Monday, May 30, 2016

Snack Attack: Recent Favorite Gluten Free Products!

Whether it's Memorial Day weekend or a regular workday, Monday's usually boast one constant: lots of energy-boosting snacksThis particular Monday, I'm ending Celiac Awareness Month with a bang - or, to be more exact, some chewy, crunchy, creamy goodness! 

Instead of offering my thoughts on one product, today is a snack edition covering three of my recent (sponsored) finds: New Zealand jerky, Bare Snacks banana chips and Coromega's Be Bright superfood oil blend. 

casey the college celiac
The secret weapons for every snack attack...
Which product is the perfect snack for you? Keep reading to find out!

First, New Zealand jerky. Compared to other jerky brands, New Zealand's beef is pasture raised, non GMO, paleo and free of preservatives, additives, MSG and nitrates. It also doesn't hurt that each jerky flavor offers 30 or more grams of protein without any saturated fat! 

In particular, I sampled the Original, Peppered and Teriyaki flavors. I'll admit that I'm not a huge jerky gal - sweet snacks are more my style - but my dad and sister happily volunteered to test taste. The results? In the history of my product reviews, I've never seen the gluten-eaters in my family drool over a gluten free food so much

casey the college celiac new zealand jerky
Hannah and Sammi both approve!
According to my sister, the original flavor is chewy, but not overly so. She also loves the spices, saying the hints of garlic and onion powder complemented the beef. My dad was less eloquent: "It's yummy!" The fact that the first bag of jerky disappeared within a week, however, speaks for itself. 

Next, my favorite product of the three: Bare Snacks' new banana chips. As already mentioning, my sweet tooth rules when it comes to three o'clock snacking. These banana chips are the best of both worlds: sweet yet free of added sugar, preservatives, oil and fat. The only ingredient? Bananas! The fiber they offer is a another (delicious) plus. 

These chips come in three flavors: Simply (aka plain/original), Cinnamon and Cacao. Compared to other banana chips that I've tried, I love that these don't have the same overly sugary or oily texture. They also taste thick enough for a satisfying crunch but not so thick you worry about breaking a tooth! 

casey the college celiac bare snacks
*wipes drool off my computer screen*
Personally, I ate plenty of these babies straight from the bag. They also, however, make the perfect crunchy topping for smoothies, on top of yogurt parfaits or even baked into homemade granola! If you really want to go bananas, whip up some banana ice cream and sprinkle some of these on top. A decadent dessert without any added sugar? That's my kind of bite!

Last but not least is Coromega's Be Bright superfood oil blend. This mix includes 5 plant based healthy fats: chia seed oil, black cumin seed oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil and avocado oil. Altogether, it packs 787 mg of Omega-3 while being gluten free, vegan, organic and non GMO

In particular, Coromega claims that these oils provide benefits like detoxifying the body, promoting fat loss, providing lots of Vitamin E and giving athletes a pre-workout boost. While I can't say I've felt any of these effects myself (having only used it a couple times so far), I love adding it to my pre-workout smoothies

casey the college celiac coromega superfood oil blend
That creamy green goodness!
Not only does it give my smoothies an extra creamy texture, but it's also a great way to increase my healthy fats and nutrients overall. As someone who works out and wants to gain some weight, this Superfood Oil is the perfect secret weapon! (As I quickly discovered during my first taste, this oil also makes smoothies extra filling!) And for those worried about the taste, don't be. As long as you use a greater amount of flavorful fruits, liquid or spices, you can't even taste the oil! 

Whatever you're up to this Monday (or any day!), snacking will likely crash your party. And, despite snacking's common reputation as a nutrient-low, sugar-high habit, snacking can be healthy. In fact, as my experience with New Zealand jerky, Bare Snacks banana chips and Coromega oil showswhether you need a paleo, protein-packed bite or plant based versions that are naturally sweet or tasteless but full of healthy fats, there are gluten free snacks for you

casey the college celiac smoothiebowl
"Wanna Spoon?" isn't a question with these snacks!

The best part? Your taste buds will love them just as much as the rest of your body

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

*Also found at Food & Fitness Link Up and RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

Are you a sweet or savory snacker? What's your favorite snack? Comment below!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Why I Shared my Celiac Status on my First Day of Work

Today marked a milestone for this college celiac. This last Monday, I drove to my first 9 to 5 "job" (a paid internship, but that's close enough, right?) - accompanied, of course, by a cooler filled with gluten free food. Butterflies of the usual kind filled my stomach, but also worries like, "Will people think my food is weird? How will lunches with co-workers go? Will the fridge be safe?"

After officially surviving my first week, I can now say that I am absolutely in love with the people, purpose and atmosphere of my internship. (And you will definitely be hearing more about my work as an Editorial Intern for Entity Magazine soon!) I also couldn't be happier that I chose to share my celiac status on my first day of work - and here are the four reasons why you should too!

casey the college celiac
From your favorite gluten free goofball...
1. Bosses may try to modify food-related office activities to fit your dietary needs.

Thanks to an email the night before, I walked into the office knowing that a bagel party would greet me. I wasn't worried; as usual, I had brought my own breakfast to eat (my favorite oatless zoats for all those who don't follow me on Instagram!). Imagine my surprise and appreciation when my boss motioned towards a jar of fruit that had been specially set aside for me. I had actually informed her of my celiac disease during the job interview because part of my resume, believe it or not, is this blog!

casey the college celiac oatless zoats
My usual breakfast to-go...
Not every boss will have the time or means to accommodate your diet. However, people can only try to include you in office eating if they know your dietary limitations to begin with!

2. It prevents having to explain your "special" food to each co-worker individually.

I didn't stand up in the middle of our first office meeting and yell, "I have celiac disease!" (That would be frowned upon, I do believe, in most workplaces). However, I explained why I wasn't eating bagels like everyone else during small talk with my fellow interns and, when my boss asked what kind of articles I'd be especially interested in writing, I mentioned food-related topics and my blog.

casey the college celiac pizza
And an easy dinner...
By my second day of work, everyone already knew about my eating from the day before. This means I didn't have to waste time answering questions about my "special" pizza (which, if I do say so myself, is especially delicious) with individual co-workers. I could just work and eat - while only sending a few jealous glances at the gluten-filled donuts everyone else enjoyed.

3. Without anything to "hide," there isn't any anxiety about your eating habits either.

One of the most nerve-wracking moments of my first day, ironically enough, was our lunch break. In typical first-day fashion, all the interns wanted to go eat together. I already knew that most nearby restaurants didn't speak "celiac" (thank you Find Me Gluten Free app!) and I ate a late and large breakfast for exactly that reason.

casey the college celiac walks
Lunch breaks are meant for walkin'...
In the end, though, I ended up joining the other girls as they walked to a nearby deli. I sat in the booth as they devoured their sandwiches (pesto bread is apparently a thing - and I definitely must re-create it soon!) and, besides the odd remark that my celiac must be a "bummer," no one cared that I was savoring the atmosphere instead of the food. The truth is that once people know the reason for "odd" behavior, they usually lose interest. Not only was lunch a great break from sitting in an office, but it also let me bond with the girls I'll be working with the next nine weeks!

4. You can focus on getting to know your job and your co-workers - not your food.

Clearing the (gluten free) air on my first day made my next days of work even easier. I cook breakfast, lunch and dinner the night before and bring it to work in my handy cooler/lunch box. When I'm hungry, I have food that I know is safe to eat. Easy, simple and pretty darn delicious.

It can feel awkward telling strangers your medical history - though I can't say too much considering I write to hundreds of strangers about all parts of my life on here! - but it let me focus less on my eating and more on my internship overall. After my first week, I don't know everything about my co-workers or my internship. But I know that we are an amazingly talented group of young ladies excited to grow together. They don't see me as "the celiac." Instead, my fellow interns know me for my "endearing sense of humor" (as one girl told me on our second day).

casey the college celiac gluten free weirdo
In case you didn't already know...
I know more work and food related challenges, like office parties and field trips, will likely pop up during my internship. I know I'll probably have days when I feel frustrated about not being like everyone else. I also know that, wherever I work next, I'll also share my celiac disease on or before the first day.

Whether you like it or not, celiac disease is part of you. Instead of trying to hide it at work, own it instead!

*Also found at the Chronic Friday Linkup!*

When you do you share your celiac status with co-workers? With new people you meet? Comment below!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

15 Thoughts Everyone Has Crying During a Yoga Class

Just picture this: it's 5:30 on a Saturday night and you're busy (carefully) balancing and (heavily) breathing during a hot yoga class at your local studio. 

Then, suddenly, it happens. A song comes on that reminds you of an ex-boyfriend, that time you saw a dead bunny decorating the side of a highway, or anything in between. And, in between the sweat, the grunts and the ujjayi breathing, a tear begins to trickle down your face. 

casey the college celiac
And so it begins...
As quickly as the instructor says, "Time to flow," these 15 thoughts probably race through your mind. 

(Based on a recent and true story. Skeptical of or curious about why people may cry during yoga? Just google "crying yoga" and prepare for an avalanche of articles). 

1. Is that a tear? Or are my eyes just sweating with me? They both taste salty so how am I supposed to know? 

2. Crap, I'm definitely crying. I know they say yoga can bring up "all kinds of feelings" in their brochure, but they weren't serious, right?

casey the college celiac
3. Does that mean their other claims are right too? *Reminds self to check for abs and a suddenly younger appearance in the mirror when home*

4. Okay, I can do this. Just breathe...push it out of your mind...while balancing on one foot, breathing only through my nose and trying to not slip on my own sweat. 

5. Thank God. Downward dog. *Sneakily wipe my face on my sleeve while throwing my left foot in the air.*

6. Why are all these songs about love and death? Why don't we "shake it off" while we meditate today, huh?

casey the college celiac
My kind of dance party?
7. Good, we've hit the ab session. That means we're halfway through. Feel the burn, focus on the burn...of my abs, not my eyes?

8. What else are you supposed to say when instructors ask mid-class, "How's everyone's doing?" "Great, except my thighs are shaking and I think you've strained my sentimental tendon." I say: "Great!" with everyone else instead. 

9. At least no one can see tears when your face is already a sweaty tomato, right? *Peeks around people in front of me to see the mirror* Hot mess, perfect disguise!

10. Wait, how many people have cried in a yoga class when I thought they were just sweating profusely

casey the college celiac
Mind. Blown.
11. *Pats self on the back for not ever wearing mascara to yoga* Genius right here. 

12. Okay, I think I've recovered now...except now she wants us to curl up in a ball and see how it feels to be constricted. It feels like I'm going to tear up again. Only partially because it's hard to breathe

13. *Stealthily uses washcloth meant to wipe sweat from face to dab eyes*

14. Finally, chavasna. Can I get an extra spritz of those reviving oils please? Physically and emotionally dead over here!

casey the college celiac
15. *Says "Namaste" and walks out of yoga, drenched in sweat, feeling like a badass.* Time for a hot date with a shower and ginormous bowl of nana ice cream. 

*Also found at Sunday Fitness and Food LinkUp and RunningwithSpoon's Link Love!*

Have you ever cried or experienced unexpected emotions during yoga? Relate to any of these thoughts? Comment below! 

Monday, May 23, 2016

5 Benefits of Unplugging for the Weekend

It happened by accident actually. A few weekends ago, my family and I escaped to a cottage on San Onofre beach for the weekend. Sand, surf and some sun? What could go wrong? A few minutes into the stay, though, I realized the cottage lacked one "s": Safari, or, to be more broad, Internet access.

What's a blogger and social media lover to do? Well, as it turns out, have an amazingly relaxing weekend and learn five benefits of unplugging from the Internet for a few days. 

casey the college celiac
Gorgeous sunset not included ;)
1. It gives you perspective

There's been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere lately about what being a "successful" blogger entails. Is it getting the most Pinterest clicks? The most comments? Growing a Twitter empire so large it deserves its own zip code?

The fact is, partially thanks to the ease of tracking stats through Blogger or programs like Google Analytics, it's equally easy to become obsessed with numerical success. No Internet, no posting equals no internal analysis of why my gorgeous photo of smoothie bowl perfection only received 90 likes instead of the usual 150. 

casey the college celiac san onofre
Snaps along the sand...
Because, as I walked along the ocean and scoured the rocks and shells, I realized something. Just like the main reward is the cathartic searching of shells and not the discovery of "prime" specimens, I value the act of writing my blog more than the stats it may bring. 

2. It motivates you to focus on the future. 

When Internet is available and typing, publishing, pinning and sharing are only a few clicks away, it's easy to get sucked into a "now" mentality. Why worry about the future or plan out a blogging schedule when you can actually do it right now? 

casey the college celiac
The perfect place for contemplation...
When I couldn't write blog posts or use social media, though, I found my thoughts focusing instead on the future. What improvements do I want to make? What blog topics would be timely to publish soon? What will I change my blog's name to once I graduate from college in one semester? 

Even if you don't write a blog, you could experience similar benefits. The "future" could be the the way you allot your time online, your career or even non-tech goals like running a marathon or spending more time with family and friends. 

casey the college celiac
Mom and I!
3. It prevents burnout

It's hard to escape from technology and the Internet nowadays. Even if you aren't actively cruising social media, phone notifications can ensure that you will soon! 

As a result, you may not even realize how tiring the web can be until the bright blue color of social media sites start to make you want to simultaneously throw your computer across the room and tweet about your frustration. I certainly didn't think I was "tired" of blogging or Instagram scrolling...until I allowed myself to start and finish a 600-page Steven King novel without a single "ping" interrupting me. 

casey the college celiac san onofre beach
In Dad's mind, a good view and mug can't hurt either!
Most people don't smash the same workout, devour the same meals or follow the exact same schedule each day for months on end without craving a change. (As a repeat-meal offender, I thank the culinary gods for the transforming properties of spices, sides and toppings!). 

It makes sense, then, that we need similar variety - even fully unplugged weekends - into our online routines. 

4. It breaks the "obligation" mentality. 

Raise a (virtual) hand if you've ever gotten anxious about not scrolling to the end of your Facebook, Instagram or any other online account. Just me? I didn't think so. Even though we don't have any real "need" to reach the end of our feed, a special kind of satisfaction emerges when we do. 

casey the college celiac san onofre beach
Social media < this view! (Photo creds to Dad!)
(And I'm sure, one day, social media will assign "medals" to those most diligent at keeping up with their accounts. If one doesn't already.)

I didn't blog, I didn't Facebook, I didn't Instagram (besides the few moments I posted a photo online using my phone data to assure friends and family of our survival) for the weekend. My blog stats didn't plummet, nor did my Instagram account implode. I doubt yours would either. 

casey the college celiac
I doubt it'll go up in flames either! ;)
5. Finally, cliche but true: you grow closer with the offline people in your life. 

At home, my family is close but we have our nooks in the house and our own activities. My sis relaxes in the play room with her laptop, TV and video games. I chill in the kitchen with Netflix and the blog. And my parents often lounge in the living room with the TV or a good book. 

casey the college celiac
One of our several bonfires!
Stuck in a tiny, 2-bedroom cottage with no Internet (but one TV), it was hard to escape family time. So we talked a lot, especially when warmed by a bonfire with a view of the ocean. We laughed at old movies (Indiana Jones from the 90s? It happened). 

For once, we had no distractions and very few gadgets to separate us. And while we definitely enjoyed returning to our technology-enhanced alone time, for the weekend, it felt very nice. 

I will admit that I'm not sure when my next "unplugged" weekend will be. Like most things that are good for you (vegetables, wisdom teeth removal, you name it!), they're easier to endure than initiate. 

casey the college celiac san onofre beach
And a looooot of walks!
But I can say that I appreciated the accidentally unplugged weekend at the beach a few weeks ago - and I won't forget the calming lullaby of hearing the waves roll in as I sit on a warm sofa, reading a book

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

Have you ever "unplugged" for the weekend? Did you experience any similar benefits? Comment below! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review: Rawxies Heart Bars and Crunch

One of the hardest parts about eating a healthy gluten free diet? When food manufacturers take out the gluten, they often add something else: most commonly, sugar. So when I learned that Rawxies created a snack bar that is gluten free, non-GMO and vegan while keeping the ingredients simple and natural, I was intrigued. 

And after my first bite, I was hooked. Just picture: a healthy cookie that's soft, yet not so soft that it falls apart (as gluten free snacks are prone to do). Sweet enough to satisfy a sugar craving, but not overwhelmingly so. Not to mention boasting a chewy, dense consistency reminiscent of thick brownie or banana bread

casey the college celiac
Their cute business card!
One of Rawxies slogans is, "Eat your <3 out!" Their healthy ingredients ensure that you can do that without a hint of guilt. Callie England first created the heart bars to create a middle-man (errr, middle bar) between snacks and dessert. Besides being allergy-friendly, the bars are dehydrated in order to "preserve natural digestive enzymes." 

So what are the bars made of? Their ingredients include goodies like gluten free oat flour (which I've found I can tolerate in moderation), seeds and nuts, organic cacao and dates. As for the flavors, my taste buds have fallen in love with the chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate brownie (my favorite flavor, hands-down!). Other options include banana nut bread, lemon poppy seed, mint chocolate chip and cranberry pecan. 

casey the college celiac
Some of my favorite uses...

Don't just think of Rawxies as a snack food either. Besides eating the bars straight, I also enjoyed crumbling them over my smoothie bowls, making a chewy yogurt parfait as a night snack or even adding them to my homemade granola. Sky (or stomach) is the limit! 

For savory food lovers, Rawxies also has an option for you: their Crunch products, which resemble a savory granola and come in Smoked Paprika, Curry Chipotle or Chili Lime. Besides being gluten free and vegan, the crunch is also grain and sugar free. Paleo and vegan folks missing granola? Here's the crunch factor you need!

casey the college celiac
All of the goodies!

I got to try the Smoked Paprika flavor, though I only tasted a few bites because it does contain sesame and flax (two ingredients I show a slight intolerance of). My sister, however, was more than happy to be my stand-in taste buds! Her favorite parts were definitely the crunch and the paprika, which had a kick without being too spicy. She did think that the lemon tasted a little overpowering, but I think it would add a hit of freshness to a salad,

Besides crunching straight out of the bag, you can also sprinkle the mix on salads, hummus or even as the finishing crunch on a rice cake or toast with mashed avocado! 

casey the college celiac
The ultimate crunch factor!
Overall, I'd give Rawxies a strong 9/10. My only changes would be adding some bigger chocolate chunks to the bars (to break up the smooth, well ground consistency) and experimenting with a sweet version of their Crunch - because sweet grain free granola is calling my name

Nonetheless, Rawxies proves that being celiac or allergy friendly doesn't require adding unhealthy ingredients. In fact, if you want a healthy snack that tastes like dessert or packs a savory crunch, prepare to fall in love with Rawxies. 

casey the college celiac
I'm a fan of the button they sent too! :P
I know I did! 

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

What do you look for in a snack bar? Do you prefer sweet or savory snacks? Comment below! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Redefining Celiac Dis-Ability

Last semester, I received an email from my school's Disability Resource Center. Would I like to join the DRC's Honor Society? If so, just reply. Nearly as quickly as it took for the email to load, though, I deleted it.

Why didn't I want to join? Why did it take so little time for me to decide? Those questions have lingered my mind much longer than the original email. 

Why this gluten free college student wants to redefine celiac disability
Throwback to NG tube days!
Though I'm still not entirely sure of the answer, I have a guess: as I explained to a friend, sometimes I feel like a "fraud" when disability and my name connect. Compared to some students in the DRC, I don't have a physical illness that requires a walker or wheelchair. I don't have a learning disability - in fact, even though I was hospitalized for celiac complications during my freshman year, I've fought for and maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout college. 

When you look at me, hear me speak or watch me in class, I don't fit the typical "disabled" stereotype. So, I found myself wondering, do I really deserve extra recognition for my academic accomplishments

Though I wouldn't mind this medal!
My roommate laughed at my doubts, saying, "Girl, you have celiac and fibromyalgia. You have more issues than most DRC students!" 

All of which is true. Not to mention I understand - and appreciate - the ability to require celiac food accommodations in schools under the 504 Plan. I know that, as of 2013, the Americans With Disabilities Act includes celiac disease. And, if I get glutened, my body and my mind give out on me - and I feel anything but "able." 

So why did I say no? Perhaps, as I've started to realize, because "disabled" is a loaded, victimizing word I'm wary of placing on my shoulders. By its very etymology, "disabled" is formed by combining "dis"  (a Latin prefix meaning "apart," "asunder," "away," or having a negative, reversing effect) and "ability" (having the means or skill to do something). 

Why this gluten free college student wants to redefine celiac disability
Putting my linguistics class to work!
As someone who does face several medical challenges - from fibromyalgia fatigue and pain to my need for a strict gluten free diet), I need to believe I can succeed at anything if I work for it. (Besides eating gluten without ill effects of course!). I need to see myself as able so my beliefs will become a reality. Embracing a "disabled" status seems to contradict this goal. 

Yet, the more I think, the more I believe the problem isn't with the term "disability" per se. Instead, it's my view of being disabled. If I view disabilities from a societal perspective - which often sees disabled people as completely incapable or, at the very least, "imperfect" compared to the social ideal - I definitely wouldn't want to rock that title

Why this gluten free college student wants to redefine celiac disability
What a Google search shows...
Yet, when my view changes when I picture the "disabled" people who have blessed my life. Elizabeth with cerebral palsy; Meghan with fibromyalgia and Ehlers-Danlos; Sarah with a heart defect; blogger friends with celiac and food allergies; even my mom, a fibro warrior. Their disabilities don't make them any less badass - so why would it make me?

Although I didn't end up joining my school's Honor Society at the DRC, I like to think that I earned my own "honors" by exploring the motivations behind my decision. In fact, one of my favorite parts of Celiac Awareness Month (this May in case you've been hiding under a Twitter-free rock!) is that I learn just as much as those who have never heard of celiac disease. 

Why this gluten free college student wants to redefine celiac disability
If only the sign I was holding really said this! ;)
I learn more about my community, my disease and, especially, myself. And if that isn't a sign that I'm as "able" as ever - disease or disability included - I don't know what is. 

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link love!*

Do you view celiac as a disability? How do you balance feeling empowered but also aware of your medical issues? Comment below! 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Best Gluten Free Eats in San Diego

As crazy as it is to say, my family and I have lived in San Diego for a total of seven years now. Considering that I've grown up as a Marine brat moving every couple years, California has really become a home.

And the San Diego restaurants that I've fallen in love with since my celiac diagnosis? Well, you could say they've become my taste buds' home. Before my family and I take off on our next adventure - moving to Colorado! - late this summer, I wanted to highlight my top gluten free restaurants in San Diego. 

Already hungry? Be warned, this post won't help!

A college celiac's best gluten free eats in San Diego
The meaning of a "balanced" diet, right?
First, the more unique or less chain restaurants, listed in no particular order:

If you or your friends are healthy foodies, this is the San Diego restaurant of your dreams! True Food is known for a philosophy emphasizing fresh, local and healthy food. I've eaten here several times without issue - except that I never want to leave. 

A college celiac's best gluten free eats in San Diego

The menu varies from smoothies to hashes to (gluten free!) pizzas to burgers. My favorite meal to date is definitely the bison burger with a kale salad and sweet potato hash. Order the guacamole appetizer with veggies instead of chips for an extra delicious gluten free meal! 

Boy, was I spoiled when one of my best friends (who has several food allergies and therefore was on the up-and-up of safe, delicious eateries) introduced my taste buds to Stacked. As I've written before, this restaurant promotes choices - you pick (using an iPad!) every aspect of your meal, and that's exactly what you pay for. 

A college celiac's best gluten free eats in San Diego
Some shots of our eats!
Stacked offers plenty of gluten free options (from pasta to pizza to burgers, as well as fries and potato chips made in a separate fryer). I also love that because customers order through an iPad (which indicates GF ingredients with a no-wheat symbol), there's no need to give the waiter the usual "celiac spiel." Just click all GF options and you're good to go! 

(The fact that gluten-eaters love this place too doesn't hurt either!) 

I only ate at this restaurant last month, but I'm already dying to go back! Peace Pies is an entirely gluten free, raw, vegan restaurant. Even if you aren't a raw vegan, if you have celiac disease or follow a gluten free diet (or just want an edible adventure!), I 100% suggest stopping by. 

A college celiac's best gluten free eats in San Diego
The first, but not the last trip!
Peace Pies offers everything from burritos to pizza to pasta to their famous desserts (hence the name). So far, I've tried their customer favorite: a mushroom quesadilla with cashew cheese and a side of guacamole and "cheesy" kale chips. I could write paragraphs on how the creamy cashew cheese complemented the crunchy tomatoes and tender mushrooms (you get the picture)...but in a few words: Visit Peace Pies. ASAP

Some outstanding chains:

1. Outback Steakhouse (Poway location)

As I've written before, chains definitely vary in their quality depending on the location. If you're ever in Poway, though, know that this Outback rocks! The waiter or waitress are usually relatively aware of celiac disease and go out of their way to deliver a safe meal. It doesn't hurt that at least 90% of our visits have ended with perfectly cooked foods. 

A college celiac's best gluten free eats in San Diego
The birthday boy and his cake!
A snapshot of how far this Outback goes to accommodate? When we ate there for my dad's birthday, our waitress brought  out the Thunder Down Under (instead of the typical free birthday brownie) so I could eat it as well. If that's not (delicious) customer service, I don't know what is! 

2. Whole Foods Market (San Diego) 

For this celiac, the Whole Foods hot bar is always a treat. While celiacs should still be careful when choosing food from the hot bar (for instance, by not choosing gluten free foods that are next to - and possibly contaminated by - gluten foods), Whole Foods provides an easy, delicious hot meal. 

A college celiac's best gluten free eats in San Diego
Potato salad was obviously the goodie of the day...
Some of my favorite combos? Always start with mixed greens, then add: any grilled veggies, their chopped chicken (the best!), any raw veggies not already in your fridge (like grated beet or broccoli root), and any goodies of the day. These can include (vegan and GF) lentil stew, my favorite kale and white bean soup, roasted potatoes or baked plantains

3. Chipotle and Chick Fil A (Point Loma and Poway location) 

Anyone who follows my Instagram knows that Chipotle is my best man and Chick Fil A is my random, but much beloved cousin. At both locations, Chipotle workers are aware of the gluten free protocol and often retrieve contamination-risky ingredients (like lettuce or guac) from the back. Fun fact: Poway's Chipotle is often very liberal with the serving size. Leftovers for the win! 

A college celiac's best gluten free eats in San Diego
The first burrito bowl I ever ate...
As for Chick Fil A, when I'm craving a "balanced" meal - aka a salad in one hand and waffle fries in another - this is my favorite stop! The food in both locations have tasted fresh. While the cashiers haven't always understood my request for a "gluten free" meal, I haven't had an issue when ordering off the GF menu. I've also read on Facebook that Chick Fil A is introducing a gluten free bun (wrapped and served separate from other foods). I have yet to try it, but you can bet that I'm excited

San Diego has been a great home for seven years - and has provided plenty of good eats! If you're ever in the area, these would be my suggested stops. And if you want more San Diego celiac tips and tricks, send an Instagram message or email (through the blogger contact form) my way. 

A college celiac's best gluten free eats in San Diego
Poway does have a hiking spot called Potato Chip Rock after all...
San Diego is known for its ocean views and sunny weather. At least in this celiac's experience, though, good gluten free eats are equally common! 

*Also found at Sunday Fitness and Food Link Up and RunningwithSpoon's Link Party!*

What's your favorite restaurant where you live? Have you eaten at any of these spots? Comment below! 

Friday, May 13, 2016

It's OK to (Sometimes) Hate Celiac Disease

I like to think that celiac disease and I do a pretty good job sharing custody of my body. I know celiac obviously doesn't do gluten, can't tolerate oats and isn't a fan of dairy.

Most of the time, I can deal with these dietary compromises. But some days? A girl just wants to be like any other gluten-lovin', junk-food-eatin' teenager

Why it's okay to (sometimes) hate celiac disease
Just one of the Babe Cave...
As the month for celiac awareness, May is full of stories educating others about celiac disease. Peeking at my blog's past May posts shows a variety of topics like: six reasons to befriend a celiac, mastering the magic of gluten free baking and feeling great-ful. Positive topics to reflect my typically positive attitude

What people should also know about celiac disease, though? No matter how long someone has had it and how many times and ways they've learned to cope, bad days happen. 

You don't grow out of feeling left out during parties when the birthday girl cuts into her gluten-lovin' cake

Why it's okay to (sometimes) hate celiac disease
Thank goodness for my own mac and cheese recipe...
You don't stop drooling when a friend digs into fresh mac and cheese from the farmer's market - even though you brought your own dinner

You get better at packing for overnight trips - but not any less annoyed

The fact is, celiac disease - in its physical, emotional and mental effects - doesn't follow a straight line of progress. Most days, celiac disease is just a part of me. Part of my life. Avoiding crumbs and bringing a lunch box occurs as naturally as brushing my teeth before bed. 

Why it's okay to (sometimes) hate celiac disease
According to Beyond Celiac
On days when celiac and I start fighting, though, that's OK. It doesn't matter how "good" you are at being gluten free, how long it's been or how much your family and friends do to make you feel "normal." You can hate celiac. You can rail at the unfairness of being one of the 1 in 133 Americans affected. You can even dream of a fluffy, gluten-y croissant - maybe even cry over it. (I'm not ashamed to say I've been there). 

Being an advocate for celiac disease doesn't require being positive and "loving" your gluten free life all day, every day. It means embracing the real emotions hitting you that day - whether love or hate - and then working to improve celiacs' daily lives. Through tastier gluten free goodies. Through more community support (especially on ranting days!) Through more public awareness. 

Why it's okay to (sometimes) hate celiac disease
Eating samples while raising awareness doesn't hurt!
Sharing my body with celiac disease isn't easy and some days I do, indeed, hate the disease that controls so many aspects of my life. To me, though, that's what Celiac Awareness Month is all about: revealing the facts, the stats and the daily realities of celiac disease. 

Sometimes my daily reality features a lot of hatin'. But that only makes the days I'm proud to be a celiac - proud to have endured medical setbacks, adapted to my new diet and join the gluten free community - even sweeter

*Also found at SITSGirls's Saturday Sharefest*

What do you do during "celiac hating" days? What does celiac advocacy mean to you? Comment below! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Gluten Free Packaged Foods Always in this Celiac's Cupboards

Packaged foods have a (mostly well deserved) bad rep in the health food blogosphere. Often, "packaged" means "processed" - and therefore lacking in fiber and nutrients and high in calories and sugar. 

Like most people, though, this college celiac doesn't have time to forage or whip up every meal from scratch. In fact, thanks to my product reviews and my partnership with Love with Foods, my cabinets hide a decent amount of packaged foods. 

casey the college celiac gluten free
Let's dive inside...
But which do I add to my daily menu and which do I pass along to others? Today I'm breaking down six packaged foods that always fill my pantry! (And FYI, these truly are my personal favorites - no paid sponsorship or review here!)

These bags of crunchy seeds, chewy dried fruit and dairy free chocolate chips (in the Mountain Mambo flavor) always seem to land in my shopping cart...not to mention my stomach. As with all Enjoy Life foods, these are free of the top eight allergens - which means nearly everyone can enjoy!

The best packaged foods always in a gluten free college celiac's cupboard
Perfect topping!
My favorite ways to use them include: sprinkling them on smoothie bowls, on top of oatless oatmeal (cause melted chocolate + soft dried fruit = heaaaaven on the taste buds!), or as a night snack with So Delicious coconut yogurt. 

2. Buckwheat and rice flakes

After learning that I can't tolerate (even gluten free) oats, these flakes have been my tummy's saving grace. They're not only allergen free, but also extremely versatile. I use them for my oatless zoats, which pops on my breakfast menu at least a couple times a week. 

Buckwheat groats: one of the best packaged foods always in a gluten free college celiac's cupboards
Some of my favorite uses...

They also work perfectly in homemade granola recipes - no oats, no problem! Some other ideas? As a cozy night snack before bed, a coating for fish/meats/tofu, or even as a savory porridge topped with veggies and avocado. 

3. Rice cakes 

Rice cakes get a lot of flack for being tasteless "diet" food - but people who complain just don't know how to dress these cakes up! They make delicious snacks when topped with smashed avocado, carrots and seeds; or coconut yogurt, berries and cinnamon; or, my favorite, nut butter, berries, banana and cinnamon warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds! 

Rice cakes: one of this gluten free college celiac's favorite snacks
Those swirls!
I also tote a few in my bag for a crunchy side when I eat my smoothie bowl in class. (Thus earning the reputation of the girl "always eating the green thing" in the morning --> me in a nut shell for sure!) Not to mention I always crumble up a few rice cakes as a light, crispy base for my homemade granola. 

I'll admit that I've never been a huge Italian or pasta fan. I don't like tomatoes and pasta cravings only hit me once every few months. But when they do, I love having a package of rice pasta sitting in my pantry. Tinkyada is the best gluten free pasta substitute I've found so far - it cooks easily, tastes delicious and my gluten-eating family members even prefer it to our old, wheat-filled pasta.

tinkyada pasta: this gluten free college celiac's favorite brand
Cheese please!
In particular, I use this for homemade mac and cheese (with a 3:1 ratio of sliced veggies to rice noodles). Whether made on the stove top, in the oven or via crock pot, this is always a tasty, stick-to-your-ribs dinner for a busy college celiac! (Fun fact: I've recently found this pasta at my local Walmart, so it doesn't have to break the bank either). 

5. Food for Life or Potapas tortillas

Gluten free tortillas can definitely be a hit or miss. Pick the wrong one, you're chewing on cardboard for a few weeks...but these two brands always deliver a flexible, fresh wrap! 

The best gluten free tortillas for a quesadilla fit for a college celiac
Perfect quesadilla material!
My favorite parts? Both of these have limited ingredients, are free of dairy and eggs, and can be used soft (for tacos or quesadillas, for instance) or cooked for a few minutes in a pan on the stove top until crispy. If you want a serving-size-controlled, low salt, easy homemade chip, these are the tortillas for you! 

6. Coconut milk - (a bit of a cheat since it's canned vs. "packaged" but close enough!)

I clearly remember the first time I added coconut milk to my nana ice I devoured the bowl, I couldn't stop saying, "It's sooooo creamy!" Coconut milk has been a beloved staple ever since. I personally buy the Sprouts brand at my local grocery store, but I know that Thai Kitchen's coconut milk works equally well! 

Coconut milk: why this gluten free college celiac always has a can on hand
My favorite food in a can!
Coconut milk is great for more than just smoothies. Use it to make a creamy potato curry, like the one I drooled over from Further Food! Or whip up a thick chia seed pudding, add a little luxury to your overnight oats, or even make a vegan white sauce for pizza. With a can of coconut milk, you can do about anything (a pun was far overdue, don't you think?). 

Package foods may have a devilish reputation, but, with the rights one in your pantry, you'll end up cooking a bite of heaven. If you want to hear more about the goodies hidden in my shelves, shoot me a message and I'll add a part two to the list

The packaged foods always hiding in this gluten free college celiac's pantry
Gotta have the loot behind the sticker!
Because the only thing worse than an empty stomach would be an empty pantry! 

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link Party and Sunday Fitness and Food Link Up!*

What are your packaged pantry staples? Do you love any of the ones I mentioned? Comment below!