Banana Bread Delight

20131028-135859.jpgWhen I was little, my mom and I would spend our weekends at our family house in Michigan. There was a store down the road the sold the BEST banana bread ever. Seriously- I’d eat the entire loaf by the end of the day.   This is my favorite recipe for banana bread.  The best part is, banana bread is meant to be heavy so gluten free baking is a little easier. I suggest using your favorite gluten free flour and for stuff like this my “go-to” choice is Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend. Xanthan gum is already included so it’s one less step to worry about!

  • 2 cups gluten free flour blend
  • 4 overripe bananas
  • 1 ½  teaspoons baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Combine gluten free flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix well
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk bananas and sugar until you make a banana cream
  4. Add melted butter, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well
  5. Slowly mix in dry ingredients
  6. Gently fold in chopped pecans
  7. Spray loaf pan with oil or prepare with grease (I prefer the spray to save on calories)
  8. Bake for 90 minutes. When finished, the bread should be golden. Depending on your oven, you may need to rotate the loaf as well (I usually rotate it around 45 minutes)
  9. Allow bread to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan. It should cool completely before slicing.

If you’re looking for an extra treat, you can sprinkle powdered sugar on slices as well!


Pumpkin seeds

mailDid you know that pumpkin seeds are incredibly healthy? They are terrific sources of heart healthy magnesium, zinc, which is not only great for your immune system but great for your skin, and fiber.  I loved carving pumpkins as a kid (okay as an adult, too), but all too frequently we would toss the seeds into the garbage with the rest of the guts! I didn’t think that cleaning the seeds and roasting them would be worth all the effort when I could just go to the store and buy a bag.  I was wrong. Yeah, they take a bit of work to clean and then time to roast but OMG. Delicious.  They are now one of my favorite fall treats!

  1. Clean the seeds of any pumpkin guts! No orange on these babies!
  2. Boil for 10 minutes in salt water (1tsp salt). This extra step creates a crispy outer shell.
  3. Drain & dry.  I use a paper towel to pat the seeds. They stick to the towel, but you can pick them up with your fingers
  4. Season ‘em. Spread seeds on baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. You can cheat here and use a spray as well. I think it gets the job done easier and you end up using less oil (unless you get trigger happy!).  Sprinkle with sea salt .
  5. Roast ‘em. Place baking sheet in the oven at 300F for 15 minutes, then remove and shake/toss seeds and continue roasting for 10-15 more minutes. Be careful not to burn the seeds! They are done when they have a nice golden color!

Now if you want to try other yummy spices, complete the first two steps (boil, drain & dry). THEN roast at 300 for 15 minutes to dry them.  Toss seeds with olive oil, sea salt and spices, then return to oven and roast for 15-20 additional minutes until crispy/golden.

Spice suggestion:

  • brown sugar, chipotle powder, ground cumin
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • cinnamon & sugar (do not add salt!)



When to fake it…

Fake: adj “having a false or misleading appearance”

Come on everyone- we’ve all been there. At one time or another, all of us have wanted to be celiac free and not give as much thought to what we eat like we have been trained to do. We have all come to the point where we substitute our breads, pastas, cookies and pizzas with ease. We are all guilty of having that momentary excitement when we find one of our “old standbys” now have a gluten free version. I’ll admit it, I was pretty excited when I found that my local grocery store carried gluten free cupcakes on a regular basis- and they were tasty! When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease I was not underweight at all, in fact, when I went gluten free I managed to LOSE weight. Now as I learned to master the gluten free world the pounds starting to sneak back on- and on, and on.

I was a master of reading labels. I knew everything in my food to the point of obsession at times. However, while becoming the incredible gluten detecting machine I can be, I managed to overlook a vital part of food labels. Mainly calories, fat, and carbs- you know, the ones that fed my waistline to the point of being overweight. The scary part, though, is that this is pretty much the norm for most of the celiac community. Yikes! Time to get ourselves back in check!

First, I decided to start comparing gluten free versions to “real stuff.” Just a side note- when I approached a few gluten free friends, I was quickly shot down that GF versions are “real stuff” and I should get into the mind-frame of embracing my new GF world.  Please disregard the politically incorrect label of GF foods here as fake and those containing gluten as real. I love my “fake food” which is what my family came to call my GF foods at home and I’ve learned to roll with the punches. I’m pretty proud that most of the time, they can’t find the “fake food” at the table. Also, let’s be honest, we can generally tell when things are GF- they tend to be a bit more heavy so those fluffy/airy treats were like are hard to come up with a GF version! My gluten free donut doesn’t compare to a Krispy Kreme. My gluten free pizza crust will never be the same as my favorite dive pizzeria. The important thing for for me though is that it’s okay. I still love my gluten free donuts and my gluten free pizzas. I’m all for substituting gluten free versions when possible. Everyone has their own preferences. For myself, I will substitute gluten free pasta any day. In my opinion, it’s mostly the sauce that makes the pasta yummy. I have a favorite GF bread as well, but I don’t like using it for sandwiches. I’ve now started to LOVE making lettuce wraps for lunch. And as I mentioned- those gluten free cupcakes from my local grocery store are delicious. Actually, my favorite cupcakery in the city is their supplier! Double yum! (if you’re in Chicago- its Swirlz. Seriously. To. Die. For.)

Second, I needed to learn to navigate those food labels again. I had become so intent of finding the gluten on the label that I developed tunnel vision! The other difference that we all have to watch out for in gluten free food is right there! Gluten free food usually requires “a little extra” added to them to make up for their glutenless existence. Sometimes it can be extra butter or sugar for texture and/or flavor. You know what that means, right? Extra calories and fat. In fact, it’s well known that gluten free foods tend to be higher in calories and fat than their gluten containing counterparts. So this adds to my dilemma- to fake it or not? My own opinion is that most of the time, faking it just isn’t worth it the majority of the time. I’m going to stick with my bunless burgers, my lettuce wrap sandwiches, and I’ll probably skip the cookies most of the time, too. For me, I’d rather save my calories for something else- like those cupcakes!


Essentially yours

A few years ago I was introduced to essential oils by a friend of mine. Being a typical girl, I loved smelling the various fragrances and, as I’m sure most of you can relate, many of the scents triggered specific memories or feelings. Lavender has long been known to have a calming effect and is great for helping you relax. Citrus scents are great revitalizers- which is why it’s associated with summer scents/flavors! Eucalyptus (which is my absolute favorite) is great for that “clean feeling” and is often used to treat headaches, colds, and sinus congestion amongst other things. In homeopathic medicine as well as other non-western medical practices, aromatherapy is a well known and utilized tool. If you don’t believe me just think back to your childhood. If your mom was anything like mine, as soon as a cold started she would slather my chest with Vick’s Vapor Rub. What’s in that amazing little jar? Camphor, Eucalyptus oil, and menthol (amongst a few other things as well!).

One of my favorite things to do with my oils is to take a 4 oz spray bottle and fill it with water along with 25-30 drops of my favorite oil. Right now my spray bottle has lavender in it and I’ve sprayed it over the bed sheets/blankets for a calming feeling at night.

Another fun trick I have used is to take warm water with a few drops of oil and oak a few washcloths, ring them out, and put them in individual baggies. When I come home from the gym and need a quick pick me up, I can grab one from the refrigerator where I store them and hold it to my face for a few minutes and take some slow deep breaths. It works like a champ- between the cold and the aroma it’s heaven! (And in case you’re wondering- I use my orange citrus oil most of the time for the towels!)

I know a lot of people like to add the oils to the bathtub, but I’ve never had much luck with simply putting drops in the water. Oil doesn’t dilute in the water. Umm it’s oil. My best solution is to take Epsom salt and add a few drops of my favorite essential oil (usually 1cup salt to 20-25 drops of oil). I’ve been known to make 2 cups at a time and then store them in an airtight container. Mason jars work great for this! Then add 1/2 cup to the water (or more if you’re so inclined) and enjoy a nice warm bath for 20 minutes! It’s a great way to end your day! You can use epsom salts, sea salts, etc, but remember the larger the salt is, the longer it takes to dissolve. Plus, you have to stand on them to get in the tub and then sit on them. Do you want to sit on pebbles during a bath?!?! I think not!

bath salts/eucalyptus oilThere are a ton of different websites to learn about the benefits of different oils. I tend to use Aura Cacia most often. Their website is great and there’s an app for your smartphone as well! They even have an essential oil directory to help you get started!



Pumpkin pamperin’!

Pumpkin is full of vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc. Together, these help create gorgeous skin! Since I seem to be on a pumpkin kick lately, here is an awesome scrub to use to try to avoid that winter skin slump! 


Pumpkin Body Scrub (please note BODY, not FACIAL scrub)


  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

While in the shower (and its best to let your skin soften a bit so I usually do it after I wash my hair), apply scrub in a circular motion from your feet up to your arms! Rinse and pat dry with a towel, apply your favorite lotion to help hydrate your skin even more.



Pumpkin Spice Cupcake Heaven

untitledGiven that it is fall and pumpkins are super yummy, here is my favorite recipe for pumpkin cupcakes. Now I’m a huge fan of not reinventing the wheel. Betty Crocker makes a fabulous gluten free cake mix which I love to “fancy up” depending on the season! Why struggle with mixing different flours when you don’t have to!?!? Thanks Betty!

Pumpkin Spice Cake:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix (gluten free of course!)
  • 1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ tsp vanilla extract

If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice on hand you can mix up a batch of your own! This will make 7 tsp of pumpkin pie spice so you will have a bit left over to use later!

  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line pans with your favorite cupcake liners
  3. Mix together cake mix, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon and set aside
  4. In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, eggs, oil and vanilla extract until smooth
  5. Add cake mix/spice mixture slowly
  6. Fill cupcake liners to ¾ full and bake for 18-20 minutes. Keep a close eye on them though after 15 minutes to make sure they don’t burn!
  7. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting!

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened  (and no cheating with low fat versions here!)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1½  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 16 oz heavy whipping cream
  1. Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth
  2. Slowly add vanilla and continue to beat mixture
  3. Slowly add in heavy cream and continue to beat until stiff peaks begin to form
  4. Pipe onto cupcakes and enjoy!

Looking fabulous

Growing up I was a tomboy. I loved baseball, lived for fishing with my dad, and loved being outdoors. My mom tried her hardest to introduce me to Barbie dolls and all things pink! Granted, I did have a strawberry shortcake bedspread on my canopy bed, but I loved my He-Man figures more than my My Little Pony. However, it wasn’t long before I found my girly side. Eventually I lived for our trips to the drugstore to get new nailpolish or a face mask- all by the ripe old age of 12. Wrinkles beware!

Through the eyes of my teenage self, looking good meant people liking me. I was convinced that the prettier and skinnier you were, the more likeable you were- more friends, more popularity, more happiness.  I’d like to say that in my 20s I knew better. However, I think my 20’s were more of a learning experience in that regard. I learned how to appreciate my freckles. Actually, forget that. I LOVE my freckles. They are no longer the annoying polka dots on my body that my friends played connect the dots with in school. Instead, they represent so much fun that I had outdoors growing up. My grandfather once told me that I had freckles because God ran out of room in the sky for stars so He had to put them somewhere else.  I also learned to appreciate my curves. Yup. I’m not stick thin. Never have been, never will be. What I once thought were “thunder thighs” were actually strong muscular legs from running and playing volleyball. My hourglass figure is what men actually find attractive (thank you Sofia Vergara,  Christina Hendricks, and a multitude of other curvy ladies!). 

Now you might be wondering why this post belongs on a gluten free blog. Well, if you picked up in my last blog or two, I managed to ingest a small amount of gluten. Daily. For about 8 weeks. Doh.  One of the huge things I did notice was a change in my skin. It was dull, I was breaking out, my rashes started getting worse (eczema and psoriasis), and I was generally just well… exhausted.  Of course gluten does not cause acne. It does not change your color of your skin, cause bags under your eyes, or cause you to look like you just rolled out of bed in the middle of the afternoon.  However, it does cause you to sleep poorly (damn cramping), put more stress on your body, and your diet pretty well is shot because you’re not absorbing important things! One of the first things I did once realizing my mishap with gluten was get a mani/pedi.  Next, I started giving myself a few extra minutes at night for a facial. Did it cure my celiac? No. But it did help my skin heal from its glutenous battle. And I can admit it now. I’m vain. Looking good makes me feel good.  It’s so important that we realize that celiac disease has its emotional aspect as well. No one wants to feel sick constantly. It’s exhausting. So when you’re having a “celiac moment” (regardless if it’s for a few weeks like my silly slip or if it is a one time mishap) make sure you pamper yourself! It’s the best way to get back to feeling fabulous!


Trick or Treat!

When I was growing up, Halloween was one of my FAVORITE times of year. Come on! You get to dress up in a cool costume and get candy from your neighbors? That’s a pretty sweet deal!  After my cousins and I would finish going door to door, we would dump all of our candy out into piles and start trading for our favorites.  For a kid, that was amazing!

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve gone trick or treating and I don’t have any kids of my own, but my heart breaks for kids with food allergies. I know how scary it must be for their moms and dads as well. I try to give the best advice I can to my own patients- let kids be kids. Do NOT prevent them from trick or treating. Do NOT take all of their candy away (unless of course they come home with an obscene amount- then donate it to a shelter or food pantry). My recommendation for dealing with food allergies actually falls back on my childhood memories- candy trading. Okay stop laughing, I’m serious. Pick up a bag or two of gluten free snacks your kids love and start trading with them. Offer a pack of m&m’s for their kitkat bars, etc.

There are studies that show children with food allergies can sometimes be alienated from their peers.   So check out this list provided by the Celiac Disease Foundation and get your kids out there!

Happy Halloween!


Perfectly Imperfect

Anyone with celiac can relate to the awful moment when some gluten has managed to get past their lips. For me, those have always included being pretty angry and disappointed in myself. I would think: I’m never going to figure out this diet. I don’t want to go out to eat anymore. I don’t trust anyone with preparing my food except myself and, honestly, sometimes I didn’t even trust myself. After about 5 years of the diet I think I have finally gotten the hang of it. While I know its bad to cheat on the GFD, I will be honest and say I have done it in the past. Is it worth it? Nope. Seriously- the food wasn’t as good as I thought it would be and I would be sick for days! Plus, there’s always the long term consequences associated with NOT following the GFD! I don’t know about you, but infertility, osteoporosis and CANCER do not sound like a great trade off for that pizza or cookie! 

So for the first few months I would CONSTANTLY beat myself up about my mistakes. It made the processes pretty miserable for myself. I now know much better and give myself some slack. When I talk to people who are new to the diet, I try to warn them that mistakes are bound to happen. It’s a part of life and you just need to quickly identify your source and get rid of it. I can’t tell you how many times I have taken everything out of my refrigerator or my cabinets and gone over every label. EVERY SINGLE LABEL. It may sound like an overkill, but hey, sometimes the ingredients change! 

About 6 weeks ago I started to have trouble sleeping. I was increasingly fatigued and had various joint and muscle aches. I’m one to end up with mouth sore with my “flares” and I ended up with a few of them on and off over the past few weeks. My personal life had been pretty damn stressful lately so I pretty well attributed it all to stress. That is until the cramping and stomach pains kicked in. Apparently, after 5 years of the diet, things still manage to slip past me. I had changed my kcups for my keurig and apparently not realized that one brand “contains trace amount of wheat.” One or two k-cups each week had not done too much damage but it was a whole different story when I started having them daily, then twice each day, and finally 3-4 times each day! Oh come on! The more tired I was, the more coffee I would drink! Now I know there are concerns out there about coffee in general being a source of gluten and let me tell you that is FALSE! In fact, most (almost all) are gluten free! It’s the fancy-shmacy flavored ones you need to double and triple check! (In case you’re wondering, I was pounding cafe escapes french vanilla cafe au lait)

The reason I decided to take a moment and post this is because I’m sure there are many other celiacs out there that have had to deal with accidental ingestion. It’s frustrating, but it happens to the best of us! None of us are perfect no matter how hard we try.  


Bottoms up!

So after a pretty rough week at work (okay it’s technically only Wednesday but it’s been a REALLY rough week) it is safe to say that I’m already looking forward to going home tonight an enjoying an adult beverage. Or two. Maybe three.   During my BCD (before celiac disease) days, I never gave much thought to going out with friends and ordering a drink. However, thanks to Mr. Gluten, I had to do a little extra thinking, read a few (okay tons) of labels, and ask the bartenders way too many questions for their liking. When I was first diagnosed, the gluten-free world was a little narrower, less defined, and definitely less user-friendly. My go-to drink had always been a half and half (Guinness/Harp for those not familiar with lager) but suddenly it was no longer an option.  I was never a big mixed drink kind of girl so needless to say I was a bit frustrated.  Thanks to some awesome friends, I was introduced to the world of gluten free beer.  I don’t want to sound too judgmental here, but let’s just say it was a world I wasn’t too crazy about.  New Grist, Bards, and Redbridge were the three that were most readily available and they just weren’t doing it for me. Now I wouldn’t say that they were bad, in fact, I would occasionally pick up a six pack.  They just weren’t for me. (Though Redbridge is a surprisingly good lager, but again, you have to like lagers to appreciate this!)  I know, what you’re thinking. Yeah there are plenty of delicious fruity drinks mixed drinks that I could try, and I did. Most were fabulous just like me, but let’s face it, I’m a Midwestern girl.  Holding a vodka soda during a football game just won’t do!  Oddly enough, Irish pubs though were always a great option for finding a suitable substitute- cider! I’m not talking about the apple cider you drank as a kid. I’m talking about the grown up version- hard apple cider.

Over the past two years, I have noticed an increase in different brands on the market. It has become my go-to-drink when I’m out with friends since most places have at least one cider on their drink list.  Woodchuck is one of my favorites. There are PLENTY of different flavors to choose from, including raspberry and pear. Of course they also make seasonal blends and, since its fall, PUMPKIN! I know it sounds *interesting* but it’s actually pretty tasty.  Another fabulous brand is Angry Orchard.  They also have different flavors including crisp apple, traditional dry, green apple, and apple ginger. Likewise, they have seasonal blends too! So this fall, if Woodchuck’s pumpkin doesn’t do it for ya, try Angry Orchard’s Cinnful Apple!  

In case you’re wondering, this weekend while I’m cheering on my Chicago Bears, I’ll be enjoying my favorite cider- Angry Orchard Crisp Apple. Yum!  Bottoms up!