Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"Zucchini Bread" Nana Ice Cream

What's that one meal that you can't live without? Loaded pizza on a gluten free crust? Your favorite chocolate cake with a molten center? For this celiac, it's homemade nana ice cream decorated with granola, berries and lots of chewy/crunchy goodness.

Don't know what nana ice cream is? (If so, you definitely aren't following me on Instagram and haven't seen Margie's amazing blog, Nana Ice Cream.) Basically, it's a dairy free "ice cream" created by blending frozen bananas with liquid and any other flavor add-ins (ranging from other frozen fruit to cacao powder). Want to eat your ice cream and get a punch of nutrition too? That's what triggered my favorite nice cream flavor - zucchini bread - to appear from my blender!

casey the college celiac
From my Instagram!
Not only is this recipe gluten free, vegan and paleo (depending on your toppings), it's also 100% drool-worthy. Just imagine biting into a creamy spoonful of "ice cream" packed with cozy flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon, plus sweet hints from frozen fruit and vanilla...only to know that you're getting a dose of veggies at the same time.

As I've written about previously, zucchini is a low in calories and sugar but high in antioxidants, potassium and Vitamin C and B. Research also shows that zucchini (and other summer squash varieties) can boost eye and heart health, help control diabetes, aid digestion and balance the thyroid and adrenal glands. Combined with bananas - which boast high levels of Vitamin B6, manganese, fiber, copper and biotin - this really is the healthiest ice cream you'll ever taste! Not to mention one of the easiest and most delicious desserts for breakfast!

casey the college celiac

To get started, grab these simple ingredients:

For one serving:

2 frozen bananas
(Feel free to mix and match with other fruits too - I often add cantaloupe, strawberries, pineapple, etc. Be aware that it will give the ice cream a more tropical flavor though!)
1 large zucchini, frozen in slices
Huge handful of spinach (or alternate leafy green)
1 TBSP of chia seeds (I love MammaChia's)
Liberal sprinkle of cinnamon
Drop of vanilla and hint of nutmeg
Enough liquid to blend (water, green tea, milk of choice, etc)

Optional toppings to add a crunchy, chewy "zucchini bread" feel: homemade granola (more recipes available here), puffed cereal, trail mix, nut butter, chocolate sauce (cacao + coconut oil), berries, dried fruit, etc.

How to make it? First - if you're suffering from crazy high temperatures like California is - be glad that this is one "bread" that doesn't require an oven! Simply add all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender (I personally find that putting the spices, chia seeds and liquid on the bottom, followed by frozen fruit and veggies and leafy greens, works best) and blend!

casey the college celiac

Once the mixture becomes creamy and smooth, taste-test it before pouring it into a bowl. For those who are worried, you won't taste the zucchini at all, especially if you use distinctive flavorings like cinnamon, nutmeg and very ripe bananas. If your nice cream initially tastes too sweet, add more zucchini or greens. If it's not sweet enough, add more fruit. After you're satisfied with your frozen treat, all you need to do is transfer it into your dish of choice, add your desired toppings and devour!

One pro tip: When pouring your smoothie into a bowl, pour halfway and add some of your toppings (including some of the cacao-coconut oil sauce if using) before pouring the rest of your smoothie on top. This creates a crunchy, chewy "core" to your nana ice cream...and a delicious surprise when you reach the middle of the bowl!

casey the college celiac

Ever since I started adding zucchini to my nice cream, I haven't turned back! Since I'm not a huge fan of overly sweet foods, zucchini has been the perfect way to create a creamy, cool breakfast that's (naturally) sweet but doesn't give me a sugar rush. It also doesn't hurt that this recipe helps me sneak in a dose of veggies before lunch!

My biggest piece of cooking advice? Don't be afraid to experiment in the kitchen - and even try mixing ingredients that might not sound like they'd work at first (cough cough, zucchini and bananas). Who knows. You might even create a new meal that you can't live without!

*Also found at RunningwithSpoonsVegetarianMamaWine'd Down Wednesday, Allergy Free Thursdays, What's Cookin' Wednesday, and Snickerdoodle Party!!*

What's your must-have meal? What's the weirdest ingredient combo you've ever made? Comment below!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Tastiest Gluten Free Restaurants in Houston, Texas

What are your must-haves when going on vacation? A gorgeous view? Friends or family to spend time with? What about the comfiest hotel bed you've ever slept on? For me, though, another priority tops my list: plenty of gluten free restaurants.

My most recent trip to Houston, Texas checked all of these boxes - as long as loved ones' smiles can count for the gorgeous view! When it came to eating, though, I really did dine like a celiac queen

casey the college celiac

While I enjoyed several other restaurants - like Whole Foods and Outback Steakhouse - here are three that stood out as some of the tastiest gluten free friendly restaurants in Houston!

This restaurant is an oldie but a goodie when it comes to celiac dining. I first tried Ruggles Green a few summers ago and I've been dreaming of it ever since. Not only is the food delicious and celiac safe, but "gluten free" is clearly indicated on the menu and the options range from burgers to pasta to pizza

For a peek at the salmon salad and veggie pizza that blew my taste buds away, check out my previous review here. This time I enjoyed a turkey burger on a gluten free bun and their award-winning sweet potato fries. While Ruggles mistakenly put real mozzarella instead of the daiya cheese version and I needed to wait for them to re-fire a new burger, it was a scrumptious meal when I finally dug in! 

casey the college celiac
The burger and a salad with leftover fries!
The burger also tasted just as delicious as leftovers the next day and the fries added a sweet and salty kick to my salad a couple nights later! 

I know: Italian restaurant plus celiac sounds like the setup to a bad joke. My gluten free mom raved about her meal at Carrabba's for months, though, so I knew I had to try it for myself. 

Carrabba's does offer a gluten free menu that includes everything from soups to salads to pastas to entrees. I ended up ordering the grilled chicken with a side of roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach - plus a house salad (minus the croutons, obviously). Because the GF menu mentioned that there was no separate grill for GF items, I asked to speak to the chef. He agreed to pan-sear my chicken instead. 

casey the college celiac
Their gluten free menu...

The Italian house salad was a basic mix of crunchy mixed greens and carrots and salty olives and peppers, but with a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar, it tasted perfect. As for my main entree?

O. M. G. I'll start by saying that I'm not a huge chicken fan because it can be so difficult to make juicy and tender...but Carrabba's chef must have graduated from Hogwarts because he worked some major magic! The meat literally fell apart with only a poke of my fork and the seasoning created a rich, peppery flavor. I can say with 100% confidence that this was the best chicken I've ever tasted. 

casey the college celiac
Simple look, insane taste!
While the potatoes and spinach were definitely saturated in much more oil than I'm used to, but they blew me away with their flavors. I'd never had sautéed spinach before and I totally intend on trying to replicate Carrabba's - though probably with some chicken stock instead of only olive oil. As for the potatoes, they boasted crispy edges and pillowy middles that made it hard to stop eating! 

We actually planned on eating elsewhere for one of my last days in Houston, but when that option didn't seem celiac safe (No "vegan" is not the same thing as "celiac"), we ended up at Zoe's instead - and boy were we happy with the results! Zoe's offers a gluten free menu that ranges from kabobs to soups to beans to salads

After taking my sweet time trying to decide the winning order, I eventually chose the salmon and veggie kabobs with a side of hummus and salad. (My aunt knew I'd never tried hummus before and told me Zoe's would be a great first time!) 

casey the college celiac
Bad (food photo) lighting, crazy delicious taste!
Our food arrived quickly and I immediately started drooling. The salmon boasted grill marks that any Instagram foodie would immediately share, but still tasted juicy and tender. As for the grilled zucchini and squash? They disappeared in a flash - and I loved that the chef kept the seasoning simple to let the veggies be the star. 

I can also officially say that I'm a newborn hummus lover. Zoe's tasted creamy, a little tangy and a little sweet - and I loved using it as a dip for the rest of the plate. Finally, the salad added a much-needed crunch that rounded out the entire dish. Proof that Zoe's really is a delicious choice for anyone? My sister, who is known for turning up her nose at most fruits and veggies, pronounced the veggie and ham pita-dilla (a Mediterranean twist on the quesadilla) and side of white beans her favorite meal of our whole trip. Even against Ruggles Green's quinoa pasta!

The truth is, it's nearly impossible to have the perfect vacation that meets all of your priorities and expectations. At least in the case of gluten free food, though, my trip to Houston proved to be safe, (mainly) nutritious and 100% delicious

casey the college celiac
Especially with my trusty smoothie bowls for breakfast!
And Ruggles Green and Zoe's Kitchen...if you ever want to relocate to San Diego or Colorado Springs, I definitely wouldn't mind

*Also found at Wine'd Down Wednesday and Wow Me Wednesday!!*

What are your vacation priorities? What's the best gluten free food you've ever eaten on vacation? Comment below! 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cooking with Sweet Potato: Tips and Tricks

Have you ever tried a new food, only to fall head over taste buds and become a self-professed addict? As someone who never experimented with food until my celiac diagnosis (ironic, I know), I have plenty - and one of those new addictions is the modest sweet potato.

Now, unless you're a meat-potatoes-granola-bar type eater like I was, you've probably cooked with sweet potato before. But there are so many more delicious alternatives to the steamed side that appeared with Mom's meatloaf every Sunday. Here are my favorite tips and tricks to turning the common sweet potato into an edible secret weapon

casey the college celiac

First, though, why should you even eat sweet taters - besides their amazing taste? According to Nutrition Authority, sweet potatoes consist of 77% water, 20.1% carbs, 1.6% protein and 3% fiber. Besides being decent forms of carbs and fiber, sweet potatoes are also rich in beta-carotene (which the body converts to Vitamin A), Potassium, Manganese, and Vitamin C, B6, B5 and E. For the biggest hit of antioxidants, enjoy brightly colored sweet taters, whether orange, deep purple or red.

When it comes to breakfast, sweet potatoes may not be your usual go-to ingredient. However, don't be afraid to include a hidden veggie into your morning meal! My personal favorites take advantage of baked sweet potatoes - either leftover from dinner or cooked that morning. 

What to do with them? One option is throwing them into your morning smoothie! Sweet potato adds a thick, filling texture to any smoothie - and gives a "sweet potato pie" kind of flavor that this celiac never turns down. Since sweet potatoes are easily digestible sources of complex carbs, this is an especially smart smoothie add-in if you're fueling up for a hard workout

casey the college celiac
Sweet potato pie smoothie!
If you're more of a crunchy than creamy eater, try adding sweet potato to your homemade granola instead! Though I haven't shared an exact recipe using this technique, you can simply replace most of all of the banana in my granola recipes with mashed sweet potato. It makes your granola super thick for an extra crunchy, chewy texture. I especially love adding sweet potato during the fall months for a cozy, holiday-esque flavor. 

As you might imagine, sweet potatoes make an even more regular appearance in my lunches and dinners. One of my favorite ways to dress up a plain baked tater is to "smash" it on foil and throw it under the broiler until crispy. The combination of a creamy inside and crunchy, slightly scorched edges is to die for!

casey the college celiac
Those sliders...YUM!
Sweet potato rounds also make a delicious, gluten free (and paleo) alternative to bread for sliders! One of my first - and my popular - blog recipes is my sweet potato salmon sliders. While vegans can replace the salmon with tofu, beans or pulled jackfruit, everyone can enjoy the pillowy, soft sweet potato rounds. Trust me. You won't even miss bread! 

Ironically, sweet potatoes can also create a perfect patty for a burger (with a bun or as a salad). My sweet potato patties are vegan, paleo and boast another hidden veggie: zucchini. These freeze and defrost well, so I love having some on hand for quick lunches or dinners! Besides eating them plain, you can also use them as toppings for pizza. Sweet potato "pie" just got a whole new meaning!

casey the college celiac
Plenty of options!
Sometimes, though, your meal plan is crying out for some KISS action: keep it simple, stupid. When I need a hit of healthy carbs but don't have a lot of free time, I either bake these sweet potato wedges or - my most recently addiction - cook the tater in the microwave until soft, then throw it in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit until it caramelizes. Ooey, gooey heaven. 

Need even more ideas on how to cook with sweet potato? Here are a few of my favorite sweet tater recipes from the blogosphere:

  • Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl: Jen's weekly pictures of this paleo and Whole 30 approved breakfast always get me drooling! Considering how addicted she is to it, it must taste even better than it looks...
  • Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi: Get a major hit of antioxidants - not to mention fluffy, delicious flavor - with Rebecca's unique twist on an old favorite!
  • Vegan Sweet Potato Mac N' Cheese: Mac and cheese + sweet potato? What could be more comforting - or creamier
  • Sweet Potato Toast: Because it's impossible to ignore - or forget - this recent foodie craze, which involves cooking sweet potato in the toaster! Sam shares her own experience with the cooking method and a lots of scrumptious topping ideas.
  • Superfood Sweet Potato Cookies: Who says you can't eat dessert and receive tons of vitamins too? If someone does, just point them to Kaila's delicious, vegan, gluten free and sweet potato-packed cookies...

The fact is, you never know how much you can like - or even love - a food until you dare to try and experiment with it. And whether you're a smoothie lover, a pizza addict or crazy for fries, I can promise you this: 

casey the college celiac
There's no sweeter "taste testing" than when cooking with sweet potato! 

What's your favorite sweet potato recipe? What food did you used to avoid but now love? Comment below!

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Gluten Free Celiac's First Trip to LA

Last week was full of firsts for this celiac. Train ride? Check. Teaching a writing class? Check. Having dinner with my boss? Check. Perhaps the most interesting part, however, is where all of these firsts took place: the infamous city of Los Angeles, California.

I'll admit, when my boss first invited me to LA to teach a writing class to other interns, I was nervous. Correction: I wanted to do excited jumping jacks and puke at the same time. Yet, it was an opportunity that I couldn't turn down.

casey the college celiac
Dun dun dun!
The Monday of my trip started with a drive to the closet train station near my house: Sorrento Valley. While the Yelp reviews sounded more than a little sketchy (statements like "The north-bound track is near the liquor store" had me double-checking the pepper spray in my bag), when the train pulled up at 8:54 AM, I was more than ready to (literally) hop on. 

Let me just say: trains are a lot more enjoyable than I thought. I snagged a window seat on the second level with a pull-down table - which, of course, I soon topped with my homemade smoothie bowl. (You aren't a true smoothie addict unless you carry one on a two-hour train ride!) The fact my train came with Wifi didn't hurt either!

casey the college celiac
A few shots from the train and Union Station!
Once I finally arrived at Union Station, I immediately knew I wasn't in San Diego anymore...thanks to both the insane amount of people walking here, there and everywhere and the grandma rocking booty shorts and a crop top. Fashion has no age limits I suppose, especially in Los Angeles!

When my boss's assistant picked me up, we drove to the office...with my boss's adorable pooch riding shotgun (on top of me). Even though I didn't get a chance to explore a lot of LA, it was impossible to miss its artsy vibe. Not only did graffiti decorate nearly every building, but the LA office for my internship is located in an art gallery. Talk about inspiration while you work...

I definitely needed that inspiration when I taught my first writing class! As nervous as I initially felt, the girls were attentive, kind and eager to learn. The two hours flew by in a blur of lectures, writing exercises and one-on-one editing advice. 

Me and my "students"
As terrified as I was for the class, dinner (or, more precisely, late lunch with my boss) made my stomach feel like a butterfly garden. I had researched gluten free and celiac safe restaurants the week before; while LA is full of gluten free restaurants, finding one that was celiac-safe and appropriate for a work meal wasn't easy. In the end, Cafe Gratitude - an all-vegan restaurant that only offers a few dishes with gluten - won out. 

Though I obviously didn't have the chance to take a lot of pictures - lunch with the boss = no foodporn photos! - I loved the cafe. All of its meals have affirmations as names, ranging from "mucho" to "beautiful" to "strong," and customers order by saying, "I am *insert dish name here*." A little confidence booster during a lunch meeting didn't hurt!

I ordered the Mucho bowl, which is like a vegan chipotle burrito bowl. It features mixed greens topped with brown rice (or quinoa), black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo and cashew sauce. After I ordered with the usual "celiac," "gluten free" and "no cross contamination" buzzwords, the manager came to our table. He assured us that the kitchen would do the best to avoid cross contamination, but there was no guarantee - like with any restaurant that also serves gluten. To me, it's sad that restaurants must now worry about legal liability while trying to serve customers with food allergies and celiac disease. 

My dressed-up leftovers!
When my food arrived fifteen minutes later, I was starting and immediately dug in. The rice and beans tasted fresh and tender, which contrasted nicely with the crunchy lettuce and pico de gallo. And that guacamole and cashew cream? Those rich, creamy elements took this bowl into heavenly territory! I took home half for leftovers and they tasted just as delicious the next day, especially paired with extra roasted veggies. 

Overall, lunch went extremely well and, while I definitely felt zombified the next few days, I blame the insane schedule of the trip over any possible gluten. Speaking of that insane schedule...while my actual trip to and in LA went smoothly, the ride home featured a few bumps

I caught the 5:10 train and was one stop away from arriving at Sorrento Valley at 7:39...until we heard the loudspeaker switch on. "A train has broken down on the track," the train conductor explained, "Expect at least a 30-45 minute delay." Not only did we have to wait for a north-bound train to pass so we could use their train track, we also needed to tow that broken train once we reached it. 

casey the college celiac
My Facebook status about says it all...
Cue the most rebellious act of my trip: walking off the train at Solana Beach. (Yes, I definitely did imagine dramatic music playing in the background). It was already getting dark outside and train station was closed, so I decided my safest odds were hanging out at a coffee shop or restaurant across the street...which is why my parents ended up rescuing my from a Subway at 8:30 on a Monday night. Who says this celiac doesn't party hard? 

Overall, I wouldn't say that my first trip to LA was easy. Trains can definitely be nerve wracking...especially when the train gods decide a technical malfunction should end a very long day. And when I spent an hour researching appropriate gluten free options, I definitely wished I was normal. I wished I could let me boss pick her favorite restaurant and just wing it like everyone else. 

But, if LA taught me anything, it's that I have as many opportunities as I create for myself. LA, as dirty or crowded as it may seem at times, is still known as a city of dreams, whether starring in Hollywood or just beating traffic to work. 

casey the college celiac
After my class, the girls wrote down
their favorite metaphors, analogies and turns of phrase (the class topic)
The dream it triggered in me? Seeing celiac disease not as a roadblock to rockin' the working world, but just another fact on my resume. And if this celiac earned another chance to explore LA? I wouldn't turn it down. 

Have you ever struggled eating with co workers or your boss thanks to celiac? What's the most recent "first" you've experienced? 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Why You Shouldn't Take Ignorant Celiac Comments Personally

You've heard them before and you'll probably hear them again: comments about your celiac disease - ranging from "A little can't hurt!" or "But it's Grandma's special pie, so you have to take a piece!" - that make you wince, cringe and all around wish you could disappear as quickly as gluten free cake on your birthday.

You aren't alone. In 2012, Gluten Dude posted 39 examples of celiac ignorance...and almost 100 people commented saying that they too have been victims to statements like: "This celiac disease is becoming like an epidemic now...just like lactose intolerance...LOL." 

casey the college celiac
Those faces say it all...
And, honestly, these statements can hurt. One of the offhand remarks that hurts me the most? "Well, at least you're not obese." Especially if I'm sitting in a restaurant watching everyone else raid the bread basket. Especially if I have to worry about getting sick every time I trust someone else with my food. Especially when I'm trying to gain weight

Did I cry out frustration after that experience? I'm not ashamed to say that I did. But it also served as an important reminder

My reality is not defined by others perceptions. 

My disease is not made any less challenging by others misconceptions. 

casey the college celiac

My struggles are not any less valid from others' inability to see them. 

My disease is so much more than just not being able to eat gluten - and life and my value as a person is determined by so much more than my weight

As hard as it can feel sometimes, my reaction to ignorant celiac comments shouldn't be hurt - though I have the right to feel those feelings and cry those tears if I need to. Instead, I should react with tolerance. With education. With a kind but resolved voice that says, "Yes, I am not obese. But my celiac disease impacts so much more than my weight and I would appreciate if you'd respect that." 

Most likely, these comments aren't emerging from hatred - though, depending on the person's circumstance, they could be driven by jealousy over your weight or your "motivation" to eat "healthy" (because not wanting to feel like a PMS-ing zombie is a great reason to say no to the bread bowl). Most likely, though, these people are speaking out of ignorance

casey the college celiac
Goofball is in the genes!
They may not know that their words are wrong or hurtful. In fact, I'm perpetually grateful to have my gluten-intolerant mom to vent to since she, at least on some level, understands why these words would upset me. Even though I fail at this role all the time, I think part of being a celiac is acting as an educator to others to help prevent their words from hurting someone else. 

Because, as someone who's been diagnosed and gluten free for three years, my skin is beginning to grow some calluses. But if a newly diagnosed celiac feels like their months of pain, doctor's appointments and dietary confusion should be no big deal cause at least they're skinny...well, I don't want that to be their first experience sharing their diagnosis with the world. 

I'll be honest: ignorant celiac comments hurt more some days than others. But, while the hurt remains, your ability to react in constructive ways becomes easier. 

casey the college celiac
Instagram to the rescue!
And when you can't? You always have plenty of fellow celiacs in arms - including me! - to vent to!

*Also found at RunningwithSpoons!*
What's the most ignorant celiac comment you've heard? How do you handle them? Comment below!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Best Local Gluten Free Products in Houston, Texas

When you first hear the word Texas, what comes to mind? Tumbleweed and cowboys? Humidity and mosquitos? The word "Y'all"? Whatever pops into your head, gluten free goodies probably isn't one of them.

But, as I discovered during my two week vacation to Texas to visit family, the old saying that everything is bigger in Texas also applies to the gluten free options. While I'll do a restaurant breakdown later on, here are the gluten free products that had me blessin' the Lonestar state! (And this isn't a sponsored post, by the way - just a hungry celiac's honest opinion!)

casey the college celiac
They say everything's bigger in Texas...judge for yourself!

Frankie V's Kitchen: Cacao Cashew Butter 

I saw this jar in the Randall's close to my Grandma's house and I couldn't believe my luck! Besides being gluten free, this is also organic and free of preservatives. I also loved that, instead of the usual sweeteners you find in nut butters, Frankie's offers a unique (very Texan) twist: brown sugar. 

This spread is definitely a little sweeter than I'm used to, but extremely delicious! I love that the nut butter is a little grainy so you get the texture of cashews with every bite. As for the flavor, just imagine a healthier Nutella

casey the college celiac
Sweet score!
How to use it? It tastes especially delicious when used in small doses. I like adding it on top of my smoothie bowls, with oatless oatmeal or even on rice cakes with banana and strawberries. My rating? 9/10!

Oh my goodness...where to begin? When I saw this baby sitting on the shelves of Whole Foods (and Sprouts) and read the ingredient label, I couldn't resist buying a bag...and five more bags (two that I ate in Texas and three that I'm saving for my family's road trip to Colorado). When I don't have the time or access to an oven to make my own granola, this is my number-one replacement

What makes it so finger-lickin' good? First, it's made locally in Texas (yay for having relatives who could mail a few my way every now and then). Second, it is grain free - meaning no oats, which is nearly impossible to find (even in gluten free granolas) - vegan, raw and paleo-friendly! It also ditches added sweeteners, oils or extracts for wholesome ingredients like dates, fruit, nuts, seeds and spices. 

casey the college celiac
My latest addiction...
I have tried two of their flavors - Banana Nut and Coconut Cashew - and happily devoured them both. Both have a chewy, soft texture and are sweet from the dates but not sugary like most granolas. If you want crunchy clusters, this isn't the brand for you. However, if you want a chewy bag of wholesome heaven to sprinkle on your smoothies, oatmeal or yogurt? Head on over to Texas (or, as I just discovered, Amazon)! My rating: 12/10

Brenham Kitchens: Nuts and Fruit Trail mix 

I don't know about you, but farmers markets are often a full cart or an empty basket for me. While they always have tons of produce and often a handful of gluten free options, they rarely have something so special it's worth the sticker shock. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw this trail mix by Brenham Kitchens! 

This local business sells homemade trail mix, spiced nuts, dehydrated fruit, savory sauces and the freshest fruit jams I've ever tasted. I especially loved that my trail mix featured some ingredients I can't find gluten free that often, like macadamia nuts and dehydrated kiwi and pineapple. 

casey the college celiac
Nuts and spice and everything nice!
The ingredient list is also super simple: nuts, fruit and a touch of sugar. The perfect trail mix snack for a plane ride or road trip? I think so! 9.5/10

Now, I'll admit that I'm not sure if this is local to Texas. However, I spotted (and bought) it for the first time in Texas, so it's joining the list! This superfood cereal is gluten free as well as vegan, sprouted, nut free and raw.

What first caught my attention? Probably the fact that, thanks to organic beets, this cereal is bright pink! I also love that it uses buckwheat sprouts and rice bran (instead of oats - yay!) and boasts several unique ingredients like Lacuma fruit powder, aloe vera extract, sea buckthorn juice and milk thistle - all of which supposedly offer antioxidants and skin-boosting properties. 

casey the college celiac
Another addiction...
It doesn't hurt that this is absolutely scrumptious either! The texture is polar opposite to Wildway: crunchy, dry and in delightful clusters. Instead of using it as a cereal per se, I liked adding it on top of my smoothies and yogurt parfaits. A clear 11/10!

Fluffy Dinner Rolls from Xoco-latte 

Finally, a savory option! Now this one may be cheating a little since the biscuit is from a gluten free bakery, but since I've already reviewed Xoco-latte before, I wanted to highlight a recent favorite: their fluffy gluten free and dairy free dinner rolls. I've always tried their cookies instead of their breads and man have I been missing out! 

At first glance, this dinner roll looks a little funny: it's made in a muffin mold, so it looks more sweet than savory. At my first bite, though, this transported me back to the crescent rolls of my pre-celiac days. I was lucky to score half a dozen rolls only a few hours after they were baked, making them melt-in-your-mouth fresh.

casey the college celiac

In particular, I loved how light and fluffy the rolls tasted and their slightly buttery flavor. To be honest, I literally couldn't stop texting my mom, "It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!" (Bonus points if you can name that movie). I ended up freezing half of the rolls to take back to California with me. While not as fluffy, they reminded me more of a cornbread muffin - and I didn't mind the change one bit! As for how to eat them, they taste delicious paired with soup, pork and potato stew or, as my gluten-lovin' Uncle proclaimed, with just a swipe of butter and jam. The perfect fluffy roll? My 9.5/10 rating implies as much!

Are you done drooling yet? (I know I'm guilty of that...and wishing I hadn't already devoured most of these finds!). As a foodie, one of the highlights of taking a vacation is definitely scoping out the local foods. As a celiac, though, this is often more difficult than usual. 

So when I did find an unusual, safe and delicious local goodie, you can bet I celebrated! For all those living in Texas, be sure to give these products a try if you're craving a chewy or crunchy breakfast topping or a soft bread to complement your dinner. 

casey the college celiac
From our (extended) family to yours!
And if you don't live in Texas? Take this list as motivation to explore the areas you travel to and soak in (correction: gobble up) some of the unique local grub. Y'all won't regret it! 

Have you ever tried any of these brands? What's the favorite local gluten free goodie you've found when traveling? Comment below!

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Easiest Gluten Free Green Veggie Soup

When you think of "summer," soup probably doesn't come to mind. However, sometimes cravings for comfort food don't follow the season, which is why I always keep the ingredients for an easy, homemade soup only a few (pantry and fridge) doors away.

Now, I'll let you in a on a secret: I've never even been a huge soup person until this summer. Gluten free soups always tasted too salty and boasted more gummy noodles than veggies. An easy solution? Throwing together your own soup-er supper. Not only is this recipe packed with veggies, but it's also paleo, vegan, dairy free and allergen friendly. If you have everything but the kitchen sink that needs to be used up, this is your dish!

casey the college celiac
The proof is in the pudding...or the soup in this case!

To get started, gather a few simple (and very summer inspired) ingredients:

1 serving:

1/2 a large zucchini
1/2 a large squash
2 radishes
1/2 cup chicken/veggie stock
Big handful of uncooked rice noodles (I LOVE Explore Asian Authentic Cuisine's Thai Brown Rice Noodles Vermicelli) - you could also use rice, spaghetti noodles or nothing at all!
1/2-1 cup of water (depending on how much liquid you like)
Protein of choice: black beans, pre-cooked salmon, chicken, etc.
Handful of leafy greens
Liberal shake of spices like thyme and oregano

How to make it? It really is as easy as chop, throw-it-in-a-pot, simmer and devour! First, either spiralize or slice the zucchini and squash into thin ribbons. Add them into a pot with the sliced radishes, leafy greens, water and stock. Bring the mixture to a boil before lowering the heat to simmer. Cook until the veggie noodles are almost tender before adding the rice noodles (if you are using them); be sure to push the noodles so that they are submerged under the liquid and, if needed, add more stock or water. As the finishing touch, add your spices and your pre-cooked protein. Then, just pour into a bowl!

casey the college celiac
The fluffiest gluten free bread EVER!
To take this soup to level "soup-er," I love placing avocado on top for a creamy touch and adding a side of mixed greens and freshly steamed green beans. If you happen to have some fluffy, gluten free rolls on hand (like I did while vacationing in Texas!), don't be shy with those either! As I mentioned earlier, don't be afraid to experiment with the recipe. Have some roasted beets on hand? Pink soup will never taste good! Radish greens? You won't even tell the difference between them and your steady date, spinach.

It also doesn't hurt that this easy meal is loaded with nutrients. The squash and zucchini are low in calories but high in Folate, Magnesium, Potassium and Vitamin A, C, K and B6. Oregano offers its own punch of Vitamin K and fiber while the thyme is a good source of iron, manganese and copper. And all the other goodies you add in? They only boost the health benefits...and the taste!

casey the college celiac
Any-day, everyday kind of soup!
Although this soup first appeared on my weekly menu this summer, this is a delicious choice for any season or situation. This is my go-to meal when I'm sick or glutened, my stomach is riding a random roller coaster or I'm feeling too lazy to "actually" cook. And, when I return to school in a few months, I know that I'll love having this healthified, gluten free option to the tradition college staple: ramen!

*Also found at GF FridaySaucy SaturdayRunningwithSpoons, VegetarianMama and What's Cookin' Wednesday!*

What would you throw into your soup? What's your ultimate comfort food? Comment below!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How to Love Your Body When it Doesn't Love You Back

The week of my senior prom, I felt like my body had betrayed me. It had filled my days with hours of nausea, acid reflux and lack of appetite. It had suddenly shed nearly 10 pounds in three months from its already slender frame. And, now, I knew the reason: celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which ingesting gluten damages one's intestines.

Three years have passed since my celiac diagnosis and, while the road back to health hasn't been linear or easy, I finally can say that I'm starting to love my body. How? Here are my five tips for loving a body that doesn't seem to love you back - whether because of a chronic illness, a cold, difficulty losing or gaining weight or any of the above.

casey the college celiac

1. Be honest - and vocal - about what you don't like.

I know it seems bizarre - say what you hate to love yourself? But, at least in my experience, lying to yourself that you "absolutely love every part" of your body will only keep you from reaching an honest feeling of self love.

Now, what I don't mean by being honest and vocal is pointing out every flaw in front of the mirror each day or complaining to friends about your "fat thighs" so much that they start avoiding talking altogether. What I do mean? When you have a bad body image day, accept it. I accept that, some days, I'll hate my bloating, temperamental belly. When I lose weight from stress or being glutened (accidentally ingesting gluten), I may hate my body for being or looking weak.

casey the college celiac
Dark days? We all have them.
But, when that day ends and I've vented my feelings - to myself, in a journal or to a trusted friend - those negative feelings can end too. And you can move from saying what you don't like to saying what you do.

2. Focus on what your body can do.

When trying to love a body that doesn't function as "normal" bodies do, it's important to remember what your body can do. I can't eat gluten, but I can still rock a hot yoga class or an 8 mile hike up to Potato Chip Rock. My stomach may not be flat like some teens' constantly seem to be, but I can eat food again without pain.

casey the college celiac
Potato Chip Rock with the roomie...
Remind yourself what your body is capable of. Can it play a sport? Draw stunning portraits? At the very least, get you out of bed every morning? Because all of that - and the body that can do them - is pretty dang beautiful.

3. Find people who can relate and support you.

Now, there's a trend among women - at least from what I've noticed - that if someone complains about some part of their body, others confess their own "flaws" to relate. That's not the kind of support and friendship you want. Sure, you should find people to exchange vents with. I personally am part of several online celiac support groups. With them, I don't have to worry that no one will understand my complaints about being too skinny or feeling like a zombie after being glutened.

However, the goal shouldn't be to only share personal flaws. You should also provide and receive encouragement that your body is rockin' no matter what, tips on how to cope and plenty of (virtual or physical) hugs. It's also great to find supporters of different ages and lifestyles. I know that two of my closest body confident amigos are my roommate and my mom. We all share similar diagnoses - fibromyalgia and several other conditions - but we each provide unique perspectives on self love.

casey the college celiac
Mom and me!
From my mom, I learn that loving a "broken" body isn't easy - but you can still be a gorgeous, confident and successful woman in the end. From my roommate, I learn to be grateful for the conditions I don't have - like she is grateful to not be affected by celiac disease - and to rock what I got. When you have supporters from all walks of life, you'll never be walking down a hard path of body positivity alone.

4. Find clothes that make you feel like a supermodel - even on "uncooperative" body days.

What's your "outfit"? The one outfit that, when asked on a last minute date, you would immediately think of. The outfit that, when you wear it, you swagger like you're Kate Upton or Miranda Kerr - even on days your body feels less than glamorous.

If you wake up with a head cold, stuffy nose and huge bags under your eyes, maybe sweatpants sound like the best idea. But you never know what throwing on that cute sundress could do for your confidence. As for me, I have stocked my wardrobe with plenty of secret weapons like high waisted skirts, flowy dresses and leggings that pass as pants. When my stomach isn't cooperating or I feel bloated, I know exactly which items to turn to.

casey the college celiac
Flowy shirt + stretchy shirt = perfection!
As my roommate once said (in less PG-13 terms): "If I feel like crud, I dress to the 10's to balance it out." Reverse psychology at its finest? I think so!

5. Stop comparing - and realize each body has its flaws.

People say that comparison is the thief of joy - but I think it snatches a good bit of your body confidence too.  It's hard, as a teenage girl, to not gaze jealously at the beautiful girls around my college. I often catch myself thinking that it isn't fair that they can eat gluten-filled burgers and French fries and still pull off a crop top while I'm eating healthier and still battling my body.

In the end, though, I've starting realizing that everyone has a flaw. This hit me especially hard when I was on Facebook the other day (cliche, I know!). Scrolling down my feed, I suddenly stopped at a picture of a friend's foot. She recently had it tattooed with the words "wonderfully made" - a reminder that, even though her feet were medically "deformed," God designed them that way on purpose.

casey the college celiac
Try walking in someone else's shoes...
I never knew about her toes before, or her insecurity about them. Instead, I only saw a beautiful girl with clear skin and a "normal" body. But she, like everyone, has her own insecurities and her own "flaws" - real or imagined. And if we're all equally flawed - even models who earn a living off their seemingly perfect bodies - what is the point of comparison and jealousy anyway?

6. Realize body positivity is a journey and ride the waves.

Finally, realize that your feelings about your body will change with time. So will your body. Do you ever look at old pictures of yourself and think, "Why did I ever worry about *enter insecurities A through Z*? I looked beautiful." Our perspectives and the traits we value in ourselves and others will adapt to our personal experiences, beliefs and relationships at the time.

I can't say that I totally love my body today. But I love many aspects of it - and different aspects than I have previously. When I was at a heavier weight, I loved the curves that filled my bathing suit and the muscular legs that pedaled miles on a bike. At a lighter weight, I love that I can surprise people with my strength during yoga.

casey the college celiac
Love at all different sizes!
When trying to love your body - whether it works perfectly or has a few quirks - don't wear a mindset of perfection. The goal shouldn't be to love your body in the "proper" way, however that is defined by magazines, friends or your own beliefs. It should instead be to love yourself each day - maybe more, maybe less than the day before - and to be happy with your body more often than not.

Because my body and I have been on a heck of a trip. We've been through medical diagnoses, a hospitalization, dozens of pounds lost and gained and plenty of tears shed along the way. But, looking back, I don't see my history as successes or failures in self love. I just see it as part of a very complicated love story - a story that is totally worth all the hard work.

*This post first appeared as a guest post at Where The Pretty Things Are*
*Also found at RunningwithSpoons and Wine'd Down Wednesday*

What are your tips for self love with a chronic illness? Thoughts? Comment below!