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“Strong Is the New Skinny?” How About “Body Appreciation Is the New…Everything?”

Strong Is the New Skinny. It’s the latest meme out there, and it can be seen everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and a great many fitness and healthy living blogs. It usually accompanies a photo of some insanely ripped, ultra-muscular woman, meant to inspire the masses of women to not strive for Kate Moss-esque thinness, but instead work towards fitness and strength as a goal.

But after seeing this for a few weeks, it just doesn’t resonate with me. Sure, the intention is there, and I have no doubt that those responsible for making “strong is the new skinny” popular had the female population’s best interests at heart. Yes, fitness and strength are great things to strive for. But when they are accompanied by yet another impossibly idealistic photo of a woman with muscle definition that most of us could not attain, or maintain without intense dedication? For the majority, this makes for yet another ideal that we cannot achieve, causing dissatisfaction at falling short of what is “in”. Basically, unattainable one body image has been traded for another.

About a month ago, I ditched my scale in an effort to work towards a healthier relationship with my body. Until that point in time, I’d been weighing myself several times a week and counting calories almost daily, which was only succeeding in driving myself a little bit mad. Even though I knew I needed to work on appreciating my body (and myself) for what it is and what it can do, my actions were preventing me from moving forward.

It wasn’t just the scale, either. In the past few years, I’ve started to really focus on fitness as well, making sure I do something just about every day. Now, I don’t by any means consider myself an athlete, and the idea of referring to myself as “fit” even sounds strange to me. (I didn’t grow up doing anything athletic, unless you count choir a sport.) But I’ve started to push myself in various new ways – running, learning how to strength train, practicing yoga, participating in events like JailBreak and Warrior Dash, and of course, soccer. For the most part, this process has been great – I’ve learned that my body is stronger and more capable of things than I ever gave it credit for, and it’s exciting to see progress (and I’ve had a lot of fun!). But even fitness can get out of hand. There were times when I’d beat myself up for missing a workout (or not allowing myself to miss a workout, even if I was exhausted or feeling ill), because that meant I was weak or lazy or somehow didn’t meet the ideal “fit” image. Even if I ran a 5K without walking, and ran a great time, there were times I would still beat myself up for not running harder/faster. In yoga, I’d be frustrated if I couldn’t perform the more advanced variations of a pose, instead of realizing how much stronger I’d become or how I could maintain my balance more than I could a month prior. And even if I felt fit and strong one day, if I looked in the mirror and didn’t see that ripped, buff image in my reflection, that feeling of strength lessened. Whether it was the “skinny” image or the “strong” image, I wasn’t fitting either.

In short, I was missing the point.

Since I ditched the scale and have made a “pact” with myself to work towards a healthier image, I’ve felt a bit freer. A bit more in tune with what my body wants and needs. Does this mean I don’t fall into old habits or old ways of thinking? Of course not. It’s a process. And judging by the responses I received on my blog post about this topic, I’m not alone. A great many of us struggle with what we think is our “ideal” body, whether that’s “skinny” or “strong” or whatever, and some of us beat ourselves up about it all too much.

So what should be the new “skinny”? “Strong” has its shortcomings. “Healthy”? Health is an excellent goal, and heck, Tasty Eats At Home is more or less a healthy eating/living blog. But I think even then, that can cause trouble, as not everyone is in perfect health (some have chronic diseases that, while they can be managed, could prevent them from achieving an ideal of “health”), and constantly striving for perfect health can cause that same mental anguish as any of the other “images”. I’m not sure anything should be the “new”…anything, truthfully. I’d rather we forego the “new skinny” thing entirely. Body image shouldn’t be a trend. Instead, why not strive for appreciation?

Instead of trying to be the “new” anything, appreciate your body for what it is. Be okay with who you are, and love that you are unique. Strong is a good attribute, but don’t measure it against an image. Be strong in your convictions, and be strong in your confidence. Be strong in your sense of self. And be appreciative of what your body can do. Set goals, but also be accepting of where you are today. You may not run the fastest 5K, but at least you can run or walk. You may not be able to do a pull-up (I can’t), but at least you are trying and working at it. Some people are simply working to recover from serious illness, so being able to make it through the day is enough. Most of us can hear music, feel the warmth of the sun on our face, walk unassisted, love friends and family, and have the ability to pursue our dreams and happiness. These are gifts. Be thankful for them, and be thankful that you have the ability to challenge your mind and body. Allow yourself to just “be”.

There is not a more beautiful image than someone who is appreciative and respectful of his/her body, and that image is as unique as every one of us. If we were to treat ourselves and one another with that in mind, health, strength, and so much more would just fall into place.

 

A Healthier Relationship: Calories, The Scale, and Body Image

While I consider Tasty Eats At Home a healthier food blog, I don’t often venture outside of gluten-free, dairy-free recipes and topics related to that. I love to talk about cooking (both healthy recipes and indulgent ones!), and I love to talk about navigating gluten and dairy-free living. But rarely do I address other aspects of healthy living. Lately, however, I’ve been struggling with one hot topic.

Having a healthy relationship – with food, with exercise, and with your body.

Sure, you hear that all the time – that we should all strive for balance, eat a healthier diet (but enjoying treats in moderation), maintain a healthy self-image, blah blah blah. But what does that really mean?

It seems that everywhere, people looking to lose weight count calories. While I’ve never been deemed overweight, I’ve fussed and fretted over the same 5-10 lbs lost and regained a countless number of times. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I generally eat a healthy, balanced diet. But I’ve also counted calories and weighed myself like it was my job. I’ve tracked every morsel that goes into my mouth, and I’ve even calculated calories burned doing various exercises. Back in the day, before I went gluten-free, I even did Weight Watchers for a time.

And you know what, folks? It’s gotten me nowhere.

In fact, I think that those activities have driven me further away from a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and body image. Sure, I’d buckle down and decide I would really eat clean. I love veggies, and of course, I love cooking, so I can always create delicious meals that are nourishing without feeling it was a burden. I would exercise as well, and I’d track what I was doing, using an online calorie counting site and the good ol’ trusty scale. As I’ve grown older, it’s become more and more difficult for me to lose weight, even with an extremely strict diet and regular exercise. But for a while, I could manage to be disciplined enough to drop 5 or so pounds in the course of a few months, and I’d be proud of myself.

Then I’d allow myself to bake or make treats. Of course, when I bake, I nibble. A lot. I’d then go down that spiral of excess, where even though many times I would bake “healthier” treats, I’d enjoy too much of them. I had been “good” for so long that it would seem I’d lose some control over my eating when it came to those sweets. And I’d gain. I would still weigh myself religiously, and that scale would determine my mood. Over time, I created a guilt association with overindulgence, and that scale was the punishment. I’d weigh myself, scorn myself for overindulging, and resolve to “do better”. Only this cycle of “doing better” and “overindulging” and all the scorn in the world didn’t make that number on the scale stay in one place. And even if I did feel like I’d been eating well, felt lighter/smaller, and felt more positive about my body, if I weighed myself and the scale suggested otherwise, it would ruin that positive mood.

I thought I had a healthy relationship with food. My diet consists of nourishing, whole foods. Back in the day, I bought into the whole “diet” food, low-fat regimen, but I’ve long since trashed that idea in favor of real food. I exercise regularly, mixing cardio with strength training, and even taking time to try to center myself with yoga. But this cycle of “good” versus “bad” and the constant measuring of calories and my weight was undermining all of that. I no longer was in touch with what my body needed. If I saw I had a surplus of calories available on a given day, I’d indulge (or even over-indulge), even if I wasn’t hungry. If I was at my limit of calories, I would immediately feel deprived, even if I wasn’t hungry, causing me to cave and snack on something. My sugar “binges” would make the cycle even worse, giving me cravings that just couldn’t be satisfied with any sweet treat. It was a struggle. The fact that I run a “healthy food” blog seemed to make this worse – I, of all people, should have a healthy relationship with food, right? Furthermore, I have a teenage step-daughter that is already more than self-conscious about her weight, as many teen girls are. The last thing I want to do is pass on these negative mental battles I have with food, weight, and body image to her.

So I’ve made a decision. I’ve had enough.

About a week and a half ago, I embarked on a decision to follow the Whole30 Program, in an effort to reign in those sugar cravings, as well as get back to feeling my best. I was diagnosed with PCOS a few months back (which helps to explain the struggle with losing even 5 lbs, as well as so many other unsexy symptoms such as acne), and so in addition to my delicate digestive “balance” (or lack thereof, especially when I’m ignoring my body’s signals), I’ve been struggling with out-of-whack hormones as my doctor works to find the best solution for me. Whole30, which is very much like the paleo diet, seemed like a great way to move towards improving my health and wellness. (Others have talked about success with Whole30 and PCOS.) I have been eating mostly “paleo” for the past 5-6 months (with some excessive baking/treats – not-so-paleo), so this wasn’t too much of a stretch for me. With that program, I did two monumental (at least, for me) things:

Number One: I ditched the scale.

Number Two: I ditched the calorie counting.

There will be no measurements.

This isn’t about weight loss; it’s about reconnecting with my body and its needs.

About a week in, (after the sugar monster stopped growling outside my door) I came to some realizations. One, since I stopped counting calories, I don’t think I’m actually eating any more than I was. (which was part of my fear – that I’d eat too much and not be aware of it.) I’m listening more to actual hunger cues. I’m stopping to think before I decide I need a snack about whether I’m hungry, or if it’s just a conditioned response – I’m bored, I’m tired, I’m stressed, or it’s just “time to eat.” I’m finding I’m not hungry as often. It’s not totally natural yet, of course, but I feel good about the progress made already.

As for the scale, I still think about it. I think it will take a while to retrain my brain. Ultimately, though, my weight is just a number. I would rather feel good about my body and feel fit and healthy than weigh a certain number. But my brain still tells me it wants that “validation” that I’m doing a good job. While I’m working to change that, I have to remind myself that my “validation” is that I have more energy and feel more in touch with my body. What’s even better? Yesterday, I was feeling particularly good. My skin seemed more vibrant (read – less acne, less dryness, less angry-hormonal-craziness), I didn’t feel sluggish and bloated, and I was no longer fighting sugar cravings. I was in the bathroom and the thought popped into my head, “I wonder if I’ve lost any weight? I feel good.” But rather than being told how to feel by that number on the scale, instead, I allowed myself to continue to feel good and did not weigh myself. That’s a freeing concept for me. I look forward to more of it.

Most importantly, I am working on changing my thoughts about my body. After all, I am more than a number on a scale. AndreAnna over at Life As A Plate talked a while back about true health vs. what’s right “on paper,” and I was inspired by her writing. My husband tells me I am beautiful all the time. I hear it, but I don’t always let it truly sink in. But I know I feel vibrant. I am feeling healthier as each day passes. I am motivated to work out in the morning, and when I do, I feel stronger. I’m not preoccupying myself with calories or my weight. I am feeling more balanced and free. I recently read a post over at Ancestralize Me that really spoke to me – that maybe women aren’t all supposed to be super-lean when they are at optimum health. It was a good refresher that I needed to keep perspective. I am beautiful, but not because of what the scale, the mirror, or even those wretched BMI charts say. I am beautiful because I choose to be beautiful – through my actions, with my heart, and my health. These are the things I need to focus on, and what I need to pass on to my step-daughter. When I change my thoughts, I can change my behavior, which in turn will change my health. My body will do what it’s destined to do.

And I’m learning to be fine with that.

 

Me, crossing the finish line at JailBreak (5K mud run/obstacle course), with my sister cheering me on. Covered in mud and exhausted, yet feeling strong and beautiful!

 

 

“Cooky Sue”

Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and love from my family.

Of course, family is supposed to love you. That’s kind of the deal, right? That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Our family is no exception, and we express our care for one another in a multitude of ways.

But even still, there are times when I am caught off guard by tokens of affection, even by people who have spent my entire life giving it.

I suppose I’m not the most gracious of recipients when it comes to gifts, compliments, or other generosities. Sometimes it’s just that I’ve allowed life to carry me through way too fast, and I only realize after the fact that I didn’t properly thank the giver. At times I have a bad habit of waving off a genuine, heartfelt compliment, as if I don’t deserve the gift given to me. (A bad habit, to be sure.) Still other times, I’m caught off guard, almost shocked by the gift, and I don’t know what to say. 

But deep in my chest, my heart is warmed. As I soak it all in, I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say to express my joy.

I’ve always had a fondness for cooking, but in my early adult years, I didn’t have much skill to go along with it. Over time, I started to try to teach myself. I bought books and learned a few fundamentals. Then, in late 2007, I began truly focusing my interest. By mid-2008, I started this blog. At that same time, my parents took notice – and they encouraged it. There were gifts of knives, bowls, books, a chef’s jacket, and a slew of handy cooking utensils. As time went on, they continued to encourage. (So did my loving husband, who is my consultant, confidant, critic, and a daily source of inspiration and motivation, and has helped this blog grow from a little baby blog into something much more sophisticated and beautiful. He continues to give more than I can imagine.) They would willingly indulge in any creations that came from my kitchen, and would boast to friends and family about my latest activities, almost to the point of my embarrassment. But that’s the job of any loving parent.

Still, when “Cooky Sue” arrived, I was unprepared for her. “Cooky Sue” is a carving, given to me by my Dad. You see, Dad started carving as a hobby a few years ago. He enjoys it a great deal, and he has considerable talent, winning several awards at various competitions all over the state. He has always been an artist, and has always enjoyed woodworking in various forms, but I think that carving is an area where his skills and creativity meet and flourish. He has excellent attention to detail and incredible patience – two things I lack – and his ability to “see” his art as he works, to envision a final piece, is something that will always amaze me.

“Cooky Sue” is one of his best pieces. And he made it for me. It’s hard to express how “big” of a deal that is. Whenever someone spends hours upon hours creating something, ensuring every detail is carefully tended to, just for me, it’s hard to respond appropriately to such a gift. It’s a beautiful carving – and it is displayed proudly in my living room. There are no words that can express how I feel about it though. I’m honored, and I’m a little taken aback at the same time.

So I wanted to spend a moment to slow down and share my appreciation for my loved ones – my parents, my husband, my kids, my family and friends. Life goes by too fast, and I don’t feel I always give my best in return. Sometimes, you just have to surrender and accept that the best people in your life love you, and some are going to do their darndest to express it. And I’m incredibly thankful for that.

Tasty Eats At Home has a new home!

Tasty Eats At Home has moved to a new URL – I can now be found at http://tastyeatsathome.com (dropped the .wordpress part of the address.) If you have subscribed via RSS or email through Feedburner, then you should still receive updates just as always – I’ve updated the feeds for you. If you subscribed through WordPress, however, you’ll have to re-subscribe through Feedburner (check out the links on the right-hand side of the page). For your convenience, the .wordpress site automatically redirects to the new Tasty Eats At Home page.

Another new feature – there is now a Recipe Index! Yes, now you can find your favorite Tasty Eats At Home recipes even more easily by checking out the Recipes tab at the top of the page.

I hope you’re as excited about these changes as I am – Tasty Eats At Home has long needed a bit of improvement, and now, it’s here!

If you have questions about the move or can’t find something, let me know. Thanks for your continued support!

Winner of Gluten-Free Made Simple

The winner of the copy of Gluten-Free Made Simple by Carol Field Dahlstrom, Elizabeth Dahlstrom Burnley & Marcia Schultz Dahlstrom is commenter #37 – Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

Congratulations, Ricki!

Didn’t win this one? I still have another giveaway going on right now! I’m giving away 5 gluten-free baking mixes, courtesy of Lauren’s Gourmet! Check it out!

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness – Celiac Awareness Month

In case you haven’t already heard, May is Celiac Awareness Month. This is a fairly new designation; but it’s quickly gaining ground. I, for one, hope it continues to do so. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness states that 3 million Americans are affected by celiac disease, yet 95% don’t know they have it. That’s nearly 3 million people that are suffering from symptoms ranging from digestive distress, emotional, neurological, and behavioral disorders, numbness and tingling in various parts of their bodies, headaches, malnourishment, and many other things, not knowing there’s a way out. Did you know there are more than 300 symptoms of celiac disease? All of these could be alleviated by a gluten-free diet.

And that’s just celiac disease. What about those with gluten intolerance? The numbers for those that cannot digest gluten are many times higher.

Many of us with undiagnosed celiac disease or gluten intolerance visit the doctor, complaining of symptoms. I did. It started in 2004-2005 – and I complained of a lot of digestive issues. (In hindsight, I had some of these issues for many, many years before then – they just worsened over time.) After multiple visits to my doctor, multiple visits to a gastroenterologist, I was told I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I was given several medications (none of which worked). After explaining to my doctor that I had an immediate family member with diagnosed celiac disease, he reluctantly gave me a blood test. All the while he told me I couldn’t have this issue – I wasn’t underweight. (Fact is, many people with celiac disease and/or gluten intolerance can be at any weight.) My blood test did come back negative. I kept eating gluten, and resigned to the fact that I’d have to deal with my issues for the rest of my life.

A few years passed. Over time, I wanted to be healthier. I didn’t feel energetic anymore, and I had even been given ADD medications for a while, as it became harder and harder to focus at my job. I started to try to exercise daily. I transitioned to a healthy, nourishing diet. More whole grains (lots of whole wheat bread), more vegetables, less fast food. I did all the “right” things. And yet I continued to feel worse. I got sick more often, I couldn’t handle stress, my hands and feet would swell, go partially numb and tingle, I couldn’t focus, and my digestive issues continued to plague me. My vitamin B and D levels were low, even though I regularly took supplements and ate properly. Towards the end of my “gluten-eating time”, I couldn’t eat anything, it seemed, without severe heartburn and/or nausea. I’d given up my well-loved imported beer, my coffee, and regularly took Prilosec with little relief. Finally, after talking with other family members that already went gluten-free, I decided to eliminate gluten from my diet. I did a 90-day trial. Most of those symptoms disappeared before the 90 days was up. I felt better - better than I had in a long time. I did eat gluten at the end of the 90 days, to “double-check” that it was indeed causing me harm, and my reaction to it was severe enough that I knew I had to stay away from it for the rest of my life. I never received a formal medical diagnosis of celiac disease, but I know my body doesn’t like gluten. That’s enough for me.

Many times, throughout this process, I felt like I was going crazy. That it was “all in my head.” That I had to deal with it, and that I was just getting older. (I went gluten-free at age 29. I certainly hope that’s not old!) I’ve heard this story echoed over and over as I’ve become friends with others that have discovered they are intolerant to gluten or have celiac disease. Often times, it takes years until a diagnosis is reached. Or in my case, it’s a matter of personal trial and error. (In my mind, that almost makes it tougher – many people don’t feel “validated” without that diagnosis. We should take our health and our diet just as seriously as those with a diagnosis. After all, our bodies react “seriously” to gluten!)

This is what makes Celiac Awareness Month and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness so important. Their mission is to further research and raise awareness for celiac disease and gluten intolerance. They work to improve the time it takes for someone to receive a proper diagnosis, and to help people improve the quality of their lives.

They offer valuable information for anyone curious about what celiac disease is, what the symptoms can include, and how to deal with a gluten-free diet. They offer educational opportunities and events. They are even highlighting gluten-free bloggers every day this month on their blog (I’m one of them highlighted today!) Their website is a wealth of information and an opportunity to gain a sense of community. (For those of us dealing with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, we need all the information and community we can get.) I hope to see more and more positive events in the future from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and others – awareness is the only way that the millions of undiagnosed people can begin to find relief.

For those of you that suffer from some of the symptoms of celiac disease or gluten intolerance - it’s not all in your head. Visit your doctor. Get tested. Listen to your body. For me, that last part is still a work in progress, but I feel a million times better than I did two years ago. I promise you, if you find gluten is causing your problems, removing it from your diet might seem daunting at first, but you’ll feel the benefits. Your body will thank you.

Want to read more stories about symptoms of celiac and gluten-intolerance? Check out this great post by Gluten-Free Girl. She shares her story, but there are many, many commenters on that post that share theirs as well.

30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living: Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Diane over at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang is hosting an incredible series during the month of May called 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living. This series came about during a conversation among several of the gluten-free food bloggers. We decided that we were tired of hearing the same old complaints about the gluten-free lifestyle – that it’s really complicated, the food is horrible, it’s expensive, etc. (In fact, I even once had a gastroenterologist tell me that the gluten-free diet is expensive!) These are gripes that are heard over and over among those people that must eat a gluten-free diet. The thing is, none of these complaints are absolute truths, and that’s what this series is all about – to help you learn how to live gluten-free easily (and frugally).

Today, I’m sharing some easy gluten-free solutions to those old standbys in the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) – convenience foods. Convenience foods can include everything from fast food and take-out, to frozen dinners, to packaged, pre-processed, or otherwise frankenfoods that fill up many a pantry and refrigerator throughout our country. Theses foods are not only commonly filled with gluten (which we said “goodbye” to on our gluten-free diets!), but also many times are loaded with sugar, corn syrup, refined flours, hydrogenated fats, and unpronounceable mystery ingredients, such as preservatives, artificial dyes, flavors, and other unnatural substances. These aren’t good for anyone’s body, but for someone that is healing a sensitive digestive system or other adverse effects from gluten, they can definitely slow the healing process.

 But even those with the best of intentions know that the reason we reach for these foods is that they’re so gosh darn CONVENIENT! When we’re busier than ever with our lives, running from one task to the next, going to school, work, then homework, taking kids to 5,000 different places, and of course, trying to keep our home in some type of order, we all wish for meals to be as convenient as possible. How do you meet this goal and incorporate gluten-free living at the same time?

Make your own “convenience” foods!

Sounds counterproductive? It doesn’t have to be. With a few key tools at your arsenal, you can make some convenience foods for you and your family that can be available when you need them most – during those times when you literally have just a few minutes to prepare your meals. With a bit of planning, and the use of some of these ideas, you can transition those old convenience foods out of your pantry for better-tasting, better-for-you homemade “convenience” foods.

Cook In BulkMake large quantities of dishes, and freeze individual portions. Then you can have your own homemade “frozen” dinners available for convenience. Many soups reheat particularly well, and make great lunches. I do this on the weekends, when I have more time to cook, but I also tend to use my slow cooker to cook large portions both on weekends and weekdays.

If you don’t have a ton of freezer space, you can also cook in bulk for just the coming week or a few days. For instance, you can hard-boil eggs for breakfasts, lunches or snacks for the coming week. Make beef jerky for snacks, either in a dehydrator or the oven. Cut up carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, or any other raw veggie and divide into individual containers or ziploc bags for snacks or lunches for the week. (While you’re at it, if you have fresh vegetables on the menu for various other nights of the week, wash, peel, and prepare those vegetables for your recipes too, to save yourself time later!) Bake a batch of muffins, and individually wrap them for the week (muffins tend to freeze well too!). Make a batch of gluten-free oats, cream of buckwheat, quinoa flakes, or whatever porridge your heart desires, and store it in individual containers for the week. The more batch cooking  and preparation you can do, the more time you’ll save when you’re having a hectic day. Just an hour or two in the kitchen on a Sunday can save your sanity on a busy Wednesday night.

Some recipe ideas that make great “frozen” dinners:

Adzuki Beans and Rice

Ham and Red Bean Soup

Vegetarian Bean and Pumpkin Chili

Tomato Soup

Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes (FYI, sloppy joes taste great on a baked potato – a delicious gluten-free meal!)

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup

Chicken Meatballs (freeze meatballs, cooked or uncooked, by spreading on a baking sheet and freezing, then place in ziploc bag)

Make your own condiments and “base” ingredients – Many condiments aren’t gluten-free, their gluten-free status is dubious, or they’re otherwise filled with corn syrup, sugar, or other processed ingredients. Does this mean we should do without? Of course not! Try your hand at making your own! I’ve fallen in love with making my own salad dressings, ketchup, pumpkin puree, nut butters, and even jams, jellies, and salsas. You’ll find when you start making your own that they taste better, fresher, and many times are cheaper to make. For example, I can find whole almonds for $5 a pound on sale, sometimes less. Try finding a 16 oz. jar of almond butter for the same price. Besides, when you make it yourself, you can customize the amount of sweetener and/or salt added, and can experiment with all sorts of nuts. Cinnamon walnut butter, anyone?

Some recipes for homemade condiments and “base” ingredients:

Slow Cooker Ketchup

Almond Butter

Pumpkin Puree

Peach Thyme Jam

Salsa

Honey Mustard Dressing

More Gluten-Free Salad Dressings

Homemade Stock

Gluten-Free Convenience Foods that are Relatively Free of Processed Ingredients - Generally, whole, fresh, unprocessed foods are best, and most of the time, that is what we eat in our home. It makes gluten-free living so much easier and less expensive. But there are a few “boxed” ingredients that are relatively free of preservatives and processed ingredients, and these ingredients can help streamline the meal-making process. I often keep these kinds of things on hand in my pantry, as “emergency” items, in case plans fall through.

Instant Mashed Potatoes (Idahoan and Potato Buds have varieties that are gluten-free)

Minute Brown Rice

Frozen Vegetables (make sure you’re buying the plain variety, and not the variety with sauce)

Canned Tuna (again, make sure you’re buying the plain variety, and not the flavored varieties)

Canned Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce, Tomato Paste

Canned Beans (check labels – plain varieties are generally gluten-free)

Gluten-Free Pasta (I love Tinkyada)

Come to think of it, if you combined a few of these above items, (for example, top minute brown rice with a bag of mixed steamed frozen vegetables, and drained and rinsed beans, warmed and seasoned to taste) you could have a gluten-free meal in a few minutes. How’s that for convenient? Of course, with a little creativity, your options for convenient meals can be endless.

Shirley over at Gluten-Free Easily has come up with an even more comprehensive list of convenient foods that are gluten-free, called 50 Gluten-Free Foods You Can Eat Today

There you have it. Gluten-free can be more convenient than the masses would lead you to believe, and at a fraction of the price of those packaged, less-than-tasty gluten-free cookies, cakes, crackers, and other treats at the grocery. Making your own convenience foods can be healthier too!

Don’t forget to check back throughout the month for other great tips for Easy Gluten-Free Living! Here is the schedule:

 

Monday May 2nd    Diane from  The WHOLE Gang sharing Easy Gluten Free Grocery Shopping Tips

Tuesday May 3rd  Iris from The Daily Dietribe sharing on How to Start a Gluten Free Diet.

Wednesday May 4th  Heather from Gluten-Free Cat sharing Smoothing the GF Transition with Smoothies

Thursday May 5th  Alta from Tasty Eats at Home sharing Make Your Own Convenience Foods

Friday May 6th  Elana from Elana’s Pantry sharing Quick and Easy Gluten Free Cherry Vanilla Power Bars

Saturday May 7th  Cheryl from Gluten Free Goodness sharing Easy Meals GF Style

Sunday May 8th  Megan from Food Sensitivity Journal sharing Gluten Free Baking Undone:  Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Monday May 9th  Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free sharing Magic Cookie Power Bars.

Tuesday May 10th  Ricki from Diet, Dessert and Dogs sharing Gluten Free Baking Tips

Wednesday May 11th      Ellen from Gluten-Free Diva sharing Gluten Free Travel Tips

Thursday May 12th     Kim from Cook It Allergy Free sharing Eating from your Garden for Easy Gluten-Free Living

Friday May 13th     Melissa from Gluten Free For Good sharing Gluten-Free Food Rules (recipes included)

Saturday May 14th  Brittany from Real Sustenance sharing Healthy Allergy-Free Quick Bread with easy flavor variations.

Sunday May 15th  Nicola from g-free Mom sharing Kids Lunch Boxes

Monday May 16th     Wendy from Celiacs in the House sharing Fast Food for Gluten Free Teens

Tuesday May 17th     Shirley from gluten free easily sharing Your Pantry is the Key to Living gfe

Wednesday May 18th     Nancy from  The Sensitive Pantry sharing Tips for BBQ and Picnics

Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods

Friday May 20th  Silvana from Silvana’s Kitchen sharing Everything I’ve Learned So Far about Gluten-Free plus my Dairy-Free Nutella Knockoff recipe!

Saturday May 21st  Maggie from She Let Them Eat Cake sharing Easy Gluten-Free Living With Preschoolers and a Vanilla Cupcake recipe!

Sunday May 22nd  Sea from Book of Yum sharing Easy Gluten Free Vegetarian Soy Free Breakfast Burritos

Monday May 23rd     Tia from Glugle Gluten-Free sharing The Value of Support

Tuesday May 24th    Alisa from Alisa Cooks and Go Dairy Free sharing Wrap it Up-Thinking Outside the Bun

Wednesday May 25th  Hallie from Daily Bites sharing Cooking by Color

Thursday May 26th     Carol from Simply…Gluten-Free sharing tips on Entertaining

Friday May 27th   AndreaAnna from Life as a Plate sharing Tips on Traveling on Day Trips with Kids

Saturday May 28th  Zoe from Z’s Cup of Tea sharing Feasting With Their Eyes:  Food Packaging and Presentation For Kids

Sunday May 29th  Kelly from The Spunky Coconut sharing Buying in bulk to save money, Cooking in bulk to save time.

Monday May 30th  Rella from Penny Pinching Epicure sharing Gluten Free on a Budget.

Tuesday May 31st  Naomi from Straight into Bed, Cakefree and Dried sharing how to prepare grains so they are more nutritious & digestible and create fluffier wholegrain baked goods!

Winners of Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free by Amy Green

I bet you’re just dying to know who won a copy of Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free by Amy Green, aren’t you? Well, I won’t make you wait any longer. Here they are!

Pat R.

Zoe from Z’s Cup of Tea

Stephanie from Lunges and Lunch

Jeanie from Allergy Free and Gluten Free

Congrats to the winners!

I will be emailing you all, but if you don’t hear from me, please contact me.

For the rest of you, this book is available on Amazon for a great price – $10.22 (and it’s eligible for Super Saver Free Shipping!). It’s quite a find – I love the book and am finding myself going back to it again and again for ideas and inspiration.

Many thanks to Amy Green and Ulysses Press for making this giveaway possible for you all! They supplied these books and my copy for review.

Gluten-Free at Subway

We interrupt this not-so-regularly scheduled program to bring you this special report…Subway is testing gluten-free sandwiches in its restaurants here in the North Texas area.

That’s right, a gluten-free sandwich, only a few minutes away.

Normally, I am one to plan in advance for hectic days. Not sure where/when I’ll get to eat? I stash my purse with nuts, dried fruits, LARA bars, or a banana. I pack my lunch nearly every day for work, which often is a salad, soup, or leftovers from dinner. I rarely eat out, and when I do, it’s almost never a fast food chain. There’s just not many safe options, and they’re not all that appealing to me. I have my small circle of restaurants that I trust (Which is to say that I still explain my whole situation to them every time, share my Triumph dining card, and they are accommodating, and I haven’t gotten sick. These restaurants are also the ones that receive a generous tip from me for their efforts.), and I am cautious about when and how often I venture outside of that circle.

When I heard that Subway was trying out gluten-free sandwiches in our area, I was skeptical. There are bread crumbs everywhere, I thought. In my mind, it didn’t seem worth the risk. Then my brother called.

Guess what I’m doing right now, he says into the phone.

What?

Ordering a gluten-free sandwich at Subway.

I start to express my concerns for cross-contamination, and he responds with a description of all of the precautions they take.

I’ll call you back afterwards to let you know how it is, he says.

A few hours later, he calls back to tell me that it pretty good, and he was headed back for another for dinner. This was a reassuring sign, but I wanted to see for myself.

This past week, when I was swamped with training for work, I decided I would try it out for dinner. I look online beforehand at their allergy chart to determine what I could safely put on my sandwich. I decide on roast beef with lots of veggies and some brown mustard. I call the store near my home to make sure they’re offering the gluten-free sandwiches. (They were.) I arrive in the evening, and see that they even have a sign inside showing the “safe” ingredients for sandwiches. I place my order. Immediately, the guy behind the counter takes off his gloves. He goes and washes his hands thoroughly. He puts fresh gloves on. He takes a gluten-free bun, which is individually wrapped and sealed in cellophane, and opens it and places it on a brand new piece of uncontaminated paper. He takes out a plastic knife, which is also individually wrapped and sealed in cellophane, and opens it. He splits the bread, and moves the bread (still on the paper) to the toaster. He removes it, and tops with my meat (which has been underneath that paper that separates the slices, so there was little chance of contamination there too). Back into the toaster, still on the paper the whole time. Then he tops with my requested vegetables and mustard, and wraps the sandwich. Never does my sandwich touch their counter, and gluten-y fingers never touch it. (In fact, the guy making my sandwich held that piece of paper containing my sandwich so gingerly, so carefully, one would have thought he was carrying a small infant for the first time.) Sure, there is still a slight possibility for cross-contamination (there always is when there is gluten in the same kitchen), but Subway has obviously trained their employees well. My brother’s description of the process he encountered was identical to what I witnessed. Being able to watch the employee like a hawk also gave me some peace of mind – even in the best restaurants, I have to trust that that they understand what I mean when I describe how my food should be handled. This time, I can watch for myself.

They also offered a French Meadow Bakery gluten-free brownie. To my surprise, upon reading the label, it was also dairy-free. I opted to give it a try, just so I could share the results. See the sacrifices I make for you?

So…how was it? Good, actually. Not gourmet, of course (this is Subway, after all), but the bun was soft, which honestly, is more than I can say for their regular buns, which as I recall, were sometimes stale and hard on the bottom. It is a smaller sandwich than the typical 6-inch sub, but for me, that was just fine. They did have a sign guiding which chips were gluten-free (I didn’t buy chips), if one was interested. As for the brownie, it was surprisingly tasty – better than I anticipated. It was fudgy, and darn good for a packaged brownie, gluten-free or not.

While I’m not likely to eat this often, I do hope that this endeavor is successful for Subway, and that they soon expand it nationwide. I’m much more in favor of eating whole, unprocessed foods whenever I can (my body much prefers it, and I can ensure what I’m eating is indeed gluten-free), but for many, this would be a wonderful option. It wasn’t extremely cheap – my sandwich and brownie cost over $8 – but it was fast, and as safe as one can get eating at a fast food restaurant. If I was on the road traveling, this would be a nice option to have available for sure. So many companies and restaurants have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon lately, and many times, it seems more as a response to a fad than an actual help for those of us that have real gluten issues. In my opinion, it seems a lot of these companies give little thought to cross-contamination, and there is often a lack of education in the restaurants. I was happy to see the care that the Subway employees took. I hope to see this trend continue. While those of us with food intolerances/allergies often have to be our own advocates when it comes to our health and food safety, it comforts me to know that someone else is paying attention.

Top Tasty Eats in 2010

2010 feels like a whirlwind of a year to me. Doesn’t it to you? This has been the first full year that Tasty Eats At Home has been gluten-free, and I feel like I’ve learned so much about gluten-free living, baking, and health in that time. Tasty Eats At Home has become dairy-free as well. Still, there is so much left to learn, and so much left to do. I took a look at my resolutions I posted at the end of 2009, and while I’ve accomplished a few, I realize I still wish to tackle some of those goals!

But first, let’s review some of your favorites from 2010. These are all tasty recipes – and run the gamut from quick-and-easy dinner recipes to yummy sweets.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast – I have come back to this recipe time and time again for an easy solution to dinner.

Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Raisins, and Walnuts – a healthy, light way to enjoy a quick meal.

Jap Chae – This is one of my favorite quick meals, and it’s completely vegan. Talk about satisfying without the guilt!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins – I’ve made these multiple times since posting this recipe. A treat for kids and adults alike!

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – A favorite of mine from childhood. Yum.

Gluten-Free Churros – These were fun, and I kid you not, our kids have requested these for Christmas morning next year. Guess they were a hit.

Chocolate Ice Cream – Need I say more? Who doesn’t like chocolate ice cream? To make it dairy-free, simply use coconut milk and another dairy-free milk. I’ve made all-coconut milk ice creams before – they’re so creamy and decadent!

Gluten-Free Brownie Bites – Brittany just made these a few weeks ago, and they’re wonderful. We made them dairy-free by substituting 7 tablespoons of palm shortening for the 8 tablespoons of butter. Easy peasy, and SO worth it.

Masala-Spiced Adzuki Beans and Rice – I think it’s time to make these again, especially once the holiday overindulgence has occurred. The dish is vegan, packed full of protein, and comforting.

Flourless Almond Butter Cookies – Another easy-to-make treat! Who doesn’t love cookies, and these can be whipped up with just a few ingredients.

And what was my favorite recipe of 2010? It’s hard for me to choose! Here are my top 10 that I truly enjoyed.

Peach and Kumquat Crostada – I loved the crust here, and this was a perfect ending to a heavy meal.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Broccoli “Cheese” Rice Casserole – I was so excited when this was just as tasty as the original!

Texas Chili – This is my “go-to” recipe for chili. I made some for Christmas day, actually, using venison. (Yes, we had chili on Christmas. Long story, but we had our traditional Christmas dinner the day after, so chili was the meal for the actual holiday.) Talk about yum.

Curried Acorn Squash, Sweet Potato, and Apple Soup – a delicious and healthy soup; one of my favorites made this year!

Vegan Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote - I was ecstatic when this turned out. Cheesecake is back on the menu!

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato and Pork Pierogies – These were phenomenal. I think I should treat my husband and I again to these!

Perfect Lamb Chops – If there’s one dish that was enjoyed over and over again in our home this year, this would be it. Something that’s delicious and easy? Yes, please!

Moist and Herb-y Turkey Burgers – Another healthy dinner recipe that’s sure to make its rounds on our menu soon! 

Ratatouille – If there was a vegetable that I truly fell in love with in the past year, it would be eggplant. This is one dish that truly makes eggplant sing.

Croquembouche – If there was ever a Daring Bakers Challenge that I had to conquer, this was it. I had multiple failures before this dessert finally worked, but when it did, it was heavenly.

Whew, that was harder than I thought! Apparently I am quite attached to a lot of my posts.

And now, in keeping with my tradition, a few food/cooking-related resolutions for the New Year:

- Perfect and post a great gluten-free bread recipe (I posted a baguette recipe, but I’d like to make my own sliceable sandwich bread)

- Learn to make menudo (was on the resolution list last year and I didn’t get to it)

- Learn to make gluten-free puff pastry (I’ve read about it, I just need to take the plunge!)

- Improve Tasty Eats At Home design

- Achieve work/life/blog balance! (A lot has happened in the past few months – and as much as I’d love to spend all my time with you guys, I must revisit my goals and find balance.)

And most of all, I’m curious: What would you like to see on Tasty Eats At Home? I’d love to read some feedback – more healthy recipes? More desserts? Easier layout, search functions, etc? Let me know!

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you have a safe, healthy, happy, and prosperous 2011!