Where the Heck has Mary Been?

If you are wondering if aliens have carried me off, or I’ve run off with the Bachelor, I’m here to tell you… no, I’m still a loving wife to my dear husband of 36 years.  Here is where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to the past five months.

After much thought last year about my life and what direction I want to go, I decided that I didn’t want to be a part time blogger or a part time locksmith with my hubby anymore.  So in January of 2013, I went back to school.

I have been a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition since January and I am loving it.  It is a one year program to becoming a health coach.

I am learning so much about not just nutrition, but also about whole body health.  I have a new blog over at Naturally Simple Health.  Where I blog about healthy living but also gluten-free healthy living.

So I hope you will check out my website there.  I will still be posting on here periodically.

Thanks for being loyal readers of my blog.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free “Cream” of Broccoli Soup

I know that it is Spring, but here in Western Pennsylvania, Winter is determined to keep a firm grip on us. 

Since it has been so cold and snowy, I’ve been craving warm soups.  I love Cream of Broccoli soup, but I’m trying to eat more healthily, and let’s face it, heavy cream is far from healthy.

So I came up with this recipe for gluten-free cream of broccoli soup.  Not only is it gluten-free, but it is also dairy-free.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my hubby and I do.

 

 

Cream of Broccoli Soup

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups fresh broccoli, including stems, chopped
  • 2 cups low sodium, fat-free, gluten-free chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups Almond Milk or low fat Soy Milk
  • 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

In a large Dutch oven or heavy soup pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onion, celery, and garlic until onion and celery is soft.  About 7 minutes.  Add the potato, chopped broccoli, chicken broth and milk.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until potatoes and broccoli are tender.

Allow soup to cool slightly, then transfer soup to a blender*  in 2 or 3 batches and blend until all the soup has been blended smooth.  Return to Dutch oven and heat gently until ready to serve.

Makes 6 servings.

* Instead of a blender, I like to use an Immersion Blender.  These are stick blenders that you can put right down into your pot to blend your soup.

If you like this recipe, you may like my cookbook:

Brown Rice with Nuts & Dried Fruit; Breakfast, Naturally Gluten Free

Whether you’re new to gluten free meal planning or you’ve been gluten free for some time, you know how hard it can be to come up with foods that are healthy, safe, and affordable.  

In my opinion, breakfast is the hardest meal to come up with something healthy and gluten free, and if there are some in your family who are gluten free and others who aren’t, the process of coming up with meals that satisfy everyone can be harder still.

That’s why I came up with this recipe for a healthy, nutritious, and gluten free breakfast.  It’s similar to oatmeal and it’s something that just about everyone will enjoy.  Even better, you can make it in advance and it will keep those in your family who have Celiac Disease, or who are gluten intolerant, healthy.

Brown Rice Breakfast

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, pecans, walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins, dried cherries
  • ½ cup milk, soy, almond or coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Directions:
1. Combine ingredients in sauce pan.
2. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until heated throughout.
3. Eat immediate or set aside to cool.
4. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
5. Reheat a breakfast-sized portion in the morning.

There are many cultures throughout the world where the people begin their days with a bowl of warm rice, which is one reason why this is a favorite gluten free breakfast for my family and me.

Most of the time, I will make a large batch of this on Sunday afternoon so that I know there is a nutritious breakfast waiting in the fridge to start our busy weekday mornings off right.  On cool fall days I will even pack some of this hot brown rice cereal and take it with me to work for lunch.

 If you try this recipe, let me know what you think in the comments. 

If you like this recipe, you may like my cookbook:

Gluten Free Get-Togethers Cookbook

I’m Eating A Gluten Free Diet, What Are My Choices?

 

Fruit SaladFor me, and many people like me, choosing to eat gluten free is not a choice. It is a requirement if they want to feel healthy and lead a normal life.  Dealing with gluten intolerance or even being diagnosed with Celiac Disease is always difficult, but has gotten a lot easier than when I was first diagnosed. Permanent lifestyle changes must be made and adapted.

When making the change to gluten free foods you will need to become a label detective.  Reading labels will have to become your number one priority when grocery shopping.  You don’t want to have any type of wheat or gluten listed as an ingredient, and you must also look for hidden gluten.

Gluten shows up in some foods that you might not instantly think about. Liquorice and beer are just two examples of this. Other food choices that you want to avoid on a gluten free diet include:

  • All white pastas and flours
  • Baked goods including cakes and cookies
  • Pizza dough and flour tortillas
  • Malt vinegars
  • Canned Broth, (some of it contains wheat)

Within the above categories there will be many sub-categories including items like couscous, semolina and oats.  With oats some people find that they can tolerate oats in their diet while others cannot.  If you do decide to try oats then purchase a gluten-free brand, like Bob’s Red Mill Brand

The reason you want gluten-free oats, is because regular oats can be contaminated by wheat, rye or barley, while they are being grown.You may think that if you cut out the above foods, you will depriving yourself of your favorite foods.  Not to worry there are still plenty of good food choices left.

When going gluten-free you want to concentrate on adding lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. You can still eat potatoes and sweet potatoes are especially high in nutrition.

Corn is a product that you can still eat so you can still make corn tortillas for your dinner, along with fresh salsa. Rice and beans are other great food choices that pack plenty of nutrition.  You will want to choose brown rice or wild rice, (which isn’t rice at all but a grass), because brown rice is much more nutrient rich than white rice.

A less familiar product is Quinoa this is an ancient grain that is a complete protein.   Which means quinoa supplies all nine essential amino acids and is especially rich  in Lysine, which is the amino acid that is essential for healthy tissue growth and repair.  Here’s a blog post I wrote a while back about quinoa. In fact many vegetarian’s use this as a substitute for protein in their diets.

When it comes to baking you can replace nut flours for regular flours. It is possible to mix rice flour, potato flour along with your favorite flour so you can still bake your favorite baked dishes.  I don’t like the taste of bean flours so I make my own baking mix of brown rice, rice bran, white rice, potato, and tapioca flours.

You need to be aware that food additives may contain gluten and these can be in products that you wouldn’t even think contain this ingredient.

This list of tricky foods includes items such as salad dressing, soy sauce and some soy products. This is why becoming a food detective is so important.
I have a list of right off the store shelf items that are gluten-free here.

With a little research you will discover there are plenty of food choices for anyone on a gluten free diet. Check out your local grocery store for a gluten free section, you may be surprised at how many foods they have! 

And when in doubt, shop the perimeter of the grocery store.  That’s where the most healthful food is found anyway.

Gluten-Free Smoothies, They’re What’s for Breakfast

I have been on a smoothie kick lately.  You may ask why.  Well I’m finding that I feel better all day when I have a healthy breakfast, but I just don’t have the time to make whole gluten-free grain waffles or pancakes topped with fruit, (and I don’t mean the heavily processed gluten-free waffles you find in the local grocery store freezer), or even gluten-free oatmeal.  So I just blend up a smoothie and away I go.  I can even drink it in the car. ;)

Smoothies are a great way to pack in some extra nutrition, especially if you’re gluten free. Simply combine a number of vegetables and fruits, juice or milk, soy milk or even almond milk and perhaps some  nut-butter.

Got some leftover smoothie? Don’t worry. Just freeze it. If you’ve got kids living with you, or grandkids who visit, you might consider freezing the smoothie in Popsicle forms. Or, place the excess in an ice cube tray. Add the cubes to your next smoothie concoction. 

Here are a few smoothie recipes that are a hit with my family.

Chunky Monkey Smoothie

This is an excellent, on-the-go smoothie. It’s quick and nutritious, which makes it an easy option when you’re pressed for time.

Blend together:
* ½ banana
* 1 tablespoon nut-butter
* 1 tablespoon coco powder 
* 8 ounces almond milk

Chunky Cow Smoothie

This is just like the Chunky Monkey – but without the banana. So, if you don’t like banana, or if you don’t have one on hand, then whip up a chunky cow. It’s equally delicious, just as fast, and offers a good amount of filling protein.

NOTE: Non-dairy milk works well in these smoothies as well. Consider using soy, almond, or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.

Tutti-Frutti Smoothie
Although this smoothie doesn’t offer the same amount of protein of the two chunky smoothies, it’s does make a quick, nutritious breakfast or snack.

Blend together:
* ½ cup spinach
* 1 carrot
* 1 apple
* 1 small orange
* Handful of frozen berries
* 2 Tablespoons gluten free oats (optional)
* 5 ice cubes
* ½ cup juice

Combine and blend until smooth. The oats will make the smoothie a bit thicker. If you prefer a thinner smoothie consider adding more liquid or leaving out the oats.

Super Food Smoothie

This last smoothie is my very favorite, and my usual “go to” breakfast.

Blend together:

  • 4 ounces of  frozen blueberries
  • 4 ounces frozen fruit of your choice (I use a mix of strawberries, pineapple, and mango from Sam’s Club.)
  • 4 ounces grape, acai, or pomegranate juice
  • 4 ounces soy or almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds

Combine in the blender and blend until smooth.

If you try these, let me know what you think of them in the comments below.

 My cookbook: 

 

What’s the Downside of Living Gluten Free?

There are many individuals changing over to a gluten free diet.  Whether it’s because they have been diagnosed with celiac disease, not diagnosed, but just feel better eating gluten-free, or to live a healthier lifestyle.  

But  is there a down side to living on a gluten-free diet?  Is living gluten free really as healthy as they people believe it to be, or are there areas which you should be concerned about?

It’s true that switching to a gluten free diet has the potential to have you eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and that  is, of course, a great thing.   If you really do eat them. 

The one area of gluten free living which can be of  a concern is that of getting enough iron and minerals into your diet.  Traditional glutenous breads and pasta’s have been fortified with irons and minerals, especially the B and D vitamins along with zinc, which has prevented the population from suffering from vitamin deficiencies.

Because those of us eating gluten free avoid these products we are more susceptible to suddenly developing deficiencies.  Quite often new gluten free eaters find themselves with low iron levels.

Also, because celiac disease is a malabsorption problem, celiacs especially need to be aware of the vitamins and minerals they are getting in their diets.  It is very important to look at your total diet and ensure that you’re not leaving any essential vitamins or minerals out. It may even be a good idea to take a high quality vitamin supplement.

 Do you like to go out to eat at a restaurant? If you are sticking to a gluten-free diet this can be a tricky situation.   Especially if you are a celiac or extremely sensitive to gluten and cannot even eat small amounts of foods containing gluten.  Mainly because you will need to be very careful about cross contamination in the kitchen of the restaurant.  You can find an article I wrote about cross contamination here.  It can happen at anytime between preparation of the food and the delivery to your table.

Making wise choices at the restaurant will be important also, and knowing what you can and cannot eat from the menu will help make your decision easier.  Try to stay with fresh produce and it wouldn’t hurt to mention your intolerance to your server.  If you frequent the restaurant often enough they will get to know your food concerns. 

25 years ago, when I was diagnosed with celiac disease, it was a lot harder for people to change over to a gluten free way of living.  However, today the trend for gluten free living is on the increase.  This has led to manufacturers creating more gluten free products.

It is now possible to find items such as bread, cookie and cake mixes which are gluten free.  You can also find those items ready made right on the grocery store shelf, instead of having to visit your local health food store.  Other items readily available  include gluten free waffles and crackers and bagels, just to name a few.

And that is where the problem of eating gluten-free healthily begins.  Some people are just trading their glutenous cookies, cakes and white bread, for gluten-free cookies, cakes and bread and wondering why they are not reaping the benefits of eating more healthily.

Remember, there are so many naturally gluten-free foods, like fresh fruits, vegetables and mushrooms, that you shouldn’t feel deprived. 

One other downside of eating gluten-free is the expense.  Gluten-free foods, in some cases, can cost double or triple the cost of their glutenous counterparts.

The Facts about Gluten

 

I keep getting questions about the gluten-free diet.  So for the next week I will be talking about the different aspects of a gluten-free lifestyle.

So, you’ve been told you need to be on a gluten-free diet, or you are having medical issues, but don’t know why and someone told you to eat gluten-free.  But what is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein that is found in all wheat products and flours. It is the rubber band like substance which binds your food together.  Hence the name glu-ten.   It is not just wheat that contains gluten. Gluten can be found in rye, barley and some oats.  To find out why I say “some” oats read this blog post.

Wheat is a relatively new food for humans and unfortunately many people cannot digest this food properly. This inability to process gluten in your body can lead to a host of health problems.

People who have difficulty processing gluten in their bodies can suffer from headaches, stomach cramps, feeling bloated, nasal drips and heart burn. There are more side effects than these but the most common is dealing with stomach problems.

Unfortunately there is no test to see if you are gluten intolerant. A trip to the doctor will have you taking a blood test. If it is suspected that gluten is the culprit then you will be tested for having Celiac Disease.  And just as an aside, you MUST be on gluten to test for gluten intolerance.  To confirm a suspicion a small intestinel biopsy must be performed.

Many individuals who have Celiac Disease without knowing it can experience joint pains and could be lactose intolerant. There is a difference to having Celiac Disease and having a gluten sensitivity. When your body is sensitive to gluten the results will not show up in any tests.

The only true way to know if gluten is causing you problems is to stay clear of any foods containing gluten. If gluten is the cause of your symptoms you will feel better within days. Doctors recommend avoiding gluten foods for one week as an experiment. You can then slowly re-introduce gluten into your diet, if your symptoms reappear then you know you are gluten intolerant.

Chronic Fatigue has also been associated with gluten. This mysterious illness can be extremely difficult to diagnose. Some medical professionals even refuse to admit that it is a disease!

For many patients suffering from chronic fatigue, a gluten free diet has been shown to be beneficial. The true root cause of chronic fatigue has not been identified yet. Many teenagers suffer from this condition and it is thought to be linked to the nervous system and an immune deficiency or imbalance.

Characteristics of CF include having low iron levels, extreme tiredness, suffering from allergies, sleep problems and dealing with low blood pressure.

If you think you or someone you know is suffering from health issues it might be worth taking the gluten test for a week. Avoid gluten foods and keep a food diary to help you track your results effectively.  Just remember, if you want to get a medical diagnosis, you MUST be eating gluten to test positive for Celiac Disease.

Are You Still Around?

Where's MaryI know it has been quite a while since I’ve written any new blog posts and I just wanted to let you know what happened to me. 

My mother had a stroke back in August, you can read about that, if you want, here.  Well just about 2 weeks before Christmas, she got really sick and hospice was called in.  We lost her on the 22nd of December. 

My oldest granddaughter, Courtney, came for a week the week between Christmas and the weekend after New Years.  We had great fun, the two younger granddaughters were staying with me also and it just so happened that the day after Christmas, we got 14 inches of snow.

Needless to say the sleds got put to a lot of use that week, and there was much hot chocolate drinking.

Around the middle, towards the end of January, I started having twinges of pain in my back.  I put heating pad on my back everynight after work and it would  feel better in the morning, only to start all over again the next day. 

By Friday of the second week, the pain was so bad that I couldn’t even take a deep breath.  My hubby took me to the ER and they told me I had pleurisy.  Which is an inflammation of the lining of the lungs. 

If you’ve never had it, pray that you never get it.  I couldn’t breath, lie down in bed, sit down by myself, or get up out of the chair without my hubby’s assistance.  I had to sleep in the lazyboy chair sitting up for several nights.

Apparently, the sinus/chest virus that I had been fighting for two months, caused the pleurisy.  That virus continued straight through to the beginning of February. 

I’m still having some pain in my back and ribcage, but not nearly so badly as it was.

I will back to writing all about healthy gluten free food and what is new in the world of gluten free living.

Have Some Old-Fashioned Christmas Fun This Year

Do you ever feel like the holidays are getting away from you?  If  you’re like me, you get too busy to enjoy the simple aspects that make the holidays so special.  Marketing messages barrage us from every corner.  We forget that Christmas isn’t about buying the latest and greatest toy or device.  If you want to get back to basics, consider having a fun, old-fashioned Christmas this year.  The following tips are from my new book, Create An Old Fashioned Christmas.

Go Caroling

There’s nothing more old-fashioned than Christmas caroling. Gather a group of friends or join a community or church group. Dress warmly, brush up on your carol lyrics, and make it a special night. Plan to go out for cocoa and treats afterward. It may become a tradition your family looks forward to every year.

Christmas Lights

All around your community, families try to outdo each other with the holiday lights. Some resemble the Griswolds with crazy over-the-top scenes and enough lights to see their home from the moon. Others put out a beautiful display. Take your family for a night walk or drive around your community to enjoy the holiday lights. You can make a game of it to find the most beautiful display or the craziest display.

Decorating

Children love to decorate the holiday tree. Put on some holiday music – Bing Crosby, anyone?  ;)  Let your children hang the ornaments. In fact, going out to cut down the holiday tree can be an event all by itself. See our family adventure here.  You can get cocoa at the tree lot, take a sleigh ride and sing carols. Once home, children can hang the ornaments or make decorations for the home. It’s great old-fashioned Christmas fun.

Play Outside

Don’t forget the joys to be had outside during the holiday season – ice skating, sledding, snow angels and forts and of course making snowmen. Bundle the family up and head outside for some fresh air and sunshine. Let your children decide what the activity is and then support them.

Christmas doesn’t have to be all hustle and bustle. It doesn’t have to be about the gifts and material things. It can be completely about the special holiday time with family and friends. This year, take steps to take Christmas back. Have fun and engage in old-fashioned holiday activities. Your family will remember this holiday for years to come. And who knows – maybe you’ll start a whole new tradition.

Gluten-Free Holiday Treats That Are Quick, Easy And Kids Will Love

Are you looking for ways to keep your children busy during holiday break? One great way, is to have them contribute to the holiday festivities.  How?  Have them help make holiday treats.

In many families cookies are an important part of the holiday tradition. Even if your children aren’t able to bake yet, they can help decorate. Here are a few quick and easy holiday treats your kids will love.

#1 Rice Crispy Treats

Rice Crispy treats are no-bake snacks that can be ready in a matter of minutes. You can find the recipe on the side of any rice cereal box, and now that Kellogg’s has started making gluten-free Rice Crispies, anyone on a gluten-free diet can once again enjoy them.  You need a box of gluten-free rice crispy cereal, a bag of marshmallows and butter. Once the treats are made, you can use cookie cutters to shape them into holiday decorations.

One easy shape for younger children is to cut the treats into circles and decorate them to resemble tree ornaments. You can use basic colored gel frosting, (check label for hidden gluten),  found at the supermarket, or make your own butter cream frosting and color it with food coloring to match your desired decorating style. Let your little ones express their creativity by decorating the treats.

#2 Sugar cookies

There are many different kinds of gluten-free sugar cookie mixes on the market, which will help to shorten the time.  Round sugar cookies can be made and decorated like holiday ornaments. Or you can roll them out and use various holiday cookie cutter shapes to get more creative. This is particularly fun for older children who may enjoy more complicated decorating tasks. Additionally, older children can bake the cookies.

#3 Peanut butter balls

Another no-bake cookie that’s fun to make are peanut butter balls. They’re also called buckeyes. Basically, you blend peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar into a gooey mess. You then roll the peanut butter mix into melted chocolate, let cool and enjoy. Here’s a quick and easy recipe.

* 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
* 1 cup butter, softened
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
* 4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a waxed, paper-lined cookie sheet. Chill for thirty minutes in your freezer. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in your microwave. Stir frequently until smooth. Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top. Place back on wax paper and store in refrigerator.
 
If you have family recipes, invite your children to help bake. Getting your children involved in the holiday preparations accomplishes many beneficial things. It helps them feel valuable. They learn new skills. Additionally, it helps them stay busy during time off of school. They’ll be able to grow up and share their joy of holiday baking with their own family.