Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Top 3 Gluten Free Breakfast Goodies!

For most people, March is all about Madness. For me, though, happiness is the focus. Instead of winning the game of life, I'm trying to enjoy every little blessing. The random smile of a stranger. Waking up a minute before my alarm clock rings. Scoring the last gluten free brownie in the fridge. It can be anything really.

What I've found so far, though, is that I'm a lot happier when my stomach is happier. And that calls for a post on my top 3 baked breakfast goodies! (Which, forewarning, are all altered box mixes - this college student doesn't have time for scratch!)

I cook, but I'm not at the made-from-scratch stage…

When I was first diagnosed, I struggled to find gluten free products that didn't taste like cardboard. Whether you're a fan of the gluten free fad diet or not, it's a fact that the market has become flooded with "new and improved" GF products. That means there are more choices, but personal experience taught me that 99% of these choices tasted about as appealing as burnt wrapping paper. The same texture too. 

After months of trial and error, first I found the perfect muffin mix: King Arthur. This is the closest I'll ever get to royalty, and when my mouth is stuffed with one of these, I don't care! I love adding lots of extra blueberries, but have experimented with bananas and raspberries and devoured them all the same!


They always pop out of the oven fluffy, light and deliciously browned. In fact, my mom and I dragged a bag of these all the way to Disney World and ate them for breakfast seven days straight. Recently, I discovered how to reach the pinnacle of muffin madness: slice one in half, slather on some almond butter, chia seeds, extra blueberries or chocolate chips and pop it in the microwave. As everything melts, so will you! 

My muffins with my other fav breakfast - a rice cake!

Even gluten free muffins as great as these can get old, though. After our taste buds were muffined-out at Disney World, Mom and I bit into Bisquick's gluten free pancakes with the moan of dying whales. Now, the Bisquick mix is delicious as is, but we've found a secret ingredient: bananas. We threw a mushed over-ripe banana in the mix one morning and haven't looked back!

The banana gives the pancakes a slight fruity taste and causes them to fluff up like mini clouds. It also gives them more substance and keeps my stomach quiet for hours. My favorite pancake batch so far? The one where we threw all of our leftover blueberries in the mix. I froze this blueberry treasure trove last week and am slowly devouring a few pancakes every morning in a pancake, almond butter and fresh fruit sandwich

My pancake breakfast last Monday...

My mom discovered my third favorite breakfast goodie a few days ago at our local Sprouts: Quinoa flakes. I wrote "quinoa" on the shopping list, but when I saw that quinoa flakes could be transformed into oat-less oatmeal with two minutes in the microwave, I was sold! Before my diagnosis, I loved oatmeal. I devoured a huge bowl of honey-cinnamon-and-banana goodness every morning. Now, though, oatmeal - even the GF certified brands - and I have broken up. Acid reflux symptoms kinda kill the romance

I adore quinoa flakes because they give me a stick-to-your-ribs, warm breakfast without the tummy trouble. Personally, I microwave mine with water, but milk supposedly boosts the flavor. Now, plain, they aren't exactly the tastiest. Like quinoa, they have a slight bitter aftertaste, but that's what toppings are for! So far, I've tried various combinations of almond butterPeanut Butter Co's Dark Chocolate Dream, cinnamon, honey, and lots of fresh berries. Next on my list to try is a scoop of dark chocolate chips and almonds

Quinoa flakes with fruit and a spoonful of Dark Chocolate Dream!

Now, don't be deceived. Although these are a delicious oatmeal substitute, they aren't oatmeal. If you follow the recommended water-quinoa flakes ratio, you'll get a grit-like consistency. Since I like a thicker mix (think of Dairy Queen's ice cream that sticks to the cup upside down), I add chia seeds to mine and out pops a thick, steaming bowl of yum! 

My honey and Cinnamon version!

For me, muffins, pancakes and quinoa flakes are all slam-dunks. They're my latest - and greatest - breakfast discoveries, but I certainly hope they won't be my last

Try any of these before? What are your favorite breakfast foods? Comment below! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sweetening Life, one GF Cake at a Time

A chocolate cake can mean many things. A calorie splurge after a hard workout. A celebration of age or achievement. Or, most simply, an explosion of the taste buds because for whatever reason during whatever trouble, we need just that. For me, though, the chocolate cake cooling on the stove top of my oven is a redo.

When I stirred eggs, oil, and water into Pamela's Chocolate Cake mix, I was definitely thinking of the future. A future full of delicious chocolate cake, that is. As I watched the ingredients solidify into brown goop, though, the past dominated my mind. The past events of starting college, a hospital stay from celiac disease, deaths in the family. Of the liquid diet that replaced chocolate cake on my eighteenth birthday, doctor's orders. I'm rectifying that today.

Happy Birthday is me?

The fact is, life has been more sour than sweet lately.

No matter where I look, battles between the mind and the body stare back at me. My grandma is fighting to recover from quadruple heart surgery. Kylie, a toddler whose aunt works at my school, views cancer and chemotherapy as the monsters from under her bed. As for me, my desire - my need - to exercise struggles to coexist with my need to gain weight. And, recently, my exercise junkie lost in the form of a strained IT band and weight plateau that forced a recess from running. Honestly, losing what I view as the last part of my identity - my existence as an athlete - to celiac disease has driven me crazy for weeks.

Me post-run months ago

Today, though, I'm breaking away. Breaking away from my mental expectations and negative thoughts. Yes, the world is hard. Bodies break down and are held together by superglue, stitches, rest and time. Every time I see this battle, though, I need to look away from the blood and towards the victory. After a little over a week, my Grandma is back home and navigating the bumps and detours found on the road to health. And even though she's lost her hair and health, today Kylie crawled and played for the first time in weeks. Check out her Facebook page to learn more about this brave little warrior.

And me? I'm delving deeper into yoga and Pilate's. I've started lifting weights and experimenting with the bike. And, after months of staying at 88 lbs, I've finally budged the scale one notch higher. I have my bad days. I have days that I'm sad, and I'm pissed off that celiac disease has continued to hold the reigns driving my life.

Gotta love a smiling double chocolate cake!

But other days - magical other days like today - I look at the ingredients life has thrown at me, and I decide to change them from sour to sweet. And I know that when I bite into this chocolate cake tonight, the lemons that have been assaulting my taste buds will make this dessert taste even sweeter.

People say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well I say, ditch the lemons all together and make chocolate cake instead!

And my garden makes some big lemons...

Has celiac disease ever taken over your life? How did you deal with it? What's your favorite comfort/celebratory food? Comment below!