Friday, December 12, 2014

it's not Prego, it's alfredo!: a paleo alfredo recipe

When you are trying to stay away from gluten, corn, and dairy, it becomes nearly impossible to buy packaged food products. Simple dinners with packaged sauces are a thing of the past.

It took many tries to recreate one of my favorite dishes, chicken alfredo over pasta. I had to try out  numerous types of specialty flours/starches and dairy substitutes before finding the perfect combination to make a homemade alfredo. I use this sauce on pizza, pasta, and chicken with broccoli frequently, and it's so quick and easy to make! The sauce is dairy free, gluten free, corn free, and is perfect for a paleo diet, but substitutions can be made for other dietary needs.


Ingredients:
- 1 can of heavy, full fat coconut milk. (I use Native Forest, because it doesn't have strange chemicals and it has a creamy, smooth texture!)
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot starch (tapioca starch can be used as well)
- 2 tablespoons ghee butter (or real butter)
- 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder (or 7-9 cloves of fresh, pressed garlic)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder (or 1/2 onion, finely chopped)
- oregano, basil, salt, and pepper to taste
- optional: a dash of nutmeg, mace, or even roasted red pepper to give your alfredo a unique taste! (don't use all of these together though!)

Instructions:
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat, whisking continually. Continue to heat until thickened to the desired consistency.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

an allergen-friendly thanksgiving

Most of you probably know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It's always been a day full of tradition for our family, from the parade to the decorations to the food. Since moving so far away, we have developed some of our own traditions while trying to keep up with the old. Having to go gluten (and corn) free has spurred even more change, especially when it comes to the cooking and who we spend our day with.

Last year, we decided to bypass a traditional Thanksgiving, and we spent the day at Tokyo Disney (where we were lucky enough to find turkey legs at the park). This year, we were ready to tackle Thanksgiving cooking again, knowing that because of the corn issues, I would have to spend more time revamping almost every dish to fit those needs. Even the dishes from our first gluten free Thanksgiving had to be analyzed and changed again. I think we ended up with some great eats though, and this blog is just as much to save the recipes as it is to share with anyone else who is interested!


The turkey: I had to get a special turkey this year, since the turkey we got from the commissary a while back made me sick. I found a great vendor who imports specialty meats from different countries, and I was able to score a French turkey that looked to be organic and free range. It was only a four pound bird, so it only needed to be cooked for a short amount of time.

The stuffing: I used a variation of my mom's old recipe, with ingredients that were safe for me. I cubed and dried a loaf and a half of homemade bread that had been made a few days earlier. Three slices of that bread were separated while drying to make the breadcrumbs for the green bean casserole. The recipe also calls for Italian sausage, but I have not been able to find one that is safe for me to consume. I did, however, test Jones Dairy Farm breakfast sausage ahead of time, and since I didn't react, I cooked a few packages of that to add in place of the Italian variety.

Ingredients:
- one bag of carrots, peeled and chopped
- one bag of celery, rinsed and diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- one yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of oil (I used avocado)
- 1-1.5 loaves of bread, cubed and dried
- 1 pound sausage, cooked and chopped
- 1 handful of walnut, chopped (optional)
- Spices to taste: salt, pepper, marjoram, rosemary, thyme
- 1 box of chicken broth (though you may not use all of it)

Steps:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Chop, dice, mince (etc) the carrots, celery, garlic, and onion. Heat the oil and saute the chopped mixture over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Add spices and half the box of chicken stock and cook for 3-5 more minutes. Spread the bread pieces in a 9x13 casserole dish and pour the saute mixture over it. Turn over gently (and add more chicken broth) until the bread is moist. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.


Green Bean Casserole: I searched and searched for recipes, and couldn't find one that I liked, so I kind of made this up as I went.

Ingredients:
- 1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed with the ends sliced off
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons of butter (I use ghee butter)
- 2 cups cheddar cheese 

Steps: Preheat the oven to 350°.

Green Beans: Rinse and slice the ends. Place in a pot of boiling, salted water and boil for approximately 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water to halt the cooking.

Topping: Melt butter in a skillet and add the onion. Cook for 3-5 minutes and then add the breadcrumbs.

The finishing touch: Mix the green beans and the cream of mushroom soup in a glass 8x8 casserole dish. Add the topping mixture, cover with cheddar, and bake for 30 minutes.


The mashed potatoes: I found a few websites touting recipes for crock pot potatoes, so I decided to try it out. I wasn't sure I liked what I found online, so again, I kind of made it up as I went along.

Ingredients:
- 1 bag of potatoes (between 8-10 potatoes)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- butter (I use ghee butter)
- spices to taste: garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, marjoram, salt, pepper, dill or chives
- milk (I use coconut milk)

Steps:
Rinse, peel, and cube potatoes. Place in the crock pot with 3-4 cups of chicken broth. Add spices, and if using non-dairy milk, add 1 cup now (if using real milk, add this later). Set the crock pot for six hours on low (or 4 hours on high). An hour before dinner is ready, use a vegetable masher to smash the potatoes down a bit and check the liquids. A few minutes before dinner is served, use the vegetable masher to smash them fully and ensure there are no lumps. At this point, you can add optional ingredients, like greek yogurt, sour cream, additional butter, dill, chives, or whatever else you like on mashed potatoes, and then scoop the potatoes out and serve!


Cranberry Sauce: I was never a fan of real cranberry sauce when I was younger, I only liked the canned stuff. It took years to find a way of making cranberry sauce that I actually enjoyed eating. Bonus, it's fun to make, because the exploding cranberries are entertaining to watch!

Ingredients:
- 16-20 oz fresh cranberries
- zest and juice of one orange
- 1-2 cups additional orange juice (I make my own)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (or other sweetener of your choice)

Steps:
Add all ingredients to a covered sauce pan over medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the cranberries have burst and the sauce thickens. Remove from heat, dispose of the cinnamon stick, and use a vegetable masher to crush any un-popped cranberries. Cool on the counter for at least 15 minutes before serving.

**Optional steps: Put in the fridge for an hour and serve cooled. Also, if you prefer a smooth texture, you can blend the sauce for a few minutes once it's cooled.


Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Pudding Parfaits: These are a great substitute for pumpkin pies, and don't require any baking! This recipe can make 4 smaller parfaits or 2 large ones. We made 4 and they were the perfect size.

Ingredients:
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (I use the Farmer's Market brand) - make sure this is NOT pumpkin pie filling!
- 1 cup coconut milk, divided in half
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided in half
- cinnamon powder
- pumpkin pie spice (recipe here)
- 1 ripe banana
- 1/3 cup raw cacao powder (I use Navitas Naturals...or you can use cocoa powder if you prefer it)
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life)
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil 
- graham crackers (optional)

Steps:

Pumpkin layer: Place the pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice in a bowl. Mix together with a whisk or fork until smooth and then distribute equally into your glasses. **Optional: Crush graham crackers to place in the bottom as a "pie crust" for your pudding.

Chocolate layer: Add chocolate chips and coconut oil to a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds, stir, and microwave for another 45 seconds until smooth. Set aside. Place the banana in a mixing bowl and mash with fork or spoon. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, cacao powder, and one teaspoon cinnamon powder. Mix it until smooth, add the chocolate chip/coconut oil blend, and continue to mix until smooth. Equally distribute to the glasses on top of the pumpkin layer. Top with a dash of cinnamon and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. The longer you refrigerate, the better these will taste!


I hope that if you are planning a Thanksgiving meal, that one or more of these recipes might come in handy for you!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

cultural exchange

Every year, our class gets the wonderful opportunity to visit a local Japanese elementary school. Cultural exchanges like this are just one of the bonuses of living on an overseas base, and the students (both American and Japanese) look forward to them! The focus of our visits usually centers around the process of planting, harvesting, and cooking rice so that students are able to see the entire process.

Our partner school has a wonderful relationship with local farmers and other adults in the community who volunteer their time (and rice) for this opportunity.

In October, we visited the school to learn how to thresh rice after it's been harvested from a nearby field. The students who attend our partner school actually took part in the planting of this rice earlier in the year. Our hosts talked about and showed us a variety of different tools used throughout history for threshing, and then gave us an opportunity to try it ourselves. The kids, both Japanese and American, had a great time using the machinery and separating the grains from the plants.




In November, we visited again. This time, our focus was on cooking the rice we had previously threshed. We learned how to cook the rice and then pound it, roll it out, and slice it to make mochi. The students were then able to eat the mochi in a broth-based soup and as a sweet dish with red bean paste.



While there, we were also taught how to make spinners (tops) out of cardboard cartons as well as samurai hats from newspaper. Even with the language barrier, our students were able to communicate and play with their new Japanese friends. They taught each other their favorite games and variations on games they all played (like Rock-Paper-Scissors/Janken).



We look forward to inviting our partner students to our school later in the school year to reciprocate their kindness and to share a bit of our culture with them!

all the hype

Lately I've heard a lot of hype going around about Essential Oils. I've heard how amazing they are, how they are a natural alternative to conventional medication, and how they are Earth's natural remedy for...well, everything. I have to say I've been a skeptic though. In my experience, most of those "it's too good to be true" products...really are too good to be true.

Cue allergy season.

When we returned from the states in August, I was seemingly and suddenly allergic to everything. It was raining a lot more than our usual Augusts do, and the dust and pollen and humidity made for a pretty miserable time. Because I have so many food allergies, I'm unable to take allergy medication, and I had never been so disappointed in my lack of ability to use western meds than that month! My eyes got to the point where they were so red and painful that they look infected. I couldn't breathe and my throat always seemed to be half closed (or half open?).

I tried all the natural remedies the internet threw my way. I used cucumber on my eyes to take down the swelling. We got an air purifier. We cleaned everything. And still, there wasn't much of a difference. It was purely and simply miserable with no end in sight.


I finally put it out to my facebook friends and asked if any of them had some remedies I hadn't tried yet. Several of them suggested using essential oils, and by that time I was so desperate for any sort of relief that I decided to try them.

I began doing research and found that essential oils are not all created equal, and there are a variety of brands with a variety of ingredients, disclaimers, processing protocol, etc. ***While this post is not about one brand in particular (though I did narrow it down to only a few that would be safe and also work for what I needed them for) I suggest you do your research well if you choose to use EO's for any purpose in your own life. If you want to know which brand I chose, please shoot me a message and I'll let you know!***


After doing the research and saving up (these babies are expensive!) I finally received my lavender, lemon, and peppermint trio. I did more research on the best way to apply them for allergies, and tried out a few. Some of these methods included diffusing them, putting a drop of each on my pillow at night, and even making a homemade lotion that incorporated the three oils into it.


Even at this point, I was very skeptical that this would work.

Until it did.

I still am not at the point where I really understand why those particular oils together helped so much with my seasonal allergies, but I am grateful they did! I went from sneezing every minute or so to a few times a day, my eyes are no longer raw, and my throat is unclogged.

I'm not convinced that EO's are the end-all be-all for treating every ailment, but I'm definitely a lot more interested in seeing what they can do. I plan to use them in the future and report back with my findings!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

corn, corn everywhere (my search for safe-tea)

(Yes, I'll admit, the pun was intended.)

I know I've shared several blog posts about my journey with celiac disease, but I haven't shared much about my quest to go corn free. It's because, even after a year and a half, I am still learning new things about this allergy every day. There are still things that shock me about the use of corn in America and products that I never would have thought would make me sick.

It's crazy to me how much corn is used in our country. In EVERYTHING.

The weirdest part of this is that most people don't know this. Most people think of corn as an ingredient in bagged tortilla chips or packaged tamales or sweet things with high fructose corn syrup, but in reality you would be hard-pressed to find an item on any American grocery store shelf that doesn't contain corn in some form or another.


This is what has made it so difficult in my journey to health. At first, I thought I would just have to avoid foods that had corn, corn starch, and corn syrup. Boy, was I wrong. I cut out the vegetable oil and the non-dairy butter  and the yeast and the baking powder and the vinegar.

Still, I was getting sick. I did more research and learned that corn can go by more than 170 different names, most of which don't even say the word "corn".

Maltodextrin (which is added to most grain products)
Citric Acid and Lactic Acid (and many other food acids)
Dextrose (a sugar in most packaged foods)
Xanthan Gum (a binding agent used in most gluten free foods)
Vitamin A (used as a fortifying vitamin in juices and milk products)

Ingredient labels for Rice Chex and Greek yogurt. As you can see, both of these gluten
free and considered-healthy foods have a huge number of possible corn-containing ingredients.
(Click the picture to enlarge.)

I don't have all of them memorized. I have a list that I have to check every time I shop for food, which gets exhausting. The worst part is that these ingredients aren't always corn derived. Most of the time, yes, but sometimes no. Any time I find a new product, I must email the company to figure out whether the ingredient(s) in question might be derived from corn. Sometimes a company is straightforward and answers the question. Other times, the representatives refuse to answer because the ingredients are proprietary (or because they just don't know what is in their products).

It's taken the better part of a year and a half to cut out as much corn from my diet as I can. Even now, there are reactions from foods that don't have corn labeled on the packaging that, upon research and shared experiences with other corn allergy friends, do indeed contain it.

Like anti-mold sprays on most produce, anti-cracking agents on egg shells, vitamin enriched bottled water, and cleaning sprays on meat.

Then we move on to packaging. Yes, packaging. As if we corn-allergy-sufferers didn't have enough to worry about, our country is now using corn based plastics and cornstarch based papers in which to package the food. While I'm all for finding new and innovative biodegradable materials, they are usually made from corn and this is a problem for those of us who react to small amounts in our food.

Not long ago, I saw an ad that Kia is now using corn based plastics in their cars. Upon further investigation, I found that these new cars have 53 pounds of eco-friendly, corn-based plastics. I will admit that my initial reaction to this included a groan and a hand to my forehead. While I'm not skin sensitive to corn at this point in my life, I know others who are, and this is a huge concern.

Courtesy of Live Corn Free
The reason for this post is that I recently read a few articles on hidden ingredients in tea. The various writers investigated the ingredients found in tea and teabags, and were shocked to find out how much junk was really there. Pesticides and corn-containing "natural flavors" were in many of them, whether in the tea itself or the packaging. Many of these teas, banned throughout Europe and much of Asia, tout health benefits when they could actually be detrimental to tea drinkers' health.


I used to drink tea, and sadly had to quit when going gluten/corn free. I knew I was reacting to something in the tea, but I could never figure out what the issue was since my teas were labeled as gluten and corn free. (I will tackle the issue of product labeling another day...) After reading the article, I decided to embark on my own investigation to see if there were any gluten free/corn free/pesticide free teas on the market. While doing my research, I learned more about the pesticides and/or GMO ingredients in most of America's tea. I learned about the natural flavors used and where they are derived from (usually corn, but sometimes soy or wheat). I learned that loose leaf teas are often sprayed with dextrose or maltodextrin to keep them from molding and to enhance flavor. I learned about the packaging of the tea bags, which often contain either corn starch or corn based PLA. Honestly, I learned a lot more than I ever really wanted to know (ignorance is bliss, right?)...but I finally found some teas that might be trustworthy and safe to drink!

**Please note, company ingredients can change at any time, so please trial at your own risk!**


Numi Tea: Their teas are organic with no natural flavors and no pesticides. The company is devoted to being eco-friendly, and their bags are made from manila hemp cellulose and directly sourced bamboo.

Traditional Medicinals: This is another company that does not add natural flavors to their teas. They are part of the Non-GMO Project and do not use pesticides on their tea ingredients. Their teabags are made from manila hemp and raw cotton. (Just be aware that some of their flavors include extracts - stay away from these, as they are often corn derived! The representative I talked to mentioned they are in the process of doing away with these.)


If and when I find any others, I'll add them to the list! Let me know if you have any to add. Happy (tea) drinking!




Saturday, July 12, 2014

reno refreshments: a gluten (and corn) free guide to eating in reno, part 2

The Reno restaurant scene is growing steadily, especially in the new midtown area. It is this section of town that we found several amazing new restaurants to try out during our stay in Reno.

This is Part 2 of my guide to eating gluten (and corn) free in Reno. Click here to check out Part 1!

One of the restaurants that I have heard about over and over again is Great Full Gardens. A locally owned restaurant, Great Full Gardens makes use of local vendors as well as their own organic greenhouse grown produce. Their restaurant caters to people with various dietary restrictions, as well as those who are looking for sustainable and ecologically-friendly businesses at which to eat.

The first time we visited Great Full Gardens was during breakfast. This being my first time, I asked a lot of questions. Any time the server didn't know the answer, she patiently went and talked to the cooks. They were open, knowledgeable, and flexible. They had several gluten free options, but only a few that were corn free as well. We worked together to create a safe meal out of various menu items, and it was delicious! I basically ordered a combination between the Juli's Saute with lemon oil and the Papusa (it ended up being a mostly Juli's, with eggs and black beans sans salsa, which contains citric acid). The breakfast was delicious and had the perfect blend of veggies and grains/legumes.

The second time we ate at Great Full Gardens was during dinner. We had a large party and I wasn't sure I'd have the same luck with creating something off menu to serve my restrictions, but I was not disappointed! When our server had some questions, one of the owners came to our table and personally answered my questions without making me feel like I was inconveniencing her in any way. We ended up modifying the Chicken Bliss and turning it into a lettuce wrap. They grilled the chicken separately, without their usual corn-containing broth, and I went without the bacon due to cross contamination concerns. Their homemade aioli sauce was more than enough to make up for the lack of broth, and the wrap was fabulous!

I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone with food allergies, as they have proven that they will go out of their way to try and accommodate you as long as you know what questions to ask!


Monday, July 7, 2014

reno refreshments: a gluten (and corn) free guide to eating in reno, part 1

We're in the states again, and as such, we are traveling without all of our safe kitchen utensils. I have wonderful in-laws who have created a kitchen space for me and my special food and utensils, but there are times when it's necessary (and let's face it, fun) to eat out. It's been ages since we've been able to eat out safely, so I was very excited about this prospect. With the gluten free fad, though, I have been a bit nervous about the safety of restaurant eating. Even some of the restaurants I frequented last year are no longer safe, so it's taken hours of researching, calling, emailing, and googling to find safe establishments. Here are some of the places I've experienced so far this summer!

(Keep in mind that everything I have ordered has been gluten free and as corn free as possible. I use the Find Me Gluten Free app, call the restaurant, and then talk to a waiter and/or manager before ordering to ensure the food I am ordering will not make me sick. If I feel like the restaurant isn't safe or that the servers/cooks are not taking me seriously, I will leave with no hesitation. I am also considered "corn lite" in the world of corn allergies, so if you have reactions that go beyond keeping corn ingredients out of your food, you will need to do additional research.)

The first place we always visit when we come back to the states is In-n-Out. There are, of course, In-n-Out restaurants all over California, Nevada, and Arizona, so this isn't necessarily a Reno-specific review. I will say, though, that we look forward to visiting and have never had a bad experience. I let them know about my allergies and then order my burger protein style without any spread (the spread has corn syrup). They will wash their hands and use a special dedicated gluten free section of the kitchen to prepare your burger if you alert them of your gluten issues. The fries are also made in a dedicated fryer, so I almost always order fries well done to go with my burger. I also bring my own ketchup, since they use ketchup that has corn-derived vinegar.

Protein Style w/o spread + fries well done w/cheese = heaven on Earth.

One of our favorite local-to-Reno restaurants has always been Pneumatic Diner. Ben and I have both been going there since our high school days and we are so glad it's still open and as delicious as ever. It's a small, hole-in-the-wall type restaurant that has sort of a cult following. Pneumatic is 100% vegetarian with several vegan options and a few gluten free options. This type of restaurant is typically difficult for me to find safe foods in, because they rely heavily on grain-based foods. Pneumatic has a decent variety of gluten free dishes, though! It was easier to eat there before the corn allergy manifested itself, but despite that, I am still always able to find something to eat at Pneumatic and the staff is always willing to find me something safe to eat. This time, I ordered the combo Bayard and subbed the Jack cheese for one without vegetable rennet as well as the rojo sauce for their cucumber garlic sauce. It was delicious, and I had no issues with ingredients or cross contamination. Pneumatic is one of those restaurants where the environment is just as important as the food, and neither was disappointing during our visit!


Pneumatic! ♥

Combo Bayard with all sorts of deliciousness inside

I love the small size and eclectic atmosphere of this restaurant!

The last restaurant review for this blog entry is another of our favorite Reno restaurants: Cafe de Thai. I knew that they had several gluten free options, but I was weary of trying them out because most Asian restaurants use vegetable oil for their stir fries. After talking with one of the servers on the phone, I found out that if I brought my own oil the cooks would be more than happy to use it for my meal. I took avocado oil and red palm oil so they could choose the oil that would work the best with whichever meal I ordered (they opted for the avocado).

Cafe de Thai

When we arrived, the server I had spoken with on the phone ended up being our waiter so he was familiar with my restrictions. He was extremely patient and took notes so he could review everything with the kitchen staff. When I thanked him profusely, he said he was glad to be learning something new, which is always refreshing to someone who feels like they are being high maintenance (despite not really having a choice in the matter).

I was able to order the fresh spring rolls, and they made me a special spicy peanut sauce to go with them instead of their usual vinegar-containing sauces. As an entree, I ordered the Pad Thai. Similar to Great Full Gardens, they informed me that they needed to cook my chicken a bit differently since their usual marinade includes corn starch. I was also able to order a drink, which is rare in a restaurant. I tried their homemade gingerale, which is made with sugar, water, and fresh ginger.

Homemade gingerale

Fresh spring rolls (left) and specialty spring rolls (right, not gf)

My spring rolls and peanut sauce

The Pad Thai was just as great as I remember it 

The appetizers, drinks, and dinner were absolutely delicious, and the restaurant staff went to great lengths to accommodate and make me feel welcome and safe. It's so nice to know that I can once again eat at some of my all-time favorite restaurants, despite having so many restrictions!

This is just the beginning of our trip, and later this week we'll be trying out some newer Reno restaurants! Check back later if you'd like more information on eating out safely in Reno.





Saturday, June 14, 2014

it's happened again

It's happened again. Someone else I know is "going gluten free."

This isn't my picture, though that would be awesome if it were.

Now let me preface this with a statement: if you have symptoms that are similar to the ones I have previously described and you feel that cutting out gluten might alleviate them, please ask me about it. I'm happy to share my experiences and/or offer you some bits of knowledge I had to learn the hard way throughout this process. If you want to cut down on (or cut out) grains because they simply aren't the healthiest of food options, that's cool with me! I'm happy to support you and I'll probably even ask you if you want to swap recipes. If, however, you are going gluten free to lose weight (which won't work because processed gluten free products tend to be even less nutritional than their gluten-filled counterparts) or because you heard about that gluten free diet on some talk show and want to try it and tell me all about it, thinking that we now have some magical connection, I'm going to struggle with whether or not I should tell you how I really feel about your decision. On the one hand, it's not always considered polite to speak your mind when it's critical and judgmental of another's actions. On the other hand, though, I'm tired of smiling and nodding, knowing that your actions affect me in a negative way and that you probably have no idea.

What I really want to tell you is that you are part of the problem. I realize that this may sound harsh, but somebody needs to tell you this. 

You may not believe this, but your actions are contributing to the stigma associated with gluten and also to the belief that gluten free is not a real necessity, but only the latest fad diet. You are the reason that gluten free is American society's new laughingstock and the reason talk show hosts and comedians spend hours writing material to make fun of our gluten free community. You are the reason people groan and/or roll their eyes when I tell someone I can't eat gluten. You're a huge part of the reason many restaurant chefs and servers don't take people seriously when they ask for a gluten free meal, and you're the main reason companies feel the need to plaster "gluten free" all over their products (when often, the products aren't actually gluten free enough to be safe for people with Celiac disease). Your actions have consequences - consequences that you will probably never see or feel, but we do, all the time.

What I really want to tell you is that you have no idea what gluten free really entails and that you will probably never have go through what Celiacs have to deal with every single day to ensure their health and safety.

I want to point out that you will never have to worry about people not believing you when you say you need to have a meal that's gluten free. To have people who think your condition is just a fad (and let's face it, you don't even have a condition). To have the people you trust with your food add gluten-containing ingredients to your meal just to see if you actually notice and/or react to it. It's a horrible ordeal to go through and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. You would never see someone pulling this kind of prank on someone with a peanut allergy or diabetes, but it happens to Celiacs way too frequently.

I want to remind you that you will never have to worry that a gluten-y crumb hidden in your food will make you sick for the next month. I've had this experience and it isn't pretty. Trying to go on with your life, going to work, and pretending to be okay with your family and friends and co-workers (and students) while all you want to do is hide under your sheets because you feel so sick and haven't slept in weeks...well, put plainly, it's no easy task.

I could fill you in on the research process needed for just about every single item you buy. Just about every restaurant I've eaten at since my diagnosis in addition to every food purchase, every makeup purchase, soap purchase, and even laundry/dish detergent/lotion/sunscreen/chapstick purchase has involved research in the form of internet searches, gluten free apps, phone calls, reviews from others, and/or emails to the companies themselves. If I had a dollar for every email I've sent to inquire about a product's safety and production practices, I would actually have enough money to easily buy the gluten free food that is so expensively priced!

I could let you know how exhausting and sometimes uncomfortable social situations have become for many of us. American celebrations tend to revolve around food, and Celiacs tend to be left out. It's not that we expect others to go out of their way for us. It does, though, take a lot of planning to bring something along that will be safe for us to eat, especially when the party or celebration is at someone else's home. It takes organization and time to call a venue ahead of time to figure out whether or not we are even allowed to bring our own food, and then how best to do it. It takes energy explaining to people why we aren't eating, or why we had to bring our own food. It takes patience to describe over and over again what we can eat, what we can't eat, and why even that gluten free dip on the table isn't safe for us because other people have contaminated it. But most of all, it's lonely to be left out. It sounds juvenile, I know, but you try being left out of almost every celebration your friends or co-workers have for the next year and tell me you don't feel a bit ignored and singled out. It's happened to the best of us and we've had to learn how to adapt and try not to take it personally.

I could call attention to the fact that you will probably never have to argue with someone who openly judges your food choices while you try to explain that this is the only way you can live safely. Arguments like these happen all the time, on blogs and on Facebook, at grocery stores and with doctors. That doesn't even include the eye rollers and smirkers who might be part of your family or group of friends or work staff. And can you really blame them? People are SO tired of hearing the words "gluten free." I'm tired of it and I actually have Celiac, which means I will have to deal with those words for the rest of my life. I can't imagine how those who have never had to deal with it on a personal level feel when they hear about it...again.

I could point out the fear. You see, you will most likely never know the anxiety that most of us have. Yes, there are neurological symptoms like OCD and panic attacks that often go hand-in-hand with Celiac. But what I'm referring to here is the worry that it took so long to get diagnosed (the average is six to ten years) and the knowledge that this time has caused a lot of permanent damage that may or may not have already manifested itself. The understanding that you are likely to develop other auto-immune disorders and/or food allergies at some point in your future. The reality that you may have to deal with your children also having Celiac, or even the possibility that you may no longer even be able to have children.

You see, these are things that you gluten-free-fad-dieters don't think about.

For you, it's just a diet. For us, it's life. 

And so I ask you to stop. Stop being a lemming. Stop following the trends without thinking about the consequences. Stop making a big deal about your gluten free diet and then posting pictures of the pizza you ate because "it's just so hard to be gluten free all the time." You are hurting our community. You are causing damage to the people who have no choice but to live gluten free. Please, just stop.

Monday, May 26, 2014

what does "grown up" really mean?

I always wondered what it would feel like to be a grown up...what it would be like to be out there, self-sufficient and adventurous.

There are many questions to ponder the idea of adulthood when you think about it. What defines a grown up? Is it graduating from high school/college? Turning 18 or 21? Getting married? Voting? Having a career? Having the ability to travel? Buying a house? Having kids? Having grand-kids?

I think this is one of the conundrums 20 and 30-somethings often feel. We leave school and our teen years, and we start the search to find ourselves. We search for meaning. We search for purpose. We search for careers and lifestyle changes and a chance to figure out what we believe. While searching for and chasing these things, time passes much more quickly than we realize. We wake up and realize that years have passed and we're getting old.

Birthdays, for me at least, seem to bring a moment of reflection. I look at myself and my peers and wonder how we got to where we are. When did we finally become grown up?

Since becoming an adult (and by adult, I mean the agreed-upon American age of adulthood), I feel like I've done a lot. I worked and studied hard and graduated from college. I had roommates. I got married. I started a career I was passionate about. I lived in several cities, states, and even countries. I had a pet. I taught and mentored hundreds of young people and even some adults. I studied (though I haven't quite mastered) other languages. I traveled and met new people and owned my own business. I took pictures and I wrote blogs.

Despite all that, I still don't quite feel like a grown up. I don't feel like I have it all together. In fact, I look at my parents and in-laws and other well-grounded adults in my life and realize that sometimes I feel like a complete mess.

Talking to other peers, it seems that many of them don't feel grown up either. Mind you, these are adults. Adults who are responsible and well-educated, married, and/or have children and families of their own. But they still don't feel grown up.

I wonder if we ever will. Will we look down on our grand-kids someday and finally feel like we've reached that sense of adulthood? When we retire from the careers we worked hard at for 30+ years? When we celebrate 25 or 50 years of marriage? When we notice the wrinkles on our hands and faces? When we look back at our memories? Will it just hit us one day, like a truck, out of the blue?

Or...maybe it's okay to not feel like a grown up yet and to realize that there's plenty left awaiting us. That we're still changing and we may never find ourselves for the singular reason that we are always changing and evolving and adapting.

Another year has passed and I still don't have the answers to these questions. I wonder if I ever will. Maybe that will be the moment I finally feel I've finally grown up.

Friday, May 23, 2014

...and the crazies come out!

Celiac Awareness Month has brought out a lot of positive and negative media points this year! One of these came up this weekend, concerning Bart's Bakery. The company has claimed for a while now that their cookies are gluten free. After emailing the them, though, we have learned that the cookies are actually not Celiac safe. The equipment used for their gf cookies is the very same equipment used for their regular poisonous-to-Celiacs cookie batches. It's one thing to have a factory that has a dedicated line for gluten-free foods (and most of these companies will display this information right on their box and/or website). It's another to use the exact same equipment and then brag about having the "best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies in the world."



Having seen their packaging and having emailed the company, Bart's would be a brand that I'd avoid. No cookie is worth the symptoms that come with Celiac, and I also disagree with their packaging and marketing. It seems to me that their cookie packages aim to reel in customers with gluten issues, regardless of whether or not the products are actually safe for them. I probably wouldn't have felt led to post a blog about it though.

And then this happened.

Bart has gone out of his way to defame a Celiac-community advocate who was merely trying to keep his fellow Celiacs safe. Bart has resorted to cyber-bullying, he has created a fake website, he has spread rumors and lies all over his facebook page, and he has treated those who question his company ideals and policies with extreme derision and disrespect.

Even with all of the drama and scrutiny, Bart stands by his "gluten free" statement, despite his own marketing team flat out stating that the cookies are not Celiac friendly.

He has shown that he has no respect for his customer base's health or dignity.

This, unfortunately, seems like a case where money talks. It's one thing to write a facebook message, only to be ignored or insulted by this company's owner, and another to alert the shops who carry his product. If you are someone who has been affected by (or knows someone who has been affected by) this company's blatant lack of common sense and decency, I would urge you to leave a comment on their Amazon products and/or write to the shops who carry their product (namely Whole Foods). Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity for Celiacs and their advocate peers to stand up to those companies who think they can dupe us for some cash.





Saturday, May 17, 2014

what gluten is and why it matters



May is, among other things, Celiac Awareness Month. It's hard not to notice all the articles, videos, and posts about gluten this month.

The spectrum of media concerning gluten this month has surprised me a bit. I've seen the gamut, ranging from the helpful to the absurd. There are bloggers who have devoted much of their month (and their lives) to helping those with Celiac/gluten intolerance. There are gluten free goodies being given away to celebrate that our lives can go on after being diagnosed with Celiac. There are videos that poke a bit of fun at the gluten free lifestyle. (I found the video to be quite amusing, though I had to force myself not to read any comments regarding said video.)

Then there are the articles who bash people for going gluten free, with headlines like, "Being gluten free is dumb," or, "Surprise! 'Gluten Intolerance" is Likely Bullsh*t!" Yes, there is a one-sentence disclaimer that Celiacs should not eat gluten. And then these articles go on to say that those who have experienced a return-to-health because they cut out gluten are crazy and shouldn't be gluten free. It amazes me how judgmental and spiteful people can be these days.

All this hype and all this anger over a set of proteins in everyday food.

While I agree there is a danger to this "gluten-free-fad" that seems to be ever popular these days, it's not for the same reason these article writers seem to have. They claim that the newest study has proven that people don't need to be gluten free. This, however, is not necessarily the case. Yes, the new study (note the word "study" -- not "studies") has found that the specific supposedly gluten intolerant people involved may not have had to be on a gluten free diet.

The study was a basic one, though, and did not take many factors into account. Gluten intolerance and IBS are often mistaken and misdiagnosed for each other. In addition, I would be interested to know what kind of diet these participants were on before starting this particular study. Were any of them previously on a low FODMAP diet? Were any of them Paleo? Did any of them have other food allergies or intolerances? Had they done allergy tests to see if other food intolerances were at play? Did these people continue to eat gluten free, grain-filled substitutes for the foods they had eaten before going gluten free? I'm definitely not saying I don't agree with the study, but I think it's apparent that more tests need to be done on a more diverse population of people who have been diagnosed with gluten intolerance before we can go around saying that gluten intolerance isn't real.

The reason I feel that the gluten free fad is dangerous lies more in the outlook of the general public. With so many people preaching gluten free, even though most of them don't really have to adhere to the gluten free lifestyle, it makes us look bad. Someone going to a restaurant and ordering a gluten free meal, who later eats a gluten-filled cupcake and plays it off like it's no big deal, gives the impression that most of us stick to a gluten free diet only when it's convenient to do so. When a celebrity endorses the gluten free lifestyle because it helped them to lose weight, we lose credibility. When a cooking show host calls Celiacs "picky eaters" and then touts a gluten free recipe that actually uses gluten-containing ingredients, we look like we're snobbish instead of people who are truly trying to protect ourselves.

What people don't see, though, is the real symptoms of gluten on someone who can't digest it. There is always the gluten-accompanying nausea, bloating, and stomach pain -- those are the easy symptoms. The real pain comes from the brain fog, the anxiety attacks, the balance between constant constipation and then crippling diarrhea, joint and muscle pain, the week or month-long insomnia, the memory loss,  and the countless other effects of gluten on the digestive, respiratory, and even nervous systems.

When we speak about being gluten free, we are often mocked. We are often not taken seriously. We are served gluten in restaurants, which brings weeks of the above symptoms and the feeling that we can never be safe eating out or traveling.

That's why I'm all for this gluten free fad to fade, to disappear. The sooner, the better. Yes, the fad dying out might cause companies to stop marketing to the gluten free fad dieters, so Celiacs may not have as many restaurant and/or grocery store choices. The flip-side to that, though, is that maybe those of us still fighting the good fight will be taken seriously. I look forward to being able to say I have Celiac without having to brace myself for the imminent eye rolling or the looks of disbelief.

To those of you who are gluten free because you think it's trendy, please stop. You're not doing yourself any favors and you certainly aren't helping those of us who don't have a choice in the matter. To those of you who don't know anything about gluten, please do your research before offering advice or your ignorant (and malicious) comments. Or better yet, ask us about it. In my experience, most Celiacs are happy to talk about the information they have learned through their diagnoses. We have had to become food experts to survive, so we have a lot of knowledge to share. To those of you who have symptoms, please do research and testing before self-diagnosing yourself as gluten intolerant. And finally, to those of you who are gluten free because you have to be, keep going strong! You are not alone!




Tuesday, May 13, 2014

do YOU suffer from Celiac Disease? (check your symptoms here!)

I know I've written a few times about living with Celiac Disease, but I haven't really used this blog to explore the symptoms and events leading up to my diagnosis. When I first heard that the average Celiac patient takes anywhere from six to ten years to get a correct diagnosis, I couldn't believe it. Knowing what I do now, though, I can trace several of my symptoms back to my teen years.

So why does it take so long?

Well, honestly, there isn't one simple answer to this question. One factor is that Celiac is a relatively new disease as far as impacting a large percentage of people, and researchers are still studying it and its effects. Another factor is that Celiac often resembles (or goes hand in hand with) other diseases, like IBS and Crohn's. The biggest factor is that the symptoms that go along with Celiac Disease differ from person to person and are not solely digestive in nature.

This is the fact that most people are surprised about. Who would have thought that Celiac, a mere food allergy, could cause systemic damage to the human body? Well, the truth is, Celiac is not just a food allergy or intolerance. It's an auto-immune disease that actually causes the body to attack itself when gluten is ingested. As with other auto-immune diseases, the symptoms can impact every body system. Here are several symptoms caused by Celiac Disease, broken down by system. Keep in mind that some symptoms affect more than one system.

Some of these symptoms are more common than others, and this list is not all-encompassing by any means. I have put an asterisk next to the symptoms I suffered with prior to my diagnosis, just to give you a reference as to how many could be at play simultaneously. Most of these symptoms come back when I accidentally ingest gluten in some form, and last anywhere from one to six weeks. (Symptoms were gathered from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, Celiac Disease Headquarters, Celiac Support Association, Recognizing Celiac Disease, Coeliac UK, and other sources. I have also included a few info-graphics at the bottom for quick reference.)

**Keep in mind that this is not a medical blog and I have no medical background. If you find that you have several of these symptoms, I would suggest doing some more research and contacting your doctor for testing.**


Circulatory/Cardiovascular System (circulates blood and nutrients throughout the body)
Anemia*
Angina
Arterial plaque
Asthma*
Blood pressure changes
Blood vessel inflammation
Fainting
Heart palpitations*
Nosebleeds


Digestive System (digests and processes food)
Abdominal Pain*
Acid Reflux*
Bad breath
Bloating
Constipation*
Diarrhea*
Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)*
Food intolerance*
Gallstones*
Gas*
Gastric ulcers
GERD*
Heartburn*
Hemorrhoids*
Lactose intolerance*
Leaky gut
Low blood sugar
Malabsorption leading to weight gain or weight loss*
Mouth sores
Mouth ulcers
Nausea*
Swollen gums*
Tongue Sores
Tooth and gum pain*
Tooth enamel erosion*
Vitamin deficiency*
Vomiting*


Endocrine System (regulates glands and hormone production)
Blood sugar changes
Dry mouth*
Hormone imbalances*
Hypothyroidism
Hyperthyroidism
Weight fluctuations (seemingly unrelated to food)*


Immune System/Lymphatic Systems (transport and defense system against disease)
Anemia*
Asthma*
Auto-immune disorders
Fatty Liver Syndrome (non-alcoholic)*
Food Allergies*
Hypothyroidism
Hyperthyroidism
IgA Deficiency
Lymphoma
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rhinitis
Weakened/Sensitive immune system*


Integumentary System (consists of skin, hair, and nails)
Acne*
Brittle nails*
Bruising*
Dandruff
Dermatitis Herpetiformus  (DH)*
Dry skin*
Edema
Exzema
Flaky skin/lips*
Hair loss
Hangnails*
Hives*
Ingrown toenails*
Nail fungus
Peeling lips*
Peeling nails
Rashes*
Skin cancer
Swelling*


Muscular System (works with several other systems to permit movement, maintain posture, and circulate blood)
Ataxia
Leg (and other muscular) cramps*
Muscle pain*
Muscle spasms*
Swelling*
Tongue Sores
Weakness*


Nervous System (transmits signals throughout your body)
ADD
ADHD
Anxiety*
Apathy*
Ataxia
Autism
Blood pressure changes
Brain fog*
Chills*
Constant need to fidget*
Depression*
Dizziness*
Dry or watery eyes*
Fatigue*
Hot/cold flashes*
Insomnia*
Irrational anger/irritability*
Learning disorders
Listlessness*
Memory loss*
Migraine*
Narcolepsy
Nerve pain*
Night Sweats*
Nocturia (waking several times at night to use the restroom)*
OCD*
Panic attacks*
Restlessness*
Seizures
Sleep disorders*
Suicidal thoughts
Tinnitus/ringing in the ears*
Vertigo
Weakness*


Reproductive System - Female (involved in the production of hormones and gametes for reproduction)
Amenorrhea (sporadic or infrequent menstrual periods)*
Anemia during pregnancy
Childbirth complications
Delayed puberty*
Dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods)*
Dyspareunia (painful intercourse)
Early menopause
Fertility issues*
Infertility
Long-lasting Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms*
Miscarriages
Ovarian Cysts*
Painful periods*
Swollen cervix*


Respiratory System (involves the intake of breath and converting oxygen to carbon dioxide)
Asthma*
Bronchial Pneumonia*
Bronchitus*
Sinus pressure*


Skeletal System (provides structural support and protection)
Arthritis*
Bone fractures
Brittle bones
Joint pain*
Joint stiffness*
Joint swelling*
Osteoporosis
Tooth and gum pain*
Tooth enamel erosion*


Urinary System (balances fluids in the body and the process of excretion of such fluids)
Bladder infections*
IgA Nephropathy
Kidney Stones
Urinary tract infections



Info-graphic courtesy of Schar Gluten Free


Info-graphic courtesy of Gluten Dude






Saturday, May 3, 2014

influenster

So I recently got an invitation to a website called Influenster...I'm brand new to it and am trying it out. Apparently you can share information on different products and perhaps win free goodies in the process! I'll let ya'll know how it goes!

sakura and sunshine

This is my favorite week of the year: Golden Week. It's that time of year when Northern Japan's sleepy winter haze finally lifts and nature seems to wake up to a new season. The snow is finally gone and the delicate pink blossoms of the sakura trees start to bloom.



This week means walks in the park, bike rides, hanami (picnics under the cherry blossoms), and day trips!

We have spent more time outside in the last week than we have in the past several months!

Seamus had his first trip to the beach and we loved watching him explore and run away from the crashing waves.




Our favorite little park was something to behold in its pink splendor, and it was a joy to hear all the laughter of children as the weather finally warmed up enough to play all day outside.





Soon, the sakura will start to fill the air with blossoms as they fall, and other flowers will bloom in their place.Tulips and lupine and hydrangea will bloom as far as the eye can see, as my favorite time of year takes hold in Japan. I love spring!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

summer dreamin': a grain-free quesadilla with avocado dipping sauce recipe

I'm sure I get like this just about every year at this time.

The best way to describe it is stir-crazy.

The weather keeps taunting us. For two or three days, it will be bright and sunny and warm enough to melt most of the snow. We get to the point where we can almost see the ground through the sheets of snow and ice. People will start putting their winter clothes and boots away.

I like to pretend that I'm boycotting winter, but I also realize that it's pointless. As soon as they all happily finish packing away the winter gear, Japan's clouds will roll in and dump three more feet on us. This is merely a short-lived respite from the six-month winters of Northern Japan.

That was this weekend. Granted, this time it was only inches and not feet. It was enough, though, to send everyone scrambling to their closets for their newly-packed-away winter gear and to keep the less intrepid from venturing outdoors.



For me...well, it just made me antsy. It's difficult for this beach-loving, snow-hating girl to endure the seemingly never-ending winters. This was the kind of storm that got me reminiscing about driving with the windows down, looking at pictures of warmer times, and longing for summer recipes.

So today for lunch, I am boycotting winter and making a summery meal: black bean quesadillas with a cool avocado dipping sauce.

These recipes will make three quesadillas with the perfect amount of dipping sauce to go with them.



Quesadilla Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon onion, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 cup zucchini, chopped (I use my hand chopper for a perfect consistency)
  • 3/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained (We use Eden Organics - they come in a BPA free can and don't have all the chemicals most canned beans come with. If you use another  brand, you probably won't need to add the salt that I used.)
  • 2 cups Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (see note on the black beans)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 6 tortillas (we sometimes use Chebe bread mix and modify it for chalupa-like tortillas, or use this paleo recipe)
  • 1 mini can diced black olives, drained and rinsed (optional)
  • Avocado dipping sauce on the side (see below for instructions)

Instructions:

Heat olive oil in a saucepan or a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stirring to keep from scorching. After 2-3 minutes, add the other spices, lemon juice, zucchini, and beans. Saute until soft, stirring constantly (between 5-7 minutes). Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Make your tortillas (or get out your prepackaged tortillas). Add one tortilla to the pan. Spread 1/3 of the filling and add a small handful of cheese. Place the other tortilla on top and flip as necessary until cooked to your desire.

*******************************************************************************

Don't forget the dipping sauce! This is a light, flavorful guacamole that's perfect with these quesadillas.

Ingredients:
  • 1 avocado, ripened
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 cup unflavored Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 small tomato, finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon strained tomato)

Instructions:

Cut open the avocado and scoop the insides into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mash/whip to your desired consistency with a fork. Place in the fridge for about 20 minutes before serving (or serve room temperature if you don't like your sauces cold.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

memories and maple syrup: a paleo barbecue sauce recipe

I've never been a fan of barbecue sauce. Living in Reno for so long, I always loved the summer activities. The Balloon Races, Hot August Nights, the Air Races...and the Rib Cook-off. With 500,000 visitors and dozens of barbecue-rs each year, I was bound to eventually find a sauce that tasted right to me.

Ribs + friends = a good day

I remember the year I finally found a sauce that I liked! After getting married and moving, my mom would get me a bottle nearly every summer to put in my Christmas stocking.


The only barbecue sauce I've ever liked!

After going gluten and corn free, most sauces were suddenly not safe for me to consume. Most of them contain soy sauce (which has wheat) or corn syrup or maltodextrin, which are all red flags in our household.

My hubby does enjoy a good barbecue sandwich occasionally, though, so finding a safe version was something I always knew I would eventually need to find. In doing so, I realized that I could make a version that I might actually enjoy too!

I've always liked my barbecue sauce more sweet than tangy, so I tried experimenting with maple syrup. You could probably use honey in lieu of the maple if you prefer a more honey mustard-y vibe. (I'll probably try it next time I make this.) Hope you enjoy, and let me know if you try it with a different combination!

Paleo pork sandwiches with the maple barbecue sauce!

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup ketchup (I use Organicville, which is gluten and corn free!)
  • 4 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup 100% maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion or onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard 
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)

Directions:
  1. Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Use immediately or refrigerate in a glass jar for later use.



Saturday, February 8, 2014

my fajitas! (a grain free tortilla recipe)

One of my favorite scenes from Friends - I always
think of it when I make fajitas! 


Last month, we decided to try and gradually cut grains out of our diet. While going gluten and corn free was 100% necessary for me, I tend to feel better when I also limit my grain intake.

We started with one grain-free day a week for a month, and now we are at two. We're working our way to the point where most of what we eat is grain free. (At this point, I don't see the need to go 100% Paleo, but we're in an experimentation phase so I suppose that could change.)

Since going gluten free I've been trying to find a tasty and (at least somewhat) easy recipe for tortillas. We used to live off of Mexican food, but it's nearly impossible to find decent wheat AND corn free tortillas. That means no enchiladas, no nachos, no burritos, no tacos... (Are you drooling  yet? Yeah, I kind of miss Mexican cuisine!)

The experiments have gone...well, so-so. The rice or sorghum based recipes we have tried tasted dry and felt as stiff as cardboard. After many trials, we were able to create something pliable and tasty, but it had more of a chalupa-esque consistency. It works well as a flat-bread, but not for tacos or enchiladas.

We have made cauliflower tortillas several times, and while they are delicious, they are labor-intensive and don't really work if you're short on time. They also haven't held up well for leftovers.

So I've been experimenting and putting together different recipes to find an easy and delicious tortilla. This recipe will work to make tortillas OR flat-breads - the only difference is how much batter you pour into the pan!

Today I was craving fajitas, so I doubled the recipe (for leftover purposes) and whipped these up! They held perfectly and tasted delicious. 

(For the pineapple chicken recipe to stuff inside your tortillas,
click here!)


*Note: It's been nearly two years since I have had a wheat tortilla. I think these grain free tortillas taste fabulous, especially compared to the other recipes I have tried. Ben still eats at Taco Bell occasionally and he says that these taste good and have the right consistency and pliability, but taste a bit different than regular tortillas. I played around with the recipe and he liked them better the second time. Just want to give you a disclaimer that you will probably notice a difference between these and regular tortillas!*


Grain-Free Tortillas - Recipe makes 4 tortillas or 3 flat-breads (using a 6-inch skillet)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond flour (you can buy almond flour or use a coffee grinder and grind your own!)
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch
  • 2.5 tablespoons water
  • 4 egg whites
  • scant 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • coconut oil for the pan (I use a tiny bit of coconut oil for each tortilla because it adds a nice flavor. You can use whichever oil you prefer...)

Instructions:

Mix all of your ingredients (except the oil). I use a small six inch skillet - you will want to use something small, as your batter will be thin and will fill the space you pour it into. Heat your skillet on medium-low and place a dab of coconut oil. Once it melts pour 1/4 (about one small ladle-full) of batter into the skillet and make sure it spreads evenly. 

The tortillas are thin and will cook quickly, so don't leave them on the pan for too long! When first removed from heat, the tortillas will seem stiff (don't worry - after cooling for a few minutes they will be nice and pliable!)

Hope you enjoy! Leave a comment if you try them and let me know how they worked!