Monday, August 30, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies: Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger

Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger has become one of my favorite monthly blog events. I hosted the roundup this May, and each month it gives me an excuse to try out another blogger's recipes. I've made Amy's Saffron Tomato Sauce, Stephanie's Rainy Day Tomato Soup, and this month I got to test out Shirley's Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies. Chocolate chip cookies are not usually my favorite type of cookie, but I love anything with banana in it, as you might have guessed from my Hint O' Chocolate Banana Muffins, Quinoa Banana Muffins, or Sunshine Banana Muffins. I've been following Shirley's blog, Gluten Free Easily, for quite some time now, so when I saw that she was hosting this month's Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger, I knew that I had to join in. And when I realized she was adopting me (!), I thought, what better time to adopt her? I jumped right in and grabbed her name before someone else could do it!

A little about Shirley: If you follow the gluten-free blogging community, you probably already know her. And if you know her, then you know that she's got more energy than most people. And thankfully for us, she uses that energy to support, encourage, and generally just make other people feel good. It's no surprise to me that she's the leader of a gluten-free support group. Shirley is the kind of woman who will e-mail you randomly with kind words or respond to any question with extreme detail and thought. Although we've never met in person, I consider her a good friend and feel lucky to have found her blog. I believe it was Wendy recently that called Shirley the, "ultimate gluten free good fairy," and I agree wholeheartedly with that statement.

Now on to the cookies: As I said, chocolate chip cookies are not usually my favorite. I like them because I don't think there's any cookie I don't like, but I would normally pick a molasses cookie, snickerdoodle, or oatmeal cookie over a chocolate chip. Well, these cookies changed my mind. They are the tastiest, chewiest cookie I have had. Ever. I really can't remember the last time I enjoyed a cookie so much. Maybe it was the hint of banana. Maybe it was that "just warm from the oven" taste. Maybe it was that "just warm from the microwave" taste. Maybe it was that "cool from the freezer" taste. I made them with a two year old while babysitting, so I can tell you that they're super easy to make, and I got her approval. I also got the approval of my friend who usually says, "Sure it's good for gluten-free, I guess." This time he just said it was good and left it at that. I froze the leftovers and ate them straight from the freezer... I think they would go wonderfully with vanilla ice cream! I also microwaved the frozen cookies for 20 seconds, and it was like having a just-baked cookie.

The cookies are all gone now, and I find myself wishing I had more. Of course, with such a simple recipe, it's easy enough to whip up a batch. I just have to figure out a way to make them last longer!

Here's the link to Shirley's recipe: Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
(The recipe calls for gluten-free flour mix, so I used Bob's Red Mill Baking Mix.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Triumph Dining Gluten-Free Guides

I was contacted recently by a lovely lady named Sarah at Triumph Dining. She wanted to know if I had any interest in becoming a Triumph Dining affiliate. I first heard about Triumph Dining when I started eating gluten-free over a year ago. The idea was to have special cards you could present to your waiter at restaurants that explain exactly what you can and can't eat. While the idea appealed to me, I am not the kind of person to spend money on something I'm unsure about, so I never purchased the cards for myself. When Sarah contacted me, I asked if I could test the cards out. I was hesitant about whether they would work for me, but decided to give them a try.

Since becoming gluten-free, I have become increasingly stressed out over eating at restaurants. Luckily, there are a growing number of restaurants with gluten-free menus, but having a limited choice of restaurants can be annoying to friends and family who just want to go out to dinner and not worry about whether the menu is gluten-free. I also hate it when people have to make special accommodations for me. The discomfort of having to talk to the waiter/manager about my dietary needs is such that I would much rather just stay home! But with the Triumph Dining cards, I was able to save myself all the trouble. I didn't have to worry about whether I had told them everything they needed to know. And I was able to eat successfully at one of my favorite Thai restaurants, a place that I had avoided since going gluten-free. The Triumph Dining Cards come with a different card for different types of cuisine. For example, the card has tips for where gluten might be hiding in food that is specific to that cuisine. And even better, the instructions are always written in English and the native language. When I went to my Thai restaurant, the waiter looked very confused when I started to explain my issue. But all I did was turn the card over to where it was written in Thai, and there was no problem. In fact, she looked just as relieved as I did. Even more surprising was that once I gave them the card, I was given extra attention and care that I would not usually expect to receive at a restaurant. I now carry my dining out cards with me in my purse at all times. Eating out is still a bit nerve wracking for me, but I also feel much more comfortable with the idea of traveling and eating out with friends.

I am now a Triumph Dining affiliate. For full disclosure, what this means is that I get a small commission if you purchase one of their products using their link on the right side of my blog. What it also means is that I believe in their product. My guess is that if you're gluten-free, you've heard of them and might already have their guides. If not, it's something I recommend for the simple reason that it makes dining out ten times easier and one hundred times less anxiety-provoking. I'm only sorry I didn't get their guides a long time ago and save myself a lot of stress!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Simple Stomach Soothing Snacks

Cabbage Smoothie

Simple. Fast. Soothing. These have been the guidelines for most of my food the last few days. I am not always good at eating exactly the way my body would like. If I were to do it perfectly, I would eat a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diet. It would be low-carb, with an emphasis on vegetables and lean protein. I would follow the tenets of food combining at every meal. I would drink 64 ounces of water every day. I would have a vegetable juice daily. I would never eat dried fruit. I would probably have to give up a lot of other things as well. If I were to eat perfectly, I would never eat a grilled cheese sandwich on Udi's gluten-free bread with tomato slices and bacon bits for dinner.

I am not perfect.

But I'm pretty good most of the time. I also know when my body can handle something a little more decadent and when it needs rest. This past week it needed rest. So while I craved that grilled cheese sandwich or a slice of pizza, I listened to my body and ate simply. Vegetable juices, green smoothies, lots of water, and everything mild, mild, mild. If you're having one of those days when your stomach needs a break, or you just want to send it some calming love, here are a few quick ideas to help you on your way.

Cabbage Smoothie
(Why cabbage? After Dr. Internet determined that I might have an ulcer, it told me that cabbage juice was a great remedy. Not wanting to down four glasses of plain cabbage juice daily, I began incorporating cabbage into my daily routine. If I have an ulcer, it might help. If not, it's still really good for me) 

1/2 - 1 banana
1/2 - 1 cup frozen cherries
1 - 2 cups cabbage
hemp milk (approx. 1 cup)

You can use any frozen fruit you want for this smoothie. The one in the photo used peaches, but frozen cherries are my favorite addition. 

Throw all the fruit and vegetables in the blender. Add enough milk to reach the 1 cup mark. Blend until smooth. This makes enough for two people or one large smoothie.

    Cabbage Cooler

    1/2 apple
    1/2 cucumber
    enough cabbage to fill a cup of juice

    When I make juice, I usually just throw veggies and fruits in the juicer until I have enough juice. So I don't know how much cabbage I actually use, but for 1 cup of juice, I use half an apple, half a cucumber, and as much cabbage or as many greens as it seems to need. If you're new to juicing and want a sweeter juice, you can use the whole apple. 

    Cucumber Salad

    1 small cucumber, thinly sliced or diced
    small handful fresh basil, diced, or tsp. of dried basil
    salt to taste

    Toss the cucumber with basil and sprinkle with salt.

    "Baked" Apple and Zucchini Breakfast

    1 apple, grated
    1 zucchini or summer squash, grated
    1/2 - 1 tsp. cinnamon

    Stir all your ingredients in a bowl and microwave in the oven for 3 minutes. Take out, stir, and microwave another 2 minutes if needed.

    When you're done giving your stomach all this tender, loving care, you can finish by writing it a love letter. Dear stomach, I love you. Please love me back. 

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    How Do YOU Change The Way You See Yourself?

    Sometimes my favorite part about a blog post is reading the comments. Often, the post itself is simply a starting off point. It’s the beginning of a discussion that continues on long after the author has finished her own story. Such was the case with my last post on chronic pain. The comment section is a testament to how many of us have dealt with similar issues, but also a wonderful resource of tips and suggestions from people who have been there and come out on the other side. Similarly, my recent post on weight and body image yielded a number of thoughtful comments from women (and not to exclude anyone, there was also a great comment from a guy) who all understand the pressure to look a certain way. One thing that we all agreed on is that it’s time to start loving ourselves and stop letting the media dictate our self worth. 

    One of the comments that struck me was from a good friend and fellow blogger, who wrote that she was working on getting her mind to the same place as mine. Well here’s the thing. I am not there. I finally realized where “there” is, and it’s not some distant place where I look like a Victoria’s Secret model. There is where I’ve always been. My mind is just finally catching up. Like I wrote in that post, I’ve had 28 years to believe I wasn’t good enough. That won’t change in a day. But here are some of the ways I’ve been working on changing my way of seeing myself:

    1. Focus on your favorite attributes, not your flaws. I imagine I’ve spent countless hours looking in the mirror at my flaws. Picking apart my face and body, wondering if other people see what I see. Now, whenever I find myself doing this, I stop and pick a feature I like. My eyes, my lips, my hair, whatever looks nice that day. And I spend as much time oohing and aahing over my beautiful hair as I would have spent critiquing something else. By the time I walk away from the mirror, I find myself feeling confident and quite sure that if anyone notices anything about me, it will be what a great hair day I’m having, not the fact that my stomach isn’t as flat as I think it should be.

    2. Stay away from the magazines! This is a do as I say, not as I do tip. I LOVE reading People and US Weekly. But they never make me feel good about myself. It's almost impossible to read them without starting to play the comparison game. I think of them like candy. They taste so good, but rot my soul. My concession is that I won’t buy them because I refuse to give them money, but whenever I find a free copy (like at the library), I devour them. 

    3. Affirmations. This doesn’t work as well as my first tip, but I do find that when I’m feeling down, if I write the same sentence over and over, I eventually start to believe it. I am beautiful. I am beautiful. I am beautiful. Try it. It can’t hurt, right?

    Now before you go, I’m going to ask you to do two things. One, if you have something you do that makes you feel good about yourself, tell us in the comments so we can continue this discussion. And two, pick out a favorite feature and go admire yourself in the mirror. You’re beautiful... Believe it!

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    To All Chronic Pain Sufferers

    Are the peanut butter cookies to blame, or am I just a nut job?

    I've been away for two weeks. Not away on vacation but rather away in some la-la land where time passes in a blur, where headaches are constant, a lifetime of sleep is never enough, sugar-filled cakes dance in my dreams, and family is a fuzzy presence anchoring me to this world. Ah, and Biochemistry is there as well, its own tethering presence quite different from that of my family. If this all sounds a bit convoluted, it's only because that's how my brain has been working these days. Everything has been a jumble in my head, and in the background is the thought, Seattle is only 34...33...32...31...30 days away. And as my brain signals are still somewhat criss-crossed, that number is not necessarily correct. Adding in my head takes a lot of effort, as does getting up to check the calendar. And before you point out that my computer must have a calendar on it, I considered that also. Too much work.

    I'm exaggerating a bit, but not much. Although acupuncture and daily vegetable juices seem to be great for my mood, my headaches are ever present, some days better, some days worse, but always there. A few days ago, I made the mistake of baking two batches of cookies. Sunbutter cookies for me, and peanut butter cookies for everyone else. I've been staying away from all nuts (although my mom pointed out that peanuts are technically legumes), so I had no intention of eating the peanut butter cookies. But alas, I can tell you from personal experience that they were delicious and much better than the sunbutter cookies. I didn't mean to eat them. I just got confused about which batch it was and ate the wrong one. At which point, I proceeded to eat another because the damage had already been done. And since I'm never convinced of what exactly is causing my headaches, I always eat the offending food thinking that maybe I'll be fine.

    I was not fine. I woke up yesterday with temples pounding, feeling as if I were slogging through muddy water. I slept a good ten hours, but felt no better than when I had gone to sleep the night before. So at 9:30 in the morning, I took a nap. I slept another three hours, during which time I either had an out of body experience or dreamed I had an out of body experience. Either way, it was quite fun, until I dropped back into my body and my temples began to throb again. That's the worst thing about these headaches; they're there even in my sleep. I wake up grumpy because my headache keeps interrupting my dreams. I could have slept all day, as it seemed to be the best way to avoid the pain, but I made myself get up, and then had a little hissy fit and cried so my mom would comfort me. Like a five year old, I wailed, "It's not fair!"

    It wasn't the peanuts I was referring to. I will happily give up peanuts. It was more the fact that I've become convinced that the only way to get rid of these headaches is to eschew food altogether. All food. Since that doesn't quite seem realistic or logical, I am reduced to wailing until the headaches calm down, at which point I continue on about my business, taking a medicine cabinet worth of homeopathic pills, tinctures, and teas.

    Did you know that cabbage juice is supposed to cure ulcers? I've been drinking a lot of cabbage juice, as I've decided that the pain in my stomach and chest is an ulcer. The gastroenterologist I saw months ago thought it was acid reflux and told me to take Prilosec. He also told me this would stop the headaches. Since I'm not very good at listening to doctors when they tell me to take pills, I ignored him. Recently, I gave in and bought Prilosec. This was quite a desperate move for me. As my mom said, only a desperate person would take a pill with that many possible side effects. She would know since she also has chronic headaches and the medicine she takes for them gave her an ulcer. So she takes Prilosec to cure the ulcer caused by the medicine to stop the headaches. And the cycle continues. The wonders of modern medicine. 

    But I digress. The Prilosec has not done a thing. My stomach does not hurt any less. My chest pain has not gone away. And my headaches have certainly not gone away. I suppose I should feel vindicated for assuming that that doctor was an idiot and ignoring him for so long. Mostly I just feel annoyed. At this point, I would rather take Prilosec for the rest of my life and be done with it.

    Perhaps I am just crazy. But no, I am not. I am simply one of millions who suffer from chronic pain of one kind or another. But I haven't given up. I have less of a headache today than I did yesterday, and at least I can think again. So I'm going to blame the peanuts for this particular fit and treat all nuts as if they were the devil. I'll post this because I know that while I sometimes feel like I am a nut job (and I get the feeling many of my friends and family think so too), some of you feel the same way and will appreciate knowing you are not alone. To all chronic pain sufferers, I salute you, and I sincerely hope to someday not be one of you.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    If I Lose Five Pounds, I Will Become A...

    If I lose five pounds, I will become a happier person. A more confident person. I will be more desirable. That is the message we're given, isn't it? That as women, we are somehow more complete if we look a certain way; perhaps if only because thin = confident and not thin must therefore = not confident low self-esteem.

    I have to challenge something here, and that is the assumption that weight and confidence have so much to do with each other. Having worked with hundreds of clients to help them lose weight, I can honestly say that some of my most confident clients were also the biggest. Conversely, some of my thinnest clients have been the most obsessed with their weight. One client in particular comes to mind. I'll call her Cindy. Cindy was a tall, gorgeous blonde. She looked like a model, and I often saw other clients watching her surreptitiously in the lobby. I knew what they were thinking, often because they burst out with the question the second they got into my office. "What is she doing here?! She doesn't need to lose weight!" But she thought she did, and nothing I or anyone else said could convince her otherwise. She was terrified at the thought of gaining weight, was sure that no man would find her attractive, and gave herself a guilt trip over every ounce she ate and every time she didn't work out. Of course, Cindy was an extreme. But the truth was, she wasn't that extreme. I would like to say she was my only client like that, but she wasn't. I would also like to think that, working as a weight loss consultant, I had a skewed reference point for how women think, but I don't believe that's true either. The words I heard were the same I've heard from friends for years. "I feel fat." "I need to lose weight." "Ugh. I feel so gross." Have you ever said those words? I certainly have.

    We live in a society that is obsessively focused on weight. Every pound that Jessica Simpson puts on or takes off is scrutinized in the media. If she loses fifteen pounds, she's on the cover of US Weekly with a big smile and a "How Did She Do It?" Suddenly, she is on top of the world and we should all look up to her and try to lose weight like she did. If she gains fifteen pounds, she is no longer smiling. The magazine now wants to know, "Was She Cheated On Because of Her Weight Gain?" Really? Really? 

    But you all know this. That the media enforces a negative body image in women is not news to any of us. So why am I talking about this today? Most of you know that I lost about twenty pounds five years ago. If you've been reading since the beginning, I've probably mentioned wanting to lose that last five "vanity pounds." In fact, I'm sure I have. It's always there, a niggling thought in the back of my mind. If I could just lose those last five pounds, I would [insert life changing idea here]. I don't even know what would be different. But something would, right? I generally eat healthy, and if I work hard, I lose a few pounds. Then I overeat and gain them back. I lose them a few months later. I overeat again and gain them back. I end up staying at the same weight, cycling those couple of pounds over and over. Lately, I've been struggling -as I often do- with food cravings and the guilty feelings that come with them. But today, I was reading a book on overeating, and the author posed a question that made me stop and think.

    The question was based on the idea of being stranded on a desert island with the knowledge that no one would ever see you again. There was plenty of food on the island, but no people and no hope of being rescued. Now, set aside the idea of how horrible and devastating that would be, and just ask yourself the question, "Would you try to lose weight?" I didn't even have to think about the answer. Of course not! If no one would see me, then who cares? But I asked someone else and her answer was yes. Why? Because her joints would hurt less and she would feel more comfortable in her own skin. I understand that. At twenty pounds heavier, I was not comfortable in my skin at all. But now? I had to stop and think. If someone asked me if I want to lose weight, my answer would be yes. But did I want to lose weight if no one else was around to judge see me? Suddenly the answer was no.

    It took a simple question to make me see what people have been telling me for years. That I don't need to lose weight. No, that's not quite right. It took a simple question to make me realize something more than that. I always knew I didn't need to lose weight. Today, I realized that I don't want to. No wonder it's always such a struggle! It's only when I'm comparing myself to others that I suddenly feel the need to have the "perfect" body. When I'm doing my own thing, my body feels pretty perfect to me.

    I don't want to lose weight. What a small statement with such a big impact. Even just typing it, I think, "That can't be right. I should take it back. I must be lying to myself. I can't be okay with myself just how I am, can I? If I'm happy with how I am, then...then...well, I don't know what then." Why do I rebel so strongly against the idea that I'm great just the way I am? I'm still working on the answer to that. The idea that I don't want to lose weight is a new revelation to me, so I'll have to take some time to sit with it and figure it all out. One thing I do know is that, at twenty eight, I've spent years believing I needed to lose weight. That's not something I can erase in one day. Even at my lowest weight (which was actually ten pounds lighter than I am now), I still thought I should lose weight. I don't even think I had a reason at that point. Just because. Just to be like all the shiny people on magazine covers. Just to be a star.

    So here I am now with this idea that I like my body at this weight. I know it won't make a big difference unless I work at it. I know those doubts and niggling whispers about the power of weight loss will come back and try to worm their way in. I know that this new revelation could float back out the door if I let it. But if I allow myself to accept what I now realize is a more honest view of my own feelings, what other truths might I come to find? If I stop believing that I have to look like someone else in order to be the perfect me, what will I do with all that excess energy? All that energy that I've used to agonize over food, bingeing, and weight loss? That's a lot of extra energy floating around, waiting for something positive to invest in. That's a reality I've never known. I don't know what it feels like not to worry about my weight. I don't know what it feels like not to obsess over food. I know what it feels like to obsess less. But not to obsess at all? Is that even possible?

    Here's what I'm promising to myself, and I'm promising it to you because then I can't conveniently forget this. I will not tell myself that I am fat. I will not look in the mirror with the intention of picking out my flaws. I will get rid of the skinny jeans that were tight on me even ten pounds lighter than I am now but that still lie in my dresser drawer. I will not tell myself that I need to lose five pounds before I move to Seattle. I will not berate myself for wanting to eat a cookie, and I will not feel guilty if I eat more cookies than I had planned. I will not judge myself when thoughts of weight-loss creep in, but nor will I harbor those thoughts like lost souls looking for a home. And on days when I fail at all this - because I know those days happen - I will at least tell myself I am beautiful.

    I know. Easier said than done. Well, I said it and you all heard me. So now I'm going to do it.

    Operation Beautiful

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Savory Potato Waffles a.k.a. Waffle Fries

    It seems to be waffle week here at La Casa de Iris - or I should really say La Casa de Doug y Betsy since I'm gratefully living with my parents this summer. But either way, I've had waffles on the brain, as proven by my last post on how to make gluten-free waffles. Today is actually the first day all week that I haven't had a waffle, and I think I might have to remedy that now that I'm sitting here thinking about them.

    These waffles are not your everyday breakfast waffle. Although they're a perfect side for scrambled eggs, you're more likely to add ketchup to these than maple syrup. To me, they taste like waffle fries. And before you ask what waffle fries are (because apparently they aren't as common as I thought), let me tell you. They're similar to french fries, but look like miniature waffles, and are usually loaded with beans, salsa, and melted cheese. If you're wondering if my waffles would also be good with beans, salsa, and melted cheese, I can tell you the answer is an emphatic yes. And yes, these are the waffles that messed up my no-dairy streak. I got right back on the wagon, but boy did that fall taste good.

    As an aside, did you know that waffles fries have their own Facebook page? Yep. I found it when I was looking for a good description of waffle fries. I didn't find one, but I found out that there are 109, 373 people who like the Waffle Fries Facebook page. I thought I was doing well with 84 people liking The Daily Dietribe Facebook page, but apparently I am small potatoes (haha, yes I know that was bad) compared to waffle fries. However, french fries have us both beat with 628, 478 friends. Personally I like waffle fries better, but I can see how french fries would win this battle.


    One more thing about these waffles before I stop chattering and let you get to the recipe. They go well with pretty much anything, would be delicious toasted and diced for breadcrumbs, and freeze wonderfully. In fact I think they actually taste better after being unfrozen and toasted so they're nice and crispy. They've even made me rethink past statements that I don't like potatoes that much. Apparently I love potatoes. Or at least potato flour.

    Oh and in case you were wondering, the potato flour is definitely necessary for this recipe. You can use all potato starch instead of tapioca or all tapioca rather than potato starch. You can play around with the rice flour to cornmeal ratio or only use one of the two. But the potato flour is integral and the amount is important. More will give you a very chewy waffle; less won't give you enough potato flavor. 

    Savory Potato Waffles a.k.a. Waffle Fries
    Print-Friendly Option

    1/4 cup white rice flour/brown rice flour
    1/2 cup cornmeal*
    1/4 cup potato flour*
    1/2 cup potato starch
    1/4 cup tapioca flour
    1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. sea salt
    1/4 tsp. garlic powder

    1/4 cup canola oil
    1 large egg (optional)
    2 cups water (plus more if needed)
    1/2 cup soy milk (or your favorite milk alternative)
    1 Tbsp. diced fresh dill

    *The potato flour is the key ingredient in this recipe. You can try replacing the other flours, but it needs potato flour. I'm not sure how it would be with a cornmeal replacement, but I have a feeling it might taste good with almond flour.

    1. Whisk together dry ingredients. 
    2. In a separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients.   
    3. Whisk all of the ingredients together until no longer lumpy. If it's still too thick, add more water until it reaches the desired consistency.
    4. Spoon evenly onto waffle iron and cook, in batches, according to the iron's instructions.
    Serves 6 (2 squares each)


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