Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Healing Process, and My Own Journey

 

Yes, those are Lego Hobbits. In a wheat field. Hopefully it’ll make sense in a moment.

Those who know me know that I’ve followed a gluten-free for over 4 years. I’ve been dairy-free for over three. I’ve also followed many other diets involving elimination of foods. (Paleo. Anti-candida diet. High-raw/plant-based. Low-FODMAPs. I even went through allergy testing and removed those “potential allergens” for a while.) I struggled with digestive issues before this time and during this time. It seemed I could not find relief, no matter how strict I was, no matter what I eliminated. Those who have similar stories can empathize, but needless to say, it was exhausting. There were many, many days I wanted to just throw my hands up and give up entirely.

What I didn’t know was, for me personally, this process of restriction caused more issues than it solved. Wanting to be healthy caused me to be anxious about everything I put into my mouth. I demonized foods. I ended up many times not eating enough to support my activity levels or allow my body to heal itself. I began to fall out of love with cooking, which was the whole reason for my starting this blog over 5 years ago.

However, starting about 5 months ago, I began to turn a corner. I have been on a personal journey towards understanding that perhaps what I’d been doing wasn’t helping my healing process. In short, I’m now eating enough food to heal my body and my metabolism, and I’ve been incorporating a wider and more varied amount of foods. I’m also learning to chill out about my food choices. As I’ve gone through this process, my body has thanked me by rapidly improving my digestion and my general well-being. I have more energy and better digestion than I’ve had in many years.

But here’s where the (potentially) unpopular stance begins. A wider variety of foods in my diet means that I’ve incorporated grains. Sugar. Some beans. Occasional treats that I would have never ever allowed myself before, like a small piece of candy. In the past few months, I’ve reintroduced dairy into my diet. (Attempts to do this in my past have always failed.) And most recently, I’ve begun testing gluten as well.

Full disclosure: I do not have celiac disease. I don’t even carry the genes for celiac disease. I never received any positive diagnosis for gluten issues, in spite of varied tests I’ve had conducted over the years. Going gluten-free for me was a move that was spawned because of family members with celiac disease and gluten issues. I was hoping it would solve all my troubles. I seemed to get better in some ways, but in others, like my digestion, I didn’t.

However, for years now, getting even the smallest amount of gluten caused me to react. My reactions weren’t extreme – not to the level that my family members experienced, for instance – but I still noticed I had trouble with it. But now that I’ve had several straight months of improved digestion, my trials have been successful. I feel fine. No brain fog. No heartburn. No diarrhea or constipation. It would seem I have no real issue digesting it. (Mind you, I haven’t gone full-out and had a gluten feast. I don’t intend to, truthfully. I’m increasing amounts as I go through my trial, but as I mentioned before – I am someone who enjoys a varied, healthy diet, and a diet heavy in gluten, or any single thing, isn’t all that varied or healthy.)

So it may be that my future path is one where I am not 100% gluten-free or dairy-free. Where I don’t have to restrict any food in order for me to be healthy. What does this mean?

For me personally, it means I’m feeling healthier than ever. I’m less anxious about food (and in general), and my body is responding positively. I’m falling back in love with cooking and with food. I have more energy. I’ve researched, and I’ve listened to my body. I truly believe this is the best path for me at this moment in time.

As for this blog, there will continue to be plenty of gluten-free and dairy-free options. After all, this is how I eat most of the time anyway. I eat a healthy diet based in whole foods. It’s how my body works best. I love that my gluten-free journey has taught me that there are dozens of different flours I can use for baking, many of which are gluten-free. Also, I love sharing delicious recipes, and I wholeheartedly believe that gluten-free living doesn’t mean you should sacrifice on taste. You will continue to see recipes for both healthy, gluten-free foods and gluten-free treats. And even healthy gluten-free treats.

I’ll still continue to fully support the gluten-free community. After all, I know many people suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerance. It’s a shock to deal with the drastic changes associated with removing gluten from your diet. I know that support is one of the greatest gifts someone who is dealing with this transition or living the gluten-free lifestyle can receive. There needs to be increased awareness of celiac disease as well. I have always been a huge supporter and will continue to do what I can to be there for the gluten-free community.

And of course, I am not promoting that you or anyone else eat gluten or dairy, simply because I choose to do so. If you have celiac disease – there are many, many studies out there that state that even small amounts of gluten can cause continued damage. But even if you don’t have celiac disease, and gluten makes you feel ill, then by all means, don’t eat it. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, and I don’t wish to prescribe that any person do/not do something for their health. It’s not my place, and it’s not my goal.

My mission here is to support those that need support, with as much information as I can find. I’m also here to share my passion for tasty, nutritious food, and occasionally, cookies. ‘Cause everything is better with cookies.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Review and Giveaway: Against All Grain by Danielle Walker

UPDATE: This giveaway has ended. The winner is Donna F. Congrats, Donna! If you didn’t win, but wish to get a copy of this book, here are some ways you can purchase your copy!

Last fall, Danielle of Against All Grain contacted me, asking if I’d help her out while she was writing her new book. I’d followed her blog for some time (okay, it was more like ogling all of her gorgeous photos and tasty-looking recipes), so I was more than happy to help. Along with a ton of other bloggers, I wrote a guest post for her. It was small potatoes compared to what she was putting together. This book was bound to be epic.

And now, almost a year later, Danielle has realized her dream. Her book was released on July 30th in the United States, and she’s been touring all around the country, busy with book signings and all sorts of appearances. While I can’t possibly imagine how insane that must be (although seeing her frequent Instagram posts gives you an idea), I can imagine how tasty the recipes she has created just by browsing through this book.

Of course, after making some of them, I no longer even have to imagine. For instance – her Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies (page 258). They’re grain-free, but still that lovely, slightly soft texture with a perfect level of sweetness. Excellent for tucking into a lunchbox for a treat.

And then there are her Fruit Juice Gelatin Shapes (page 214). These were possibly one of my favorites. They’re easy, and they’re a great way to get a bit of gelatin into your daily life (or into your kids). In fact, I’ve been making them on a weekly basis – sometimes with all juice, and sometimes with a mix of herbal tea and juice. I love them as a quick pre-workout snack when it’s too early for me to manage much more to eat.

Danielle has shared many more amazing-looking recipes in this book: Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Seafood, Chorizo, and Chicken Paella, and N’Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, just to name a few. And of course, all of the photos are simply gorgeous.

Want to win a copy of Against All Grain by Danielle Walker? This week, I’ll be giving away one copy to a lucky winner!

How to enter:

This giveaway is open to anyone 18 years of age and over, and a resident of US or Canada.

This giveaway will end on Saturday, September 21, at 11:59pm CT.

Best of luck to you all!

Benefits of Gelatin

During my journey towards healing my digestion, I’ve tried many things. Lots of supplements. Tons of various elimination diets. Truthfully, the biggest factors that contributed to my healing were time and patience (the latter of which I admit, I am often lacking). However, I did find a few things seemed to soothe and help more than others. One of the foods that seemed to make the biggest impact was gelatin. A healing bone broth does wonders when your digestion is impaired.

I figured it was high time I share a bit more about what’s actually helped during my healing process. After all, why keep these oh-so-important tips to myself?

So today, over at The Balanced Platter, I’m sharing 5 Benefits of Gelatin. Head on over and check it out!

Gluten-Free on a Budget: LIVE CHAT Thursday, Aug 29 @ 8PM Eastern

Gluten-free living doesn’t have to be expensive! Join us on Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 8PM Eastern over at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community to discuss ways to save money while eating gluten-free. To sweeten the savings, we’ll be giving away several prize packs of Udi’s Gluten-Free goodies as well!

Hope to see you there!

Newly Gluten-Free? LIVE CHAT – Tuesday, July 30, 2013 – 8PM Eastern

Are you new to a gluten-free diet? At a loss on how to begin? Or are you a seasoned veteran, and have some valuable tips to share? Join me next Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 8PM Eastern (7PM Central) for a free LIVE CHAT over at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community. We will be sharing tips on how to navigate the gluten-free diet. There will also be gluten-free treats given away as prizes, courtesy of Udi’s. I hope to see you there!

Review: Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes That Respect The Whole Hog

When Stacy and Matt of Paleo Parents contacted me about their latest book Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes That Respect The Whole Hog, I was excited. I’d already reviewed their first book, Eat Like A Dinosaur, and loved it. Stacey and Matt definitely take the time to really understand their stuff, and it shows. So for a while now, I’ve been chomping at the bit to see their newest creation, especially after following them on Instagram. They kept sharing amazing photos of their recipe testing. It was torturous, and yet exciting at the same time. I knew well in advance, for example, that there were some recipes in this book I would just HAVE to try. Head cheese. Porcetta. I mean, how could you not just already be in love?

Well the book arrived, and unfortunately, I was down to nearly nothing as far as my pork “stash” was concerned. I had purchased a quarter of a pig earlier in the year, and it was so tasty that we went through it all too quickly. All that was left was a package of pork chops. Don’t worry – I’ve placed another order with the farmer (who really isn’t more than a kid – he’s just graduated high school and is raising pastured pigs to help fund for college.) and will get it in September. At that time, you better believe that head cheese will be made. But in an effort to share the wonder that is this book with you in a more timely manner, I opted to go with the pork I had – some beautiful pastured bone-in chops.

 I opted to go for their Perfect Pork Chops, which were super-easy and not all that unlike my recipe for Perfect Lamb Chops. I love the way chops taste when cooked in a cast iron skillet, with their slightly crispy little bits and edges, the depth of flavor added by the browning, and the juiciness of the meat. I love that this is another simple, foolproof way to prepare them. With a bit of garlic and paprika and a nice little visit in my pan, these babies were full of flavor. Perfect was indeed the “perfect” name for them.

I can’t wait to make more from this book. I have some lard in my freezer that’s just waiting to be rendered (yep, they teach you how to do that too!) and then I’ll be making desserts. With lard. Pork knows no bounds, I tell you.

You can purchase a copy of Beyond Bacon either for Kindle or a hardcover. I have the hardcover copy, and it’s a truly gorgeous book. One that will grace my bookshelf (when it’s not on my kitchen counter) for years to come.

LIVE CHAT: Monday, July 1, 8PM ET – Gluten-Free Summer Travel

How do you navigate a gluten-free diet when traveling? Bring your own snacks? Find gluten-free restaurants along the way? Whether you’re a seasoned traveler, or a gluten-free newbie, this free LIVE CHAT over at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community is a great opportunity to share ideas and learn more about how to successfully handle a gluten-free diet while on the go. Tune in by visiting Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community next Monday, July 1, at 8PM Eastern to join us! There will be prizes given away, courtesy of Udi’s.

LIVE CHAT: Wednesday, June 5 – 8PM Eastern – Summer BBQs and Parties, Sans Gluten

As summer ramps up, we will be hosting or attending a lot of parties and barbecues. Chances are, gluten will be lurking in all sorts of places. I will be co-hosting a Live Chat at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at 8PM Eastern time to discuss how to navigate the summer parties successfully while on a gluten-free diet. Join us - it’s free, and there will be prizes, courtesy of Udi’s, including their gluten-free hot dog buns, hamburger buns, chocolate chip cookies, loaves of sandwich bread and vanilla muffins! Hope to see you there!

Meet My New Kitchen

Okay, so here goes. Our kitchen remodel. We didn’t have a huge budget, and we didn’t want to do anything drastic. Just wanted some updating, and anything we could do to make it feel more luxurious, clean, bright, and open. I have a small, galley-style kitchen, so anything that could be done to make it feel more spacious is a plus. All I really knew going into this was that I wanted granite countertops. But after some consulting, we opted to paint the cabinets, replace the countertops (adding a bar area, which I’ll show in a bit), and install a backsplash. There will be more renovations in the future (I want a new light fixture, for instance), but the majority of the work is complete. So without further adieu, here we go!

THE BEFORE PICTURES:  

As I mentioned before, the kitchen is galley style. The cabinets were a warm oak stain (which goes with NOTHING in the house – most everything I have is either black, dark, or cherry stain), and the countertops were a cream-colored laminate – something I strongly dislike for the sheer fact that I was constantly having to apply bleach because I’d stain it with things like turmeric or beet juice. Here is the side of the kitchen with the stove.

And if you turn around 180 degrees, you’ll see the side with the sink, dishwasher, and an open ledge area that opens into our living room. That ledge was kind of annoying. It wasn’t wide enough to be considered a bar, so we couldn’t sit and eat there. It basically was just a good place to stash stuff. I typically had a few baskets of vegetables, plus other random things that somehow didn’t have a home. It collected clutter. I hate clutter.

Here it is from the other end. See, not a lot of space. That’s my huge spice rack in the foreground, and yep, that’s a moving doggie butt at the bottom left. Also at the other end of the kitchen is our breakfast table, covered in stuff (I’d just removed everything from all of the cabinets, so other parts of the house were starting to look like an episode of Hoarders). Please ignore the mess.

This is the view standing in the living room, looking into the kitchen. Again, there’s the weird, mostly useless ledge. And an ugly light fixture that we’ll someday replace. THE AFTER:

 All in all, this transformation took about a week. Which was AWESOME – I feel for all you people that spend months out of your kitchen. I am not sure I could manage. We emptied the kitchen on a Wednesday night. Thursday, they primed the cabinets. Friday, they painted. The following Tuesday, they installed the countertops (and that night, hubby installed the faucet, and we installed the new garbage disposal), and Wednesday they installed the backsplash. I did some paint touchup Thursday, and put everything back into the cabinets. It was a whirlwind affair, and I couldn’t be happier. Here it is:

Here is the stove side again. The cabinets are painted a Hazelnut Cream. The countertops are Ubatuba, which is a dark green granite. It really looks black, but I loved the subtle differences in colors. The backsplash is a mosaic mixture of glass and natural stone tiles.

Here’s the opposite side again. Notice the fancy new faucet, and the deeper sink? I am in love. The faucet has a pull-out sprayer, and I can fit the deepest pots and even my Vitamix blender in the sink without difficulty. I also feel like there’s more space (which is crazy). And oh, that backsplash. Love it. Also, you can see that we replaced the funky ledge with a bar.

Another view, this one from the living room looking in. There’s that bar we longed for. No longer is the ledge a semi-useless thing. We now have a decent-sized slab of granite on top, and can pull up a few barstools. People can actually sit there. We’ve since gotten rid of the barstools in this photo and replaced them with these, which take up less space and look sleeker, in my opinion. It’s a win for sure.

Overall, as I’ve expressed already, I couldn’t be happier. After all, I spend most of my “at home” time (well, the time I’m not sleeping) in the kitchen. We wanted it to be a beautiful space, and it is. It also feels cleaner and brighter, and I love that the counters wipe down so easily. There will still be some tweaks and improvements here and there, I’m sure, but the hard work is done.

So, there it is! What do you think? Have you ever gone through a kitchen remodel? Tell your stories!

LIVE CHAT: Raising Gluten-Free Children – Wednesday, May 8, 2013 @ 8PM ET

Just a quick note to make you all aware that I will be co-hosting a Live Chat over at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community next Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 8PM Eastern Time. We will be discussing how to deal with a gluten-free diet when it comes to raising children. Whether you’re a newbie to this gluten-free world or a pro, or somewhere in between, you are welcome to join us. It’s completely free, and there will even be prizes, courtesy of Udi’s Gluten-Free Foods.

Come join us by visiting this link on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 8PM ET. Hope to see you there!