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!


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*

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!


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..


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.


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 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!*

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 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?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Berry-ful "Be My Valentine" Bagels (Gluten Free, Vegan)

I have a lot of true loves in my life. My bed. Loaded smoothie bowls. Even one or two humans make the list. As Valentine's Day creeps closer, however, something else is winning over my heart and taste buds: these berry-ful "Be My Valentine" Bagels.

Thanks to some help from BFree Foods, this is the easiest - and one of the tastiest - Valentine's breakfasts you can ever make your loved one. It's also one of the most allergy friendly: besides being gluten free and vegan, this recipe is also free of soy, nut, dairy and wheat. And who would turn down a bagel that is (baked and/or decorated) full of love!?!

casey the college celiac Valentine's Day gluten free Bagels

It also doesn't hurt that yesterday was National Bagel Day...making this breakfast the perfect late celebration. And what's a better way to celebrate than digging into a fluffy, light bagel topped with creamy sunflower butter, juicy berry hearts, crunchy seeds and chewy raisins? 

I have another confession to make, too. BFree Foods recently sent me a sample of all of their products...and Cupid must've hit me with his arrow because I am addicted. So far, my family and I have tried the plain hot dog buns (a little fragile, but super fluffy!); the quinoa and chia wrap (according to my gluten-lovin' dad: "Not bad." And the extra protein sure doesn't hurt!); the multigrain wrap (I used it for a pizza toasted up nicely and held its own against all my veggie toppings!) and, of course, lots of plain bagels.

True, I've never baked my own bagels before...but I don't know why I'd want to with these babies only a shopping cart away! Fluffy yet not falling apart, and plain but with no funky gluten free aftertaste. Just in time for Valentine's Day, I am most definitely in love...

casey the college celiac Valentine's Day gluten free bagels
A few of my favorite taste tests so far...
To get your own bagel bonanza started, gather a few simple ingredients. As usual, think of this recipe as more of a blueprint than hard-and-fast rules. Now let's get rollin' (pun intended).

For one half of a bagel:

1 bagel slice (I use BFree Foods, but you can choose your favorite homemade or store-bought bagel)
1 jar of nut butter of choice (I love sunflower butter and Kalot Superfood's chocolate cashew butter)
Fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and banana
Pumpkin, sunflower and chia seeds (feel free to use crushed nuts as well)
Homemade chocolate sauce (mix a little water or coconut oil with cacao powder) or homemade acai sauce (mix a little water or coconut oil with acai powder instead)

This recipe is as simple as breakfast can get. You can either start with a plain bagel or toast it in the toaster or broiler. Then, cover half the bagel in sunbutter and half in chocolate cashew butter. Cut your berries or banana in heart shapes and place them on the bagel. Then, sprinkle on your seeds, mix and drizzle the sauce and add another swirl of nut butter if you feel so inclined.

casey the college celiac Valentine's Day gluten free bagel
That close up...
As usual, feel free to go crazy with the toppings. If you're craving a creamy, cold treat, add chia seed pudding or coconut yogurt. For a more decadent taste, add chocolate chips and microwave/bake the bagel until melted. Other kinds of nut butter, whipped cream (or aquafaba), white chocolate or candy is totally game. After all, it is almost Valentine's Day (AKA the national holiday of chocolate)!

And, sometimes, we don't have time for a complex Valentine's Day brunch - as much as we might hope we would. Or, sometimes we burn the pancakes, forget to buy more eggs or feel more like lying in bed with our loved ones than slaving over the stove. And this Valentine's Day, I'm here to reassure you that a lazy holiday is A-freakin'-OK...especially when you have bagels on your side.

casey the college celiac Valentine's Day gluten free bagels
Excuse the dark circles...hopefully this bagel is a cure for a crazy work schedule!
Because nothing says, "Be My Valentine" like a bagel full of berry-licious love...

*I receive these products in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts, opinions and recipes are my own.*

*Also found at VegetarianMama, What's Cookin' Wednesday, Pretty Pintastic, Saucy Saturdays, What's Cookin' Wednesday, Snickerdoodle Sunday*

What's your favorite Valentine's Day breakfast? What would you top this bagel with? Tell me your thoughts before!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why My Diet is More Diverse As a Gluten Free Celiac

Even though it's been four years since my celiac diagnosis, one question always seems to pop up when I meet someone new. Something like: "You can't eat gluten? What do you even eat!?!"

Whether it's celiac disease, a food allergy or a lifestyle choice like going paleo or vegan, "limitation" seems to be the common denominator. If you can't eat something, you diet just must be insanely restrictive. And in certain aspects, that's true

However, I have a different side of the story to tell. In fact, my diet has more variety than ever since I went gluten free. How can less ingredients mean more dietary diversity? And how can you add some spice to your life, even if you have food restrictions?

casey the college celiac diverse diet gluten free

Here's four reasons why I'm eating more types of food than ever...after celiac forced me to go gluten free

1. You're forced to get creative in the kitchen.

How many times have you reached for the same ingredients or followed the same recipe just because "that's what you've always done"? Maybe it's the enchilada recipe that's been passed down in your family for centuries...or maybe it's just an American classic like grilled cheese that you've never bothered to make your own. 

When an entire food group gets kicked to the (dietary) curb, being creative in the kitchen isn't a privilege; it's a necessity. You have to find new tortillas - taste testing everything from potato-based Potapas to your own paleo Cassava creations to simple rice tortillas from
Food for Life - to replace the flour ones you've used for years. You may even have to try entire new recipes, experimenting with foreign names like buckwheat groats, chia seeds and coconut oil

The truth is, before I was diagnosed, I could cook approximately three meals: a baked potato, boxed mac n' cheese and any baked good that came with instructions. Being forced to go gluten free also forced me to leave my comfort zone of meat-potatoes-and-the-odd veggie. I wouldn't call myself a chef...but I do know how to pronounce quinoa correctly! 

casey the college celiac diverse gluten free diet
My second-to-last non-GF birthday!
2. You have the best motivator ever to try new (naturally gluten free) foods. 

Maybe you've been gluten free for years, or maybe it's only been a few days since your edible world was thrown upside down. Either way, it's the perfect time to take a field trip to your local grocery store's produce aisle. 

I have another confession to make. Pre diagnosis, I had never tried avocado, kale, zucchini, squash, chickpeas and countless other foods. I turned up my nose at sweet potato and ate a smoothie once a year, if not less (how times have changed!). I ate a lot of food in terms of volume...but most of it fell within the realm of processed foods, canned vegetables and "stick-to-your-ribs" meat and potatoes. 

But, when so many of my old go-to's were made off limits, I discovered something: there was a rainbow of naturally gluten free options just waiting to be tasted. Sure, maybe your diet was more well-rounded than mine before you went gluten free. However, there's probably still one or two unique pieces of produce - ranging from dragonfruit to purple sweet potatoes to jicama to beets - that you haven't regarding including in your diet

casey the college celiac diverse gluten free diet
Some of my favorite new finds...
It's impossible to not grieve for the foods - and, perhaps even more so, the ease of eating - that you've lost. Heck, sometimes I still smell my dad or sister's gluten-stuffed meal and and wish I could sneak a bite. But the more adventurous you get with safe foods, the less restrictive your diet will feel. 

I can now say that I eat zucchini, spaghetti squash, radishes, buckwheat, rice flakes, figs, avocado and countless other foods I'd never even heard of on a daily basis. And I have celiac - and the limited diet it gave me - to thank

3. You're in charge of your own food safety...

I've talked before about how much trust it takes to thrive with celiac disease. You have to trust restaurant chefs to avoid cross contamination and trust your significant other to brush their teeth before kissing you. However, the safety of your food really lies mostly within you - and the more you know about food, the safer you'll be. 

For instance, I know that couscous and seitan are made of straight wheat...and when I've been offered samples or have seen them at the Whole Foods bar, it's easy to quickly turn them down or walk away. I know that gluten can hide in anything from soup to BBQ sauce to dressings. And, because of that knowledge, I don't eat something thinking it "should be" or "probably is" gluten free. 

casey the college celiac hospitalization

When I was first diagnosed, food transformed from tasty, enjoyable fuel to something scary - and even dangerous. Food could literally kill me, and I didn't feel ready to accept that responsibility. Ironically enough, though, celiac has taught me more about nutrition, food labels and dietary health than my high school or college nutrition classes ever did. And the more I learned, the more confident I became in exploring new foods and cuisines. 

Yes, food can be frightening when you have celiac, a food allergy or intense intolerance. But once you've educated yourself on what you can or can't eat, you're closer to feeling empowered enough to expand your diet as much as possible. 

4. ...and you're in control of how restrictive you really want your diet to be. 

On that same note, you're also in charge of how restrictive you want your diet to be. This idea has especially been on my mind in the last few weeks, thanks to the Whole30 movement. Every time Whole30 comes up, I can't stop myself from wondering, "Is that what I need to do? I'm eating more processed foods and sugar lately...maybe going full turkey is what my stomach really needs."

At the same time, though, I know I don't need to jump on the Whole30 train. I'm healthy, my stomach has more good days than bad, and, to be honest, my diet is already freakin' restrictive enough. I never have gluten, rarely have dairy and often steer away from soy. Some of those choices are medically necessary; others just help me feel my best. I would never say everyone should eat like I do, but it works for me.

casey the college celiac gluten free eats
Some of my favorite eats...
The point of that two-paragraph rant? Basically, when you realize you are in control of your own diet, you may feel like you have more dietary options than ever. Despite my limitations, I have enough recipes bookmarked to last my whole life (though, to be honest, I'll probably never make them all). And, despite whatever limitations you have, your diet only has as much variety as you work for. 

That may mean putting extra time and energy into finding the perfect nut butter replacement for peanut butter, a breakfast that tastes like oatmeal but is free of oats or old family comfort food (mac n' cheese anyone?) that fits your new restrictions. But, at the end of the day, this time and energy is worth it when it makes your everyday life feel that much more free. 

When you're determined and excited about adding some new foods to your life, celiac ain't nothing more than a small speed bump

Even though I am constantly asked about what I really eat, I've yet to perfect my answer. Sometimes it's, "Everything - as long as it doesn't have gluten or dairy." Other times, I simply laugh and say, "You'd be surprised." 

Because, if these past four years have taught me anything, it's that my weekly meal plan can still boast plenty of gluten free surprises. Heck, I still have a long range of foods or recipes I need to try, from a cashew cheese sauce to pistachios (one of my favorite hobbies sophomore year was shocking my foodie roommate with the foods I'd never tasted. I'd you're reading this, Bri, I can feel your disapproving glance from here!).

casey the college celiac granola sunflower butter
An honest portrayal of my two true loves: Sunflower butter and homemade granola!
In a lot of ways, I'm even thankful for the diet celiac has given me. I'm eating healthier than ever before (at least in terms of getting more veggies and less red meat, sugar and un-pronounceable ingredients). I'm also eating a bigger variety of foods than I ever imagined. 

So, if you're feeling like your diet is dwindling after a medical diagnosis, I understand your pain. But I also have come to understand that we're the masters of our (foodie) fates in a lot of ways. 

And the first time you try a new, delicious food that also fits within your new diet? Let's just say that there's nothing sweeter than that. 

Have you ever found your diet expanding after it become more limited? What's your favorite trick to add more variety to a medically restricted diet? I'm always looking for new inspiration!