What should I buy if I want to drink smoothies? Dropsie's basic smoothie kit

Friday, December 31, 2010

In my last post, I mentioned that if changing the way you eat seems too daunting, you might instead try adding something healthy instead of thinking about all the things you should remove. Starting your day with a smoothie is a great way of giving you a boost of fiber, protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals. Plus, if you're like Mr. Pick-it-Up, you will embrace smoothies because they are made in ONE container (your blender) and don't require heaps of clean up. :)

I wanted to put together a shopping list for anyone who wants to add smoothies without investing too much.

1- You'll need a decent blender- that's first and foremost. You can get away with a Magic Bullet ($30-$40 range) as a first step if you're not keen on investing. At the expensive end of the scale, you have the Vitamix and Blendtech which both run around $500. Santa just brought me KitchenAid KSB560ER 5-Speed Blender with Polycarbonate Jar, Empire Red which of course, now that we HAVE it, is on sale at Amazon. I am LOVING it. My smoothies are like silk, as opposed to the Hamilton Beach model I used to use that required me to chew the bits in my smoothies. It DID however, get me hooked on them, so I invested...I mean, SANTA did, in the Kitchen Aid model. Plus it's red...like a cherry on top...and it's shiny...and I'm a girly girl, so I like it.  :)

Unless you have a pretty good blender, you may also want a coffee grinder to grind the seeds before you add them. Seeds in their whole form typically are not absorbed, so you'll want to make sure they're ground. Something like this will work fine (also works well for spices). Proctor Silex E160B Fresh Grind Coffee Grinder, White You don't need to shell out a lot of money on it.

2- Stock up on a few key dried goods. Bulk food places are evolving and starting to include things like raw nuts and other non-GMO organic foods. Start with your local bulk foods place, or if you prefer, you can stock up from someplace online.

Here are the things you're going to want to start with. There are a million ingredients, but I'm suggesting those with the biggest impact and the most nutrient density, without sending you on a wild goose chase for ingredients in the four corners of the globe... Note: keep all seeds and nuts in the fridge to keep them from going rancid.

  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Raw cashews
  • Raw almonds
  • Raw cacao
  • Coconut milk (freeze this in ice cube trays)

Here are a few links to online versions:
Navitas Naturals Chia Seeds Aztec Superfood, 16 Ounce Pouch
Bob's Red Mill Organic Flaxseed Meal, 16-Ounce Packages (Pack of 4)
Frontier Sesame Seed, Natural, Whole Certified Organic, 16 Ounce Bags (Pack of 2)
Navitas Naturals Really Raw Cashews, 16-Ounce Pouch (Pack of 2)
Natural Raw Almonds (4 Pound Bag)
Certified Organic, Raw Cacao Powder, From Peru 1#
Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk, 13.5-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)

3- Hit the grocery store! Whenever possible, choose organic ingredients- particularly when you're talking about greens because they are among the most pesticide-ridden produce. Things with thick peels like lemons, bananas and avocados don't necessarily need to be organic if you're on a budget.

Here's your basic list:

  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Coriander
  • Kale and/or Swiss chard
  • Romaine
  • Spinach
  • Green and/or red apples
  • Bananas (peel, chop in chunks and keep frozen)
  • Lemons

4- Now figure out your favourite recipes! You can search for "green smoothies" through Google and come up with thousands of options. Shan Larter has some of my favourite recipes so be sure to check her out too. This tropical banana mint madness smoothie is one of my favourites but lately I've been doing mostly greens, seeds, nuts and lemons. They are sooo refreshing and tart. Love 'em!

As you become more comfortable with the concept of blending and melding flavours, I'm sure you'll come up with your own options with new and exciting ingredients. If you have a favourite to share, please post your own smoothie recipes in the comments section below!

Happy New Year everyone. May it be a time of renewal, health and happiness. :)

Top ten considerations when making a weight-related New Years resolution- Are you planning to lose weight in 2011?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

So Christmas has come and gone, and I hope you had a tremendous time with your most beloved friends and families. The new year brings (for many) renewed vigour and hope for change in 2011. You may be like so many who will decide that enough is enough- this is the year they will FINALLY diet successfully. They will vow that they will suffer, cut, avoid, and otherwise deprive themselves in an effort to finally fit into their clothes, or be some magic number on the scale, or perhaps a more clinical goal of normalizing blood sugar levels, getting cholesterol into healthy ranges, or bringing down their blood pressure. So fueled by that vigour, folks go searching for something they can use, a tool, some kind of framework they can fit into, where someone can tell them concretely what they can do to achieve their goal. I have some thoughts on this one..I wanted to share them with you.

Top ten considerations when making a weight-related New Years resolution

  1. Are you ready to permanently change your habits?  If you think you can do "something" for a few months, achieve your goal and happily return to what you're doing now, you can't. Sorry. What you're doing now is not working or you wouldn't be considering a change, would you?
  2. Are you ready to be in the driver's seat regarding your health and to learn about nutrition? If you are looking for someone who will just tell you what to do, I have a secret to tell you: that person cannot follow you around for the rest of your life. You need to be aware of what you're putting in your mouth, and what the repercussions are or you will fail. Full stop.
  3. Are you ready to challenge conventional dietary "wisdom", what "big food" is selling as healthy, and accept that what you have traditionally eaten won't work anymore? Milk, it does a body good. Really? Does it? This is a slogan from an advertising campaign; it is not a fact. Milk causes mucus, calcium LOSS, an assault on the immune system and plain old ILLNESS. These and other truths will surprise you as you learn how ensconced the dairy industry, big food, and other farming industries (corn, wheat, soy) are in what you are told and what you then believe. Also, getting used to the fact that fat doesn't make you fat, but instead sugar and refined carbohydrates do, is a tough thing to get used to after decades of eating "low fat". You'll have to talk yourself through that fallacy and others over and over until they finally sink in.
  4. Will you accept that once you change and make healthy choices, the people around you won't be comfortable eating with you anymore? Like-minded people hang in packs. In a study spanning over 30 years researchers discovered that one's chance of becoming obese or overweight increased exponentially when overweight/obese people were in one's social circle. So the next time your pals want to go schlopp down the next saturated fat/salt/sugar fest at some fast food restaurant, you are going to rock the boat when you decide you're not eating that garbage anymore. One of two things might happen: 1)[la-la land] your friends will thank you for introducing them to a new way of eating, or 2) [more likely] they'll get tired of listening to you and your healthy ways (and the way you make them feel guilty for abusing their own bodies), and you might have to find a new pack of like-minded folks to go to lunch with. 
  5. Are you willing to suffer withdrawal? Yes, food is addictive- both physically and emotionally. Ask anyone who has decided to give up sugar what happens when they do...it's not pretty. It hurts. Your head will throb and you'll suspect your enemies of buying a voodoo doll of you and stabbing your eye sockets repeatedly with pins. I promise that it's worth it, and it only lasts a few days, but I can't lie to you and tell you that it won't be uncomfortable.
  6. Can you envision creating new social experiences? So much of what we do is centred around food. We feast together for any number of reasons. Can you accept that those may not be available to you anymore, and can you imagine getting out there and creating new ways of just being with people?
  7. Can you give up foods that make you feel poorly forever? When you immune system is taxed by foods that make you tired, bloated and constipated, it thrives when you cut those foods out. The most allergenic foods include dairy, wheat, corn and soy. Once you give those up, you can rarely "go back" as the reactions that kept you feeling crappy most of the time will now make you feel terrible. 
  8. Are you ready to get creative with your budget? Non-conventional meats are more expensive (think happy animals not pumped full of antibiotics with room to move around) as are organic fruit and vegetables. These changes will yield incredible results, but certainly a meal will start being more expensive. The cost is not unmanageable for most, as boxed and packaged foods are eating up more of your grocery budget than you could imagine (as are crappy restaurant meals) but you'll have to do some meal planning to manage the costs.
  9. Can you make time for preparation? If you prepare foods in advance (like chopping a whole bunch of veggies in anticipation of a week's worth of lunches and snacks) you can ensure you have healthy choices on hand for when you get hungry and you're not reaching for the phone to call for a pizza.
  10. Ready to read labels? You're going to have to look at packaged foods and figure out what is and is not a healthy choice for you and your family. Things like "enriched wheat flour", sugar (think any ingredient that ends in "ose"- fructose, glucose, lactose, etc), hydrogenated oils, soy derivatives and other non-foods can sneak into everything you've eaten for years. You'll have to begin asking yourself if the foods you reach for are indeed helpful and healthy. Chances are that if it comes from a box, bag, can or package, you'll find all kinds of health saboteurs ready to spoil all your hard work. Be vigilant!
I wish you all the best in 2011, and I'll be kicking around to keep on tackling the hard food questions and providing recipes along with many other bloggers out there whose recipes I use to create yummy, healthy, satisfying meals for our family. It might seem like a lot to take in all at once, but start off by adding healthy options rather than eliminating poor ones off the hop- it may help soften the blow. Plus eventually those healthy choices grow, and you'll crowd out all the poor choices you once made. Then, my friends, you will reap the benefits on the road to a stronger, livelier and leaner you.

Who's ready? I say bring...it...on!!!!


Christmas appetizer (raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free): Endive boats

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I often find myself trying to come up with big convoluted recipe ideas. Then occasionally I put something really simple together and remind myself that it doesn't need to be such a big deal! This is one of those occasions.

Meet endive boats...otherwise known in our house as Pirate Boats (because I was trying to get the kids to eat them). Incidentally, each kid ate one, but there is a bitterness to endives (slight, nowhere near the bitterness of arugula) so that was all she wrote. For what you see above, I kept it very simple in the hopes that the kids would eat it. I loved these though, and can think of a thousand variations.

To serve a small group (8-10 adults):

RED AND GREEN PEPPERS (for that festive touch)
whatever FRESH HERBS you have on hand (dill? parsley? coriander? mint? or ALL of the above!)
Other possible additions:

Lastly, you will need a dressing of your choice for marinating. I used my old standard Caesar salad dressing, because I thought the kids might like it, but my "quick fix" dressing is always the following:

BALSAMIC VINEGAR (ratio of 3 oil to 1 acid- whether it's vinegar, lemon juice etc.)
DIJON (I use lots, but do it to taste).

Marinate the chopped veg/herbs etc., spoon onto endive leaves right before serving, and savour. :)

Gluten free, dairy free, vegan quesadillas, with raw sour cream and raw vegan "cheesy" nacho dip

Friday, December 17, 2010

Often Sometimes I try to put dinner together and fail miserably. Here's the thing: if I know it's super healthy, I eat it. While I'm pleased if it turns out to be yummy, I will still eat it if it's not. My children on the other hand, require much more coaxing. Here is a peek at our recent Quesadilla night, which I was sure would bomb, but ended up being delicious!

Here's the recipe:

Gluten and dairy free vegan quesadillas!
1- Chop and lightly steam whatever VEGGIES you have on hand (we did RED PEPPER and BROCCOLI). 

2- While they're steaming/cooling, make the tortilla spread (kids are eating whole wheat but I had brown rice for the gluten free version). Grind the following in your blender:

1 can BLACK BEANS (try Eden organics with no salt added)
drizzle of OLIVE OIL (whatever you need to get it smooth)
pinch of SALT (to taste)

3- Make a little assembly line where you smooth on the black bean "butter" to each TORTILLA, and scoop some veggies onto each one then close. Put each enchilada on parchment paper on a heavy baking tray. Put another sheet of parchment paper on top of the tray and put another tray on top. If your trays aren't very heavy, you may want to add a glass baking dish or something else to weigh it down.  Bake at 400 until you can start to smell them browning. This may take 15 or more minutes. Then uncover for the final "crisping up".

PS- for anyone not familiar with parchment paper, you cannot sub in wax paper. If you don't have any, use foil, but get parchment paper. Anything that goes in your oven can go on it and will never stick!

4- While those are baking, you might consider making either one of the following (or both!) for dipping:
Raw sour cream
In a blender or food processor, grind the following:
1 cup WATER
juice of 1/2 LEMON
1 tsp SALT

Raw vegan "nacho cheese" dip
Averie's "Spicy Doritos" Cheezy Dip 
1/2 C HEMP SEEDS (if you don't have these, use Cashews, all Sunflower Seeds, or try Sesame Seeds. Mix & Match your seeds as necessary)
1/2 of a RED PEPPER
3 Tbsp LEMON JUICE 1/2 Tsp SALT (or to taste)
1/2 Tsp CHILI POWDER (add more to taste if desired)
1/8 Tsp CAYENNE (add more to taste if desired)

Once you put all that together, here's what it looks like (terrible photo but you get the idea- I also served it with salsa verde). The key to getting it to all "stick" without the cheese seems to be the sandwiching while it's cooking. Bon appetit!


Healthy, homemade Christmas gift ideas

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Are you looking at your list of loved ones this year, wondering how you'll manage all those people? Has the thought of making homemade gifts crossed your mind? How about something from your kitchen that is super healthy and yummy that you can share with them?

I have been chatting with my friend Lexie of Lexie's Kitchen about doing a joint post. Now, Lexie is marvellously busy with an initiative called Share Our Holiday Table—a virtual, progressive fundraising dinner designed to raise awareness of child hunger in the U.S. This event is being hosted by Share Our Strength®—a national organization that works hard to make sure no child in America grows up hungry. Check out Share our Strength and consider making a donation to children in need. 

So, on behalf of both of us, I want to highlight a few things I think would make great gifts this season:

1- Lexie's chili seasoning: Imagine buying bulk spices and lining up a few jars on your counter, measuring out the ingredients into each one. It'd be kind of like a little assembly line. Tag each one with a small piece of cardstock that includes her fabulous chili recipe. That's an instant dinner idea for the lucky recipient! 

2- Roasting spice rub: I stumbled across the recipe I talked about in my roasted organic chicken post and we loved it so much, we made the rub in mass quantities for use on anything roasted. Do you have any idea how delicious brussel sprouts are when they're roasted in the oven with this spice? Mr. Pick-it-up and I actually fight over brussel sprouts. I'm not kidding. So, I've worked out the math, and here's how to make enough for a lovely little jar full (the small mason jars- about 1/2 the regular jam-jar size): 

1/4 cup SEA SALT (the chunky stuff)
3 tablespoons COCONUT SUGAR
1.5 teaspoons GROUND CLOVES
1.5 teaspoons GROUND ALLSPICE
1.5 teaspoons GROUND NUTMEG
1.5 teaspoons GROUND CINNAMON

While I look at that 1/4 cup of salt and think "woah", it's actually significantly less than the recipe calls for. Plus you're only using a tsp or two when you make anything roasted. :)

3- COOKIES! Who would turn down a nice little tin of homemade cookies?? I recently made these Scandinavian thumbprint cookies from the Spunky Coconut. They were really nice, and easy to make. They are kind of cake-like, with that yummy blob of jam in the middle. Mmmmm. Plus when you give something that does NOT have refined flours or sugars, you cannot be held responsible for your gift-ee's holiday bloat. :) That's guilt-free gifting, folks! You might also try Double dark chocolate chip cookies (dairy free, refined sugar free, gluten free).

4- And last but not least, if your beloveds are into cosmetics of a more natural style, why not treat them to a jar of Lexie's homemade natural deodorant? It's funny, I've been sitting on this post for a few days and Lex beat me to it. Check out her most recent post for more information on this pretty little gift. :) 

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far. We're in full swing here; not much opportunity to be a scrooge when the snow is falling in big fluffy clumps outside and we're seeing even more of our favourite people. If you're looking for a great treat to make at home, incidentally, I made these raw vegan milky way bars last week. They were KILLER!!!! The kids think they're real chocolate bars (though mine look nothing like the ones in this picture, let's be honest). I wouldn't advise making these for a gift because they get pretty drippy when they've been out of the freezer for a few minutes. Logistically, it wouldn't work out well. A note on the recipe: I found that I had way too much chocolate and caramel for the amount of base I made. I would advise increasing the amounts in the nougat portion by 1/3 the recipe so that it all balances out. Notice I didn't suggest reducing the amount of chocolate and caramel because hey- that's just crazy talk...



Recipes: Tropical banana mint madness smoothie, and scalloped potatoes (gluten and easily dairy free)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

So, I've decided to try and cram in as many smoothies as I can during the Fri-Sun time period. I had one friday, yesterday I had a green smoothie and a banana chocolate smoothie, and today I had one for breakfast.

Here's today's breakfast smoothie:
Tropical banana mint madness
Into your blender, throw the following-
1 zucchini
1 handful each fresh parsley and coriander
8-10 leaves fresh mint
1 handful sunflower sprouts
1/2 lemon (peeled- not juice only)
4 coconut milk "ice cubes"
1 frozen banana
water (to facilitate blending and to thin to desired texture).

Oh...my...heavens..this is AMAZING. Sweet, and ALIVE. There's no other way to describe that taste. YUMMY!!!!

After another  dinner was a bbq'd tuna steak, bbq'd brussel sprouts, steamed broccoli and scalloped potatoes. YUM!

Scalloped potatoes (gluten free, milk free)
3 large russet potatoes
1 onion
pinch saffron
1 TB dried basil
1 1/2 TB all purpose gluten free flour mix
2 cups unsweetened organic almond milk
2 TB butter (sub coconut oil for a completely dairy free option- small amounts of organic butter don't seem to bother me so we're going that route)
salt/pepper to taste
GF bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease glass baking dish with either butter or coconut oil. Slice potatoes and onion and layer with a little salt/pepper between layers.
In a sauce pan, melt butter (or coconut oil). Add saffron and basil, and a little salt/pepper. Stir while heating on med/low for a minute, then add in the flour. Stir for another minute or two then add the almond milk (or other "milk" option). Simmer for 5 minutes, or until it thickens slightly, then pour over potatoes.  Top with bread crumbs (I made mine by grinding up GF croutons that were already flavoured with garlic and basil).
Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, then uncover and continue baking until it browns and softens. You may need to splash on a little extra almond milk if it dries out.


Chunky spaghetti sauce- from scratch!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the past, I usually made spaghetti sauce using a bottled sauce as a base. This time I went without anything pre-flavoured and it turned out GREAT! I use ground organic chicken, but you can skip the meat altogether or you can use ground organic beef in its place. I will admit that using chicken results in much less fat than if you use beef, so there is a bit of a lack of viscosity. So, I cheated a bit and added a knob of "Earth's balance" shortening to the pot. I know...it's horrible...but this is one place where I really do think beef works better. However, chicken was awesome too. Okay- here's the recipe:

Spaghetti sauce from scratch (easily vegan, GF, CF)

Main ingredients:
1Tb grapeseed oil
1 chopped sweet onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 organic chicken breasts, ground in your food processor
1 green pepper
4 stalks celery
2 zucchinis
1 pint chopped mushrooms
2 x 720mL bottles strained low sodium tomato "Passata" (sub crushed, but make sure they're low sodium)
1 small can tomato paste
juice from 1/4 lemon

1 Tb dried basil
1/2 Tb dried oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 Tb salt
1/8 Tb pepper
2 pinches saffron
2 pinches cayenne pepper (I would have loved more but not with kids!)

Chop onion and heat on medium or medium low in the grapeseed oil until it's translucent (not brown). That might take 5-10 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and heat for an additional minute.
Add the ground chicken and stir it in, cook until all the pink is gone. This only takes a handful of minutes.
Add all the chopped veggies to the pot and stir several times, heating the veggies through. Add the tomatoes and the seasonings, stir well, cover and simmer on very low for about an hour.

Serve over brown rice noodles, steamed spaghetti squash, or raw zucchini noodles (made by slicing them super thin into noodle shapes).

We simmered this over the afternoon, had a big warm bowl full then headed out to the Santa Claus parade. It was awesome!!


Holiday season- how NOT to fall off the wagon

Friday, November 26, 2010

So...the holidays are coming. Every place you go, from the desks at the office, to every house you visit for the next month will be bursting with stuff we all really shouldn't be eating en masse. So once you've chosen a way to eat healthy, how do you look into the face of temptation and decide you're not gonna bite (literally AND figuratively)?  How do you eat healthy during the holidays? Here are a few tips:

1- Remember how eating that crap made you feel- yes, the instant rush is pretty cool, but then the crash, the tiredness, the restlessness...the puffy spare tire. Think of how happy you'll be in January when everyone is moaning about how their pants don't fit and you'll be doing great.

2- Remember not to eat standing up. Don't cruise by someone's desk, pop chocolates or donuts into your mouth and walk on, chewing as you think about the report you're working on that was due yesterday. If you're going to have a treat, take it someplace without distractions (read: tv or computer) and sit down. You want to be present- really enjoy the taste. That way you're both physically and emotionally satisfied with your treat.

3- Before you head to a party, ruin your dinner. Yes, do what your mother always told you not to do. If you go when you're starving, you're much more likely to eat things you otherwise wouldn't have. Fill up first on raw veggies, raw nuts, and other foods with "staying power".

4- Watch what you drink. Booze adds a lot of empty calories- particularly if you're drinking something with a lot of sugar in it. If you're the kind of person who likes to pound back the wine coolers, remember that the sugar in those will very quickly translate to the puffy spare tire mentioned above. Drinking also lowers our inhibitions and impairs our judgment. If you're tipsy, you'll be the first one with your tongue in the chip dip (and the last one invited next year).

5- Be a good guest- bring something. Not only does bringing something contribute to the evening, but it allows you to bring one thing- preferably a treat item- that you will allow yourself to indulge in. Maybe it's strawberries covered in dark chocolate, some of these date and nut balls, or some other not-so-terrible treat. Better that than something that you will regret scarfing down.

6- At a party, pick one decadent thing to indulge in. If you didn't bring something, do a scan and decide what treat you're going to have. Don't stand at the table shoving it in your face. Put it on a pretty plate, get a fork, and sit down someplace as quiet as possible. Enjoy every bite. Roll it around your mouth. TASTE it. You'll be much more satisfied that way; standing by the food table is dangerous- you'll end up like Wilbur at his trough...

7- Host! What better way of bringing people together to enjoy the holidays - and NOT spoil the healthy lifestyle you're building- than being the chef! Pick the food you love, include some healthier dessert decadence, and stress less about falling off the wagon.

8- When in doubt, go in "packing". If you have intolerances or just don't want to eat garbage food, bring a tiny little something with you in your bag. You know what I'm talking about- 80% cocoa dark chocolate!!! Bring a bar that's big enough to share though- you might attract a crowd.

Tree is going up this weekend- the crew is very excited- and I am in the midst of recipe testing. Hope to have some healthy but delicious suggestions coming your way soon. :)


Sugar and artificial sweeteners make you fat, ugly and depressed

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I was recently chatting with a good friend of mine who asked me "So what's the big deal about sugar, why do you not want to eat it?"

I was kind of caught off guard. Truly. I wanted to provide an intelligent answer on the evil effects of sugar, but the only fact which sprang to mind, was that the cane or beet sugar that runs rampant throughout processed food (particularly ones marketed TO CHILDREN) brings absolutely nothing with it. It is empty of minerals, vitamins or other nutrients, so to process it, you actually have to dip into your body's nutrient stores just to metabolize it. So eating sugar leaves you DEFICIENT. Who wants to eat and end up worse off than they were before they ate???

But you know, there is SO much more than that. The proliferation of sugar, wheat, corn and soy in all our packaged foods (go ahead- find one packaged food in your cupboard that has none of these- I dare you!) has correlated very nicely with an increase in our waist sizes, a decrease in our abilities to metabolize sugar (hello type 2 diabetes, nice to meet you!!), an increase in ADD/ADHD, a rash of food allergies/intolerances, widespread pain and depression, and more.

I've mentioned before that my sister Shan Larter is an eating disorder freedom coach. In this video, she talks about the use of sugar and artificial sweeteners to her community of women with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. But the audience is much broader than that; don't let the "eating disorder" term fool you. Many of us use sugar and artificial sweeteners to pump us up, keep us "high", fill us up, etc. Don't forget that there is an even LARGER community out there that you can call "those with disordered eating". Watch it...put the gummy worms down, and ditch the diet coke.


Restaurant owners: train your staff in safe food preparation!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

So there's this salad place near work that I really like, and on the odd occasion I get take-out for lunch, that's my old stand-by. However, I decided to go and give Sushi Go a try and see what I could eat (incidentally, it seems Sushi Go is a chain restaurant of, obviously sushi, soups and loose leaf teas).

First of all, the place was JAMMED. I had to wait in a line that snaked around the room and began to feel that horrible sinking feeling that I would get to the cash after all that time only to realise there was nothing "safe". But as I made my way up, I noticed a red GF next to a number of the menu items posted on the wall. Could it BE? NAH, can't be!?!?! Yep- they actually name their gluten free products so they're easy to spot. Fantastic!! How excited was I at this point??

So I ordered a tom yum soup with edamame and queued up to wait for the dude to make it. I watched as he made the soup ahead of me, in the style of a lunch counter, kind of like a sub restaurant when certain foods are added from clear plastic bins inside a refrigerated counter. So, first off I noticed that there was only one set of tongs. Huh. Interesting. Then I watched him remove the lid from the udon noodles (wheat!!) and drip them through the rice noodles (which on the menu had the big GF on them) and then use the same tongs on all the veggie trays. When he began to make my food, I said "would you mind please washing the tongs and do you have a bin of rice noodles that have not been opened yet?" and he said "do you have an allergy?" and I said "yes. And when your menu says gluten free, people have the expectation that you're treating the items listed as such"[okay so I wasn't so eloquent, but he got the point...I stopped short of saying 'well DUH!']. He wasn't angry, but seemed frustrated. He did comply, but the whole scene was awash in cross contamination. I definitely lessened the chances of getting sick, but there was a good chance it still happened.

So please, restaurant owners: if you want to serve the gluten free folks out there (and there are many, so having a place to eat is AWESOME and profitable!) train your staff. Put the gluten free bins furthest away to make sure nothing is dripping on them, and just use a few sets of tongs. It's not hard. If in doubt, drop me a line- I'll help you. If it were peanuts, no one would bat an eye. They would get it. But because it's not death, but weeks of ill health a gluten intolerant person experiences, they don't treat the condition with the same respect. You say gluten free, we count on you to come through. Simple as that.

Recipe: Green elbows

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This is one of my favourite go-to recipes when the rest of the family is eating something I can't. Here it goes:

Cooked pasta of your choice (today I made a few handfuls of brown rice elbow noodles)
2 big swiss chard leaves
1/4 lemon
handful of grape tomatoes
1/2 cup spaghetti sauce (I chose this one, but in the spicy variety)
4 TB hemp seeds
3 handfuls of mixed organic salad greens

Chop swiss chard leaves, sprinkle with lemon juice and heat gently in a frying pan. You want it to wilt-not boil.
Add the grape tomatoes and sauce once the greens have started wilting. Give it another minute or two of stirring.
Add in your cooked pasta and stir to heat.
Turn off the element and add in the handfuls of salad greens. Stir to warm (again, you want the whole thing to wilt- not cook- it should still be bright green and some leaves will still be crunchy).
Pour onto a plate and savour.

This rocks. :)

What are the alternatives to dairy? (saying bye bye to Bessie)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

According to our friends over at Wikipedia and many other sources, as many as 75% of adults worldwide show a decrease in their ability to break down cow's milk. This process typically begins around age four and corresponds with weaning. Weaning is the point where for all mammals -except humans- milk is no longer consumed. For those of you affected by dairy intolerance, allergy, or the simple desire to remove dairy from your diet (and there are endless compelling reasons for making that choice), there are a lot of non-dairy options available to you. Here are some that you may have heard of and are commercially available:
  • Soy milk
  • rice milk
  • almond milk
  • hemp milk
Those four are more commonly available, and can be found in tetra packs on the shelves of your grocery or health food store (though sometimes in the fridge near the cow's milk, eggs, etc).  Now for a little info on each (there is sooo much more I can say, but here's a bit of an overview on how I see each one):
  • Soy milk is a definite no as a regular choice (though it IS the only one that froths well for an occasional latte). Soy is one of the most allergenic substances out there, and has slowly crept into our diets as a "meat and dairy" alternative, but anything in mass quantities quickly becomes a very unhealthy choice. Have you looked at your average packaged food lately? Startling numbers contain "soy lecithin" or other soy derivatives. Soy, in its fermented state (in miso paste) is actually a great choice to add to soups, etc. as long as you don't "cook it"- then it's live and full of probiotic qualities. However, the proliferation of tofu, soy milk, soy burgers, textured vegetable protein (TVP), etc. mean the average person- typically someone trying to get away from too much animal protein- is getting WAY too much. Soy has natural plant estrogen and other "not-good-in-large-quantities" components that I highly suggest staying away from. There are so many great choices for non-animal proteins (nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils) that relying on soy is not only dangerous, but leaves you missing out on the good stuff!
  • Rice milk is really high in carbohydrates (starches) and even if we're talking about unsweetened brown rice milk, it's really not what I choose when I have options, though I'd gladly have some on my cereal if that's what's handy. Rice milk, incidentally, is the one my daughter is currently okay with, and it's "school safe" whereas nut milks are not. Though it's not my first choice, I am thrilled to have her off of soy. 
  • Hemp milk is not widely available, and the brands that I've tried have either tasted...well...horrible, or been heavily sweetened. I always opt for the "unsweetened" version of any milk I'm buying. However, that mighty hemp seed is incredibly powerful and loaded with goodness, so I'm very much open to finding another brand or making my own (see below).
  • Almond milk is my first choice out of what's above. I usually choose organic, unsweetened, fortified, vanilla almond milk when I have the option.
There are other milks entering the marketplace now. Coconut milk made an appearance at my local health food store. Haven't had a chance to try it yet, but coconut is absolutely bursting with incredible nutrition. It's definitely something I will try (considering that I cook with coconut oil, use coconut sap as a low-glycemic sweetener and bake with coconut flour, you've gotta figure I'd be game). I HAVE had the chance to try coconut ice cream (as in, made using coconut milk, sweetened with brown rice syrup) and it is so ridiculously creamy and DREAMY that I have to cut myself off or I'd eat it by the gallon.

The alternate to running around trying to find commercially prepared milks, is simply to make them yourself. Kelly from The Spunky Coconut has made a video on how to prepare your own cashew milk, another on almond milk, and a post on how to make hemp milk. I highly recommend checking these out. As long as you have a relatively good blender, you can make this work. Mine is kind of sucky (one day I hope to get myself a Vita-Mix or Blend-Tech but they're about $500 smackers) so if I really cared, I'd strain the milk through a coffee filter or something to get the last of the grit out. But I'm not that worried about it, to be honest. I will occasionally have a glass of it, but it's mostly just for those odd times when I have some cereal or want to have a "milky" blender drink (i.e. NOT a green smoothie).

If you're a proponent of dairy, you're not here to be convinced. There are so many reason so say sionara to dairy, but frankly I'm not here to fight that fight. I'm here to talk to those of you who are leaning that way already and are looking for options. Speaking of options, if you're hoping to jump right in and have a big glass of some milk alternative with a piece of chocolate cake, I'm afraid you'll be very disappointed when you run out and buy one hoping for a clear equivalent. You won't find it. It's a very different kind of flavour and consistency. But if you're dedicated to making a healthy change for the better, surf around until you find an alternative you can live with, and reap the health benefits. The best recommendation I can make when you're going dairy free is to see a naturopathic doctor or holistic nutritionist to work out the best dietary balance for you and your family (as a matter of fact, I'd make that same recommendation to just about anyone). I'm here to share my experiences and my preferences, but they can't take the place of professional advice. All I can tell you is that I am absolutely NIGHT AND DAY different with and without cow's milk in my diet, and that as you reMOOve dairy from your diet (sorry, I couldn't help myself!!) you will experience the wonderful benefits that follow.

Wishing you all health and wellness.

Recipe: Open-faced avocado sammy

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I need to credit my friend Dayna for this recipe. She and I have just started trading, and after this one, I need to ask that she keep 'em coming. When she first told me about it, I thought "Well, not much of a recipe, is it?" but I was so wrong. There is something about these flavours that just works.

Open-faced avocado sammy
2 slices of gluten free bread
1 ripe avocado
1 TB Dijon mustard
1 TB hemp or flax seeds
splash of extra virgin olive oil

Yup. That's it. Toast the bread, slather the Dijon on, add the sliced avocado, dump the seeds on top and drizzle with a little splash of oil.
Heaven. Don't knock it till you try it.


No more gluten or wheat again!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The decision to give my old pal "wheat" a try (maybe you know him?!) was, at best, ill advised. After suffering waves of nausea, massive gastrointestinal upset (in new and spectacular severities) and a big fat eye-pulsing headache in the 48hrs following my little reunion with my long-lost buddy, I think it is safe to say that we are parting ways permanently now. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye...I'm glad, you're gone, I cannot tell a lie...

Green smoothies...and an update. :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lately, I have been obsessed with green smoothies. They are a great way to make breakfast to go, which is fabulous on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays when I'm with the kids.

Here is one recipe I've been loving lately.

To your blender, add the following:
1/2 lemon (just peel and plop the whole thing in)
2 green apples (cored but certainly not peeled!)
2 TB ground chia and/or hemp seeds
grated ginger (you can keep this in your freezer and grate from frozen- very handy)
3 hand fulls baby spinach
5 romaine leaves
4-5 mint leaves
1/3 cup sunflower sprouts
1/4 pear (just to sweeten in a little)
water, ice (to your liking)

Now for the update...

The boy was tested and revealed no evidence of Celiac. So, the stomach pains and diarrhea that he experiences may just be those rare occasions when someone at school gives him dairy (I've not completely put the hammer down there, so he does get tiny bits now and again).  I haven't completely ruled out food intolerances, and I think anyone would benefit from less wheat in their diet, so I will try to work that out, but for the moment, there doesn't seem to be any long-term damage happening. So that is good. On to other news...

I got my biopsy results back- negative. :) This could mean that all the damage has simply healed (which is probably why the gastroenterologist wants to see me again) but it may also mean that I am totally okay for now. So for the moment, I am going to set aside my intense fear of crumbs that I've been sporting for the last year. I even had a cracker last night- an organic wheat one- just to test it out. I had no immediate reactions (I didn't die!!!! ;) but I am feeling increasingly nauseous today. Not sure if they're related. I am going to do another post soon on what all this means, but today, I'm just glad that it doesn't look like my "celiac genes" are active. This is a good thing.

Going to chill out while my kids are sleeping and having "quiet time". :)

What does the scale mean to YOU?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Some of us, particularly those who suffer from "disordered eating" - which can be anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive eaters, etc - are chained to it, slaves to it. We weigh ourselves daily, sometimes more than once a day. But what does that little number MEAN anyway?

First, watch this video.

See? See what that number means? As Shan says, it means "JACK!" Nothing. Stop being a slave to the number. Now it's time for some "detoxifying"...
:) *evil grin*

Whaddya say? Are YOU up for it? Ready to say goodbye to your scale FOREVER? Instead, ask yourself THESE questions:
  • Do I have ENERGY?
  • Do I fit in my clothes comfortably?
  • Do I have a zest for life?
  • Do I sleep well?
  • Do I just feel great?

The answer to these questions cannot be found on the dial of your scale. No matter how hard you look, how long to stare at the number, or how many times you ask the scale, it will never tell you the answers. Stop asking it. Start respecting your body by feeding it fresh healthy food, then trust it to give you those answers instead.


Not a great choice: Mentos...made with wheat?!

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's not very often that I would buy honest-to-goodness candy for myself. In fact, I can honestly say that I haven't bought myself candy in over a year. But that tube of Mentos at the cash CALLED me...in a way I cannot describe. It called for a vestige of my old life. So I bought them. I had a few...they were okay. That was a while ago. I can't say I remember anything crazy, to be honest, so that's a very good thing: the violent reaction that some people with celiac describe when they've been "glutened" does not apply to me (if indeed I have Celiac- jury's still out on that one). I popped one in my mouth again today at work, then took a look at the ingredient list. D'oh. Wheat. What the heck??? Why would there be wheat flour in a mint? Where is the justice in this world?? Sigh. Anyways, I doubt it was that, because aside from the usual ebb and flow of my guts (which are prone to...not working well) I hadn't noticed anything peculiar the last time, but I am currently suffering with a feeling of hot discomfort right in my stomach and a terrible wave of nausea. Yuck. Whatever it was, I wish I hadn't eaten it...


Surprise! An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Got a call two days ago to take the spot of a cancellation at the gastroenterologist for a small bowel biopsy via an Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Endoscopy. I've mentioned this before, but let's recap: this is where the doc sticks a long tube down your throat that has a camera, a tissue clipper thing, and an air hose all in it (I think). He or she goes down the esophagus, through the stomach and then into the duodenum which is the beginning of the small intestine to retrieve 3 or 4 biopsy samples. Now, while the idea of the giant tube down my throat did not thrill me, having the final "say" on the matter would be awesome.
So hubby drove me there this morning for my appointment time of 9am. Turns out I was supposed to be there at 8:20. Who knew? Certainly not ME folks...I was never told. In any event, after dealing with the attitude, I got all stripped and gowned, which I'm told is only supposed to be the case when they getcha from the other end, but whatever. So I go without hubby (which was SO not the plan) into this other waiting room with other gown-ees.

A nurse comes in almost immediately to explain the procedure to me. She brings me to her station, and with this little plastic see through doo dad (like a sign with a cross-section of a person and a big hole where she can jam a chain down inside to show you how it happens) she explains the procedure. She tells me that they'll freeze my throat, which may cause me to panic because it feels swollen, but it's not. I'm fine. I just have to remember to breathe. Then when he gets the tube to a certain point, he's going to ask me to swallow it. That's the last time I'm allowed to swallow because if I try to swallow with the tube in there, I'll gag, everything will close up and he won't be able to see. So I'm supposed to just drool all over the place. It's okay. Don't worry about my pride.

Then she tells me that because the stomach (which he has to pass through) is full of ridges and stuff, they are going to inflate it with air so they can get through easily. This means I will probably burp lots. You can see that between the gown and hospital booties, the burping and drooling, I am one HOT mama. So as she's concluding I say "are you going to give me my drugs?" and she looks surprised. She says "well, I'd say 98% of those who have this done don't have sedation because it only takes two minutes." I just have to focus on breathing deeply and it'll be all over in two minutes. I look her square in the face and say "I had natural childbirth, but this thing freaks me out. So I want the drugs." So thankfully without any attitude, she puts a little port in my arm for the doc to put the meds in later.

Just as I'm about to bid her "adieu" I look to the left at the nurses' station where I see no other than my ex boyfriend from one summer between 1st and 2nd year university. That SAME ex boyfriend that my lawyer boss at the time sent a letter to on my behalf asking for him to stop acting crazy and leave me alone or we would file a restraining order on him. Yeah. It was NOT pretty, and just as I'm trying to find my happy place, that's what I see. I lean over and say to the nurse "There's a man over there- please don't turn your head- his name is X, and he and I have a history. I do NOT want him involved in any way." She says "No problem. He won't be."

Anyways, I go back to the waiting room where I am in perfect line of sight for him (stupid place to sit) and now I'm right freakin' out. I am trying to remind myself that I am no longer that scared 18 year old girl and that it's been a long time...chances are he's given his head a shake and no longer tries to restrain his girlfriend from leaving when he's not done arguing, or leaves psychotic messages on her phone. But I'm having a hard time. Finally another nurse comes and takes me to "the room" where I lie down on my left side and she gives me the spray in my throat- twice. I swallow it down and it begins to take effect. All the adrenaline from seeing X and the worry about the procedure has me choking back tears in seconds and the Doc (who's kinda like my dad, with silly jokes and a big warm hand on yours when you're wigging out) comes in and says "Gee, I haven't even done anything to you yet and you're already crying! You REALLY don't like me do you???" then the nurse says "I left her ten seconds ago and she was fine, you walk into the room and look what you did!!" Anyways, about a millisecond later I requested a lot of drugs and he happily obliged. From that point forward, I remember vaguely gagging once, and I remember him pulling the tube out and me being full of spit at that point. That's about it.  Get the drugs- don't be a hero. No one wants to remember any of that.

So I met with him after and he had no thoughts re: the outcome. He did mention AGAIN that because I was already on a gluten free diet, one never knows, but hey, it was worth a shot. All I can hope for is I either have THE best looking small intestine on the planet, or it's wrecked beyond recognition. That way, I can be sure one way or the other. If he says it's inconclusive...bah. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

So that was my big excitement for the day. Hope everyone is well. Big weekend coming up around here so chances are not great I'll be around, but I'll try.

Ta ta for now.

Recipe and recipe book review: Smart School Time Recipes

Sunday, October 17, 2010

As I mentioned previously, I contributed to a free downloadable recipe book written and coordinated by Alisa Flemming of Go Dairy Free (http://www.godairyfree.org/). I've finally acquired the ingredients to make some of the recipes so I went on a little bit of a blitz and made three this week. Here are some details...

Breakfast Bars from Elena's Pantry (http://www.elanaspantry.com)/
Elana- these were AH-MA-ZING!! Crunchy and sweet, but POWER PACKED with protein, omega 3, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, iron, etc. The only amendment I made to the recipe was to sub walnuts for almond slivers (just didn't have them) and they were still awesome. My son thinks these are dessert...  I think next time I make them I might decrease the amount of Agave however; I don't actually find they need that much sweet.

Maple Cinnamon Glazed Almonds from Hanna at Bittersweet  (http://bittersweetblog.wordpress.com)
Okay, I doubled the recipe on this because I actually buy maple glazed almonds and they're expensive- I knew I'd like them. And I do. Lots. I do have some notes however from this experience: too much maple syrup and too much cinnamon. I used 1.5TB of cinnamon for a double batch and it was just too much. I'll stick to 1/2 TB per cup of almonds next time. Also, they were swimming in syrup when I poured them onto the parchment paper which meant they didn't crisp up easily. They didn't crisp up much at all, actually. They were kind of boiling... But the flavour is still AWESOME so next time, I'll add only enough to coat them.

Gluten-Free Morning Glory muffins from Maggie of She Let Them Eat Cake (http://www.sheletthemeatcake.com/).

I am the first one to declare that muffins are "morning cake": a cleverly marketed CAKE that we have all accepted we should eat for breakfast. Dunno when that happened, but that was a bad idea. Eating something loaded with sugar and refined flours leads to a big blood sugar rush, a big insulin spike, (a spare tire!) and a 10am energy crash. However these are made of almond and quinoa flours, plus plus plus all kinds of goodness. They are LOVELY though putting giant raisins in them may have impacted on how well they stayed together. I think next time I might skip the raisins and stick to the core ingredients. :)

The best part of this "recipe book review" is that you can easily download a free copy for yourself. I would highly advise you to do that. Oh, I also made a banana/peanut butter smoothie that was to die for...check it out!!


Leftover turkey recipe: gluten free, dairy free enchiladas!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I SO wish I had a picture to share with you. To be honest, I thought this dinner would be a gigantic BOMB- especially with the kids- but it actually got "two thumbs up" from Mr. Pick-it-up, so I'd say that was a success! Anyways, I never took a picture because I didn't figure it'd work out, but you'll just have to use your imagination. I'm afraid I don't have a clear idea of the amount of ingredients I used either, so bare with me.

Leftover turkey makeover: GF, CF enchiladas!

chopped leftover turkey (I think I used about 2 cups)
1 TB oil (coconut, grapeseed, etc.)
1/2 large sweet onion
chopped green and red peppers (we didn't have any, but I feel like that's what was missing)
1/2 TB ground cumin
Juice from 1 lime
1/2 c frozen corn
1 package (6) gluten free rice tortilla shells
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salsa or drained canned tomatoes (I used salsa for the spice-lovers, but tomatoes for the kiddies)
1 cup Daiya "cheese" (or whatever dairy-free alternative you enjoy)

Chop the onions and peppers and sauté in a frying pan with a little oil and the cumin. When the onions are browning, add the chopped turkey and maybe another sprinkle of cumin. Add the lime juice. Stir it around, then add in the frozen corn. Stir again, then cover and remove from heat.

Next, prep your pan by putting a little salsa or drained canned tomatoes in the bottom of a glass baking dish (mine was "lasagna sized"). You just want enough to cover the glass so it won't all stick.

Dump the kidney beans in a food processor and grind until smooth. Lay out the tortillas and smear a big blob of the beans on each tortilla.

Now portion out the chicken and veggie mix into each tortilla. Tuck the sides in on the tortillas, then roll them up and place them in the glass dish in a row. Put more salsa and the Daiya on top, then cover with foil. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes covered, then remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese is bubbly and melted (mine was another 20 minutes- then the tortillas were a bit crunchy on the edges too- YUM).

And voila. Delicious. :)
Anyone have any other "leftover turkey" recipes they'd like to share?

Eating disorder freedom

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Once upon a time, I was not very kind to my body. I starved it, binged and purged, created strange binding rituals around when, where and how often I could eat, and totally beat myself up if I failed to adhere to them. I was lifeless, controlled by food, and could think of nothing else but how I was literally starving and desperate for real nutrition.

When I finally vocalized my silent cry for help, I began weekly "counselling sessions" in which my doctor (supposedly a specialist in the field) weighed me, listen to me talk about my obsession and the unattainable weight I wanted to reach (I still remember, I wanted to be 142 pounds- so random- and I am 5'11"), then she tried to help me find places to cut from so that I could reduce my weight further. I'm not kidding. You know how you have those pivotal moments in your life that you will never forget? Here was mine:

Dr "crazy": So what did you eat for breakfast?
Starving me: I had toast with peanut butter.
Dr "crazy": Well, how much peanut butter did you use?
Starving me: Um, I don't know. [lie]
Dr "crazy": Well, if you could reduce that from say, 2 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon, you could cut some of your fat intake.

Nope. Not kidding. I was literally starving myself and this woman, that my family had trusted to help me, was trying to find ways for me to cut calories and fat. She seemed completely oblivious to the private turmoil in my soul and instead seemed to really think this whole thing was actually about the food. What a maroon...

I decided that I had to make a choice: either I stay stuck in the cycle of starve, binge, purge, guilt and self-hatred, or I choose to break free. Now, I write that in a sentence, but that was a multi-year endeavour without any help. It was grueling, soul sapping and I was alone in that aspect of my life.  I am sharing this because for any of you who are going through this same battle or know someone who is, they don't have to go it alone.

My sister Shan has launched a mentoring program, as she felt the calling to help other women; she is now free from the hell of her own eating disorder. She has developed a clear, supported method to help women pull themselves out of the grasp of their eating disorders. Whether one of "her girls" has anorexia, bulimia or compulsive, disordered eating, she has the tools, the plans and real-life advice as to how to overcome it all. Best of all: you don't have to tread that path alone. Let her be your guide.

Shan has just launched her YouTube page which I've linked to below. If you are in the grips of this terrible illness, watch her video, sign up for updates and contact her. You'll be very glad you did.


The next phase

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

So I had my follow up with the gastroenterologist (after a positively miserable weekend) and he would like to do a small-intestine biopsy. Truth be told, the chances of it coming back showing damage are slim to none, but hey, I'm up for giving it a whirl. Apparently I get some good drugs and the day off work while I recover from a very quick, but kind of yucky test, and for what it may answer, I say rave on.

But with our "free" healthcare, that test won't be until next year...

Until then, I'll just keep rocking as I am. Chin up, moving on.

Thanks for listening!

"Poor me" day

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I had a big, fat, ugly "poor me" day yesterday. I was again feeling ill—gut cramps, nausea and "other symptoms"; truth is, I haven't felt quite "right" since my ambulance ride on Tuesday (my last post has some more info about that). Here are the thoughts I've been having:

1) I'm so tired of being and feeling sick.

2) I'm so tired of not knowing what made me sick, and of spending hours trying to figure it out. This all goes back to Celiac symptoms being so varied and occurring in very different time frames for different people. One person could react in 20 minutes, someone else could react in 3 days, and both could continue to react for only hours or weeks.

3) I am tired of the feeling of dread that comes when my poor husband just wants to go out to dinner. The man loves eating out, and when he mentions going somewhere, I immediately want to get a staple gun and staple my mouth closed. Or maybe just call rent-a-wife so that someone "normal" could go out for a cheeseburger with him.

4) I'm tired of being hungry.  I don't deny myself food, but I get tired of eating the same thing all the time so in the end, I just get tired of eating- period. Although I may be hungry, I often walk into the kitchen, check on all my choices, and high-tail it out of there.

5) I'm tired of waiting for the "bomb" to drop. Whenever I eat anywhere but home, I know the chances of becoming sick are high. So, it's like walking around with a bomb in your guts, and you know the chances of it exploding are significant. Then when it does, I play the "well, that was really stupid of you", "why did you take that chance" game (the answer being of course "because for five minutes I wanted to feel like a normal person who can go and eat at a restaurant").

For the last year, I feel like I've been doing the gluten-free thing on a hunch, and therefore it felt like my choice. But since I found out about the DQ2 marker a week ago (see last post) I now know that this is it. This is how my life is going to be until I die. All I can do is hope that someone in this stinking city opens a gluten free restaurant (there is virtually nothing- maybe a few pizza places but I don't eat dairy so they don't do me much good) so that one day, I can just say "hey, I really feel like going out for dinner tonight!" and I can eat anything other than salad. Some days, I really hate salad.

I guess in a way, I'm mourning. I'll get over it...eventually.

I have the genetic marker for Celiac Disease

Friday, October 1, 2010

I received a call a few days ago, and my gastroenterologist shared some information with me that I was both expecting and fearing: I have the DQ2 genetic marker that is associated with 95% of people with Celiac disease. I now know, with 99% certainty, that I have Celiac. You see, I have the genes that predispose me to having Celiac disease, but we don't know at this point if the genes are "on"- for lack of a better description. Kind of like how you might have the gene for breast cancer, but you may never develop it. Well, when you have the DQ2 marker, as I understand it, you have anywhere from a 36%-54% chance of eventually turning "on" those genes due to some stress (emotional or physical) that flips the switch. Then you start to have all the symptoms- like all the ones I've had since I was young, and continue to have when I accidentally ingest something I shouldn't have.

Now, it's really only my true gut feeling (pardon the pun) that leads me to believe that the genes were "on" when I stopped eating gluten. I have a follow up appointment with the gastroenterologist on this issue on Monday, but here's what I think is going to happen.

Doc: You know, we don't really know if you had any reaction to gluten before you stopped eating it.
Me: Yeah, I get that.
Doc: So in my mind, you should be trying to eat it so that we can establish whether or not you have the immune response to gluten. If you don't, you should just eat bread.
Me: Right. That sounds like a real hoot, the whole "eating it and potentially signing up for being ill for weeks on end". Let's do that.

Um, no. Mr. Pick it Up is begging me to give it a whirl so I can know, but it's more than just a blood test. I figure I would have to eat a piece of bread every day for a month, then get the blood test, then continue to eat it while it slowly damages my intestines (intestines, I might add that have had a full year now to repair themselves- I had my first almost-normal iron reading since as long as I've been measuring it!!!) so that I can ultimately have a biopsy where the damage will be visible. Then what? Then I'd go on a gluten free diet for the rest of my life. Oh yeah, I already did that.

I don't know. A very very small piece of me is curious about the 1% possibility, but a few things are holding me back from investigating:

1) I don't know many mommies who can sign up for a self-imposed sick leave.
2) Just this week on Tuesday, I had a gut cramp that was so bad, I thought I would pass out or throw up. I was at work shaking, sweating and in agony. We called the ambulance. It resolved itself but the pain was like going into labour - except from nothing to crowning in ten minutes. They couldn't say what happened, but could it have been gluten? Possibly. I've also been nauseous on and off since then. My house is a bit of a mine field of the kids' and husband's gluten-filled foods...you never know when a few crumbs can do you in. Anyways, it's something I'd rather not repeat, if you know what I'm saying!!!
3) If the chance is approx 30-50% that eventually I will get really sick and need to come off gluten anyway, why would I put myself through that???Again???

If anyone has a good argument one way or the other- please please please speak up. I'm listening.

Perfect fall-weather hearty lentil soup

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On a cold day, particularly when my little girl has the sniffles, I really crave a warm hearty soup. Here's what I concocted and with two bowls of it still warm in my belly, I wanted to share the recipe:

Dropsie's hearty lentil soup

1/2 large sweet onion
1/2 TB grape seed oil (or whatever oil you have on hand- coconut oil, olive oil, etc)
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic
1/2 TB turmeric
1/2 TB ground cumin
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 large can chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
organic stock cube (whatever amount goes in 1 cup water)
1 cup small red lentils

Finely chop onion and dump it into your warmed soup pot with the oil on medium heat. You may want to add a teeny bit of water as you're looking to sweat the onions- not brown them. Add in the garlic after 3-4 minutes.
Add turmeric and cumin to the onions.
Stir the onion mix often and while that's "sweating",  chop your peppers into tiny cubes.
Add the peppers to the pot and stir it all up for a minute or two.
Add the tomatoes, water and stock.
Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 30 minutes.

You can use whatever veggies you have on hand, incidentally. This is how most of my soups are made- by looking at what ingredients I have, then making something out of them, rather than the other way around. :)

Don't underestimate your server

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I had two INCREDIBLY positive restaurant experiences lately. Seriously. Mind blowing.

Most times if I go out to a restaurant, I have to choose between a very "north American" type chain, in which I will have almost nothing to eat (because of the crazy amounts of wheat in everything) but they will likely have a chart listing all the allergens- including dairy and gluten. This is helpful, but meh- boring.

On the other hand, I LOVE a good curry, or an awesome bowl of Tom Kha Gai (sp?) soup or something else of that nature. LOVE it. However, in the past I've found that the servers either looked at me with disdain when I asked questions about wheat, or simply didn't know. I'd say that at least 50% of the time, soy sauce has wheat in it. The reason for the "only half" part, is that there would be the 1% gluten free tamari, and the 49% soy sauce like this one, which is essentially made of water, salt, sugar and MSG. No wheat, but certainly NOT good for you.

So although I love going to Asian, Indian, Thai restaurants, I am constantly fearing the soy sauce angle (among other contamination issues). I ate somewhere about a week ago at one place and ended up feeling like I was drunk for about 18 hours after I left...I am guessing it may have been something wheat based, or completely unrelated, but let's just say I have no desire to go back to that. Anyways, I also visited two Thai restaurants over the last week (unusual for me, but a welcome change from bringing my own lunch) and here's what the conversation looked like:

Me: Um, uh, I have a wheat allergy [this is the easiest way to describe it- otherwise people take you about as seriously as if you just said "mushrooms give me gas"] and...
Server: Oh, no problem. So any of the soups are fine, you just choose the rice noodles rather than x or y noodle.
Me: Um, but usually the soy sauce has wheat...
Server: Yes, but we have a gluten free one for your use, and those dishes are safe. We have someone with Celiac who works here so she makes sure....

Me: Dumbfounded. No speech.

Second restaurant experience:

Me: [thinking hey- why not] Um, I have a wheat allergy...
Server: Oh, okay, let me just check with the kitchen...
After pause - Server: Yes, that's fine. Totally safe.
Me: Wow, that's amazing, thank you!!!! What about the soup that comes with the lunch special?
Server: Hmm...not entirely sure. You might be best not to choose it.
Server 2 (emerging from kitchen): You Celiac?
Me: [again, simplifying] Yes! Yes I am. Do you know if I can have the soup?
Server 2: Soup is okay. No fish sauce, no oyster sauce, no soy sauce. It okay for you.

Mother of pearl. Honestly. This woman knew all the hidden sources of wheat. Bless her buttons!!!!
Later, after I receive my pad thai:
Me: Um, I noticed there were no peanuts on my dish.
Server 2: No, I afraid.
Me: [smiling] That's totally fine. Thank you so much.

As much as I hate to always be the one asking, sometimes it REALLY pays off. Some servers are conscientious, good workers and really know their stuff. Others have just been at the right place at the right time, and still others may have had similar gluten-free folks tread that path before. Moral of the story: stop assuming the server will a)be annoyed, b)spit in your food, and c)have no clue how to produce gluten free food. They just might surprise you, but it's certainly worth it to ask. :)

The Fruit Fly Solution

Saturday, September 18, 2010

With all the lovely fresh fruit coming into our house, it seems there is no end to the fruit flies. I am not an outdoorsy girl, that's for sure, so having a way to rid our house of what I call "the infestation" is a welcome relief. Our friends Pierre and Ashley gave is the ultimate solution to the Fruit Fly Problem. Here's how it works:

1 bowl
1 sheet plastic wrap
1 splash of apple cider vinegar

Pour the vinegar into the bowl, cover it with the plastic wrap so the surface is tight, then puncture several times with a fork. That's it. Within minutes the fruit flies have found it (ps- apple cider vinegar smells a little like stinky feet) and they walk on the surface of the plastic, find a hole, crawl in, and cannot escape. You can either be merciful and squash them against the lip of the bowl or eventually you'll find them floating in the vinegar.
Notice this is positioned right beside the bananas which are currently attracting them. Must make muffins...


Review: Redbridge gluten free beer (and Spunky peach cobbler) ;-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oh sheer, unadulterated delight. I have once again benefited from the sheer generosity of my mom and her husband who travelled south of the border and returned with an entire case of Redbridge gluten free beer. I cannot begin to describe to you how fantastic it is. It is really, REALLY good. I've previously reviewed a number of beers including La Messagère (terrible), New Grist (beyond terrible), Bard's (good) and now Redbridge- the BEST of the bunch! This beer is so fantastic, it's almost- ALMOST- like regular beer. That means a lot, really. The first two above both left this terrible slimy feeling in my mouth; they were absolutely repulsive. Bards's was good, and if someone handed me a bottle, I'd definitely drink it, but in the end, this beer is not only just a notch above Bard's, but it is also apparently WAY less expensive (so say the parental units). It was apparently 35$ US for the case. Again, I am cursed with not being able to get this beer in Canada (Anheuser-Busch makes it) so I will continue to enjoy my yearly case when the 'rents head south of the border. But hey- it's a treat, and it's well worth it. For my American visitors: you guys are sooooo lucky. :)

Oh, and sorry it's been a scant period of updates lately, I'm doin' my best! I would like to also give a shout out to Kelly at the Spunky Coconut for the FANTASTIC peach cobbler recipe. I thoroughly enjoyed it for dessert, then for breakfast...then for dessert...then for breakfast again...


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