May Contain Gluten…

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This picture of my gfbff Ari perfectly encapsulates how I often feel at the grocery store when finding out naturally gluten-free products may contain gluten!

A term I have grown to hate is “may contain gluten”. Why do these plain whole almonds maybe contain gluten? I understand the argument for cross contamination but the label makes me nervous. While companies are trying to cover their liability by saying may contain it reminds me way too much of the cheapest possible boxed wine I drank many times while backpacking in Australia in my early 20s. After drinking it throughout our travels we realized it may contain milk, fish and eggs! Bottom line those of us with celiac disease should avoid “may contain foods” but it is nevertheless annoying to have to avoid “safe” foods because of possible contamination in processing.

This post a little bit of a rant but it is something that I see almost everyday and as someone who loves to eat it haunts many of my meals and grocery store outings. I will take this as a sign it’s time to eat even healthier this year, cooking more at home and going to that second store to find that cayenne pepper that is marked gluten-free. It’s extra work, but feeling well is worth it. By bringing light to this and voicing our concern to companies we can make them better aware of the importance of avoiding cross-contamination and creating truly gluten-free and allergen-free products.

Do you ever eat products that should be gluten-free but state that they may contain gluten on the label?

To all those new to the gluten-free world: You can do it!

Happy and healthy in the kitchen

Happy and healthy in the kitchen

Taking on a strict gluten-free diet can be scary and this fear can keep us from our ultimate health. For the first few years of my diagnosis while I was in my early 20s I was overwhelmed by the idea of being 100% gluten-free. It was too hard. Too time consuming. Too confusing. Too isolating. Too restricting. Too much missing out on good stuff! It wasn’t until I continued to be sick and learn more that I realized enough was enough. My illness was real, I was slowly seriously damaging my body and I needed to take care of my self because no one else would.

Talking to a friend of a friend today and motivating her to take the steps to start a gluten-free diet to treat her health problems and get tested for celiac disease reminded me of all those fears from years ago. Fear is normal but focusing on your health and little steps will get you through it.

My tips on how to start a gluten-free diet  and deal with the fear of the unknown (for those who need to be strict in their diet and exposure to gluten):

  1. Read and learn as much as you can. Many doctors and even gastroenterologists don’t know a lot about celiac disease or the effects of gluten on inflammation and auto immune diseases. It was through my own research I learned that my terrible canker sores were a sign of celiac disease. There are lots of website about celiac disease and healthy eating. A few of my faves are Gluten Is my Bitch, My New Roots and Oh She Glows. I have also found my local library has a lot of gluten-free cookbooks. Before buying I like to check them out to make sure they are worth the purchase. I love this cookbook “It’s All Good” by Gwyneth Paltrow because it’s a “secret” gluten-free cookbook filled with healthy and pretty simple recipes that happen to be gluten-free. It features lots of clean recipes and ideas for flavourful and good for you food.
  2. You will make mistakes and it’s ok. One thing that was hard for my mom and I who are perfectionists: not realizing the hidden sources of gluten. We often felt defeated but it’s a learning process. Don’t feel bad about making mistakes just learn from them and keep moving towards a gluten-free life! My friend tried to make me a gluten-free feast this past weekend and then realized the cooking spray he used had flour in it!?!? He felt so bad but it happens and that’s how you learn what to avoid. We just whipped up something else for me to eat and it was no biggie at all!
  3. Take this as an opportunity to make positive changes.  A gluten-free diet done right is healthier and I now follow a much much healthier diet than I did when I was a 20 year old student living off of bagels and diet cokes.  The limited choices available for eating out of the house has forced me to learn how prepare meals and be organized about packing lunches and snacks.
  4. RELAX. Let’s not forget about stress and how it can worsen digestive symptoms and your overall health. Exercising, meditating, journaling  etc. are good ways to reduce stress. When I have been gluten poisoned but not in my I can hardly get out of bed stage, I find a light run sometimes helps my symptoms and helps lessen the pain. Stressing about gluten only complicates things for your digestive system.
  5. If you don’t know how to cook it is never too late to slowly learn the basics. If you don’t already cook start with learning how to make an easy salad dressing, stir fry, omelette, soup and pasta dish. You don’t need to become an amazing cook but being healthy and gluten-free is a lot easier if you can make a few things at home in your safe kitchen and pack some lunches for work. And speaking about safe kitchens I am currently lucky to live alone but if you share yours with someone who eats a lot of bread they need to slowly learn how to keep the kitchen gluten-free friendly for you. Also- don’t go kissing people who have just eaten a huge sandwich or chugged a pint! Sounds ridiculous but if your aren’t using the same toaster as one that has had bread in it you shouldn’t be kissing someone who just ate a bunch of it.
  6. Focus on the foods you love that are already gluten-free. Mine are: potatoes, rice, seafood, goat cheese, eggs, greens, chocolate and wine. Focus on all the good stuff and things you can make to replace the stuff you are missing. Nachos, home made french fries, most meat dishes have always been gluten-free. This is helpful when eating out, which is where most of my panic still comes from. I try to avoid eating at restaurants that have no clue what gluten-free is or think it’s in normal rice and potatoes. My friends have gotten great at accommodating my diet and those few times I have to go somewhere I am not sure about, for example for a birthday, I will call in advance, check the menu and talk to the manager and if I’m still not sure I will just have a glass of wine. You aren’t being picky you are making sure you are not made seriously ill for the next few days/weeks.
  7. Tell the haters to shut-up, in a nice way. There will still be a few people that don’t get it and will tell you to just eat bread or it’s all in your head and just ignore them. People who love you will slowly learn with you and help you out with your new lifestyle. My friends pick me up new products and love trying new gluten-free recipes but this didn’t happen over night. The important people in your life will learn not to double dip in the shared containers. Peanut butter, butter, jam, mayo, cheese etc. And you will learn to always serve yourself first at a group meal before bread gets into and all over everything. When I go away for the weekend with friends and or people I don’t live with I will write my name in bold marker on the top of containers I want to keep gluten-free and tell everyone that they can use them but cannot double dip any utensils that have been used on or near bread products.
  8. Now is the best time ever to be gluten-free! There has never been more certified gluten-free products. They are almost everywhere. Always read your labels and when you are uncertain check online and or call the company.

Yes it can be overwhelming to drastically change your diet but feeling healthy feeds so good. More specifically not feeling like I was being slowly poisoned to death was the biggest push to continue following a strict diet. Not spending my life lying in a ball, running to the bathroom or staying home having a date with the washroom is to this day the reason I will never ever ever eat gluten again on purpose!

You can do it! Good luck and feel free to send me questions!

🙂

Veggie Bowl with Easy Peanut Sauce (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

Easy Veggie Bowl with Peanut Sauce

This is one of my favourite quick dinners to make after the gym with my girlfriends. With a few of us doing the chopping and cooking it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare a healthy, fresh and delicious dinner. This recipe is also great on work nights because it makes the best lunches.  It’s always a combination of rice noodles or rice, veggies and a quick peanut sauce we make with whatever we have on hand. The recipe below is general because these bowls are all about making something delicious and quick with what you have in your kitchen. There are many recipes for the best peanut sauce online but the two methods are super easy and delicious. To me this is the perfect indulgent but healthy gluten-free dinner that is almost too easy to make.

Quick Veggie Bowl

  • Prepare your rice or noodles (We used these amazing Brown Rice and Wakame Noodles).
  • Pan fry your tofu or protein of choice. We fried our tofu in sesame oil and added some gf tamari once it was getting crispy.
  • Prepare your veggies. We usually keep most of our veggies raw (julienning the peppers and grating carrots). We steamed the broccoli. Also great with brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, spinach, bok choy, mushrooms etc.
  • Prepare your bowls and add the peanut sauce.
  • Can be served with green onions, chopped peanuts, fresh herbs, sambal olek and limes on the side

Quick Peanut Sauce

In a pot combine about a cup peanut butter with half a can coconut milk  (you can add more coconut milk depending or thickness and preference, I usually don’t measure).  Bring it to a simmer over medium heat then lower heat. Add gluten-free tamari (or gluten-free soy sauce), sambal olek or hot sauce, a squeeze of lime, a little brown sugar, ginger or garlic to taste. All of these ingredients are optional. An alternative method if you are missing the coconut milk is to combine all the ingredients except  for the coconut milk and add boiling water until you reach your desired consistency.

That’s it!

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Easy Veggie Bowl with Gluten-Free Peanut Sauce

Easy Cauliflower Pizza Crusts (Gluten-Free & Dairy Free)

Cauliflower Pizza Crusts (Gluten-Free)

I love cauliflower pizza crusts and breadsticks. When I get a major carb craving this pizza is always my go to recipe. What makes this version of cauliflower pizza great is the almond flour (it acts as a binder) and that there is no cheese in the crust (so you can put more on top). The crust really stays together and while it won’t be mistaken for real pizza, it’s just as delicious. Also, it’s fun to eat your veggies in pizza form. I love being able to eat too much “pizza” or a big serving of “breadsticks” and have it be healthy.

Cauliflower + Almond Flour Crusts

  • 2 cups grated cauliflower florets (one small head will do)
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 3 eggs
  • a little salt
  • a little pepper
  • 1/2 tsp italian seasoning (I used fresh chives instead and any herbs will do)
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic grated or finely chopped
  • 2 tbsps nutritional yeast (this gives the pizza a cheesy flavour)

Heat oven to 450 F and line two baking trays with parchment.

I don’t have a food processor so I grated the whole head of cauliflower (I did this outside to avoid a mess). You want your cauliflower to look like grains of rice.

Beat the eggs and add all the other crust ingredients and combine, you can add more almond flour if it looks too liquidy.

Make four crusts on the baking sheet, about 1/4 inch thick. Place in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from oven and add you desired toppings and throw it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Rotating the pans is a good idea.

I topped mine with marinara sauce, mozzarella, basil, pine nuts and veggies. These crusts hold sauce quite well and would be amazing with pesto.

For Breadsticks: I make them the same way and bake the cauliflower mixture on one baking sheet lined with parchment. I add cheese to the top and bake it the same way, cutting it in half to turn it. When it’s done I cut it into sticks and serve it with my favourite marinara sauce. I often add more herbs and spices to the sticks for extra flavour.

This recipe is inspired by Beard + Bonnet.

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Too Easy Candied Maple Pecans (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

Easy Candied Pecan (Gluten-Free)

Never buy candied pecans, they are too easy to make! I am scared to share this recipe because now all my friends will really know just how easy they really are. I bring these pecans to get-togethers and no matter how much I make they usually disappear before everyone gets to try them. I love to snack on them but if I can manage to save some they are perfect on salads or desserts. I love easy “recipes” like this. More like little tricks to make delicious add-ons that happen to be gluten-free!

Maple Pecans

  • 4 TBSPs Pure Maple Syrup (only the real stuff will do)
  • 3 cups Pecans

Preheat the oven the 300 F. Combine maple syrup and pecans in a bowl to coat (the measurements do not need to be exact). Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet lined with parchment. The cooking time really depends on the oven. I usually put them in for about 15-20 minutes. You want to make sure they caramelize but don’t burn, so check them often. Let them cool and store in an airtight container. These pecans are perfect as a snack and are also great added to: salads with beets and goat cheese, yogurt, ice cream…


Candied Maple Pecans (Gluten-Free)

I have been poisoned! How to cope after a glutening

Egg Drop Soup and movies in bed is a pretty good cure!

Egg Drop Soup and movies in bed is a pretty good cure!

It sounds dramatic but it’s my term “I have been poisoned”. I even say it at work when someone asks why I haven’t been in the office for a few days. While at first people don’t get it, those who matter know what it means. It means I am exhausted, have been feeling terrible and all around I am not having a good time. A bad gluten-poisoning can have me in bed for a few days and not feeling right for up to 2 weeks.

Post gluten-poisoning it is easy to see the whole world as a gluten-filled nightmare full of wheat and cross contamination. Getting sick definitely reminds me to be careful but it sometimes happens when you are careful and that’s just a reality.

My simple non-scientific tips to making a gluten poisoning better:

  1. Don’t stress. I used to panic and get so upset that it definitely lengthened my symptoms. Severe stress about the pain and missing work etc. will just make the symptoms worse. Try your best to rest and not think the worst. Since I have worked on not catastrophizing when I’m feeling sick from gluten my symptoms have been easier to control and do not last as long. Even though it can be terrible it is not the end of the world. You will feel better soon!
  2. Everyone has different trigger foods; gluten-free foods that you are sensitive to and that you should avoid when you are feeling glutened. Mine are dairy, alcohol and heavy foods. So figure out your triggers and try to eat smaller amounts of easy to digest food until you feel better. I also take gluten-free and dairy free probiotics.
  3. While it may be hard to eat make sure you get enough liquids and water.
  4. Sleep as much as you can.

This egg drop soup is my favorite recipe to make when I’m sick with gluten-poisoning or a cold. This recipe for simple and easy egg drop soup from Gimme Some Oven is perfect. This soup is super simple and easy enough to make when I’m feeling weak. All you need is some gluten-free broth, eggs, gluten-free cornstarch and green onions for a basic soup.

This soup is super easy to make and easy on the tummy.

This soup is super easy to make and easy on the tummy.