Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year, New You?

In the short time between Christmas and New Years, advice for self improvement runs rampant. It's hard to read the news or surf the Internet without articles like "Post Christmas Cleanse," "Best Resolutions to Lose Weight," and "How to Make Changes Stick" jumping in your face. 

Is a "new you" the best goal for 2016, though? With only one day of 2015 left, though, this college celiac isn't sold on the idea. 


casey the college celiac
What better way to ring in the New Year?
I'll admit, 2015 hasn't gone perfectly. There's been stress. Glutenings. Gaining weight and losing it. Family changes, friend drama and so many essays to write, my writing hand should be earning a separate college diploma. 

But, there were also so many highlights. Late nights staying up just talking with my roommates. New connections with gluten free companies - like The Good Scone and Love with Food - that keep my belly and heart full. Fun times spending time with family and celebrating a one-year anniversary with my boy


2015 highlights!
This 2016, I don't want to start from scratch. I don't want to make a "new me" who will stick to every resolution with the resolve of a gluten free, raw vegan in a BBQ restaurant. Instead, I want:

More chances to learn. About my classes - did you know the first woman elected to the Supreme Court? I do! About myself. About my celiac and my perfectly flawed body. And about my dreams for the future

More kitchen experimentation. Ironically enough, my diet after being resist limited by celiac is filled with more variety and curiosity than ever before. Now, I love trying new fruits and vegetables. This was the year of turmeric, spirulina, vegan baking, zoats, figs, and radishes. Who knows what new food crushes 2016 will bring?


casey the college celiac
Some of my top hits on Instagram!
More laughter under pressure. I'm the queen of pushing too hard, demanding too much, and expecting perfection. I do this with grades, my social life, and even my digestive system.

More practice balancing my blogging life and college life. This last semester has been one of the busiest - and this next one won't be any different. Sometimes I feel guilty that I can't post three or more times a week. I know some bloggers will promise to post more in 2016; for me, that goal would only be counterproductive. Instead, I want to blog happier - because when I feel empowered, joyful and excited about living as a college celiac, hopefully my readers can feel the same. 

casey the college celiac
Ready to run into 2016!
I know, at least a couple times next year, I'll fail many of these resolutions. But I'm not trying to be a "new me," which will be implacably a perfected form of the last. Instead, I just want another "me." One with an equal amount of happy and sad, success and failure. 

So from 2015 Casey to 2016 Casey:

"Hello." (Cue Adele's hit song to play dramatically in the background.) "Can't wait to meet you."


*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What are your 2016 goals? Do you believe in the "new me" movement? Comment below! 



Monday, December 28, 2015

Clips of Christmas

It's hard to believe, but after all the buildup, gift shopping and cookie baking, Christmas is already over! I hope everyone had a wonderful day full of friends, family, and (gluten free) food.

As everyone recovers from their holiday excitement, I thought I'd share some clips of this college celiac's Christmas!

casey the college celiac
Suited up for Santa!
COOKIES

For some gluten free cookie action, my mom and I turned to our trusty The Good Scone. Using their Vanilla Cake Mix, we whipped up some gluten free and vegan sugar cookies in only a few easy steps! 

Though the batter was too gooey to use our cookie cutters on, I freestyled lots of candy canes, fat snowmen and hearts. Sprinkled with a little cinnamon, my family agreed these are the best GF cookies we've made so far! 

casey the college celiac
Cookie crazy!
For the gluten-eaters, my sister used her artistic swag to cook and decorate gingerbread men, stars and sassy lips (kisses for Santa, maybe)? The key to a happy gluten filled and free household, I've found, is compromise. We get our cookies; they get theirs. And, after a thorough cleaning of the kitchen, it's celiac-safe again.  

LAUGHS

Christmas morning involved a lot of laughs, thanks to Dad's gift of fake mustaches for the whole family. What I learned? It's really hard to smile with a mustache - props to all happy mustached men! My favorite PJ shirt from my senior year of high school - which rocks the quote "Being weird isn't a hobby, it's a lifestyle" - fit our holiday pictures perfectly. 

casey the college celiac
Incognito Christmas?
Some of the best gifts? My "100% gluten free" and "gluten free chick" buttons for my backpack, and a shirt with a pop tart telling a toaster, "Don't taze me bro." If I can't eat gluten, I might as well wear it! A lot has changed since the past two gluten free Christmases. I'm at a stable weight; I know how to feed myself safely; and I strut some celiac swag with the best of them! 

SURPRISES

Like with any holiday, not everything went according to plan. A missing camera for the family photo; a game of Trivial Pursuit that might have made this college senior feel like a challenged kindergartner. 

Attack!
But, we discovered the dog has a maniacal love for destroying Christmas wrapping paper (Merry Christmas, Sammi!). Mom and I also ended up cooking the best Christmas dinner (all gluten free, except for a tray of crescent rolls) so far. 

The trick to a delicious GF green bean casserole? Add one and a half cans of cream of mushroom soup and a bit of rice milk to a large serving of freshly cooked green beans chopped in thirds. Then, toast and chop four slices of Canyon Bakehouse bread. Pour half the bread crumbs into the casserole to bake; pan fry the other half for a crunchy topping poured on the top in the last 15 minutes of cooking. Heaven! 

casey the college celiac
Some of our goodies!
Another fun fact? Biscuits made with The Good Scone's all purpose flour taste just as delicious frozen and defrosted! 

We ended both Christmas Eve and Christmas by curling up with the last season of Mad Men and a few run away cookies. Nothing like a cozy night in (and lots of TV drama!) to make a girl thankful. 

casey the college celiac
TV and family...
This was my third gluten free Christmas and I feel so blessed. For time with a family who doesn't mind accommodating my diet. For presents - like a fish spatula and new water bottle - that will make my next semester of college even easier (and tastier!). And for the chance to just relax with my loved ones. 

The new year will be here before we know it. But, right now, I'm enjoying the last days of this one. 



What were the highlights of your Christmas? Any gluten free gifts? Comment below! 



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Green Smoothies Fit for Santa

The last couple days before Christmas usually involve several activities. Last-minute shopping. Lots of cookie baking. A step many people forget? Eating extra greens, veggies, and antioxidants before holiday feasts!

Luckily, I have a smoothie bowl that is perfect for these last days before Christmas - or even Christmas morning. This bowl is packed with multiple servings of tasty fruits, hidden veggies (like spinach and zucchini), antioxidant-filled powders (like spirulina and turmeric), metabolic boosters like green tea and cinnamon, and plant-based protein from granola and chia seeds - not to mentioned creamy, dreamy taste!

casey the college celiac
Even Sammi wanted a bite!
Another bonus? With green and red colors, even Santa wouldn't mind finding this with his cookies Christmas Eve!

To get started, gather the ingredients below. As with all of my smoothie recipes, substitutions are welcome. Find what makes your belly and taste buds start caroling, and blend it up!

For the smoothie:

1/2-3/4 a frozen, cut zucchini and/or squash
3/4 cup of frozen cantaloupe, melon, bananas, pineapple, or strawberries (could also add berries, but it might change the bright green color)
2 large handfuls of spinach (or alternate leafy green)
1/2 cup of (decaf) green tea
2-4 tbsp of coconut milk (depending on how thick you want your smoothie)
1 TBSP of chia seeds
1 TBSP cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg 
optional: 1 TBSP turmeric, 1 tsp spirulina


When blending this in my Vitamix, I add the liquid, spices/powders, and chia seeds first. Then, throw in your frozen vegetables and fruit and blend it up! Now, my favorite part - the toppings, or Christmas decorations in this case. 

casey the college celiac
Smoothie selfies?
To make a smoothie bowl that even the Grinch would devour, stick to Christmas colors and shapes. For my Winter Wonderland smoothies, I used strawberries, banana, blueberries, pomegranates, homemade granola, nut butter, and chocolate sauce (mix melted coconut oil with cacao powder, pour it over your smoothie, and watch it freeze!). 

Some easy Christmas ideas? Cut strawberries lengthwise and turn them into mini Christmas trees! Line them in a vertical or horizontal row, surrounded with other toppings, for a Christmas tree forest with granola "snow." If Frosty's your favorite dude, cut the strawberries across the base to create circles of varying sizes. Then, shape a top hat and arms out of banana coins. Stack the circles and the hat and wala! Frosty the (edible) snowman!

casey the college celiac
Tis the season!
For a very special Christmas morning, you can combine "healthy" and "holiday" worlds by topping your smoothie bowl with a Christmas cookie! Santa's on a health kick this year!

With Christmas only a few days away, fueling up with healthy food can fall on the bottom of the holiday to-do list. Smoothies act as a healthy, easy and delicious way to load up on nutrients (and holiday spirit) before the Christmas feast.

That's one gift you don't need to wait to enjoy!


*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What's your favorite holiday-inspired meal? Do you ever "Christmas-ize" your favorite meals? Comment below!



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Calm Holidays and a Natural Calm Giveaway!

Whether from finals, Christmas shopping or family visits, the holidays often deliver stress as much as cheer. Luckily for this college celiac (and one lucky giveaway winner!), Natural Vitality is here to offer calming tips and one bottle of their stress-reducing supplement, "Natural Calm." 

In their Calmful Holidays E-book, Natural Vitality offers calming advice ranging from Feng shui holiday decorating to keeping a "mindful perspective." Three tips especially stuck out for me though as I was surviving Finals!
Calmness within (virtual) reach!
1. Push down stress with downward dog! Natural Vitality highlights three yoga poses that help with stress, digestion, and calm. Though I can't practice yoga as often at school, as I've written before, a strange sense of calmness leaves the yoga studio with you. 

Maybe it's the heat, which sometimes keeps you from worrying about anything - except slipping on your sweaty yoga mat!

Or maybe it's the ability to see your body - twisted, balanced or rooted into the floor - in ways you didn't think you could do before. 

Two of their favorite calming poses!
Either way, yoga (especially tree pose for me) helps quiet a busy mind and focus the body. My advice? Whether you're a yoga newbie or guru, try stretching when you feel stretched thin this holiday. Who knows what a new (upside down?) perspective you could find!

2. Crank up the Holiday tunes. Natural Vitality suggests trying some less traditional (and more relaxing) songs, but any song can help! If "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" reminds you of your favorite stuffed animal as a kid (guilty!), turn it up!

Dancing like there's Christmas music ;)
Not only can music help chores (or holiday traffic!) pass by more quickly, it can also transport you back to the Christmas magic of your childhood. It's hard to be a stressed-out Grinch when your favorite carol comes on the radio! 

3. Holiday recipes - but not just any holiday treats. Instead of stress-eating all the sugar cookies, try out healthier - but still tasty - alternatives like mashed cauliflower or a festive cranberry salad (recipes available in the E-book here!). 

Smoothies are also easy ways to sneak in some extra greens and vitamins during the holiday season - and starting your day with a cup of warm lemon water ensures your digestion is revved for eating! 

One of their nutritious recipe and my favorite smoothies!
Holiday food that mixes flavor with nutrients is where Natural Vitality's supplement, "Natural Calm," joins the party. Natural Calm is a magnesium supplement that is gluten free, vegan, and Non GMO - though packed with a punch of raspberry-lemon flavor.

Magnesium and calcium are commonly toted as superheroes for building healthy muscles and bones. They both also play an important role in stress, as Natural Vitality explains in the picture below.

The more you know...
I tried out the supplement for myself during the ultimate stressful time in a college student's life: finals week. At first, I was worried that the powder, sweetened with stevia, would overpower my taste buds. I was pleasantly surprised. The raspberry-lemon flavor was tasty but not overwhelming.

Did I immediately feel less stressed? No food (except maybe chocolate) has that effect! But I loved knowing that I was taking control of my stress in a nutritious, easy way. The delicious taste doesn't hurt either! 

The prize!
One lucky reader will get to experience the gift of calmness for themselves or a loved one this Christmas. Just enter the Raffle below for a chance to win 56 servings of Natural Calm in a sleek, easily accessible bottle.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sometimes we can't control seasonal stress from invading our lives. But with some holiday tricks or drinks from Natural Vitality, calmness is one present you don't have to wait until Christmas to receive! 



*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link love!*

*I received these products without charge to review, but my opinions are all my own!*


What are your tips for calmness during the holidays? Any favorite comfort foods? Comment below! 


Monday, December 14, 2015

Stocking Stuffers for Smoothie Lovers

Smoothie lovers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some like to drink their smoothies from a cup, others from a bowl; some like in thick, other thin. One trait they all share?

The smile when discovering Santa left a sweet, smoothie-related treat in their stocking on Christmas morning! 

The perfect cookie compliment...
Today, I'm taking on the role of Santa's little helper by sharing all my favorite smoothie toppings, flavorings and add-in's. 'Cause the only thing better than Christmas cookies is having a smoothie to dip them in! 

First, superfood powders make great gifts for your favorite foodies. People are usually less likely to purchase powders for themselves because of their higher price tag. However, a little goes a long way - in both flavor and gift appreciation! I suggest buying 6-8oz bags, which could fit in stockings and (for me at least) last around 6 months.

Powder perfect!
Which powders to buy? I love the brand Nativas, though I've also used Amazon to compare prices and buy cheaper (gluten free certified) brands. For newbie smoothie lovers, acai or cacao powder are always hits! If your foodie is a little more experienced, try spirulina, maca, lucuma or camu powder. Not only are all of these filled with antioxidants (always a plus during the stressful holiday season!), but they also pack a colorful punch in smoothies! 

Sauces, oils, and nut butters also make gooey - I mean great - presents! Since I first bought blackstrap molasses a month ago, I've fallen in love with its rich taste and sticky texture (not to mention the shot of magnesium and iron!). Coconut oil always lands on my smoothies too since it freezes when cold, creating a magic shell. Mixed with a superfood powder (or spices like cinnamon or turmeric), it gives a sweet crunch to any breakfast or dessert! 

My favorite smoothie "bowl!"
And, like most people, I can't go without my nut butters. Though I will often buy brands that are on sale, Once Again has captured my heart (and taste buds). Both the sunflower and the cashew butters can be bought without added sweetener or salt, but still taste creamy, rich and toasted. A near-empty nut butter jar also makes for the perfect smoothie container (and a delicious 2-for-1 present!) 

Finally, general toppings! I love adding some chewy action to my smoothies with dried fruit like raisins, or figs. Need a more adventurous gift? Try out goji berries or mulberries! Nuts.com is my go-to for toppings of every shape, size and texture. 

A delicious (and adorable) company...
For crunch cravers, chia seeds (which will thicken up a smoothie even more!), cacao nibs, Enjoy Life trail mix, Purely Elizabeth granola, puffed cereal, and (roasted or raw) buckwheat make delicious sprinkles. All are also free of most allergens (except the granola, which contains oats), so everyone can enjoy. 

While all of these products make tasty and surprising stocking stuffers, you don't have to stop there either! Throw together a "Smoothie Set from Santa" with several edible goodies, a quirky bowl and spoon.

casey the college celiac
A cute dog in a sweater is an optional add-in!
For the ultimate Christmas feel, keep it color-coded with choices like spirulina, goji berries, cacao nibs, and a holiday bowl. A personalized spoon from Etsy is always a nice finishing touch! 

Buying a tasty treat for your smoothie lover can seem intimidating at first - What if they already have it? What if they don't like it? - but with a variety of choices and flavors available, anyone's taste buds can be pleasantly surprised Christmas morning! 

Happy Holidays!
But, as someone who has received gluten free treats, spoons and bowls as gifts before, I know that this present will be appreciated for more than the taste. It also shows that you care - enough to get a safe, unique, and practical gift for your favorite foodie! 

And, even more than delicious food, love between family and friends is really what Christmas is all about! 




What would be your favorite smoothie-related stocking stuffer? Do you like receiving food as a gift? Comment below! 







Friday, December 11, 2015

How to Rock some Christmas Cheer this Final's Week

Ever since I started college, Christmas has become extra magical: beyond regular presents, I get the gift of a one-month vacation between semesters! With Finals dominating the two weeks before Christmas, though, it can be hard to keep up the holiday cheer

Can I just live with the gingerbread men?
Don't worry, though. Casey, your official elf, is here with some carol-inspired tips on how to (Christmas) light up your finals week. 

1. "Deck the halls with boughs of holly" - Deck the Halls

First, take a hint from one of the most well-known Christmas carols and start spreading the Christmas cheer around your own dorm room! This year, my apartment is boasting some major holiday feels thanks to a mini Christmas tree my dad remembered was hiding in our attic.


Our swagged-out Christmas tree!
At first, I set it up - mini ornaments and all - only to find out that the lights didn't work. The next morning, though, I woke up, switched on the power, and hello holiday rainbow! (Christmas miracle, I think yes?). After my roommate bought a light-up star and even more ornaments on a midnight Target run, we now joke that our baby tree has the most swag around. 

One important note: to avoid ending up on Santa's naughty list, make sure you check what decorations you college allows. If you can't have lights, add spirit with a festive white/black board or just enjoy the Claus-inspired campus scenery. I found this (slightly frightening) basketball player ornament on a tree at my gym. Go Christmas spirit


A few of my festive finds!

2. "Chestnuts roasting over an open fire / Jack Frost nipping at your nose" - The Christmas Song

One of my - admittedly favorite - tips? Embracing holiday food! You need fuel to study anyway so might as well give it a Christmas twist


A few of my favorite eats!
Right now, I'm adding nutmeg to all my sweet dishes for some gingerbread feels. In terms of smoothie bowls, oatless oatmeal and homemade granola, you can also experiment with adding blackstrap molasses, pumpkin spice, cranberries, chocolate (without which no holiday is complete!), and pumpkin puree. Spicing up my usual meals is the easy way to sneak in some Christmas spirit (and delicious taste)! 


Christmas via my Instagram...
As for savory meals, colder weather always makes me crave crock pot meals like vegan Mac and cheese, Mom's pork stew, and lots of seasonal veggies like green beans, squash, and mushrooms. One bonus of festive eating? Because the foods are often seasonal, this is one Christmas "present" that doesn't break the bank

3. "Faithful friends that are so dear to us / Gather near us once more" - Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas 


We were failing our fight against the final blues...
Perhaps the most effective way to fight finals blues is making time for your favorite friends! This can mean homework partying (always a favorite when you have essays due and finals to study for), Netflix breaks, or random selfies when you and your roommate realize you accidentally color-coordinated outfits. 

Getting off campus to explore nearby Christmas lights (like I did last year) or just grab a bite to eat is especially helpful. A change in scenery proves first that it is indeed Christmas time, and not finals week, for the majority of humans nearby; and second gives you some breathing (make that caroling) room from studying. 


Lights and food = heaven!
And Chipotle with the boy is always a good plan - even when he photobombs my Instagram pics. 

4. "But the prettiest sight to see / is the holly that will be / hanging on your own front door " - It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas 

One of the most encouraging parts of finals week, though, is that after all the tests are written and turned in, you're done! Free to make all the cookies, sing all the songs, and buy (last minute) all the Christmas gifts you've been dreaming of! 


Soon I'll be home waiting for Santa!
So, if you're like me and can't find your Christmas mojo until finals are over? That's OK! However, this year I've been especially focused on sneaking some cheer into my life - whether by listening to Christmas music on the radio or pausing to look at the lights on campus. And you know what? It makes the light at the end of tunnel (home) seem not so far away

Not to mention that when I drive home next Friday, hug my family and collapse on the sofa, it will be the best Christmas gift of all! 



What are your top tricks to getting into the Christmas spirit? Any favorite seasonal foods? Comment below! 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Holiday Specials: An Announcement and Discount for Love with Food

On the holidays, "special" has two meanings. First, it can refer to the magic environment created by Christmas songs, trees, and bundled clothes. On the other hand, it also reflects the discounts every store from The North to the South pole is offering. 

This season, Love with Food exhibits both meanings for me. First, a special announcement. I am now officially an affiliate of one of my favorite gluten free companies, which I reviewed for the first time earlier this year. What's that mean for you? Lots more information about Love for Food - and special discounts for my readers! 

The best kind of mail!
In particular, to celebrate the holidays, for every purchase over $30, customers get $5 off, a $40 bonus, and a magazine! Santa is coming early...or is delivering the perfect gift for the celiac in your life!

What's so great about Love with Food? Though you can check out my first review, I thought I'd break down what goodies filled my Love with Food box last month!

Throwback to my first review!
First off, for every gluten free box purchased, two meals are donated to a food bank in the US. Also, each box contains 10-15 gluten free certified snacks safe for any celiac customer!

Now for the delicious details. The November box included: 

1 bag of Wow cookies 
1 package of lentil-based pasta
1 container of Purely Elizabeth quick oats
1 bag of Enjoy Life dairy, soy, and gluten free chocolate chips
1 serving of wild rice hot cereal
1 mini Nogii protein bar
1 package of Date Lady dates 
1 package of fusion jerky in lemon pepper 
A few sticks of turbinado sugar


November's goodies!
As usual, the box contained a good balance of sweet and savory. I was especially excited to see the Wow cookies (my Mom's favorite gluten free brand), chocolate chips and dates (which made for delicious additions to my homemade granola!) 

I'm also looking forward to trying the wild rice hot cereal - which will probably mimic my own oatless oatmeal - and use the lentil pasta for my favorite vegan crockpot Mac and cheese! 


Some of my fave uses for this month's products!
As for the items I couldn't or preferred not to eat (like the oatmeal - oats, and the protein bar - soy and dairy), my roommates and family were willing to step up to the plate (food pun intended as usual!) 

Want to start your own Love with Food adventure at a discounted price? Use this Love With Food link or use the code "JOY5" for a perfect way to fuel up during the holidays! 



*Though I will receive a small monetary reward for any readers who sign up for Love with Food through my page, it will not cost you anything and my "love" for the company and its products are genuine!*  


What is/would be your favorite gluten free product to receive? Comment below!