Olive Salad

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Olive Salad

I don’t know about you, but fresh salads in the summer are one of my favorite things. Now just because it isn’t that time of year just yet, doesn’t mean I have to live off of “comfy” foods that are usually associated with winter. This salad is super easy to prepare and a favorite of my family. If you’re having a party, the recipe can easily be doubled. Also, I usually slice the olives or even prepare the olive mixture a day before to save myself some time if I’m making a larger salad. It may seem like an unnecessary step, but it really does save time when you’re trying to get ready for a party!  Just do not slice the tomatoes ahead of time as they don’t hold up as well!

 

  • 1 cup pitted green and black olives, halved (or one can of each)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp mince garlic
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 tomatoes
  1. Place balsamic vinegar (or vinaigrette if you don’t want it quite as strong) in a small saucepan over low heat and allow it to reduce by half.
  2. Allow vinegar to cool to room temperature.
  3. Slice olives in half lengthwise.
  4. Combine olives, parsley, capers, garlic, basil, and pepper in a large bowl.
  5. Pour olive oil over olive mixture and toss to coat well.
  6. Slice tomatoes and place on plate, slightly overlapping.
  7. Spoon olive mixture over the tomatoes and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar
  8. Serve immediately

 

 

Gluten Free Kitchen Basics

Gluten Free KitchenOne of the biggest challenges and yet by far the best plan for those with celiac disease is keeping a gluten free kitchen. When I lived alone this was not a big deal at all. After my diagnosis I took EVERYTHING out of my cabinets and the refrigerator and did a major overhaul.  I made sure EVERY crumb was picked up when I dusted and wiped the cabinets down as well as when I scrubbed the refrigerator. Who knows what that spill may have been!?!? It took an entire day but it was definitely worth the effort. I gave a ton of food to my parents and then filled my house with only gluten free food. I didn’t have to worry about reading labels once it landed in my cabinet.  It was my safe zone and I loved it.

Then it happened. I had a “serious” boyfriend. He was always over and had a love for snacks. He tried some gluten free cookies and would eat the pasta I would cook, but one day asked if he could leave some of his favorite snacks at my house- pretzels, cookies, etc. So we came up with a great solution, the basket on one of my shelves became the “gluten zone.” Anything containing gluten went into that container. Eventually my boyfriend spent more and more time at my place and that container had to become a small cabinet. No biggie. I just stayed away from there. It worked out great because it was a part of a small island and that became the area he would prepare gluten containing foods as well. It worked great! When we had friends over, all of the gluten food would go there and my counter space was still a gluten free zone. Woohoo!

Gluten free KitchenWell then he moved in. Damn. I had to share my refrigerator. And pots. And Pans. And well- everything. My fear of cross contamination had become my nightmare. My gluten-loving-Italian boyfriend (now fiancé) ruined my system. For the first month had not been so bad. Unfortunately, after that we both became a bit too comfortable and I spent 4 months miserable. We couldn’t figure out what the source until I decided to do another major overhaul of my kitchen. There were breadcrumbs in the butter.  My lettuce managed to get crumbs from his fried chicken (no joke… apparently men don’t cover food, they just toss things in the refrigerator).  It was chaos. Our solution was to go back to label EVERYTHING. Not only was it great for him to remind him of what he had to be careful with, but it was great for our guests as well!

 

 

Here are some of the helpful tips we tried and have really helped:

  1. Label. Label. Label. I purchased “gluten free” labels online and went crazy. Yes you can make them yourself, but these are really cute. I’m sorry. I’m a girl- the prettier the better. Plus, they don’t come off easily and they have even lasted in the dishwasher! Everything in my refrigerator that was gluten free was labeled and placed on a gluten free shelf.
  2. Label condiments and buy two when needed! We have two butter containers and one is labeled gluten free. The reason for doing this is to keep his gluten containing crumbs out of mine! This is especially helpful on those frequently used items!  I put one label on the container itself and one on the lid as well. Not only does this help with quick identification, but it keeps us from mixing them up and putting the wrong lid on the gluten free container. If you put them just on the lids, be careful! If you take the lids off of both the gluten free and gluten containing item you may inadvertently mix them up!
  3. Keep gluten free items on higher shelves. Just in case something spills or isn’t covered adequately, gluten won’t accidentally fall into your gluten free food!
  4. Dedicate a gluten free prep area. No gluten comes into this space. Ever. That being said, I would still wipe it down before cooking just to make sure no crumbs have fallen anywhere. My countertops are gluten free areas but I always wipe them down with a sponge before cooking
  5. That brings us to a gluten free sponge. Yes I have a dishwasher, but I tend to wipe down dishes/pans/etc before putting them in there so I have a gluten free sponge. Sponges can sometimes trap crumbs in the little holes. Your safest bet is to use two separate sponges. Some people color code them so you can remember but we also have a “sponge holder” next to the sink that is labeled gluten free.
  6. Get a second toaster. Crumbs fall and the slots are contaminated if you use gluten free and gluten containing bread in the same toaster. Be safe, get two. We have a tag hanging on the gluten free one as well so no one accidentally grabs the wrong one!
  7. We cook a lot of pasta so we have two colanders (strainers) as well. Those things can be pretty hard to clean with all of the holes so save some time and aggravation and invest in two! Do the same as the toaster and place a tag on it if you can so you know which ones I gluten free!
  8. Invest in a second cutting board. It’s possible to get small amounts of gluten stuck in the “cuts” on the board. They can be hard to remove so I always recommend using two separate cutting boards. Wiping them down does not always do a good enough job.
  9. Using separate baking/cooking equipment. We have designated gluten free pots/pans that are labeled.  It is the same thought process as the cutting board, sometimes things get trapped in small crevices, especially if they are coated pans!
  10. Educate your family. This is especially important when dealing with kids. If you’re living with a gluten free child, those labels make life so much easier for them! They already know what is safe and what isn’t. You may think that you don’t have to worry as much since you are their primary caregiver, but what happens when you’re not home? Grandparents may not be as familiar with their gluten free diet and babysitters may be clueless! This is okay though if things are labeled. They can easily find a snack or meal for them without causing alarm!
  11. Use placemats or at the very least avoid a table cloth. I know it sounds dumb, but using a table cloth can lead to trapped crumbs around your eating area. Unless you are okay with constantly washing it, you may want to skip it if you live with others that are not gluten free. However, if you love your tablecloths, the solution is to use a placemat when eating. This way your area is nice and clean!

Celiac basics for patients & those that love us

So what IS celiac disease?

This is a question I answer all too frequently. Usually someone will interject that it is a food allergy. No, it isn’t. I’m not allergic in the same way that someone is allergic to bees or peanuts.  Celiac disease is considered to be an autoimmune disorder. Our small intestine normally has villi, small fingerlike projections that stick inward helping our body absorb what we eat. In celiac disease, our body begins to attack these villi, destroying them. Without these projections, we cannot absorb nutrients well. Untreated, celiac disease can lead to osteoporosis, infertility, and even cancer.  The tricky thing with celiac disease is that not everyone’s symptoms are the same. Yes, of course, there are the most common symptoms of abdominal cramping and diarrhea, but that does not mean every celiac patient has those symptoms!

Now you may have heard of gluten insensitivity and wheat allergies. They are not the same. However, celiac disease(CD), non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and wheat allergies all fall under the same umbrella term of “gluten intolerance.” The end result is the same- avoid gluten because it is doing some form of damage, however, the mechanism of damage is different for each. You may wonder “what difference does it make?” Well, ultimately it doesn’t when you are considering treatment- the gluten free diet is ideal for all three. However, the genetics of celiac disease and the associated illnesses apply to CELIAC DISEASE. This makes a huge difference when we are looking at long term prognosis and symptoms as well as what it means for our families due to genetics.

If you’re reading this blog, you either 1) have celiac disease, 2) love someone with celiac disease, 3) love the gluten free diet, or 4) are learning about celiac disease for other random purposes.  This post is directed to those who love us. If you have celiac disease- you get it. You know what happens. If you don’t have celiac disease, you have to work really hard to understand and learn “the rules.”  Trust me, my fiancé took a while to figure out what it would be like to date someone with celiac disease and 3 years later, he’s still learning. It can be daunting, but it’s doable! I’m going to try to keep this pretty straightforward so consider it your celiac disease 101. Eventually you’ll move up to the next course!

What happens if you eat gluten?

Well, like I said, everyone is different. It can range from abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, constipation, fatigue, etc. (here’s a list!)  Most commonly, your loved one will end up with abdominal cramps and diarrhea. It’s not pleasant. It can last a few hours, or a few days. Plus, its embarassing. I don’t want to tell anyone that I have diarrhea constantly- and they don’t want to hear about it either. Some people end up with rashes including dermatitis herpetiformis, psoriasis, eczema, and even with oral ulcers. This makes for very unhappy people!

What is the hardest part of the gluten free diet?

Oddly enough, at this point, I don’t think the diet is too hard. For ME, when I’m in control. See? There’s the catch.  I feel safe in my bubble, but we can’t all live in a bubble now can we? Now for me to give that control over to someone at a restaurant or, even more worse- at their own house, is pretty daunting. I’m usually confident that if the chef/waitress understand “gluten free” that they will be able to figure out what I can/cannot eat, especially if they are able to come up with substitutions without hesitating. My friends? Well, they are well meaning, but more often than not, unreliable. My close friends and family will usually run over the list of ingredients with me, but I feel bad sometimes asking people to securitize their labels.  This is usually when I’m just getting to know someone or I’m a guest of someone I’ve never really met.  That being said, I usually get over it pretty quickly though because I’m not willing to suffer for their benefit. (Okay unless it was my niece that tried really hard to share her birthday cake with me by removing all of the cake and giving me just frosting- full of cake crumbs. Yeah, I ate a bite. But she’s beyond adorable and how could I tell a 6 year old she didn’t do it right?)

Cross contamination is a real concern. I love my friends and family but sometimes they don’t get it either so don’t feel too bad. Gluten can hide in lots of places, you can’t just wipe off a pan used for gluten containing food and cook something gluten free. Same with the barbeque grill. In my house, we line everything with foil or parchment paper. This saves a ton of time worrying and aggravation when I realize something isn’t right just a little too late. I used to have a completely gluten free household, but since my fiancé moved in, cross contamination has become an issue.

Other than food, what else contains gluten?

Makeup, lotion, lipstick, shampoo, soaps, you name it. The list is long, and it’s hidden in a lot of different things. You don’t have to master it all. I usually recommend picking a few different things in each category.  Here’s a list of a few gluten free lotions. Are there more? Absolutely! But please don’t overwhelm yourself. I recommend my patient’s and families find a few go to items in each category. Once you’re comfortable, feel free to add to your own list, but remember to check ingredients with the companies because they can change without warning. Going gluten free isn’t just about sticking to a diet. It’s a lifestyle.

What can other’s do to keep celiacs safe?

It’s simple. Avoid cross contamination. Don’t eat off my plate with your fork if you’re eating gluten containing pasta. Can we share? Sure! Get a second set of silverware just for that when you’re out to eat! Don’t mess up my refrigerator. Seriously.  My fiancé would occasionally leave uncovered fried chicken on the top shelf and crumbs would tumble down onto other things. So ours is labeled carefully and he has specific places he can place food in there. Also, everything is labeled.  We buy condiments in 2’s. One is his, one is gluten free.  For example, we have two identical butter containers, one is his and one is mine. Mine is labeled and on a separate shelf. Anyone that is gluten free can use mine, otherwise, they have to use his.  I don’t want to worry about crumbs!

If you’re still worried or have questions- just ask! Trust me, I would rather have someone ask too many questions about what I can/cannot have than just assume something and put me at risk.  If you’re trying to learn about celiac disease because someone you love has it, there are plenty of resources out there! If you’re having trouble finding answers- shoot me a message and, hopefully, I can point you in the right direction!

Hope this helps get you started!

xoxo

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!)

Enjoy!

xoxo

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!

xoxo

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!

xoxo

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) http://www.keurig.com/customer-service/k-cups-and-beverages-support/frequently-asked-questions

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.  

xoxo

National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

imagesDid you know that October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month? Did you also know that children with Down Syndrome are more likely to develop celiac disease than other children? According to some studies, the number can be as high as 10%, compared to 0.7% of the general population. That’s a huge deal!  Children (and adults) with Down Syndome are at a higher risk of autoimmune disorders, the two most common being hypothyroid disease and celiac disease. In autoimmune diseases, your body gets its signals crossed and takes its aggravation out on itself. Yup- your body basically attacks, well- your body. In celiac disease, antibodies are made when we ingest gluten. They then turn and begin attacking the small intestine and prevent our bodies from absorbing important nutrients.  The only way to prevent this from happening is by following the gluten free diet.

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Now, while celiac disease is definitely addressed more frequently now by doctors, it may not be one of the first things they think about in their patients with Down Syndrome.  My point? Well, sometimes parents need to be their children’s advocate, even with their pediatrician. So, if you’re concerned that your child may have signs or symptoms of celiac disease, bring it up at your next appointment! You may be right.