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.

The Big 3-0

So, I have a confession to make. On Friday, I turned (gasp!) 30. I know, right?!

Anyway, I went into this birthday feeling more than a little trepidation. There’s something about 30. It just feels like a big milestone. And despite the fact that I have a truly wonderful life, I’ve recently come face to face with the notion that part of growing up means making big decisions, and realizing that each decision closes a door or several. I’ve made some awesome choices–I married my best friend, we live surrounded by our great families and we have strong, loyal friendships, we both have great jobs that give us so many opportunities to grow and have money for more than just the necessities. I am so blessed. But that doesn’t mean that a big milestone birthday like 30 didn’t make me take pause and look back at the choices I let go of, the dreams that I probably won’t accomplish, and the ones I still can.

So in the spirit of that, I present my “30 Things To Do In Year 30” list. These are things I don’t want to let another year go by without accomplishing. And I’m sharing it here on Gluten-Free Gluttons because quite a few of them have to do with food, health, and wellness–which means you’ll be hearing more about them!

  1. Pay off my car loan
  2. Get into a weekly workout routine—and stick with it!
  3. Write an original novel
  4. Make at least one new female friend
  5. Get completely caught up on my scrapbooking
  6. Become familiar with Photoshop (you can see my first attempt above!)
  7. Master 3 new hairstyles
  8. Complete one room in our house
  9. Go on a regular date night with my husband
  10. Learn to sew on a button
  11. Go to five Nashville landmarks I’ve never been to or haven’t been to in ages
  12. Fall back in love with my kitchen (more cooking, less eating out)
  13. Finish my house sewing projects with my mom
  14. Master 2 new impressive dinner recipes for company
  15. Finish the scarf I started knitting in 2007
  16. Tame our landscaping
  17. DIY something that scares me a little
  18. Take more walks
  19. Phone a different faraway friend each week
  20. Disconnect more—no laptop, TV, iPad, or Phone
  21.  Celebrate 30 in style
  22. Give back
  23. Get organized and stay that way
  24. Kick my caffeine habit
  25. Travel somewhere I’ve never been before
  26. Buy more farm fresh veggies at the Farmer’s Market
  27. Listen to more live music
  28. Say no and don’t overcommit
  29. Take at least 2-4 day off a month—no errands, no work, no obligations, just fun
  30. Get back on a strict savings plan

You’ll notice #21 is crossed off, because I did, indeed, celebrate 30 in style. I was showered in great gifts–including some serious bling and 2 dozen orange roses from my husband–my work friends decorated my office and took me out to lunch and brought me (apple-free) gluten-free cookies, and my husband threw me a wonderful birthday party at Eastland Cafe with 15 of my friends. They were very, very accommodating to my allergies. I had their organic arugala salad and Mahi Mahi special. yum.

They even let us bring in a beautiful chocolate and raspberry gluten-freecake from Crumb de la Crumb. The party was awesome in every way–and I didn’t feel old at all!

Then, on Sunday, I got to celebrate with my parents, sister, and aunt and uncle. My dad grilled chicken brats and my mom made my fav gf cheesy potato casserole and a gf pumpkin cake with cream-cheese icing. I am one lucky 30 year old!

The Grim, Hypoallergenic Soup, and an Allergy Attack!

For those of you out there with severe allergies, there is no worse feeling in the world then that moment your throat begins to close and you realize you’ve eaten or been exposed to something on your severe allergy list. It happened to me yesterday.

A sweet and every well-meaning co-worker had made gluten-free, corn-free chocolate chip cookies. They were delicious. But I’d eaten almost the whole cookie when I heard her tell another co-worker that she’d used applesauce in place of sugar. I immediately threw away the rest of the cookie, but the damage had been done. I’m very allergic to apples, so I popped a half of a Benadryl®. But twenty minutes later, my throat and tongue started to swell and I could feel my face getting bigger. Another half a Benadryl® and another twenty minutes later, and I had to go home and take another (I don’t drive if I have to take more than one, so I went home before I took #2). As I turned down my street (which faces a large park) I saw a huge black dog all alone in the park under some trees. At that point, I had enough medicine actively working in me that, combined with the fact that I had just re-read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban over the weekend, my first thought was, “OMG! It’s a Grim! I’m going to die.” Yes, I know: nerd alert!

Luckily, my mom was able to meet me there to make sure I didn’t need to go to the hospital. And clearly, the black shaggy dog did not mean my demise was imminent since I’m writing this to you now. The second full Benadryl® did the trick, but I was essentially passed out until this morning, when I groggily got up and made my way out to vote and go to work. But I know I’ll be taking a half a Benadryl® morning and night for the next week to three weeks as the hives continue and my body slowly, but surely recovers. Bummer, huh?

But the whole thing got me thinking about what would have happened if I didn’t find out about the apples right away and had gotten really sick at work. The “Grim” I saw may have been a little more terrifying then! So I thought I should share my reaction plan with y’all and see if you have any other tips or tricks for dealing with a bad reaction.

Molly’s Allergy Attack Plan:

  1. As soon as I start feeling a reaction, I tell someone–preferably more than just one person. I also show them my EpiPen® and explain how it works if they don’t already know. (Multiple family members, friends, and co-workers have had this demonstration and know the drill already). If I’m alone, I call everyone I can think of within driving distance until someone agrees to come over and watch me.
  2. I take a half a Benadryl® and give it 20 minutes to kick in. If I’m still feeling it after 20 minutes, I take another half. If, after 40 minutes and a whole pill, I’m still feeling it, I get myself to somewhere I can sleep and take another pill.
  3. If within 20 minutes of taking the second Benadryl®, I am still feeling reactive (and not just sleepy from the medicine), I immediately go to the ER and get treatment.
  4. Once I have the most immediate symptoms of the reaction under control, I generally sleep for the next 12-15 hours. I do ask that my husband wake me to make sure I get lots of fluids and eat something super-safe. I’ve found that drinking plenty of water helps reduce symptoms and helps my body recover more quickly.
  5. I stick to very safe foods (like the recipe below) for the next few weeks, knowing my body will be more reactive than usual until it recovers from the bad attack. This means no eating out and making sure I prepare everything I eat myself if at all possible. I usually have hives for several weeks after an attack, so I pop a half a Benadryl® morning and evening to help control the uncomfortable itching. I also try to get extra sleep and rest.

What about you? Do you do anything differently after an attack? I’d love any tips for a speedier recovery!

This time around, my awesome mom made me potato soup while she was keeping an eye on me to make sure the Benadryl® was working and I didn’t need further treatment. This is a go-to food for me when I’m reactive as I know nothing in it bothers me and it’s hydrating since it’s soup! Here’s the recipe:

Hypo-Allergenic Potato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Cups chopped potatoes
  • 3 Cups broth (I use Pacific Vegetable or Chicken Broth)
  • 1 Cup chopped onion
  • 1 Cup chopped celery
  • 1 Cup chopped, cooked chicken (I generally just pan-fry in a little olive oil)
  • Seasoning to taste–I like salt, pepper, cilantro leaves, organic poultry blend, thyme, or rosemary
  • Grated cheese (optional for serving)

Directions:

  1. Sauté onion and celery in olive oil until slightly translucent.
  2. Add chicken, potatoes, broth, and seasoning. Bring to a boil.
  3. Simmer soup for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Serve with grated cheese

Voila! Easy, delicious, and safe. Perfect for recuperating with a good book, like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, just don’t let your imagination run away with you like mine did!

Peanut-, Almond-, and Every-Kind-of-Nut-Butter Recall (and a Little Something About Eggs)

I’m pretty sure everyone has heard about the Trader Joe’s peanut butter recall, which has expanded to include waaaaayyyy more than just a couple of TJ’s peanut butters. It appears that nut butters from Sunland, Inc., which manufactures for multiple brands, are the source of the recall. It’s up over one hundred products now. Almond butter has been a staple in my home the last year, so I’m definitely concerned about what products are in my home. You can keep up to speed on additional recalls and added products (cookies, etc.) HERE.

Also, as part of my minimal contribution to this blog, I wanted to share an interesting article I read last week about whether organic eggs are a scam. It has made me think about how loosely the buzzword organic is thrown around without a clear definition attached to it. I want to be more mindful of where my food comes from, for health reasons and because I think animals who provide sustenance for me should be treated humanely. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article.

This infographic at the end of the article condenses down some of the info:

Has the peanut butter recall affected you? What are your thoughts on humane and cruelty-free farming and ranching? 

Slow Cooking Crazy

So the past few months have been a little busy (understatement of the year). Between almost non-stop travel for friends’ wedding weekends, a full summer social calendar, and plenty of late nights at the office, my husband and I haven’t been the best at making sure we eat healthy dinners.

I finally hit my limit last week and decided that something had to change. So I came up with a plan to prep a bunch of slow cooker meals, freeze them, and then have them ready to cook all day while I was at work. I figured that a few days worth of prep would pay off big time over the next few months when I would only need to make a side salad or stir fry some veggies each night to go with the pre-prepared main courses. Here’s what I did:

Step 1: Take stock and organize

I spent one of my rare weekend afternoons at home going through my pantry, fridge, and freezer and cataloging every item in each of them. This is my “in stock” list. Then I threw out anything past it’s expiration date and scrubbed all my shelves and bins before organizing what we had. Once I had clean, organized, and cataloged my fridge, freezer, and pantry, I was ready for step 2.

Step 2: Bind it up

I gathered a pretty binder, dividers, and a few pockets for loose stuff to create a meal planning binder. I made a section for my in-stock list, shopping lists, recipes, coupons, and a calendar. Then I printed off all of my go-to slow cooker recipes plus a bunch I’d pinned on my “Slow Your Roll” board. I also printed some pretty blank calendars for the next few months with plenty of writing space for step 3.

Step 3: Write it out

I started with blank calendars and filled in standing meals out (like dinner every Sunday with my parents and date night with my husband every Friday), parties and dinner parties on our social calendar, travel dates, and holidays (thanksgiving, for example, means leftovers for a few days). I was left with about 4 nights a week of dinners I needed to fill in. Then I went through my collected recipes and looked for several that had some overlap in ingredients (carrots, onions, peppers, ect…). I planned to make a double batch of each recipe, so I went through my calendar and filled in my slow cooker meals until I had several months all filled in. (I made sure to make some nights as leftover nights too!) With my calendar filled in and my recipes selected, I made a grocery list of everything I’d need to make double batches of each recipe. Then I cross referenced my shopping list with my “in stock” list to ensure I didn’t buy stuff that I already had on hand. I pulled out any coupons I had for items on the list and was ready for step 4.

Step 4: Shop ’til you drop

I got my husband to help for this part, since I was shopping big. First stop was Costco for big packs of meat, bags of veggies, and plenty of gallon-sized Ziplock freezer bags. Next up, I went to Kroger and Whole Foods for smaller amounts of stuff that I needed and gluten-free specific items. I was making 48 individual meals, which meant a lot of food. But when I did the math, each meal clocked in at $12, or $3 a serving–not too shabby for me! I’m not the best about budgeting 🙂

Step 5: Prep and freeze

After I hauled all the groceries in from the car, it was time to cook. I started by writing out important steps for each recipe on the ziplock bags–like if I needed to add any ingredients before cooking or what to serve with the dish. Then I chopped, diced, sliced, and generally spent 3 evenings cooking like my life depended on it. Although, I guess it would be more accurate to say prepping like my life depended on it. There was actually very little cooking involved–just mixing sauces, and making sure all the ingredients for each meal were prepped and put not the correct bags.

It took a while, but now that I’m done, I have enough meals frozen to last me through Christmas. I’m not going to lie–there were a few challenges to this plan that I hadn’t anticipated. My freezer is now so full that it pops open if you close the fridge too hard and it can be difficult to remember where I put each meal to retrieve it for defrosting and cooking. I’m also pretty sure that my husband thinks I’m crazy–I asked him a question when he was drifting off to sleep and his answer was “What’s wrong with you? The freezer is full. No more food.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I asked him about it the next morning and he said seeing all tHat food on the counter, my hours of prep, and the packed freezer was like watching a slow train wreck and has referred to it as my slow-burn crazy ever since. But even he admits it’s a good idea. It just seemed like I had jumped off the deep end until I explained it to him.

I’m still not sure how this will all work or if we’ll even like all of the meals, but I love the idea and I’ve got all my fingers crossed that this is a system that could really help me out. I love the idea of a little planning and prep meaning much less work for months at a time. So if it works, I think I may be adding a deep freeze to my Christmas list. One would look awfully nice in our basement. Anyone else tried this system? Or have another system that they use? Or just a deep freeze that they can recommend? I can’t be the only one with slow burn crazy going on when it comes to my slow cooker, can I?

Recipe Rip-Off: California Pizza Kitchen Quinoa and Arugula Salad

No, I wasn’t raptured. No, I wasn’t abducted by aliens or zombies. Yes, I did briefly fall off the planet AND the gluten-free, anti-inflammatory diet wagon. {Boy did I pay for it too. Any thoughts I had that perhaps I didn’t have any food allergies or intolerances were proved wrong this week–via hives and swelling and miserableness!} I happen to have been thrown into a bit of a life crisis, and it has been a teensy bit consuming. It has left me mostly disinterested in food, so when something sounds good and will keep me healthy, I’m all over it. I will attempt to make occasional contributions to our little ol’ blog, but I sense it will be sporadic. But for tonight? You get something!

I had a lovely lunch with a girlfriend last Saturday at California Pizza Kitchen. They have had GF pizza that I wanted to try, and she had mentioned a seasonal quinoa and arugula salad she thought I might like. And boy, did I like it. I didn’t like paying $14.50 for it though. And here’s my pride confidence making an appearance: I thought I could make it better at home. So here’s my rip-off version.

Quinoa and Arugula Salad with Salmon

Salad Ingredients:

  • quinoa
  • arugula
  • asparagus
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • pine nuts
  • feta or goat cheese
  • salmon
  • red onion (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:

  • olive oil (or grapeseed oil, if you prefer something with less flavor)
  • vinegar of choice (champagne vinegar, white balsamic vinegar; I have some lovely blood orange vinegar from a friend, so I added a dash alongside the champagne vinegar)
  • salt and pepper
  • a tiny bit of honey or agave

Instructions:

Don’t get your hopes up for any specific measurements or amounts here. Sorry! I played fast and loose, but it all worked out fine.

Cook quinoa according to package instructions and cool. I like to cook mine in chicken stock if I have it. Chop asparagus into one-inch pieces and drop into salted boiling water for a couple minutes, until crisp-tender. Immediately remove and shock in an ice bath. Toast pine nuts for a couple minutes (don’t burn them, says experience!), and remove from stove. Chop sun-dried tomatoes. I am not friends with raw onion, but if you are, finely dice or thinly slice a few tablespoons of red onion, and add to the mix. Prepare salmon according to your preferred method. I rubbed mine with coconut oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked it (a couple minutes under the broiler at the end makes for some lovely crisp edges).

Whisk together your vinaigrette. I pretty much always eyeball this. Your ratios should be one part vinegar/acid to three parts oil, so 2 T vinegar and 6 T oil. Add a drizzle of honey or agave, maybe a little dijon, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine arugula, cooled quinoa, asparagus, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and onion (if using). Pour dressing over the top and toss. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and feta or goat cheese. Add salmon . . . and boom. Dinner is served.

Why those “corn syrup is just the same as sugar” commercials need to stop

Nothing makes me angrier than those awful commercials about how corn syrup isn’t bad for you. “OF COURSE CORN SYRUP IS BAD FOR YOU!” I want to scream (and sometimes do) at the T.V. Corn syrup is inexpensive to produce–which is why it’s such a popular ingredient–and is six times sweeter than the same amount of cane sugar.

There is no conclusive evidence that corn syrup is worse for your body than regular cane sugar, but cane sugar isn’t good for you either. Duh. That’s like saying dying by drowning is the same as dying by smoke inhalation. Both options are awful and you end up dead in both scenarios! Really, Corn Refiner’s Association, just shut up. I don’t want to hear anymore about how wholesome and OK corn syrup is. It isn’t and you need to stop lying.

The average American consumes over 40 pounds of corn syrup a year. I mean, gross. We all know that a diet heavy in corn syrup or sugar will pack on the pounds, cut your enegry levels down to nill, and put you at risk for diabetes. But a new study has proven that consuming large amounts of high fructose corn syrup actually damages your brain too. It will prevent you from learning new things as easily and causes reductions in synaptic activity in the brain.

Luckily, researchers did discover that consuming omega-3’s helped combat some of those symptoms. So if you must indulge in sugary (or corn syrupy) treats, make sure you amp up your intake of salmon, walnuts, and flax to protect your brain!