Monday, March 30, 2015

What do You Gain when you Gain?

It's a simple question really, but not many people ask. We've all heard of the Special K motto, "What will you gain when you lose?" Today, I'm leaving "lose" in the dust and sharing what I gained when the scale tipped upwards.

Just a little photo shop action...
True, for most Americans, losing weight is in their best interest. I'm all for it - let the healthy fun begin! But people struck by celiac, disordered eating or activities also need some hope and love. So here are the top 5 things I've gained...besides a pant size. 

1. Freedom to move my body whenever, however much I wish. No more calorie calculations after a work out for fear of another pound slipping away. No more weird looks when I say I love playing soccer (chicken ankles and all). And a whole lot less "no's" from my body when I want to try a new fitness class, hike, or adventure with friends

One day I'll have as hot moves as that jalapeno!
True, I still have limits. After throwing myself into a hard (stress-induced) workout everyday last week, my knee and energy pulled the breaks this week. And I'm OK with that. Because sometimes getting up from the couch to find the TV remote is the most exercise your body needs that day! But, now, that's a joint choice - between my body, my mind and me

2. More food! It may seem counter intuitive, but I'm eating more than ever since gaining back some healthy weight. The fact is, when I was all stick and bones, it was party because of celiac mal-absorption, but also because of my shrunken stomach. As I've mentioned before, I look back at old Instagram meals and wonder how I wasn't still starving!

Breakfast no more...
Now that my stomach has been trained to crave and eat healthy portions again - after nearly a year of slowly increasing portion size, frequency, and nutrient density - fullness involves a much bigger platter of food than before! Sure, sometimes I overeat (especially when a delicious batch of homemade granola sits nearby), but I mainly enjoy every bite until full. And since more muscles and exercise mean more calories burned, more food doesn't have to pile on more pounds.

3. You aren't mistaken for an 8th grader...or at least have a lower probability to be. When I was at my lowest weight as a freshman in college, I walked into Sports Authority for a new pair of Nikes and was promptly asked if I was running on my middle school team. I don't know who was more embarrassed...the cute teen who asked or me, staring down at my loose running shorts

I've been a lot of shapes and sizes!

Now, I'm not quite as curvy as pre-celiac me, but I do rock a booty. I didn't notice how much curves I'd regained until my family walked out of Outback Steakhouse one night and my dad said, "Casey has a butt again! I suppose it'd be inappropriate to take a picture to celebrate?" No pics...but I promise it happened

4. Better body image. The media likes to imply that less weight always means more confidence. In my experience, though, confidence isn't free with a purchase of size-0 jeans. Even at a weight some may strive towards, I hated looking in the mirror. Hated seeing bones, stretched veiny skin, and a tailbone instead of a butt. And, when I started gaining, I wondered if it would ever detour the belly and pad the arms or butt instead. 
She says it right!
Six months after my body finally started accepting nutrients, and therefore weight, I'm better. Not only because of what I see in the mirror, but how I feel. Capable, not cold. Strong, not super-skinny. Fit, not frail. And while it took time to adjust to having fuller thighs again, now I love seeing the products of squats, short runs and bike rides! 

5. Perhaps the best thing I've gained, though? Less worry and more hugs! When I came home for Christmas break a few months ago, my mom hugged me and said, "It's so nice to feel something besides bones!" My parents will always worry, but now weight isn't their top concern

Hugs are my favorite!
I've had girls from my freshman hall approach me around campus, crying, "Casey! You look so good!" And, one night when I shared the whole celiac story with my boyfriend, he admitted to thinking I was "scary skinny" last year before we started dating. And, being the smooth writing major he is, immediately said I looked much better now. A+. 

The truth is, I'll always be "slim" by society's standards. A few months ago, my dorm's Spanish-speaking custodians asked, "Why so skinny? Genetics? Exercise?" Since I have yet to master celiac summary in another language, I just nodded yes to both. I've never been a big girl - a mostly healthy diet and love for exercise tends to do that. But now I know I'm healthy skinny. And that is big

On top of the world!
I've experienced plenty of losing these past few years - in just the celiac realm, I've lost gluten, dairy, and, of course, pounds. But, this year is all about gaining weight, confidence and adventuring ability! So, sorry Special K, but I'm changing up your slogan. Because gain is the only goal on my mind! 


What have you gained this year, from celiac disease, or gaining weight? Comment below? 

Friday, March 27, 2015

College Adventures, Celiac Style

I've said it before and I'll say it again. College + teenagers = food adventures nearly 24 hours a day. So what's a celiac to do? Learn to love (literally) going along for the ride!


Just a few of sophomore year adventures...
This last weekend was the prime example of how far I've come since freshman year. Besides the dietary changes, the hardest part of celiac disease is the isolation. It's so easy to say no when a pizza party turns into a "Casey-watches-people-eat" party." But this year, I've learned to say yes. And I couldn't be more grateful.

Yes, to the 9-pm donut runs while I'm already rocking my slippers and tie-dye pj shorts. I couldn't taste that powdered sugar - in fact, I'm noticing that me plus huge quantities of nearby gluten seems to trigger nausea? Maybe my body's finally getting a sense of self preservation! - but I could help my friend choose chocolate frosting over sprinkles. 


Trays and trays of death by gluten!
And join in the nervous laughter as we got lost in the sketchy neighborhoods near my school. We agreed that, if necessary, we'd sacrifice the donuts as payment for directions

Yes, to rolling into Starbucks later that same night though I've never drank caffeine and haven't even checked if anything they serve wouldn't kill me. Cause there's no classier pairing than donuts and coffee as we watch The Conjouring in our pjs. 


The ingredients to a perfect Saturday night!
And yes to the double date with friends to a Korean restaurant where no one speaks fluent English. I'll be honest - before we left, I was terrified. Like usual, I'd done my homework and learned that nothing "gluten free" was associated with the restaurant. My friend assured my that everything was naturally free of gluten - but, as every celiac knows, cross contamination is the real beast

So, I packed my own dinner - say hello to a potapas tortillas quesadilla stuffed with veggies, daiya cheese, pesto and ahi tuna - and hoped for the best. I don't mind bringing my own food as long as no one else minds either. Like restaurant owners who have, sometimes politely and other times not so much, informed me that outside food is prohibited in the restaurant. Understandable? Certainly. Awkward? Heck to the yes. 


Korean and gluten free food on the same table!
One nice part of a foreign restaurant with limited English, however? If they noticed my plastic container and food, they didn't mention it. If necessary, I would've waited to eat in the car, but I savored the chance to be like everyone else at our table - eating, laughing and enjoying the final hours of the weekend

And when we took a detour to a Chinese market on the way back? I said yes to that too. Cause, gluten or gluten free, I'm always willing to learn something new. 

This store had anything you could want!
And while I didn't buy any goodies - unlike my friends who loaded up on Japanese stick cookies, soft press and macadamia nut chocolates - I did load up on some memories. And I'm just fine with that. 

Just like, during a party for my school's literary magazine this week, I'll be just fine devouring my own lunchbox of sweet potato salmon sliders as everyone else pulls a vanishing act on pies from Pizza Hut


All the Driftwood editors after the ceremony!
Celiac isn't easy - especially when college students' obsession with everything edible joins the picture. But, as this semester is teaching me, sometimes the best response is "yes." (As long as ingesting gluten isn't in your future!) 



How do you deal with celiac isolation? What do you try to say "yes" to? Comment below! 



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Eat the Rainbow Bowls!

Easy. Energy-packed. Edible to the extreme. Those are what I like to call the three E's to my cooking philosophy - which led me to munch on this bowl of gluten free goodness nearly every day for lunch this last week!

My cup of tea!
Fact is, the crazier my classes get, the less time I have to cook and the simpler my belly's cravings. This bowl, though, blends necessity with luxury. Crunchy veggies and mixed greens, pillowy sweet potato rounds, juicy fish, and creamy avocado with a squeeze of fresh lemon sprinkled on top! Plus easy alterations to make it friendly to any diet or food limitation - like vegan or low fodmap!

Begin by gathering your edible weapons of choice from the fridge and pantry:

2 big handfuls of mixed greens of choice (spring salad mix, spinach, red leaf lettuce, kale, etc)
1 handful of mixed veggies (I love green beans, snow peas, sliced zucchini and squash, beet and mushrooms) 
1/4 leftover sweet potato rounds or 1 sweet potato to be baked 
1/4 avocado
1 fresh lemon slice
Oil of choice (I've used coconut and olive) 
Spices of choices 
Optional: pan fried fish, chicken, tofu or your choice of protein

Begin by making your sweet potato rounds. I love baking mine ahead of time and keeping the leftovers in the fridge to throw in my Rainbow bowls! 

First, preheat the oven to 425-450 degrees Fahrenheit (depending on the degree of crispiness desired). Then, slice your sweet potato into thin rounds ranging from 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. In a bag, coat them equally in your oil and spices of choice. Then, after laying them out on a baking sheet, pop them in the oven for 40 minutes (flipping halfway through). 

Sweet potatoes for everybody!
After you've made your rounds (or your fridge is already stocked with leftovers!), start on the veggies. This cooking method was inspired by Amber's green bean fries, but I soon discovered other veggies taste just as good in "fry" form! 

Pick your vegetables of choices, slicing if necessary (such as with zucchini or squash) to thin rounds. Once again, coat them in oil and lay them on a baking sheet (feel free to recycle your one from the sweet potatoes!).

A tray of deliciousness!
Put your oven on high broil and set the timer for 5 minutes. By that time, some of the thinner veggies may be done (scorched, but not burned). Remove those and flip the others, cooking for another 3 minutes or so. Be careful - they burn quickly! 

As they cook, you can throw together your mixed greens into a bowl of choice. Top the salad with your broiled veggies, sweet potato rounds, protein of choice and avocado. For a final touch, squeeze some fresh lemon over everything and dig in

Filling my week lunches with the rainbow...

College life isn't always simple, but following the three E's of my food philosophy ensures that eating is. Especially when the rainbow is involved. 


What's your food philosophy? Any favorite lunch lately? Comment below!  




Monday, March 23, 2015

Women's History Month and Me

Estrogen. Feminine curves. A cold stare that can turn any man to stone. What components truly make up a woman? This year, for Women's History Month, "woman" is exactly what I'm spelling out. With a celiac twist, of course.

Dedicated to all the amazing women in my life!
Wanting. 

In all the different flavorsWe look at a magazine and want to look like the woman whose digital-enhanced assets don't exist anywhere except on the front cover. We look at the latest news report and want to walk out at night without fearing for our safety - or being blamed if something does happen. 

Stats from the NFCA!
And, as part of the 70% of celiac's who are female, I know first hand the wanting of normalcy. A stomach minus the bloating. A girl's night out eating whatever I please. And the want for answers to why me? Why us - women, in particular? And what can we do besides the diet and doctors? 

Owning our faults. 

The perfect women is all around us - in images at least. Tall, but not taller than her significant other. Thin, but still with curves. Blonde - though redheads also have quite the reputation. What's a girl to do but learn how to kiss the mirror regardless her reflection

Marilyn and I!
We aren't photoshopped. Even when greatly underweight, I didn't have the perfect abs. Sometimes, we're over-emotional, chocolate-obsessed Netflix junkies. But Ophrah rules the world with not her body, but her mind. Marilyn Monroe dined on daily sundaes and made jaws drop. So you bet I'm gonna rock this bloat, stretch marks, too-skinny-this and too-fat-that however I please

Making a difference. 

Yes, women manage the household. We raise children, cook dinner and look darn good while doing it. But if history proves anything, it's that women whip up more than a good chicken pot pie. We impact the world - through words, like Malala. Through daring, like Sojourner Truth. Even by sharing our own suffering, as Lizzie Valasquez lives by.

"The World's Ugliest Woman?"
I think not.
I don't like to think of myself as just a young woman, a celiac, or a blogger. They compound one another, and as I share all of them, I hope readers can relate to a part. To the desire to feel beautiful despite health complications. To the awkwardness of dating with food limitations. To wanting to have my voice heard

Aiming higher. 

It's 2015. Now, we have a day dedicated to women all over the world. And a month that celebrates the woman whose high heels left their mark on history. But, we aren't satisfied. And we won't be until "run like a girl" isn't an insult. Until being a Women's Studies minor triggers man-hatin' jokes. 

Or running shoes...
Until I can imagine having children without the risks of passing along my celiac disease. Without imagining their struggle to "fit in" in school when their lunches do not and the doctors' visits - for antibody testing, low weight, infertility, and low bone density - in their future

Never giving up. 

One of the old jokes about women is that we never forget anything - especially comments by our significant other. But I see it differently. Instead, I see women as perseverant. As remembering the past to shape a better future. As accepting the struggles, inequalities and challenges of womanhood by day and shaking our hips in a tight dress that same night

What a journey!
Especially last year, giving up seemed like the easy way out. Dropping out of college for the semester? Rockin' an NG tube full-time? Stopping all physical activity? Maybe it would've been the easier road to take. But, a year later, I don't regret a single tear or scream of frustration. Because, if celiac has done anything, it's turned me into a woman

Maybe some equate femininity with hormones and hour-glass curves. But to me, I'm a woman because I know what it means to want and to obsess over my faults. To turn instead to acceptance and sharing my story. And to always keep my eyes on the next step in history. 



What are your thoughts on Women's History Month? How do you describe a woman? Comment below! 


Friday, March 20, 2015

Revamping Leftovers

Leftovers. At that word, moms rejoice over a no-cooking night. Kids groan, picturing cold meatloaf and green beans once again. And me? I pull out my secret weapons from the fridge, ready to revamp yesterday's meal into today's delicacy.

YUM!

As I've mentioned before, as a college celiac cooking all my own meals, leftovers are a saving grace. Between 17 units, a TA job, and a social life I lack the time, energy and motivation to whip up a fresh dinner every night. But, following a few tips I've learned this year, I can trick my taste buds into thinking every dinner is a freshly-cooked feast

1. First, slap on some condiments and dressings! My favorite add-on's are gluten free BBQ sauce, avocado, pesto, and lemon dressing (just a squeeze of lemon juice with olive oil) over greens. 

Pesto, lemon, BBQ, oh my!
Just adding a new sauce can transform the flavor profile of your entire meal. Avocado adds creaminess to a typical salad with fish and roasted veggies. Pesto transforms your potapas tortillas and leftover catfish into mini pizzas

I always keep a few bottles of sauces in my pantry or fridge for when life gets crazy and my leftovers need a kick!

Some pantry staples
2. Shake up the sides. I'll admit that discovering new sides for my dishes is a skill I've yet to master. But, from my limited armory, I still have a couple secret weapons to give my leftovers a face lift. 

For instance, over the break, I cooked pulled pork in the trusty crock pot. One night, I devoured it with sweet potatoes (in the form of sliders, of course) and a side salad. The next day, I whipped up some of Amber's "green bean fries" and served everything over mixed greens

Easy as 1, 2, 3!
For more ideas, you can serve your leftover meat on mixed greens, stir fried veggies, and a quesadilla on the side. And leftover baked potatoes? Toss them in a salad with turkey meat, roasted veggies and avocado and you have a sure winner

3. Change up the main protein - or go vegetarian! This trick works wonders when I'm stuck staring at a whole rack of sweet potato wedges (the horror!) or roasted veggies. 

Oh, the horror!
One day I'll chow down on a deconstructed (and defrosted) turkey burger with all the toppings. The next, I'll devour some pan fried fish with melty daiya cheese and veggies. 

By loading up your freezer with pre-cooked meats (I've found that turkey, chicken and pork freeze the best) I'm never afraid of running out of protein to transform my leftovers. 

For a meatless dinner!
But, if you do hit a shortage, rock some vegetarian action for a day! There's nothing like leftover roasted veggies, mixed greens and a gooey quesadilla for lunch! 

Over the years, leftovers have gotten a bad rap. Flavorless. Repetitive. Gross. But this college celiac - and her Instagram - are proof that leftovers can be just as delicious with a few kitchen tricks. 



(Casey the College Celiac denies responsibility for the extinction of left overs thanks to their now irresistible nature). 



What's your favorite kind of leftover? Do you have any revamping tricks? Comment below!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sweet Leaf Organic Stevia Review + Sugar Free Granola Recipe!

Sweet. Crunchy. Soft. Chewy. What kind of granola groupie are you? There are a lot of personality tests out there, but I've noticed a lack of granola grading. Maybe because quiz makers know I'd break their survey in one try - since I love granola in all shapes and sizes! 

So when Sweet Leaf offered to give me a sneak preview of their new organic stevia, I saw some delicious sugar free granola in my future. Like their flavored stevia drops, their organic stevia boasts zero gluten, zero artificial ingredients and zero calories. But 100% flavor and organic components. 


My secret weapon!
I first experimented by adding a small packet to my morning nana ice cream - let me tell you, Sweet Leaf packs a punch! Although it's sugar free, I only needed a quarter of their small stevia package to get my taste buds dancing. So when in doubt, less is definitely more! 

Nonethess, what is used definitely makes a difference. It blasted my banana ice cream to "dessert" level with zero sugar. As for its "organic" title, while I don't shop entirely organic - I'm a college student, remember! - I appreciate that people looking for an even "healthier" sugar free alternative have yet another option on the market. As Sweet Leaf quotes on their website, Organic stevia has the same great taste and "better-for-your-body" benefits

Brought to you by Sweet Leaf!
That's a very good thing considering that I've been eating this granola like candy! Candy packed with healthy protein, fats and no sugar, at least

To whip up your own sugar-free, flavorful batch of granola, raid your drawers for some of my favorite granola secret weapons


All the goodies!

Ingredients: 

1-2 cooking trays, 1 mixing bowl, 1 mixing utensil, measurement cups, and optional parchment paper
2 cup of buckwheat groats 
1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup of sunflower seeds
1/3 cup of chia seeds 
1/3 cup of cacao nibs 
1 cup of puffed rice/cereal
2/3 cup of oatmeal (or, as I used, buckwheat and rice flakes
6 chopped dates (or 1/4 cup of dried fruit) 
2 TBSP dairy free chocolate chips
1 TBSP cinnamon 
2 TBSP Maca powder (optional)
2 TBSP cacao powder
1/2 TBSP spirulina powder (optional)
1 TBSP vanilla extract 
1/4 tsp of organic stevia, or stevia drops
1 big mashed banana (or 2 small ones)
1/3 cup of coconut oil

Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lining (if desired) your one or two baking sheets with parchment paper. Then combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Feel free to substitute ingredients for your favorite granola goodies - I'd sure be down for some hazelnuts and cashews! - while maintaining the porportions. If needed, you could also increase the amount of stevia - I only used half of a tea package - depending on how sweet you want your granola. With the added sugar of the bananas, 1/4 tsp was plenty for me! 


All the best combinations!
Once all of your dry ingredients are thrown in, add your wet ingredients. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave if needed. If your banana is not ripe enough to mash easily, you can also microwave it for a few seconds until gooey

Now stir, stir, stir until all of your ingredients are well combined. If your mix seems too dry, add a few tablespoons of water until you reach a sticky texture. Taste test as needed (the best part of vegan goodies is always "checking" on the unbaked product!) and then lay out your wet granola on the sheets


I'm definitely head over taste buds!
After many trial and error sessions (oh the horror!), I've discovered that the thinner the layer, the crunchier the granola! I ended up needing two baking pans, but if you're a gooey-granola lover (or pan limited), pile it all in one! Then set the timer for 30 minutes and get ready for your house to smell of chocolatey goodness! 

In order to produce the chunkiest granola, I don't recommend stirring as it bakes, but you can do so if you want to keep your granola looser. After 30 minutes, check your granola for its doneness. I ended up pulling out my thinner tray and baking my thicker pan for another 15-20 minutes to get the ultimate "crunch" consistency, but it is just as delicious chewy


A sprinkle here, handful there...
Leave the granola to cool for at least an hour before bagging, and then try not to eat it all right away! I devour mine on top of nana ice cream, mixed into my Oatless oatmeal and even straight from the bag! The options are endless - even though the granola, unfortunately, is not

Whether crunchy and sweet or soft and chewy, I'm a total granola addict. Fact is, this huge batch will probably disappear by the end of next week, but that's okay. Because eveyone needs a treat they can feel good about eating - and with some help from Sweet Leaf and their organic stevia, this sugar free granola is just that! 




What's your favorite kind of granola? Have you ever tried Sweet Leaf stevia? Comment below! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Green Seed-Stuffed Pesto!

Everybody knows I'm all about the avocado. Healthy fats, come at me! (Especially near the booty area, por favor?) Sometimes, though, a girl craves some variety in her sauces and spreads. That's where my green, seed-stuffed pesto rolled in!

My favorite green concoction...besides smoothies!
Pre-diagnosis, I'd never tasted an avocado, so pesto was definitely out of my taste buds' league. Until I got a NutriBullet, a stomach hatin' on tomato sauce and a whole lot of desperation

All of which combined to form a pesto that's creamy. Tangy. Packed with vegan nut-free protein that makes it friendly to most allergies. Plus pretty enough for a picture (which my Instagram can certainly prove) or a killer Saint Patrick's Day party platter. 


A feast fit for a Leprechaun!
To get your own taste buds to go green, start by gathering a handful of ingredients (first inspired by Blissful Basil's superseed pesto):

High speed blender, NutriBullet or food processor 
2 Handfuls of leafy greens (Spinach is my usual dance partner, but I've also used kale and devoured the dip just as quick!) 
6 TBSP Pumpkin and sunflower seeds 
3 TBSP Hemp seeds (or 3 more TBSP of mixed seeds or nuts, if tolerated)  
1-2 TBSP of olive oil (start with less, than add more as necessary for blending) 
1/2-1 TBSP fresh lemon juice (depending how strong you want the lemon flavor to be) 
Optional: Shake of extra spices, like thyme and oregano 
Optional: Part of an avocado for an even creamier texture (so maybe my avocado addiction is showing)

Begin by layering some greens, then some seeds, some liquid and spices, repeating until all ingredients are placed in the blender. Feel welcome to experiment with the order of placement or just tossing everything in - I've just found that my NutriBullet behaves the best when I mix leafy, solid and liquid ingredients in layers


As easy as one, two, three!
Then, all you have to do is click or twist start and watch as your pesto appears! Be patient if you're using a lower power machine. I usually have to do the NutriBullet dance - a mix between begging the blender gods and alternately shaking my blending cup and re-blending) until everything combines smoothly. This pesto is designed to be thick, but to make blending easier or obtain a more "drippy" result, throw in some extra oil, lemon juice or water! 

Once you've conquered your kitchen tools, you can enjoy the real party - tasting! I've found tons - is there ever too many? - of uses for pesto. In fact, I now have a jar sitting in my fridge at all times (it usually stays good for a week or so, though some of the separating oil may require a bit of manual remixing now and then). 


Who says green isn't delicious?
Pesto always lands on my favorite vegan buckwheat crust for pizza, and also coats my turkey burgers and flavors my pan-fried fish and zoodle stir fry. I've also layered it between salmon and sweet potato for my famous sliders, and eaten it as a True Foods Kitchen inspired dip for raw veggie snacking. 

Fact is, whether it's fresh avocado from my backyard or homemade seedy pesto, this celiac is always looking for a way to shake up the typical leftovers and salad munching. And making it as allergy-friendly as possible while I'm at it? That's just the pesto on my pizza. 


*Also found in RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What's your favorite sauce for pizza? Are you an avocado or pesto/condiment kind of water? Comment below!