Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Body Image Revisited

My blog was just learning how to crawl when I first dared to talk about body image and celiac disease. About weighing 93 lbs and still losing. About wanting to gain weight in a society obsessed with losing it.

Throwback to senior year!

Over a year has passed since that infamous post and a lot of changes have passed with it. I've lost weight, survived a stay in the hospital, learned how to cook, started sophomore year, and, finally, gained. 

In my dad's words, I'm now a "triple digit midget" since tipping 100 lbs on the scale. Like my food journey, my journey with weight has had its highs and lows (like usual, pun intended). Out of everything I've learned, though, two things stick out. 

Midget on a mountain!

First, I never realized just how devastating celiac disease can be on the body. Of course, I saw the bones sticking out in my mirror. And I held my stomach and zombie-walked the week after being glutened. But, until my weight jumped up 10 pounds in one month after a year of plateauing at 88, I couldn't fully comprehend the power gluten holds over my body. 

Fact: Since being hospitalized in September 2014 and now, I've been eating the same amount and the same kinds of food. The foods that my Instagram followers drool over while asking, "Do you eat all that?" 

Fact: I've been kicking butt at a very similar exercise routine (give or take an activity - ahem, running - or two)

Fact: despite not changing any of those variables, my body mimicked a skeleton until a few months ago. 

All the food, all the fun, all the changes!

The only factor I can think to blame? The villi that gluten had destroyed so badly that my endoscopy pictures can be summed up as "smooth and swollen." Now, as I mentioned in one of my recent posts, I'm no doctor. But I do believe that my extremely slow - and then extremely fast - recovery exemplifies the statement that healing takes time. You can take all the probiotics, make all your own meals, and your villi still need a vacation before they can get back to work on absorbing those nutrients!

The second lesson? Change isn't easy. Wanting to gain weight didn't negate my sadness at throwing out my favorite pair of jean shorts, now a size too small. Wanting to gain weight doesn't mean that all of my insecurities disappeared with my bony back. Compared to the average American, I'm still quite skinny. But I'm bigger than before. And - with my mirror still set on "twig mode," that takes time to get used to. 

Part of it is that people don't know what to say. A friend of mine recently returned from studying abroad - leaving when I was struggling in the low 80's - and stared at my new body in shock. And, eventually said, "You look...fuller." 

Gotta have a flexing selfie in here somewhere!

"Healthier," I replied. Because that really is the most accurate word to describe my change. Not more or less beautiful - society's expectations of thinness don't get to calculate my attractiveness by my pant size. Not more or less strong - I was strong before, but now my physical self matches my brain's bench press. And not more or less me - in the midst of my illness and during my health, I'm Casey. Goofy. Food-loving. And as stubborn as my toddler self with a pacifier. 

Body image is a topic that is underrepresented in the celiac disease community even though it affects us, in my opinion, even more than the "average" American. Because, with us, sometimes our body betrays us. The medical issues inside emerge on the outside in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. 

And weird is just fine!

One thing I would tell the high school senior who typed that post over a year ago? Bodies are weird - especially when celiac is involved. Society is weird too. But, no matter what society or the scale says, you are beautiful. For being you, doing you, and owning you every day. 



Have you experienced a big change in weight with celiac disease? What do you think of body image and celiac disease? Comment below! 



Monday, January 26, 2015

Celiac, Food and the Dorm

I always joke that if the apocalypse hits, everyone should run for my dorm room. Why? Because that's where all the food is! 


I do have a thing for food...and silly faces
Snacks and celiac are hard to de-tangle, but preparation comes with a price - mainly in square footage. Now that I'm cooking all my own meals, finding space for my supplies is harder than ever. But with a few simple tricks, any college celiac can turn into a food-organizing "PRO."

First, prioritize. Not only what foods you want where, but the ratio of celiac vs non-celiac related items. I always call myself a simple gal - when I first moved into my dorm, my roommate stared at my couple bags of clothes and school supplies and asked when I was bringing the rest of my things! 


My fridge is also overflowing!
Every time I return to school after break, though, my car is overflowing - with food. Since my diagnosis, I've become passionate about cooking, experimenting and sharing my food. Groceries take up 70% of my room, and, because I value my food over knick-knacks from home, I'm okay with that.

Once you've determined how much space you are willing to dedicate to your munchies, start the food organization. Personally, I use my Oatless oatmeal mix, nana ice cream toppings, and sunbutter nearly every day so they are stored for easier access than my extra lara bars, millet, and rice noodles. 

My boyfriend jokes that everything he does varies from a 0.1 to a 1 on the "effort scale." Prioritizing your food is the one time to promote laziness - put the snack all stars at a 0.1 and that new grain that you keep promising to try at 1. Your midnight munchy cravings will thank you.


A place for everything - including the selfie taker!
After your food is mentally color coded and physically overtaking your floor/bed spread, its time to re-utilize. Or, to transform every extra inch of space into a working pantry. The biggest rule? There are none. 

My room's treasure trove ended up landing in the dresser drawer next to my desk. People open the drawers looking for socks or notebook paper and end up staring at a bag of cacao nibs instead. The faces? Definitely Instagram worthy!

In the top drawer, I stuffed my spices, banana ice cream toppings (can you say granola?), oatless oatmeal mix and all my other favorite goodies. The second down houses cereal, baking flours, granola bars, chocolate (it has to be somewhere close!) and extra supplies. Third hides the dishes, pans, Nutribullet, and my other ninja cooking supplies.


No socks here!
Don't be afraid to get creative - any nook (whether designed for plants or toothbrushes!) can be the perfect mini pantry. And when in doubt? Stuff it under the bed - the extra food is the only monster hiding under mine!

To achieve "PRO" level celiac skills, though, there's one final piece of advice: owning it! No matter where I am, it's likely that a snack is perched only a few inches away. Why should my own space - my dorm room - be any different? Yep, I have food lined on my shelves. And my own fridge, microwave and spare freezer.


Sometimes I feel like a weirdo for displaying potatoes and bananas instead of extra family photos, but  I like to call mine "living art." And, compared to other shelve decorations, mine certainly don't sit around lo
ng enough to catch dust!


Make it fun!
And if you're really self conscious? Up the fun! My extra produce sits in a bright blue pencil organizer and all my appliances boast pink post-it-notes with messages like, "What's cookin', good lookin'?" or "Gluten Free for me!" scrawled in purple ink. My room - food and all - is it 100% me!

Filling a celiac's room with the right food is just as important as their stomach, but it isn't always easy. By prioritizing, re-utilizing and owning it all, though, it's entirely possible to build your own glamorously gluten free utopia. One drawer at a time. 



How do you manage food storage? What is one way you're creative with your room organization? Comment below! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie

For this college celiac, January is all about the comfort food. Creamy banana ice cream, gooey oatless oatmeal and savory sweet potato sliders dominate my weekly meal plan. Lately, though, chicken pot pie is demanding equal plate time.

The horror! (Insert sarcastic wink here). 

A stiff competition!
I'll admit that pre-diagnosis, I'd never tried the heaven that is a chicken pot pie. After falling face-first into Coquette's gluten free version, though, I knew I needed to recreate my own heaven-a-bowl. A healthier, easier version to be exact. 

And, as soon as I bit into my first spoonful a few weeks ago, I knew there was no going back. Softened potatoes and veggies, juicy chicken, and a creamy sauce all blanketed with a crunchy whole-grain crust? I usually bake a family-size portion in a 9X9 cake pan...and this one person "family" devours it within a week. Oops. 


All gone...
I use this vegan and this paleo chicken pot recipe for inspiration, playing with the ingredients until I discovered a flavor packed - but gluten, dairy, egg, and nut free - masterpiece perfect for those chilly winter nights! 

To whip up your own magic pie, all you need are these ingredients:

For the Crust (this only makes a top crust, so double if also want a bottom one):
175 grams of your own whole grain flour mix (using Shauna's flour instructions and ratio. I personally like a mixture of rice, buckwheat, millet and tapioca flour.)
Around 100 grams of cold (mostly solid) coconut oil, Earth Balance vegan butter, or regular butter 
1/4 cup of cold water
A liberal dose of your favorite seasonings (I am keeping the sales of thyme, oregano, salt and parsley alive and well)  

For the pie filling:
1-2 pre-cooked chicken breasts (or alternative meats/meat substitutes) 
1 to 1.5 potatoes (white or sweet)
2 cups mixed veggies, such as chopped zuchinni and squash, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, cabbage, snow peas, green beans, peas, carrots, etc. (Rather than following an exact measurement, I pack as much veggies into my pan as will fit!)
Cooking oil (olive, coconut, etc) 

For the sauce:
1 cup chicken/vegetable stock 
1/4 cup coconut flour (or other gluten free alternative)
1-2 TBSP olive oil 
Liberal dose of seasoning

Start your chicken pot pie adventure by prepping the crust. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mixing the flour, spices, and coconut oil before adding the water. If the mix is too dry, don't be afraid to add a little extra water. Form into a ball and place in the fridge to chill


Your crust will look something like this! (Source)
Borrowed pic since a hungry college student forgot to take her own!
Then the real fun starts: the filling! First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, chop up all the vegetables and toss them into a large pot with enough oil to properly sauté for about 5-10 minutes or until softened but not fully cooked through.

In a separate pot, throw together your sauce. Begin by heating the pan on high-medium, lowering the heat to a simmer after adding the oil, stock, spices and flour. Keep stirring until it thickens, adding more flour or chicken stock as needed to gain the desired consistency. (If you're a space-limited college student like me who's rockin' the kitchen with one pot, cook the vegetables, pour them in the pan with the chicken, and then make your sauce). As these cook, rescue the flour from the fridge to defrost for a few minutes.

Once the vegetables are softened and the sauce is thick, combine them and the chicken either in a large pot or a baking dish, stirring to equally distribute all the ingredients. Then take the dough of ball and flatten it into a crust using your hands or a rolling pin and extra flour. As you flip it to cover the top of your baking dish and filling, don't worry if it cracks! It tastes just as delicious applied in patches versus a whole sheet - trust me.


Love comes in all crust shapes and sizes!
After a final sprinkling of spices and oil on the top, pop it into the oven. I usually bake mine first for thirty minutes at 425 F, and then for another 15-25 minutes at 375 F. Once the crust browns and the juices start bubbling, it's done! (Though my fellow dormmates' question, "Are you the one making the kitchen smell so good?" also helps.) 

Once your pie is perfected, you can devour a slice straight from the oven (even when I bake it late at night for class the next day, I can never resist a couple bites!) or reheat it later on. I've hoarded the leftovers wrapped in tinfoil in my fridge for a week, and ate every serving with equal enthusiasm.



Just...one...bite...
Amidst the craziness of January - returning to work, a new semester at school, flu season and those pesky resolutions you promised to stick to - everyone deserves some comfort food. Even if you get zombified from gluten, hurt after dairy, and don't have room in your dorm fridge for eggs! 


*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*


What's your favorite comfort food? What is the favorite recipe you've "recreated" gluten/allergen free? Comment below! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

JK Gourmet Granola and GG Bites Review

Anyone who has read my Sweat Leaf stevia review or drooled over a few of my Instagram posts knows granola is the edible version of my one true love. Ice cream, salmon, sunflower butter...they all pale in comparison to a pan of freshly cooked gluten free granola.

Or freshly packaged. Addiction alert. 

Love at first sight bite?
When JK Gourmet contacted me about reviewing their new line of grain free snacks - including granola and GG bites - I couldn't type "yes" fast enough. (I blame the drool on my keyboard.) 

For those who don't know (like me two weeks ago!) Grain Free JK Gourmet is home to a line of grain free flours, mixes and snacks. Most recently they released seven mouth-watering flavors of GG bites: cracker-like snacks made of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, honey and coconut nectar.

Getting jiggy with the JK products!
Their granola includes similarly delectable ingredients (with even more nuts and seeds), and both products boast a "gluten free, grain free, dairy free, paleo friendly,  kosher, no added fats, refined sugars, or preservatives" labels. Talk about a mouthful - food pun totally intended. 

I received the cranberry GG bites and Apple spice granola and (right after my impromptu photo shoot) immediately dug in

The GG bites are unlike anything I've tasted before. Crisper than a granola bar, but thicker than a cracker, simply put they are a thin layer of granola deliciously glued together for crunchy snacking! I love how the crunch of the seeds complemented the chewy cranberries. As for the sweet factor, it was deliciously understated. Sweet enough to top my banana ice cream (the perfect blend of creamy and crunchy!) but with enough nutrition to serve as a pre-class snack. 

Perfect nana ice cream topper!
My roommate - a huge health foodie - fell for the GG bites even harder than I did. Her review? Eyes directed to heaven, a huge grin, and an exaggerated "Mmm..." I ended up giving her the remaining 3/4th of the bag as a roomie's true sign of love - and, perhaps, as a maneuver to protect my (as expected) beloved granola! 

Out of all my granola adventures, JK's sticks out with its expert spicing - hints of nutmeg and cinnamon that teased but didn't dominate my tastebuds - and complex consistency. It's seed and nut variety - ranging from sesame to walnuts - gives the granola a lovely mix of small and large chunks. And the bites of dried raisin and apple? Talk about chewy heaven! Especially when they stick to some seeds, forming crunchy clusters

You could say I kinda like the granola...
I also loved that I could sprinkle it on my oatless oatmeal and banana ice cream - or eat it straight out of the bag with a scoop of sunbutter - without a hint of guilt. Twelve grams of healthy fat, four of protein, and only six of sugar? Sign (or fill) me up! 

From this college celiac, JK Gourmet's GG bites and granola earned a strong 9/10. The only thing that would make them better? A few more clusters in the granola, and GG bite flavor options with slightly altered base ingredients (such as one with no sesame seeds, which I do try to limit thanks to food sensitivity testing).

I <3 JK Gourmet!
Overall, though? Thanks to JK Gourmet, my granola addiction is alive and thriving, and my roomie has discovered her new favorite snack! And the half-empty bags of goodies we have left aren't going to last long...


*Also found at Running with Spoon's link party!*

Have you ever tried any of JK Gourmet's products? What's your favorite kind of granola? Comment below! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Questions for Your Doctor

Doctors visits. We've all been there. Where does it hurt? For how long? How much on a scale of 1-10

Sometimes, though, you need to be asking the questions. To celebrate the upcoming National Drug Facts Week (January 26th -February 1), the American Recall Center inspired me to write about the questions a celiac should ask their doctor or pharmacist. Now, let's dig into that fine print...



Many of you have been following my celiac journey nearly since diagnosis. I've experienced all of the regular - and many of the unique - doctors visits that accompany celiac disease, including, but not limited to:

A meeting with a nutritionist to map out my gluten-free plan of attack. Loads of check ups with my gastroenterologist. Bone density scans, endoscopy and colonoscopy adventures, and even days in the hospital hooked up to an IV and NG tube


Those were (NOT!) the days!
My first piece of advice? Have a conversation with your doctor about celiac disease! On gluten free Facebook groups, I've heard horror stories about uneducated medical professionals (and even survived a similar experience with an allergist). I was lucky enough to be treated by a staff of experts on celiac disease and digestive diseases in adolescents, but it's up to every patient to advocate for their health.

Similar to doctors visits, I've also experienced (under medical orders) a variety of medicines to help treat my celiac disease. When I was extremely underweight and malnourished, my pill box overflowed with zinc, potassium, calcium, and vitamin XYZ tablets to kick start my body's healing.

Close to this! (Source)
And, even though I'm in remission, I still believe it's important to supplement vitamins that tend to evade those with celiac. Of course, I'm no medical expert - just a writing major halfway through college - so always consult your doctor before making any major changes. 

Today, calcium chewies (because my stomach still has dairy on the Most Wanted List for abdominal pain), zinc and fish oil supplements are part of my regular morning routine. To prevent bloating and acid, I also depend on a daily probiotic

The newest pill I've romanced? Charcoal tablets! After reading celiacs' love letters to the pills from all over the web, I ordered a bottle for when gluten manages to invade my plate. After bloating attacked during the Christmas break, though, I tried adding these to my pre-breakfast ritual. And, while my tummy isn't always bathing suit ready, I don't look like I should be picking out baby clothes anymore! 


No bloating here!
But what's the ultimate horror movie for a celiac? Finding out the medicine supposed to heal you is actually laced with gluten! I've been lucky in that my doctor knows to check prescriptions for gluten, but I was reminded of the importance a few weeks ago. When I'm glutened, I tend to eat Tums and Gaviscon like breath mints. Imagine my terror when I check my off-label bottle and didn't see a certified gluten free sticker! 

It can be a pain in the butt - or the wallet, in the case of my Tums and Gaviscon needs - to always check for gluten in medicines. I certainly toyed with sticking with the cheaper off-brand anti acid tablets - they weren't certified, but my online research didn't reveal any gluten either. In the end, though, you are in charge of your health. And if you don't take gluten free seriously in your medication, how can you expect your doctor or pharmacist to? 

Spread the celiac word!
The main goal of National Drug Facts Week is to disprove any dangerous medical myths floating around cyberspace. With this post, though, I hope to improve every celiac's experience with medications. That's the my kind of medicine


What is your experience with doctors and celiac disease? With medications? Comment below! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Climbing that Mountain

Pre-celiac, I was a runner. Not a marathoner, but I escaped my stresses with a pair of running shoes and 4 miles of track under my feet.

Now, just hitting my goal weight gain and mostly healed from my IT band strain, all I want to do is sprint into the New Year at full speed.

My only running lately - in the store to
buy new shoes!
But, for now, I'm focusing on hiking instead. 

I'm hiking up Twin Peaks on New Year's Day with my dad beside me. Walkers crowd the trail like ants, searching for exercise that fits their 2015 "healthy" resolutions. But it's still quiet. Sneakers hit dirt as I glance beyond the cliff side to the rows of houses and trees sprawling across Poway. 

Dad and I talk about the future. My classes. The Marine Corps' relocation of family to the other side of the U.S. in a handful of months. We also talk about the past. How I now flash more muscles than bone. My ear-deafening morning ritual of banana ice cream via my Nutribullet. 

Twin peaks...and twin geeks.
When we finally reach the top, we pause at the rock overlooking our town. As he eats a granola bar, I fool around with the phone, recording my antics for future generations (and blog posts). Eventually, we head back down, but not before photographing our feet hanging off the ledge. Just ready to fall into 2015. 

I'm hiking around Poway Lake with two of my best high school pals by my side. Shruti teases Sneha over her sneakers and heavy sweatshirt - not exactly the best adventuring gear. 

As we take cheesy pictures with the lake behind us - my midget self dwarfed by my friends - all of whom average at least 5'8" - I remember our senior prom photos. A handful of girls covered in bright dresses, photo props and college dreams

Same old goofy gals!
An hour later, we head back to our cars - cars that will be returning to college only a few days later - slowly, muscles tired from the trek. Despite the AP classes, the four-point-whatever GPA's and the overnight visits, college is kicking all our butts. We take on too many activities; we change majors and contemplate minors; we fail at social scene navigation. Yet, we all agree sophomore year beats freshman hands down. 

Now, I'm hiking down the hill that connects the main part of campus to my dorm. (Hiking down is deceivingly harder than up, leaves just ready to slip under your feet). It's the first day of class, and I'm buzzing with the need to move. To sprint into the classes, activities and obligations of second semester


It will be busy. Seventeen units. One note-taking job. One TA job for my freshman Journalism professor. A boyfriend. A bunch of friends. And a whole lot of food to cook. 

I just escaped my last class for the day, and my planner is already full. As I reach the top of the hill, though, I pause. I breathe. I slow down. There will be a time to run - to let life speed by me, too fast to fully taste it. 

My walking shoes...for now
But, for now, it's time to hike. Steadily. Slowly. Feeling every footstep, enjoying every laugh and building up strength for the next mountain to come. 


*Also found at Runningwithspoon's link party!**


What mountains are you climbing? How do you force yourself to slow down? Comment below! 


Monday, January 12, 2015

Recipe: Crunchy Tilapia and Sweet Potato Wedges

For some, finals week is a vacation. No classes, only a couple finals a day...sweet! And there's me: the type A busybody going crazy with nothing but studying on my to-do list. 

I credit that finals insanity for creating one of the best dinners I ate all last year. Imagine a juicy filet of tilapia surrounded by a crunchy gluten free coating. Tender but crisp. Soft yet chewy. With a side of sweet potato wedges in the side, my taste buds gave my dinner an easy A+.  

Heaven amidst finals hell!

Tilapia has never been my favorite fish. But on sale at 6 bucks a pound, the broke college student in me couldn't resist. And after combing Google for some inspiration, I decided to experiment by combining rice flour, buckwheat flakes and chia seeds for a crust. Wala! An edible masterpiece was born!

The ingredients are simple and easily adaptable. Also, allergy friendly without eggs, nuts, or dairy. For one pound of tilapia - or any fish your stomach desires - use the following:

1/2-2 TBSP chia seeds (Depending on how much crunch you really want. I use 2 because chia and I are best buds!) 

3/4 cup mixture of rice flour and your choice of flakes (I use buckwheat flakes for the hearty taste, but flake substitutes like quinoa should work)

Enough coconut milk to cover and marinate the fish 

Your favorite seasonings (I love thyme, oregano and parsley) 

1/2 lemon 

Enough oil (I've used coconut and olive) to cover the frying pan 

Start a few hours ahead by marinating the fish in the coconut milk, a liberal seasoning of the spices and a squeeze of the lemon. You can also make the crust mix at that time, throwing the chia seeds, flakes, flour, and more seasoning in a plastic bag or bowl. 

About twenty five minutes before starting the fish, you can begin the sweet potato wedges. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F for the crispest wedges. Then cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, continuing the pattern until the wedges are of satisfactory size. 

One cut, two cut, three cut...
The rest of the instructions are identical to my sweet potato rounds: cover in oil in a plastic bag, lay them out on a baking pan, and cook for 40 minutes, flipping halfway. 

Once those have started their tanning session, begin the fish. First, take out a wet filet at a time and dip it into the crust mix (alternatively laying it on a plate and coating with fingers) until evenly coated. With the fish ready, warm some oil on the frying pan at medium heat.



The goal!

When the pan is hot, fry as many filets as fit comfortably for roughly 3 minutes on either sides. I recommend using a spatula to flip, as the coating is a bit delicate when freshly applied. After the fish cools, though, it rarely flakes

My favorite way to eat this is on a bed of mixed greens with sautéed or roasted veggies, but feel free to get creative! Add a cauliflower mash, steamed green beans, or a side salad to finish off a scrumptious - but gluten free and healthy - meal!

All the noms!
Although finals week was stressful, as I head back to the college today, I'm focusing on what last semester taught me. I learned the basics of linguistics, how to identify moon phases, and how to hold a standing pigeon pose in yoga. Plus this finger-lickin' recipe right here. Second semester, bring it (the eats!) on! 


What's your favorite kind of fish/meat? How do you survive a stressful week? Comment below!