Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Party Gluten Free with Foster Farms: Family Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

*I received compensation for my role in Foster Farms' campaign, but all opinions are my own*

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Learning to Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hanging on Potato Chip Rock!

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Creamy Radish Greens Sauce

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Branching Out, Yoga Tree Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One breath at a time. 

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

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

Monday, August 17, 2015

Embracing the "Bad" with Bad Poetry Day

Fingers dance across a computer keyboard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More typing: 

"Lickety split,
That's it!

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

Foodie Favorites, Recipe Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first ever galette!

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Love!*

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Apple Cider Vinegar: Tips and Tricks

Most people have at least one trait continually under construction. Maybe exercising thirty minutes a day or spending more time with friends and family. For this college celiac, my "Work in Progress" sign usually hangs over my stomach. Truth is, I'm always looking for more ways to help my tummy find its happy place.

My most recent secret weapon? Raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar. (Insert dramatic music here).

Me and my new best bud!
I'll admit, apple cider vinegar and I were never best buds. Even when my nausea haunted my stomach for a year after my diagnosis and my dad suggested some good old ACV shots, I could never handle the taste. And then I read about its positive effects on tummy health. And I figured, why not give it a (diluted) shot?

Not only has research shown that ACV can aid digestion, but also improve the stomach's balance of good and bad bacteria, help heartburn and constipation, regulate blood sugar, and detoxify the body. The biggest draw for me? The fact that apple cider vinegar is thought to reduce bloating in individuals with troublesome tummies.

A few of the possible positive effects!
I'll admit that, for the first few weeks after ACV and I went steady, nothing happened. But a few months later, I began waking up and realizing I wasn't nearly as bloated as before. And the aftertaste I used to hate turned into something I barely noticed. Now, I'm not a doctor and can't promise any amazing ACV effects - but, by my experience, adding it to a balanced diet certainly can't hurt!

As for how to sneak apple cider vinegar into your meal plan, I've definitely become a ninja at that! I begin every day with a mug of water, warming it up in the microwave for one minute before adding the juice of half a lemon and a hearty pour of ACV. At the beginning, I only added half a tablespoon or so of the vinegar, but now I just eyeball a decent amount. If the taste it still too strong, you could also add a little honey or agave nectar to the mix!

Maybe even from a cool Scooby Doo mug?
The same lemon/ACV combo also acts as my go-to salad dressing. I'll usually dine on a small side salad (finished off with a squeeze of lemon and swig of ACV) with all of my dinners. If I'm devouring a casserole/mixed greens combo instead, ACV will still end up sprinkled on top. When I'm feeling a bit fancy, I'll also throw together a green sauce using coconut milk, ACV, spinach and spices as the base

Don't limit yourself to savory dishes, however! As some of my readers might have noticed, I even throw apple cider vinegar into my homemade granola. When I need a wetter batter and want to pack in some more nutrients, I grab ACV over water or fruit juice.

Just a few of the ways I eat ACV!
What works to build up one person's body may be useless to another - and the fact is, I'll always be a work under construction, whether it's my mind, my stomach or my lifestyle

Nonetheless, months after inserting apple cider vinegar into my routine, I'm happy that I did. And my stomach is even happier. I'm usually willing to try anything (non-fatal or gluten related) at least once. And I hope a few of my readers will do the same!

Bottoms (or forks) up!

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

Do you have any secret weapons for a happy belly? Have you ever tried apple cider vinegar for digestion? Comment blow! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

How to Succeed In College: Ebook and My Thoughts

Twenty days, several car-loads of supplies and one forty-five minute drive. All that separates this celiac from the other half of her URL: college. I can't say that this summer hasn't flown by, or that I wouldn't mind more time for luxurious smoothie bowls, family adventures and homemade granola. But, junior year will wait for no one. Which is why, as the mix of excitement and anxiety fills my brain, I'm happy to share a review of the E-book, "How to Succeed in College" by my friend over at Sarah Laughed.

casey the college celiac
The book!
Sarah's blog focuses on her college life, love and travel - but once her readers asked for more college tips, she decided to make a book just for them. Sarah's Ebook covers everything from academic motivation, class etiquette, essay writing and self care amidst college craziness. Ten chapters, eighty three pages and lots of advice that had me nodding my head (or flashing a grin) as I read. Four of which I just had to highlight below. Call it my pre-college summer prep!

I've never had trouble with academic motivation (I'm the "walking planner" for friends who complete assignments days after I do mine), but Chapter Two's focus on "Making Goals" caught my eye. Sarah writes, "Make goals activity based...[so] to focus on what you can control and make the most out of that" (15). My first reaction? I wish I had known that freshman year!

Freshman year throwbacks!
Otherwise known as the year of writing my Politics essay from my hospital bed, the year of being a walking skeleton, and the year I stunned teachers by maintaining a 4.0 even with an NG tube up my nose. As I prepare for my third year, I have more goals than academic perfection.

I want more late night burrito and Chipotle runs with me rocking my PJ's and a smile. More walks with the waves matching our footsteps. And more genuine enjoyment and curiosity during class - not just the desire for an A

Sarah spoke to me again in Chapter 5, which focuses on "Classes". She advices sitting in the front row of class to help both "accountability" and "connect[ing] with the professor" (36). Because my campus and classes are so small (anywhere from 40 to 8 students), even as a shy freshman, talking to my professor was natural. And I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want to!

casey the college celiac
The beginning of the chapter...
Connecting with my professors has led me to: Finding a teacher who also has celiac disease (who was even nice enough to take this car-less freshman food shopping). Working as a TA who grades papers, offers students advice and helps edit papers - all while getting paid for it. And, perhaps most importantly, loving my classes more than any book could cause! 

Chapter 9 talks about studying and exams, pointing out that "everyone is different" (72) in terms of what techniques work for them. I wanted to bold and underline those words in my book! College is all about new experiences, new people and new ideas - and unique ways of studying are part of the mixing bowl package. 

What I end up doing in the library...
I get a lot of weird looks when I study because, for me, studying means pacing and repeating the information. Out loud. For as long as my feet, throat and brain can handle. I used to be self conscious about it, but similar to my different diet than the typical college kid, I've accepted my movin' and groovin' study tactic as a part of Casey. Not everyone's brain learns material at the library or by reading a book - so find what works for you and stick with it. Studying and otherwise! 

Out of all Sarah's advice, Chapter Ten on "Balance and Self Care" stuck out because this, for me, is the hardest part of life - not to mention college. The list of advice includes phrases like: "Cut out negative self talk," "Don't be too hard on yourself" and "Say no sometimes" (77-78). 

college celiac casey
My favorite section!
Fact is, I kick ass at academics. Not because I'm super smart (which most people assume), but because I'm more stubborn and determined than most. A fact that my celiac journey definitely proves. But putting down the book for a random trip to True Foods Kitchen - that's where my determination can go overboard

So, this year even more than last, I'm going to "remember that there is more to life than what you crank out and produce" (82). I'm going to goof around in the kitchen making a gluten free feast with friends for two hours. I'm going to turn down extra hours of work for a night of Netflix, yoga and chocolate. And when I get glutened or celiac disco dances in my stomach, I'll recognize my need for rest over reprimands. 

Here's to more of these!
As new textbooks begin to invade my room, mixed emotions hit me. Joy at returning to my home away from home, plus worry over juggling my 17 units, 2 jobs and internship. But, besides giving me a few new tips for my academic toolbox, Sarah's Ebook emphasizes how possible it is for anyone to not only survive, but thrive at college. In class, in clubs and with the crew. 

And that's no laughing matter. 

You can find more information about and purchase Sarah's Ebook here

What's your best tip for college success? Which of Sarah's points do you relate to? Comment below! 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Butterfly Broiled Potato

I've never understood fads. I'll wear what I like and move in the way that satisfies my body and mind. Paying attention to what everyone else is loving? Not one of my strong suits.

My taste buds are another story, though. Last year, they were all about the sweet potatoes and avocado (perhaps because I had just tried them for the first time!) Then came the buckwheat. And now, my tongue is poppin' out for potatoes. The small, red or white kind in particular. 

Apple Potato of my eye?
Especially when butterflied and broiled. 

Why? Just picture a soft potato sliced in half and smashed on a baking tray. And after a trip to the broiler, fluffy in the middle but crunchy and toasted around the edges with a smokey flavor. Now can you understand the butterflies in my stomach every time before digging in? 

The best part of this recipe, as usual, is its versatility and allergy-friendly nature. Paleo, vegan, and low fodmap. Packed with iron, Vitamin C, starch and fiber. Plus a huge hit of flavor! 

A mug of delicious!
To get your own butterflies going, gather up a few simple ingredients:

Serves 1:

1 red or white potato (could be substituted for any kind of other potato, but bigger varieties may have to be cut up in fourths vs halves before being smashed on the baking tray!) 

Desired seasoning (I usually sprinkle on some thyme and oregano) 

Optional toppings and sides (cheese, avocado, pesto, veggies, meat, mixed greens, etc) 

Talk about the shortest shopping list ever! To begin, turn on your oven's broiler to warm it as you prepare your potato. You want your potato mostly cooked pre-broiler through whatever method you prefer. Though I've boiled the potatoes on the stove top before, I usually throw mine in the microwave until it's soft to the touch and easily pierced with a fork (usually 2-3 minutes).  

Quick and easy...
Once the potato is cooked, start the smashing! On a baking tray (optionally covered in baking foil), cut the potato in half (stopping before the sides are totally severed for the butterflied look) before smashing it, skin up, with a fork. You don't want it totally flattened, but relatively level

Then, pop that potato in the oven on the top tray. The broiling time will differ depending on the oven's power and desired level of toasting, but I usually let mine cook for around 5-7 minutes (peeking in at it the whole time). 

Butterfly in its natural habitat!
After the edges and skin look brown and crispy, pull out the tray and flip the butterflied potato so the soft side is up. Sprinkle on your spices (and optional toppings like cheese) and put it back in the oven for another couple minutes. Be sure to watch it closely so that it doesn't burn (or only burns how you like it!) 

Now that your browned butterfly is complete, it's eating time! I usually pull it apart with my fingers so I can get equally fluffy and crunchy bites. What to pair it with? When I'm feeling like a lazy dinner, I'll often sauté up some zoodles and other veggies, add a protein (leftover meat, beans, etc), and a little daiya cheese and my seed-stuffed pesto. (Bonus points if you do this while the potato broils!) The soft veggies and crunchy potato taste like heaven when eaten together in a bowl with mixed greens! (See my Rainbow Bowl recipe for more ideas!)

A few of my favorite potato feasts...
These potatoes also make great pre or post workout snacks. For a light lunch, I usually munch on one of these with broiled veggies, mixed greens and some avocado for dipping. Creamy + crunchy = Casey's bliss

My taste buds have gone through a lot of food fads, obsessing over one flavor or ingredient before drooling over another.  Nonetheless, I've been eating a butterflied broiled potato at least once every two days for a few weeks now, and have yet to get bored

The life of a food blogger...potato selfies?
Maybe this isn't a fad, but a favorite instead! 

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

What's your favorite way to eat potatoes? Do you often go through food fads? Comment below! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Five Lessons Blogging Can Teach You

When I first placed my fingers on the keyboard and published my thoughts to the Internet, I had no idea what I was doing. Helping myself cope with my new celiac diagnosis, sure. But helping others was an even bigger goal

First picture on the blog!

Since my first blog post (an embarrassing "About Me" that I leave published only to remind me where I started) went live two years ago, more than 200 posts have followed. Even more memories have formed. And more lessons been learned, five of which stand out in my mind. 

First, blogging has taught me how to be open. Although it may seem strange for a blogger, I grew up very private and shy. As a Marine brat, it felt easier to wield an invisible suit of armor than admit I often cried over my deployed dad or worried about fitting into a new school. For a long time, vulnerability equaled weakness in my mind. 

Just a few changes!
And then I started digitally tattooing every celiac challenge, triumph and surprise on the web. Once you post pictures of you rockin' a nose tube and no makeup on the Internet, shyness basically becomes moot. I certainly don't stress my every thought or embarrassing moment, but if people ask something - about celiac, my food, or my life - I don't mind answering. No truth serum needed!

On a similar note, blogging has also shown me that the scariest posts to publish are often the ones that will speak the loudest. I remember emailing my mom a draft of "Self Love with Celiac" at two in the morning, asking if I should post it. Butterflies were throwing a disco party in my stomach when I pressed "publish," but that post is one of my most popular pieces to date. Same with my updates from the hospital

Readers often like posts with a closer look...

Now, there could be many reasons for the correlation. Just one peak at the shows on TV reveals that emotion, drama, and struggle sells. But I believe "fearful" blogging is more than even that. It's authentic, fear arising from the act of leaving one's soul vulnerable to the Internet. I can honestly say that posts like those don't get any easier - but they don't get any less rewarding either. 

The same can be said about blogging itself which, when done right, usually isn't easy. These two years quickly taught me that everyone has to find their own blogging schedule and subjects. And comparison is nothing but a copycat trap. 

Cool, but not my kind of party!
Sure, sometimes I still wonder if I've found my real niche. If I should join What I Ate Wednesday's and Thinking out Loud Thursday's and Link Love Fridays like many popular bloggers do. But then I look back at what I've written so far, even at the overly simple initial posts. And I'm proud. 

Because what I've written speaks to me (a college celiac trying to kick life's gluten free buns) and my goal of helping others do the same. And that's the whole point of writing, right?

Besides the most rewarding aspect of blogging, of course: connecting with people from all over the world, every kind of background and any circumstance. I've always loved writing since I learned to read (at a fashionably late pace). But I never realized the impact it could have. 

Just a few of the comments...

But since I started blogging, I've received comments from a father who wanted to show my body image post to his young, celiac daughter. From a gluten eating man about to marry the love of his life (celiac and all). From thousands of well wishers sending healing thoughts to me, a hospitalized stranger. And from members of my own family who have watched me shrink, struggle and finally bloom

The fact is, blogging has proven that you never know. You never know who will find the words they needed to hear in your latest post. You never know what words will fly from your fingertips late at night or how your personal battles will speak to a more universal war. Or how much you will come to rely on blogging for clarity, escape and a quirky outlet. (And getting to sample and review some killer gluten free foods doesn't hurt either!) 

Blessings I've found along the way!
When I began blogging, I didn't know what I was starting. Today, though, I'm more than five lessons wiser. And I know for sure that I won't be stopping anytime soon. 

What has blogging taught you? Can you relate to any of these lessons? Comment below!