Gluten-Free Holidays

Despite our complete lack of posting, we’re actually still trying to be gluten free. Sort of. Well, Molly always is. Jen’s doing better than I am . . .

Anyway, we’re still here, and I’ve actually made some gluten-free foods over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. I took pictures. I did not blog. But I have big plans.

Meanwhile, here’s my list of holiday successes and failures:

GF stuffing: yes!

GF biscuits: fail

GF homemade fried onions for green bean casserole: yes!

GF crock pot mac and cheese: Epic. Fail.

GF chocolate peanut butter cake: yes!

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This was a bit of an experiment; I’ll try to recreate what I did and post the recipe:

Cake

1 cup GF flour: 1/4 c brown rice flour, 1/4 c white rice flour, 1/4 c oat flour, 1/4 c potato starch (you may need a little more to thicken batter)

1/6 cup cocoa:  I took my 1/3 cup and eye-balled it

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

1/6 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup water

1/2 tbsp vinegar

1/2 tbsp vanilla

Filling/frosting

I didn’t measure this part even a little. I melted butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips, almond milk, one square of bakers chocolate, and a big hunk of peanut butter into creamy deliciousness.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a small baking dish. Mix all the dry cake ingredients, and then add the remaining ingredients and stir. Pour half into a small round baking dish, and then pour and spread a portion of the chocolate peanut butter filling on cake batter. Pour remaining cake batter in dish and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for ten minutes and then transfer to cake plate. When cooled completely, cover with remaining peanut butter chocolate deliciousness and enjoy!

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Wellness Part 2: Exercise and that Blasted Snooze Button

I was a Women of Faith a few weeks back when Ken Davis said he thought the devil was most effective in the moments between the time your alarm goes off in the morning and when your feet actually hit the floor. I can see some truth in that.

I have a really hard time operating on all cylinders. As in doing all four categories on my list well and regularly. This year I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and due to a miscommunication with some test results, I’d had it for more than two years. After an irrational three-day meltdown over getting a disease I would have forever, I mostly got over it. One of my doctors said, “In the car of life, this is a tiny dent on the bumper.” Okay. Big-girl panties on. This was not a big deal. And the good news was, maybe I would stop being so stinking tired. Maybe I could scrape myself off my pillow and shorten the number of snoozes I hit on my alarm. (And maybe my hair would stop falling out by the clump full!)

At various times in my life, I’ve been a fairly dedicated exerciser. I took walks with the dogs in the mornings and went to classes at the Y on a pretty regular basis. I dropped the Y to save some extra money (and because I got into a poor attendance slump), and as my thyroid was regressing, so were my mornings. I changed my diet drastically last January and was eating great, but my workouts went straight out the window.

I’m trying to get back on track and eat well and exercise at the same time. I found this schedule on Pinterest, and so far, I really like it. I still need to find a way to incorporate some more cardio, but this is a good start:

I’ve done this for the last seven days, with a few modifications here and there. (Have you ever done 100 Russian Twists? Has anyone ever?) I’m happy to say my legs hurt most of the week, and I can tell it’s helping my core. I’m going to commit to do this every day until Christmas (with some modifications—because no one can do 100 Russian Twists). If you’d like to join me and you don’t know what all of these are, do a quick Google image search. There are lots of pictures and videos. Here’s the great thing about this workout. You can do it anywhere. If you have a few feet of space, you can do this. You don’t have to go to the gym, and you don’t have to go outside. And it takes so little time, that if you give up a couple hits to the snooze button, you can do this.

As I finish I’m my other wellness posts, I’ll check in on how the 23 days of workouts go between now and Christmas. And if you have other great exercise tricks, I’d love to hear them.

Wellness Part 1: Connecting with June Cleaver

Molly and Jen recently taught me to knit. It’s very exciting. During our weekly knitting lunch, I looked at Molly and exclaimed, “Ooh! I can make my own dishcloths! How domestic will that make me?”

To which Molly gently replied as only a good friend could, “Maybe you should just try making your husband dinner first.” Touché, Molly. Touché.

I have a tendency to get really busy and then really lazy about certain things. Between extra doses of travel and company this fall, Josh’s busy schedule, our very different diets, and me rarely being home before 6:30, we’ve pretty much kissed home-cooked meals goodbye. I was hardly June Cleaver to start with, so I’ve got some work to do. Molly and I laughed really hard at her joke, but I’m actually trying to put it into practice. At least a couple times a week, anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about living intentionally and about the most important things in life. Molly’s 30 list is inspiring me to take another look at my list and be a little more proactive about it. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about wellness and what that means. Is it possible that a homemade dinner at the table can contribute to wellness? I think so. Here are four areas of life I’ve been mulling over a lot lately.

In no particular order . . . except that food is first because that’s mostly what this blog is about . . . here are four areas that I want to really be intentional about in my life:

  1. Diet. Not the four-letter version of that word, as in “I’m on a diet.” If you’re on a diet, may I be blunt? Stop being on a diet. I mean “diet” as in what you eat and drink on a regular basis. Our well-being is so tied to what we put into our bodies. It’s actually shocking how this affects us, but hang on, I’ll address more about that in a minute.
  2. Exercise. Move it or lose it seems to be a pretty accurate adage. If you want to be mobile when you’re 80 you have to be mobile when you’re 30. That means I have got to stop hitting my snooze alarm.
  3. Spiritual and Emotional Health. This might be two, but I’m going to lump them together. For me, they are intricately connected. Two words: Be Still. I need so much work on this it’s ridiculous.
  4. Relational Health. Turns out people really affect us. And we affect them. It might as well be for good.

So let’s chat about the first one today.

1. Diet

If you’ve spent some time on this blog you know that Molly has to be gluten-free, Jen mostly has to be gluten-free, and I just tend to feel better when I’m gluten-free. But this is about more than not eating gluten; it’s also about eating things that are really good for you.

Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

That’s brilliant. And I believe it. It’s become my mom’s mantra as she is battling some severe health issues. I’ve seen it transform my dad’s life. Molly, Jen, Lisa. I could go on. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need actual medicine. But sometimes just changing what we eat and drink can be life changing.

Here’s the thing. Healthy diets can look a little different for everyone. It’s a matter of finding what works best for your body and being pretty diligent to live that way 85% of the time. Cut some bad stuff and add some good stuff.

Adding good stuff is key, but here are a few positive things I’ve experienced or heard of others who have experienced from cutting the gluten.

  • Weight loss and maintenance. I have been consistently 11 to 14 pounds lighter since I’ve cut most of the gluten from my diet ten months ago.
  • Allergy relief. Some people actually get relief from other allergies by cutting gluten from their diets.
  • Improved mental health. People with depression and even things like autism notice improvement from being gluten-free.
  • Being happy. One of my mom’s doctors told her recently that the human body’s intestinal tract has more serotonin receptors than the brain. Serotonin leads to feelings of well-being and happiness. Don’t smash your receptors! Don’t clog them, block them, or smother them. When I’m really dedicated and intentional about my diet (and for me that means being gluten-free), there are days you can’t smack the smile off my face. When I’m not, well, it’s touch and go.
  • Improved digestive health. If you have any kind of digestive problem, I highly recommend trying gluten-free living. Indigestion, heartburn, bloating, feeling too full. Whatever your problemo is, I have personally felt a lot better, and I know others who’ve had the same experience.

It’s not easy to change. It’s not easy to live intentionally. But life flies by so quickly. I want to soak up every last good drop of it. So I’m going to work to cook homemade meals at least twice a week. Pitiful? Yes, a little, but progress. June Cleaver? Hardly, but I like leftovers.

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I’m going to take a page from Molly’s book and do some crock-potting. That’s what I’ve done that last couple weeks, and it seems like a good fit for those of us who spend more time in the office than in the kitchen. Do any of you busy folks have some tricks and tips for preparing healthy meals on a regular basis? Do you have a life-changing food experience? I’d love to hear about them.

GF Lunch for $3.27

I haven’t been quite as Gluten-Fail recently, but I also don’t have any exciting recipes or reviews . . . well, I guess you can sort of call this a review.

Recently, my life has been a combination of work, travel, company, repeat. Jumble up, reverse, repeat. The next month and a half is more of the same. And actually, that’s fine with me. The three aforementioned items are three of my favorite things. I’m just a little more tired and unorganized than normal.

All that to say, on one of my trips, I discovered a satisfying on-the-go GF meal. It’s perfect for fall and winter. And you can find it in almost any moderate-sized town in America.

Wendy’s sour cream and chive baked potato with a small chili. It’s really good, it’s filling, and it’s $3.27. Ask for an extra sour cream, pour half the chili on the potato and eat half plain. Cover both in sour cream and enjoy! My disclaimer here is that though this is gluten-free, it is not the world’s healthiest meal. And if you have corn allergies, I’m very sad to say that both the chili and the sour cream have corn in them.

Check out the ingredients here:

http://www.wendys.com/food/Product.jsp?family=7&product=28

 

Gluten-Fail

That’s pretty much all I’ve done lately. I’m not even sure the last time I went an entire day without gluten. It’s total fail.

When I get busy, there are a few things that go first. They’re actually really terrible things to be dropped, but it’s usually exercise, Bible and devotional reading, and healthy meal planning. Yes, I realize dropping my physical and spiritual health is a horrible idea. I wake up, hurry to get ready, and dart out the door. Add traveling and company to an already busy schedule, stir in a total lack of willpower, and you will see a picture of my face.

With the holidays coming, I really need to get back on track. I actually like being gluten free. I feel better when I’m gluten free. And I definitely feel better when I’m eating well, exercising, and taking quiet time to read and pray. 

Hopefully, I’ll soon be eating better and blogging about delicious gluten-free recipes. Let’s hope. 🙂

Best Peanut Butter Cookies. Ever.

I came across this recipe on Pinterest the other day, and it completely validated my time spent on Pinterest.

Preheat your oven to 350; you’ll have the batter mixed and spooned onto the cookie sheet before it’s up to temperature. Here’s what you need:

  • One cup of peanut butter (I use Jiff Natural)
  • One cup of sugar (I use organic cane sugar from Costco)
  • One egg
  • One teaspoon of vanilla

Mix the ingredients thoroughly, but if you put some muscle into it, you don’t actually need to get out the mixer. (This might be my favorite part.) Stir it up and drop round tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet. Press crossways with the tines of a fork and bake for 10 minutes. Voila! This should make about 15 cookies.

After these turned out so well, I decided to try a batch with half a cup of oats and some chocolate chips. These will need to bake a minute or two longer, but they’re also delicious!ImageImage

My apologies for the dark photos; I need to work on that. The true test of this recipe is the fact that my husband loves them, and as I told him, these are not gluten-free cookies—they’re amazing cookies that happen to be gluten-free. Enjoy!

A few of my favorite things . . .

We are still here. Promise. And we are still gluten-free, or in some cases sometimes-gluten-free.

And we have lots more to say on the subject. Stay tuned for tips, recipes, reviews, randomness, and even some recommended recipes compliments of one of our favorite authors.

For tonight though, I thought I’d share a few things that have become a fairly regular part of my diet—and things I rarely tire of. I love sitting down to a wholesome meal or snack of satisfying deliciousness. And I especially love it when it’s quick and easy to prepare.

  • Quinoa and Black Beans: by themselves, this is not terribly exciting, but if you throw on some spinach leaves, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, ground beef or shredded chicken, salsa, cilantro, and guacamole . . . deliciousness. This brings me to . . .
  • Guacamole: I rarely tire of this. On a salad. Scooped with a carrot. It’s really filling and it’s pretty easy to make. It’s even easier if you by Wholly Guacamole at Costco or Kroger.
  • Toast: Toast? you ask. Yep. Toast. Rudi’s Gluten-Free Original bread is really good toasted. Slap some almond butter and honey or agave and sit down with a cup of Oregon Chai (Dreamscape for those of us who are caffeine challenged), lightly sweetened with agave, and it’s a lovely comfort-food breakfast or snack.
  • Fruit: A peach, a dish of cherries, a strawberry smoothie, a juicy plum. Grab whatever you know you will wash and eat, and when you can, buy what is in season. It will be more affordable and extra tasty.

And now for a few of my less-than-wholesome favorite things:

  • Molly’s gluten-free cupcakes: They come from a box and they are amazing.
  • Udi’s Gluten-Free Cookies: Snickerdoodle, chocolate chip, it doesn’t matter. They’re awesome.
  • Chocolate. Of. Any. Kind: But I’m a particular fan of dark, and I eat at least one piece daily.

I hope this list is helpful and gives you some ideas of foods you might enjoy and reminders that gluten-free treats do exist and are quite yummy. On a more serious note, I had a sobering reminder this week that there are people in the world whose lives are vastly different than mine. People who have no food. People who will run for a drink of water from a puddle. Not only is it convicting to do more and share more and help more, it’s a reminder to be grateful. To really give thanks to God for providing for me and my family. To savor each bountiful bite.

Hope you’re having a good week, living well, and enjoying good food.

Gluten-Free Vacationing: I Did Not

Yesterday, I got home from an amazing vacation. Planes, trains, and automobiles (and even a ship!) took us on a nearly 8,000 mile roundtrip vacation. We saw glaciers, seals, redwoods, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and a whole lot more as we traveled through Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, and California. I could talk about it for days, but for the moment, I’ll just share what I ate. And that was a lot.

This is me in front of Parliament in Victoria. One of the rare moments I wasn’t eating.

In twelve days, I gained about six pounds. (Yikes!) My feeding frenzy started on a cruise, but truthfully, I think a gluten-free diet could successfully be done there. My mom pretty stringently stuck to a gluten-free diet (minus a couple cheats), and the crew was very accommodating. They took her order the night before for each meal, so they could prepare her food in a separate pan. Although the selection was not tremendous, the buffets were labeled with gluten-free options, and there was even gluten-free bread available. (It wasn’t as good as Udi’s, but it was nice to have.) Even I did okay in this portion of the trip. I cheated, but it was typically purposefully and not with complete abandon. I ate lots of meats, eggs, rice, potatoes, as much fish and seafood as I could get, fruits, and veggies. The key here was I ate A LOT. The A LOT happened to include a lot of healthy stuff, mixed in with more special-occasion cheating than normal.

Traveling off the ship was another story. For our first lunch I was golden. Chicken, rice, and salad. Then we got on a train. We were supposed to be on the train for about six and a half hours. We were going to eat a very late dinner when we got to Eugene, but twelve miles south of Portland, we got stopped behind a broken down freight train for two and half hours . . .

Have you ever eaten in Amtrak’s dining car? If there’s a fancy one, it wasn’t on our train. Chips, candy, a couple sandwiches, and microwaved dinners were on the menu. They did have some Tillamook cheese, though, Oregon friends! That was our snack before we realized were going to have to eat supper there too. Turns out they didn’t have any gluten-free microwaved cheeseburgers on that particular train.

After we picked up our rental, somewhere in the vicinity of 1:00 a.m., I scarfed down a sandwich from McDonald’s. There were a few healthy bites along the rest of the trip, but mostly, I got rather lazy. I have the privilege of not having to be gluten-free, so if I decide to inhale a bowl clam chowder, and the bread bowl it came in, I can do so, and it mostly only affects my waistline. However, my laziness aside, there were several situations that made gluten-free eating pretty challenging:

1. Traveling via plane and then continuing travel without access to a refrigerator.
2. Being stuck on a train. For a long time.
3. Road-tripping through rather remote parts of the country. I would not have considered northern and north-central California remote until we drove through it. One day I ate Ho-Hos and Pringles for lunch. Again, lazy, but in my defense, the Shell station was about the most enticing place I saw between Fort Bragg and Mendocino. Who knew??

Do you have gluten-free vacationing tips? If so, I would love to hear them. My mom is probably going to have to undergo some more testing, but she has a new doctor who is convinced she has Celiac, and I really just tend to feel better without gluten. As much as I enjoyed some of my indulging, I’m looking forward to getting back to healthier, more balanced, and gluten-free eating. Please share your tips! I’d love to hear them!

The Best Gluten-Free $24 I’ve Spent This Season

Admittedly, I’m the glutton of the group. I’m the one who’s always looking for a delicious GF dessert, snack, or other sweet treat. I like salads and veggies and meats and fruits, and I need to be more dutiful about honing my cooking skills, but when I NEED something, I usually need something sweet. Or rich. Or decadent. I might have a bit of a problem.

Back to my $24. In my latest round of Costco coupons, I saw one that said $9 off Cuisinart automatic ice cream maker. Hmmm. I told myself if it was less than $50, I would definitely buy it for my husband who has mentioned on several occasions that we should get one. I rolled my eyes. Said we’d never use it. Said we didn’t have room for another appliance. That part is true, but let me tell you, we are going to use this baby.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this automatic ice cream maker—no salt, no ice—was twenty-four bucks. It came home with me.

Saturday I made the most amazing chocolate ice cream, that was, guess what, gluten free and dairy free. Here’s what you do:

  • Go to Costco and buy the nifty ice cream maker.
  • Bring it home. Wash it. Put the bowl in the freezer.
  • Wait 18 hours.
  • Whisk together 2 cups of dark chocolate almond milk, 1 cup of original almond milk, and 3/4 cup of organic cane sugar. Whisk for about two minutes. Stir in two teaspoons of pure vanilla.
  • Get your frozen bowl out of the freezer and put the three easy parts of the machine together.
  • Plug it in and turn it on.
  • Pour in your mixture.
  • Set timer for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Watch your brother and husband consume nearly the entire batch in no time flat. (Said brother and husband give less than a flip about GF/organic/ridiculously healthy eating.)

Voila! I was able to sneak in about a serving or two for myself. Pure deliciousness. Watch out for the ice cream headache and enjoy!!

Stay tuned for my GF banana oat muffins. If you didn’t know they were GF, you wouldn’t know they were GF.

And don’t tell Dr. Jana. I’m supposed to be on phase one. And someone please take the rest of the dark chocolate covered espresso beans by the coffee station at work before I take the rest of them and put them in ice cream.

Soy Lecithin—What Is This Stuff?

If you’re a label reader, and I’m guessing that you are, you’ve probably seen this a lot. I see it all the time, and I try to pay particular attention to it because my mom can’t have soy flour. It nulls her thyroid medication. Soy can also do weird things to hormone levels, among other things.

Soy Lecithin (pronounced les-uh-thin) is a natural oily substance found in soy plants. This article from Fooducate shares some basic information about it. And it spurred a firestorm of comments on the food industry and allergies. Here are some basic takeaways on lecithin: it occurs naturally, essentially it acts as an emulsifier, keeping your food together, and it is typically used because it’s so affordable.

Of all things that get tossed into our food supply, I don’t think this will be at the top of the list as one of the “worst” but keep in mind that it’s good to avoid processed foods as much as possible, soy grown in the US is mostly genetically modified, and you’ll want to tread cautiously with soy products if you have allergies, thyroid issues, or hormone issues.

And now we all know it is pronounced les-uh-thin.