Monday, November 23, 2015

Cozy Cacao Oatless Zoats

Dear smoothie bowls, I have a confession to make. You know you still make my stomach growl and my spoon dive in for more. But with colder weather blowing in and morning classes, sometimes this college celiac wakes up craving something a little cozier.

Cue cacao oatless zoats!

Heaven in a jar!
Just picture gooey, chewy oatless oatmeal upgraded with (tasteless but volume-boosting) shredded zucchini, sweet cacao and maca powder, and loads of cinnamon

Toss it together the night before, microwave it in the morning, and walk into class (or right back to bed!) with a comforting, nutritious breakfast. Add some melty nut butter, chocolate chips or blackstrap molasses for the true recipe for success

To get started on your own zoats party, all you need are the ingredients below:

1/4 cup of rice flakes, buckwheat flakes, or a mixture of both (I do half and half) 
1 TBSP chia seeds
1/2 cup of liquid (I love green tea, coconut or rice milk!) 
1 tsp cacao powder (or more, depending on your chocolate craving)
1 tsp (optional) maca powder
1 tsp (optional) turmeric powder
Cinnamon to taste (I use a lot!) 
Vanilla extract to taste 
1 small zucchini/yellow squash 
Toppings of choice (fruit, nut butter, granola, etc) 

That zucchini would make a lot of zoats!
To begin, add all of your dry ingredients to a container of choice. This semester, I've been loving mason jars. They're microwave safe, easy to carry with me to class, and spill proof. (The best jar, of course, is a near empty nut butter jar though!) 

Mix the ingredients well, then slowly pour in your liquid and stir again. You'll notice that the chia seeds will quickly begin to gel, thickening up the porridge. If you're a runny oats kind of foodie, just add more liquid! 

Easy as 1, 2, 3!
Now, grate your zucchini or squash. Because I use a narrow jar for my container, I typically grate over a plate. But if your ninja skills are more advanced, try grating right into your container for even less clean up! Depending how much volume you want, you can use anything from 1/2-1 zucchinis - or even more if you really want a veggie boost! I promise, after hours of soaking and/or being cooked, you won't even taste these hidden greens. 

Once you incorporate the shredded zucchini, it's time to let the oatless oats do their thang! Because I enjoy having lots of time and little to do before class, I make my oats the night before and microwave them in the morning. For those wanting a quick snack with less resting time, just leave the oats to gel for 20+ mins for the ultimate thick, fluffy texture. 

I like thick oats and I cannot lie!
Another fun fact? This breakfast tastes just as good eaten as cold "overnight oats" as it does cooked. To keep with fall's cozy theme, though, I like to microwave mine for 2:30 minutes in the morning before class. Gooey goodness alert

As for toppings, the options are endless. I usually stick to banana coins, berries, nut butter and homemade granola - plus my new addiction of black molasses. Other toppings include raisins or other dried fruit, shredded coconut, or chocolate chips (the ultimate dessert for breakfast!). 

A few of my favorite toppings...
My favorite part - besides the actual eating! - is knowing I'm fueling my body up for a busy day of classes! The maca powder and green tea both act as energy boosters; the cacao powder, turmeric and cinnamon all offer antioxidants; the coconut milk's fat and the chia seeds help with satiety while the veggies and whole grains provide complex carbohydrates and vitamins. 

Smoothies will always be one of my favorite breakfasts (even during winter!), but it's nice to have a cozier option in my rotation. And I can attest that bringing this feast to class every morning will make you a celebrity - at least in terms of everyone wanting to know what smells so good! 

Casey's Kitchen favorite!

Cold mornings, bring it on! (Cause I'll be bringing my cozy breakfast!) 

Do you change your eating habits with the season? What's your favorite oatmeal topping? Comment below! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Crafted Gluten Free: Dorm Box Review

The term "crafted" triggers a variety of associations. Memories of arts-and-crafts with (likely gluten-filled) dried macaroni in kindergarten; or perhaps a father's favorite adult beverage. After spending a few weeks taste testing Crafted Gluten Free's dorm box, though, all this college celiac thinks is, "YUM!"

Looks unassuming, but contains tons of goodies!
Like other box subscriptions, Crafted Gluten free offers monthly deliveries of gluten free goodies straight to your door (and, soon after, mouth)! In a unique twist, however, Crafted offers a box specially designed for college students

For $29.99/month, students receive a box of gluten free food that is ready to eat, cooked in the microwave or uses hot water from a coffee pot. Perfect for college celiacs (or those with food allergies) who have huge appetites but limited kitchens! 

The first look...
When my box arrived, I eagerly tore into my goodies. I loved how the cardboard cover clearly states "gluten free" and that packaging the snacks with cardboard strips ensures that everything arrived intact. My favorite part of Crafted, though? The variety and size of snacks! 

My particular box contained
1 box of paleo pumpkin cookies
1 bag of cheddar and caramel popcorn
1 box of quick oatmeal (just add water)
1 gluten free bar
1 bag of tropical trail mix
1 package of mango coconut strips
1 bag of potato chips
1 bowl of add-water black bean soup
1 sunbutter candy 
Several Crafted Gluten Free swag bracelets 

All the food!
As Crafted promises for every box, mine contained two meal items and loads of snacks! I also appreciated that Crafted included items found in the common college student's diet - such as popcorn, soup, and trail mix. One of the most challenging aspects of enjoying college with celiac disease or food allergies is feeling like a "dietary outsider." Having access to typical treats makes fitting in a little easier - and a lot tastier

My favorite goodies tended to land on the sweeter side. I loved adding Doug's Nuts trail mix to my morning oatless oatmeal (nearly as much as I loved the punny humor!). No better way to kick off the day than oatmeal topped with sweet toasted coconut flakes and melted dark chocolate. 

A few of my creations using Crafted products!
I also loved the Island Mango fruit snack, which I threw into my usual addiction of homemade granola for an extra chewy-fruity kick! And the chocolate Gluten Free Bar? I'm hoarding that for a special occasion - finals week, most likely! - when I need some sweet fuel during days of studying

My one criticism of Crafted Gluten free is that many of its products, though obviously free of gluten, contain other top allergens like nuts, dairy, eggs, or soy. However, my roommates loved the goodies I threw their way - including the Modern Oats cup, which Sarah snacked on one cold night, and the almond-flour paleo cookies that my other roomie gave a big thumbs up to! 

A snap of their homepage!
And if you fall in love with an item and NEED more right away? Crafted Gluten Free also sells, individually or in bulk, the products from monthly boxes in their online store. (Which definitely makes it okay to devour all the trail mix in one week!) 

"Crafted" can mean a lot of things - but, in the case of Crafted Gluten Free, it especially refers to each box being crafted with college practicality and delicious taste in mind! 

What are/were your favorite snacks in college? Comment below! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Turmeric: Tips and Tricks

As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm always on the search for tummy "super foods" - or superpowers, but food is tastier! One of my most recent finds? Turmeric, which is (literally) as good as gold in inflammatory cooking!

Turmeric is an Indian spice that has been used for thousands of years to dye clothes - and treat a variety of illnesses. In particular, the active ingredient curcumin gives turmeric anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have linked the turmeric to reducing the severity of colds, helping indigestion and weight loss, assisting those with diabetes and possibly even reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke.

A few of the benefits (via Pinterest)!
Wondering how to color up your daily eats with turmeric? Here are some of my favorite ways to chow down! 

First, I typically start my mornings with either oatless oatmeal or a smoothie bowl. Coincidentally, both are great ways to get a turmeric boost! One of my favorite parts of turmeric powder is that, in small doses and especially when paired with other spices, it doesn't have an overwhelming flavor. This means I can add it to my cacao oatless oatmeal (along with cinnamon and maca powder) without anyone knowing - besides the bright yellow color, of course!

Definitely my favorite way to eat turmeric!
Smoothies are even more versatile since you can either use the powder or throw in turmeric root (which I've previously purchased at Sprouts). Considering that I eat my smoothies after my morning PE class during the week, adding turmeric ensures my muscles get an extra anti-inflammatory hit. 

Turmeric also appears in many of my savory dishes. One of the easiest (and most practical) applications? Sprinkling it in homemade vegan cheese! Either when I'm whipping up my veggie Mac and cheese or blending Brandi's vegan cheese sauce, I always add a bit of turmeric for color. Who says healthy food can't look pretty too? 

Though these dinners are pretty irresistible...
If you're more of a meat and potatoes kind of peep, turmeric also has your back. As temperatures are FALLing (welcome back puns!), one of my favorite slow cooker recipes is potato korma. Basically imagine soft, tender potatoes in a paleo-friendly thick sauce ready as soon as you walk in the door from work! Turmeric not only adds color, but also an earthy flavor that makes it a truly cozy, comforting meal. 

Lastly, when I'm working on homework before bed and my sweet tooth demands a sacrifice, I offer up some homemade turmeric-spiced granola! Some of my favorite parts of baking is sneaking in extra veggies or "healthifying" old favorite recipes. And, considering how addicting granola can be, it's a prime candidate for a little nutrient TLC

And this granola? HEAVEN!
Case in point, my green smoothie granola recipe. It's packed with zucchini, spinach and turmeric, yet all anyone can taste is the banana, coconut and chocolate chips. Perfect night snack for anyone with the (studying induced or otherwise) munchies. And when doubt over how to use a spice? Toss it into my bliss balls recipe! Super food, super yummy snacking material!

I've been using turmeric for a few months now and have yet to develop superpowers. (Unless it's the ability to make a huge smoothie bowl disappear in an hour or less). Turmeric is, however, a super easy and delicious way to get more antioxidants from your meals! 

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

Have you ever used turmeric in your cooking? What are your favorite spices or "super foods?" Comment below! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Better Belly on the Other Side?

After being diagnosed with celiac disease, I paid more attention to certain aspects of life than ever before. Like gluten in my food, or crumbs on the kitchen counter top. And, as I've realized over the past two years, my stomach. Particularly, it's state and size.

I grew up in a mostly body-positive household. Of course, I experienced the usual struggles (like being called "chicken ankles" in fifth grade - yes, I still remember), but my parents always stressed that the inside of a person counts more than the outside

Rockin' my Winnie the Poo suit!
But what happens if your inside - my celiac disease - has external consequences? Mainly, like bloating. Gas. Constipation. And a sprinkling of nausea to finish it all off. 

Logically, you want to improve it. Find a better you - or, more accurately, a better belly. And that isn't a bad thing. Until it is.  

I've touched on body image and its connection to celiac disease before. When your body loses 20 pounds in a few months, you're trying to gain weight in a society obsessed with losing, and no one can understand how you can still have negative body image days when you're "so slim" - loving yourself ain't easy.

Neither is balancing "loving myself as I am" and "showing self love by trying to improve my body." I'll admit, I'm one of the greener-pasture-seekers. I follow the low fodmap diet, and drink warm water with lemon and apple cider vinegar every morning. I've experimented with charcoal tablets to treat gas (and to help recover from a glutening). I've invested in flowy dresses to make me feel confident even on bloated days and have learned yoga poses that aid digestion.

Monroe knew about flowy dresses!
You could say I'm an A+ stomach student. 

Yet, I wonder when improvement is more harmful than helpful. The desire for a flatter belly, after all, is partly fueled by jealousy - the desire to be like the hundreds of fellow college girls who can down chicken tenders, fries, and ice cream, and still rock a crop top without a single food baby in sight.  

I wonder when, instead of searching for the latest fix, I'll appreciate the real-estate I already own. I hardly remember thinking about my stomach, pre-celiac. I fed it, it digested, and that was that. It would be naive to think I could entirely return to that degree of disinterest - one of the side effects doctors don't reveal about celiac disease is the way it changes your body and how you view it. But, I can realize that no one cares as much as I do. 

About accurate...
I was lying in bed watching The Walking Dead (no spoilers - we're still two episodes behind!) with my boyfriend the other night. Randomly, he asked me, "Are you ever self conscious with me?" 

It took me a second to reply. I'd chowed down on Chipotle that night, which sometimes does and sometimes doesn't agree with my stomach. "A little. About my stomach. You know, the usual." 

His response? "Well, it's perfect to me. Celiac is just part of you. It's never bothered me." 

Bed selfies?
Maybe the key to a better belly isn't a pill, a new diet, or a disguising outfit. Maybe it's just some old-fashioned, tender love and care. 

Honestly? I doubt I'll ever totally stop experimenting with my diet and lifestyle. If there is a way I can feel better overall, I want to find it! (Overachiever alert, anyone?). But, I also want to focus more on improving my mindset. Less judgement and anxiety about what "this food will do to me" and more unconditional love. 

Celiac disease controls what I eat - that's a given. But how well I accept my body, however it may function or appear? That's on me

Just a little love up here!
Challenge accepted. 

Have you struggled with body image after a health diagnosis? How do you balance self love and self improvement? Comment below! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Recent Gluten Free Foodie Finds

It's Friday which means it's time to celebrate food....I mean the weekend! Same difference, right?

In all seriousness, my life on weekends usually involves the golden trio of homework, homies, and home cooking. So, this Friday, I thought I'd share some of my favorite foods that recently joined the party in my pantry. 

Because...puns! As always!
1. Blackstrap molasses. As a self professed smoothie bowl groupie, I saw blackstrap molasses pop up on my Instagram for months (probably closer to a year, honestly) before I decided to give it a try. Mainly because my loved ones gave me Amazon gift cards for my birthday, so I bought #allthefood. 

Compared to other sweeteners, blackstrap molasses is known for its nutritional benefits. Besides being high in iron, it also boasts a hit of magnesium, and calcium - which I thought would make my breakfast (and, hopefully, my digestive system) even sweeter. 

A few sweet morning snaps!
I've only been using it for a few weeks - usually by drizzling it on my oatless oatmeal or smoothies - so molasses still needs further testing for nutritional benefits. But it does make my breakfasts extra gooey and delicious! 

2. Slow cooker vegan Mac and cheese. Say what? That was basically my reaction after I took a bite of my first try at homemade gluten free and vegan Mac and cheese. Whipped up in the crock pot for extra lazy points. 

My kind of dinner!
Basically, I used this base recipe (scaled down by half), replacing the quinoa pasta with my favorite rice penne and 1/4 cup of daiya cheese shreds and 3/4 cup of this homemade vegan cheese sauce. I added some veggies to cook with the noodles - and boom, I was in (non dairy) cheesy heaven

3. Purple potatoes. I actually saw these babies sitting in my local Vons and couldn't resist buying two to try. I'm always a fan of experimenting with new foods - and I've never met a potato I didn't like! Including purple potatoes, which boast the bonus of four times the antioxidants as their Russet cousin.

The struggle of dark dinners + harsh lighting...
To keep things simple, I followed my usual loaded baked potato recipe. One potato in the microwave for three minutes; one tray of veggies in the oven; defrosted turkey meat and daiya cheese; and one fresh avocado! The potato tasted a little denser than the typical golden potato, almost like a mix between a russet and a sweet potato. But I enjoyed the extra punch of color in my plate (and palette!) and gobbled it up, wishing I had bought more. 

4. Slow cooker chicken pot pie. Just as delicious and cozy as it sounds! With cold, rainy weather rolling in, I was craving my chicken pot pie recipe - but had no time to make it. Crock pot to the rescue!

Chicken pot pie in a bowl!
Using this stew recipe and this homemade (dairy free) cream of chicken soup recipe, I had a (sadly crust less) pie ready as soon as I returned from classes. To make it even more scrumptious, next time I plan on serving it with homemade vegan biscuits from The Good Scone. Now that is my kind of comfort...

5. Rice tortillas. After I ran out of my favorite potapas tortillas, I ended up discovering these guys in Sprouts. Though not extremely appealing raw, I love toasting half of one for a lunchtime quesadilla. Also, I rarely crave chips, but when I want something to accompany a homemade burrito bowl or veggie Mac and cheese, these tortillas can make a delicious substitute. A few minutes cooked on medium on the stove top and the tortillas turn into crunchy goodness. 

Quesadilla fit for a (gluten free) queen!
I've also heard they make great bases for a quick, lower calorie pizza - a trick I'll definitely try if I get too lazy to make my favorite buckwheat crust! To keep the tortillas fresh, I freeze the whole package, only pulling out and defrosting what I need for one serving. Convenient and tasty. 

Friday's deserve celebrating for several reasons - like surviving the work/school week, having future days of sleeping in, or even enjoying all the food that make life possible.

'Cause with finds like these, savoring life is a whole lot easier!

What are your favorite recent foodie finds? Have you been enjoying any of the ones I shared? Comment below! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Five Tips to Vamp Up the Veggies

Vegetables. Everyone needs them, but few claim to like them. Before my celiac diagnosis, the only green likely to land on my plate was iceberg lettuce - more for the crunch, than the nutritional benefits! 

Me with the largest zucchini ever!
Now, though, I'm a self-professed veggie groupie. (To the point of regularly buying six+ zucchinis during my weekly grocery trips. Luckily, the cashiers are too nice - or tired - to judge!). And, while I may not be able to make people fall in love with Brussels sprouts, I do have five tips to vamp up the daily veggies! 

1. First, start with ninja (AKA neutral) veggies like spinach or green beans. True, most of my meals now feature vegetables as one of the stars, versus a back-up dancer. If someone has previously been eating limited greens, though, don't throw kale at them right away! Instead, like with children, "hide" neutral veggies inside typical meals. 

A few of my favorite sneaky ways...
This can mean adding spinach to homemade turkey burgers (as my mom now does!), throwing green beans, squash or greens on pizza, or even using sweet potatoes as makeshift "fries" with dinner. These small changes may not seem significant at first - but embracing more neutral veggies can trigger more vegetable curiosity and diversity in the future

2. Next, experiment with different cooking techniques. For years, I thought I hated green beans. They were too salty, too squishy, and too, just, gross! Then, I tried freshly made green beans (versus the canned kind) - and I now eat them at least once a day! The way vegetables are cooked dramatically affects the flavor, so try out different techniques before throwing out your latest produce purchase. 

Veggie mac and cheese anyone?
My go-to cooking methods? Roasting is an easy way to add earthy, charred flavor to vegetables - from heartier versions like sweet potato to delicate squash. For a different texture, I also love spiralizing or cutting my veggies into strips. Saute them in chicken stock till tender, add some sauce (I love my beet greens pesto or homemade vegan cheese), and a makeshift pasta is served! 

3. When in doubt, throw them in a smoothie! I'll admit I'm more adventurous in this category than others. In fact, my favorite smoothie additions are frozen slices of zucchini and squash, celery or cucumber, as well as beet for a punch of pink color. 

For smoothie and veggie beginners, start out by adding increasing amounts of greens (I love spinach and chard) to your smoothie. You never know what you might try and like next! (Though my dad, who just recently joined the smoothie club, still cringes and asks what makes mine "so green." Baby steps!). 

4. As I've learned, don't immediately knock the popular veggie "fads." Ever since I returned to school, my oatless oatmeal has rejoined my breakfast routine - mainly because it's a lot easier to eat in class than smoothies! I'd read about adding shredded zucchini to oatmeal for extra volume and nutrients, but figured the magazines were exaggerating that it couldn't be tasted. 


And then I tried it. And realized I was oh-so-wrong! An extra dose of veggies that turns my breakfast into a fluffy never-ending bowl? I should've - and could've - jumped on that food truck ages ago! Moral of the story? Don't immediately discount a veggie tip or trick just because it's "popular." Sometimes the strangest ideas turn out the best! (Like starting this blog!) 

5. Finally, if you do everything "right" - starting out slow, trying different cooking methods, and even tossing it in the blender - and you still don't like it? Don't eat it! 

Adding more veggies is a way to enhance your diet, but it has to be sustainable. After a year of adopting a more vegetable-heavy diet, I can honestly say I enjoy what I eat. Do I also love chocolate and sunflower butter and cookies? Definitely! But, now that I've found the vegetables I enjoy, I crave them along with sweets. 

Lots of food...and silly faces!
Despite their reputation, vegetables don't have to be dietary villains. Just like every other food group, they just need some TLC to fit the individual's flavor preferences. 

And that's the (corny) truth! 

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What's your favorite tip/trick for eating more veggies? Do you have a favorite veggie? Comment below! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

What I Wish People Knew About Celiac - with Foster Farms

At first glance, I'd fit a lot of American stereotypes. In particular, I'm the "skinny white chick who only eats 'gluten free.'" Most likely said with a laugh and sneer at the mention of life minus bread.

As part of Foster Farm's participation in Celiac awareness month this November, though, I'd like to paint a different picture of gluten free celiacs like me. I want people to know:

Some of the faces of celiac (thanks to Gluten Dude!)

I didn't choose the celiac swag life. It chose me. So don't bother saying "how delectable" that freshly baked croissant you're eating tastes and offer me a bite. I'd love to eat it, but I'll always choose to love living more.

Some celiacs are underweight. Some are overweight. Some are "normal." So don't assume that celiac would make you skinny - or that someone must be skinny to have celiac. 
A common misconception!
Just because something is gluten free doesn't mean I want to eat it. Thank you for buying those gluten free, triple-X-spicy chips at the store. I appreciate you thinking of me. But I'm not a spicy chip kind of gal. Just like you might not be a gluten-filled-cinnamon-roll kind of guy. 

In the same course of thought, don't be offended if I don't eat something you promise is "gluten free." It could have been cross contaminated by other eaters or even the dish it was cooked in; it could be produced in factory with wheat; it could contain another ingredient I'm "sensitive" to (like dairy) and choose to avoid. Being nice isn't worth risking my health - or ruining everyone's night by getting sick

I've even gone on a Krispy Kreme run!
I don't mind people around me eating gluten. Heck, I encourage it! As I always tell my friends or family who feel guilty about eating some delicious gluten-stuffed concoction nearby: " If you can enjoy it, please do! And take a bite for me!" 

If I do go with you to a restaurant I trust with gluten free meals, you better bet I'm going to order enough for leftovers! Eating out is a treat for those with food allergies and I, for one, love making the most of it. (So yes, Chipotle, I know that guac is extra and I still want it!) 

A few of my favorite restaurant meals!
When I'm glutened, the best thing you can do is give me a hug, lay on the couch or bed with me watching Netflix, or ask if you can do anything to help. Even if I just need to let my body do its thing to recover, empathy never hurts. 

Finally, if you're the friend or a loved one of someone with a celiac, we don't require much. 

You don't need to know everything about celiac - though we welcome questions and love that you care enough to learn more!

You don't need to constantly share ways that we can be "cured" from celiac disease or related stomach troubles. Likely, our Internet browser already houses more "celiac" searches than you can count. Diet is a personal choice - and while occasional suggestions of changes to make aren't bad, we know best what works for our body

Some of the search results for "celiac"
You don't need to treat us differently than anyone else - we love being "normal" for once! 

I can't control what people think when they see or meet me for the first time - or what stereotypes I may seem to fit. With some help from Foster Farms, though, I can influence what they think of Casey the Celiac. 

I can spread the word that people with celiac disease are unique in appearance and dietary preferences. That we are united by genes that turn eating gluten into a death sentence - triggered by chance, not choice

What I'd like people to see instead!
Mainly? That we are more than just our celiac disease. And we love the people who realize and embrace that. 

What do you want people to know about celiac disease? Comment below!