Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Monthly Favorites: January 2016

Just when I finally get used to writing "2016" on my school papers, February has to happen and mess up my dates again. Oh well. Bring on the white-out.

(And, in the ultimate irony, a campus-wide blackout of Internet and electricity as I was writing this post. More on this Sunday adventure below).

What a month!
While January passed quickly, it still had its share of highlights. So, to start a new monthly post series, here are my January favorites (food, fun and everything in between)!

What I'm Eating

New kinds of nut butters! I mean what girl who receives lots of Christmas Amazon gift cards doesn't use them on four different kinds of nut butter? Three of my new favorites? Pumpkin Seed Butter from Omega Nutrition - earthy and creamy with a little graininess left. Anna's Choice Cashew and Macadamia Butter - super creamy and drippy! Sweet Spreads Coconutter, Cinnamon Roll flavor - a bit sweet, but great in small doses (and it melts over oatless oatmeal and freezes over smoothie bowls).

Some great eats...
PF Changs - the perfect allergy-friendly date night location! My boyfriend got a gift card for Christmas (do you see why we're dating? food present priorities!) so we dined at PF Changs before seeing the new Star Wars. I got my usual - if you can call it that after only two visits - of the Street Noodles. Delicious and safe!

Stuffed spaghetti squash! I hadn't had spaghetti squash in over a year because eating it as a spaghetti replacement didn't agree with my stomach before. But, I gave in and bought a baby squash for 88 cents, loaded it up with enchilada toppings, and my taste buds (and stomach!) loved it. I guess it's tomato sauce, not squash, that's a no-no for me.

What I'm Doing

Smiling during movie dates with friends. (And I definitely recommend The Perks
of Being a Wallflower 
if you haven't seen it - so good!)

The goofy gang!

Being grateful for ELECTRICITY AND INTERNET! First, last Thursday, my whole campus lost Internet when the cord managed to get cut. Then, last Saturday night, an awful windstorm hit and knocked out all our power AND Internet. Basically we just bundled up in tons of blankets (without our heaters, it was freezing) and did homework by battery-operated candle light. So thankful that it switched back on late that night. Mainly because that meant my food in the fridge was OK!

Lovin' wearing warm tights under shorts or skirts. California weather is so unpredictable. This week, it was a high of 53 F with 20 mile winds on Monday...and a sunny 70 F on Saturday! Fighting the cold while being comfy and looking cute is always a plus...

All the veggies!
Looking goofy with walls covered in pictures of giant fruit and veggies. We actually stumbled upon this wall while watching the US Women's soccer team play (and beat) Ireland. Great game, funny photos!

What I'm Planning

Party hard Super-bowl style this weekend with my boyfriend and his family. They always throw a small Superbowl party, complete with a projector showing the game, a "betting sheet" filled out beforehand, and, of course, lots of food. While I can't enjoy the last item, I'm looking forward to a weekend away from school with the boy.

Hit up the Gluten Free Allergen Friendly Expo coming to San Diego (at the Del Mar Fairgrounds) on February 20-1! My mom and I went to our first expo two years ago soon after my celiac diagnosis. I'm excited to try out any new products, enjoy my usual favorites and meet other people from the celiac/gluten free community. Mom and I plan on arriving hungry! (If you're near San Diego at that time, come and join in on the fun! I'd love to meet you in person!)

Coming soon!
Give an update on all the goodies I've been making with The Good Scone flour mixes, for which I'm now an ambassador! I devoured this pot pie galette (with an easy vegan crust) a few weeks ago and plan on whipping up some cookies for my roommate's birthday this week.

What were some of your January highlights? What are you planning this February? Comment below!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Movies Minus the Gluten: A Celiac's Cinema

As calendars flip to the month of February, many people claim that love is in the air, the greeting card store and the news...basically everywhere! I have a (not so) newsflash for you, though. So is gluten! It's in candy, kisses, and, as I was reminded of last weekend, nearly all the movies enjoyed with loved ones. Which made me think. What would movies be like without gluten as a supporting actor?

Now, before I begin my admittedly humorous cinematic analysis, I just want to make one thing clear. Watching movies with gluten doesn't make me uncomfortable or unhappy - though the other movie watching dealing with my drool might feel that way! Nor do I feel like movies should delete or alter scenes featuring food allergens. If anything, the audience eats (errr...lives) vicariously, right?

Sometimes you find a "gluten free" billboard! ;)
Instead, like artist Arthur Coulet who created an online "Gluten Free Museum" with famous paintings minus gluten, I want to raise awareness of how gluten pervades popular culture. Plus enjoy a few laughs at how three "date-appropriate" movies could look if turned gluten free!

First of all, the trigger of my cinematic adventure: Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring. I was watching the movie with my boyfriend and a group of friends last week (minutes after they all finished devouring two huge, gluten-filled pizzas) when I saw Frodo grab a slice of bread before his long journey. Putting on some gluten free goggles (perhaps the new 3D movie goggles perhaps if the GF fad continues!), the movie would look a little different.

Pinterest perfection!
The hobbits wouldn't be nearly as merry considering that their drinking - a much loved festivity - would be bereft of beer. And their breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper routine may be a little harder to stomach without bread on the menu!

Not to mention that fruit and veggies can't satisfy a man "in one bite" like the Elves' lembas bread can and one of Bilbo's opening lines - "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread" doesn't have same ring to it with "potato" substituted instead! Basically, just imagine a movie about the search for magically gluten free bread rather than magic rings (priorities, right?).

Last week (mainly due to a campus-wide Internet blackout) I watched another movie with my roommates: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I didn't see many flowers, but, like most teen movies, gluten appeared as often as drama. Family dinner would be even more awkward without gluten on the table. And when Charlie and his new friends hang out and eat burgers at a local diner, it'd be bye bye buns, hello lettuce wraps!

The movie...and the audience!
One of the more ironic gluten scenes? At his first party, Charlie savors a brownie - which turns out to be "high" in more than just gluten and sugar. Cue a unique moment when the celiac viewer thinks, "That's one thing I really don't mind missing!" (But brownies just high in delicious flavor? Now those I would party hard with!)

Now, for a personal favorite: the comedy, The Pink Panther. For the deprived souls who haven't seen it, the movie features the inept yet genius Inspector Clouseau attempting to recover the stolen Pink Panther diamond.

If you need a laugh, check out the clip here!

My favorite scene - which my family still quotes to one another at least twice a month - involves Clouseau trying to smuggle burgers out of America, only to be caught by airport security and unable to correctly pronounce "hamburger." Spoiler alert: a security dog tackles him. Just imagine security's confusion if Clouseau not only had to explain having hamburgers in his bag, but also that he needed them for safe, gluten free food on his flight, or else he'd really have a "bomb" in his belly!

Fact is, gluten permeates popular culture with the same ferocity as love dominates stores during the month of February. You might even call gluten - not Leonardo DiCaprio - the most deserving reject of an Oscar!

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

Have you ever thought about gluten during movies? What is one scene in a movie that would be humorous if gluten free? Comment below!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Fitting in Fitness in College

A college student's schedule is typically pretty full. Classes. Meals. Homework. Extracurriculars. Maybe a little social life. Not to mention (hopefully) a lot of sleep! It's easy to see, then, how the "Freshman Fifteen" is a more familiar "f-word" than "fitness."

Being fit in college is not only possible, but also fun! Today, this college celiac is breaking down her top tips for getting in tip top shape during college!

In college!
1. Jump into your school's gym! This is such an obvious point, but I can't count how many of my friends - juniors at this point - have exclaimed, "We have a gym?!?"

College is one of the only times you can access a gym without (at least, directly) having to pay a membership, so take advantage of it! I'll admit, my school's gym - in terms of equipment - is tiny. Three stationary bikes and elliptical machines, two treadmills and stairs steppers, one rowing machine and one weight room. Done.

Tiny power?
Even if the space is small, options can be limitless! To get the most sweat for your setup, go at off hours (I never have trouble working out at 3 in the afternoon!), and be willing to experiment with new machines. College is all about learning - even about using the stair stepper!

2. Look for hidden hiking/walking spots. It's true, my college's location right on the ocean means that walking (especially along the cliffs!) can be more beautiful than ever. Yet, walks on hidden trails on campus or town make me even happier - because there's no crowds and no expectations of what I'll find! 

Some of my favorite spots...
For instance, near my boyfriend's dorm there were wooden stairs that lead to the campus/off campus houses divide. Even though the grassy field is right above campus, very few students ever visit. More for me, right? 

If you are craving even more adventure, explore the neighborhoods surrounding your college. Sidewalk "hikes" may not sound exciting, but exploring the local scenery (especially when houses are rockin' swag decorations during holidays) will get you smiling - and sweating (those hills!)

Light at the end of the...street?
3. Speaking of walking...walk everywhere...and with everyone. Although some campuses (cough cough, many Universities of California) are so big, arriving on time to classes requires a bike or car, most colleges are walking friendly

The challenge? At times, driving to the Caf or a friend's dorm across campus sounds much more appealing than scurrying in the cold. My solution? Turn up the music or turn inwards for meditation! 

An accurate description of my walking-dancing!
That ten or fifteen minute commute can turn into a solo dance party with the right music (fun fact: your Bible teacher will look at you strangely if he sees you rockin' out as you walk across campus). For safety, though, keep the volume low or one ear bud out. 

Sometimes, silence is an even better companion. Walking across campus can feel rather magical when you're alone with your thoughts. Even between classes, try taking a "me" break and touching base with yourself. How are you feeling today? What do you need to do for yourself today? For others? 

Alone or with friends!
And when you have the chance, walk with your friends. In a twist on traditional gender roles, I've taken to walking my boyfriend to his dorm after class before I head to the gym. It gives us time to catch up, talk about our plans for the day, and/or tell a lot of corny jokes. Win win? (Except, perhaps, for the poor strangers who overhear our random conversations). 

4. Finally, realize and accept the days when a Netflix marathon at home "fits" your priorities best. Today, especially in college, "busier" often equals "better." You aren't studying, sleeping or in class? Then you should be out having the time of your life with friends! (Obviously). 

This "fits" into my schedule many nights!
As I'm continually learning, though, "fitness," "success" and 99% of other societal ideals don't require 24/7 participation. Instead, fitness is listening to your body. Feeding it, moving it, and resting it in the proportion that your individual body needs. 

Perhaps most importantly, remember "why" you want to be fit. Is it to look a certain way? To feel the best you can? To counteract the stresses of college classes? Though I won't judge anyone's motivation, in my experience, loving yourself - by getting stronger, reducing stress, being at a healthy weight, etc - always beats hating yourself - particularly, the way you look - as fuel for fitness. 

The most important reminder...
College isn't meant to be easy. It's meant to challenge students to grow, learn and adapt. Similarly, finding time for fitness in college takes hard work. Consider these tips a study guide. 

After all, I'm going to college to strengthen my mind. Shouldn't my body deserve the same treatment? 

Do you have any tips for staying fit in college? How do you balance academic and self work? Comment below! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Quandary of Celiac Self-Consciousness

"What is that?"

Now that I'm back at school and rockin' a schedule with classes right when I typically eat breakfast and lunch, that's a question I'm used to hearing. In this case, the girl is referring to my oatless zoats in a mason jar with homemade granola in a doggy bag on the side

The usual classroom tag-along
As usual, I say: "Oatmeal." I don't bother explaining that it's buckwheat and rice flakes instead of oats. I don't bother explaining I couldn't stop in the Caf for breakfast like everyone else thanks to a little thing called celiac disease

I just mumble the answer that she most expects to hear, and turn back to my Politics: Feminist Development lecture

Is there anything wrong with my duck and cover? The fact that I don't just put a big "celiac" sticker on my jar (though I do rock a couple on my backpack) and pass out Casey the College business cards?  No. Just like there isn't anything wrong with explaining what celiac disease is when people ask why I eat like I do. 

What is wrong? The way I feel doing it. How my cheeks burn slightly red, and I wish my food could look like everyone else's - though, I'm (egotistical or not) sure mine tastes better. The fact that, nearly three years after my celiac diagnosis, I'm still self conscious about my disease with strangers

In some ways, I know I'm lucky. I have a disease that's invisible. People may look at me and think I'm skinny. They could look at my plate and think I'm a health freak. Or they could not assume anything at all. Compared to, for instance, someone with facial burns, cerebral palsy or a lisp who can't take their "dirty laundry" off the public clothes line. 

What do you see? Besides an..."eccentric?"
Yet, having an invisible disease also means I have the freedom - and the quandary - to choose. When I tell someone. If I tell someone. How much - on a scale of "I can't eat gluten" to "kissing someone who just ate gluten will leave me in the bathroom with X, Y, and Z." 

I've always considered myself open with my disease. I have GF buttons and bags, typically decline offered food with a mini "celiac" spiel, and I do run a blog with my name and "celiac" as the title. Yet, the butterflies in my stomach at fellow students' questions make me wonder if I'm kidding myself. 

Asking the hard questions...
Does not explaining my disease in every awareness-raising opportunity make me a bad advocate? Or, just like with religious beliefs or political opinions, should celiac disease observe the restraints of time and tactfulness? 

Honestly, right now I don't know the "right" answer. But two and a half years of gluten free adventures has taught me a few things:

That it's OK to be embarrassed about being "different." That doesn't make your difference - or you - bad. 

Those who really care or are interested will wait to learn the whole celiac story. (And/or turn to trusty Google.) 

Though you never know what they might find...
Time and confidence do not have a direct correlation of growth; instead, confidence has its random peaks, plateaus and dives. 

You can be a proud celiac in one context and a shy one in another. 

People don't care about your perceived "weirdness" nearly as much as you do. 

Those weird selfies!
And if they do care...their problems are bigger than yours could ever be! 

Tomorrow, I'll probably lug my usual breakfast to class. I'll probably get one of the usual questions about it. I'll give some kind of answer - vague, celiac specific, or in between. 

A whole lot of tasty!
And, as usual, my "celiac-safe," "unusual," "Why is it green?" breakfast will taste delicious

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link party!*

How do you deal with celiac self consciousness? Do you walk the line between celiac advocacy and shyness? Comment below! 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Crock Pot Enchilada Stack

Cold weather? First week of classes? A craving for anything comforting, (dairy free) cheesy and cozy? Three checks and the crock pot needed to come out!

When I'm short on time or simply lazy (*insert shrug*), nothing makes me happier than walking in my apartment after a long day of classes to the smell of enchiladas baking away in my slow cooker. 

Crock pot goodness!
Ever since my celiac disease diagnosis, Mexican has been one of the main cuisines my tummy vetoes. However, by controlling the spice level and omitting troublesome ingredients like onion, garlic and cheese, this recipe pleases my taste buds and my tummy.

In particular, these babies are gluten free, low fodmap and optionally vegan; packed with protein, veggies, healthy fats and carbs; and easy to make and eat

All those toppings! <3

To get your fiesta started, gather the following ingredients (including those linked to in the optional condiment recipes below). For the ultimate quick meal, prepare the vegan cheese sauce, homemade gluten free enchilada sauce, and shredded chicken ahead of time. 

Servings: 3-4 (made in a 4 quart crock pot)

Around 3 large of your choice gluten free tortillas (I use and love Food for Life's Brown Rice Tortillas. Minimal ingredients and versatile taste!) 
1/2 cup of shredded chicken (made ahead of time in crock pot or by poaching) - omit or replace if vegan 
1 half a large zucchini, chopped 
1 half a large yellow squash, chopped
1/4 cup of black beans (increase if creating a vegan version) 
4 ounces of mushrooms, chopped
Shredded spinach or other greens 
1/2 serving of homemade enchilada sauce or one can of favorite sauce 
Generous sprinkling of cheese (Daiya, The Vegan8's vegan cheese sauce, or regular cheese) on every layer 
Chicken or vegetable stock or water 

The best part? This recipe takes only 15 minutes to throw in the crock pot if the chicken, cheese sauce, and enchilada sauce are made in advance. 

I'll admit...I love a "dump it in" dinner!
Begin by throwing your chopped vegetables in a pot with enough chicken/veggie stock or water to cover; simmer the mixture until the water/stock evaporates and the veggies are soft to the touch. Then, add your chicken, beans, greens and 3/4 of your enchilada sauce. Mix and set aside. 

Now, start stacking! Pour enough enchilada sauce to coat the bottom of the crock pot. Then, rip your tortillas as needed to fit the base of crock pot. Using a large spoon, add around a third of your filling on the tortilla. Sprinkle (or drizzle in the case of the vegan cheese sauce) some cheese on top, then repeat for another two layers (or until all filling is used).

Worthy of a close up...
Personally, I use the cheese sauce for all the layers except the top, when I add a little daiya cheese. You won't miss the dairy - trust me! I also leave my enchilada stack "open-faced" by not placing another layer of tortillas over the final coating of filling. Since I don't eat much gluten free bread or tortillas, I don't miss the extra layer, but feel free to add it! Some extra ingredients to experiment with include bell peppers, tomatoes, ground turkey, beef or a vegan meat substitute. 

Cook the stack for 3-4 hours on low or 2-3 hours on high. I've found that cooking on low creates a more moist, gooey stack while high causes crispy, slightly burned edges. Both taste delicious so the choice is yours. You can also alternate between settings for the best of both (edible) worlds!  

Never met a bowl of this I haven't liked!
To serve, I love eating a scoop of enchilada casserole topped with avocado and cabbage for a crunchy, creamy combo. And, as usual, a side salad with apple cider vinegar and some green beans accompany! You could also add rice, extra beans, tortilla chips or salsa for an extra kick. 

On some days, only quick comfort food will do the trick. Thanks to my small slow cooker, some delicious gf and vegan recipes, and a little planning ahead, even college celiacs can throw a flavor fiesta

What's your favorite enchilada toppings? Do you use a slow cooker? Comment below! 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Good Scone: Recipe Recap and Announcement

Whenever I first tell someone I'm gluten free, the usual response is something like: "Can you eat anything?"

Honestly, following a gluten and dairy free diet isn't as difficult as it first appears. Eat whole foods. Find allergen-free products you enjoy and trust. The hardest part? Finding the right gluten free alternative to past favorites. Lucky for this college celiac, The Good Scone fulfills all gluten free and vegan baking needs. 

Definitely a reason to smile!
Months ago, I celebrated my 20th birthday with chocolate gf and vegan cupcakes with cacao avocado frosting. The Good Scone's ease of use - just add vegan butter and vinegar to their chocolate cake mix - fluffiness, moist texture and sweet but understated flavor won over even the gluten and dairy lovers. 

Since then, I've used the Good Scone's all purpose flour to make vegan galettes with flaky, light and golden crusts. On Thanksgiving, we dug into biscuits, which can easily be made vegan if the butter is replaced with diary free margarine. (Check out my Instagram for pictures of these goodies and more!)

Savory goodies!
For those with a stronger sweet tooth (ahem, me!), The Good Scone's vanilla cake mix is the key to easy, quick and (in my family's opinion), the best tasting gluten free cookies around! Just add water, sprinkle a little cinnamon, and pop these babies in the oven for some soft, chewy, and sweet sugar cookies. 

Though the batter is too moist to use cookie cutters, artistic (make that stubborn) souls can still enjoy some freestyle Van Gogh action. And yes - I hearted these cookies in all meanings of the word! 

I <3 these cookies! Recipe here!
One of the best parts about The Good Scone? They have many more recipes ready for curious bakers on their website! Scones, chocolate cookies, entire gluten free and vegan menu available at the click of a mouse. 

The most exciting parts about The Good Scone for the blog? Starting this month, I'm an official ambassador for their three baking mixes! For you, that means more gf and vegan friendly recipes. More experimental baking to recreate pre-celiac favorites. And maybe even a giveaway or two! 

I promise it'll be sweet!
True, I'll never proclaim that living with celiac disease (especially as a college student) is easy. Once the pantry is filled with some safe, scrumptious gluten free products, however, life with dietary restrictions seems a lot less scary. And a lot more delicious

Have you ever tried The Good Scone? What are your favorite gluten free baking mixes or companies? Comment below! 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hot Yoga = Hot Body Image?

Hot yoga and beauty aren't strangers. Models consider yoga their (not so) "secret weapon." Magazines proclaim the detoxing benefits of getting toasty and twisted. Fact is, whether it's yoga pants or yoga classes, hot yoga is as common an ideal as beauty to the average female.

I never got the connection. Yes, I love how hot yoga makes me feel: strong and exhausted, yet refreshed. But the only date I have after yoga class is with a shower. 

Post-yoga excitement
Until a hot yoga session on January 1, 2016 changed my mind.

8:15. My watch alarm beeps and I reluctantly roll out of bed. Dig through my hamper of clothes for a tight workout shirt and shorts (sweat = a dangerous slip n' slide if you aren't careful!). Grab my yoga mat, yoga towel, water and flip flops. Head out the door

8:40. I arrive at the yoga studio, staring at dismay at the row of cars already parked. I suppose I was too idealistic in thinking I was the only yogi who hadn't ended 2015 with an alcoholic bang. I end up staking my mat territory a few inches from the front mirror. 

New year, same place!
I could lie and say I chose that spot from confidence or a strange desire to smile at my non-hair-brushed-face-washed self in the mirror. Honestly? I just liked knowing I wouldn't be surrounded by strangers on all sides

9:03. Class begins. Lisa, a young instructor with long brown hair and a soothing voice, starts our practice in child's pose. As usual. Then the heat cranks up; jazz music fills the room; and we raise onto our tip toes. Chair pose. Airplane. Crescent. Warrior three. Plank. Shavasana. Even as I focus on balancing on one leg, my eyes are drawn into the mirror. 

And maybe shot myself some silly faces!
My dad and I usually practice in the back. Mostly out of convenience - it's usually roomier, there's no one behind to accidentally kick, and it's near the door for a slight (but extremely nice) breeze. But, as my feet balance on purple rubber and my eyes hit the mirror, I see the appeal of the front row. 

I see beauty

In how my hair escapes from its loose pony tail, locks damp with sweat and room-controlled humidity

In how I can smile even while holding poses - like crow, shavasana, or boat - that I couldn't reach months before. 

Even sending a yoga video to my curious boyfriend...
Or how, after we turn to face away from the mirror, I can peek between my legs to see my upside-down face and rows of butts, high and haughty. 

My practice wasn't - and never will be - perfect. But, as strange as it seems, that's the beauty of hot yoga. Seeing dozens of strangers - of all different shapes, ages, and skill levels - rooted in the same reverse warrior. Hearing loud, ujjayi (nose) breathing and not knowing if it belongs to you or your neighbor

For the New Year's Day practice, Lisa encouraged participants to go beyond superficial 2016 goals and into the purpose behind them. No, "get a bikini body." Yes, "properly nourish my mind, body, and heart."

Silly is part of that nourishment!
As I felt the tickle of sweat dripping down my legs and face, all I can think is, "I want to find bliss." Not just in my situation in life by looking for the positive and chasing opportunities that would truly make me happy. But also by accepting myself - my flaws, bad habits, medical issues, etc. 

10:00. With the lights dimmed and hands by heart, the yogis and instructor bow slightly, saying, "Namaste." I roll up my mat, fold my towel, wipe my forehead and grab my shoes so I can drive home. 

I can't say that hot yoga magically turned me into a supermodel just in time for 2016. (Or, equally beautiful, arranged for a Chipotle burrito bowl to be waiting at my doorstep). But, I started this new year by smiling

Yoga mats are the perfect places for smiles!
By acknowledging that, however I feel like my body is "misbehaving" that day, I'm strong. I'm learning. And - in poses that evoke chuckles, sighs or a grimace - I'm beautiful

Hot yoga may not give everyone a "hot body." But, maybe hot body image isn't too far of a stretch(First pun of 2016!)

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link party!*

Have you ever had an epiphany during yoga? How did you kick off 2016? Comment below!