Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Loaded Potato Wedge Nachos

Sometimes a girl just wants a gooey, crunchy, fresh plate of nachos. Especially one loaded up with all the traditional toppings, like beans, cheese and guac.

Sometimes, though, my stomach isn't as big a fan of nachos as my taste buds. That's why, when I was craving nachos one Thursday night, I found my mission: healthifying nachos into a delicious dinner that my body and mind would fall in love with! 

This gluten free college celiac's recipe for loaded potato nachos!
Dipping action!
In particular, these nachos avoid the typical base of oily, fried chips and sneak in several servings of veggies. Not to mention, the avocado and salmon provide healthy fats while black beans offer some plant-based protein. 

One of the best parts? This dinner can be prepped ahead of time so it only takes 15 minutes to throw together! 

casey the college celiac
You can also cut them into rounds versus fries!
To throw your taste buds their own healthy fiesta, gather the following ingredients:

(Serves 2) 

For the fries:

1 russet potato or 2 red/golden Yukon potatoes 
1 half of a fresh lemon
Choice of spices (I use a few pinches of paprika, oregano, thyme and chili)

For the toppings:

1 pre-cooked salmon fillet (or alternate form of protein like ground turkey, chicken, tofu, extra beans, etc)
1-2 TBSP of cooked black beans 
1/2 a fresh avocado 
Cheese of choice (Vegan8's cheese sauce or daiya cheese or favorite dairy version)
One baking tray of veggies (I use zucchini, squash, radishes and green beans) 
Few drops of cooking oil (olive, coconut, etc) 
Optional: salsa, fresh or homemade
Optional: lettuce for a side salad 

To begin, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, scrub your potato(es) clean and slice into fries. Next, place into a plastic bag and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the fries. Shake to distribute, then toss the fries on a baking tray. Sprinkle with your choice of spices and pop in the oven! Bake for 35-40 minutes, flipping the fries halfway through. 

casey the college celiac
Everyday can be "Fry-day" now!
During this time, you can also cook your protein and/or make your cheese sauce if needed, and cut your choice of veggies

Usually, I'll cook the fries and protein and prep my veggies before class or a trip to the gym. Then, when I get home starving and "hangry," throwing dinner together is easy and quick

casey the college celiac
Eating on the edge...of my balcony!
When you're ready to eat, just set your oven on "Broil" and add a few drops of cooking oil to a plastic bag holding your sliced veggies. Shake to distribute, spread the veggies on a baking tray and put it under the broiler. My veggies usually take 7-8 minutes, rotating the tray halfway. Be sure to watch your veggies to make sure they don't burn

While those cook, start stacking your nachos. Roughly divide the fries onto two plates and begin throwing on toppings. These include salmon (or other protein), black beans, and cheese sauce/shreds. I usually send my plate on a trip to the microwave for a few minutes to re-heat the fries and these toppings

casey the college celiac
That perfect picture...before I nearly dropped my fork off the balcony!
Once the veggies are done, add those, the avocado, salsa and any other fresh goodies. Now, my favorite part: eat!

These potato nachos are obviously easy to experiment with. Try using sweet potatoes instead of regular for the base; add BBQ sauce instead of salsa for a Texan twist; or even (if you really want the crisp of chips), mix chips and potatoes. 

casey the college celiac
My kind of veggie to nacho ratio...
Sometimes, finding a compromise between my taste buds and my tummy isn't easy. Other times, this college celiac gets lucky and discovers a delicious meal like this! 

Suddenly, stomach limitations are "nacho" bad. 

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What's your favorite nacho toppings? What's one meal you "compromise" on? Comment below! 

Friday, March 25, 2016

What it Means to Live on the Edge

Most people want to make the most of life. Most want to be the best version of themselves possible. And most people equate those results with the popular slogan, "Live life on the edge!"

After spending a day literally living on the edge (of a rock on top of a mountain, at least), I think most people need to set another goal: finding out what "living on the edge" means to them. 

Last Saturday, my roomie, dad and I set out on a morning adventure: hiking up to Potato Chip Rock, an infamous photography location in Poway, CA. Eight miles, two and a half hours and plenty of ridiculous photos. The hike took its toll on my booty and ankles - as my roommate put it, "I need a butt massage!" But, my mind kept on - and is still - racing on the meaning of on-the-edge-living. 

We made it!
To me, living on the edge is not...

...believing that pain always leads to gain. 

As someone with fibromyalgia and celiac disease, pain and I aren't strangers. In some ways, it definitely helps. When my stomach began hurting after every meal, I knew something was wrong - and, months later, received a celiac disease diagnosis. When I challenge my body with a new workout routine - like heavier weights or a Mud Run - I hurt, but I grow in my bodily strength and confidence. 

casey the college celiac
Starting out the hike...
But it's important to realize that growth doesn't require pain. If you aren't too sore to move the next day, that doesn't mean your last workout was "too easy." If you turn down the invitation to raise awareness for celiac disease by running a marathon (I may or may not have declined this request a few months ago), it doesn't mean you're a "sissy" or "playing it safe." Considering your physical limitations and calculating an activity's risks and rewards makes you a logical human being, not a boring one. 

Living on the edge is also not...

...entirely abandoning your comfort zone.  

casey the college celiac
Our "we're falling" pose and photo pivot!
I'll just go ahead and say it: I'm not the life of the party. Most weekend nights, I'm in my PJ's by five o'clock and watching Project Runway and baking granola by seven. And you know what? I'm happy with that. I'm happy being a homebody who prefers Netflix over parties. I'm happy being in my comfort zone. 

Sure, sometimes I force myself to shake up the usual routine. But, just like baby birds don't leave the nest forever, people don't have to trade their comfort zone for edgy living. Dance on the edge of life - and then tiptoe back to your couch. It's true that excitement and newness spices up life, but comfort and quiet nights give us the energy to try new things! 

casey the college celiac
My parents are definitely part of my comfort zone!
What does living on the edge mean to me? It's...

...not being afraid to try new things. 

A few weeks ago, my roommate and I started a bucket list for the last six weeks of this semester. The first one was to climb Potato Chip Rock. Others include: pottery painting, late-night dancing, gluten free food finding, and hammock hanging. Some of these will definitely be a little scary. I mean: Me? Dancing? That'll be entertaining for everyone involved!

casey the college celiac
Even if you don't know what you're doing...
But you can't get the most out of life without sampling a variety of life's activities. I'm not going to embrace "newness" to the point of causing (physical or emotional) pain or hanging up my Netflix marathon jersey. Yet, the idea of vacationing to the outskirts of my everyday life? It's pretty exciting! 

Living on the edge is...

...daring to look into the future - and consider all the different options!

When we finally made it onto Potato Chip Rock (after waiting in a short photo line!), a man in front of us told me, "Don't look down." I think that's a common reaction - we fear the unknown to the point of never trying to know it! 

casey the college celiac
It's a long way down...
As I glanced beyond the rock and onto the green, rocky valley below, though, I realized: seeing the (possible versions of our) future is part of fully embracing life. Due to some recent, big changes in my life, my future isn't looking the way I imagined. I have more choices to make - What classes to take next semester? Which grad schools to apply to? What place will I end up living? - and lots more uncertainty. But there's something about acknowledging fear of the future and it's many possibilities that makes me feel alive. 

Finally, living on the edge is...

...being radically happy with where you are and what you're feeling. 

casey the college celiac
The terrific trio!
Because everywhere, some part of society suggests that we aren't lovable as we are. We're too short, skinny, fat, weak, strong, independent, dumb - you name any character trait and a product to fix such "problem" probably exists. Perhaps living on the edge doesn't just refer to the edge of your life or routine. 

Perhaps it means the edge of societal expectations. Accepting that you have room to be challenged and grow, but also recognizing your present strengths and abilities. Striving to be confident and happy most of the time, but giving yourself permission to feel sad or insecure some days. 

I know that these last three years of college have stretched and strengthened me in so many ways. The next three years will probably do the same.

casey the college celiac
Searching for my next rainbow...
Honestly, I don't know anything "for sure" about my future. But I do know that I want to live on the edge - my way. 

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

How do you define "living on the edge?" Comment below! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A College Celiac's Exercise Routine

Exercise is a lot like dating. The first few times mainly consist of butterflies, anxiety and excitement. (And maybe some mild and not so mild urges to puke). With more practice and the right partner, though, exercise is more than fun and dependable - it's worth looking forward to!

Spurred from some requests from Instagram, today I'm sharing what workouts typically fill my week. I inherited a love of exercise - and its stress relieving magical powers - from my dad so I usually exercise every day, but to different degrees or intensities. My biggest piece of advice? Listen to your body and your interests. If you or your body isn't a fan, take a break from exercise or try something new!

casey the college celiac
Planks definitely happen a lot!
During the school year, my exercise habits obviously depend on my classes. This semester, I exercise in the morning before class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because I have a tight schedule on these days, I like to use my fitness secret-weapon: the Nike Training Club app. I've been using this app for over two years now and have yet to be disappointed or bored. Users can choose between workouts focused on getting lean, toned or strong, as well as workouts that target areas of the body (like butt, legs, arms, abs, etc).

In particular, I love using Nike's HIIT workouts and the ones designed to increase strength. Lifting weights two mornings a week helps me build muscle and while having time to for my arms (or butt - those weighted squats!) to recover. Throwing the Hollywood Ab Blast into the mix every once in a while doesn't hurt either!

casey the college celiac
One of my favorite apps..
On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I hit the school gym to do some multitasking on the exercise machines. After I strained my IT band two years ago, I went steady with the stationary bike. If you deal with knee issues, I especially recommend a reclined stationary bike - I can cover 12 miles on the one at my school without any problems! Don't be afraid to experiment with different programs as well. I love the Hills and Intervals functions; changes in intensity and speed throughout a workout are great ways to increase the challenge of a routine workout.

Recently, though, I've also gotten hooked on my gym's stair stepper. Although I initially thought endlessly climbing stairs would be boring, the various programs - from intervals to random - and intensities always surprise me. Not to mention make me sweat buckets! Both the stationary bike and stair stepper are also optimal machines for multitasking college students. I write blog posts, study for tests, read books, catch up on my Instagram - all while peddling or stepping away!

Stationary bike = an updated, safer (?) version of this!
I usually do these machines for forty-five minutes to an hour, often adding ten minutes of ab exercises at the end. I always love the accomplished feeling of walking out the gym with a workout and my studying done!

Saturday and Sunday are wild card workouts for me. Ever since my dad and I began taking yoga classes at our local Core Power studio, I love squeezing in a yoga session during the weekend (with him if I'm home). Yoga refreshes my mind and my body, especially when I roll out of bed and onto my yoga mat. I can also attest that yoga can give you some crazy improvement in arm and core strength! (Next on my to-do list: handstands).

casey the college celiac
Some weekend snaps!
Besides that, some weekends I'll stop by my school's weight room for weighted squats and arm exercises. Sometimes I go on amazing eight-mile hikes to Potato Chip Rock with my roomie and dad. Sometimes I don't do anything besides a long walk across campus or along the cliffs.

Just like dating, exercise is meant to enhance life, not detract from or control it. It's taken me years to find out what exercises make me happy and healthy, and my favorite activities have changed with time. A few years ago, I played soccer, did workouts on the Wii and couldn't touch my toes. I can't say the same today (though I still crave a good soccer game!).

casey the college celiac
A gym friend doesn't hurt either!
Bottom line? For working out to work out in your life...don't be afraid to try new things, go with the flow and do what makes you and your body happy!

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What is your favorite type of exercise? How have your exercise habits changed with time? Comment below!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Milton's Craft Baking: Review and Giveaway

Thanks to the gluten free fad, finding processed celiac-safe goodies is easier than ever. Finding ones that are delicious and nutritious? Now, that's the challenge!

Milton's Baking Company, however, is one company that meets all of this college celiac's criteria. Delicious? Check (as my high cracker/chip consumption in the last weeks would show). Nutritious? Their GF crackers are baked instead of fried and the cookies are free of trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, nuts and xanthan gum. Celiac-friendly? Milton's actually began as a restaurant in Del Mar, California (not too far away from me!) and, ironically, I tried their products for the first time at the Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo in Del Mar. Talk about fate...though I'll admit I would've fallen in love wherever my first bite happened!

Milton's was kind enough to send me a large sample basket to devour taste test, and I decided to share all the details on the four products that stood out the most. A small hint: keep reading to see how you can win your own sample basket to try!

casey the college celiac
All the goodies!
Himalayan Sea Salt Chips: Hands down, these are one of the best chips I've tasted since my diagnosis! The chips are crispy, not greasy; the seasonings offer a punch of spice (particularly, coriander, cumin, garlic and pink Himalayan sea salt) without being overpowering; and the hint of salt makes these chips the perfect accompaniment to salsa!

In particular, I loved eating these chips with homemade burrito bowls (the Chipotle cravings are real!) and enchilada baked spaghetti squash. Add lots of fresh avocado for the prefect crunchy-creamy bite!

casey the college celiac
Crunchy action!
Nacho Cheese Chips: My dad and sister actually taste tested these for me - what a sacrifice! - because I'm not a huge fan of cheese chips and dairy doesn't agree with me. Considering that a week after I brought the chips, the bag looked empty, I'd say they were fans!

According to my sister, herbs and spices are well-distributed throughout each chip. Like the other chips, these also give a satisfying crunch and, being a little thicker than most chips, a heartier bite. Hannah especially loved how fresh the chips tasted. In fact, she compared them to Doritos - except less artificial and processed!

casey the college celiac
Cheesy attack...
Multigrain Crackers: Before my celiac diagnosis, one of my favorite school lunches included homemade ham and cheese or peanut butter cracker sandwiches. I'm happy to say that this delicacy can now re-enter my lunching life with Milton's Multigrain crackers! These babies offer an even heftier crunch than the chips, probably thanks to the visible air-bubbles baked throughout.

Various flours - including brown rice, potato, oats, corn, millet, quinoa, amaranth - give the crackers an earthy flavor that melds well with a variety of toppings, from fruit to avocado to meats and veggies. Be aware, though, that these do contain dairy (from whey protein).

casey the college celiac
Perfect (crunchy) bite!
Chocolate Chip Cookie: Finally, something on the sweet side! Milton's promises a soft-baked cookie and, unlike the crunchy or dry texture of many GF goodies, Milton's delivered. The dough tasted soft and chocolate chips filled every bite. I'll admit that I don't like the cookies as much as the chips and crackers - probably because my taste buds aren't used to high-sugar treats.

One of the best indicators of a good gluten free product? What gluten-eaters think! During our girl's night, one of my friends dug into my cookie stash. And while she loves gluten, these cookies apparently tasted good enough for several to disappear.

casey the college celiac
You're the apple cookie of my eye!
Beyond their tasty treats, I also love Milton's Craft Baking for its community service goals. I recently discussed with Milton's about their latest project: working with clinics and nurses to provide gluten free baskets of products to newly diagnosed celiacs. Because walking out of the hospital room with a new "celiac" identity could be a little easier with a bag of safe food in hand!

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

For the chance to win your own bag of samples, enter the raffle below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

What's your favorite flavor of chip? Have you ever tried Milton's products? Sign below!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Rant Against Weight Loss Spam

I've gotten a lot of weird emails since I started my blog. I suppose that's just an inevitable side effect of throwing my name (and email) out into the wide abyss of the Internet. I've been invited to join numerous dating sites (apparently a site especially for love-thirsty farmers does exist), have won dozens of contests (cruises and male shaving blades, mostly) and several offers to increase the size of my "package" - and not a Love for Food package!

But none of those emails bother me as much as the typical weight loss spam.

Three of the many offers...
Sometimes it's from magazines I actually enjoy, like Runner's Magazine with a catchy subject line like "Run off 10 lbs now!" Other times, it's the odd sports drink, magic pill, or diet plan. Logically, I know that these companies are only doing what they can to gain - money, that is. Emotionally, I have a couple reply emails I wish I could spend back. Like:

Why assume that someone who blogs about healthy eating automatically wants to lose weight?

Heck, why assume everyone - especially those with XX chromosomes - has pounds they need, or even want, to lose?

Every girl wants to lose weight? I don't think so!
Does that money-back-guarantee cover the time spent analyzing every inch and dip of flesh in the mirror? Or the towels drenched with sweat after forced hours at the gym?

Will your product - which promises to give me the legs of an Amazonian princess, abs of a Victoria Secret Model and metabolism of a supercharged hummingbird - make me happy too?

And most importantly: Why have I received one or two weight-loss emails a day for the last two years and not one about gaining strength, confidence or weight?

casey the college celiac
My kind of email caption ;)
For that last question, a few answers come to mind. Because more people "need" to lose weight than gain it; because society usually finds slim legs and defined collarbones more attractive than muscles or a smile; and maybe because it isn't as easy to promise a "quick fix" to self esteem as fitting into a lower jean size.

I wish loving my body - at my pre and my post celiac size - was as easy as clicking an email link or paying a low price of $29.99. In fact, I wish that the ultimate goals of weight loss that these ads often (implicitly or explicitly) promise like confidence or finding love (with self and others) were that easy.

casey the college celiac
Computers can help...but rarely cure!
And maybe that's the main reason why I hate weight-loss gurus preaching to me via email. To anyone whose lives have been transformed for the better with a click of the mouse, I say, awesome! I'm happy for you! But to the others who feel more like gazelle being hunted on a digital savanna...

You're beautiful the way you are - even if you have some pounds you still want to lose, gain or sculpt. And maybe the first step toward change, besides some gym time and new recipes, is exercising your right to click those weight loss emails into the trash without a second thought.

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What's your least favorite version of spam? Weirdest or funniest email you've ever received? Comment below!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Five Tips for an Easy (and Healthy) Morning

They say that the early bird gets the worm. While I can't attest to the truth of that claim, I can give you five ways to make your mornings even easier - and healthier. (No worms were or will be harmed by the tips in this blog post).

1. Stretch it out! Though it can feel annoying at times, I always set my alarm clock early enough to have fifteen minutes to stretch before class. In true sleepy fashion, I don't even bother getting out of bed to do it! 

casey the college celiac
Or you can do it on the floor!
In particular, I focus on stretches said to improve digestion. Like: spinal twist on each side, hugging my knees to my chest and rocking side to side, one legged seated spinal twist or, hilariously named as it is, puppy pose. There isn't any "right" or "wrong" way to stretch as long as it feels good

2. Drink warm lemon water with apple cider vinegar. Many magazines suggest warm lemon water in the morning, which helps "detox" the body. As I've written before, apple cider vinegar is also thought to improve digestion by helping balance good and bad stomach bacteria, lower heartburn and constipation and reduce bloating. 

casey the college celiac
Bonus points if you're cup is full of "calm!"
The easiest way to squeeze this "tea" into a busy morning? Make it as soon as you get up (simply by microwaving a mug of water until warm, adding 1/2 squeezed lemon and a dash of ACV) and sip on it as you get dressed, do your makeup and run out the door

3. Breakfast - made the night before! This is a bit of a cheat considering it's easiest to prep breaky the previous night, but try to make time to eat each morning. Typically, I mix my oatless zoats and cut up the fruit toppings that night, then microwave it and add any nut butters and blackstrap molasses in the morning. 

casey the college celiac
All the (easy and healthy) yum!
Having pre-made smoothies also makes breakfast a breeze. Simply whip up your smoothie as normal and freeze in a glass bowl or jar with a lid (making sure to leave looooots of room for the smoothie to expand as it freezes - or the glass will crack. Sadly, I know this well). In the morning, defrost with a microwave (optimally on 50% power) until soft. Add your toppings, tote it to class or work and devour

4. Make a list of your to-do's for the day. I don't know how people survive without planners. Honestly, I'll probably still use them even after I finish college! Making a list of everything you need to get done that day - optionally color coding or circling to indicate degrees of importance - can make a busy day feel manageable. It also doesn't hurt that crossing items off a list is the most cathartic feeling EvEr! 

casey the college celiac
Chaos organized...
For other celiacs in college (or working) to-do lists are a must to balance work and cooking. I write down my breakfast, lunch and dinner prep the same as my homework from class. This ensures that I'll always be fed...and it gives me a genuine excuse to procrastinate homework (but still be productive). 

5. Shoot a smile. Honestly, this is the step I forget most often. When I'm busy doing chores (and sometimes working out) in the morning before class, smiling can fall off my to-do list. When I take the time to just grin in the mirror, though, it can make a big difference in my confidence. 

casey the college celiac
Funny faces are also acceptable
And selfies? They may get a bad wrap as symptoms of being self obsessed or vain. But when you look in the mirror and say, "I be lookin' goooood today!", you deserve to preserve that moment for history! (Or, at least, for a bad hair day). 

For this college student, a relaxed and productive morning is just as rewarding as a worm to an early bird. Being healthy from the time you wake up doesn't have to be hard - it can just take a little extra planning. 

But when part of your homework is laying in bed, eating a delicious breakfast or snapping a cute pic, morning "work" doesn't seem too bad

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

What are your routines for an easy, healthy morning? Comment below!  

Friday, March 11, 2016

What Celiac Taught Me About Letting Go

Some phone calls leave a permanent, echoing voicemail in your mind. Like the call from my doctor two years ago, saying: "Your blood panel came back positive for celiac disease." I had no idea what "celiac" meant at the time. Heck, I didn't even know how to spell it. For a couple minutes, I was overjoyed. I wasn't crazy - there was something wrong with me! Something fixable! All I needed to do was avoid gluten. Piece of (gluten free?) cake.

Yeah right.

casey the college celiac
Mini cupcakes, but not mini problems!
Even two years post-diagnosis, I can't say that my gluten free diet is easy. It's easier. But it's time-consuming. It's paranoid. It's full of "Are you sure?" and "Cross contamination free?" and "Damn, I just really want a hamburger with a real bun." Yet, as I type this post tonight after two days of tears, I can't stop myself from feeling grateful.

Because celiac taught me so much about letting go.

Exactly what I had to let go of this past week isn't important. I'll just say that it played a big role in my life. What is important? How my disease has strengthened my ability to cope as much as it has, at times, weakened my body.

Celiac in a nut shell!
Thanks to celiac, I know that grieving is normal. Inevitable, even. Funny enough, I can't remember the last gluten-filled meal that I actually ate. By the point I was diagnosed, eating hurt so much that I didn't plan a last gluten hurrah

But I do remember the moment my eyes nearly popped out of my computer screen after googling, "What is gluten free?" Suddenly, I wasn't just losing some abstract term for wheat.

I was losing Mom's whole-grain spaghetti and cookies handed out in class. I lost the chance to oh-so-coolly order a scoop of ice cream from Baskin Robbins on my first date (without sweating as I scanned my phone for a list of what flavors were actually gluten free - and this was before I even knew and worried about cross-contaminated scoopers or cartons). I lost the teenage diet of a slice of pizza, a can of soda, and a big box of I'm-young-so-I-can-eat-anything

casey the college celiac
Or ALL the Halloween candy!
So, I literally lost it and grieved for gluten. Through tears at the grocery aisle, rants on my blog and afternoons spent scouring cookbooks to recreate that once favorite dish.

These last few days, I've been losing it over something else. I want to tell myself, like I did with gluten, "Get over it! It's just food!" Or *insert your own existential crisis here*. But this time, I don't - celiac taught me better.

Thanks to celiac, I know that letting go hurts for a long time. In my case, letting go of gluten hurt physically for almost a year. My destroyed villi, unlike most people's, didn't recover from a strict gluten-free diet alone. I needed a liquid diet, a hospital stay, an NG tube, and heck load of time. 

casey the college celiac
Not too long ago...
Looking back now, it's crazy to think that only a year ago, gluten free food still stabbed my stomach likes knives when I ate. It's crazy to think that, for a year, I ate and ate and still looked like a walking skeleton.

Healing - physically or emotionally - ain't easy, folks. If it were, chocolate (obviously in the form of GF cookies and cupcakes) and girls' nights and whole lot of time for reflection and self love wouldn't be common prescriptions for a variety of ailments. I see plenty of all of those in my future - and I know that bad days may hit me more often than good, at least at first.

But, celiac has proven to me that letting go ends up being just that: letting go of the past to find something new. I had to leave behind the girl who could eat her family under the table at nearly any restaurant (the face of a Denny's waitress after I ate a whole omelet and breakfast plate still sticks out in my mind!). 

Preach it!
More than that, I had to let go of my favorite foods, my curvier body, my nonchalant behavior towards eating and my inability to cook anything but a baked potato... gain the strong, resilient, foodie I am today. Food is now a passion, not just fuel. People online aren't strangers; they're my fellow bloggers, celiacs, college students and cooks. Part of the magic of transformation, I think, is in the uncertainty. (Or, at least that's what my presently uncertain self would like to believe).
casey the college celiac
She believes in a lot...
Just like I want to believe that what I've learned by letting go of gluten can apply to letting go of other parts of life. A job. A GPA. A plan for the future. A person.

I'll never forget the phone call that revealed my celiac disease diagnosis; nor will I ever forget saying goodbye to a big part of my life this weekend. But while letting go may hurt now, I know that I'm not actually losing.

In the end, I'll gain.
       (Celiac weight pun obviously intended).

*Also found at LoveWithSpoon's link party!*

Do you think celiac has taught you to "let go?" Or what other lessons? Comment below!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Monthly Favorites: February 2016

You know how some kids say that the dog ate their homework? Well, midterms ate my blog posts! February flew by thanks to a killer combination of projects, essays and midterms - but I still squeezed some fun in between the craziness.

(Or at least I had a little fun while going crazy!)

casey the college celiac
My face = that spoon!
What I'm Eating

Whether due to midterms stress or just the munchies, this month was all about "healthifying" typically unhealthy and gluten-filled meals. One of my favorites was triggered by a late-night burrito run with friends: a hungry celiac + her boyfriend's (gluten contaminated) loaded carne asada fries = a delicious plate of "potato nachos" a few days later. Though I haven't uploaded a recipe (yet!), just bake some potato wedges and top with all the goodies your heart (or tummy) desires!

I also devoured a super delicious - and super easy - pizza with some inspiration from Further Food's recipe for a salmon and veggie wrap! I just topped my favorite rice tortilla with an avocado sauce (just add avocado to my radish green sauce) with lots of sautéed veggies, black beans, salmon and a little Daiya cheese sprinkled on top. Baked at 425 Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes - just long enough for the edges to get crispy. Definitely going to be my new secret weapon for pizza cravings on busy school nights.

casey the college celiac
Some of this month's best eats!
Vegan and gluten free cupcakes thanks to The Good Scone! To help my friends (and, okay, me) survive midterms, I threw their vanilla cake mix and a few other ingredients into a bowl and poof! Cupcakes appeared. I also added some chopped up peppermint dark chocolate into the mix - 'cause chocolate fixes everything, right? Especially with homemade chocolate frosting as literal icing on the cake.

What I'm Doing

This is a little bit of a cheat, since it's another thing I ate - but when I went to dinner with friends at Slater's 50/50, I also made up a pretty swag name for my personalized burger. Literally.

casey the college celiac
With lots of gluten free instructions on the side! ;)
Making lots of funny faces with the boy while waiting for the Superbowl to start. We didn't end up staying to watch the whole thing - we knew traffic driving back to campus before classes the next day would be cRaZy after the game ended! - but it was a fun day of food, football and friends.

Opening lots of big boxes. Fun fact. Two weeks ago, I won a contest from SmartFlour for a free box of gluten free pizza and some swag. Hence the reason I toted a 25 pound box of pizza from mail services to my apartment across campus. I must've made a funny picture because a lady who was obviously visiting my college saw me finally near my apartment and said, "Wow, you were going a long way - I saw you on the top of the hill! Hope it's worth it!" Free pizza? Always worth it.

casey the college celiac
A few shots from the Expo!
Going to the Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo with my mom! You can check out my full recap here, but I'll just say that it was full of good food, awesome companies and lots of new favorite products.

What I'm Planning

Posting more recipes - including the potato nachos and my easy pizza - to the blog!

Enjoying that I survived midterms and shouldn't have any more big projects, essays, or exams in my future for a little while! This means lots of movies with friends, date nights (Chick Fil A is apparently the craving of choice for restaurants), and homework parties. Maybe even another burrito run with a poncho-clad driver and speakers booming "Bringing Sexy Back."

casey the college celiac
All the goodies!
A review and giveaway of Milton's Baking Company. You a crunchy, cheesy, or chewy kind of foodie? It doesn't matter - Milton's got you covered.

What were your highlights for February? Any big plans for March? Comment below!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo 2016 Recap

I promise, I didn't gorge on samples at San Diego's GFAF Expo and fall into a food coma for this last week...though I might be using some of my favorite finds to fuel me through the chaos of midterms

As I drown in papers and exams, though, I couldn't resist sharing all the details on the Expo my mom and I attended two weekends ago. For those who don't know, the Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo is the largest special-diet event in the United States and now occurs in seven cities. The goal? Educate, provide sneak peeks of companies' newest products and, of course, ensure that attendees leave with full goodie bags and an even fuller stomachs

casey the college celiac
Snaps of some of the amazing companies!
It's true that an overwhelming amount of amazing companies participated in the Expo - and I might have traded my camera for a spoon and fork at several of the booths (oops). But a few products in particular won over my heart stomach and deserved to be shared! 

First off, the most surprising savory favorite. After snacking on plenty of muffin, brownie, cookie and cake bites, my mom and I thought, "Why not get some protein?" when Del Real Foods offered a small bowl of their chicken to sampleI'd seen boxes of Del Real's chicken and beef in my local Sprouts before, but always figured it would taste processed or mediocre. Wow, did they prove me wrong!  

casey the college celiac
The chicken disappeared too quickly for a photo...but their van didn't!
The pollo asado tasted tender and juicy without any of the dryness or fat that often accompanies packaged meat. The seasoning wasn't overly spicy, but gave the chicken a punch of Mexican flavor. Next time I want to make some nachos or enchiladas without cooking my own chicken, Deal Real Foods will be my secret weapon!  

On the savory side, we both also loved the crackers from Milton's Baking Company. Their chips, compared to others on the market, are baked rather than fried and made from a variety of gluten free grains and beans like brown rice, chickpeas and lentils. I also love that they are free of other allergens, like dairy, eggs, nuts and soy. A delicious gluten free and vegan chip finally exists! 

casey the college celiac
My name favorite chip!
At the Expo, we tried a sample of their multi grain baked chips. Crunchy without being oily, lightly seasoned and no strange aftertaste (as with many gluten free products). In our goodie bag, we also received a sample of Milton's Himalayan Salt chips. I've been devouring these babies with salsa and avocado with dinner. Good news for you? You'll be hearing more about Milton's (and possibly winning your own sample pack) very soon! 

Now for the sweets! First off, the one product that Mom actually bought during the Expo: SuperSeedz Gourmet Pumpkin Seeds. We both tried the Maple Sugar & Sea Salt flavor and couldn't get enough of the sweet-salty-crunchy combo. Superseedz also offers savory flavors, including Tomato Italiano, Curious Curry, Somewhat Spicy and Super Spicy, but the Cinnamon & Sugar is next on my stomach's bucket list

casey the college celiac
A gorgeous photo thanks to my mom!
How Mom's eating them? Sprinkled on her own oatless oatmeal - which, according to her, melts off the seeds' sugary coating to create a maple-spiced, crunchy porridge. No complaints from her! (Though she did label her bag to protect it from my gluten-eating Dad!) 

Next, another huge hit for my mom and I: Daiya's new dairy free Greek yogurtUnlike other yogurts with coconut bases, Daiya's only contains a little coconut along with other ingredients like pea protein, potato starch and fruit. And, like their other products, these yogurts are all dairy, soy and gluten free!

casey the college celiac
Faces hidden to protect snackers' identities! ;)
The booth handed out samples of the Peach flavor, and even though peach usually isn't my thang, I ate it up! The yogurt is creamy with small pieces of fruit mixed throughout. No weird aftertaste and sweet but not overpowering. Right now, Daiya also offers their yogurt in blueberry, black cherry and strawberry. 

Finally, one of my favorites: Health Warrior's Chia bar, which is a GF and vegan snack bar that consistent a mainly of chia seeds. According to their website, even though one Chia bar only contains around 100 calories, it offers more omega-3 than salmon, more fiber than oatmeal and more protein than tofu. 

casey the college celiac
Tiny but mighty!
I tried the Dark Chocolate Cherry and Acai flavors - and, of course fell in love with the new use of one of my favorite ingredients! The bars have a good balance between chewy and crunchy, and the fruity flavor pops without being overwhelming. Chia bars are the perfect size for a snack during class, but for those needing an even bigger protein boost, Health Warrior also offers a 200-calorie, plant-based Chia Protein bar. Win, win! 

Attending the GFAF Expo really can't go wrong. I mean, just picture this: one huge conference room, tons of booths with free samples, and being able to eat ANYTHING in the room. (Add my blender and some comfy PJ's, and this college celiac would be in heaven.)

casey the college celiac
Some pics from the end of our adventure!
Besides spending time with my mom and squeezing in some food and relaxation before Midterms insanity, discovering new products to add to my diet is my favorite part of Gluten Free expos. 'Cause living with celiac is like taking a midterm - if you have the right tools and preparation, acing it can be a piece of (gluten free) cake!

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

Have you ever attended a gluten free expo? Tried any of the products I discovered and loved? Comment below!