Monday, September 1, 2014

Jumping In

"Be careful." Nowadays, the words haunt nearly every aspect of life. Leaving home. Adopting a pet. Even buying a different brand of shampoo or conditioner. No matter the type of risk being taken, fear seems to be its perpetual shadow. 

I could lie and say the truth of this hit me as I watched my family walk out of my dorm room two days ago. As I sat on my bed, the newness of everything - being a sophomore, having a roommate, living on the other side of campus - suffocated me like a winter scarf. And California is blazing in the 90's right now!

All that's left of my family!
Really, though, it hit me a few weeks ago as I ran out the door to meet my favorite gal pals from high school. Usually, our dates were nondescript - restaurant lunches or Lord of the Rings marathons. We're just that cool. Except, this time, almost as statement of how we had all transformed after a year away at college, we were heading to the local trampoline park. Fun. Adventurous. And, as my parents reminded me, dangerous. Especially then, only a blink away from starting sophomore year.

I take care as a celiac, re-reading food labels and interrogating restaurant waiters like a spy in disguise. Caution nudges my actions as a teenage female in a society where staying out too late or dressing a certain way can justify a not-so-happy-ending. I even worry as a human being whose biology demands I constantly defend what is mine. 

We smile in the face of danger!

As I watch my roommate talk on the phone to her family and listen to the sounds of fellow students moving in all around me, though, I'm ready to stop the worry and throw out the caution. I'm ready to jump in and enjoy whatever fall I may take, just as I did trampolining weeks ago with my friends. As we stepped barefoot on a never-ending floor of rubber, we flew and leaped - and while we looked pathetic compared to the flipping ninjas surrounding us, I can promise that we had just as much fun

Last year, college was hard. The classes I could handle, sinking my teeth in a full-time 4.0. But my body broke, my spirit faltered and I faced the obstacles of every freshman compounded by celiac complications and the death of a grandparent days after my 18th birthday. 

Grandpa with one of his true loves!

The fact is, though, I'm not going to let last year's challenges shade this year's experience. I'm stronger. I'm healthier. I'm happier. And, I'm going to jump into sophomore year at full speed

I'm joining every club that sparks my fancy. Gardening. Aerobics and yoga. Spoken Word (a poetry club), and Homeless ministries. Even coed soccer in spring. Plus working on my school's literary magazine and possibly (hopefully!) as a school blogger. Plus 17 units of classes. Oh yes, my time will be full. In the best possible way. 

Enjoying the fall!

It's easy to get trapped by caution. To fear getting tangles in your hair so much that your feet never leave the ground. As I prepare for classes starting Wednesday, though, and slowly gather the sticks to form my sophomore home, I'm loving the free fall. I can't wait to see where I land. 


Do you take enough risks in life? What is your biggest piece of college advice? Comment below! 






Thursday, August 28, 2014

Canyon Bakehouse Review and Giveaway

Bread. A regular part of life for 99% of the world population, but the Holy Grail for the celiacs searching for the perfect sandwich bun. 

So you can imagine my delight when Canyon Bakehouse, one of my favorite gluten free companies, offered free samples for me to review and offer as a giveaway for one lucky blog reader! 

Our hosts today!
Canyon Bakehouse breads have earned a special place in my cabinet ever since my diagnosis. I don't eat bread on a daily basis, mainly because I've lost the taste for most of it. Some days, though, nothing sounds better for lunch than an old-fashioned sandwich that tastes better than cardboard and stays together long enough to eat! Especially since I've been off bread (99% of which contains eggs, corn, etc) for three weeks because of my elimination diet

Using entirely whole food ingredients, Canyon Bakehouse breads pass both of my requirements. In their sample for me to review, they were kind enough to share four products: three breads (white, 7-grain and cinnamon raisin) and their Cranberry Crunch Muffins. 

Holding all the goodies!
First, the White and 7-Grain breads. My mom is a dedicated customer of both flavors. When the FedEx box arrived the day she finished off her last loaf, she nearly danced around the kitchen! Talk about good timing

The White bread is a throwback to every Wonderbread sandwich a celiac scarfed down before diagnosis. Like most gluten free breads, Canyon Bakehouse's loafs taste infinitely better after doing a quick nose-dive in the toaster. A crunchy crust but a soft, giving middle? Talk about yum! The best part of the White bread is its understated taste, which lets the flavors of the sandwich really shine!

The true celiac dream!
The 7-Grain bread is White's heartier cousin. It toasts just a deliciously with crunchy edges and a soft middle, and holds together well (even under my mountains of meat, veggies and avocado!). True to its name, it boasts ingredients like millet, quinoa, amaranth and teff. This is my favorite sandwich bread because of its seedy texture and robust, earthy taste. It's like whole wheat - minus the wheat! 

Surprisingly enough, the Cinnamon-raisin bread didn't capture my taste buds as well as I imagined it would. A sweet slice of bread drowned in sunflower butter, fruit and chia seeds is my favorite midnight snack, especially when warmed in the microwave for a few seconds! Canyon Bakehouse's bread did the trick, but I thought the cinnamon flavor could be intensified and that the crust was a little too thick. If most gluten free cinnamon breads are too sweet for you, though, and you want a heartier version, this is definitely a winner!

Also pairs well with a rice cake with Chocolate Dreams PB!
Finally, there are the Cranberry Crunch Muffins! I wasn't sure what to expect when we dug into the box, but it pleasantly shocked my taste buds. I started drooling at first sight - I'm a sucker for gluten free baked goods that look fluffy and moist enough to be gluten-bombs

Looks didn't disappoint (except for the gluten free part). The muffins boast a middle-of-the-road density, not fluffy but not a hockey puck either. They are also less sweet than most GF muffins on the market (like Udi's, for example). While this may make them taste a little bland alone, I think they'd be perfectly complimented by a few swipes of butter, Greek yogurt or ice cream on top! 

Mom approves!
The best part, though, was definitely the surprising flavor combinations! I've never tried cranberry in a muffin before, and adored the bursts of chewy tartness that filled every bite! And the addition of pumpkin seeds? I'm totally stealing this trick! They elevated an ordinary muffin into a crunchy delight!

Overall, I give Canyon Bakehouse's bread and muffins a delicious 8/10 and would love to try any new flavors they concoct in the future! I'm not the only one doing the taste testing this time, though! In my first official blog giveaway, one reader will receive the same sample box to enjoy! 

The giveaway is only running until next Friday, though, so get involved quick! Good luck everybody and I will release the winner's name after I get out of class on September 5th! Happy early Birthday (I'm turning 19 on Sept 6) to me!


a Rafflecopter giveaway




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Elimination Diet, Part 2: My Fave Recipes

Three weeks without eggs, dairy, soy, nightshades, nuts, corn and, obviously, gluten. Three weeks with my taste buds, normally pretty low key fellas, irately demanding every ingredient I couldn't eat. Three weeks of dietary boredom chipping away at my sanity.

And, finally, three weeks have past!

That means I can try out my Canyon Bakehouse samples!
Review and give away coming soon!

Now that I've earned the right of reintroduction (its own kind of adventure!), I want to do more than celebrate. I want to share my top elimination-diet-friendly recipes for everyone suffering from allergies, struggling through the same diet or looking for a simpler way of eating, to enjoy. An elimination diet is no small feat, but a few delicious recipes can make it just a little easier!

First comes breakfast. Now, I've always been a pancake girl. I've tried buckwheat before and the pancakes looked beautiful, but tasted too savory for my sweet tooth to take. So in struts the coconut flour pancakes, vegan-ized in a recipe from Casey's Wholesome Kitchen! 

My fave topping? Coconut Greek yogurt! YUM!
They aren't the easiest buggers to cook (though it could be my lack of flipping skills that make them so finicky!), but my stomach never complained! I used ground chia seeds instead of flax and subbed half a mashed banana for the recipe's solid sweeteners. My plate never ends up anything less than licked clean!

If you're more of a bread for breakfast kind of dude or dudette, check out Maxine at Gloriously Delicious. A week into my diet, I had three brown bananas slowly dying on the kitchen counter and was craving banana bread with the intensity of a hungry mama-to-be. So when I spotted this gem of a recipe (which, unlike 99% of coconut flour recipes, ditched the eggs), I went to work

I devoured it before taking a picture
 - so Maxine's gorgeous one will have to do!
I admit, when I popped my gooey, slightly lumpy dough into the oven, I wasn't overly optimistic. An hour later, though, and I couldn't believe my taste buds! Soft, moist and bursting with sweet banana flavor, my small loaf disappeared within two weeks. Surprisingly, my dad, a proud gluten-lover, was one of its biggest fans!

For me, though, the hardest meals to cook were lunch and dinner. Not only did it get repetitious, but I tried to eat the same as my family whenever possible. 

So, when my family demanded a pizza night, I knew I had to find some kind of substitute. I never imagined I'd stumble upon my favorite homemade pizza recipe so far! 

Close up of major YUM!

In the past, mom and I have tried a whole bunch of mixes. Bob's Red Mill. Pamela's. Even frozen pizza by Smart Flour. And while they tasted fine, with Pamela being our favorite blend, our stomachs still staged a slight revolt. Not with this recipe! No yeast, no eggs, no soy, no dairy, no problem! I can mix up the dough in a couple of minutes and the full recipe is enough to make two large pizzas. And by large, I mean that I finish off my one pizza after three servings. Score!

The crust was only the first step, though. My elimination diet also zilches dairy-filled cheese, tomatoes, and nut-filled pesto, so I dug into my purse for Daiya cheese and into my archived recipe bookmarks for Blissful Basil's "Superseed Pesto." The cheese, as most daiya products, tasted delicious to my dairy-deprived taste buds. The pesto, though, stole the show.

Pesto turkey burger!
Made with hemp and pumpkin seeds, along with the traditional pesto ingredients, it has the same spreadable texture as nut-based pestos. I added avocado to mine for extra creaminess and it turned out delicious! Tangy, thick and quickly whipped up in my Nutribullet! I don't think I'll ever go back to tomato sauce on pizza night, and any leftover pesto disappears quickly on my salmon, chicken, turkey burgers and salads!

The recipe that surprised me the most, though, was our pulled pork. I'm not a pork person. It's not that I don't like it - it's more that I've never learned what to do with it. Sick of my usual dinners, though, I grabbed some pork butt at the store and lugged out the crock pot. Although I couldn't use BBQ sauce on the elimination diet, I turned to Melissa's Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe.

The best sandwich ever!
One piggie massage (to spice it, of course) and four hours in the crock pot and a delicious smell invaded the kitchen! The pork nearly shredded itself and the spices tasted perfect, with BBQ sauce (which my family individually added) or without. As for me, I parked in Foodie Heaven by making a roasted sweet potato round sandwich filled with pulled pork, spinach and pesto. Hands down, the best dinner of my week!

No list of favorite recipes would be complete with dessert! As I've mentioned, coconut flour is a bucking bronco without any eggs to tame it. To placate my chocolate chip cookie craving, buckwheat flour came to the rescue! I actually tried three different recipes, but Megan's recipe is the standout!

All the cookies!!
Despite the name, buckwheat doesn't actually contain any wheat. With banana and dairy free chocolate chips, the cookies tasted sweet without being overwhelming. And once warmed up in the microwave for ten seconds? Gooey, chewy, chocolately goodness! I ended up multiplying the single-serving recipe by four because who only wants two cookies? Not this celiac!

This diet hasn't been easy, but I have no regrets. Early into the first few days, forbidden foods dominated my dreams. Ironically enough, now that I can slowly re-sink my teeth into potatoes, beans and corn, the craving has lessened. I still have a long reintroduction period to go, but I'm already sure of one thing: simplicity truly is best and these recipes prove it! The fact is, now that I've found them, these recipes can't escape my kitchen or belly! I hope they'll be welcome in yours too!



Have you ever explored gluten free vegan recipes? What are some of your favorite recipes? Comment below!



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Celiac School Tips with Smart Flour Foods

This post is sponsored by Smart Flour Foods

College textbooks are arriving in the mail, my roommate is texting about dorm colors and teachers' emails are filling my inbox. As hard as it is to believe, this celiac has less than two weeks before its time to head back to college and attack sophomore year! As excited as I am, though, my endless to-do list of reins over my thoughts at night. So when Smart Flour Foods contacted me about writing a post on what to do before stepping into homeroom, I couldn't say no!

How could I say no to the maker of this?
Smart Flour Foods focuses on providing nutritional, delicious gluten free products from pizzas to hamburger buns. All the food uses a particular "Smart Flour" blend, a mix of ancient grains, to skyrocket the amount of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in every bite.

Preparing for school is a lot like finding the ideal flour blend: it takes lots of mistakes and practice to finally get it right. Here are three tips from Smart Flour Foods and me that'll take the stress out of school planning.

First off, take advantage of 21st century technology and communicate with your school officials. In terms of the lower schools (high school and earlier), Smart Flour Foods suggests contacting the teachers in charge of snack time, the school nurse and other relevant members of staff.

Talk it out!
In my experience, at the college level, the two most important people to get in contact with are those in charge of the Disability Resource Center and the staff involved in the dining facilities (including the manager and chefs). The Disability Resource Center is important because, depending on the set up of the school, a student can document his or her celiac disease/food allergy and therefore be eligible for accommodations. In my case, I have medical files about my celiac diagnosis that justifies special cafeteria accommodations, emails to my teachers about long-term celiac related absences, and more.

As for the cafeteria staff, try to learn the most possible about their procedures and allergy protocol before day one. There is nothing more stressful on the first day of school than walking blind into the cafeteria, starving but unsure what is safe to eat. In my case, my cafeteria has a new manager this upcoming school year who is apparently going to try to prevent cross contamination of the gluten free stations. My email requesting further details hasn't been answered yet, but I still have introduced myself and my dietary needs before school actually starts. Mission (at least partly) completed!

Make friends with the chef!
Second, step onto campus fully loaded - with food, of course! When I first left for college last year, food only took up one of my bags. That was a mistake my growling and jealous stomach wouldn't let me forget! This year, I'm bringing an entire arsenal of food ranging from homemade granola to power up my breakfast to protein bars for between classes! 

Equally as important as snacks, though, are actual meal substitutes. No matter how awesomely understanding the cafeteria staff may be, mistakes will happen. A few times I walked out of the cafeteria still hungry after my meal order got lost. For those kind of cases, bulk up on items like soup (I love Gluten Free Cafe's Chicken Noodle), cereal, and frozen meals (I can personally vouch for the delicious taste and texture of Smart Flour Food's frozen pizza). 

Mom and I approved the pizza!
And, if Lady Luck has provided a kitchen, take advantage of it! I have a dorm kitchen for the first time this year so I'm also packing a few basic cooking utensils, flour mixes (midnight pancakes, anyone?) and grains (like quinoa and buckwheat) so I can whip up my own dinner when the mood strikes (or the cafeteria fails). 

Lastly, though, try not to over-stress about planning for everything. Anyone who knows how Type-A I can act is laughing right now, but this is a tip I'm actively trying to follow myself. There will be forgotten necessities (can someone remind me to add baking powder to my shopping list?) and unexpected events. I knew I was surprised when my Psychology group wanted to have a pancake breakfast and I didn't have a gluten free mix on hand! The fact is, though, being unprepared every so often didn't taint my whole freshman year experience. It only gave me more insight on how to make next time - this sophomore year - even better!

Topping this? Challenge accepted!
One of Smart Flour Foods's suggestions is to make the experience of planning and making food a fun activity. I couldn't agree more! As I start my "To-Bring-Food" list, I'm thinking of all the fun I'm going to have cooking with my roommate and fueling my college adventures, not what ingredient I could be missing. That's what grocery stores are for! 

In past years, the end of summer had always been a period of mourning. This year, my last two weeks filled with planning and preparation, is different. It's celebratory and my bags of stuff and snacks are a sign of the adventures to come. With the three tips Smart Flour Foods and I have shared above, I hope preparing can be the same for you! 



What's the food you can't go to class without? Have you ever tried a product by Smart Flour Foods? Comment below!  

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Story of the Elimination Diet, Part 1

If I'd been asked how to define an "elimination diet" a few months ago, my best guess would have had something to do with an assassination plot to "eliminate all threats." That's just how my brain rolls. Now that two weeks have passed since I started my diet adventure, though, a new definition is forming: Hard. Restrictive. (Hopefully) healing.

If you've been following my recent posts, you've heard about my continued struggle to gain weight, the random rash popping up on my face despite three rounds of Prednisone, and how my stomach still likes to throw fits. After trudging out of the offices for the allergist and dermatologist empty handed, I knew I had to do something to win back the reins to my health. Cue the elimination diet, started the day after I flew back from my Houston vacation.

My last hurrah the day before I flew out!
There are many different kinds of elimination diets, but I am following the typical comprehensive elimination diet suggested for those trying to discover food intolerances. Websites vary on the exact details of what to eat and what to lock in the house safe, but the basic outline is this: no gluten (wow, that was a challenge!), dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, fast food, legumes, certain spices, etc. Because I didn't want to lose any weight, I kept some of the ingredients that some avoid, like a few pieces of soy-free chocolate, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and limited sweeteners.

The diet is followed for at least three weeks, the time it takes for inflammation in the body from food intolerances to subside. After three weeks, the reintroduction starts. One restricted food twice a day for two days - any side effects, it stays restricted. If the tummy's happy, it can stay.

I thought the three weeks would fly by. "I'm already gluten and (mostly) dairy free," I thought. "I survived freshman year of college! Bring it on!"

I figured I'd climbed bigger mountains...
It brought it. And, honestly, it kinda stinks at times. To anyone with numerous extreme food allergies - now I know a fraction of your pain and all I can say is that I'm sorry. I miss my baked goods, fluffy yet solid with the aid of eggs. I miss Red Robin and Chipotle, who disappeared from my diet right after entering. And I - a lover of repetition and no-think cooking - even miss the small amount of variety I used to enjoy. I knew I was limited when I started worrying about how bored my Instagram followers must be feeling!

But you know what? Even though I still have a week to go, I've already learned so much. I've explored a corner of gluten free cooking previously ignored: the masterpieces that can be formed through vegan and gluten free cooking. In many ways, I want to shake celiac's hand for triggering my passion for cooking. As my ingredient list shrunk, that passion has only grown. I'm one step closer to finding the balance between enjoying a meal's simplicty yet experimenting without fear.

I learned that ground chia seeds make an awesome egg substitute in coconut flour pancakes.

One goooooood breakfast!
After my "baking soda biscuits" - free of every traditional binder and fluffer - actually rose, I nearly searched my oven for fairy dust!

Heaven!
And, as I write this, my kitchen smells like Christmas cookies thanks to the three trays of chocolate chip and trailmix beauties I baked this morning.

Not too shabby!
I'm hopeful that this diet will unlock the key to a happy body by ferriting out the foods that are fighting with my stomach. I'm hopeful that, new information in hand, I'll be that much more ready to tackle my sophomore year as a college celiac!

Even if it doesn't give me all that I want, though, I'm counting it as a win. Now, I know even more how to empathize with those suffering from food allergies. Now, I understand how vegans survive without eggs and dairy. And, now I know that throwing ingredients into a bowl and praying for culinary magic (sometimes) actually pans out (I had to throw at least one cooking pun in there!).

My "kitchen sink" rice and pesto patties!
There are a lot of different definitions for an elimination diet. Negatives, postives, and a bunch more in between. My recent favorite? Training for my sophmore year of college. If I can stay dedicated, determined and confident with food on the brain, doing it with books will be a breeze!



Have you ever done an elimination diet? How inventive are you in the kitchen? Comment below!











Thursday, August 14, 2014

Celebrating Change, 100 Posts and Sophomore Celiac

Change. If this past year of mine - and my blog itself - boasts a theme, that's it. I've transformed from a gluten-eating, Papa-John-lovin' teenager to a dedicated celiac. Homemade banana bread, pizza, pesto and more has joined my previously bare cooking repertoire. I've even left home for the first time, surviving my freshman year at college

My first gluten free apple pie!
As I stared at my blog stats this morning, all I could think of when I saw the "105th post" marker was how I've changed since my fingers pressed "publish" for the first time over a year ago. I've never been the kind of writer to stay dedicated to one media - and the handful of unfinished journals stashed around my room prove it. When I started "Casey the College Celiac," I had no idea I'd hit over 37,000 views, share my thoughts over 100 times and make dozens of digital friends. Surprise! 

The bigger surprise? How much this blog has changed me. I've become an obnoxiously loud advocate for celiac disease, opening up my medical file for the entire Internet to explore. I treat my computer like a best friend, whispering insecurities - physical, dietary and everything in between - through my Arial front. Encouragement from strangers all over the globe has strengthened me more than the gluten free diet itself. 

Friendly support helped too!
Strangely enough, when I look back at my early posts (with the same bashful shame that a high schooler feels when reviewing their middle school yearbook), I can see sparks of my recent work. Worries about body image. Reviews of my favorite gluten free foods. And, of course, fretting over my upcoming freshman year of college. 

This year, college will be delightfully different. I have a roommate who already knows that celiac and I are a package deal. I have a car (in my school, freshmen and wheels are prohibited to cohabitate) to take me to some nearby gluten free grub. I even have a kitchen in my dorm this year! Midnight cookies are definitely on the top of my to-do list this semester.

My magnificent kitchen!
Sure, arranging gluten free accommodations with the PLNU cafeteria still triggers nightmares, and I'll still be pizza-less during club meetings. Yet, unlike last year, I'm healthy. I'm underweight, but my celiac is in remission, my spirits are up and my mind is refreshed. Not to mention that, thanks to last year, I like to think I dance the celiac-college jig pretty well. Come at me, sophomore year! 

I don't have long to wait. In less than three weeks, school will change my reading material from blogs to textbooks. Despite the hints of fear in the edge of my mind, though, I'm smiling as I pack my things. By the end of this year, I hope to be transformed again. Stronger. Smarter. Happier

Let's see where the road takes me now!
As for the blog, 100 posts is only the first celebratory number. (One thousand, I'm talking 'bout you!). Starting this sophomore year, I'm going to share more. Not only my struggles, but my successes. This baby is also going to celebrate more than just celiac - it's going to celebrate sophomore year, teenage adventures and culinary experimentation. 

When I started my blog and freshman year of college, I was equally clueless about the transformation I would experience. Now, I know change is coming. And I'm counting down the minutes.



What are you celebrating right now? What was your favorite year of school? Comment below!




Monday, August 11, 2014

Finding College Celiac Support

College - especially freshman year - isn't easy for anyone, but as I've shared through this blog, mine boasted its share of challenges. Homesickness. Freshman orientation. And, of course, lots of celiac complications

As the clock ticks down on my summer vacation, however, only one thought is filling my mind: Soon, I'll be back at Point Loma, adventuring with all the amazing gals and guys I met last year!

My hall of girls!
The fact is, I wouldn't have survived without my personal campus cheerleaders. The girls in my dorm. The teachers whose lessons surpassed the classroom. Not to mention the chefs that kept my belly (and my spirits) full. 

Thanks to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, I have the valuable opportunity to share my story about the support that I found as a college celiac and the resources that every student with special diets should reach out to. 

'Cause even though I can remember awkwardly standing away from the buffet table during Freshman Orientation, flashes of midnight dares (like wearing 50 T-shirts at once - I did it!), teachers' encouragement  and unfiltered laughter pops into my brain more often. And, as my summer trickles to an end, these people are the reason I'm beyond excited for school to start. 

This view doesn't hurt either...
To hear about the support I found in detail, click here for my full article. Also, while you're there, don't forget to explore the NFCA's amazing website packed full of information, resources and stories



What support have you found? Has anyone ever changed your perspective on celiac/dietary restrictions? Comment below!