Monday, January 30, 2017

7 Unique Nut Butters That Put Peanut Butter to Shame

Happy National Peanut Butter Day! Well, not really. That holiday actually snuck by in the middle of last week - the same time that I was crazy busy with work. But, like they (whoever "they" is) always say, "Better late than never."

And when it comes to nut butters, there's never a bad time to eat them. So, even though National Peanut Butter Day has passed, I still  wanted to celebrate everything nut butter - besides peanuts, that is. 

You see, while I like peanut butter, it doesn't like me back (stomach and skin wise). So, for the last handful of years, I've been exploring the more exotic side of the nut butter aisle. Whether you have a peanut allergy, don't like the taste or simply want to share up your PB&J sandwiches, here are seven of my favorite (non-sponsored - though I wouldn't turn down any company love!) nut butters that are peanut free...but packed with flavor!

casey the college celiac

* Since I don't have a peanut allergy, I do not research whether these nut butters are produced in a peanut-free facility. If you have a serious reaction to peanuts, read and research these products before eating! * 

1. Eat your favorite baked good in nut butter form with Sweet Spreads Coconutter, Cinnamon Roll flavor. 

Some of these nut butters are good for your heart...and some are better for your soul. Now, Coconutter isn't the healthiest of nut butters, but it does offer some amazingly unique and delicious flavors (ranging from Chocolate Brownie to Maple Pancake). I actually ordered this nut butter on a whim (oh, the power that Amazon gift cards give you!) and wasn't disappointed with its punch of cinnamon flavor. 

This is definitely a sweeter nut butter than I'm used to, but it's great in small doses. Perhaps my favorite part is that, because of its high concentration of coconut oil, this but butter melts over oatless oatmeal and freezes over smoothie bowls (talk about one easy magic shell!). If you're looking for a nut butter that is out of the box and a bit decadent, you'll go nuts for Coconutter. 

casey the college celiac coconutter cinnamon roll
Photo via Amazon

2. Sink into sinfully delicious Sunbutter

I first discovered the gloriousness that is Sunbutter a few years ago in my local Sprouts - and now I eat some at least once a day. Although some call sunflower butter an acquired taste, I like it better than peanut butter. I prefer their no-sugar flavor since it tastes just as delicious to me as the regular kind. 

However, I've recently become addicted to the crunchy version. There's just something about that mix of creamy butter and crunchy pieces of sunflower seeds that does it for me! If you need a new "staple" nut butter that will replace peanut butter without breaking the bank, Sunbutter is my personal favorite. 

casey the college celiac
Allll the sunbutter!
3. Be blown away by the healthy ingredients in Kalot Superfood's White Chocolate Strawberry Cashew Butter

I've always drooled over Kalot Superfood's fruit-infused almond butters...but since I have an almond intolerance (which is why none are on this list!), I always grudgingly put the jars back on the shelf. So when I saw that Kalot Superfood introduced similar flavors in cashew butter, I was immediately sold. I've tried the chocolate flavor too, but - to my complete surprise - the white chocolate is impossible to beat. 

One of my favorite parts is the small chunks of dates mixed into the nut butter. This adds an addictive chewy contrast to the rest of the nut butter's thick, creamy texture. I also love that this tastes like dessert but its ingredient list is super healthy: all it contains is cashews, dates, coconut oil, unsweetened cacao butter chips, strawberries, chia seeds, vanilla extract and sea salt. 

casey the college celiac kalot superfood
Photo via Amazon
I honestly don't understand how Kalot made a nut butter with only 5 grams of sugar taste like chocolate...without chocolate on the ingredient list...but I'm A-OK with it! 

4. Celebrate local Texan flavors with Frankie V Kitchen's Chocolate Cashew Butter. 

When I visit different states, scoping out their local (gluten free) products is a must...and when I saw this jar at the Randall's close to my Grandma's house in Houston, I couldn't resist! This nut butter is as close to "fresh" as you can find: not only is it gluten free, but it's also organic and free of preservatives. Eating it before it went bad was no problem for me, of course! 

Because of its Texan twist of using brown sugar in the place of more typical sweeteners, this spread is a little sweeter than I'm used to. It also tastes a bit grainy, but I enjoyed tasting the texture of ground cashews in every bite. If you're looking for a healthier Nutella (and you live near Texas), this nut butter is a well-deserved splurge

casey the college celiac
Some good old Texan flavor!

5. Fall in love with Omega Nutrition's Pumpkin Seed Butter

Sure, you've probably tasted the sweet, orangish spread made from pumpkin purée in the fall. However; this pumpkin seed butter is all nut butter. I ordered a huge (20 ounce) jar of the stuff from Amazon two Christmases ago, and I savored it for months

Compared to other nut butters, this one looks a little green - but I promise, its flavors make up for the odd presentation! The best way to describe the taste would be "earthy." If you want a hearty, unique nut butter that's actually free of nuts, pumpkin seed butter is a delicious option. 

casey the college celiac
Photo via Amazon
6. Make a delicious decision with Anna's Choice Cashew and Macadamia Butter

Okay, I'll admit it: this is the creamiest, drippiest nut butter I've ever tasted. If you're addicted to being able to dunk your spoon in the jar and drizzling nut butter over your smoothie bowl, Anna's Choice is the holy grail of nut butters. 

The only ingredients in this jar are macadamia nuts, cashews and coconut sugar. While I wouldn't say the macadamia nuts offer a distinct flavor, I do love the roasted aftertaste Anna's Choice offers. This is also a lower glycemic spread for those who need it. For those who don't? It's just flippin' delicious - especially when used as a sauce on oatmeal, pancakes or smoothies

casey the college celiac
The drippiest of dreams...
7. Take a bite out of Binnie's Chocolate Coconut Butter.

Sometimes, a girl just needs a big dose of chocolate in the morning. When you get a dose of healthy fats from the coconut butter, that's just a bonus. Binnie's butter is not only gluten free, but also paleo, vegan, non-GMO, organic and raw. I found it in a local paleo store near by parents' new home in Colorado Springs, and it was one of the secret weapons that helped me survive my last semester of college.

This coconut butter doesn't have the same, thick texture of other nut butters. Once you warm it up in the microwave (since it turns brick hard in the Colorado cold!), it is soft to the touch and may even fall apart on your spoon. But the flavor is 100% there - and it's perfect for people who want a hit of chocolate while sticking to a lower processed or paleo diet.

casey the college celiac
My kind of chocolate...

The truth is, we've all probably said, "Better late than never" sometime recently. We've probably even said it when we finally try a new product or a new recipe for dinner. It's easy to stick to our known "safe" foods - whether you eat a restricted diet for a medical reason or as a personal lifestyle choice. 

However, your diet is only as restrictive as you let it be. And whether you love peanut butter, have a peanut allergy or just want to shake up your nut butter collection, these seven nut butters are an easy, delicious way to add some new flavors to your life. 

Last Tuesday may have been National Peanut Butter Day...but the other 364 days are made for these unique, flavor-packed nut butters. 

What's your favorite kind of nut butter? Do you like peanut butter? Comment below! 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Creamy and Cozy Quinoa Flakes, Three Ways (Gluten Free, Vegan)

Everyone likes a good throwback. We look back at Christmas photos to remember holiday cheer in the middle of January chaos. We save photos of proms, weddings and college graduations - because pics or it didn't happen! We even have entire social media channels (hello Instagram) dedicated to photo fanatics.

Of course, I'm probably one of the only people whose favorite "throwbacks" lately are bowls of quinoa flakes from four years ago! Food bloggers can probably relate to jumping from one new "epic" recipe to the other, only to forget some of your original faves. Well, these creamy, protein-packed quinoa flakes are getting a well deserved revival. 

casey the college celiac

Quinoa flakes not only offer 4.3 grams of protein per 1/3 cup, but also 2.5 grams of fiber, less than 2 grams of fat and no cholesterol. Plus they're vegan and allergy friendly. If you're looking for an easy breakfast to prep ahead for busy mornings, for a protein-packed alternative to oatmeal or just a freakin' delicious way to start your are three ways to get your quinoa flakes fiesta going!

For all of the flavor combinations, you only need a few, simple ingredients. As I've shared in my original overnight quinoa flakes recipe (this was actually one of my first posts ever - talk about a real throwback!), the trick to a deliciously creamy bowl of quinoa flakes begins with the ingredients ratios. Whether you're going to prep some quinoa flakes overnight or you're craving a cozy, warm bowl to wake up with, here's what you need to start:

1/3 cup of quinoa flakes
1/3 cup of water, tea or milk (milk makes it creamier; my personal favorite plant-based options are rice, coconut and cashew milks, or a mix of the three!)
1/2 to 3/4 a mashed ripe banana
1 tbsp of chia seeds (they soak up the moisture overnight in the case of overnight quinoa flakes, and make your "oatmeal" fluffy and thick either way!)
Hefty sprinkle of cinnamon

To get the base of your quinoa flakes down, simply throw all of these ingredients in a bowl and mix well! If it's cold enough to keep your coconut oil frozen solid (because there's no better natural thermostat than that!), you may want to warm up with a cooked bowl of quinoa flakes. Simply add all the ingredients to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2-3 minutes or until cooked through and creamy. You can also cook the quinoa flakes on the stovetop, adding the flakes to boiling water and stirring thoroughly for about 90 seconds.

casey the college celiac
Apple pie overnight quinoa flakes!
If mornings are not your thang - hello college students and/or full-time workers! - you might want to have breakfast "cooking" all night in the fridge instead! All you have to do is leave the mixture in the fridge to soak overnight. I like my overnight quinoa flakes super thick, but you can lower the amount of chia seeds or increase the liquid for a thinner result. You can also add extra water/tea/milk in the morning, right before eating!

Okay, now for the fun part: choosing your flavor combos (which can work for cooked or overnight quinoa flakes)!

Pretty Patriotic 

If berries are your BFF, look no further than this cozy bowl of bright, tart goodness. If you're soaking overnight, add mixed berries and banana the night before you want to dig in. This lets the flavors of the berries to soak into the flakes, making the whole breakfast extra berry-licious. If you're serving breakfast warm, add berries at the end of cooking. This is the ultimate way to use up the frozen berries in your fridge - not to mention save money on fruit that's out of season!

If you're feeling extra adventurous, try adding a tsp of acai or camu camu powder - which will turn your quinoa flakes a bright purple or pink!

casey the college celiac
That berry power!
Totally Trail Mix 

Okay, raise your hand if you've ever opened a bag of trail mix...and, the next time you looked down, it had all disappeared! I'm a self-proclaimed addict to anything crunchy and chewy, so I of course had to play around with these textures in my quinoa flakes. Combine crunchy chopped apples with juicy blueberries, roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds (or nuts), chewy raisins and creamy nut butter for a rockin' trip in an adventure texture land.

This is obviously also the perfect time to put your homemade granola to use, or to chop up your favorite protein bar and throw it in. In my experience, the more (delicious) toppings and contrasting textures, the better!

casey the college celiac
My personal favorite...
Coco for Blueberries 

So you've probably all heard of the classic combo of strawberries and chocolate. But if you haven't tried mixing cacao with blueberries, you're missing out. Just add a tsp of cacao powder, a sprinkle of nutmeg and a liberal handful of fresh or frozen blueberries. Trust me - the mix of rich chocolate with tart blueberries is a guaranteed winner!

For an even stronger hit of chocolate, add a cacao nut butter and your own healthy chocolate sauce made with equal parts coconut oil and cacao powder. You can even create a "berry" sauce with water and acai powder or camu camu powder if you feel like experimenting.

casey the college celiac
My kind of "winter blues"!

The truth is, times and tastebuds change. What used to be fashionable or fun or even a foodie's dream shifts with time - at least, until we're reminded of why we loved it in the first place. These breakfasts aren't just memorable either; they're quick and can be personalized to every pair of taste buds.

Eating a creamy, cozy, secretly healthy breakfast has never been easier.

*Also found at VegetarianMama, Pretty Pintastic Party, Creative Collection Party, What's Cookin' Wednesday. Saucy Saturdays*

What are your favorite oatmeal/quinoa flake toppings?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Things I'm Afraid to Tell You

Privacy is a strange thing when you're a blogger. In some ways, we have none of it - on purpose. I've shared my lowest moments, like when I was hospitalized or first struggling with body image as a newly diagnosed celiac. I've also shared some of my graduating from college a few short weeks ago!

Yet, as open as I try to be, there have still been some facts that I've felt too scared to share - facts that have proven one of the posters I remember hanging in my tenth grade English class. It featured the picture of a fountain pen scrawling in red ink: "Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed."

As dramatic as it sounds, this old saying is relatively true. Sometimes, we force ourselves to type through writer's block, wincing at every click of the keyboard. Sometimes, we write because it feels too natural not to. And, in rare times like this one, we let our hidden thoughts run freely, only stopping the flow when we've run out of room on the page.

casey the college celiac

A few weeks ago, I read Ashley's "Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" post on Blissful Basil, and instantly loved her vulnerability. Now it's my turn to explore what it feels like to be 100% open...and hopefully inspire someone else to do the same.

Okay, enough philosophical mumbo jumbo. What have I been afraid to tell you? Well...

1. I'm not 100% healed from celiac complications. Sure, I'm technically in remission (a phrase apparently used when your antibody levels reach normal levels). However, I still fight my share of belly battles. I still sometimes bloat for no decipherable reason - even if I'm eating and doing the same things each day. I lose weight easily (especially when I'm stressed), and I definitely need more sleep than the average 21-year-old. Does this "lack" of health make me less qualified to talk about thriving with celiac disease? I don't know - but sometimes it feels like it does.

2. I may post vegan and paleo recipes...but I'm not totally in either camp. This is mostly problematic in the great world of Instagram where tagging one smoothie bowl "vegan" can make the sweet potato salmon sliders you post a few hours later totally unacceptable. Some aspects of vegan and paleo diets are definitely appealing - like helping to end cruel animal practices and eating from a less processed menu. However, I don't think I'll ever dedicate myself to either camp - and I shouldn't have to justify my plant-based-granola-lovin'-ever-changing diet to anyone.

casey the college celiac
Allll the granola!
3. I'm an A+ student at telling others to listen to their bodies. I often fail at listening to my own.

4. Life after college is H-A-R-D...way harder than I ever thought it would be. Working full-time is definitely rewarding, but also super intense and exhausting. And leaving my friends to finish their college career together this semester? It kinda sucks. I didn't realize how much whiplash I'd be hit with by going from living with four girls and being surrounded by living with my folks in Colorado Springs. I'm scared that I won't make friends here without the helping hand of college classes. I'm even more scared that my California friendships will die over time. Overall, I'd say graduation is the best and the worst at the same time.

5. I'm still learning how to unconditionally love my body. Compared to years ago, I've made undeniable progress. Heck, I went without makeup for almost my entire last semester of college ('cause having more time to eat a smoothie bowl > wasting time putting on makeup for my two classes that day). But I still am my own harshest critic. I still let the state of my stomach have far too much influence on my mood each day. I'm still a work in progress.

casey the college celiac
My usual look
6. When I don't have the time or energy to create a blog post, or I miss one of my "regular" posting days, I feel like I'm letting you all down.

7. I'm scared to hear back from grad schools...more scared than I let myself feel all during the application process. Right now, my motto is: "I've done all I can do. Now, whatever is meant to happen will happen." But I still have this niggling voice in my head telling me all the money and time that will be wasted if I don't get in - and the uncertainty of where my life would go from there.

8. Speaking of uncertainty...I'm not sure exactly where I am - or this blog is - going. I know I want to re-brand the blog (I even have a name picked out - I think y'all will like it!), but I don't even know where to start. Even more than that, I'm terrified of losing all of the progress I've built up in these last months by switching names and platforms. As for me...well, my constant goal is to just survive each day! I don't know where I'll be living this time next year, who I'll be friends with, or what I'll be doing (hopefully grad school). As terrifying as that concept can be, though, it's also (crazily) exciting.

...and we'll stop there since eight is my favorite number - and y'all are probably very excited to get out of my head (I know I wish I could, sometimes!).

casey the college celiac
Throwing it back...
Even though I've been blogging for over three years now, I'm still not sure I've figured out where the right "privacy" line exists. As a reader, I know that some of the posts that have touched me the most have been dangerously personal. As a blogger, I also know how terrifying pressing "publish" can be. For now, I suppose I'll approach every post like I approach every day: making it up as I go along.

And, hopefully, post by post, there will be fewer things I'm afraid to tell you.

*Also found at Turn it Up TuesdaysWow Me Wednesday, RunningwithSpoons. SITS Girls!*

If you blog, how do you feel about privacy? As a reader, do you appreciate more vulnerable posts? Let me know your thoughts below!

Monday, January 23, 2017

5 Secrets to Eating an Energizing Breakfast When You're Working Full-Time

There are two kinds of eaters: the people who skip breakfast and the ones who wish they could eat it for every meal. I've always been part of the latter group; even when I was taking 17 units of classes in college, I never went without some oatless oatmeal or a big smoothie bowl!

However, now that I've started my first "real" job - as Senior Editor to Entity Magazine - I'm starting to understand why 31 million Americans skip breakfast everyday. In 2011, a survey by NPD Group  found that 10 percent of Americans skip breakfast, reportedly because they aren't hungry, don't feel like eating or don't have time. And, considering how hard I find it to "slow down" and make time for breakfast when I'm working at home, I can only imagine the challenges the average commuter faces.

casey the college celiac

What's a workin' gal to do? Get some help from these five secrets to eating an energizing breakfast - whether you're working full time, a busy college student or anything in between!

1. Prep ahead of time as much as possible.

There's no better party than a preppin' party...okay, that's a lie, but prepping your breakfast ahead of time can make your mornings ten times easier. You don't have to make your entire breakfast either. If you're going to eat a yogurt parfait once you get to work, cut up your fruit, put your granola in a bag and put your yogurt and other cold toppings close together in the fridge. This way, all you have to do is grab your bags in the morning and throw everything together in the office!

If you do want to have a breakfast buffet waiting right when you wake up, some of my favorite prep-ahead meals include:
  • Overnight Quinoa Flakes: if you want a breakfast similar to oatmeal but packed with even more protein, this is what dreams (and happy tummies) are made of...
  • Cozy Cacao Oatless Zoats: zucchini has never tasted so sweet - and breakfast has never been more easy to eat on the go!
  • Eat Yo' Greens Mini Baked Pancakes: these gluten free and vegan pancakes stay good for over a week in the fridge, which makes them perfect to make on the weekend and eat all week! 
  • Zucchini Bread Nana Ice Cream: this is my favorite breakfast to make ahead. Simply blend your smoothie as usual and store it in a glass container/jar in the freezer. When you want to eat it, pop it in the microwave on defrost until melted through and enjoy!
  • Berry Coconut Granola or Green Smoothie Granola: really, any of my granola recipes make delicious breakfasts with a fruit and little (plant based) milk or yogurt. Both recipes boast some hidden veggies, making them a healthier way to start your day. 
  • Superfood Coconut Banana Cookies: cookies in the morning? Luckily, these are just healthy enough to count as a well-rounded breakfast!
  • Bliss Balls: these taste like candy, are packed with superfoods like coconut flour, dates and nuts, and are easily personalized. What more could you want?
casey the college celiac
Some of my personal faves!
Some nights, the last thing you want to do is spend time in the kitchen, prepping for the next day. Just try to remember how happy you (and your taste buds) will be the following morning!

2. Use naturally energizing ingredients.

While I wouldn't classify myself as a night owl, calling me a "morning person" would be a bit of a stretch. So, even though I don't drink coffee, I need all the energy boosts I can get when I wake up. Luckily for me - and others who want to lower their coffee intake or don't drink it at all - there are plenty of other naturally energizing foods, including: fresh fruit (yay natural sugars!), water (with studies showing that dehydration can often make people feel fatigued), nuts (which are packed with magnesium and help convert sugar to energy) and cardamom (which promotes blood flow by expanding small blood vessels).

If you want a coffee-like drink with none of the energy crash, you may want to add Macaccino to your grocery list. I recently got the chance to taste this superfood drink and fell in love with the chocolatey flavor. The Original Roasted Maca Blend that I tried boasts a mix of organic roasted maca, cocoa powder, mesquite powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. As I've written before, maca has been shown to improve immune function, memory, focus and stress management - while also helping to balance hormones. As a result, this drink is about as healthy an energizing drink as you can get.

casey the college celiac
Hot cacao in smoothie form! ;) 
Since I'm a total smoothie addict, I added a scoop of Macaccino to my morning nana ice cream. While I won't claim it made my work productivity double, I definitely enjoyed the rich, chocolatey flavor. Any energy boosts were just a bonus! You can also brew Macaccino like hot chocolate or coffee by just adding hot water.

No matter how much of an early bird you are, we all need a little help from time to time. Whether it's fresh fruit, trail mix or Macaccino, just don't forget to include ingredients that will set your energy levels up (no pun intended) for success!

3. Know what processed foods are your friends - and don't feel guilty for using them!

Maybe if I had my own personal chef, I'd always eat from scratch for breakfast - but that isn't my reality, and it isn't most of Americans'. In fact, a recent study found that more than half of Americans' calories come from "ultra-processed" foods. As I've mentioned before, processed foods is an umbrella term that can include a variety of foods - and some are way healthier for you than others. The key is learning which of these foods to avoid - like "ultra-processed" foods that contain ingredients like extra colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers and flavors - and which can be part of a healthy diet.

casey the college celiac
The perfect morning start...or night snack!
So what processed foods aren't as bad as their title might imply? Think of minimally processed products like whole grain breakfast cereals, pre-cut fruit or veggies, no sugar added yogurt, packaged trail mix or even pre-made granola. Lately, one of my favorite (and, full disclosure, sponsored) breakfast additions is Frontier Bites. These snacks boast eight natural ingredients - like nuts, seeds, brown rice syrup, organic honey, puffed rice and millet, and fruit - and no refined sugar. I'm particularly addicted to topping my So Delicious yogurt - or a green smoothie bowl - with some Macadamia Pineapple Coconut bites for crunch. Add some fresh fruit, nut butter and chia seeds for a well-rounded - not to mention super delicious - breakfast.

The truth is, not everyone has the time, money or energy to make all of their own food, and we shouldn't feel ashamed to reaching to processed foods for a little help...especially when those products are as nutritious as they are delicious.

4. Stick to what you know works.

Of course, maybe what kinda "works" for you is skipping breakfast altogether. However, when you're trying to introduce a new healthy habit into your life, don't go farther out of your comfort zone than absolutely necessary. As a blogger, I love trying new products. As a foodie, I love trying new recipes! Yet, I rarely miss having a smoothie bowl for breakfast (unless I'm traveling, in which case I just eat all of the smoothie toppings and lots of fruit!). Why? I know that smoothies won't upset my stomach and that they'll give me the fuel I need for a busy day.

casey the college celiac
My brunch at the airport!
My mom is also gluten free, but she has a very different daily menu. Her days start off better with a simple bowl of buckwheat flakes cooked in the microwave with water. Add one sliced banana, a little cinnamon and a drizzle of honey, and she's one happy eater - and so is her belly. The moral of these stories is basically to show that everybody is different and, well, every body is different too. No one wants to go into work feeling nauseous, overstuffed or still hungry, so keep experimenting until you find the breakfast that is "just right," in the words of Goldilocks.

And when you find your edible soul mate? Make it a committed relationship and stick to a breakfast you know works for you!

5. Treat yo' self...while treating your body right!

Now, "treating yourself" doesn't necessarily mean kicking off every morning with a bowl of ice cream. Maybe that's A-OK on your birthday - but you also need to regularly focus on treating your body to the fuel and nutrients it needs. When I'm working, taking a break for brunch can seem like an annoying interruption. However, I know that if I don't feed myself right, I won't be able to write "right" either!

casey the college celiac
Taking a trip on the sweeter side!
Your ultimate goal should be finding a breakfast that tastes like dessert but is healthy enough to be a main meal. My recent secret weapon is Heavenly Organics's raw honey. Compared to processed honey, their products offer a variety of health benefits - ranging from antioxidants to Vitamin C to properties that help stabilize blood pressure, aid digestion, fight cancer, lower bad cholesterol and decrease inflammation. And, of course, their honey tastes pretty scrumptious on everything from pancakes to oatless oatmeal.

Some days, brownies are acceptable breakfast material. Other days, your body needs a green smoothie. Treating yourself - and your body right - means both breakfasts are allowed to land on your weekly menu, because feeding our cravings can be just as important as feeding our bodies. The definition of "treat" is up to you...and you and define it differently every day!

Before I turned into a (pretty legit) "working woman," I never understood how so many people could regularly skip breakfast. Now, I have a better grasp on how difficult eating an energizing breakfast can be - and way more respect to the expert foodies who've already managed this feat for years!

casey the college celiac
Cheers to delicious work day mornings!
With the right prep time, healthy ingredients and mindset, though, eating breakfast while working a full time job doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, it can just be incredibly delicious!

*I received these products free of charge in return for a written review. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

*Also found at What'd You Do This Weekend, Inspiration Monday, Totally Terrific Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Turn it Up, Wine'd Down Wednesday, What's Cookin' Wednesday, Dare to Share, Snickerdoodle Sunday*

What is your favorite breakfast to eat before or at work? Have you ever tried Macaccino, Frontier Bites or Heavenly Organic honey before? Tell me your thoughts below!

Friday, January 20, 2017

How to Celebrate National Cheese Lovers Day, Gluten Free and Vegan Style

You love cheese, I love cheese, we all love cheese! But, sometimes, cheese doesn't love you back (lactose intolerants, you know what I'm talkin' about). Luckily for all vegans, dairy-free-ers and adventurous eaters, though, enjoying cheese without the dairy is easier than ever. In fact, this could be your best National Cheese Lovers Day yet!

So what does a gluten free and vegan diner need to celebrate National Cheese Lovers Day - minus, well, the actual cheese? Whether you're looking for dairy free cheese products or homemade recipes, have a craving for pizza or a healthier version of your mama's mac n' cheese, here are some easy, delicious way to get your dose of vegan cheese this holiday!

casey the college celiac

Some nights, you just want to walk in the door from work and throw together dinner in thirty minutes of less. Those nights, dairy free cheese products are a girl's foodie's best friend. I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert; however, I've probably had enough hands on experience to earn my Daiya Cheese girl-scout badge.

My favorite (totally unsponsored - though I wouldn't turn down some Daiya love, wink wink!) product is Daiya's Mozzarella Style Shreds. Made with ingredients like tapioca flour, pea protein and coconut oil, these shreds are free of most allergens and melt just like "regular" cheese. Although they definitely have an acquired taste, a little bit of this creamy goodness goes a long way in recipes. In particular, I use Daiya shreds to top my vegan buckwheat pizza and in my stove top veggie mac n' cheese. As a rule of thumb (or taste buds), use Daiya when you just want a sprinkle of cheese on the top of your meal.

casey the college celiac
Is it obvious that I <3 pizza?
When you want to dive into a pool of cheesy goodness, try out homemade cheese sauces instead. Typically, there are two types of recipes: vegetable-based sauces and nut-based sauces. Personally, I love the first type. I mean, what could be better than enjoying your cheese sauce and getting some hidden veggies too?

The recipe that always pops up in my kitchen is TheVegan8's magical fat-free vegan cheese sauce, which uses steamed zucchini and potatoes plus a variety of spices. For an even simpler sauce, you can make my version of Brandi's recipe, which just combines all of the following ingredients in a high-powered blender:

2 big Yukon potatoes or 1/2 a russet potato, baked or steamed
1/2 large zucchini or squash, steamed
1/4 cup of water or unsweetened dairy free milk of choice
Liberal scoop of turmeric powder
Liberal shake of mustard powder
Sprinkle of paprika
Optional: sprinkle of oregano and/or thyme

How to eat it? (Besides using chips as a spoon). Stuff it into spaghetti squash for a healthier version of enchiladas, or transform boring zucchini into a creamy masterpiece that will have you craving vegetables.This sauce also holds up in a crock pot for easy meals like stacked enchiladas or secretly superfood-packed mac n' cheese!

casey the college celiac
Those close up shots...
If you need even more ideas on how to turn veggies into (cheesy) liquid gold, here are some other winners from around the blogosphere:
Some meals, though, call for a richer, creamier kind of sauce. After all, if the rest of your meal is mainly vegetables - like my favorite loaded baked potato - your digestive system may need a break from all that fiber! I'll admit that I have yet to make my own nut-based sauce; however, the times I've eaten it in restaurants have been memorable in the best of ways!

casey the college celiac
Raw, vegan cafes apparently have the best cashew cheese quesadillas! 
If you're ready to go a little nutty, check out some of the recipes below:
You've probably heard the saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way." Well, when it comes to celebrating National Cheese Lovers Day, it should be: Where there's a craving, there's a recipe ready for creating!

Because, the truth is, your diet is only as restrictive as you let it. And whether you're a traditional cheese lover or a vegan foodie looking for your latest addiction, these recipes are guaranteed to help you celebrate National Cheese Lovers Day in delicious, dairy free style!

*Also found in What's Cookin' Wednesday, VegetarianMama, Pretty Pintastic, Saucy Saturdays, Dare to Share, RunningwithSpoons!*

What's your favorite dairy free product? Have you ever made your own cheese sauce? Tell me your thoughts below!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What It's Like to Live With a Disease Everyone Assumes is Fake

Imagine that every time you walk into a restaurant, you’re putting your life in the chef’s hands. Imagine having to give the same medical spiel – “I have celiac disease. Even a crumb of gluten will make me extremely sick” – anytime you order food. And imagine telling the waiter you need a strictly gluten free meal…only for him to look and you and say, “Gluten free? Now, do you really need it?”

If you can put yourself in those shoes, you know a little about what it’s like to be me – or any of the one in 133 Americans with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which ingesting gluten damages one's intestines. You might think that the hardest part about celiac disease is the diet – and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

casey the college celiac

However, partially thanks to the gluten free fad taking over our favorite restaurants, Hollywood celebrities and soccer moms, being taken seriously with celiac disease – a condition people often assume is fake or just a fad – is an even bigger challenge. I'm here with Entity Magazine (where this article first appeared) to set the story straight.

Doctors Say: “It’s All In Your Head.”

The challenge to legitimize your very real disease begins at the doctor’s office. I recently chatted with Shelley Case, R.D., who is the renowned author of “Gluten Free: The Definitive Resource Guide” and serves on the medical advisory boards for the Celiac Disease Foundation, Gluten Intolerance Group and Canadian Celiac Association. “Unfortunately the majority of individuals with celiac disease remain undiagnosed,” she says. “Also, many are misdiagnosed with other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome to name a few.”

I’ve even heard heartbreaking stories of patients whose doctors told them: “It’s all in your head!”

As already mentioned, celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which one’s intestines cannot properly digest gluten. This means that if you eat gluten, you get some nasty side effects…and if you keep eating gluten, you can experience major (and possibly fatal) health complications, such as nutritional deficiencies, neurological issues and cancer. However, celiac disease is way more complicated than that.

For one thing, no one knows what causes celiac disease. It can be genetic but the odds of developing celiac disease increase if the gene becomes active. For example, my father has the celiac gene but it has never become active while my own celiac gene activated when I was a senior in high school. Possible triggers of celiac disease include surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, infection or extreme emotional distress.

casey the college celiac
The dad and I!
If that doesn’t convince you, celiac disease is also what Shelley Case calls a “multi-system, multi-symptom disease,” which is why it is often so difficult to make an accurate diagnosis. Instead of being just a gastrointestinal disease, celiac’s symptoms are all over the map. Sure, you can get the “typical” symptoms of gas, bloating, constipation or vomiting. Or, you can be a special snowflake and instead exhibit weight loss, fatigue, delayed growth or behavioral problems.

Symptoms can be even trickier in women – and at least  60 to 70% of currently diagnosed celiacs are women. In fact, while research is conflicting, some studies suggest that four to eight percent of women with unexplained infertility are undiagnosed celiacs. Besides affecting a woman’s chances to have children, undiagnosed celiac disease can also cause complications during pregnancy (including miscarriage and low birth weight) and increase a woman’s risk of low bone mass density.

What does that mean for you? Basically, if you have celiac disease but a doctor thinks your symptoms are “all in your head,” you aren’t the only one being put in danger. Celiac’s “fake” reputation is possibly hurting your future children too.

You Fit The “White, Skinny B*Tch” Stereotype

At the time I was diagnosed, I lived in San Diego, California. On the positive side, this means there were lots of “hip” restaurants making some bang for their buck on the gluten free trend. On the negative side? As celiac kept stealing more and more pounds from my already-thin frame, I fit the Cali girl stereotype – White, skinny and a “gluten free” aficionado – to a T.

casey the college celiac
My college campus probably didn't help that stereotype...

Four months after my diagnosis, I had adopted a strict gluten free diet, but I was still sick. When I was finally hospitalized, I weighed 83 pounds as a 5’3″ freshman in college. The doctors had no idea why I wasn’t healing like a “normal” celiac – and my fellow classmates couldn’t relate to wanting to gain a pant size.

I’ll never forget when, during my first week of college, I went to the caf with my hall mates. While they loaded up on pizza, I relied on my college’s meager “gluten free” section, which basically featured salad, veggies and lean proteins. As I looked enviously at the other girls’ plates, one gorgeous blonde stared back at mine, saying, “I wish I had celiac disease so I could be skinny like you.”

At the time, I was so shocked I didn’t say anything. I probably just laughed awkwardly, stabbed at one of the olives in my salad and pretended it was the girl’s face instead. The longer I’ve been diagnosed, though, the more I’ve realized that the Pizza Incident (as I like to call it) isn’t unusual.

Although only 1% of Americans have celiac disease, reportedly 1 in 5 Americans are eating gluten free. One of the most common motivations? Weight loss.

casey the college celiac
I'd rather have those rolls...
So, it’s not unusual for the college janitor to watch me make my “special” food and ask, “You so skinny. Is it…diet? Or, gene?” Or for a family friend to offhandedly comment, “Well, at least you’re not obese” while I’m watching the rest of our dinner party devour the restaurant’s free bread basket.

The saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” probably rose to popularity because people tend to do just that: judge by appearance. And, by appearance only, it’s easy for people to assume I’m eating gluten free for weight loss…and not just to survive.

Sometimes You Have To “Fake It” As A Celiac.

I’ll be honest, though. Sometimes, it’s not just others assuming that my disease is a fake fad. Sometimes, I have to misrepresent myself in restaurants just to make sure I can eat without being sick for days later. Shelley Case, who also has celiac disease, can relate to the struggles of eating out safely, saying, “People working in restaurants often do not understand the seriousness of this autoimmune disorder.”

So, when I walk into Chipotle, I don’t hold up the line any longer than I have to by giving the entire spiel on what celiac is and what gluten will do to me. Instead, I simply say, “I have a gluten allergy” and watch as workers wash their hands, change gloves and fix me a safe burrito bowl.

Is it sad that celiacs – or gluten intolerants – often have to misrepresent themselves as a safety mechanism? Completely. But that isn’t the only part of restaurants’ gluten free protocols that need to change. As Case explains: “When you ask for the gluten-free menu, servers may indicate they have ‘gluten aware,’ ‘gluten friendly,’ or ‘no added gluten’ options instead. This makes it difficult for people with celiac disease to know whether their meal will be safe based on these menu terms.”

casey the college celiac
We need better awareness for all of the above!
Not only that, but “gluten free” doesn’t meanceliac safe.” I’ve read accounts by restaurant staff that have made my stomach curl…mostly because my server might be just as (dangerously) clueless. One waitress shares how, one day, a chef accidentally placed garlic bread on a plate with a gluten free order. She picked it up, removed the garlic bread, and gave it to the customer. “What happened to that poor person??” she later asked herself. “This never would have happened with shellfish or nuts in the case of an allergy.”

Although celiac can also be fatal, I’ve always been grateful I don’t have an allergy. If I do eat a crumb of gluten, I’ll suffer for it – but it won’t kill me upon contact. In some ways, though, I’m jealous. With celiac, I have to constantly prove that I “really” need a gluten free diet. I don’t see people asking the same questions to those with peanut or egg allergies.

Fad Dieters Don’t Know What A Gluten Free Life Looks Like

I wouldn’t dare say that I hate the gluten free fad. As Shelley Case points out, the good news is that, nowadays, “there’s a greater awareness about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet among health professionals and the general public.” There are even more gluten free products available that, crazily enough, don’t taste like cardboard. In fact, now it seems like every retailer is trying to get a toe into the “gluten free” market, whether by labeling their naturally gluten free water or changing their formula, like Cheerios.

While the gluten free fad has received a lot of media attention, Case is right when she says that one of the biggest concerns for those with celiac disease right now is not “being taken seriously because of those jumping on the gluten free band-wagon. There is a huge difference between those who must follow a gluten-free diet out of medical necessity verses those adopting the diet as a lifestyle choice!””

casey the college celiac
Don't see many fad dieters looking like this...
As a celiac, I don’t just eat gluten free – I live it. That means that I don’t just go to a cafe, order a salad and eat around the croutons. Living with celiac disease involves:

  • Getting used to bringing your own “safe” food to every party, outing or workday.
  • Learning how to politely tell dates that they must brush their teeth before kissing me goodnight. (My first boyfriend and I quickly learned that kissing after he ate gluten killed my intestines and the mood!)
  • Paying 242% more for gluten-free products than regular, wheat-filled products.
  • Getting “glutened” (or accidentally digesting wheat or wheat-contaminated food) despite all my precautions. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, stomach problems, rashes, extreme abdominal cramps, vomiting, headaches and everything in between. My symptoms usually last for a week.
  • Learning how to balance going to school, working and cooking all my own meals after my college cafeteria couldn’t provide celiac-safe meals.

I have hope that, one day, living with celiac disease will be easier. Clinical trials are testing a pill that would decrease intestinal damage caused by cross contamination. Researchers are also investigating alternative treatments ranging from enzyme therapies to preventing celiacs’ inflammatory response to gluten to a vaccine, says Shelley Case.

The first step to improving celiacs’ lives, however, is a cultural one. Everyone needs to realize that eating gluten free isn’t just a diet; for celiacs, it’s a life-saving form of medicine.

casey the college celiac
Cake has been this celiac's medicine for several years now!
So the next time you see someone ordering a gluten free meal, don’t assume that they’re a fad dieter. Celiac disease is real – and so are its effects on a person’s health. And celiac disease needs to start receiving the recognition that every disease deserves.

*Although I wrote this post, it first appeared at Entity Magazine. Check out my other Entity articles here!*

*Also found at Wow Me Wednesday, RunningwithSpoons, ShareFest!*

Has someone ever questioned your need for a gluten free diet? Tell me your thoughts below!