Monday, February 27, 2017

How to Embrace The "Season of Life" Mentality During Hard Times

I don't know what I imagined life post-college would be like. Or, actually, I know vaguely what I expected: freedom, having it all together, and everything going according to plan. Well, I have the first one down. The other two? Not so much.

A few weeks ago, I was reading Robyn's blog, The Real Life RD, (if you've never read her stuff, fix that ASAP) when I came upon a phrase of hers: "this season of life." She used it to describe her crazy work schedule for the next few months...I've been using it to describe my emotional instability (hello five straight grad school rejections). And I know plenty of (online and offline) friends who are going through their own rough seasons - whether with challenging classes at school, health struggles or just the maze that is everyday life

How to Embrace The "Season of Life" Mentality During Hard Times, casey the college celiac

So what does embracing all the seasons - and all the highs and lows - of life really mean? (And this isn't meant to sound like a pity party. I just want to be honest where my head is at...and show others that they aren't the only ones dealing with some baggage). I'm no expert, but right now embracing the "season of life" looks something like this...

Diving even deeper into my work with Entity Magazine to keep my brain distracted. I'm especially proud of learning to make short videos of articles - like this one on the health benefits of women supporting women!

Accepting that, for right now, my life basically consists of work + moving my body + cooking food for my body + blogging + sleep. Along with the odd grocery store run while singing at the top of my lungs to the radio. (Basically, a foodie's definition of a good time).

Savoring time with family during hikes at nearby fields, walks to the nearby Broadmoor Hotel or just lazy weekend days. Colorado Springs' natural beauty is giving San Diego's some stiff competition!

How to Embrace The "Season of Life" Mentality During Hard Times
At the Broadmoor Hotel...
Discovering Spotify (I know, I'm very late to the party) and jamming to some new songs as I work. 

Facebook messaging friends from college to see how the other half is living...and watching iZombie "together" via FaceTime. Desperate times, desperate measures...

Crying over emails saying I "regretfully" can't be admitted to a school's grad program. Who knew that messages of less than 100 words could hurt so much? 

Relying on go-to meals (like nacho-stuffed spaghetti squash and lots of potatoes) when I don't have the motivation or time to try something new. (If you have any fave gf/dairy free/vegan recipes, feel free to drop a link in the comments!)

Reading the most "for fun" books I have in years. Mystery or psychological novels for the win!

Finally getting my hands on that lotta-money-a-year piece of paper.

How to Embrace The "Season of Life" Mentality During Hard Times

Calling my parents during their vacation away just to hear their voices. And realizing I definitely don't want my own house, dog or child (hi sis!) for a looooooong time. (Although the ability to watch How to Get Away With Murder without headphones is a bonus).

Feeling proud of every new contact I'm making through my work with Entity Mag. Recently, I've interviewed a world-leading life coach, countless authors, and one of the doctors who regularly appears on The Doctors TV show. My LinkedIn is slowly growing! 

Realizing that, some days, I'm going to walk around feeling (and looking) like a zombie. And I'll just need to chill and eat them brains (correction: gluten free grains).  

I'm hoping that, even just a handful of weeks from now, life will be more certain. I'm hoping I'll hear one "yes" from the six schools I have left, which would give me a solid plan for the next two years. And, if I don't get in anywhere, I'm hoping I'll be okay, and find the alternate path that is meant for me.

How to Embrace The "Season of Life" Mentality During Hard Times
Some of my fave quotes from Instagram lately...
But for right now, this - the uncertainty, the going-through-the-movements - is the season I'm living in. And just like we can't have winter without spring, I can't move on to the next stage in my life without facing this one. 

So, whatever season you're in for the moment, remember this: it will pass. That can be good and that can be bad, but change is guaranteed. What you're doing right now to cope might not be the "healthiest" or "ideal" reaction - but it may be exactly what you need in this moment, and it doesn't determine your future behavior or your self worth. 

Butterflies don't look down at themselves for their lowly days as caterpillars (and, if they do, bugs have way more problems than predators and pesticide!) So, I refuse to look down at myself for struggling at times right now - and neither should you.

How to Embrace The "Season of Life" Mentality During Hard Times
All those ups and downs...
This season isn't what I expected, but it's what I've been given. So I'm embracing it, enjoying every moment I can - and hoping that, soon, I'll be able fly


Have you ever heard the phrase "season of life"? What season of life are you going through right now? 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why I Don't "Heart" The Instagram Hashtag #GainingWeightIsCool

When it seems like nearly every part of society - from the lithe models on billboards to sexy actresses on TV -  says that thin, perfect bodies should be women's top priorities, you might instantly fall in love with an Instagram movement like #GainingWeightIsCool. As someone who lost almost 20 pounds to celiac disease, I know I was a fan when I first heard the words.

As empowering as this hashtag may sound, though, I have a newsflash for you (and the readers of Entity Magazine, where this article first appeared): #GainingWeightIsCool is actually just another body shaming movement in disguise.

Why I Don't "Heart" The Instagram Hashtag #GainingWeightIsCool

True, this movement may have purer roots than most. At the beginning of 2017, fitness coach Arianna Dantone posted a photo showing how she'd gained weight while pursuing fitness goals. She tagged it with #gainingweightiscool, asked women to share their own positive stories of weight gain. Since then, over 17,500 posts have been posted featuring the hashtag. I almost felt called to post my own story with the hashtag, just like I've written about it on here a few times before.

And, sure, some of these photos are even inspiring. You can read testimonies of women who've finally beaten their eating disorder. You can see women embracing muscles, kicking ass in "masculine" hobbies like weight lifting or Crossfit, and learning to love themselves - even without a thigh gap. Hell, at first glance, I agreed with sites like People and Greatist that #GainingWeightIsCool was, well, just that: pretty freakin' cool.

Why I Don't "Heart" The Instagram Hashtag #GainingWeightIsCool
The post that started it all...
But the more I scrolled, the more I realized that this hashtag isn't as empowering as I'd like to think. Not only that, but it could be dangerous.

By scrolling through a handful of posts, you'll see weight that's being gained and celebrated isn't the kind you might first picture: the chubby tummies or touching thighs. Instead, it seems like gaining weight is only appropriate when you gain a six-pack alongside it. Instead of empowering women to reject society's unrealistically thin beauty expectations, these posts are just giving women yet another unrealistic goal: toned arms, chiseled abs and a booty that rivals Kim Kardashian's.

Ironically, a lot of the dangers of these photos are similar to that of "thinspiration" or the photos women often look at to motivate themselves to lose weight.  Both physiques can be reached through dangerous methods - like over-exercising or restricting your diet (whether in calories or by following a strict protein-heavy diet to help build muscles). Perhaps the worst part, though, is that #GainingWeightIsCool still equates a woman's appearance to her overall value.

Just like a thigh gap doesn't determine your happiness, impressively sculpted glutes don't prove how "cool" you really are!

Why I Don't "Heart" The Instagram Hashtag #GainingWeightIsCool
I've been a range of sizes and fitness levels...and none come with a happiness guarantee
For some women, maybe the #GainingWeightIsCool photos are just the motivation they've been looking for to get active, embrace a bigger jean size or even beat an eating disorder. And if that's the case for you, please, scroll and hashtag as much as you want! I may even peek at the new posts from time to time, looking for women with "average" bodies (in terms of not being a baby female Hulk) but extraordinary stories or pieces of advice. However, I can't say that this movement is good for all women - or even most women.

In fact, I only have one kind of "weight" that I'm focusing on: the wait for a time when women's bodies are just that - bodies. They won't define us. They won't be victims of body shaming or unrealistic beauty expectations. They'll just be the vessels that help us express everything - the thoughts, ideas, beliefs and emotions - that truly do make us cool.

*Although I wrote this article, it first appeared at Entity Magazine, where I work as Senior Editor. Check out my other articles here!*

*Also found at Pretty PintasticDare to Share, Share Fest!*


What do you think of this hashtag? Tell me your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Healthy Chef's Guide to Cooking Gluten Free with (Sweet) Potatoes

I've said it before and I'll say it again: sometimes the easiest - and best - comfort food is a simple baked potato. Luckily for me, there's a holiday made just for potato-lovers like me: today, National Cook a Sweet Potato Day.

What's a girl to do on this potato-riffic holiday? (Besides eat some delicious potatoes, of course). In my case, I thought there would be no better celebration than exploring the health benefits of six different types of potatoes and sweet potatoes - plus plenty of delicious gluten free, vegan and paleo recipes.

A healthy chef's guide to cooking gluten free with (sweet) potatoes , casey the college celiac

Ready to get your potato party started? Then just keep scrolling!

Russet

When it comes to potatoes, you could call russets a cook's (gluten free) bread and butter. These are usually medium or large in size and have a rough, brown skin with a dry, fluffy interior. While russets may have a less-than-stellar reputation, they're also actually quite healthy as long as you don't load them up with all the Steakhouse toppings. One medium russet comes with around 160 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and high levels of vitamin folate, niacin, thiamine and your Vitamin B6 and C.

Here's one tip that can reportedly boost any potato's health stats: simply cook your potato ahead of time and let it cool before eating (or re-heating). This process of cooking then cooling increases the resistant starch in potatoes, which can help prevent constipation, protect against colorectal cancer and improve heart health.

A healthy chef's guide to cooking gluten free with (sweet) potatoes, casey the college celiac, potato nachos
Nacho mama's nachos!

Yukon - Gold or Red


If you want a potato that tastes creamy without having to add any milk or butter, Yukons are your best bet. These are smaller than russets, which also make them a secret weapon when you're only cooking for one. While both varieties have a waxy texture, the gold is often slightly sweeter than the red, so keep that in mind when you're choosing potatoes for a dish.

If it's nutrition that you're worried about, Yukons are another safe bet. One medium gold Yukon potato offers half of your Vitamin C needs (which can also help you absorb more iron from your diet). It's also packed with potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart and kidney disease. You've probably heard the saying that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Considering their health benefits and the fact that Yukons are delicious enough to eat like apples, I'd say that cliche could deserve a makeover.

Adirondack Blue 

Okay, I'll be honest. Before I typed up this blog post, I only knew these potatoes as the blue-ish, purple-ish potatoes I'd sometimes find at Sprouts and do a happy dance when eating. They look like typical Yukons in shape and size - and even taste the same as a Gold or Red Yukon - but with one big difference: purple skin and insides that turn blue when cooked.

A healthy chef's guide to cooking gluten free with (sweet) potatoes, casey the college celiac
Those blue potatoes!
Besides being an Instagrammer's dream, these blue potatoes are arguably the healthiest of regular potatoes thanks to their antioxidants. Studies have also shown that purple potatoes can lower eaters' blood pressure, help prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation in the body (yay antioxidants!), and improve athletes' endurance thanks to their insoluble fiber. This potato is much more than just a pretty addition to your plate!

(Regular) Potato Recipes:

So how can you do to enjoy all the health benefits of these potatoes? To tell the truth, a better question is what can't you do? Some of my favorite ways to eat potatoes include Butterfly Broiled Potatoes (the perfect way to make the most out of Yukon's creamy centers and crispy skin!), Eat the Rainbow Bowls (roasted potatoes + broiled veggies + avocado = a heavenly mix of different tastes, textures and tones) and Loaded Potato Wedge Nachos (if you want to enjoy a baked potato with a Mexican twist, look no further). And, if you're ready to explore vegan sauces, potatoes and veggies can actually be blended into a killer queso!

A healthy chef's guide to cooking gluten free with (sweet) potatoes, casey the college celiac
A regular potato roundup!

If those ideas aren't enough, I've also scoured the blogosphere for some potato-perfect recipes (and, full disclosure, there's are only some of the few out of the hundred or so I have bookmarked...). Now, let's dig in!

Garnet and Jewel Sweet Potato

Okay, first off, the (edible) elephant in the room: the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. I grew up never really knowing (or caring) about the distinction, but a few quick Google searches cleared up my questions. Basically, yams and sweet potatoes are entirely different kinds of tubers. A real "yam" is a starchy root from the Caribbean, and is typically rough, scaly and low in beta carotene. And those red or orange "yams" you've been eating for years (especially at Thanksgiving)? Those are most likely sweet potatoes that American grocery stories have mis-labeled in order to separate them from the "white" sweet potato variety. Who would've thunk?

A healthy chef's guide to cooking gluten free with (sweet) potatoes, casey the college celiac
A typical dinner situation...

Now, I included the Garnet and Jewel sweet taters together because they're both very similar: they're orange/red on the inside and out, and have a mildly sweet flavor. Garnet sweet potatoes are typically more moist on the inside, though - which makes them addictively tender when you roast them whole in the oven. Jewel taters, on the other hand, are more firm.

As for nutrition, sweet potatoes are, by the numbers, arguably healthier than yams. Sweet potatoes boast lower calories and score lower on glycemic index (meaning that their carbs are released more slowly and therefore cause less spikes in blood sugar). Orange or red colored sweet potatoes like Jewel and Garnet also pack a punch of beta-carotene, which has been shown to improve blood levels of Vitamin A. Sweet potatoes' bright color has also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Apparently your grandma's mashed sweet potato recipe really can be a little magical.

Japanese Sweet Potato

...otherwise known as Casey's favorite potato ever. The skin of a Japanese sweet tater is typically a purple-ish color, but it has a bright white inside. I actually first tasted this variety when my mom bought it by mistake when she was looking for "regular" sweet potatoes - but I'm very glad for her mistake! These potatoes have a much firmer texture and, unlike Garnet sweet potatoes, these don't caramelize easily when roasted in the oven. However, Japanese sweet potatoes' unique flavor is just as good, in my opinion!

A healthy chef's guide to cooking gluten free with (sweet) potatoes, casey the college celiac
Another kind of buddha bowl!
Despite tasting very different from its sweet tater cousins, it's just as good nutritionally. One medium Japanese tater comes with around 120 calories, 438 grams of Potassium, 2 grams of protein, 202 percent of your daily Vitamin A needs, 30 percent of your Vitamin C needs and 5 percent of your calcium needs. Like the rest of these potatoes, this variety is also free of fat and cholesterol. Talk about a win.

Stokes Purple Sweet Potato

Finally, my newest discover: purple sweet potatoes! I bought these on a whim when I saw them in Sprouts, and I had no idea what they would taste like - but, as it turns out, pretty good! Compared to other varieties, purple sweet potatoes aren't very sweet, and they're definitely the driest. So, be careful about overcooking them and, if you bake them in the microwave, be sure to include a some water as well.

Thanks to its brilliant color, the purple sweet potato is packed with antioxidants (three times that of blueberries, in fact!) and has been shown to help reduce damage from oxygen and metals in the digestive track. The potatoes' anthocyanins can also have an anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties

Sweet Potato Recipes

When I have sweet potatoes on hand, my usual dinners involve: Loaded Baked Potatoes (the easiest way to use up leftover veggies, beans, or sauces), Salmon Sweet Potato Sliders (which can easily also be stuffed with pulled pork, mashed chickpeas, pulled jackfruit or other kinds of fish!), Sweet Potato Zucchini Patties (a great topping for salads) and leftover sweet potato fries decorating my homemade pizza (trust me: you haven't lived until you've combined fluffy sweet potatoes with a crunchy buckwheat crust).

A healthy chef's guide to cooking gluten free with (sweet) potatoes, casey the college celiac
Allll the sweet tater love!
Need even more ideas? Here are some other sweet ways to enjoy sweet potatoes from around the blogosphere!
The truth is, there are so many different ways to enjoy potatoes and sweet potatoes, it's almost impossible to not find a potato-packed recipe to win over your taste buds. But, this National Cook a Sweet Potato Day, I hope you have some new ideas on what you can really do with one potato...and which potato is right for the recipe you have in mind.

A healthy chef's guide to cooking gluten free with (sweet) potatoes, casey the college celiac
Or a little bit of everything...
Because, when cooking gluten or allergy free, the modest potato might be just the secret weapon you've been looking for!


*Also found at Wine'd Down Wednesday, Wow Me Wednesday, What's Cookin' Wednesday, RunningwithSpoons, This is How We Roll, VegetarianMama, Saucy Saturday, Snickerdoodle Sunday*


What's your favorite kind of regular or sweet potato? How do you like to enjoy your potatoes?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bright Breakfast Buddha Bowl with Frontier Bites (Gluten Free, Vegan Option)

There's something addictive about a meal that includes a little bit of everything. Tender sweet potatoes with crisp chickpeas. Creamy avocado with crunchy sauted vegetables. Now, I'm no expert or trend analysis...but I'm betting that killer combos like those why "buddha bowls" have recently exploded in popularity.

For those who don't know, buddha bowls are basically the kitchen sink of meals - and they boast as much variety as they do fans. According to the Urban Dictionary, a "buddha bowl" is defined by only being "packed so full, it has a rounded ‘belly’ appearance on the top much like the belly of a buddha.” That gives a new meaning to a food baby, right?

Bright Breakfast Buddha Bowl with Frontier Bites (Gluten Free, Vegan), casey the college celiac

In this case, though, I'm leaving the savory road behind and trying on a new kind of buddha bowl: a bright breakfast version. Instead of leafy greens and grains, a creamy green smoothie serves as the base. And, instead of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds or dressing on the top, there's the ultimate texture trio: juicy berries, creamy sunflower butter and - my latest addiction - crunchy Frontier Bites.

Ready to find out what the buddha bowl buzz is really about? Then keep scrolling to see my recipe for a Bright Breakfast Buddha Bowl. Of course, the best thing about buddha bowls is their personalization, so think of this as more of breakfast inspiration...but if you want a delicious (yet secretly veggie-packed) meal, follow these recipes and you'll have a winner!

Ingredients for 1 Buddha Bowl:

Green nice cream:
 - 1/2 one frozen banana
 - 1-2 small frozen zucchini or squash (depending on how sweet you want it)
 - Large handful of spinach or other leafy green
 - 1 TBSP chia seeds (I love MammaChia)
 - Enough liquid to blend (I use a mix of coconut milk and cooled, brewed tea)
 - Optional: turmeric, cinnamon, spirulina, vanilla, and a pinch of nutmeg

Bright Breakfast Buddha Bowl with Frontier Bites (Gluten Free, Vegan), casey the college celiac

To make the base of your buddha bowl, simply blend all of these ingredients in a high-powered blender (both my Nutribullet and my Vitamix have worked). One extra pro tip is to put the bowl you plan on using in the freezer as you make your smoothie. Then, when you pour your smoothie inside, it'll stay colder (and thicker) longer. Next comes the fun part: choosing your toppings - and with buddha bowls, the more the merrier!

With buddha bowls, the goal is to have a mix of different textures and flavors. So, I've listed out some options in groups of "chewy," "creamy" and "crunchy." And if you have your own favorite toppings, of course, add those in!

Chewy:

Oatless oatmeal clusters. If you want to make your buddha bowl more winter-friendly (or just can't go without your oatmeal in the morning), look no further than this crunchy alternative to your usual creamy oats. It also doesn't hurt that you can make this topping in under five minutes (thank you, microwave) and that it stays good overnight. Smoothie + (oatless) oats = chewy heaven!

Raisins or other dried fruit. Okay, I'm addicted. I've been going through handfuls of raisins every day for a few months now, and I don't see that stopping anytime soon. Feel free to sprinkle on whatever dried fruits are calling your name. For a tropical twist, use dried pineapple or mango. Or, you can use my personal favorite: dried figs.

Bright Breakfast Buddha Bowl with Frontier Bites (Gluten Free, Vegan), casey the college celiac

Mini (or regular) pancakes. I always love enjoying pancakes for breakfast, but I hate making them that morning...which is why I try to have a stack of my baked mini pancakes on-hand to eat alone or on top of a smoothie. If you've ever wondered what clouds taste like, these sweet, chewy treats are exactly how I imagine them..

Creamy:

Berries and banana hearts. Fruit is the healthiest candy there is...and you can use whatever fruit you happen to have in your fridge. Bananas add a creamy factor while berries like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries offer a tart punch. For extra foodporn swag, cut yours into shapes like hearts or even stars.

Drizzle of So Delicious yogurt (or your own favorite yogurt). Yogurt will always be my go-to night snack, but I have some Instagram friends who are queens at making everything from words to hearts with yogurt in the smoothie bowls. While I'm not at that level, yogurt can add a sweet hint - especially if you include tarter fruits (like cherries and blackberries) in your buddha bowl.

Bright Breakfast Buddha Bowl with Frontier Bites (Gluten Free, Vegan), casey the college celiac

Sunbutter swirl. Kick up the protein and your buddha bowl flavor by adding a few swirls of sunflower butter (or your favorite nut butter) on top. Trust me: that moment you get a bite of smoothie, berries and sunbutter all at once is sooooo worth the work.

Crunchy:

Homemade granola. So, I've basically lost count of how much granola I eat each week, but I'm pretty sure I'm probably made of at least 33% granola. Feel free to use your favorite store-bought variety or check out my recipes - which range from green smoothie granola to coconut berry to tropical. Enough different flavors to please even the pickiest of taste buds.

A sprinkle of chia seeds. No explanation needed!

Magic shell. Ironically enough, this crunchy element is about as easy as a recipe can get...but it definitely looks magical when you pour it over your buddha bowl! Simply mix a small portion of coconut oil (around 1 TBSP or so) with a pinch of cacao powder (or another powder like acai, maca or spirulina). Then, pour it over your cold smoothie and watch it freeze!

Bright Breakfast Buddha Bowl with Frontier Bites (Gluten Free, Vegan), casey the college celiac

Frontier Bites. I've perhaps saved the best topping for last. A few weeks ago, Frontier Bites reached out and asked if I'd like to sample their bites - and, of course, I said yes! I fell in love with this "gerbil food" (as my dad lovingly calls it) from first bite, mainly because of its simple ingredients. Just 8 natural ingredients (like puffed millet and brown rice, nuts and seeds) and 0 refined sugars! So far, my favorite flavor is the Macadamia Pineapple Coconut...but I'm also loving their two new flavors: Cashew Cranberry Orange and Pumpkin Seed Apple Vanilla Bean (a mouthful, but also their first nut free option).

While Frontier Bites taste delicious on their own, I think combining them with a creamy element - like yogurt or a smoothie - makes them even better. The Almond Blueberry flavor won over my gluten-lovin' dad, so this treat isn't just for celiacs either. It also doesn't hurt that Frontier Bites is from Colorado, where I now live. Colorado companies for the win! (Note: Frontier Bites do not contain dairy, but they do contain honey. For a totally vegan buddha bowl, just remove these!).

Bright Breakfast Buddha Bowl with Frontier Bites (Gluten Free, Vegan), casey the college celiac

All of these toppings options go to say that your bowl size is the limit to designing the buddha bowl of your dreams. It really is hard to mess up a buddha bowl, especially if you stick with ingredients you know you'll love.

One of the best things about buddha bowls, though, is that they aren't just tasty. They're also a sneaky way to enjoy a serving of veggies, plenty of plant-based protein and a few delicious treats for the soul. I'll just wrap this up by saying that if eating buddha bowls really was inspired by Buddha...now I know the secret to his calm, wise life!


*I received products from Frontier Bites without charge in return for a review. However, all ideas, opinions and recipes are my own.*

*Also found at What'd You Do, Melt in Your Mouth, Made By You, Totally Terrific Tuesday, Create Link Inspire, Tasty Tuesday, Turn it Up Tuesday, Share Fest!*

What would you top your Breakfast Buddha Bowl with? Have you ever heard of or tried Frontier Bites? Tell me your thoughts below!



Friday, February 17, 2017

7 Random Acts of Kindness for Loved Ones with a Chronic Illness

Sometimes the difference between a bad day and an awesome one is only a few minutes. It can be finding five dollars on the street, a neighbor's kind smile or even reading a blog post that speaks to you that day. As we celebrate National Random Acts of Kindness Day, though, I'm focusing on a unique type of moment:

The moments that can especially trigger smiles in people with a chronic illness, whether it's celiac disease, a food allergy or anything in between. Because, as much as we may want to fit in with everyone else, life with a permanent medical condition its quirks. Ready to spread some love? Here are seven easy acts of kindness to give someone with a chronic illness the best day ever!

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness


1. Make a (friend) date...where food isn't even included. 

Whether you have a nut allergy, celiac disease or have discovered that certain foods exacerbate your symptoms, chronic illnesses can make social outings...awkward. I still vividly remember my first date, only a week after I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Unfortunately, I remember getting glutened by popcorn more than watching the actual movie! 

To take the dietary awkwardness out of the day, design a date where food isn't even mentioned. Some of my favorite dates recently involved meeting after dinner to walk down to the cliffs (when I lived beside the ocean at college!), watching Netflix on a blanket under the stars or hammocking with friends. Food is often tied to social activities - especially in college where "pizza party" is a guaranteed winner - but it doesn't have to be. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, potato chip rock
Like hiking up Potato Chip Rock!
In fact, surprising someone with a food-free adventure might be the easiest way to take the stress out of socializing! 

2. Spend 15 minutes researching their disease online - as long as they haven't told you not to.

For some people, I know this is a touchy subject. I have one friend with a heart condition who won't reveal the name of her disease because she doesn't want people researching it. She wants people to focus on time with her right now - not her illness or future possible complications

While I completely understand her decision, I have a different perspective. As my blog would imply, talking about celiac disease or fibromyalgia comes easily for me - and I appreciate when others put in the effort to learn. I still remember when my dad offhandedly mentioned reading some posts at Gluten Dude shortly after I was diagnosed, and I felt lucky to have someone that dedicated to understanding what I was going through. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, celiac disease

Not only that, but research can also help you sidestep asking the same questions people hear all the time - like "What do you even eat!?!" I don't mind raising awareness and educating others...but that doesn't mean I'm not impressed when friends already know some of the basics. 

3. Call shotgun and scope out the best allergy free bakeries or bistros within two hours. 

If your friend isn't a foodie, maybe this isn't the perfect choice for you both. However, I'll rarely ever turn down a surprise visit to a restaurant where I can actually eat. Considering that when restaurants adopt allergy free menus, their business can increase by 25 percent, I'm obviously not the only diet-restricted foodie!

One of my college senior year highlights is still the day when my friend Natalie and I scoped out a 100% raw, vegan and gluten free restaurant nearby our college. Neither of us are raw or vegan...but she was willing to go out of  her comfort zone with me. In the end, we both loved our orders - mushroom stroganoff for her and mushroom quesadilla with kale chips for me - and I loved being able to order anything off the menu without worry. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, peace pies
Me at Peace Pies!
You can even turn this into a mini road trip, stopping by historical landmarks, natural parks or bucket list sights on your way to and back from eating. After all, you'll need some way to burn off breakfast and get hungry for lunch! 

4. Ask what helps during health flares - and remember to do it. 

This is one of the simplest things you can do for someone with a chronic illness. Period. When I'm glutened or in more pain than usual, sometime the last thing I want to do is explain what I need. I just want someone to know, as unfair as that may sound. 

When you ask ahead of time, you'll be prepared when your loved one's body takes a turn for the worse. You'll know whether they need company and cuddles...or they just want to be left alone. Every person differs in what makes them feel better, so this is one topic you really need to talk about instead of Google. 
7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness. college
Our swag selfie skills...
As much ask I may hate friends seeing me at my lowest...I also know that my friends and their love can help lift me up again. 

5. Let them cook you a "safe" meal or snack...and eat it with an open mind. 

This may be more applicable for people whose chronic illness drastically limits their diet, like cutting out gluten or following a strict autoimmune paleo protocol. However, when people love (or at least tolerate) my "special" food, my meal really tastes that much better

As crazy as it sounds, the food we eat helps construct who we are. We make statements about our personal values and beliefs when we reach for broccoli instead of chips, or follow a vegan diet versus a meat-heavy paleo one. So, when people make gross faces at my meals, it hurts - especially when going gluten free wasn't my choice

So, the next time someone with dietary restrictions invites you over for dinner, eat the rice pasta without loudly comparing it to wheat. Try the black bean brownies without automatically calling them "weird" in your mind. Sure, you might not like the food - and that's entirely allowed. But that can be due to your personal taste buds just as much as your friend's diet. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, frontier Bites
Case in point: my dad eventually enjoyed the "gerbil food" that is Frontier Bites
And who knows? The food might even surprise you in the most delicious of ways. 

6. Be flexible with your plans. 

I hate to say it, but chronic illness are major drama queens. I can eat the same thing two days, and my stomach will freak out randomly on the second. I can work-work-work for a week straight...and then suddenly be hit with major burn out

The truth is, I don't like to cancel plans. I don't like to turn down dinner invitations when I was drooling at the idea of Chipotle a few days before. But sometimes, to care for my body properly, I have to. And I greatly appreciate it when my loved ones understand

So, if you're friend has a flare up and can't go dancing on a Friday night, offer a night of PF Changs and Netflix instead. If they are too tired to go on a far adventure, set up a blanket and watch the sunset right outside their house (or dorm). The more flexible you are, the more comfortable your friends may feel in letting you know what they're really up to that day. 

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, celiac mantra
Some kind words don't either...
And when they do feel better...the adventures you originally planned will be twice as awesome!

7. Remind them that they are more than their chronic illness - and you love them just the same. 

We all play a variety of roles in life. Sibling. Blogger. College student. Parent. Employee. Friend. Lover. Mentor. The list goes on and on. When one of those roles - the role of being someone with a chronic illness - impacts all the others, though, it's hard to not consider it your entire identity. 

If my college friends have taught me anything, though, it's how much I have to offer beyond my medical statuses. I can be a soul sister to Meghan. A foodie mentor to Belinda. A Netflix partner-in-crime to Chris. A good listener to Hannah. I'm lucky enough to have friends and family who remind me every day how much more I am - and that is one of the greatest gifts you can give to any loved one with a chronic illness. 

When they're struggling, remind them how far they've come or the accomplishments they can still make. When they're feeling socially isolated, take them out (or join them inside) and show them how much fun they can still have. And when they're hating their body for betraying them...tell them that you love them just the same.

7 random acts of kindness for loved ones with a chronic illness, celiac disease
Some of my favorite supporters...
Because, really, love is the secret ingredient to any "best day ever." And this is one random act of kindness that can never go out of style. 


*Also found at Pretty Pintastic, Flaunt it FridayDare to Share, Link Love!*

How will you celebrate National Random Act of Kindness Day? What ways do you show your loved ones random acts of kindness? Tell me your ideas below!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why You Don't Need to Be 100% Healthy to Be 100% Worthy of Love

As a child, Valentine's Day is one of the most magical holidays of the year. It's the day of true love and Prince Charming and fairytales. As we grow older, though, the romantic daydreams start to lose their shine. We realize love is more complicated than finding the perfect glass slipper...yet, somehow, we still expect ourselves to fit the role of princess (or prince).

We still chase perfection, not only in of ourselves but also in our partners...and, when you have a chronic illness, that laundry list of "must have's" turns into a paper barricade for true love. In fact, one rumored statistic even claims that 75 percent of marriages involving chronic illness end in divorce.

Casey the College Celiac shares how you are still worthy of love when you have a chronic illness.

The more I thought about love this Valentine's Day, the more I wondered: is that why I'm always looking for the next, greatest fix? I know I'll have celiac disease for life. That's just a fact. But I also know that my food journey has been full of different "panaceas." Low-processed paleo. Low fodmap. Plant based. Yoga to aid digestion, charcoal pills to help with gas (or being glutened) and too many hours spent researching online to count. Maybe the idea of "better (chronically ill) body on the other side" isn't necessary just a search for greater self worth. It's also a desperate attempt to creep closer to that acclaimed 100% healthy...and then be 100% worthy of love.

Because, when I'm honest, I know I have niggling doubts about my "date-ability," as one could call it. I can't be the girlfriend who can meet his family for Thanksgiving dinner without lugging around my own Tupperware feast. I can't be the girlfriend who can randomly try out the new Chinese restaurant down the street or accept a kiss without asking, "Did you brush your teeth?" And when my fibro flares up, I'm not exactly the most exciting of company...and you probably won't find see my gussied up in anything than an old T-shirt and thrift shop shorts.

And yet.

I've shared nervous first dates, both, ironically enough, at Chipotle. (Because what says romance more than "burrito bowls to go"?)

Casey the College Celiac shares how you are still worthy of love when you have a chronic illness.
PF Changs is a close second for date night...
I've watched the sun set over the ocean as I huddled against a new body for warmth.

I've had another family welcome me into their home - even when I eat my own gluten free dinner out of a lunch box while they enjoy homemade pizza.

I've tasted first kisses, last kisses, in-between kisses (and still many more kisses to explore, I'm sure).

I've imagined what having a family would be like...even if I'm still not sure what kind of children those would be.

I've been told I'm beautiful - when I don't feel it. I've felt like I'm beautiful, even when no one is there to tell me.

I've fallen in love, tripped over broken hearts and had others fall over me.

Casey the College Celiac shares how you are still worthy of love when you have a chronic illness.
When you almost face plant while photographing yourself...
I'm not 100% healthy, and I will never be. But I've still been in love, and hope I'll find it again. And, deep down, I know that I am - and anyone with a chronic illness is - worthy of it, no matter the doubts that pop into my head.

Because I don't need to be able to eat "normal" food to have a date night. I don't need to be ignorant of daily pain to also know moments of daily joy. I just need to learn to love myself enough to let someone else see me for all of my faults - and love me through them.

And isn't that what Valentine's Day - and love overall - should really be about? Giving up the chase for perfection and enjoying time with the people we adore instead. Enjoying the chocolates instead of worrying how you'll work them off. Laughing that your boyfriend forgot to trim the thorns before handing you the roses...again. Maybe even enjoying the whole day to yourself, and not feeling jealous when you see couples walking by, hand-in-hand.

I don't claim to know what love is or to be an expert on relationships. But, from what life has taught me so far, I do know this: I don't have to be 100% healthy to be 100% worthy of love.

Casey the College Celiac shares how you are still worthy of love when you have a chronic illness.

And if that isn't magical, I don't know what else is.

Happy (belated) Valentine's Day everyone!


*Also found at Terrific Tuesday, Wine'd Down Wednesday, Wow Me Wednesday, RunningwithSpoons,  Share FestThis is How We Roll*

What do you think about finding love with a chronic illness? Tell me your thoughts - and love stories, if you like! - below. :)



Monday, February 13, 2017

8 Gluten Free Desserts for One to Celebrate Single Awareness Day

In high school, I had a quirky history teacher who, every Valentine's Day, would proudly scrawl, "Happy Single Awareness Day!" on the white board in bright red marker - complete with a broken heart, of course. Now, I'm as big a fan of Valentine's Day as anyone else.

(Heck, one of my favorite posts - ever - is a February throwback called "8 Reasons to Date a Celiac.") However, Single Awareness Day will always be close to my heart (pun intended).

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day , celiac, vegan

I mean, what other day can you not just acknowledge but also celebrate being a single woman (or man)? And on what other day - besides your birthday perhaps - can you dive into dessert and lick the plate clean, all on your own? This year, to celebrate the most self-love-packed holiday of 2017 so far, I thought I'd round up eight of the best single-serve gluten free desserts in the blogosphere.

And if you just have to spend the 14th with someone you love...simply double these gluten free desserts for a perfect treat for two!

1. Chocolate Lava Mug Cake (Vegan and Paleo)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, casey the college celiac

Nothings "Valentine's Day" more than chocolate cake for dessert (or even breakfast) - especially when it's relatively healthy and takes less than five minutes to make. Talk dark chocolate to me...

2. Chocolate Caramel Affogato (Vegan)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, strength and sunshine


I'll admit I had never heard of an "affogato" before I saw this recipe...but now this is definitely a dessert I can I've "gato" try! 'Cause what could be better than creamy So Delicious ice cream + warm caramel and chocolate sauce?

3. Cherry Cobbler for One (8 Ingredients)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, gluten free palate

When mug cake meets pie. This is definitely one of the best things you can EVER create with just your microwave!

4. 1-Minute Funfetti Mug Cake (Vegan, depending on cake mix used)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, what the fork

If you have some cake mix you're dying to use but don't want to turn on your oven, this is the holy grail of recipes. Apparently 3-2-1 is a magic ratio when it comes to cake mix, water and time in the microwave! Who would've thunk?

5. Zucchini Bread Nana Ice Cream (Vegan and Paleo)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, casey the college celiac

Because sometimes you still want to sneak in some veggies to your dessert...and with this recipe, you won't even notice the difference!

6. Quick Fix Dark Hot Chocolate Shots (Paleo)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, raias recipes

Just when you think hot chocolate can't get any better, you find this adult upgrade...

7. Allergy Free Mug Cake (Top 8 Allergen Free)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, there is life after wheat

A chocolate mug cake kicked up a notch with whipped cream and caramel sauce on top. And the idea of a "mug cake bar" full of toppings for everyone to choose from sounds like the perfect "Galentine" celebration!

8. Espresso Avocado Chocolate Mousse (Vegan, Paleo)

8 gluten free desserts for one to celebrate single awareness day, unconventional baker

Now this is one dessert that really is "phat," as all the cool kids used to say. Five simple ingredients + one blender = (healthy) chocolate heaven.

Are you drooling yet? I know I am...but that's always a risk when surrounded by recipes that are not only gluten free and delicious (which some would consider a feat in itself), but also allll for one person (AKA, me!).

After all, it may seem like this week of the year is all about true love, couples and relationships. However, don't let Valentine's Day overshadow the most important aspect of love: self love. That means remembering how awesome you are on your own, fueling your body and, sometimes, feeding your cravings with a chocolate dessert made for one.

So, whether you're in a steady relationship or kicking ass on your own, let's make this year's Single Awareness Day sweeter than ever before...one bite at a time!


*Also found at What'd You Do This Weekend, Made By You Monday, Snickerdoodle Sunday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Create Link Inspire, Tasty Tuesday, What's Cookin' Wednesday, VegetarianMama, Saucy Saturday, Snickerdoodle Sunday*

What is your favorite chocolatey dessert? What do you do for Valentine's Day - or Single Awareness Day?