Friday, April 29, 2016

Cliff-side Considerations

With only one week of classes and three days of finals left before summer, I've been spending more time than ever dancing along cliffs. Literally and metaphorically. 

I've walked while the afternoon sun beat down on my hat and while only the moon and iPhone cameras lit the dirt path. I've chatted with friends as we watched the sunset and sassily mouthed along with music streaming from my headphones. I've been happy, sad, tired, renewed and everything in between. 

Casual sunset photo shoot...
And as another cliff looms closer - graduation in only one more semester - I've been hit by a few cliff-side considerations

First, it's nearly impossible to ever be truly alone. As older friends prepare to graduate and everyone bunkers down for finals week, loneliness has been a common visitor to my apartment. Last weekend was no exception: everyone was busy, but my feet begged for adventure. So, for the first time in months, I ventured down to Sunset Cliffs without company.

Sailboat in the distance...
Except, even as I walked by myself, company surrounded me. Norwegian tourists muttering (hopefully complimentary) comments about Point Loma's shore. Surfers climbing out of the sea, wetsuits plastered on like second skins. Even a sailboat enjoying the sunny afternoon. All breathing in the same sea air and feeling the same scorching sun as me. 

Along that walk, like my many others, I read the inscribed metal plaques on each cliff side bench. Some quote movies -  "Because...this is America!" - while others boast a dark, sarcastic humor. The first time my friend and I spotted the words "I'm going for it..." we felt vaguely horrified. Did someone really fall off the cliffs (as has even known to happen) with those final words

The fated bench...
Even after realizing snarky humor decorates nearly every bench, that one sign stuck in my mind. Because I wouldn't mind those last words. I wouldn't mind being able to incite laughs even after I'm gone. In fact, if I'm remembered for anything, I'd like it to be in loving, head-shaking, knee-slapping laughter

While I'm here, though, the cliffs gave me something new to remember: that I have better sense of direction than I take credit for. 

Afternoon adventure!
Usually I walk down and along the cliffs one way and then put my legs in reverse to get back to school. No turns to make, no mistaken routes to take. Last week, though, Natalie and I decided to take the suburban short cut back: up hill street (which is verrrrry aptly named - talk about a butt workout) and one right turn onto campus. Only I didn't know what turn exactly...but we got back just fine anyway. 

Maybe the cliffs of next semester and graduation are similar twists and turns. And maybe, just like our walk back to campus, they'll be full of up-hill climbs, doubtful turns and detours. All of which lead to the place I need to be. 

At least the cliffs come with a warning sign...
Right now, though, my future looks about as clear as the ocean on a windy evening. I don't know exactly how I'll keep myself busy during my light 12-unit final semester. I don't know what grad school I'll end up attending - or even what state I'll live in. 

But perhaps the best way to prepare for the future is by doing nothing but sitting on the cliffs with a friend, watching the sunset and listening to the waves. Talking about whatever pops in our minds. Staying too late so we stumble back to campus bathed in rays of indigo, pink and gold. 

Not planning, over-analyzing or fearing what hides beneath the waves. Just enjoying the water rise, crash and repeat. 

One of many sunset photos!
Because while the peeking into the unknown feels scary, it's also a promise of adventures to come. Of a summer spent searching for - and hopefully working at - an internship. Of helping my family move from California to Colorado. Of a last semester spent as an out-of-state student spending weekends exploring Point Loma for likely the last time. 

And for even more walks along the cliffs - and the thoughts that keep me company during them. 



Do you have any big life changes approaching? Do you reflect or learn from your walks? Comment below! 


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tips and Tricks: Zucchini

Four years ago, I could probably barely tell you what a zucchini looked like, not to mention its taste. One celiac diagnosis and foodie awakening later...and you could say that I'm wee bit obsessed with the green veggie.

Unless buying (and eating) around eight a week is normal. In that case, welcome to the zucchini-loving family

Plus a pic with the biggest zucchini I've ever held!
Whether you're a zucchini lover or hater, though, it's hard to deny that they wallop a nutritious punch. Though low in calories, carbs and sugar, zucchini offers high amounts of antioxidants, Vitamin C and B and potassium. Research also shows that zucchini (and other summer squash) can benefit eye and heart health, help control diabetes, aid digestion and balance the thyroid and adrenal glands. All great reasons to add this celiac's favorite green veggie to your daily menu! 

How to eat your zucchini? Well, let's start with breakfast. Zucchini always sneaks into my morning eats thanks to a bowl of overnight zoats or a big, green smoothie bowl! Adding shredded zucchini to your typical oatmeal (or my oatless oats) creates a fluffy, voluminous texture with the bonus of a hidden veggie. 


Jar full of gooey heaven!
(It may turn your breakfast green, but your taste buds will hardly tell the difference!) 

As for smoothie bowls, once you go zucchini you'll never go back! One common issue with smoothies is their sugar content - even if it's from only natural sources (like berries or other fruit), it can still cause a sugar high and crash. Adding frozen sliced zucchini (or squash) lowers the sweetness without adding any "veggie" taste. Talk about a double win


Another mean, green breakfast...
When it comes to lunch or dinner, zucchinis also tend to land on my plate. On days when I'm craving a lighter dinner, I'll often stuff and bake half a hollowed out zucchini and serve with salsa and homemade chips. Zucchini also makes a delicious topping for pizza, baked potatoes or even chopped up in my crock pot enchilada!

Honestly, I've never regretted adding zucchini to a savory meal. If you're feeling really adventurous, you can even experiment with spiralizing zucchini into noodles. I love tossing zoodles into a pesto stir fry or grain free Mac and cheese - healthified comfort food that doesn't lose any of its traditional yumminess


A few favorite eats!
Zucchini even appears in my snacks - mostly in the form of homemade granola. Ever since I started baking my own granola, I've been addicted. (Twice-a-week-batches addicted). So, I thought, why not sneak some veggies into my favorite night snack? 

Not only does shredded zucchini replace the oil in my recipes (thanks to its moisture), but it also helps bind the ingredients into chewy, crunchy clusters. As long as you shred your zuch' finely, you can't taste or see it in the final product. A serving of veggies that tastes like dessert? Miracles can happen folks.


Always a sweet(ly healthy) ending to the day!
Looking back at my pre-diagnosis eating habits, it's ironic that my diet was perhaps even more limited than it is now. Though I can't eat wheat, today I'm a more adventurous eater than ever - and I love experimenting with new fruits and veggies

And if I give the grocery clerk a funny story to tell each week as I hoist my bag of zucchinis onto the conveyor belt?

Well, I'll just consider that my good deed for the day. 



How do you feel about zucchini? Do you have a veggie or fruit you eat all the time? Comment below! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

5 Questions Celiacs Don't Want to Hear

As a celiac who blogs to increase awareness, particularly among the college crowd, I'm used to receiving lots of questions. From fellow students: "What are you eating?" From online readers: "How do you cope?" And from acquaintances: "A blog? What's that about?"

Honestly, I love the questions. It means I'm doing something right - at least to the extent that people are thinking or having their previous conceptions challenged. But there a few questions that no celiac wants to hear - or to answer. Five common ones in my experience, anyway.

Some common reactions...
1. But don't you miss a big, thick, cheesy slice of pizza from Pizza Hut? Or a burger from In-N-Out? Or *insert any mouthwatering, gluten-stuffed edible concoction here*

How do I usually reply? Something, depending on the audience, like: Hell yeah! I miss my post-soccer-practice brownie and ice cream sundaes, my peanut butter (no jelly) sandwiches and family dinners from a greasy take-out container. But being reminded of what I miss ain't helping nobody. It just makes focusing on what I can eat - granola, stuffed potatoes, mug cakes and more - even harder.

2. What can you even eat?

This is a related question, but even more common. When people hear the words "gluten free," they usually don't know what that entails. Vegan? A bowl of rice (or does that have gluten, too)? A sad plate of wilted veggies and lettuce leaves? (All of which, most thankfully, are not true!)

People don't usually think of these...
I don't mind curiosity about my diet, but I do mind when people imply that I must be dying without gluten in my life. Yes, I have limits. Yes, I can't eat a lot of things. But my list of what I can eat is just as long (or even longer) than what I can't. Which makes this question not only negative, but also the opener to a very long laundry list of answers!

3. At least it keeps you skinny, right?

This happens more than you'd think. Maybe it's because, at first glance, I fit the stereotypical Cali girl model: skinny and white on a "special" diet. Or maybe it's because when most college girls were fretting about gaining the Freshman 15, I worried about losing it. I specifically remember a gorgeous blonde telling me freshman year: "I wish I had celiac so I could be skinny like you."

Skinny doesn't equal healthy or happy!
First off, not everyone with celiac is skinny. Some can't lose weight as an undiagnosed celiac; some gain weight after diagnosis (thanks to finally receiving nutrients). Likewise, not everyone who is skinny has celiac. And, honestly, I'd trade you ten pounds for a slice of that pepperoni pizza.

4. You going to make your boyfriend/husband give up gluten too?

Society and the media tends to paint people who follow certain diets (for medial or personal reasons) as vultures trying to "convert" others into the cult of *insert the name of fad diet here*. It's true that, if someone is experiencing health issues and asked me whether going gluten free could help, I would probably reply that they should discuss it with their doctor. It helped me (and my gluten-intolerant Mom), and it could help someone else with fibromyalgia, gut problems, celiac (obviously), etc.

People view us something like this...
To be honest, though, I don't believe most people should go gluten free. In fact, when people ask if they can eat gluten in front of me, I say go for it! Someone should be enjoying it! So will I make my (imaginary future) significant other go gluten free? To an extent, I will probably ask (if we share a living space) that they limit the gluten products in the house - such as by only having a couple cabinets of gluten items (like cereal, bread, crackers, etc) that don't have easy, GF replacements. But if we go out to eat and they want a big, wheaty burger? Please do!

(Just brush your teeth before kissing me!)

5. Can I have some of that?

Now this last question depends a lot on the context. If the person asking is a friend or family member who understands how much effort and time I put into my food, then I'm flattered that they're curious and don't mind giving them a taste of the gluten free life. If it's a random stranger, acquaintance or someone who has a perfectly decent (gluten-filled) sandwich already sitting on their plate?

That non dairy ice cream is alllll mine!
It's annoying. It's frustrating. It can even feel a bit disrespectful because, while this person can go to the Caf and eat anything without worry, they would rather try my "special" food (that I actually need to eat). I enjoy cooking for friends when I know ahead of time, they pitch in for the ingredients and I don't have those leftovers already entered into my weekly meal plan.

When I instead feel pressured to say, "Sure" even though my meal's GF ingredients are expensive or I'm short on time to cook, the questions leaves - at the very least - quite the bittersweet aftertaste.

Whether they're about my blog or my celiac, I never mind answering questions. Some questions, though, can feel just as harmful to a celiac as gluten. My biggest advice: think about how it would feel walking in a celiac's shoes (to the fridge or pantry) before you start asking questions.

Granola is also acceptable...
And maybe bring a plate of (gluten free certified) cookies with you!



Have you ever been asked these questions? What is the one celiac question that bothers you? Comment below!





Friday, April 22, 2016

5 Tips for Self Love during Hard Times

I'll admit it. Between a break up, cracked car wind shield, lost (and thankfully found!) wallet...I've recently had my share of stress. Considering the approaching avalanche of finals week, most college students can probably relate. 

According to the common saying, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Only, in my case, the tough should get going on embracing self love... 

Throwback to freshman year!
...with some help from the five tips I've relied on during these last couple weeks

1. First, talk it out. It's true that sometimes living with four girls can be tiring. (Can someone overdose on estrogen? Maybe we're the case study to find out). But if you ever need a place to vent, our apartment is it!

Talking out your frustrations or stresses validates that your worries are worth spending time discussing. Talking to people can prove that you aren't alone, but talking to yourself out loud, in a journal, or while meditating is just as effective. All that matters is taking time to reflect and express your feelings. 
No shoes, no worries...
2. Next, say yes to new - even uncertain - opportunities. When you've experienced a loss or are under a lot of stress, saying "no" comes naturally.  You don't have the time, energy, or even the optimism needed. 

But in these last weeks, I've said "yes" to friend dates to the farmers market. To thrift shopping and eating raw, vegan and gluten free quesadillas. To long walks alongside the cliffs with old and new friends. And to girls' nights doing nothing but watching stupid movies and talking about everything we usually don't have the time - or space - to say. And you know what? I've loved every second of it.

A few snaps from lately...
(Even freezing while listening to the waves hit the cliffs at night. And especially when ironically watching the hilarious movie "Yes Man" with a friend).

3. At the same time, give yourself permission to be alone. As someone who has gone from being in a relationship (and therefore spending a lot of time with one person) to being single, I definitely need my time with friends a couple nights a week.
Scarily accurate considering all my recent walks...
Other nights, though? I just want to rock some silly PJs, enjoy a night snack and do homework with Netflix playing in the background. And that's okay. It doesn't make you a boring hermit; it does give you time to reflect, relax and learn how to love being by yourself. 

Especially in college, the fear of "missing out" often taints the enjoyment of being alone. But you can't love yourself without spending a lot of quality time with "me, myself and I."

4. One of the hardest tips? View your diet and exercise through loving eyes. Stress often invades people's diet and exercise in a couple of ways: through comfort (over) eating and avoiding the gym, avoiding food and sweating out stress, or a mixture of the two. 

With or without friends...
While all of these behaviors can prove problematic, however, I think the worse reaction is actually over analyzing your habits.

Instead, recognize your typical responses. Personally, I know I lose my appetite and over-exercise. By keeping that in mind, I can spend less time worrying about whether I'm eating "right" or following the "perfect" routine and more on adding extra snacks or watching out for weight loss. I can recognize that larger-than-usual night snacks are more from needing more calories than emotional eating - though, if I need some edible comfort, I can accept that, at times, that's okay too!

Something like this each night...
Because the goal, especially during hard times, isn't to judge your diet and exercise routine. It's to observe, consider what could be improved, and accept today's "normal" anyway.

5. Finally, make small goals each day with one big goal to look forward to. My amazing roomie encouraged me to create a bucket list of activities for us to do together, and it now hangs in our bathroom wall. Not only does it remind me of the fun things we've done, but it keeps me excited about things to come

My big goal right now? Survive the last two weeks of this college semester! Little goals? More cliff-side walks with friends. More edible adventures. And more silly memes to share with my silly sister. Little goals let you feel accomplished - and before you know it, you've slayed your big one!

That sea and sky...
These last couple weeks haven't been easy, but they did force me to move "self love" to the top of my to do list. And perhaps that is the most important tip for self love: recognizing that you need it. You deserve it. 

And you'll love it.


*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

How do you engage in self love during stressful times? What is your most important tip? Comment below! 




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Peace Pies: A Celiac's Review

I've received to a lot of different reactions when I call a restaurant asking about celiac safety. Sometimes it's, "Gluten free? Is that, like, vegetarian?" Or, the most common: "We have gluten free, but we can't guarantee anything..."

I heard the best one so far, though, only a few weeks ago. "Absolutely!" A chipper voice replied. "We don't even bring gluten in here." 

And that's how one celiac and one her adventurous foodie friends ended up dining at Peace Pies down in Ocean Beach, California

Their sign above the door!
Peace Pies is a gluten free, raw vegan restaurant best known for, as the name would suggest, their pies, cheesecakes and other sweet delights. What many people don't realize, though, is hat Peace Pies also has several restaurant locations that serve a full, savory menu

My friend Natalie and I chose to frolic to their OB storefront, which is only ten minutes from our college. Tucked in the suburbs and next to a local pub, Peace Pies appears small and out-of-place at first glance. However, stepping inside immediately gives visitors a homey feeling.

A display case houses all of their desserts - which Natalie and I spent an equal amount of time gawking at and drooling over - while a fridge contains pre-made meals for easy grab and go. Even though I'd spent time researching the meals (thank you, Yelp) offered the day before, I still looked at the menu with awe

Snaps of alllll the choices...
Peace Pies offers everything from zucchini lasagna with cashew cheese to veggie pizza on a sunflower crust to nachos covered in walnut meat. After asking the cashier for her favorite meal (and exchanging Instagram names - apparently my feed is "so colorful!"), I decided on the house favorite: a mushroom quesadilla (made with a coconut and bell pepper wrap) with guac and "cheesy" kale chips. Natalie, on the other hand, finally settled on the kelp noodle mushroom stroganoff.

Natalie and I sat in a cute, corner table as we waited for our food. Customers serve themselves water from a water cooler and pick up their own utensils and napkins from a serving tray. Because most of the food is prepared ahead of time (due to the constraints of soaking/dehydrating/etc raw food), we only waited around 10 minutes for our plates. (It didn't hurt that we also visited on a Wednesday at 4, avoiding the usual weekend rush). 

Quite a healthy portion size!
When I saw my plate, I first thought: "Wow." Between the orange wrap, bright green guacamole and oozing cashew cheese, my dish exploded with color. My quesadilla was also a decent size, and I ended up splitting it between two meals (though I devoured the chips and guac the first time!). 

And the taste? While I love experimenting with vegan recipes, raw vegan food definitely exceeded my comfort zone. So, when I bit into my "meaty" mushroom wrap, I was pleasantly surprised. The mushrooms tastes soft and burst with flavor and were perfectly complemented by the crunchy tomato and onions, fresh spinach and creamy cashew cheese. I worried that I wouldn't like the wrap since I'm not a fan of bell peppers, but I enjoyed the soft, slightly sweet "tortilla."

That close up...
Because the rich cashew cheese could taste overwhelming without a palate cleanser, I really enjoyed the included guac and kale chips. The guac was obviously freshly made and boasted big chunks of avocado, spices and onion. As for the kale chips, they tasted crunchy, light and I loved the sprinkle of cheesy flavor (nutritional yeast perhaps?).  

Natalie equally enjoyed her dish, commenting on the tangy flavor of the cashew cheese and the tender mushrooms distributed throughout. She even forgot that it was raw until I reminded her halfway through - and she was even more impressed

Stroganoff and crackers!
Our one note of complaint related to the heavy, strong flavor of the cashew cheese. We both wished for a plain salad or raw veggies to accompany the meals and break up the taste - but that could be easily solved by ordering a side. I thought my mushroom quesadilla tasted even better the day after when I ate it with some extra roasted veggies and mixed greens. 

It's also worth pointing out that Peace Pies isn't cheap - but the ability to walk on and order anything on the menu without giving the whole celiac spiel is priceless. Before school gets out, I'm already planning my next visit - I have my eye (or stomach?) on a veggie pizza and a slice of pie!

Sweets are calling my name!
Every restaurant is different and just because a place is celiac safe doesn't mean the food will be tasty! Luckily for this celiac, though, Peace Pies meets my criteria for safety and taste. 

Gluten may not enter their restaurant, but I know that I'll become a regular


*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

Have you ever tried raw, vegan food? What research do you do before trying a new restaurant? Comment below!







Monday, April 18, 2016

5 Tips to the Perfect Sleep in College

Everyone needs it, some try to fight it, and some have a harder time succeeding at it than others. What am I talking about? Glorious, blissful sleep!

Between having fibromyalgia and being a senior in college, sleep is more important for me than ever. At the same time, though, getting eight solid hours sounds like an unattainable dream. Counting sheep not working for you? Then try out my five (natural) tips for satisfying slumber! 

For sleeping in bed...instead of laughing!
1. First, enjoy downtime before dreams. One reason, in my mind, that college students choose relaxation over sleep is that we work all day. When I had a ten page research paper due last week, schoolwork dominated my schedule from seven when I woke up to ten thirty when sleep began singing my name...

But my brain was still so active, I spent another hour wasting time on the computer before feeling "ready" for bed. Don't let that happen to you! If you've been working hard all day, intentionally take a break thirty minutes to an hour before your usual bed time. This encourages your body and brain to embrace the same sleep schedule!

Some boys on my campus chose this as their down time activity...
2. Keep your bed separate from your "head." I know plenty of people (my roommates included) who love doing homework in bed. It's comforting, soft - and allows for spontaneous mid-homework naps.

As for me, I prefer keeping my work space and sleep space separate. When I climb (literally, thanks to my bed risers!) into bed each night, I can't think of the calculus problem I toiled over a few hours earlier in the same spot.

A snap of my old room...including me!
Instead, I remember all the good sleeps I've had before. Homework, be gone

3. Embrace the noise...of a noisemaker. Some people need total silence when they sleep, but in college, that's not really an option. Whether you share a room with one person or an apartment with four, college students can be loud

My solution? Using a small, portable sound maker that can produce "white noise" consistently through the night. This not only hides the noise from the rest of my apartment, but also when my night-owl roomie finally collapses in bed.

My secret sleeping weapon!
4. Turn up the heat...with a heating pack. I'll admit, I got plenty of weird looks from my roomies when I warmed up a heating pack every night before bed. Especially in the winter, though, the warmth helps my muscles relax. Maybe the heat pack is the modern girl's teddy bear? 

As for which heat pack to use, I have two: one that is electric and another warmed in the microwave. One word of warning: if you use the microwaved version, be sure to keep the fabric from becoming stuck on the side of the microwave as it warms. It will catch on fire. 

Purple heating pack #2
(Not that I would know...cough cough, freshman year). 

5. Finally, don't stress over sleep. On nights when, for whatever reason, I can't fall asleep, it's easy to fall into the trap of calculating hours. "If I fall asleep now, I'll get approximately seven hours. Six and a half. Six..."

Predicting how zombified I'll be in the morning, though, does nothing to help me sleep. In fact, it just makes me more stressed...more restless...and less sleepy. Instead, remind yourself that while sleep is necessary, a bad night won't kill you. Even if it feels like it!

From gluten...or lack of sleep!
Everyone's sleep schedule is different. I jealously admire my roomie's ability to thrive on six hours...while she applauds my ability to go to bed early (AKA before 2 am). 

One thing everyone has in common? A good nights sleep feels great in the morning



What are your tips for sleeping well? How many hours of sleep so you need? Comment below! 




Monday, April 11, 2016

Gluten Free Green Bean Casserole

There's a saying that you want whatever you can't have...and in the context of celiac disease and food, my taste buds definitely agree! Before diagnosis, I was a meat-and-potatoes type gal. Now? I'm a veggie-lovin', experiment-tastin' foodie - who just happens to crave green bean casserole during every holiday dinner.

The problem? Green bean casserole not only often contains wheat, but also onions, which are neither Casey-tummy happy nor fodmap friendly.

casey the college celiac
My favorite holiday casserole!
Until I created this version. Fresh, crisp green beans coated in a creamy mushroom soup with toasted gluten free "croutons" distributed throughout and on top. Not to mention that this recipe is low fodmap, optionally dairy free/vegan or paleo. Since it's easy and quick to make, this really is the perfect green bean casserole recipe for an allergy-friendly family - whether you're serving a holiday feast or just Tuesday night dinner. 

To get started, gather your green beans and their ingredient groupies:

Serves 6 to 8:

2 cups or so of green beans 
1 can of gluten free cream of mushroom soup (we use Gluten Free Cafe, which does contain some dairy. For a vegan or paleo version, use preferred soup brand or make a homemade version) 
1/2 cup of water, milk (I've used rice milk with success) - add more if want a thinner consistency. 
6 gluten free toasted bread slices/butt (we love and use Canyon Bakehouse, but use your preferred brand) 
Any spices of choice 

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and boiling your water to cook your green beans. Chop your green beans into thirds, removing the stems if preferred. Then, once the water boils, add your beans and cook as normal (mine took around 10 minutes). Next, start toasting your bread. Be sure to use a gluten free-only toaster to avoid cross contamination if needed.  


casey the college celiac
Four steps to deliciousness!
When the green beans are cooked through and tender, drain and set aside. Cut the toasted bread into small (around 1 inch) squares and open your can of soup. In a large baking dish, pour half the green beans and three quarters of the bread cubes. Then, coat with the cream of mushroom soup, adding the 1/2 cup of liquid (can add more if the mixture still looks too dry). Mix thoroughly before adding the last green beans and sprinkling the final bread cubes on top. 

Cover the baking dish with a lid or foul and bake for 45 minutes or so. Then, remove the lid and bake for a final 5-15 minutes (or however long your other feasting food takes to cook). 


casey the college celiac
My kind of holiday dinner....
Now, all you need to do is dig in! We typically serve this with pineapple and clove spiced ham, potatoes, gravy, and mixed greens - but feel free to experiment

Sometimes, celiac disease can feels like a roadblock to all the desirable edible destinations. But with a little ingenuity and help from some favorite gluten free brands, an old favorite dish can take back its seat at the dinner table!



Yay or nay for green bean casserole? What's your favorite "celiac-ized" dish for the holidays? Comment below!