Monday, June 30, 2014

Remission, Celiac Style

Remission. Doctors say it with bright smiles. Cancer patients pray for that stamp on their medical file. And, a year since my celiac diagnosis, this college gal now fits the bill.

Before my doctor's visit last week, I never imagined such medical jargon would ever pop up by my name. Remission is for cancer patients, I thought. Those sick little children a few doors down from my hospital room in September. Not me

I've always viewed myself as pretty tough...
Except, that's exactly the term that the doctor used after peering down at my blood results. Antibodies - normal. Vitamins - check. All that added up to one phrase: Your celiac is in remission

And, after a lot of thinking, I've finally figured out what "remission" really means to me. 


RE: reset. Before I mysteriously started suffering from nausea, weight loss and acid reflux, my stomach was as big as a black hole and equally indestructible. I shocked waitresses, friends envied my wooden leg and soccer practice always ended with a Brownie sundae

Cake wasn't a problem either...
I can't go back to the way things were - though if anyone has a spare time machine, hit me up! - but this is my chance at a redo. Right now, my body is free of damage, full of nutrients and friends with (almost) anything gluten free

MIS: misnomer. Because no matter how many times my doctor may tell me that I'm normal, I'm not. As I put it, I'm one weird chica. I can't test my teenage metabolism through midnight pizza runs or ice cream parties at my college. I'm part of the 1% of Americans that actually want to gain weight. Case in point: the first thing an old high school friend said to me when we met up after a year? "Geez, you're skinny! What happened to you?" 

Just because I am in remission doesn't mean that celiac is any less prominent in my life - just like cancer patients whose hair grow back in different colors or proudly wear mastectomy scars, my body is forever changed

This body's been on an adventure...
SI: sick. It is changed because I was sick. And hearing the word "remission" finally made me realize that. Sure, sometimes my disease is obvious. Like when I threw out all my Halloween candy after accidentally glutening myself on a Milky Way full of malt or, as I fight to love my skinny reflection in the mirror. 

Yet, the dire effects of celiac disease, undercut by the gluten free fad diet dominating the news, never hit me until last week. The issues with bone density. The risk of cancer if a celiac "cheats" (as if!). The challenges with fertility. I have always associated "remission" with cancer, and while cancer and celiac definitely aren't the same, now I understand how harmful both can be in their own way. 

Not always an exaggeration (Source)
ON: onward march. Because yes, I was sick. Yes, now I am "healthy" even if I am not normal. And the power to remain so rests in my hands. 

It isn't easy. When my sister and dad ordered Papa John's during the World Cup, my tongue betrayed me by drooling buckets. And, as my family embarks on a cross country road trip this coming summer, the challenge of finding safe, un-contaminated food has never seemed more terrifying. Ergo, the car will be stuffed with 25% personal items and 75% food (including this delicious homemade hemp seed butter!). 

No matter what happens in the future, though, I'm moving forward in an onward march. I have all the tools I need: gluten free goodies, a celiac support system worth a year of free food (and this GF grub gets expensive!), and a stubborn attitude carved by a year of stomach struggles. 

I'm finally smelling the roses...
No one was more surprised than me when "remission" joined this celiac's party. The more my writing-major mind analyzes the actual word, though, the more it makes sense. It perfectly explains the celiac roller coaster of my last year as I dipped and swirled through resets, sicknesses, misnomers and mistakes until finally moving on. 

So, when anyone asks how this celiac is doing, I'm not going to drone on about my improved digestion, continual fight for weight, or latest cooking feat. Instead, I'm just going to smile and say, "My celiac disease is in remission. How great is that?" 

What does "remission" mean to you? Do you consider yourself "fully healed" from celiac? Comment below! 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rock-a-By, Celiac?

I've used the analogy before: celiac disease as a masked bandit, stealing my weight, my running and my self esteem in one smooth swoop. More than ever, though, I wonder, "Will I let it get my possible future children, too?"

The genetic risks of having a child has crossed my mind before. Although I haven't publicized it on the blog, I actually have another autoimmune disorder called fibromyalgia. For those of you who don't know, it involves the over-firing of pain receptors throughout the body. This causes people with fibro (as we call it) to experience constant pain, stay sore longer after physical exertion (because the muscles heal slower) and even have "fibro-fog," the ultimate brain fart

Breaking it down... (Source)
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at age 10 after I severely broke my wrist and didn't go to the hospital until the next day because it "didn't hurt more than usual." 

Flash forward eight years when celiac disease added more pages to my tree-killer of a medical file. Just like after my fibromyalgia diagnosis, celiac disease didn't seem too bad at first. After all, I figured I'd already experienced the worst of it, i.e. the joy of gluten shredding my insides. At least with celiac I could stop m y pain by walking away from the bread! And, luckily for me, going gluten free has drastically improved my fibromyalgia symptoms as well.

Nearly ten years into fibro and a year into celiac, though, my vision of the future is littered with medical charts. I'm finally at the age where I have to perform the nope-no-sex-for-me dance with the doctor. Now, compared to schoolgirls giggling at a slumber party, my dorm mates and I seriously discuss how many kids we dream of having. I've always had the same answer: "Two at least, three at most, including one or more adopted." 

The adorable mini-Casey!
Except now, as I look down at my skinny legs and pat the belly bloated from forced over-feeding to make up for lost wisdom teeth weight, I wonder

I wonder: Do I dare birth a child knowing my genetics could damn them to my same fate?

Now I won't sell myself short. My genes aren't celebs, but they're not on the streets. I'm moderately intelligent, extremely hardworking and (sometimes) socially competent. Plus I can whip up a killer gluten free pizza. 

But I also carry the time bombs. With one little gene, they could never know what it feels like to not hurt. They could have to suffer through glutenings, to be the weirdo who turns down birthday cake at a party, to view their body as an enemy that constantly needs to be restrained. I could be the reason they cry.
I could doom them to this...
I also wonder, though: How can I not dare? How can I let yet another part of me - my choice to have a biological child - be driven by my disease(s). The fact is, genetics don't play by set rules. My parents debated over whether to have me for worry of passing on my Mom's fibro (which was, at the time, misdiagnosed as the fatal disease of lupus). They decided to do it, and, in the end, I got fibro from Mom and celiac from Dad. Go figure. No, really, someone show me the figures

Because when, or if, I have a baby, the figures will be equally impossible to calculate. My baby may get it, they might not. Scientists may have a cure for celiac disease, fibromyalgia or (hopefully) both by that time. Maybe not. And we won't even mention the variables that my husband might bring...

One thing that is certain? If my baby inherits those diseases, they'll inherit other things as well. They'll inherit the feeling of accomplishment and empowerment after eating out safely for the first time. Medical jargon will form a bond between my child and thousands of other affected individuals all around the globe. And if my health struggles have given me anything, it's an appreciation for good days and a solid spine of stubbornness during the bad. 

Street cred? Not so much...
Disease can steal a lot from a person, but, as I dream vaguely of a child - biological, adopted, or just babysat - in my arms, I know there is one thing it can't take from me: an open-ended possibility. And right now, a baby of my own is just that.  

Have you ever felt like a disease stole something from you? Does a health problem/food allergy/celiac impact the way you view having kids? Comment below! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats PLUS Homemade Hemp Seed Butter

Every cook book promises a miracle. No gluten, all flavor! Less dietary options, but more variety! Or, my favorite teaser: turning a microwave queen into a 5 star, allergy-friendly chef!

And then there is Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats. It features allergy-free and vegan recipes from Debbie Adler's Los Angeles Bakery. When Debbie contacted me and offered a free sample of her newest recipe book, I couldn't turn down the chance at whipping up some kitchen magic minus gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, sugar and nuts!

The book!

As she explains in her introduction, Debbie wasn't born into the world of allergy-friendly baking. She tinkered with alternative ingredients first to improve her own health, and then to provide safe treats for her son, who was diagnosed with several severe food allergies. Her bakery, Sweet Debbie's Organic Cupcakes, is now known as a safe and delicious spot for anyone with a sweet tooth and picky stomach! (Los Angeles - so close, yet so far from this college celiac!)

My favorite part of her recipe book is the way Debbie walks her readers through every step of the baking process. Before even revealing the recipes, Debbie lists her main ingredients and explains the health benefits of each one. I admit to being jaded over whether alternative flours like teff or millet are worth the hole in my wallet, but Debbie made me reconsider. I also love how Debbie gives a "Sweet Truth" for nearly every recipe. This novice baker will take any help offered, and I'll never turn down some genuine tricks of the trade!

Sometimes she even gives two tips!

Even better than Debbie's instruction, though, is Debbie herself. No matter what part of the book, Debbie's sense of humor shines through. When I read her description of quinoa flour - "Quinoa flour is queen in the gluten-free fiefdom because quinoa is a protein unto herself and thus doesn't need some gassy bean dude to complete her." - I laughed out loud.

And then I laughed again when she described the euphoria of tasting her fake caramel sauce for the first time because, as a celiac with dietary restrictions, I could totally relate. The fact is, baking is intimidating. Baking with allergy alternative ingredients? Intimidating times five. By stamping a bit of humor on every page and sharing the personal stories behind her recipes (lack of supplies + cookie craving = Quinoa Cranberry Cookies!), Debbie makes every baking adventure that much more fun! 

Cookies: the common language

Now, onto the recipes! Debbie divides her book into muffins, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, bars, donut wholes, and bread. My first impression? Yum! After a few reads, my taste buds craved her Blondies, Chocolate Chia Power Bars and Oatmeal Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies. Beyond remaking old favorites, though, Debbie plays with unexpected ingredients like parsnip and Matcha tea to create unique, delicious treats. Highlights include her Saffron and Cardamom Donut Holes, Caramel Glazed Fakin' Bacon Brownies (using shitake mushrooms in place of bacon), and Lemon Parsnipannies. 

Unfortunately, my pantry isn't Mary Poppin's purse and I couldn't make most of her recipes with what I had on hand. The only challenge of Debbie's book is that nearly all the recipes require her special "gluten free flour mix," which is a combo of 5 different flours. All of Debbie's recipes do need multiple alternative ingredients, but when I have the room and the money to stock up on flours, I'm taking this book to the supermarket!

This'll be me!

The fact is, quality allergy-friendly desserts usually boast more complicated recipes than traditional baked goods. And, as Debbie promises throughout the book, the health benefits of her "clean" desserts are worth the pain (monetary or otherwise) of the original buys. After swooning over my first spoonful of hemp seed butter (per Debbie's recipe), I have to agree.

Recently, I've been trying to nail down the cause to some skin rashes, and nuts may be the culprit. While setting aside the almonds and walnuts was easy, I hated turning down my nut butter every morning at breakfast! So, when I saw Debbie's recipe for hemp seed butter, I was sold! 

Debbie's recipe is simple: 2 cups of hemp seeds and 4-5 tablespoons of grape seed oil. Since I didn't have grape seed oil on hand, I replaced it with coconut oil and my butter still turned out fantastic!

Late night cooking!

As Debbie suggested, I first toasted my hemp seeds over medium-low heat for about 4 minutes. I managed to burn the first batch (a baker by blood, I am not!), but the second turned out perfect! And it had the house smelling deliciously nutty as a bonus. 

After letting them cool (by tossing them in the freezer - impatient as always), I ground them in my coffee grinder. As I stared down at my bowl of fine brown granules, I'll admit to being cynical that slowly adding the oil would create anything but wet dust. Wrong! A lot of stirring and a smooth, slightly grainy bowl of nut-less nut butter was born. To make a slightly sweeter butter, I did add a bit of honey and cacao powder to Debbie's recipe. As I devour the spread on my smoothies and overnight quinoa flakes, though, my taste buds are sending thanks Debbie's way!

A spoonful of YUM!

Overall, I give Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats a strong 9/10 and recommend it to anyone in search of recipes full of flavor, but free of gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, sugar, and nuts. Compared to other books on the market, Debbie's is full of personality and a delight to read. It also offers a variety of baked goods that, once stocked up with the right ingredients, are simple to make. 

And, as I dive deeper into my kitchen with Debbie's book in-hand, I will keep you updated on the masterpieces I (hopefully) create!

*** Debbie was kind enough to contact me and offer a free copy of her book in return for an honest review. I was not paid for this review, and all ideas and opinions within it are my own.

*This post can also be found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What is your favorite cook book? What is your favorite dessert? Comment below!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Liebster Award 2.0

Usually, the best surprises in life don't get repeated. Or, if they are, at least the person isn't surprised by them anymore. Luckily for me, I was nominated for the Liebster Award not once, but twice! And, as per typical, I was just as gobsmacked and excited the second time!

The rules of the Liebster Award are mostly the same. I give 11 facts about myself, answer 11 questions and then give 11 more questions to 11 nominees (preferably with less than 200 followers) to answer.

While Amber from Exercise and Eats nominated me the first time, We Laugh Anyway pulled me back into the questionnaire business a few weeks ago with more general questions. So, without further stalling, prepare to dive into the mind of Casey!

11 Facts

1. I've always wanted to have red hair and/or different colored eyes.
2. I can juggle a soccer ball into a basketball hoop. My record is 40 baskets in 30 minutes.
3. I could eat salmon and banana ice cream every day for the rest of my life.
4. I don't have a favorite season. I always say fall, but then I get too cold.
5. I hate perfume. It gives me a headache.
6. I have one younger sister, but always wanted an older brother too.

Hannah and I!
7. I'm addicted to Netflix.
8. I'm the first girl born in my extended family.
9. I have a miniature poodle named Sammi.
10. If I could, I would live in exercise clothes.
11. I'm usually quite shy until you get to know me - then the weirdness comes out!

My Answers

1. What's your favorite thing to do in a new city?

Walk around and explore the neighborhood. Usually, I have no idea where I'm going, but as long as I know how to get back to my (new) home, I'm up for an adventure! My favorite random walk was in North Carolina when my sister and I explored the abandoned beach behind our new house. We could walk for miles without running into anyone else, and find dozens of shark teeth littered on the shore! Talk about paradise!

Throwback to North Carolina!
2. What is the first thing you do when you get home from work?

I don't work, but when I get home (to my dorm) from college classes, I always take a moment to sit at my computer, check my blog feed and the news, and relax. Reading about the happenings of the rest of the world always gives me a moment of escape from my own obligations or worries. Not to mention that discovering a new recipe for gluten free apple bread pudding can brighten any one's day!

3. If you are reading the blog of someone you think you could be friends with, do you tell them?

I like to start out slow and first just write more comments on their blog posts. I'm not schooled in blogger etiquette, but I don't want to earn a stalker reputation for coming on too strong! Also, I like a friendship (even an online one!) to develop naturally. I'd rather become friends with someone through months of online conversations than by sending them a random email saying, "We should be friends!" If someone sent me one of those, though, I probably wouldn't say no!

4. What has been your biggest blogging headache?

My biggest headache is definitely balancing the need to keep my blogging honest and real, and the pressure to post on a regular schedule. Some of my favorite posts - like when I admitted my struggled with self-love, my journey with food, and my stay at the hospital - emerged organically from my personal experiences. I didn't think of those posts by asking, "What can I write about today?" I wrote them because circumstances in my life created a need to share - and therefore aid - my struggle.

I write out my feelings...
At the same time, though, I also want to keep my blog current for my readers. From everything I've read about running a successful blog, posting on a continual schedule is imperative. What works for everyone may not work for me, though, and I'm starting to realize that this rule may include a posting schedule. For now, I'm posting whenever my fingers feel the need to write, and I hope that will be enough!

5. What's your favorite Wes Anderson movie?

Umm…I don't know who Wes Anderson is. Awkward.

6. What's your favorite adjective to describe food?

Gooey. That word doesn't imply much maturity to my taste buds, but my favorite recipes can always be described using it! Pizza, brownies, overnight oats…yep, gooey it is!

Umm, YUM!!
7. When was the last time you laughed until you cried and why?

Yesterday, after I stepped on my bathroom scale. As I've shared, this past month - with the wisdom teeth removal, the infection and an allergic reaction to my meds - has not been an easy one. And, just as it has trashed my mouth, it has trashed my weight. When I left school in May, I was teetering around 88 lbs and was looking forward to passing the 90 mark like a boss! And then life knocked on the door.

These last few days, I've been eating like a horse and lowering my exercise, but the scale still pointed at 83. I laughed out of disbelief at first, then at the absurdity that while some people gain weight looking at cake, I lose it when eating apple pie for breakfast! And then I cried. Because I was frustrated, confused, pissed off and uncertain that this battle with the scale will ever end.

After a few minutes, though, I popped the pity-party-balloons and started cooking dinner with Mom. For the first time, we tried a turkey taquitos recipe from Sugar Free Mom. And when I tasted our finished product forty-five minutes later, I nearly cried again because it was just that good! (Nice and gooey, even!)

8. How and when did you meet your best friend?

I've had a lot of "friends" through the years, but I didn't really know the definition of a best friend until I met Kendall during my freshman year at Point Loma Nazarene University. We met first through yoga class, which I attended and she taught. Our friendship really blasted off, though, when she started receiving special meals from the cafeteria because of food allergies. Since we both waited in the cafeteria corner for the chefs to bring out our meals every lunch and dinner, we naturally started talking. And, even though she has (sadly!) graduated and moved back to Arizona, I'm excited to say that I doubt the talking will ever stop!

9. Name the very first blog you followed.

The first blog I followed was probably College Student with Celiac. I was diagnosed with celiac disease the week of my Senior Prom in high school, so worries about how to deal with my new diet in college definitely dominated my mind. A few Internet searches later, I discovered Chynna's blog and instantly fell in love!

10. Name the title of the last book you read and one sentence to describe it.

If You Were Here by Alafair Burke. It was intense, complicated and satisfying.

11. Ryan Gosling?

I like him when he's featured in a gluten free meme!

I mean, can you really argue against that?

My Nominees
(And I kinda bent the rules and just nominated whoever because I'm awful at determining follower number!)

Cotter Crunch - Strength and Sunshine - Celiac Teen Dad - Freckled Nettles - Powercakes - The Almond Eater - The Curse of Gluten - The Little Honey Bee - Better with Sprinkles - Eating Out Without - Know Gluten

My Questions

1. If you could change one thing about your blog, what would it be?
2. What is your favorite pick-me-up song?
3. What time of day do you like to write your blog posts?
4. If you had to live off of three foods forever, what would they be? 
5. Name two pet peeves. 
6. What is your favorite blogging moment (a reader comment, Twitter retweet, etc) so far?
7. What is one lesson blogging has taught you?
8. If you had to live in another country, where would it be?
9. Name two businesses (restaurants, stores, etc) you can't live without.
10. What are you usually doing at 10 am on a Saturday?
11. How has blogging changed your everyday life?

I hope my nominees will take part in the fun surprise that is the Liebster Award, but if not, no worries! I've been fortunate enough to be involved two times and while the nominations surprised me, the amount of fun I had participating did not!

*This post is also found at Runningwithspoon's link party!*

What are some fun facts about you? Did anything I said surprise you? Comment below!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Overnight Quinoa Flakes

Quick. Substantial. Delicious. For me, those are the three necessary ingredients for the perfect breakfast. I've mentioned before about my love for quinoa flakes, muffins and pancakes, but some days, I want to roll out of bed with a spoon in hand.

Sometimes this takes too much work...
And so the overnight quinoa flakes were born. 

Thanks to the magic of Instagram, I'd known about the whole overnight-oat-soaking-madness for a while, but never felt tempted to join in. Soggy, uncooked flakes and fruit? Not exactly a party in my mouth. Or a party in my stomach, considering its hatred for (even gluten free) oats.

But then summer hit and my bowl of quinoa flakes became a little too hot to handle. So I followed the overnight oats template and threw my quinoa flakes in a bowl with liquid and flavorings, soaked it overnight and hoped for the best!

It starts out liquidy…

Not to lie…the first couple of trial runs (i.e. I tried and my taste buds ran away in terror), were brutal. I almost decided to marry the microwave and accept my fate. Until I finally formed the perfect base recipe. I've been addicted ever since!

But thickens a few hours (or one night) later!

Personally, I love super thick overnight quinoa flakes, so I follow a 1:1 ratio of quinoa flakes to liquid. If you like a thinner mixture, just add more liquid or less chia seeds. 

All of my bowls use the same base ingredients:

1/3 cup of quinoa 
1/3 cup of water or milk (milk makes it creamier) 
1/2 to 3/4 a smashed ripe banana 
1 tbsp of chia seeds (they soak up the moisture overnight and make the mix fluffy and thick)
Sprinkle of cinnamon 
Drizzle of honey

My six main ingredients

After you combine these first six ingredients, then comes the fun part: choosing what flavor to make your bowl! So far, I have two favorites so far: apple pie, and peanut butter and jelly!

For apple pie, use the base recipe and add extra cinnamon, a few drops of vanilla, 1 tbsp of applesauce, and a chopped up apple. If you're really digging the theme (and lucky in the kitchen), you could even add a slice of homemade apple pie on top! (Yep, I did that two days in a row for breakfast - no shame!)

Go big or go home!
For peanut butter and jelly, add a few drops of vanilla, lots of blueberries (fresh or frozen work!) and nut butter in the mix and on top. If you're feeling adventurous, acai powder gives a nutritional kick (and turns your quinoa flakes a slight blue)!

You know it's thick when the spoon stands straight...

Really, though, the flavor options are endless! Feel free to experiment with adding different fruits (strawberries and blackberries sounds amazing - when I can eat seeds after my wisdom teeth), spices (apple and ginger, perhaps?), yogurt for extra creaminess, protein powder, cacao powder, or granola. You can even eat it straight out of a nearly-empty nut butter jar! One less dish to clean, am I right? 

In an almond butter jar…the best!
Finding a fast, satisfying and lip-smackin' good summer breakfast isn't easy, but my taste buds (and zombie morning self) are in heaven with overnight quinoa flakes! Enjoy and keep your eye out for more flavor combos to be posted as they are perfected! 

Have you tried overnight oats/quinoa flakes? What is your favorite recipe? Comment below! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Paleo Girl and Me

Gluten free. Paleo. Primal. Low-carb. Nowadays, dietary ID-tags sit alongside the utensils on the everyday dinner table. They all promise health, happiness, beauty and brains. They all claim to be the safest, most sating menu to ever join the American menu. It's complicated enough to ruin one's appetite.

Personally, I've never been one to embrace labels. Before my diagnosis, I ate anything and everything within arm's reach. French fries? Check. Pizza? You bet. A four egg omelet from Denny's? Gone in one sitting. I can honestly say that I never would've given the gluten free diet a second thought if celiac disease hadn't entered my life.

I was a foodie…big time
And I probably wouldn't have realized the similarities between my required gluten free and dairy free diet and the paleo lifestyle if Leslie Klenke, author of the newly released book, "Paleo Girl," hadn't reached out to me on Instagram. Her request was simple: she wanted to find a handful of college girls who ate a primal diet to quote in a free Ebook that would accompany her new book. And, even though I don't wear "semi-paleo" stamped on my forehead (Casey the Almost-Paleo College Celiac just doesn't have quite the same kick), I agreed.

The paleo diet is known as many things. The food that fuels atheletes of monstrous porportions. The menu dominating Instagram, twitter, and Dr. Oz. And, of course, the spoils laid out on a caveman's stone table. According to Klenke, though, it's really a lifestyle that involves eating the "primal diet"of caveman. That means no grains, legumes, or processed foods and a ton of fruits and veggies, animal protein and eggs, healthy fats/oils, nuts, and chocolate (I guess the sweet tooth developed early on!).

Eat like a caveman! (Source)
When I typed in my advice for paleo college students, my hands nearly trembled on the keyboard. Even as I found myself joking about the amount of bananas I buy each week (for banana nice cream, of course) and reminding readers to not take it personally when someone forgets their food preferences, worries flooded my brain. I couldn't help but think of my quinoa flakes and lima beans and wonder, "Am I paleo enough?"

And then, suddenly, I laughed. I laughed at the absurdity of worrying over whether my foods fit into a specific label. I laughed at the idea that this E book - whose main goal is to empower college students to take charge of their health and happiness through diet and exercise - would fail if I ate a bowl of quinoa for breakfast one morning. And I laughed in relief when I realized that a diet that doesn't need a label beyond that-looks-good-let's-eat.

This won't ruin anything...
As I share the "Paleo Girl: IRL" e-book with my friends and family, I couldn't be more proud. Not only of Klenke's hard work to gather 4 college girls to share advice, but of the gluten free/paleo (those labels again!) community for joining together to help readers find the right diet for them. It may be paleo. It might be gluten free. It might be a vague set of concoctions with everything but the kitchen sink.

In today's society, labels latch onto eaters like flies on Grandma's leftover apple pie, and the names are more sour than sweet. As my awesome experience with Klenke's free E-book has shown, though, the exact label doesn't matter. What does matter? How people use their lifestyle to connect with and aid others.

Meeting my best GF gal pal is what matters!
And I think Paleo Girl and Paleo Girl IRL is doing just that.

**Check out how you can get Primal Girl IRL here! and check out Leslie Klenke's website for more info!**
*Also featured in Runningwithspoon's link party!*

Do you label your diet? Have you heard about Leslie Klenke's new book? Comment below!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Celiac's Food Journey

Food has many definitions. For some, it is a fuel whose only purpose is to power an athlete through their next workout. For others, it's a luxury, the creamy taste of ice cream melting on the tongue. Pre-diagnosis, food was just part of life. I devoured pizza during sleepovers, baked on the weekend and never turned down a trip to In-N-Out.

And then, during months of extreme nausea, acid reflux, and weight loss, food changed. Suddenly, it transformed into a weapon, the cause of all my pain. And even after I became Casey the College Celiac and dove into eating gluten free, food kept torturing my belly. I didn't heal like the doctor promised. The weight I had lost didn't magically reappear. Food as medicine didn't work.

Food wasn't very friendly...
I didn't mean to stop eating. I didn't mean to live off of a rice cake with a swipe of peanut butter for breakfast, an omelet for lunch and a salad for dinner. But, suddenly, that's what happened. The food lover - the girl who ate everyone else under the table and left waitresses flabbergasted at her empty plate - broke up with her appetite because it just. Hurt. Too. Much.

I staggered around my college campus like a zombie. My stomach gurgled with liquid fire. Eventually, I ended up in the hospital hooked up to an NG tube feeding me liquid cheeseburgers. And when I returned to school a week and a half later, for the first time in ages, I felt normal. Almost. 

My new facial accessory at the time...
Food no longer tied up my stomach in fear, but the idea of being "healthy" dominated my mind. To gain weight, my doctors prescribed a diet of brownies, ice cream - anything dripping in calories. But I couldn't do it. My mind rebelled. It just seemed illogical to me that, in order to be healthy, I had to gorge on unhealthy treats.

That's not to say that I turned down every sweet (almond butter and I are joined at the lips), but sweets suddenly became less important. I loaded my plate with a rainbow of veggies and proteins and cringed at the idea of past greasy favorites like Pizza Hut. I became so obsessed with "being healthy" that I forgot that what society deems as healthy isn't for everyone. And, as I've finally realized, it isn't healthy for me

This is my healthy: overnight cinnamon apple oats
in a near-empty almond butter jar!
Food has worn many masks in my life: the criminal, thief of dietary enjoyment; the judge able to unlock health if regulations are met. Now, food and I have a different relationship: food - every type of it - is my friend. And I can't thank celiac enough for teaching me that. 

I still eat healthy. I still love salads, avocados, sweet potato rounds and broccoli (even though my dad gags every time he sees my plate). I still try out new health trends like acai powder in my smoothies or 72% dark chocolate. But I also love Chick Fil A's gluten free fries and ketchup. I love watching a triple chocolate mug cake (recipe coming soon!) inflate in the microwave. And my afternoons are packed full of recipe experimentation, from pizza dough to brownies. 

My latest pizza masterpiece! Thanks Pamela's!
And, sure, that half a tub of sunflower butter in my quinoa flakes may not part of average Annie's "healthy" diet, but it fits in mine. And while some might think I eat "too healthy," I know that I'm giving my tummy and taste buds everything they crave. The fact is, I'm weird. I'm the 1 in 133 people with celiac disease in the US. My eating style doesn't match the national average - and I'm finally okay with that. 

It's been a long, hard journey to find my personal definition of food and heath. First, my body extinguished my appetite; then society and my quest for the holy grail of health limited my diet. Now, a year after celiac triggered this cycle, I am finally free.

I'm on top…or getting there!

Food has never tasted so sweet

*Also found at Peas and Crayon's link party and Runningwithspoon's link party!*

How did celiac change your relationship with food? How is food and you now? Comment below! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Gluten free Celiac at Miguel's Cocina

In the world of California teens, one food is king, and I'm not talking about burgers. Beyond the pizza and pop tarts, even beyond the ice cream, stands the California burrito: a typical steak, avocado and salsa burrito transformed by the addition of French fries. And, even though I'm a California transplant, my taste buds fell hard.

Until celiac, anyway. In fact, once celiac entered the picture, Mexican food as a whole faded out of the frame. Too spicy for my wounded intestines to handle. Too risky, gluten hiding in flour thickening in the beans or cross-frying of the chips. Too…terrifying.

Heaven and hell in a tortilla! (Source)
And yet, I craved Mexican. I dreamed of drowning in chips and queso, tacos, salsa…the whole enchilada, pun intended. Finally, only a few weeks after my one year celiac anniversary, I faced my fears and dined out with the family at Miguel's Cocina. And while I didn't get the chips, my dinner kicked every other craving all the way across the border.

Miguel's Cocina is a chain restaurant peppered throughout California, but my family loves the Coronado location. It's easy to understand why by just looking: Miguel's offers inside and outside seating, but it is all decorated in a casual, Island-like theme. Even better than the cozy corner table we set up in? The smell of fresh tortillas, shredded chicken and melted cheese soaking the air.

Home to great Mexican! (Source)
Like always, I looked up the gluten free stats before even walking in the door and knew that they offered a gluten free menu and that the chips were iffy (safe at some locations, contaminated at others).  And, like always, I immediately gave the waiter my abbreviated celiac autobiography. When he knew the definition of "gluten," I felt safe right away!

Even more, he thanked me for telling him so quickly into the meal, and said that the chips were fried in a shared fryer and therefore contaminated, but the red sauce was gluten free. Mom and I set aside one bowl of the sauce for my main dish while the rest of the clan dug into the chips. Next time, I'm smuggling Tostitos in my purse so I won't be drinking drool before my main meal arrives!

As for the rest of my meal, I loved all the options! Miguel's has gluten free menu available on request with starters, salads, and various other specials. I was tempted by the chicken fajitas with veggies, guacamole and corn tortillas, but I ended up choosing the swordfish tacos. I'm a sucker for fish!

Their "Wheat Free" Menu
They're served with red cabbage, shredded cheese and salsa fresca in two warm corn tortillas with a choice of black or refried beans. Because of the chance for contamination, though, Miguel's recommends the black beans for all gluten-free eaters and doesn't offer rice. Totally fine with me! I also added avocado on my tacos for an extra boost!

When they arrived, I could hardly pick my tongue off the table. The serving was HUGE, totally making up for my lack of nachos. And then I tasted it…and the California burrito was left in the dust.

My huge dinner portion!
I'd never eaten swordfish before, but this fish made me a believer. It didn't taste overly fishy, and I loved that it was packed with flavor without being spicy. The cabbage, lettuce and salsa added a great crunch to the taco and I loved the creaminess from the cheese and avocado. As crazy as it sounds, though, the tortillas made the dish. I wasn't expecting much, thinking of the corn tortillas abandoned in the back of my fridge. Honestly, I almost asked them to check the kitchen because it reminded me so much of a flour tortilla! Soft, no corn aftertaste - even fold-able! With the gluten free salsa dripped over the top, my taste buds threw a fiesta!

And then came the beans. As great as the fish tacos were by themselves, the black beans acted as a great palate cleanser. The black beans had a deep, almost smokey flavor accented by the cheese sprinkled on top. Between the tacos and the beans, I didn't miss rice at all. After devouring one taco and half my beans, I doubt I would've had room anyway! To make the meal even better, though, when I scarfed down my leftovers the next day, they tasted just as fresh and delicious!

Just as good, day two!
My mom, who also follows a gluten free diet, equally adored her GF meal. She first ordered a pork taco and cheese enchilada combo topped with house salsa and beans. Our extremely watchful waiter returned a few minutes after taking our orders, though, and shared that the pork seasoning was iffy in terms of gluten, so she changed to chicken. She had no complaints, devouring half of her meal at the restaurant and half two days later. According to her, everything tasted great both times! Unfortunately, I was too busy stuffing my own face to shoot a picture of her meal!

When I was diagnosed, I accepted that California burritos and their Mexican brethren were a thing of my past. I can't say how happy I am that Miguel's Cocina has proved me wrong! In the days following our family dinner, I ranted about how great my tummy felt after the tacos as much as their actual taste!

And my tummy does too!
The fact is, celiac disease (or any food allergy) can transform restaurants and international cuisine into a terrifying, intestinal time-bomb. Sometimes, though, the (weighed) risks are worth it. Especially when some lip-smackin' good Mexican food is on the line.

*For more pictures of my daily eats, check out my Instagram!*

How has celiac disease/food intolerance changed your dining out experience? What is your latest restaurant success story? Comment below!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Starting Over, Celiac Style

There are a lot of new beginnings in life. A new job. New home. New relationship. Some (I'm talking to all victims of the dreaded "break up") are better than others, but they all have a purpose in life.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself as I type this post with a heat pack tied to my cheek to treat the infection that invaded the space where one of my wisdom teeth used to be.

Nothing like pantyhose and heatpack to
make a girl feel attractive!
As I mentioned in my last post, I knew something was wrong when the chipmunk cheek returned, but what I wasn't expecting when I walked into the doctor's office was my infected gum dancing the tango with needles and metal scrapers. And leaving - after a traumatizing thirty minutes of cleaning - with the instructions to start my wisdom teeth treatment "all over again."

I know the dentist meant to be comforting by implying that I already knew everything I had to do; that I was just getting a fresh start at a happy jaw. But I hated the implied failure. The idea that no progress had been made and therefore my suffering after the first wisdom teeth episode was moot.

Was all this for nothing? (Source)
Yet, as I spent yesterday zombified by pain killers and banana-peanut butter smoothies (I'm following readers' peanut butter-pound gaining advice), I found another reason for my dislike of that phrase: that, after all the "ends" celiac has thrown in my life, I'm tired of starting over.

I'm tired of gaining weight only to lose it during weeks of stress or sickness.

I'm tired of attaining the mystical healthy gut until a glutening stomps on my intestines.

This tiredness has never seemed more clear than this summer when I've had the time to realize the weaknesses of my post-celiac body. One summer ago, two summers ago, I was at my physical peak of fitness. My mom jokingly called me the "muscular Barbie" as I transformed from a natural stick to a sleek, strong young woman. I reached my highest weight, but also my highest confidence because I knew the strength this body - I - contained.

Me, two summers ago
Now, I'm dead after 15 minutes in the pool. Now, my sneakers haven't beat the pavement in months. Now, I'm back to being a stick. I can't help but hate celiac for nixing all the stamina and strength that I worked so hard to achieve. I hate that, like with my wisdom teeth, I've been forced to start over, not only in terms of my physical strength, but also in my identity as an athlete.

What I'm even more tired of, though? Negativity haunting my life. This morning, the first morning after my infection was removed, I moped around the house like a depressed druggie. I cried over the Instagram photos of foods that I couldn't eat. I growled at my mom, who I will honestly describe as the most loving and positive person I've ever met. I acted like the world as I knew it was ending.

This was me…without the smile
I suppose if you consider my "world" as being healed from wisdom teeth surgery, I would be right. But, the world is much bigger than that, much bigger than my fitness level or even than my pre-and-post-celiac identities.

And, as I devoured a chocolate sweet potato smoothie and dove into my latest book, the truth of that statement finally hit me. My doctor took me off antibiotics and on a medicinal mouthwash, saving my mouth and my tummy. Even with one bad tooth, three healed without a hitch. And while I won't win a bodybuilding contest anytime soon, my sneakers and swimsuit aren't dusty just yet!

I found the "sweet" in "bittersweet!"
Beginnings generally hurt because they require an ending. To start a new job, one must have left an old one or the unemployed stage of life. To experience new kisses, lips must be stained with phrases like, "It's not you, it's me." And, for me to gain a healthy mouth and a healthy body, I have to feel the pain of a sick one.

And, as I dream of post-healing plates of food and post-summer strength, I, for once, don't mind.

*Also found at Runningwithspoon's link party!*

What do you think of new beginnings? Was celiac a new beginning for you? Comment below!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Summer Setbacks

I like to think that setbacks are the ultimate ninjas in life. They attack when least expected, karate chop all plans to pieces, and then vanish into the depths of one's memory.

Honestly, I thought all the setbacks of my summer were checked off the list. Two weeks had past since my wisdom teeth removal and, in terms of my goal to gain weight, my mouth was full more often than empty (homemade mug cakes, pizza and bread, anyone?).

There's been lots of these!
And then I woke up yesterday morning with one chipmunk cheek and a ticked off chasm where my right wisdom tooth used to be. And I stepped on the scale and saw the arrow point to 85 lbs.

When I decided to get my wisdom teeth removed this summer, more than surgical tools filled my nightmares. My main worry? Complications - from celiac disease or my usual luck - that would zap even more pounds. Thanks to celiac disease, I already look like a "baby bird," as my sister lovingly describes me, and I can't lose any more feathers. So, I did everything possible to keep my mouth happy. Salt rinses, water flushes, avoiding seeds and applying heat. And yet, despite every precaution, it happened. An infection. Exactly what we prayed to avoid.

And so I'm back to this...
Sometimes, setbacks aren't fair. They strike the innocent, the unworthy, and, as I sit at my computer desk, my stomach burning with acid and nausea because of the antibiotics now shooting through my veins, I can't help but wince. I can't help but cry, not because I'm upset, but because I'm mad that, once again, my body has let me down.

I try so hard to nourish it. I fill my smoothies with protein powder, my quinoa flakes with hemp and chia seeds and my belly with a night snack every evening before bed. Even as my appetite has doubled and my meal numbers have exploded, the scale throws taunts my way. Maybe I rebooted my metabolism. Maybe I lost my minute sinews of muscle during my sedentary days after wisdom teeth surgery.

A pretty bowl of quinoa flakes! Grow, baby, grow!
The why - why I'm so skinny, why an infection is partying in my mouth, why I now feel like a glutened scarecrow lit on fire by the sun - doesn't matter. My yearlong journey with celiac, from the liquid diet to my hospitalization, has taught me that. What matters is how I react to these setbacks, not why they were sent my way.

Instead of focusing on the throbbing in my mouth and stomach, my eyes are on the future. Right now, I have a week of antibiotics scheduled. A week of nausea and stomach acid climbing up my throat. Right now, I'm 5'3" and 85 lbs. Weeks of my see-food diet (I see food and I eat it!) have done nothing but rev my appetite.

This is just the beginning!
But I won't live in "right now" forever. I have the entire summer of car trips, family fun and adventures with friends to look forward to. Hopefully, these antibiotics will kill my infection (besides just my stomach), and I'll be flashing my non-swollen smile in a few weeks time. Hopefully, there aren't any more surgical tools in my mouth's future. And, hopefully, my food will soon end up in more places than my hollow leg.

But even if they don't, I still have something. Hope. And even a ninja can't steal that away from me.

Did you have wisdom teeth surgery complications? What setbacks have you suffered? Comment below!