Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Buckwheat Groats: Tips and Tricks

In this humble college girl's opinion, gluten is one of the skilled ninjas in the culinary world. Wheat can hide in soy sauce, soups, seasonings and even in grains. Yet, the seed with the offender in its very name - buckwheat - is actually gluten free. No wonder a celiac diagnosis triggers one doozy of a dietary transition!

The typical gluten free experience...
I first learned of buckwheat from my college cafeteria (during freshman year when I was still on the meal plan). They often added some buckwheat - which boasts a nutty flavor and a slightly chewy, crunchy texture once cooked - to my salads and I fell in love right away. 

Besides its flavor, buckwheat is also known for being a nutrition rock star. Buckwheat's relatively high amount of protein causes buckwheat to keep cholesterol and blood sugar levels low. It is also provides a good dose of magneisum and copper, as well as fiber-like benefits. (Aka, some happy belly food). 

Hiding in the green bag!
My favorite part about buckwheat, though? It's versatility! To prove it, here are a few ideas on how you could sneak (and celebrate) some buckwheat into every meal of the day! 

First off, breakfast. Anyone who has even peaked at my Instagram knows the best of days start off with a smoothie bowl covered in toppings. The most important of which is, obviously, lots of homemade granola. When I discovered I couldn't tolerate oats of any kind (gluten free certified included), I knew I needed a tasty and filling replacement for a granola base. Buckwheat groats to the rescue

Can you see why this is a favorite?
After baking in the oven, buckwheat becomes delightfully light and crunchy. AKA, the perfect counterpart to granola's usual gooey chocolate chips and chewy dried fruit. Considering the protein already found in nuts/seeds, buckwheat also helps transform granola from a simple snack into a protein powerhouse. 

When brunch or lunch comes along, buckwheat often shows up again. This time, in the form of fluffy, thick berry pancakes! After tinkering around with several pancake recipes, mixing coconut and buckwheat flour turned out to be the magic equation. The first is sweet and moist; the latter, nutty and more dry. Together? A dense, naturally sweet pancake high in fiber and protein. Plus just a little bit of heavenly flavor, I might add. 

I <3 Pancakes!
Although buckwheat flour can be purchased, I prefer to grind the groats myself in a blender (I've used my Nutribullet and Vitamix successfully) or a coffee grinder. A fresher flour mix + one less charge to my credit card or bag of flour in the cupboard = one happy celiac!

For dinner, I rarely eat buckwheat cooked on the stove top. But the seeds still land on my plate at least once a week in the form of a pizza crust! 

My version of pizza heaven!
Combined with tapioca flour and a few other simple ingredients, my favorite pizza crust recipe is easy, allergen friendly and while it doesn't taste like gluten-filled Papa John's, it does taste delicious. Especially when loaded with a coconut milk white sauce or seed-stuffed pesto, and lots of veggies

At times, gluten can seem too tricky to fully beat. Don't eat that, don't let yours touch that and certainly don't kiss a person who just ate that! In the case of buckwheat, though, the surprise involves more food instead of less. 

And I don't know about you, but that's this college celiac's kind of (edible) surprise party!  

Have you ever tried buckwheat? What's your favorite way to eat it? Comment below! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Party Gluten Free with Foster Farms: Family Edition

Parties. Some people go for the food, others for the company, and a handful never go at all. When most party food is strictly off limits due to gluten ingredients or cross contamination, parties can be a unique challenge for celiacs.

So when Foster Farms suggested throwing a gluten free party for my friends and family, this college celiac couldn't resist an early birthday celebration. And, by breaking up my party into two small get-togethers (one for family at home and the other for friends at college), I get the best of both worlds and you get the best tips for both circumstances.

Foster Farms, AKA the reason I had 96 corn dogs
in my dorm last year!
Family is all about compromise (at least any of the families I've been a part of!), and throwing a gluten free party is no different. To ensure maximum (taste bud) happiness for everyone, find foods that are gluten free but loved even by the gluten-eaters. In the case of my family party with Foster Farms, this means having many of their gluten free options on hand - including their new corn dogs, chicken tenders, and chicken nuggets.

Personally, my family's favorite of the three are the chicken tenders. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and quickly defrosted in the microwave or oven. For a fun idea, provide party guests with dish components and let them build their own unique plate.

Some of my favorite meals!
Whether it be throwing a corn dog on a salad with loads of roasted veggies (like moi) versus eating it straight with ketchup and tater tots (my Dad), or stacking salmon between sweet potato rounds (me all the way!) for sliders instead of serving it straight with veggies (the rest of the family), everyone will appreciate getting to fine tune their meal.

In the same thread of thought, try to keep an open mind when it comes to the menu. A celiac diagnosis may rid the household of gluten, but it doesn't have to be the death to old favorite party dishes or activities.

The birthday cake duo!
For as long as I can remember, it's been a birthday tradition to bake the cake with my dad. (Yep, birthdays mean the Marine gets to rock an apron!) Some years this was impossible, like when he was deployed or I was away at my freshman year of college. But going gluten free never stopped us - that's what gluten free cake mixes and recipes are for!

Love to make homemade pizzas before you cut the cake? Try some of my favorite pre-made crusts and crust recipes - all the flavor, none of the gluten! Or, if you're craving cheesecake but can't tolerate dairy or gluten, follow our lead and pick up Daiya's new GF and dairy free Cheesecakes! We let our two chosen flavors (Key lime and New York) thaw just enough to cut them into 9 equal pieces before popping them back in the freezer. Perfect pre-portioned treats for any time, especially a party!

A prettier picture from an Expo!
While experimenting with new products or recipes is great, though, if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it. The hardest part about going gluten free is learning the (edible) ropes and finding the best products. I can't even say how many types of different baking mixes we bought the week after my diagnosis! Now that I've been rocking some celiac swag for two years, I have some clear favorites. And those are the perfect candidates to blow party guests away! 

My family absolutely loves Pamela's Chocolate Cake mix with their corresponding chocolate frosting package. Deep chocolate flavor, moist texture and easy to mix, pour and bake! In fact, we haven't had any other birthday cake (even during the gluten-eater's birthdays) since I was diagnosed. 

A few cake flashbacks!
For my family's party, I also turned to Coconut Bliss Ice Cream (dairy, gluten, and soy free heaven!), King Arthur's chocolate chip cookie mix, and plenty of naturally gluten free goodies like steamed green beans, mashed potatoes, and grilled chicken. 

My final tip for a family fiesta? If you have the chance to throw an entirely gluten free party, be a caring yet stern host. I'm lucky enough that my immediate family completely understands my need for a strict gluten free diet and is willing to accommodate my diet. I know that not all celiacs have the same privilege, which could make a gluten free party harder. 

A Gluten Free your own home!
In that case, if the opportunity arises, use a 100% GF menu to show how delicious and fun a celiac's diet can be! Prevent accidental cross contamination by asking guests to not bring any food of their own, unless it is prepackaged and certified gluten free. That way everyone can have just as fun, carefree and delicious time with family as I did!

I was never a party person before my diagnosis, and celiac only complicated the celebration scene. As this summer has taught me, though, all it takes is some beloved family members, lots of tasty gluten free food (Foster Farms, Pamela's Mixes, and Daiya, I'm talking to you!), to make a party free of gluten but packed with fun

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

What's your Number 1 gluten free party food or family favorite? Have you tried any of Foster Farms products? Comment below!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Learning to Trust

Typically when practicing yoga, the instructor tells students to adopt a mantra for the session. In other words, a goal or mental focus. While I was sweating it out during a 5:30 Monday night class, one word popped into mind: trust.

A strange choice, I won't argue that. But the longer I kept that phrase in my mind, the more it made sense. Particularly in the light of celiac disease.

A yoga triggered reflection...
When I was sick from undiagnosed celiac, how much trust did I lose after my body stopped accepting nutrients? When food hurt instead of nurtured, and the "healthy" American diet of whole wheat bread and gluten contaminated foods caused me to waste away?

And how much trust must I still give to others? Allowing doctors to poke and prod and test before correctly diagnosing me with celiac disease. Accepting restaurant chefs' promises to prevent cross contamination when cooking my order. Believing that my family will keep their glutened bread knives out of my peanut butter jar.

I had to trust the hospital staff too!
Lately, I've been craving a different kind of trust in my life. An internal version that will last longer than a dinner out or a few minutes balancing in Tree Pose.

I want to trust my body's natural diet and shape. Sometimes all I want is a smashed baked potato with lots of veggies and homemade vegan cheese sauce. Other times, I'm digging into salmon and zoodles or a big burger with a side of fries. This summer, I've been all about the smoothies - a huge one for breakfast and a smaller for a night snack. Maybe this winter I'll fall in love again with my oatless oatmeal. Or maybe not. My cravings don't have to follow seasonal rules. And neither does my body.

I love food...even though that surprises some people!
Because this body has rocked more shapes than a melting ice cream tower. Curvy. Athletic. Stick skinny. And everything in between. Yes, I know I need to gain some more. But I also know that double thinking everything I eat - Is it enough? Is this the right amount of protein? Should I force more food down even when I'm not hungry? - makes me more of a Stressed Stacie than Marilyn Monroe.

I want to trust my own capability to balance school, work, friends and food. I have only a week left before junior year officially begins, and I'll be honest - I'm not a fan of the calm before the storm. It's anxious and boring and full of too-much-to-do-too-soon-to-do-it. Like usual, I'll have a heavy plate (yes, I do enjoy food puns wherever I can fit them) on my hands. Classes. Work. An internship. And a hopeful social life. Add the celiac needs for cooking and the Casey needs for some stress-relieving exercise, and my weeks will be full.

A little mental juggling required...
Some nights, I wonder if I'll be able to handle it all. But then I remember all of the challenges I've already kicked butt at. Like building a relatively successful blog. Making the scary choice to drop my school's meal plan. And even meeting a special boy amidst the college celiac craziness. It'll be hard, but life usually is. I'm strong. I'm smart. Plus, a little bit sassy. A trio that betters "sugar and spice" in my book any day.

I want to trust a need to move or to rest with Netflix all day. I love exercise. I'll say that right away. It de-stresses and re-focuses me, and I'm usually up for trying any new form. (Spin class, a 5K Mud Run, yoga, and many cliff side walks have all landed on my calendar). Today, though, the amount of exercise advice can feel overwhelming and over thinking it is easy.

One of my favorite fitness throwbacks!
My goal is to not exercise perfectly - it's to listen better. I do this every time I ask my body what it feels like doing to move, whether it's a stationary bike session, HIT workout, or time with the Nike Fitness App. And on days when I'm not feeling it or am just craving a relaxing yoga flow, that's OK too. Hello Netflix marathon! 

Mostly, I want to trust that these next months of school, my approaching twentieth birthday and all of the adventures to come will be crazy, but leave me with a smile on my face. 

And more memories - the good, the mediocre and the hiding-under-the-covers bad - than I can count. (Or blog about.) 

A few of my favorite sophomore memories!
Yoga instructors also usually warn that many emotions can emerge during practice. Accomplishment. (For my dad, joy at surviving an advanced routine!) Maybe even tears. Or, in my case, reflection

For most people, especially those with celiac, trust can be hard to come by. And even harder to hold onto. My mantra for the next week, though, is to simply do it. Trust in myself. In the future. And in the sheer possibility of trust itself. 

Hanging on Potato Chip Rock!

Because without the trust that you can survive a fall, why try to rise and balance at all? 

What reflections have you experienced from yoga, exercise or meditation? Do you relate to the complex tie between celiac and trust? Comment below! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Creamy Radish Greens Sauce

Every once in a while, as a foodie, I like to throw something in my shopping cart I have no idea what to do with. Beets. Parsnips. And, a few weeks ago, radishes. The radishes themselves I figured out how to roast pretty simply. And the greens? Well, that's where my blender came in.

My new best friends?
And, after a few minutes of blending and only four other ingredients, a finger-lickin' sauce came out. This baby is creamy. Tangy. And, with a bright green color, perfect for some Instagram action. Plus, this recipe serves as an excellent base for all sorts of kitchen creativity, as well as being free of gluten, dairy, and most other allergies.

To start, gather up your arsenal (aka a few simple ingredients and a blender - I've used both my parent's Nutribullet and my Vitamix successfully).


1 bunch of radish greens (could substitute spinach, kale, or any other greens on hand)
3 TBSP coconut milk (or other dairy/dairy free alternative)
1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP water
Hearty dose of spices of choice (I went with oregano and fresh thyme)

All the puns (as usual)
Now, this recipe is made for those challenged in the kitchen because all it takes is throwing it into a blender and watching it go from rough leafs to a thick dressing ready for the tasting! As mentioned above, this dressing can also be used as inspiration for further tweaking. Want something even creamier? Add avocado. Thicker? Try out some ground chia seeds. I've even thrown in some diced zucchini for some more hidden veggie action. Really, the options are endless!

The same can be said about how to use the sauce. I tend to use it as a makeshift dip, dunking my butterflied broiled potatoes, roasted veggies or quesadillas. It also holds its own on a pizza crust or a salad dressing.

Just a few of my favorite ways to eat saucy!
My favorite use? Adding the sauce to sauteed veggies, either to be served with a potato and meat for dinner, added to a stir fry or stuffed in a zucchini. It's my secret weapon to adding a kick of extra flavor to veggie-packed dinners. Not to mention nutrients, thanks to the radish greens' Vitamin C, calcium, and protein from the radish greens, coconut milk's healthy fats, and apple cider vinegar's digestive benefits.

As a gluten free college celiac (aka a chick with food and budget limitations), trying out new foods can be a difficult goal. When I get the chance to toss something new in my menu, though, I can't resist - especially when it turns into a saucy success.

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

Do you try to experiment with new recipe ingredients often? What's your favorite dipping sauce? Comment below!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Branching Out, Yoga Tree Style

It's one of the first poses I ever tried, my leg shaking and my eyes glued to the Wii's digital Yoga instructor. And it's also one of my favorites. The tree pose, where your arms mimics the "branches" and legs the "trunk" of a tree.

Today, my pose looks shakier than usual. My foot, soaked in sweat, threatens to slide off my leg while I keep my eyes on my reflection in the mirror. One girl in Spandex, smaller than most of the other 20 odd yogis in the studio. The newbie literally branching out into the adventure of hot yoga classes. 

Me, after my first hot yoga class!
My introduction to yoga ironically coincided with my entry into the world of celiac disease. I was too skinny to keep up my high intensity exercise routine, so I looked for a new way to build up muscles and burn off some energy. Hello to many confused, inflexible sessions on a towel in my living room and, later, in my dorm room at college. And hello to transforming from the shortie who couldn't touch her toes to a homegrown yogi, taking the free weekly class led at my college by a fellow student.

When I stepped into my first professionally-taught yoga class two weeks ago, though, I felt just as nervous as my dad, who was trying yoga for the first time. But by the time we rolled up our mats, still damp from practice, we both couldn't wait to come back. So four days later, I did. Alone. Mentally reciting the hot yoga tips I'd read online as I stepped into a room packed with students, humidity and a 100 degree temperature. 

Sneaking a few pics after arriving early!
And sweat, I did. But even as I slipped and lost my rhythm and wondered how much longer I had left, I smiled. Because, the more my muscles tightened and lunged and shook, the more I remembered why I love yoga in the first place. 

For the ability to feel strong no matter one's size, age, or experience. Old men without shirts, high school girls, mothers, and young women...they were all in the same class together. All flowing to the rhythm of the music and our instructor's voice.

For the chance to slow down and just breathe. Instead of flying through squats, sprints or crunches, I could focus on the tension and release of my muscles as I held crow a little longer than before. 

Crow, as modeled by Dad!
For the reminder that I have control over my body and that every body is different. We each shake to unique degrees in planks. We each are responsible for listening to our own body, and giving it the individual rest and water breaks it needs. 

And, perhaps most importantly, for the proof that I can grow. In my physical flexibility. In the degree I can quiet my mind and focus only on my breathing. And in how good it feels to hold hands to heart and say, "Namaste" at the end of practice. 

My favorite part of the tree pose is that people grow their "branches" in entirely unique ways. Some keep arms at their sides. Some bend their elbows and twist their wrists to explore what shapes appear in their reflections. And others, like me, keep reaching for the sky. 

My favorite pose!
People's journey with yoga, like the tree pose, is equally individual. Some want stretching and solitude. Others, to sweat and twist out their worries. Me? I want to keep on growing by practicing more, embracing the new and bending deeper into each pose. 

One breath at a time. 

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

How do you want to grow through your physical activity or meditation? Have you ever tried yoga? Comment below!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Embracing the "Bad" with Bad Poetry Day

Fingers dance across a computer keyboard:

"This won't end up in a book
But I'm off the hook
Cause unless I'm mistook 
The calendar does say
The 18th is National Bad Poetry Day."

A day dedicated to masterpieces like this one!
My fingers, a day before many others will scribble a similarly bad poetic masterpiece. As a writing major, I can understand the merit of such a holiday. It celebrates poets of all skill levels and promotes the simple act of writing versus composing written genius. 

As a teenage girl, a college student, and a celiac, though, I appreciate it even more as a reminder that there is a time and a place for the "bad."

It's okay to have days of bad body image. Though everyone faces messages from media about physical perfection, teenage girls seem to be the prime target. Of magazines like Cosmo, Elle, and Teen Vogue. Of TV shows that cast older, elegant actresses in high school roles. And of the criticism we throw at our own mirrors. 

What I see in the mirror...
Many of my friends often can't believe I have days I struggle with my body. To them, I'm skinny so I must never worry about my weight. To me, I get bloated, I get too thin from stress or illnesses, and I can nitpick my features with the same veracity as anyone else. 

I want to love my body unconditionally. And a majority of days, I do. But bad days happen

It's okay if, as I prepare for a crazy semester packed with jobs, an internship, and a heavy course load, I don't maintain the "perfect" GPA. If I hand in an essay that I would want a couple more days to edit. If I'm not the star student. If, heaven forbid, I do badly on an assignment or in a class. 

My dragon? Academic perfection!
I never want to take college - heck, receiving any level of education as a female - for granted. But gratefulness doesn't only appear through straight A's. It can peak out from that C+ project borne out of long nights at the library, the accidentally-nameless essay written on too little sleep, or a donut run with friends during a stressful week. 

And it's okay if I break down once in a while because I want a freaking piece of regular bread with my burger or a normal "happy" tummy. The goal of my blog is to be positive and show that a celiac disease diagnosis isn't the end of the world. But some days, it sure does feel like that. 

Green with (gluten) envy!
Especially when I compare myself to teenagers that constantly eat junk, don't exercise or take vitamins, and yet have a body that works correctly 100% of the time. Or people that don't have to worry about food - the ingredients, the prep time needed to cook it or possible cross contamination at restaurants - every time they want to eat

I'm happy to say that I have mainly good days, but the bad ones don't make you a bad teenager, student or celiac. Instead, like my silly poem for National Bad Poetry Day, that day is merely a rough draft for what could emerge later. A release of all the emotional rhymes that are raw, unplanned and unedited. 

So many laughs and smiles along the way!
So, while I don't celebrate the bad days, I don't tear out those pages from my life's journal either. Because, like a bad poem, bad days are there for you to learn from and laugh over in the future. 

More typing: 

"Lickety split,
That's it!

Have you ever participated in National Bad Poetry Day? How do you approach "bad" days or efforts? Comment below! 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Foodie Favorites, Recipe Edition

Summer for this gluten free college celiac means lots of relaxation, exercise and time in the kitchen. Combine all three hobbies and new, intriguing recipes from the net end up sprawled up on my table.

The favorite ones? Those are the finds I'm sharing with you today! Pizza, pie, cookies, oh my!

The excited eyes right there!
First off, an old love that will jump into a weekly rotation once college kicks off: homemade buckwheat pizza, packed with flavor but free of gluten, dairy, egg, and yeast. I usually half or quarter the recipe (which will give me either four or two meals) and use baking powder instead of soda. Toss on some fresh thyme (from my presently alive summer garden!), oregano, and paprika and throw this baby in the oven.

As for toppings, I'm usually a whatever's-in-the-fridge kind of gal, but recently I've experimented with a few more exotic loves. Precooked sweet potato - or, for a two-for-one recipe, my sweet potato zucchini patties - taste delicious crumbled on top, while radish greens grow delightfully crunchy when sprinkled over the other toppings. Not to mention some coconut milk white sauce instead of the traditional tomato!

One of my favorite recipes for leftovers!
After going pizza crazy for a few weeks, I needed something with a crust besides my buckwheat buddy. So, for the first time, I decided to try my hand at a galette, or, so my dad can pronounce it, a savory pie. I combined two recipes, using this vegan crust and this chicken pot pie filling. Though I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I eventually ended up with a slab of dough stuffed with leftover grilled chicken, sauteed veggies, sweet potato and spinach all covered in a coconut milk cream sauce.

I'm proud to say that this masterpiece was the first "out there" creation that my parents actually ate and loved! My mom helped me finish off the half a pie that was left - nothing primes the taste buds like being deprived of gluten-filled pastries. Before I head back to college, we're planning on making the same crust but adding cinnamon and summer berries for the filling.

My first ever galette!

Need ideas on what sauces to top your pizza or pie with? Then Brandi's recipe for a vegan, fat free cheese sauce should land next on your to-do list. Though I didn't have all of the ingredients (nutritional yeast and liquid amines, I'm looking at you), this sauce still had me licking the sides of my blender.

I love using it as the base for my homemade veggie mac and cheese or in my stuffed (eight ball or boat) zucchinis. And, since it would be heresy to not with a cheese sauce, I did whip up some homemade nachos. Fun fact: thinly sliced and baked potato chips make perfect chip replacements for all my paleo peeps!

So much cheese, so many dining choices!
And since no summer would be complete without a homemade dessert, I've been munching down like crazy on these vegan coconut banana cookies. Made with coconut flour and dairy free milk, these are also paleo and allergy friendly. Since these babies only pack around 15 calories each, I like to toss in whatever goodies I have on hand - like cinnamon, pumpkin spice, cacao, chocolate chips, cacao nibs, banana chips, and berries. Nuts, seeds, and oats would also taste delicious!

I tend to bake mine for around 30 to 40 minutes, so that the ends get browned and crunchy. My mom compares them to muffins in texture and banana flavor. Besides eating them by the handful for snacks, I tend to use mine most as smoothie bowl or yogurt toppers. The options really are limitless - nearly as much as my appetite with these babies!

My kind of cookie and "ice cream!"
The hardest part about a celiac diagnosis is the sudden lack of choices. At first, it seems like gluten infects nearly every food - and, in fact, it can hide in some unexpected places. So whenever I have free time and loads of free kitchen space, checking out new recipes always wins over my attention (and taste buds).

Because the more gluten free choices, the merrier. And these five recipes have definitely resulted in a smile, and a happily full stomach, for this girl!

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Love!*

What are some of your new favorite recipes? Do you ever find yourself in a dietary rut? Comment below!