Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015!

Sometimes - when my quirky writing major personality dominates my brain - I like to personify the years of my life. 2013 - the junkie riding the rollercoaster of highs and lows. 2014 - the "strawweight" wrestler fighting her way back to health. And 2015? I have no idea. But I do know one thing.

One thing: it'll be sparkly!
As I sit in the kitchen listening to the pattering of rain off our house roof, I know that in a few short hours, it will be time to say hello to 2015. And, though the details are fuzzy, I'm pretty sure my greeting will mean something like this:

H: holding onto hope. It blows my mind to compare the weak, pale, NG tube-fed girl that limped through her freshman year of college with the girl typing these words right now. Two months ago, escaping the 88 lb mark was impossible. A dream poked and prodded until it bruised. It took time and lots of impatient patience, but I stepped on the scale two days ago and saw the needle spin to a healthy 100 lbs!

Perfect hiking weight!
At times, a diagnosis can act like a blinder. Celiac disease? Focus on the forbidden foods. Fibromyalgia? Only feel the pain. If 2014 taught me anything, though, its that recovery is possible. Bodies and minds heal - at a snails' pace and full of slime, but it will happen. In this coming year, as changes hit my life and more challenges pop up, I'm throwing my blinders in the trash. But "H-O-P-E" is stickin' with me.

E: embracing the unknown. As I mentioned in my last post, some of the biggest constants in my life - my parents, my home - will transform come this summer. And where will this college celiac be in the midst of mission move? That's also up for debate. Sometimes, the fact that I'm technically a junior and almost 20 years old (yikes!) scares me as much as a slice of gluten-filled bread slapped on my plate. The adult world? No thanks. Right now, I'm perfectly alright sticking in the Loma college bubble.

With this view? The Loma bubble is pretty sweet!
Added to those unknowns? The fact that, even after a year of practice, my tummy still throws tantrums that I always fail to diagnose. The human body - to be blunt - is terrifying overall. We try to tame it with makeup and exercise, heal it with juicing cleanses and vitamin substances, and even analayze it with some keyboard clicks and Internet surfing (A new rare disease I've never heard of? That must be it!). For now, though, I'm done swimming through the mystery. I'm staring at my sometimes bloated, sometimes skinny, sometimes upset body in the mirror and giving it a thumbs up - along with my empty 2015 calendar.

L: limiting the limits. I'm what my peers would call a Type A personality. Through determination and pure stubborness, I've snatched a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and college despite my medical issues. Being a Type A is a blesssing and a curse, though. Because despite all the positives, it also means I like to analyze. To plan. To weigh the pros and cons to reach the most logical conclusion. And while that's great for geometry (oh, freshman year of high school, those were the days...) it's not so hot for the other 23 hours a day.

In 2014, I walked a lot of paths previously marked "off-limits." I practiced schoolwork, but I also practiced the art of friendship. I devoured my first Swoffle (now that's a phrase I hadn't predicted); I shared my recipe for Sweet Potato Salmon Sliders and watched the Internet readers eat it right up. I upped my product bloggin' reviews, went to my first Writer's Conference, and started cooking all my own meals. In 2015, I want it to be even better. Less worries, more fun. Less planning, more spontanienty. Less limits - more living.

This year in pics!
L: listening more. In 2014, I learned how to listen better to my body. To nourish myself with delicious and vitamin-filled foods - like my favorite towers of nana ice cream. To rest when tired, but challenge myself otherwise. The hardest part of having an autoimmune disease is trusting the body that has betrayed you.

Some days that's easier than others. But, come 2015, I want to keep my ears and mind open. Not only to my inner commentary, but those of my family and friends. I finished off my college semester by giving my closest friends letters of my love and appreciation. Even though I was the one writing and reflected on our adventures that year, I felt like I was hearing for the first time. Hearing how lucky I am - how amazing my friends are. How much more growing and joy is yet to come.

O: "oh," the sound I hope to make every day. It's easy to let myself be swept away in the marathon of the new year. The upcoming college semester, family relocation and reunions with PLNU friends and teachers. But, that's not the "swept away" I'm looking for.

I'm looking for more walks around my college campus in awe over the beauty of the ocean. More shocking university lectures that make me see the textbook as more than a stack of ink-heavy paper. More hard workouts that remind me of my newly recovered strength. More moments when all I can think of saying is one simple letter: "oh."

"Oh" - how small we are!
The personality of 2015 is still forming in my mind. Will it be the kickbutt superhero I'm waiting for? Or the mousy bookworm whose knowledge soon expands beyond books? As I relax with the family tonight and eat a big slice of New Year's chocolate cake, I'm okay with any of the options. As long as, this time next year, I've had at least a couple moments fit for a Casey "hello."

*Also found at Running with Spoon's link party!*

What are your New Year's resolutions? How are you planning to celebrate 2015? Comment below!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Product Review: Swoffle

In the gluten free world, finding the right cookie is like dating. Mysterious and nearly impossible to get right on the first try. So, when I received the opportunity to try out the Swoffle - a caramel-filled waffle cookie based on the Dutch stroopwafle - my expectations were tempered by a year of cardboard cookies.

Heaven in a cookie!
Then I took my first bite. And immediately scanned the ingredients because it tasted too darn swoffle-liciously-good to be true! 

An organic gluten free blend. Organic sugar, butter, eggs, milk, and spices. No wheat, nuts, corn or soy to be found. But tons of flavor!

All the cookies!
Just imagine two flaky, soft waffle cookies glued together by a thin layer of caramel. Chewy. Hard edges that give way to a soft center. Enough sweet and spice to get my taste buds dancing the Norwegian jig without exploding in a sugar high. Honestly, I didn't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't to taste the best gluten free cookie I've ever had!

I nibbled away at my treat for a couple days, first by its lonesome and then with and on top of my favorite "drink": nana ice cream! Swoffle recommends pairing their cookie with a hot beverage like coffee or tea (perfect in these cold winter months!), but I couldn't think of a better partner than homemade ice cream

Crumbled or whole, it tasted delicious!
It added a perfect crunch and chew to my decadent breakfasts. Though the cold made it a little hard at first bite, it immediately melted in my mouth. Talk about a killer blend of chewy and creamy! I'm sure it would taste just as delicious on oatmeal or yogurt (especially with a lil' nut butter on top...) 

The Swoffle also got a big thumbs up by the rest of my family. My mom thought it was the ideal blend of chewy caramel and crunchy cookie coating. And the subtle but powerful punch of cinnamon? It pushes the yummy factor all the way to 10/10

Green tea dippin' time!
To get a variety of opinions, the gluten-eaters in my family also joined in the taste testing. My dad was the first, and his eyebrows shot up at the first bite. He devoured his as a snack with a mug of green tea. In his technical vernacular, his favorite part was that "it retained its chewiness even after being dunked" rather than disintegrating like other cookies. 

Even with the mountain of Christmas cookies sprawled along our kitchen counter, the Swoffle won over everyone's taste buds. In fact, there's even a little bit of hoarding going over the last handful of survivors. For now...

Which will be the last cookie standing?
It can be hard to find the right cookie minus gluten, but, when in need, I definitely recommend Swoffle as the perfect splurge! With its combination of crunchy, chewy, soft and sweet, it's a winner for even the pickiest matchmaker

What's your fave gluten free cookie? Have you ever heard of/tried Swoffle? Comment below! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

A lot of songs have wormed their way into my head over the years - especially during the holiday season. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Last Christmas...if there's one thing I can remember, its song lyrics. I blame years in choir. This year, though, "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" dominated my neurons. And it went something like this.

Hit the music!
"In the lane/snow is glistening/A beautiful sight/we're happy tonight/walking in a winter wonderland!"

Christmas season really kicked off a week ago in the middle of finals. With Linguistics hanging over my head and four days left until I could escape home, I threw on some leg warmers and trucked out to Garrison Street with my fellow gluten free foodie, Rachel.

Garrison Street is like a mythical creature to us Point Loma Nazarene University Students. It's only ten minutes away from our school, but a world away in terms of Christmas spirit. For an entire street, the houses are decked out in a way that would make Walt Disney proud. There's blow-up Santa's in helicopters on the roofs, trees wearing more lights than leaves, and too many Christmas scene display cases to count.

All the pretty lights!
As Rachel and I walked down the road, gasping and gawking at the lights that surely blasted the owners' electricity bills up to the North Pole, I felt so blessed. For that moment, I was a Christmas present - hope, joy, and freedom were my wrapping. Finals week was hard - that's no doubt. But that little 15 minute walk filled me with enough holiday spirit to power me through.

"In the meadow, we can build a snowman/and pretend that he is Parson Brown."

As I mentioned on my Instagram and some of my previous blog posts, my dorm was stinking of Christmas baking for weeks before I left. Cinnamon rolls, Oreo truffles, cookies, muffins, pancakes...anything gluten and glutenous, we had it. So, when I finally rolled into my driveway, Mission One was baking cookies...lots of cookies.

So many cookies!
In the end, Mom and I whipped up three batches: pumpkin chocolate chip bites, banana bread sugar cookies (loosely based on linked recipes) and Glutino's mix for traditional chocolate chip. The first two were gluten free, vegan and low/no sugar while the last more closely mimicked a "regular" Christmas treat. You can guess which my family fell absolutely in love with, but all three are slowly disappearing from the kitchen counter. We used the same cookie molds as my pre-diagnosis years - snowmen, Christmas trees, gingerbread men, and a handmade heart. The perfect blend of new and old, one might say.

Although this was my second Christmas diagnosed, this was the first time we made Christmas cookies and a 99.9% gluten free Christmas dinner. Last year, we were too confused to know where to even start. As I stared at our cookie armies - which Dad lovingly later rearranged dancing on the platter - I couldn't be more proud of our progress.

All the noms this year!

And when we dug into our Christmas dinner - ham, turkey, mashed potatoes with skin, gravy, two kinds of stuffing, two green bean casseroles (one gluten free and one with gluten onion rings), cranberry sauce and, later, a gluten free apple pie - Mom and I agreed that we outdone ourselves. Or, as Mom put it, "We're finally not so bad!"

"Later on/we'll conspire/as we sit/by the fire/to face unafraid/the plans that we made/walking in a winter wonderland."

Christmas morning started early, all of us rolling out of bed, to the kitchen, to the Christmas tree. This year, despite our plans of simplicity, the presents were overflowing. The only unwelcome gift this year was the removal of my sister Hannah's wisdom teeth a few days before Santa arrived. As we started unwrapping, we played the Chipmunks singing Christmas carols in honor of her Chipmunk cheeks.

Gift time!
Wrapping paper soon covered the floor - and the dog, to her delight. Hannah stunned us with her artistic talent and gorgeous drawings; we surprised Dad with a hanger for all of his racing medals and Mom is ready to rock out to her new music player. Perhaps the most touching gift for me was a pen of my grandfather's who passed away last year.

And, as I wrote on Instagram, you know you're a foodie when you're parents give you a bouquet of spoons for Christmas - and you love 'em for it! And yes, the middle one does have, "Wanna Spoon?" engraved on top. If you hadn't already noticed, this writing major has a thing for puns.

These'll last longer than flowers!
Things will be different next Christmas. I don't know where my family will be living - as a Marine, my dad is due for new orders within the next couple of months. I don't know what I'll be doing - by that time, I'll only have two semesters of college left (gasp!) and a whole new adventure to begin planning. As for my body and blog - with all the changes and progress that have hit me in a few months, I can't wait to see what a whole extra year will bring?

"When it snows/ain't it thrilling/though your nose is a chilling/we'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way/walking in a winter wonderland."

Less than an hour after the wrapping paper massacre, the sky darkened until a torrential downpour hit our home. For five minutes, the sky mourned the end of Christmas morning. The rest of the day, it was blue skies and sun.

Nothin' but angels and sunshine!
In our usual Christmas ritual, my dad and I went for a crisp morning jaunt as soon as the roads dried. As we climbed the hills and navigated the mud, for a second, I just breathed it all in. Breathed in all the snow that hit me this time last year - only a few months out of the hospital, struggling through my freshman year of college, fighting low weight and the pressure to be perfect.

What a 180 this Christmas has been. For the first time, I can truly relate to the line: "gone away is the blue bird, here to stay is a new bird." Life certainly isn't perfect. I'm still dealing with my end of stomach tantrums, college stress, and the struggles that accompany growing up. But, right now, I'm frolicking in the leftover Christmas spirit (and the actual leftovers - yum!). I'm loving the Eskimo life - staying inside, enjoying family, and embracing winter break.

All the love!
This Christmas, I bopped around to a new tune. And that was the best present of all.

*Wonderland Lyrics from here*

Merry late Christmas everybody! How was your Christmas? What's your favorite Christmas tune? Comment below!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Accepting the Insatiable Appetite

Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Snacks. That's the official eating plan in the minds of most Americans. And, usually, that's what my tummy also likes to stick to. Except on days like these.

B-days. Not birthdays - back hole days when all my stomach wants is this, that and a bucket full of everything (gluten free) within a thirty mile radius. 

Though I'd eat a birthday cake too...
Sometimes, it's easy for me to throw a temper tantrum at my own body. Just a few days ago, I called Mom crying as I stared at the beyond-bloated tummy in the mirror. And, a day into unstoppable hunger, it's easy to think back at all the snacks I've stuffed in my face and worry. 

Is this normalEating half of my dinner at 2 in the afternoon after scarfing down 3 pieces of a pizza only an hour before? Girls around me tend to go hours between meals - and sometimes I can do that too. But other times, I feel like the Cookie Monster has snuck into my body and chosen to stay. 

All the delicious noms!
Is this healthy? I know it's good to gain weight - I've dreamed of budging the scale's arrow for almost a year now. But, the sudden gain of the Freshman 15 is still shocking. I like being healthier, but no one enjoys losing a favorite pair of jeans to a too-tight waistband. I'm happy with the changes, but it still takes time to readjust to the new Casey in the mirror. 

Is this permanent? This is one question that has popped up time and time again since Celiac and Casey first met. Will I never be able to eat gluten? Yep. What about dairy? Maybe. Will I gain weight? Eventually.

As I nibble on the sweet potato wedges designated for dinner and finish off the Coconut Greek yogurt can chilling in the fridge, I try to treat that question as I've treated all the others.

Some Instagram inspiration!
With patience, knowing that, just like with all the other forms of healing from celiac, regulating my appetite will take time. 

With acceptance. Yes, sometimes my hunger isn't "normal." Yes, some days I'll eat a ridiculous amount of food. Yes, I'm finally gaining health and weight and all the changes in body image that go along with those. 

And, most importantly, with hope because this is me. This is my body working its hardest to heal, strengthen and transform into a kick butt machine. (Cause isn't that what every little girl wants to grow up to be?)  

I'm finding my Yoda powers
So, yep, this is my third bliss ball today. After the banana nice cream and pound of toppings breakfast, pizza lunch, yogurt, and baked fries snackage. All before dinner. Looks yummy, don't it? 

Do you ever have days of never-ending hunger? How did you learn to trust your body's hunger cues? Comment below! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spooning up Christmas Spirit

Even though I'm still stuck (for two more days only!) in college for finals week, my mind and taste buds have definitely skated off into a Winter wonderland. With limited ingredients (and money) on hand, though, this college celiac has kept festive eating simple. Simply delicious!

First off, cause I'm all about banana ice cream even as I'm shivering with every mouthful, here's the recipe for my Avocado Peppermint Nana cream that has me screaming, "Santa Claus!"

Getting in the Christmas spirit!
For the bananas on banana nice cream, check out this post. Start by loading up your magic maker (whether that be a Nutribullet, food processor or any other high speed blender) with my basic nice cream recipe. 

1 TBSP chia seeds (ground if smoother texture is desired)
2 TBSP coconut flour (if want really thick)
Optional extra veggies (beets, celery, broccoli, zucchini, squash, etc) - about half as much of these as fruit to keep the smoothie sweet!
Enough milk/liquid to allow blender to work (I prefer canned coconut milk - the creaminess is out of this world!)
One heaping handful (or more if tolerant) of greens 
Handful of frozen fruit (chopped bananas, apples, peaches, pears, berries, grapes, etc) 

To keep this ice cream Christmas-tized, I up the green factor by adding 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado, an extra handful of greens and lots of green-colored veggies (my favorites lately are celery, cucumber, and frozen squash and zucchini). Then, to get that candy-cane flavor everyone craves, sprinkle in a few drops of peppermint or mint extract. 

Talk about a bowl full of Christmas!
I'm present crushing hard on SweetLeaf's peppermint mocha liquid stevia, but anything you have on hand will do! To wrap up this edible present, sprinkle on some diced up strawberries and pomegranate seeds! The yummiest red and green Christmas treat I've ever tasted! 

If you aren't brave (or suicidal) enough to eat a cold breakfast on a frigid morning, then gingerbread oats is the best substitute there is! As I shared in a previous post, right now I'm happily riding the buckwheat and rice flake train. I mentioned before the recipe for pumpkin pie oats:  

2 TBSP buckwheat flakes
2 TBSP rice flakes 
1/2 mashed banana 
1-2 TBSP chia seeds for extra thickness and satiety 
1/2-1 tsp of pumpkin spice 

Gingerbread oats before my Linguistics final!
To blast into cookiedom, add 1/2 tsp of cacao powder, (optional) maca powder, and an extra sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon. A huge spoonful of nutbutter on top never hurts either! 

To finish off a delicious trio, combine the two in a heaven-reaching parfait! Just cook the 2 TBSPs of oatmeal with 1 TBSP of chia seeds and half a mashed banana in a microwave-safe jar for 1 minute. Then, put it in the freezer to cool while whipping up the nana ice cream. Stack, wrap and enjoy! 

This morning's delicious parfait!
Finals can quickly make these weeks an "oh no!" versus "ho ho ho!" but with a delicious and festive meal in my belly, I can really see the Christmas lights at the ends of the tunnel

**Also found at

What's your favorite festive breakfast? Smoothie or oats or neither? Comment below! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Dreaming

December. The month of Christmas music, frantic shopping, and, one special evening, extra dreaming by children tucked up in their beds. 

This year, though, dreams of sugar plum fairies hit this celiac a few weeks early thanks to my college, PLNU. Thanks to a booth on Caf Lane filled with note cards dripping with the dreams of fellow students and faculty. The scribbles varied from hopes to bring Jesus to others (this is a Nazarene college, may I remind you) to get a "hot girlfriend." As I stared at the rainbow stripes of marker, my mind filled with my own dreams. 

If you don't like this post...blame this! ;)

I dream...of more Christmas parties bereft of cookies but full of friends. For the first time, my school hosted a Christmas Tree Lighting in front of the Greek. Even as twenty feet of cedar exploded with light, I couldn't pull my eyes away from the kids dancing along the steps. 

Dressed in red night dresses and Grinch leggings, they flew and giggled to the beat of off-tune caroling. Carefree, exuberant, shining with joy...that was the real ceremony that lit up my heart that cold Thursday evening. 

Party with Santa! 

And that dorm Christmas party? Even though all the activities involved gluten (from cookie decorating to fondue dipping), this celiac still partied hard! (For a full half hour anyway.) With a few gluten free warrior by my side and a camera booth with all the festive accessories, what more could a girl ask for? 

I dream... of more surprise rainbows. Right before the end of Thanksgiving Break, my dad quizzed me on how I could Santa-tize my dorm room. And - whether by rules or lack of supplies - I ended up with zilch.

Roomie to the rescue! Now our room is a virtual wonderland with Christmas lights hanging over the desks, around the doors and above our beds with elegance only a graphics art major could pull off.

The beautified room!

Another hidden rainbow burst during a recent walk along the cliffs near campus. The night before was rough - a mix of homesickness, stress and boredom that only finals week can trigger. So I escaped that next morning with only some music to keep me company. A few miles out, I discovered this gem of a cliff. No pun intended. 

It reminded me of the mantra of this week's yoga session: "Embrace the pain, because the difficulty now will make it easier later." 

Finals week is a rough patch in December. But, in the right angle and light, it can still sparkle

Talk about a hidden gem!

I dream...of sucking every moment of enjoyment out of my last week. It's easy to let Finals put blinders over my eyes. Yet, as much as I wish everything would stay the same next semester, life will change. Scotland is stealing away one of my closest partners-in-crime...I'll be free of Linguistics, but will attack another 17 unit semester

You know what, though? Like a friend of mine always says, "I'm not even worried." Because out of all the dreams left in my heart, most have already come true. Compared to last December, I'm healthier. I'm happier. And I'm not letting any celiac troubles grinch their way into my Christmas. (But family - do be prepared. As soon as I get home, we will be rollin' in the gluten free cookie dough!)  

So, Santa, this is my yearly letter to you. I don't need anything new this Christmas. I just don't want this December dreaming to stop

A shot from chapel...
when the boyfriend was bored and stole my phone.

What are you dreaming of this December? How do you handle stress like with finals? Comment below! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Salmon and Sweet Potato Sliders Recipe

Ever since the Earl of Sandwich slapped meat between two slices of bread to free his hands for gambling (true story!), sandwiches have ruled people's daily diet. When celiac popped into the picture, though, I found myself craving a different kind of Wonderbread than gluten free substitutes. That's when I saw a sweet potato staring at me from my desk.

Just pause for a moment and imagine. Two fluffy sweet potato rounds with a juicy slab of salmon tucked in between, perfectly accented by a few leafs of spinach and a creamy slice of avocado. A rich, chewy, soft taste of heaven with every bite.

Talk about heaven!
I'll admit, until my diagnosis last May, I was a salmon and sweet potato virgin. Seafood? Orange potatoes? Too exotic for those sheltered taste buds! Now, though, these sliders sneak into my meal plan (and onto my plate) at least once a week. Why not? It's easy. It's allergen friendly - no gluten, dairy, soy, or nuts anywhere nearby. And it's deliciousness cooked up in less than an hour of total cooking time.

First, begin by prepping your sweet potatoes. It's best to pick ones that are relatively equal in diameter, long and circular. You can bet I loaded my cart when Sprouts had a sale on sweet potatoes the size of my forearm! Preheating the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, cut the sweet potato into relatively even rounds. The length of each depends on your preferences - for crisper rounds, cut thinner slices (around 1/4 inch). For slider purposes, I prefer cutting them to be around 1/2 inches thick for buns with crunchy edges and soft middles.

Yep, I was the girl taking selfies with a sweet potato
in the courtyard of my dorm...oops.
Then, place the rounds in a plastic bag and pour in enough oil (I prefer coconut but any will work) to coat all of the rounds equally. Finally, arrange them on a baking tray lined with foil (if easy clean up is preferred), spacing them so there is limited overlapping. Pop them in the oven, setting the timer for 20 minutes. When it beeps, you'll flip them over, and cook them for another 20 minutes. I've found that 40 minutes creates a magical blend of crunch and give, but feel free to flick on the broiler for a few minutes to really up the char. (Be sure to babysit your potatoes, though - they can burn fast!)

Now, it's time to get down and fishy! There are two ways I make mine, depending on whether I feel like active or passive cooking.

When I want the oven to do the grunt work, I start by placing the salmon in a lined baking tray, skin-down. This is when my spice sidekicks pop up, with thyme oregano and salt acting as my go-to's. Sprinkle whatever flavors rev your taste buds in a thin layer on top. To keep the salmon moist while it cooks, I give my fish a bikini of lemon slices before placing another layer of foil over the top. When the sweet potato rounds have about 30 minutes left, throw the salmon in too. Start cooking for around 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after until it is done. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish.

Salmon two ways!
When I don't have a lot of time to wait for fish to cook, though, I whip out my frying pan and olive oil. After heating up around a tablespoon of oil at medium, I slap the spice-coated salmon skin-up in the pan. Keeping the heat around medium-high, I close the cap to steam the fish for about 3-4 minutes before flipping it over. Though it takes some practice to master charring over burning, this gives the salmon a delicious sear. To finish it off, cook the fish for another 4-5 minutes or until it is cooked through and the meat flakes away easily.

When the timer beeps, that means the real fun - the stacking - can start! My favorite slider toppings are spinach or kale, avocado slices, and BBQ sauce. Some other ideas are mustard, ketchup, peppers, onions - any burger topping that always gets you drooling! I can also promise that this recipe is as delicious with salmon as with any other fish - or even pulled pork! - and rocks my culinary world hot or cold. Not digging the sandwich? You can even devour these babies on a bed of greens and veggies!

I've had it just a few times, I'd say...
As chilly winter weather blankets California, I have Lord Sandwich to thank for the hearty, delicious dinner filling my belly. Sure, sometimes I miss bread. Sure, sometimes I devour my favorite slice of Canyon Bakehouse's gluten free toast. But as I take a big bite of salmon, sweet potato, avocado and spinach, missing bread is the last thought roaming my mind!

*This recipe is also featured on 

**Also found at Running with Spoon's Link Party, Vegetarian Mama's GF Friday! and What's Cookin' Wednesday!**

Check them out!*

Have you ever tried sweet potato sliders? What is your favorite burger topping? Comment below!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Spelling out my Thanks

As I sat down at the dinner table for Thanksgiving last week, I couldn't help but be awed not by the spread of food, but by the spread of blessings laid in my life this year.

And now it's time to spell out my thanks. 

T: turkey. I mentioned in my last post that Father Turkey was landing on our table a day early this year so I'd have leftovers to bring to the neighborhood Thanksgiving potluck. This was our second gluten free holiday feast, and though we - like usual - were cooking blind, our taste buds rode the turkey train to heaven! Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce...our table might have been missing gluten, but it wasn't missing out on family favorites

All the noms!
Beyond the turkey, I am most thankful for the family that adapts to my needs. Gluten free? No problem. Dairy free? We can work with that. Mom and I even scored a mini apple pie - gluten, dairy and soy free - at our local Sprouts. We didn't expect much, but this Kraft creation tastes just like the traditional pie. Not too sweet, crumbly crust, soft spiced apples...that disappeared quick. 

The best sundae ever: Apple pie and Coconut bliss Ice cream!
But the memories of my gluten eatin' dad and sister digging into the GF stuffing and gravy and giving a big thumbs up will stay a while longer. 

H: healing. The day of actual Thanksgiving, my dad and I decided to go on a turkey trot of our own. Plus a soccer ball. It's been nearly a year since I strained my IT band and my dad tore his PCL, sidelining both of us from soccer. That day, though, our feet caressed the ball like long lost lovers. 

We passed, we ran, we even played "soccer basketball" where we juggle the ball into the basketball hoop with anything but our hands. We scored 12 baskets in 20 minutes...far from our record, but at the nearly 90 degree heat, perfectly reputable. 

Throwback to when I first started juggling!
There was only one other pair shooting hoops at the elementary school: a young boy in a wheelchair and an older man I assumed to be his father. The boy wasn't extremely coordinated and the ball got wedged between the backboard and rim more than once, but the father never stopped passing it back. 

To me, that is the true spirit of thanksgiving: giving thanks for every ability still left in your broken body. I can't eat gluten, but I can walk. I'm not back to my post-diagnosis state, but I'm better than a year ago. 

And, in the times when I need them, I know there will be someone to help me make a basket

A: adapt. After dragging ourselves home, we showered then walked over to the Thanksgiving feast a few houses down. We had no idea what to expect, but we weren't planning on staying too long. Four hours later, the food finally emerged hot from the kitchen. And the questions started. Mom and I had devoured our gluten free leftovers at home, and our empty plates stood out among the festive place settings. 

Hanging out with the chickens at our neighbor's house
"Gluten free? You can eat the salad then, right? It has eggs, but that's not gluten is it?" 

The well meaning questions filled my cheeks with heat, but as I held hands and said grace with all the other eaters, I felt at peace. Sure, at times it was awkward. Sure, at times (all of them to be exact) I wanted nothing more than to plant my face in the buffet. But I adapted. I enjoyed. I said thanks for the friends and family surrounding me. And when my dad won Brainy Smurf in a Raffle, I knew I made the smart choice. 

Me and Mr. Smurf
N: ninety. Ninety has been my dream weight for months after jumping up and down on the scale to shake the arrow above the "eighty eight" mark. Finally, I've passed it. I'm twelve pounds heavier than last year, falling at a "swol" ninety six pounds. 

I won't lie and say that the adjustment has been entirely easy. After staying at such a low weight for so long, I finally deemed it my new normal. And now I'm changing again. 

Strong and healthy
But I am thankful for it when my parents huge me without feeling bones. When my muscular legs power me through an 8 mile stationary bike ride. When I look in the mirror and see a blend of the girl pre and post diagnosis. 

K: Krazy kin. Linguistically, this is a bit of a cheat, but it depicts the idea of my family perfectly. We're zany. We're crazy. And we are always laughing. And I couldn't be more thankful.  

Yesterday, we decorated the Christmas tree to the tune of Christmas music and random teasing. And when it came time to take pictures, World War III started. Too slow at clicking the button. Too blurry pictures. Too ridiculous poses. So we ended up with photos like these. I'm okay with that. 

Christmas as the Cromwell's!
S: semester. As wild as it seems, as I drive back to school today, I'm driving back to the last three weeks of first semester. In 21 days, I'll be a junior in terms of my credits. Honestly, I'm scared to death. But more than fear, thanks dominates my mind. Thanks for adventures with friends. For food experimentation. For the boy with the same sarcastic, ridiculous sense of humor as mine. 

It'll be a busy three weeks full of tests, essays and finals. But I'm determined to make it the best three weeks possible by swallowing up every drop of Christmas cheer. There were so many winter activities I avoided last year because of my health. Now I thank my body for gaining enough strength for me to experience it all. 

Friends and frozen delights!
Thanksgiving is known for its food, but the tastiest turkey is the one stuffed with thanks. I've had a whirlwind of a year, but this break has allowed me to realize just how lucky I am. And I'm determined to hold onto the spirit of this turkey trot for the rest of 2014!

What was your favorite part of thanksgiving? What are you grateful for this year? Comment below!