from her Nutribullet. Add zucchini, coconut meat, mint, and cacao powder together and what do you get?

Diving into chocolate with the roomie!

Another crazily delicious and healthy dessert recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie! A couple hours in the freezer later and we dove into a chocolate coconut cream pie for our afternoon snack. Our next planned adventure? Mini eggplant pizzas. I - and my stomach - can't wait. 

Blessings are even sprinkled in every meal that I throw together for the first time and can't stop eating! Two days ago, it was doing the dinner dance with Mahi Mahi. Last night, heaven landed on my plate in the form of egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free salmon patties. There's no better motivation to be a mad scientist in the kitchen than a stocked fridge and empty stomach!

Not the prettiest, but so delicious!

Despite the help from the garden, an awesome roommates and access to my true loves of Chipotle and Whole Foods, cooking all my own food won't be easy. Time is a college commodity and shopping, prepping and cooking will be doing a knock-down-drag-out fight over mine.

But you know what? The whole point of college is to grow, and jumping off the meal plan will be a major step. After all, nothing screams "grown up" more to me than managing a food budget and cooking after a long day at "work." And there's no faster way to make friends or earn a dorm nickname (I'm presently "granola girl" after I flooded the whole building with the scent of homemade granola) than hanging out near the fridge!

Me, aka "Granola Girl"

Big decisions are scary, always riddled with "what ifs," "buts" and "I don't know's." What if this is the best choice of my sophomore year? Maybe it'll just be a pain in the butt. I don't know. (Got to throw a little writing irony in here!). Until I do know, though, I'm going to rock my cooking mitts with pride. Let the adventure begin! 

What dietary accommodations, if any, did you receive in college? Do you cook most of your meals? Comment below! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

19 and Happy

Nineteen years. As crazy as it seems - and despite that, with my amazing memory, I remember less than half of it! - I've been on this earth for nineteen years (and two days to be exact) now. What a trip.

Happy birthday to me!
My birthday has always flirted with the birth of school. One particularly unlucky year, the days even matched. Talk about a bummer.

Not this year. Although I may be shunned by popular culture for saying this, this birthday blew my eighteenth all the way out of California. It was a celebration of my last year as a teenager (gasp!). A deep breath after surviving the first week of class - three days have never felt so long! And a declaration of my mission to find the balance between social, school and sleep. 

The challenge...
I didn't get to light nineteen candles this year because my college tends to frown upon fire hazards (talk about a party pooper!) so instead, I'm sharing nineteen things that have recently lit up my life! 

1. Diving into an eclectic mix of college classes from Cosmos to Intro to Linguistics (yikes!) to Philosophy. Any future philosophizing writing majors from space on the web? 

2. Dorm rooms with drawers that can act like pull out cupboards. No joke - my roommate and I probably have the biggest stash of food in our entire dorm. Apocalypse? Zombie attack? No worries. We got the goods

3. Jumping on a stationary bike in my school's gym and feeling so much stronger and healthier than I was last year! I still can't run because of my continual knee pain (gotta love a strained IT band) but, surprisingly, I'm okay with that. 

4. Taking time for myself at the end of the day during my nightly walk around campus. During summer, I got used to trudging around the block with mother and dog at my side. Now I'm continuing the tradition most nights while at college, savoring the beauty of Point Loma's magical sun sets...

What a beaut!
5. Watching Hannah, my younger sister, blossom during her senior year of high school. Watch out Hollywood - this October, she's breaking into the acting industry in her first school play

6. Living with a roommate who is as big of a foodie as I am! Say hello to Bri, my partner in crime, as we dined at True Foods Kitchen for my second birthday brunch. Review coming soon!

That's me, looking at the wrong side of the phone...
7. Diving into a good book after a long day of classes. My favorite recently? Crime and Punishment. Genius

8. Opening up my mailbox to letters from mom or grandma. I'm old fashioned - a text is awesome too, but there's nothing sweeter than paper and pen!

9. Dancing the night away while sporting a stylin' bed-sheet toga, scarf belt and white headband during my college's Toga Party in the Greek! Last year, one of my biggest regrets was missing out on so many dances and social events. So when I heard my school was getting its Greek freak on, how could I say no? One of the most fun - tiring! - nights of my sophomore year so far! They may be old, but the Greeks definitely know how to party!

And that's the real sky behind us! No backdrop!
10. Waking up every morning to pictures of my friends and family pinned up all around me. How can I have a bad day when all I see are our smiles from Colorado?

11. Inheriting a ridiculously humongous zucchini from my school's student garden. Seriously, Bri and I now have a weapon of major destruction chilling on top of my microwave. I'm slowly whittling away at it in my smoothies, but Zeke the Zuc, as I've come to call him, is gonna be hanging around for a while. 

My weapon of choice...
12. Discovering Enjoy Life's chocolate baking chocolate chunks after my elimination diet persuaded me to stay dairy free as much as possible. Delicious by the cookie (or by the handful!). 

13. Having a kitchen in the dorm to whip up my favorite concoctions. Finally, midnight brownies are within my reach! Or, as I already cooked for my birthday dinner yesterday, sweet potato and salmon sliders! 

Oldie but a goodie!
14. Successfully hosting my first official blog giveaway! When I started this blog, my parents and I joked about product shipments lining up outside our front door, but I never thought a company would ever value my little corner of the Internet! I've grown a lot this year, and so has my little blog baby! Congrats to Hannah, the lucky winner - who ironically has the same name as my little sister. Fate? 

15. Smiling at myself in the mirror because, on most days, I finally believe that I am, indeed, beautiful. Just as everyone reading this is. 

16. Spending a beyond amazing afternoon with my family, who drove up to my college on my birthday! My little sister surprised me by coming along and we all enjoyed a birthday feast of Chick Fil A and Pamela's chocolate cake. Moist, gluten free cake + dark chocolate and mint Coconut Bliss dairy free ice cream = heaven by the spoon!

Ambrosia in a bowl!
17. Wearing my celiac disease diagnosis with pride on my backpack and in my conversations. I don't bring it up, but if people have questions about my food, I can whip up a quick biology lesson

18. Savoring life's spontaneous surprises. When my family visited for our birthday brunch, we ended up scoping out a local (but huge!) swap meet. The last booth boasted boxes of license plate pieces and customers could create a custom collage of different plates. I created a metal "Casey" and they even had my birth date month, date and year to nail on top! Even spookier? The man in charge is one of the teachers at my school! Talk about a small world! 

The AMAZING finished product!
19. Feeling like I'm finally over the hill. This last year has been full of ups and downs, and though I still have plenty of hopes for the future, for the first time in a long while, I'm just fine right here. 

Not every one of my nineteen years has been easy. In my case, the proof isn't in the pudding - it's in all of last year's blog posts! As I celebrated what was so far the best birthday - and year of college - of my life, though, I'm thankful for every one of those candles. And that's the greatest present I could have hoped for.

What blessings have been lighting up your life lately? How do you celebrate your gluten free birthday? Comment below! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Jumping In

"Be careful." Nowadays, the words haunt nearly every aspect of life. Leaving home. Adopting a pet. Even buying a different brand of shampoo or conditioner. No matter the type of risk being taken, fear seems to be its perpetual shadow. 

I could lie and say the truth of this hit me as I watched my family walk out of my dorm room two days ago. As I sat on my bed, the newness of everything - being a sophomore, having a roommate, living on the other side of campus - suffocated me like a winter scarf. And California is blazing in the 90's right now!

All that's left of my family!
Really, though, it hit me a few weeks ago as I ran out the door to meet my favorite gal pals from high school. Usually, our dates were nondescript - restaurant lunches or Lord of the Rings marathons. We're just that cool. Except, this time, almost as statement of how we had all transformed after a year away at college, we were heading to the local trampoline park. Fun. Adventurous. And, as my parents reminded me, dangerous. Especially then, only a blink away from starting sophomore year.

I take care as a celiac, re-reading food labels and interrogating restaurant waiters like a spy in disguise. Caution nudges my actions as a teenage female in a society where staying out too late or dressing a certain way can justify a not-so-happy-ending. I even worry as a human being whose biology demands I constantly defend what is mine. 

We smile in the face of danger!

As I watch my roommate talk on the phone to her family and listen to the sounds of fellow students moving in all around me, though, I'm ready to stop the worry and throw out the caution. I'm ready to jump in and enjoy whatever fall I may take, just as I did trampolining weeks ago with my friends. As we stepped barefoot on a never-ending floor of rubber, we flew and leaped - and while we looked pathetic compared to the flipping ninjas surrounding us, I can promise that we had just as much fun

Last year, college was hard. The classes I could handle, sinking my teeth in a full-time 4.0. But my body broke, my spirit faltered and I faced the obstacles of every freshman compounded by celiac complications and the death of a grandparent days after my 18th birthday. 

Grandpa with one of his true loves!

The fact is, though, I'm not going to let last year's challenges shade this year's experience. I'm stronger. I'm healthier. I'm happier. And, I'm going to jump into sophomore year at full speed

I'm joining every club that sparks my fancy. Gardening. Aerobics and yoga. Spoken Word (a poetry club), and Homeless ministries. Even coed soccer in spring. Plus working on my school's literary magazine and possibly (hopefully!) as a school blogger. Plus 17 units of classes. Oh yes, my time will be full. In the best possible way. 

Enjoying the fall!

It's easy to get trapped by caution. To fear getting tangles in your hair so much that your feet never leave the ground. As I prepare for classes starting Wednesday, though, and slowly gather the sticks to form my sophomore home, I'm loving the free fall. I can't wait to see where I land. 

Do you take enough risks in life? What is your biggest piece of college advice? Comment below! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Canyon Bakehouse Review and Giveaway

Bread. A regular part of life for 99% of the world population, but the Holy Grail for the celiacs searching for the perfect sandwich bun. 

So you can imagine my delight when Canyon Bakehouse, one of my favorite gluten free companies, offered free samples for me to review and offer as a giveaway for one lucky blog reader! 

Our hosts today!
Canyon Bakehouse breads have earned a special place in my cabinet ever since my diagnosis. I don't eat bread on a daily basis, mainly because I've lost the taste for most of it. Some days, though, nothing sounds better for lunch than an old-fashioned sandwich that tastes better than cardboard and stays together long enough to eat! Especially since I've been off bread (99% of which contains eggs, corn, etc) for three weeks because of my elimination diet

Using entirely whole food ingredients, Canyon Bakehouse breads pass both of my requirements. In their sample for me to review, they were kind enough to share four products: three breads (white, 7-grain and cinnamon raisin) and their Cranberry Crunch Muffins. 

Holding all the goodies!
First, the White and 7-Grain breads. My mom is a dedicated customer of both flavors. When the FedEx box arrived the day she finished off her last loaf, she nearly danced around the kitchen! Talk about good timing

The White bread is a throwback to every Wonderbread sandwich a celiac scarfed down before diagnosis. Like most gluten free breads, Canyon Bakehouse's loafs taste infinitely better after doing a quick nose-dive in the toaster. A crunchy crust but a soft, giving middle? Talk about yum! The best part of the White bread is its understated taste, which lets the flavors of the sandwich really shine!

The true celiac dream!
The 7-Grain bread is White's heartier cousin. It toasts just a deliciously with crunchy edges and a soft middle, and holds together well (even under my mountains of meat, veggies and avocado!). True to its name, it boasts ingredients like millet, quinoa, amaranth and teff. This is my favorite sandwich bread because of its seedy texture and robust, earthy taste. It's like whole wheat - minus the wheat! 

Surprisingly enough, the Cinnamon-raisin bread didn't capture my taste buds as well as I imagined it would. A sweet slice of bread drowned in sunflower butter, fruit and chia seeds is my favorite midnight snack, especially when warmed in the microwave for a few seconds! Canyon Bakehouse's bread did the trick, but I thought the cinnamon flavor could be intensified and that the crust was a little too thick. If most gluten free cinnamon breads are too sweet for you, though, and you want a heartier version, this is definitely a winner!

Also pairs well with a rice cake with Chocolate Dreams PB!
Finally, there are the Cranberry Crunch Muffins! I wasn't sure what to expect when we dug into the box, but it pleasantly shocked my taste buds. I started drooling at first sight - I'm a sucker for gluten free baked goods that look fluffy and moist enough to be gluten-bombs

Looks didn't disappoint (except for the gluten free part). The muffins boast a middle-of-the-road density, not fluffy but not a hockey puck either. They are also less sweet than most GF muffins on the market (like Udi's, for example). While this may make them taste a little bland alone, I think they'd be perfectly complimented by a few swipes of butter, Greek yogurt or ice cream on top! 

Mom approves!
The best part, though, was definitely the surprising flavor combinations! I've never tried cranberry in a muffin before, and adored the bursts of chewy tartness that filled every bite! And the addition of pumpkin seeds? I'm totally stealing this trick! They elevated an ordinary muffin into a crunchy delight!

Overall, I give Canyon Bakehouse's bread and muffins a delicious 8/10 and would love to try any new flavors they concoct in the future! I'm not the only one doing the taste testing this time, though! In my first official blog giveaway, one reader will receive the same sample box to enjoy! 

The giveaway is only running until next Friday, though, so get involved quick! Good luck everybody and I will release the winner's name after I get out of class on September 5th! Happy early Birthday (I'm turning 19 on Sept 6) to me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Elimination Diet, Part 2: My Fave Recipes

Three weeks without eggs, dairy, soy, nightshades, nuts, corn and, obviously, gluten. Three weeks with my taste buds, normally pretty low key fellas, irately demanding every ingredient I couldn't eat. Three weeks of dietary boredom chipping away at my sanity.

And, finally, three weeks have past!

That means I can try out my Canyon Bakehouse samples!
Review and give away coming soon!

Now that I've earned the right of reintroduction (its own kind of adventure!), I want to do more than celebrate. I want to share my top elimination-diet-friendly recipes for everyone suffering from allergies, struggling through the same diet or looking for a simpler way of eating, to enjoy. An elimination diet is no small feat, but a few delicious recipes can make it just a little easier!

First comes breakfast. Now, I've always been a pancake girl. I've tried buckwheat before and the pancakes looked beautiful, but tasted too savory for my sweet tooth to take. So in struts the coconut flour pancakes, vegan-ized in a recipe from Casey's Wholesome Kitchen! 

My fave topping? Coconut Greek yogurt! YUM!
They aren't the easiest buggers to cook (though it could be my lack of flipping skills that make them so finicky!), but my stomach never complained! I used ground chia seeds instead of flax and subbed half a mashed banana for the recipe's solid sweeteners. My plate never ends up anything less than licked clean!

If you're more of a bread for breakfast kind of dude or dudette, check out Maxine at Gloriously Delicious. A week into my diet, I had three brown bananas slowly dying on the kitchen counter and was craving banana bread with the intensity of a hungry mama-to-be. So when I spotted this gem of a recipe (which, unlike 99% of coconut flour recipes, ditched the eggs), I went to work

I devoured it before taking a picture
 - so Maxine's gorgeous one will have to do!
I admit, when I popped my gooey, slightly lumpy dough into the oven, I wasn't overly optimistic. An hour later, though, and I couldn't believe my taste buds! Soft, moist and bursting with sweet banana flavor, my small loaf disappeared within two weeks. Surprisingly, my dad, a proud gluten-lover, was one of its biggest fans!

For me, though, the hardest meals to cook were lunch and dinner. Not only did it get repetitious, but I tried to eat the same as my family whenever possible. 

So, when my family demanded a pizza night, I knew I had to find some kind of substitute. I never imagined I'd stumble upon my favorite homemade pizza recipe so far! 

Close up of major YUM!

In the past, mom and I have tried a whole bunch of mixes. Bob's Red Mill. Pamela's. Even frozen pizza by Smart Flour. And while they tasted fine, with Pamela being our favorite blend, our stomachs still staged a slight revolt. Not with this recipe! No yeast, no eggs, no soy, no dairy, no problem! I can mix up the dough in a couple of minutes and the full recipe is enough to make two large pizzas. And by large, I mean that I finish off my one pizza after three servings. Score!

The crust was only the first step, though. My elimination diet also zilches dairy-filled cheese, tomatoes, and nut-filled pesto, so I dug into my purse for Daiya cheese and into my archived recipe bookmarks for Blissful Basil's "Superseed Pesto." The cheese, as most daiya products, tasted delicious to my dairy-deprived taste buds. The pesto, though, stole the show.

Pesto turkey burger!
Made with hemp and pumpkin seeds, along with the traditional pesto ingredients, it has the same spreadable texture as nut-based pestos. I added avocado to mine for extra creaminess and it turned out delicious! Tangy, thick and quickly whipped up in my Nutribullet! I don't think I'll ever go back to tomato sauce on pizza night, and any leftover pesto disappears quickly on my salmon, chicken, turkey burgers and salads!

The recipe that surprised me the most, though, was our pulled pork. I'm not a pork person. It's not that I don't like it - it's more that I've never learned what to do with it. Sick of my usual dinners, though, I grabbed some pork butt at the store and lugged out the crock pot. Although I couldn't use BBQ sauce on the elimination diet, I turned to Melissa's Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe.

The best sandwich ever!
One piggie massage (to spice it, of course) and four hours in the crock pot and a delicious smell invaded the kitchen! The pork nearly shredded itself and the spices tasted perfect, with BBQ sauce (which my family individually added) or without. As for me, I parked in Foodie Heaven by making a roasted sweet potato round sandwich filled with pulled pork, spinach and pesto. Hands down, the best dinner of my week!

No list of favorite recipes would be complete with dessert! As I've mentioned, coconut flour is a bucking bronco without any eggs to tame it. To placate my chocolate chip cookie craving, buckwheat flour came to the rescue! I actually tried three different recipes, but Megan's recipe is the standout!

All the cookies!!
Despite the name, buckwheat doesn't actually contain any wheat. With banana and dairy free chocolate chips, the cookies tasted sweet without being overwhelming. And once warmed up in the microwave for ten seconds? Gooey, chewy, chocolately goodness! I ended up multiplying the single-serving recipe by four because who only wants two cookies? Not this celiac!

This diet hasn't been easy, but I have no regrets. Early into the first few days, forbidden foods dominated my dreams. Ironically enough, now that I can slowly re-sink my teeth into potatoes, beans and corn, the craving has lessened. I still have a long reintroduction period to go, but I'm already sure of one thing: simplicity truly is best and these recipes prove it! The fact is, now that I've found them, these recipes can't escape my kitchen or belly! I hope they'll be welcome in yours too!

Have you ever explored gluten free vegan recipes? What are some of your favorite recipes? Comment below!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Celiac School Tips with Smart Flour Foods

This post is sponsored by Smart Flour Foods

College textbooks are arriving in the mail, my roommate is texting about dorm colors and teachers' emails are filling my inbox. As hard as it is to believe, this celiac has less than two weeks before its time to head back to college and attack sophomore year! As excited as I am, though, my endless to-do list of reins over my thoughts at night. So when Smart Flour Foods contacted me about writing a post on what to do before stepping into homeroom, I couldn't say no!

How could I say no to the maker of this?
Smart Flour Foods focuses on providing nutritional, delicious gluten free products from pizzas to hamburger buns. All the food uses a particular "Smart Flour" blend, a mix of ancient grains, to skyrocket the amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in every bite.

Preparing for school is a lot like finding the ideal flour blend: it takes lots of mistakes and practice to finally get it right. Here are three tips from Smart Flour Foods and me that'll take the stress out of school planning.

First off, take advantage of 21st century technology and communicate with your school officials. In terms of the lower schools (high school and earlier), Smart Flour Foods suggests contacting the teachers in charge of snack time, the school nurse and other relevant members of staff.

Talk it out!
In my experience, at the college level, the two most important people to get in contact with are those in charge of the Disability Resource Center and the staff involved in the dining facilities (including the manager and chefs). The Disability Resource Center is important because, depending on the set up of the school, a student can document his or her celiac disease/food allergy and therefore be eligible for accommodations. In my case, I have medical files about my celiac diagnosis that justifies special cafeteria accommodations, emails to my teachers about long-term celiac related absences, and more.

As for the cafeteria staff, try to learn the most possible about their procedures and allergy protocol before day one. There is nothing more stressful on the first day of school than walking blind into the cafeteria, starving but unsure what is safe to eat. In my case, my cafeteria has a new manager this upcoming school year who is apparently going to try to prevent cross contamination of the gluten free stations. My email requesting further details hasn't been answered yet, but I still have introduced myself and my dietary needs before school actually starts. Mission (at least partly) completed!

Make friends with the chef!
Second, step onto campus fully loaded - with food, of course! When I first left for college last year, food only took up one of my bags. That was a mistake my growling and jealous stomach wouldn't let me forget! This year, I'm bringing an entire arsenal of food ranging from homemade granola to power up my breakfast to protein bars for between classes! 

Equally as important as snacks, though, are actual meal substitutes. No matter how awesomely understanding the cafeteria staff may be, mistakes will happen. A few times I walked out of the cafeteria still hungry after my meal order got lost. For those kind of cases, bulk up on items like soup (I love Gluten Free Cafe's Chicken Noodle), cereal, and frozen meals (I can personally vouch for the delicious taste and texture of Smart Flour Food's frozen pizza). 

Mom and I approved the pizza!
And, if Lady Luck has provided a kitchen, take advantage of it! I have a dorm kitchen for the first time this year so I'm also packing a few basic cooking utensils, flour mixes (midnight pancakes, anyone?) and grains (like quinoa and buckwheat) so I can whip up my own dinner when the mood strikes (or the cafeteria fails). 

Lastly, though, try not to over-stress about planning for everything. Anyone who knows how Type-A I can act is laughing right now, but this is a tip I'm actively trying to follow myself. There will be forgotten necessities (can someone remind me to add baking powder to my shopping list?) and unexpected events. I knew I was surprised when my Psychology group wanted to have a pancake breakfast and I didn't have a gluten free mix on hand! The fact is, though, being unprepared every so often didn't taint my whole freshman year experience. It only gave me more insight on how to make next time - this sophomore year - even better!

Topping this? Challenge accepted!
One of Smart Flour Foods's suggestions is to make the experience of planning and making food a fun activity. I couldn't agree more! As I start my "To-Bring-Food" list, I'm thinking of all the fun I'm going to have cooking with my roommate and fueling my college adventures, not what ingredient I could be missing. That's what grocery stores are for! 

In past years, the end of summer had always been a period of mourning. This year, my last two weeks filled with planning and preparation, is different. It's celebratory and my bags of stuff and snacks are a sign of the adventures to come. With the three tips Smart Flour Foods and I have shared above, I hope preparing can be the same for you! 

What's the food you can't go to class without? Have you ever tried a product by Smart Flour Foods? Comment below!  

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Story of the Elimination Diet, Part 1

If I'd been asked how to define an "elimination diet" a few months ago, my best guess would have had something to do with an assassination plot to "eliminate all threats." That's just how my brain rolls. Now that two weeks have passed since I started my diet adventure, though, a new definition is forming: Hard. Restrictive. (Hopefully) healing.

If you've been following my recent posts, you've heard about my continued struggle to gain weight, the random rash popping up on my face despite three rounds of Prednisone, and how my stomach still likes to throw fits. After trudging out of the offices for the allergist and dermatologist empty handed, I knew I had to do something to win back the reins to my health. Cue the elimination diet, started the day after I flew back from my Houston vacation.

My last hurrah the day before I flew out!
There are many different kinds of elimination diets, but I am following the typical comprehensive elimination diet suggested for those trying to discover food intolerances. Websites vary on the exact details of what to eat and what to lock in the house safe, but the basic outline is this: no gluten (wow, that was a challenge!), dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, fast food, legumes, certain spices, etc. Because I didn't want to lose any weight, I kept some of the ingredients that some avoid, like a few pieces of soy-free chocolate, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and limited sweeteners.

The diet is followed for at least three weeks, the time it takes for inflammation in the body from food intolerances to subside. After three weeks, the reintroduction starts. One restricted food twice a day for two days - any side effects, it stays restricted. If the tummy's happy, it can stay.

I thought the three weeks would fly by. "I'm already gluten and (mostly) dairy free," I thought. "I survived freshman year of college! Bring it on!"

I figured I'd climbed bigger mountains...
It brought it. And, honestly, it kinda stinks at times. To anyone with numerous extreme food allergies - now I know a fraction of your pain and all I can say is that I'm sorry. I miss my baked goods, fluffy yet solid with the aid of eggs. I miss Red Robin and Chipotle, who disappeared from my diet right after entering. And I - a lover of repetition and no-think cooking - even miss the small amount of variety I used to enjoy. I knew I was limited when I started worrying about how bored my Instagram followers must be feeling!

But you know what? Even though I still have a week to go, I've already learned so much. I've explored a corner of gluten free cooking previously ignored: the masterpieces that can be formed through vegan and gluten free cooking. In many ways, I want to shake celiac's hand for triggering my passion for cooking. As my ingredient list shrunk, that passion has only grown. I'm one step closer to finding the balance between enjoying a meal's simplicty yet experimenting without fear.

I learned that ground chia seeds make an awesome egg substitute in coconut flour pancakes.

One goooooood breakfast!
After my "baking soda biscuits" - free of every traditional binder and fluffer - actually rose, I nearly searched my oven for fairy dust!

And, as I write this, my kitchen smells like Christmas cookies thanks to the three trays of chocolate chip and trailmix beauties I baked this morning.

Not too shabby!
I'm hopeful that this diet will unlock the key to a happy body by ferriting out the foods that are fighting with my stomach. I'm hopeful that, new information in hand, I'll be that much more ready to tackle my sophomore year as a college celiac!

Even if it doesn't give me all that I want, though, I'm counting it as a win. Now, I know even more how to empathize with those suffering from food allergies. Now, I understand how vegans survive without eggs and dairy. And, now I know that throwing ingredients into a bowl and praying for culinary magic (sometimes) actually pans out (I had to throw at least one cooking pun in there!).

My "kitchen sink" rice and pesto patties!
There are a lot of different definitions for an elimination diet. Negatives, postives, and a bunch more in between. My recent favorite? Training for my sophmore year of college. If I can stay dedicated, determined and confident with food on the brain, doing it with books will be a breeze!

Have you ever done an elimination diet? How inventive are you in the kitchen? Comment below!