Monday, December 22, 2014

Accepting the Insatiable Appetite

Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Snacks. That's the official eating plan in the minds of most Americans. And, usually, that's what my tummy also likes to stick to. Except on days like these.

B-days. Not birthdays - back hole days when all my stomach wants is this, that and a bucket full of everything (gluten free) within a thirty mile radius. 

Though I'd eat a birthday cake too...
Sometimes, it's easy for me to throw a temper tantrum at my own body. Just a few days ago, I called Mom crying as I stared at the beyond-bloated tummy in the mirror. And, a day into unstoppable hunger, it's easy to think back at all the snacks I've stuffed in my face and worry. 

Is this normalEating half of my dinner at 2 in the afternoon after scarfing down 3 pieces of a pizza only an hour before? Girls around me tend to go hours between meals - and sometimes I can do that too. But other times, I feel like the Cookie Monster has snuck into my body and chosen to stay. 

All the delicious noms!
Is this healthy? I know it's good to gain weight - I've dreamed of budging the scale's arrow for almost a year now. But, the sudden gain of the Freshman 15 is still shocking. I like being healthier, but no one enjoys losing a favorite pair of jeans to a too-tight waistband. I'm happy with the changes, but it still takes time to readjust to the new Casey in the mirror. 

Is this permanent? This is one question that has popped up time and time again since Celiac and Casey first met. Will I never be able to eat gluten? Yep. What about dairy? Maybe. Will I gain weight? Eventually.

As I nibble on the sweet potato wedges designated for dinner and finish off the Coconut Greek yogurt can chilling in the fridge, I try to treat that question as I've treated all the others.

Some Instagram inspiration!
With patience, knowing that, just like with all the other forms of healing from celiac, regulating my appetite will take time. 

With acceptance. Yes, sometimes my hunger isn't "normal." Yes, some days I'll eat a ridiculous amount of food. Yes, I'm finally gaining health and weight and all the changes in body image that go along with those. 

And, most importantly, with hope because this is me. This is my body working its hardest to heal, strengthen and transform into a kick butt machine. (Cause isn't that what every little girl wants to grow up to be?)  

I'm finding my Yoda powers
So, yep, this is my third bliss ball today. After the banana nice cream and pound of toppings breakfast, pizza lunch, yogurt, and baked fries snackage. All before dinner. Looks yummy, don't it? 

Do you ever have days of never-ending hunger? How did you learn to trust your body's hunger cues? Comment below! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spooning up Christmas Spirit

Even though I'm still stuck (for two more days only!) in college for finals week, my mind and taste buds have definitely skated off into a Winter wonderland. With limited ingredients (and money) on hand, though, this college celiac has kept festive eating simple. Simply delicious!

First off, cause I'm all about banana ice cream even as I'm shivering with every mouthful, here's the recipe for my Avocado Peppermint Nana cream that has me screaming, "Santa Claus!"

Getting in the Christmas spirit!
For the bananas on banana nice cream, check out this post. Start by loading up your magic maker (whether that be a Nutribullet, food processor or any other high speed blender) with my basic nice cream recipe. 

1 TBSP chia seeds (ground if smoother texture is desired)
2 TBSP coconut flour (if want really thick)
Optional extra veggies (beets, celery, broccoli, zucchini, squash, etc) - about half as much of these as fruit to keep the smoothie sweet!
Enough milk/liquid to allow blender to work (I prefer canned coconut milk - the creaminess is out of this world!)
One heaping handful (or more if tolerant) of greens 
Handful of frozen fruit (chopped bananas, apples, peaches, pears, berries, grapes, etc) 

To keep this ice cream Christmas-tized, I up the green factor by adding 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado, an extra handful of greens and lots of green-colored veggies (my favorites lately are celery, cucumber, and frozen squash and zucchini). Then, to get that candy-cane flavor everyone craves, sprinkle in a few drops of peppermint or mint extract. 

Talk about a bowl full of Christmas!
I'm present crushing hard on SweetLeaf's peppermint mocha liquid stevia, but anything you have on hand will do! To wrap up this edible present, sprinkle on some diced up strawberries and pomegranate seeds! The yummiest red and green Christmas treat I've ever tasted! 

If you aren't brave (or suicidal) enough to eat a cold breakfast on a frigid morning, then gingerbread oats is the best substitute there is! As I shared in a previous post, right now I'm happily riding the buckwheat and rice flake train. I mentioned before the recipe for pumpkin pie oats:  

2 TBSP buckwheat flakes
2 TBSP rice flakes 
1/2 mashed banana 
1-2 TBSP chia seeds for extra thickness and satiety 
1/2-1 tsp of pumpkin spice 

Gingerbread oats before my Linguistics final!
To blast into cookiedom, add 1/2 tsp of cacao powder, (optional) maca powder, and an extra sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon. A huge spoonful of nutbutter on top never hurts either! 

To finish off a delicious trio, combine the two in a heaven-reaching parfait! Just cook the 2 TBSPs of oatmeal with 1 TBSP of chia seeds and half a mashed banana in a microwave-safe jar for 1 minute. Then, put it in the freezer to cool while whipping up the nana ice cream. Stack, wrap and enjoy! 

This morning's delicious parfait!
Finals can quickly make these weeks an "oh no!" versus "ho ho ho!" but with a delicious and festive meal in my belly, I can really see the Christmas lights at the ends of the tunnel

**Also found at

What's your favorite festive breakfast? Smoothie or oats or neither? Comment below! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Dreaming

December. The month of Christmas music, frantic shopping, and, one special evening, extra dreaming by children tucked up in their beds. 

This year, though, dreams of sugar plum fairies hit this celiac a few weeks early thanks to my college, PLNU. Thanks to a booth on Caf Lane filled with note cards dripping with the dreams of fellow students and faculty. The scribbles varied from hopes to bring Jesus to others (this is a Nazarene college, may I remind you) to get a "hot girlfriend." As I stared at the rainbow stripes of marker, my mind filled with my own dreams. 

If you don't like this post...blame this! ;)

I dream...of more Christmas parties bereft of cookies but full of friends. For the first time, my school hosted a Christmas Tree Lighting in front of the Greek. Even as twenty feet of cedar exploded with light, I couldn't pull my eyes away from the kids dancing along the steps. 

Dressed in red night dresses and Grinch leggings, they flew and giggled to the beat of off-tune caroling. Carefree, exuberant, shining with joy...that was the real ceremony that lit up my heart that cold Thursday evening. 

Party with Santa! 

And that dorm Christmas party? Even though all the activities involved gluten (from cookie decorating to fondue dipping), this celiac still partied hard! (For a full half hour anyway.) With a few gluten free warrior by my side and a camera booth with all the festive accessories, what more could a girl ask for? 

I dream... of more surprise rainbows. Right before the end of Thanksgiving Break, my dad quizzed me on how I could Santa-tize my dorm room. And - whether by rules or lack of supplies - I ended up with zilch.

Roomie to the rescue! Now our room is a virtual wonderland with Christmas lights hanging over the desks, around the doors and above our beds with elegance only a graphics art major could pull off.

The beautified room!

Another hidden rainbow burst during a recent walk along the cliffs near campus. The night before was rough - a mix of homesickness, stress and boredom that only finals week can trigger. So I escaped that next morning with only some music to keep me company. A few miles out, I discovered this gem of a cliff. No pun intended. 

It reminded me of the mantra of this week's yoga session: "Embrace the pain, because the difficulty now will make it easier later." 

Finals week is a rough patch in December. But, in the right angle and light, it can still sparkle

Talk about a hidden gem!

I dream...of sucking every moment of enjoyment out of my last week. It's easy to let Finals put blinders over my eyes. Yet, as much as I wish everything would stay the same next semester, life will change. Scotland is stealing away one of my closest partners-in-crime...I'll be free of Linguistics, but will attack another 17 unit semester

You know what, though? Like a friend of mine always says, "I'm not even worried." Because out of all the dreams left in my heart, most have already come true. Compared to last December, I'm healthier. I'm happier. And I'm not letting any celiac troubles grinch their way into my Christmas. (But family - do be prepared. As soon as I get home, we will be rollin' in the gluten free cookie dough!)  

So, Santa, this is my yearly letter to you. I don't need anything new this Christmas. I just don't want this December dreaming to stop

A shot from chapel...
when the boyfriend was bored and stole my phone.

What are you dreaming of this December? How do you handle stress like with finals? Comment below! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Salmon and Sweet Potato Sliders Recipe

Ever since the Earl of Sandwich slapped meat between two slices of bread to free his hands for gambling (true story!), sandwiches have ruled people's daily diet. When celiac popped into the picture, though, I found myself craving a different kind of Wonderbread than gluten free substitutes. That's when I saw a sweet potato staring at me from my desk.

Just pause for a moment and imagine. Two fluffy sweet potato rounds with a juicy slab of salmon tucked in between, perfectly accented by a few leafs of spinach and a creamy slice of avocado. A rich, chewy, soft taste of heaven with every bite.

Talk about heaven!
I'll admit, until my diagnosis last May, I was a salmon and sweet potato virgin. Seafood? Orange potatoes? Too exotic for those sheltered taste buds! Now, though, these sliders sneak into my meal plan (and onto my plate) at least once a week. Why not? It's easy. It's allergen friendly - no gluten, dairy, soy, or nuts anywhere nearby. And it's deliciousness cooked up in less than an hour of total cooking time.

First, begin by prepping your sweet potatoes. It's best to pick ones that are relatively equal in diameter, long and circular. You can bet I loaded my cart when Sprouts had a sale on sweet potatoes the size of my forearm! Preheating the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, cut the sweet potato into relatively even rounds. The length of each depends on your preferences - for crisper rounds, cut thinner slices (around 1/4 inch). For slider purposes, I prefer cutting them to be around 1/2 inches thick for buns with crunchy edges and soft middles.

Yep, I was the girl taking selfies with a sweet potato
in the courtyard of my dorm...oops.
Then, place the rounds in a plastic bag and pour in enough oil (I prefer coconut but any will work) to coat all of the rounds equally. Finally, arrange them on a baking tray lined with foil (if easy clean up is preferred), spacing them so there is limited overlapping. Pop them in the oven, setting the timer for 20 minutes. When it beeps, you'll flip them over, and cook them for another 20 minutes. I've found that 40 minutes creates a magical blend of crunch and give, but feel free to flick on the broiler for a few minutes to really up the char. (Be sure to babysit your potatoes, though - they can burn fast!)

Now, it's time to get down and fishy! There are two ways I make mine, depending on whether I feel like active or passive cooking.

When I want the oven to do the grunt work, I start by placing the salmon in a lined baking tray, skin-down. This is when my spice sidekicks pop up, with thyme oregano and salt acting as my go-to's. Sprinkle whatever flavors rev your taste buds in a thin layer on top. To keep the salmon moist while it cooks, I give my fish a bikini of lemon slices before placing another layer of foil over the top. When the sweet potato rounds have about 30 minutes left, throw the salmon in too. Start cooking for around 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after until it is done. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish.

Salmon two ways!
When I don't have a lot of time to wait for fish to cook, though, I whip out my frying pan and olive oil. After heating up around a tablespoon of oil at medium, I slap the spice-coated salmon skin-up in the pan. Keeping the heat around medium-high, I close the cap to steam the fish for about 3-4 minutes before flipping it over. Though it takes some practice to master charring over burning, this gives the salmon a delicious sear. To finish it off, cook the fish for another 4-5 minutes or until it is cooked through and the meat flakes away easily.

When the timer beeps, that means the real fun - the stacking - can start! My favorite slider toppings are spinach or kale, avocado slices, and BBQ sauce. Some other ideas are mustard, ketchup, peppers, onions - any burger topping that always gets you drooling! I can also promise that this recipe is as delicious with salmon as with any other fish - or even pulled pork! - and rocks my culinary world hot or cold. Not digging the sandwich? You can even devour these babies on a bed of greens and veggies!

I've had it just a few times, I'd say...
As chilly winter weather blankets California, I have Lord Sandwich to thank for the hearty, delicious dinner filling my belly. Sure, sometimes I miss bread. Sure, sometimes I devour my favorite slice of Canyon Bakehouse's gluten free toast. But as I take a big bite of salmon, sweet potato, avocado and spinach, missing bread is the last thought roaming my mind!

Have you ever tried sweet potato sliders? What is your favorite burger topping? Comment below!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Spelling out my Thanks

As I sat down at the dinner table for Thanksgiving last week, I couldn't help but be awed not by the spread of food, but by the spread of blessings laid in my life this year.

And now it's time to spell out my thanks. 

T: turkey. I mentioned in my last post that Father Turkey was landing on our table a day early this year so I'd have leftovers to bring to the neighborhood Thanksgiving potluck. This was our second gluten free holiday feast, and though we - like usual - were cooking blind, our taste buds rode the turkey train to heaven! Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce...our table might have been missing gluten, but it wasn't missing out on family favorites

All the noms!
Beyond the turkey, I am most thankful for the family that adapts to my needs. Gluten free? No problem. Dairy free? We can work with that. Mom and I even scored a mini apple pie - gluten, dairy and soy free - at our local Sprouts. We didn't expect much, but this Kraft creation tastes just like the traditional pie. Not too sweet, crumbly crust, soft spiced apples...that disappeared quick. 

The best sundae ever: Apple pie and Coconut bliss Ice cream!
But the memories of my gluten eatin' dad and sister digging into the GF stuffing and gravy and giving a big thumbs up will stay a while longer. 

H: healing. The day of actual Thanksgiving, my dad and I decided to go on a turkey trot of our own. Plus a soccer ball. It's been nearly a year since I strained my IT band and my dad tore his PCL, sidelining both of us from soccer. That day, though, our feet caressed the ball like long lost lovers. 

We passed, we ran, we even played "soccer basketball" where we juggle the ball into the basketball hoop with anything but our hands. We scored 12 baskets in 20 minutes...far from our record, but at the nearly 90 degree heat, perfectly reputable. 

Throwback to when I first started juggling!
There was only one other pair shooting hoops at the elementary school: a young boy in a wheelchair and an older man I assumed to be his father. The boy wasn't extremely coordinated and the ball got wedged between the backboard and rim more than once, but the father never stopped passing it back. 

To me, that is the true spirit of thanksgiving: giving thanks for every ability still left in your broken body. I can't eat gluten, but I can walk. I'm not back to my post-diagnosis state, but I'm better than a year ago. 

And, in the times when I need them, I know there will be someone to help me make a basket

A: adapt. After dragging ourselves home, we showered then walked over to the Thanksgiving feast a few houses down. We had no idea what to expect, but we weren't planning on staying too long. Four hours later, the food finally emerged hot from the kitchen. And the questions started. Mom and I had devoured our gluten free leftovers at home, and our empty plates stood out among the festive place settings. 

Hanging out with the chickens at our neighbor's house
"Gluten free? You can eat the salad then, right? It has eggs, but that's not gluten is it?" 

The well meaning questions filled my cheeks with heat, but as I held hands and said grace with all the other eaters, I felt at peace. Sure, at times it was awkward. Sure, at times (all of them to be exact) I wanted nothing more than to plant my face in the buffet. But I adapted. I enjoyed. I said thanks for the friends and family surrounding me. And when my dad won Brainy Smurf in a Raffle, I knew I made the smart choice. 

Me and Mr. Smurf
N: ninety. Ninety has been my dream weight for months after jumping up and down on the scale to shake the arrow above the "eighty eight" mark. Finally, I've passed it. I'm twelve pounds heavier than last year, falling at a "swol" ninety six pounds. 

I won't lie and say that the adjustment has been entirely easy. After staying at such a low weight for so long, I finally deemed it my new normal. And now I'm changing again. 

Strong and healthy
But I am thankful for it when my parents huge me without feeling bones. When my muscular legs power me through an 8 mile stationary bike ride. When I look in the mirror and see a blend of the girl pre and post diagnosis. 

K: Krazy kin. Linguistically, this is a bit of a cheat, but it depicts the idea of my family perfectly. We're zany. We're crazy. And we are always laughing. And I couldn't be more thankful.  

Yesterday, we decorated the Christmas tree to the tune of Christmas music and random teasing. And when it came time to take pictures, World War III started. Too slow at clicking the button. Too blurry pictures. Too ridiculous poses. So we ended up with photos like these. I'm okay with that. 

Christmas as the Cromwell's!
S: semester. As wild as it seems, as I drive back to school today, I'm driving back to the last three weeks of first semester. In 21 days, I'll be a junior in terms of my credits. Honestly, I'm scared to death. But more than fear, thanks dominates my mind. Thanks for adventures with friends. For food experimentation. For the boy with the same sarcastic, ridiculous sense of humor as mine. 

It'll be a busy three weeks full of tests, essays and finals. But I'm determined to make it the best three weeks possible by swallowing up every drop of Christmas cheer. There were so many winter activities I avoided last year because of my health. Now I thank my body for gaining enough strength for me to experience it all. 

Friends and frozen delights!
Thanksgiving is known for its food, but the tastiest turkey is the one stuffed with thanks. I've had a whirlwind of a year, but this break has allowed me to realize just how lucky I am. And I'm determined to hold onto the spirit of this turkey trot for the rest of 2014!

What was your favorite part of thanksgiving? What are you grateful for this year? Comment below! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Living and Loving the Game

I like to think celiac has taught me two big life lessons. First, cooking can be dang difficult - especially when gluten is crossed off the ingredient list. Second, life doesn't like to go to plan. My family's adventure to watch the MLS playoff between Seattle and LA yesterday exemplifies the latter. 

In front of the stadium entrance!
If "MLS" sounds like a dyslexic version of the ABC's, you probably aren't a soccer fan. But my parents and I - with my dad and I being past players - are pretty decent fans. So when we had the chance to see our first live professional game, we jumped on the chance! 

We left the house at 10 am with an estimated 12:15 arrival time. With kickoff at 2 pm, we sat back in our gold Honda van and readied ourselves for a relaxing ride

All smiles right before our first traffic jam...
That's when the road trip from H-E-double drumsticks (it is almost Thanksgiving after all) began. Basically everything that could befall us did. I summed it in one Facebook status when I got home: A huge apocalyptic event had us inching down the I-5 for an hour and a half. Then we spotted a bunch of police cars arresting someone in a random road. 

Minutes later, two ambulances happened. Then, on the return trip, we had to stop for gas in the ghettos. To finish it off, a back tire of the car right in front of us exploded. A series of unfortunate driving events one might say. 

We were wishing for the simpler days!
Life is like that, and celiac seems to increase the odds of a flat tire. You expect a normal Thanksgiving dinner and learn the neighbors invited us over this year. So you adjust. For my family, the turkey trot is happening a day early. That way I'll have my own box of festive goodies to bring to the gluten-filled neighborhood feast. Just like the drive, the dinner may have a few bumps along the way. A few quizzical glances. A few longing stares. (By them and me respectively.)

But I have no doubt that the laughs and memories will be worth it, just like the game. In the end, after a long 3 hour drive full of chaos outside and inside the car, we arrived thirty minutes before kick off. 

We made it!
Since the Stubhub Center offers limited gluten free options, I'd devoured my homemade pizza lunch and bliss ball snack before we rode the shuttle to the stadium. With my belly full, the plates of nachos and pretzels didn't even spark a hint of drool (though, in our sunny seats, the snow cones looked pretty cool!) 

The game ended 1-0 in favor of LA, but, as the center's automatic camera captured, there was plenty of excitement along the way. I can't explain how grateful and excited I felt to see all the soccer studs battle it out in the flesh instead of pixels. 

Some shots from the game!
More than the game itself, though, I savored sharing a (rather eventual) adventure with my parents. For although we sure weren't laughing at the time, I have no doubt that the "Road trip from Hell" will pop up it's head in many conversations to come. 

And, as the Thanksgiving turkey starts its flight to the kitchen table, isn't it the memories that matter the most? Not the food, not winning or losing - just enjoying the game that is life. Detours, gluten free diets and all

Have you ever had a deathly road trip? What is one surprise life has thrown your way? Comment below! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gluten Free Buckwheat and Rice Porridge

I don't know about you, but ever since November hit the calendar, slippers, dark skies and sleepy shivers have dominated my early mornings. Plus a craving for a big, warm breakfast of pumpkin pie oatmeal

All the love in one bowl!
Unfortunately for this celiac, oats and my gluten-shredded intestines haven't gotten back on talking terms since my diagnosis. For a while, I was riding the quinoa flake train, but I abandoned those in a desperate jump to stop the unexplainable itching that hit me a few months ago. What's an oat-cravin' gal to do? 

Buy packs of Bob Mills' rice and buckwheat flakes and hope for the best! For a little while, I was dancing the Goldilocks. Just rice was too thin; buckwheat alone tasted a bit too nutty. And then my taste buds landed on the perfectly thick, chewy, no-oat oatmeal! Having a bowl of this magic to look forward to makes my early college class schedule a little easier to swallow (food pun, of course, intended). 

Part 1 of the delicious combo!
For the base recipe, all you need is five ingredients:

2 TBSP buckwheat flakes
2 TBSP rice flakes 
1/2 mashed banana 
1-2 TBSP chia seeds for extra thickness and satiety 
Preferred amount of water (I like my oatmeal really thick, so I usually pour just enough to submerge all my ingredients. One tip: add the water and wait a few minutes to see how much the chia seeds expand, then add more water as needed!) 

Then I pop my oat-less oats in the microwave for a total of 2 minutes (one minute with just the base, then I put on my toppings and microwave for another minute to make everything a pool of melted yum!). 

The magic of the microwave!
The best part about this recipe, though? Pimping it up with the flavor add ins! As I mentioned in my last post, right now pumpkin everything has me by the taste buds. I've devoured my super pumpkin oatmeal for five weeks straight now, adding to the base recipe cacao powder, pumpkin spice, pumpkin pie stevia, a little vanilla and lots of fruit and pumpkin butter on top!

My other favorite eating accessories are maca powder, spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, fruits of all types (nanas, strawberries, blubes, and pomegranate seeds are the top 4 winners), and a waterfall of crunchy toppings like Trail mix, seeds, cacao nibs. And, of course, no bowl is complete without a pool of nut butter melted on top! For an extra special mix, melted chocolate and shredded dates are also always good choices. 

All the oatmeal, all the time!
Sometimes it takes a little creativity, but new food sensitivities don't have to kill off old favorites. By now, I don't even remember what I'm missing - and when I dive into a huge jar of this gooey goodness for a warm breakfast or night snack, "missing out" definitely isn't the first phrase to pop into my mind! (More like: Mmmmm). 

So bring it on November. With a bowl of pumpkin sun butter "oatmeal" in my belly, even walking to Linguistics at chilly 7:30 am darkness can't damper my spirits

What's your favorite oatmeal flavor? What's your favorite place to buy cute spoons and bowls fit for an oatmeal queen? Comment below!