Friday, December 30, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Life Lessons

A little while back I wrote a post about life where I wondered what the greatest lesson you had learned in life was, why, and how it changed you. I wanted to share with you some of the wonderful responses I got from asking that question.

"Becoming offended is a choice. People cannot make me feel a certain way. They cannot make me act a certain way. Everything that I do is a choice." - Mediocre Renaissance Man

"It really isn't all about me." - Debtwo

"Eating late won't kill you." - My mom, five minutes ago on the phone. Gotta love her.

I think my lesson, thus far, is that it's important to live a life with no regrets. This is not only one of the hardest things to do, but the one that requires the most courage. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to do every single thing just to make sure you don't regret not doing it later, or vice versa. To me it means that you can decide if you want to regret something or not. You always have the power to choose how you perceive something, but you don't have the power to time travel to the past and change it. Yet, anyway.

My suggestions is to try and find the beauty in it. Appreciate what it taught you, how you grew from it, how it made sense in your life at that moment because it had a reason to. Don't seek out the bad to make yourself feel, well, bad. As my grandmother would say, don't throw yourself a pity party.

Here are some ridiculous life lessons I've also learned this last year:

If I don't forward my email/text message/Facebook post, I will die in the next 7.34 seconds, as will my entire family. Therefore if you don't forward this to 11,267 people in the next .7 seconds, you will die too, or so I'm told. (I'm sure you've heard this one before, but still. It never ends!)

If you predict the rapture and it doesn't happen, no problem. Go ahead and pick a new date. No one will mind as this will just give them more time to prepare for it. Again.

Dust Bunnies: Consider them actual pets and your life will be easier. 

Being "followed" is now acceptable and no longer means you are in any kind of danger. As long as it's on the Internet. Not in the parking lot.

Any other life lessons y'all have learned? Do you know anyone that's actually ever died from that darn email? Because I'm not forwarding it. I'm not. I refuse!
Facebook. Twitter

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A Simple Truth

In my old job I dealt with several hundred associates, and their customers, and helped them all to manage their daily lives in various ways. It was a lot of work, but the people I worked with were amazing, so that made it all worthwhile. Since a lot of the messaging we sent out was about goals and numbers, I was always trying to bring a lighter, more inspirational side to everything. I would post quotes on our SharePoint site, try and talk people off ledges when the day was rough, and rap to them in email. You know, whatever worked. Basically I would just try and help in whatever small way I could. One of the tools I used for that was a website called Simple Truths

Every day I get a new email from them. Some have quotes, others have stories, and every once in a while there's a video to watch. Some are so good they've changed my whole day around. Today's email was one of those good ones that made me want to share it with all of you. Consider what it means to you for the year coming. 

Every action you take has a result. Every decision, no matter how small, can change something, The decisions you make matter, as do you. Remember this.

The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews

There are generations yet unborn whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

Every single thing you do matters.

You have been created as one of a kind.

On the planet Earth, there has never been one like you...and there will never be again.

Your spirit, your thoughts and feelings, your ability to reason and act all exist in no one else.

The rarities that make you special are no mere accident or quirk of fate.

You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world. 

Know that your actions cannot be hoarded, saved for later, or used selectively.

By your hand, millions - billions - of lives will be altered, caught up in a chain of events begun by you this day.

The very beating of your heart has meaning and purpose.

Your actions have value far greater than silver or gold.

Your life...and what you do with it today...matters forever.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of those very delicious, very often not good for you (depending on the recipe) foods. This is a healthy, gluten free version, that you can enjoy without feeling even a tad bit guilty. You can even throw in some chocolate chips or cocoa and make it a dessert. So many possibilities! Just make sure when you're getting the ingredients you purchase the Gluten Free (GF) variety of items, like the chocolate chips, for example, or pure maple syrup instead of the fake kind, which can contain gluten.

Dry Ingredients
1 Cup Bob's Red Mill gluten free, all purpose baking flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp non-aluminum baking powder, such as Rumford's
1 tsp ground cinnamon or apple pie spice, or even pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp finely ground, unrefined sea salt (Celtic works good!)

Wet Ingredients
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil or Spectrum Shortening (or butter, if you don't mind dairy)
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened soy or nut milk (I prefer almond for this one)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 

Optional for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread: 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips 

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom and side with parchment paper. This will avoid the bread becoming stuck to the pan.

2. In a medium bowl whisk the fry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk the bananas with the shortening/oil, syrup, milk, and vanilla.

3. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. 
Optional: Fold in the chocolate chips

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 mins, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool on a rack for 20 mins before turning it out. Let cool completely before slicing. 

An additional variation on this would be...

Chocolate Banana Bread: Replace 3 tablespoons of the gluten free flour with unsweetened cocoa powder. Omit chocolate chips from this version.

I got this recipe from my teacher, Rachel, who recreated it from Erin McKenna of Manhattan BabyCakes Bakery. Delicious!!
Plain and with Chocolate Chips. Yummy either way.
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
- Dr. Seuss

No matter what you celebrate, may this season be the best of them all for you!

Happy Hanukwanzmas!!

Photo Credit:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The End of Books?

My family was chit-chatting the other day when a debate began over the future of books; will we have actual books or will they all have been replaced with eBooks?
I can't imagine a life without actual books in it. A life devoid of hard covers and jackets, images and thoughts-dreams-hopes, printed out in black and white. A world without the need or desire to hold beautifully bound papers. That is no world for me. 

I'm of the "You can't live with it, you can't live without it" stance on technology. I think you need a little bit of everything, in the right places for the right reasons, to balance the scales out. Too much of anything is simply too much. I'm also of the thought process that, if all the doomsday movies and books were to come true, where we have no electricity or technology, I at least want a book that I can read with candlelight. I want something to hold on to. Something to remember. I would also want my money back for all those darn eBooks.

More importantly, I want the warm and cozy feeling I get whenever I think of grabbing a book down off the shelf. Of taking it to the park and reading it in the sunlight. Of watching the pages age after years of use. I want things that only an actual book can give me. 

That being said, I completely understand if you are allergic to paper. That is a tragic thing indeed. May you have all the eBooks your heart desires. I also understand the coolness of the Nook and the Kindle. I own a Nook, for crying out loud! It's very convenient for traveling. It's incredibly handy for pre-sampling books I might want to read or buy. It's great for cheap reads that I don't care to put on my bookshelves. But it will never replace actual books for me. I want my favorite books on my bookshelves. I mean really, that's the whole point of a bookshelf, yes?

In thinking through this it also occurred to me that there's something sort of legal about a printed book. It can't be altered or changed. It can be reprinted, but you would still have the original in your hands. It's so easy to change things with technology. You can add, delete, edit - all in the blink of an eye. I can post this right now and come back tomorrow and change a few things and you'll most likely never know. The email you get from subscribing will never have changed.

I mention this point because a while back I had heard a rumor about a school that was voting out certain sections of a history book. They didn't want the kids to read about the Holocaust because it could be offending to some, disturbing to others. OK...but it happened. Terrible things have happened, those are the facts. There is no shame in learning from the past so we don't repeat our mistake in the present. We don't need our past altered to make it more beautiful or perfect. We need the truth. We need to know what really happened in order to never let it happen again and books serve as an excellent resource for documentation.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that I'm not opposed to eReaders or books in that fashion at all. I think it's great to have all of these options. I'm certain many people benefit from them greatly. I just don't ever want it to be a one-way-or-the-other situation. I want both. I want it all. 

And honestly, I don't know what I would do with a good chunk of my spare time if there was no such thing as a bookstore. I would have to find a new hobby, like maybe insanity. Insanity would probably be my next step after the world turned anti-paperback. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

To the Drummer of Lifehouse: My Apologies

My coworker and I had concocted a plan to go to the state fair, ride some rides, and watch our favorite band, Lifehouse, perform. I was a teenager trying to figure out life, she was a working mom, and Lifehouse was the link that kept us sane.

Once there, we did the normal fair type things: Ate junk food, rode the carousel, screamed profanities while on the thing-that-spins-you-around-so-fast-you're-sure-you'll-die.

After we had recovered, we decided to take it down a notch and go to the haunted house. We were standing in line when a couple of men walked up behind us and attempted to start a conversation. We turned to see a younger guy with a shaved head in a bright red shirt, and an older man, in a black shirt with the word "Security" on the front. You would think that would have tipped me off, but it didn't. It was the late 90's and shirts with the word "Police" and "SWAT"on the front were everywhere. I just figured it was part of the fashion statement of the week.

They asked us if we were enjoying the fair, what we had done so far, and if we were afraid of the haunted house. We answered their questions, they peppered us with more inquiries, and we tried to get out of the conversation at every opportunity. We were shy girls from a small town, both of us in relationships, and they were strangers from the big bad city.

They kept talking and we switched to Plan B, which meant ignoring them entirely. I only felt mildly bad until they laughed it off and kept at it. Then I didn't feel bad at all. Somehow fate placed them in the cart behind us on the ride and the whole way through they kept up their end of the conversation. In their defense, my screams of terror may have been misinterpreted as screams of admiration. We bolted as soon as the ride ended and left them talking to themselves.

When the time came for the show to start, we handed our tickets over and took our seats. The opening act came up and the house of people cheered them on. Finally, the moment we were waiting for had arrived. It was time for Lifehouse.

As the band was setting up I noticed a dozen men standing around the stage, all wearing black shirts with white writing that said "Security." Among them was a very familiar looking security man. I shrugged it off as a coincidence. How could our stranger have known he'd be competing with all these actual security guards? Fashion can be tricky like that.

Then, to my complete bewilderment, a bald headed man in a bright red shirt went to sit behind the drums. My jaw fell to the floor. I grabbed my friend, pointed to the stage, and mimed the words I was unable to express. We had blown off the drummer of Lifehouse, and his security guard.

Lesson Learned: The stranger you're ignoring, he might just be from your favorite band. Be polite now or regret it later.

Unless of course he's creepy. Then go straight to Plan B.

Have you had a brush with fame? Tell me. Or better yet, write about it. I found this awesome site and I got this idea from them - Check it out! It's a great place for writers to join together. 

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recipes from The Gluten Free Baker and more from Paleo Comfort Foods

For Turkey Day I went temporarily crazy and decided to make six recipes, some that I've done before and some that I've never made. Mind you, Thanksgiving was not even at my house, but I had all these new cookbooks to try out, so I just went for it. I did a lot of combining of recipes, due to my goal to get everything gluten and dairy free, and most of them turned out great. Actually all of them were enjoyed, but I'm picky, so there's one I want to have another go at. Here are the winners.

First up, Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie. This one was great because it was easy. The only thing you have to bake is the crust. The rest is no bake. This one was a big hit at the dessert buffet. Agar Agar flakes, for those of you who are like me and have no idea what or where that would be located, are in the Asian food section of the grocery store.

As for the two books used for this one, I am still enjoying the recipes from Paleo Comfort Foods. I appreciate that there are pictures with everything. The simplicity of the recipes is excellent. I haven't tried too many recipes from The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook, but so far I'm liking it. I wish there were more pictures. That's my only complaint. They're so helpful in showing you the outcome.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie
Recipes taken from Paleo Comfort Foods, by Julie & Charles Mayfield and The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook, by Elana Amsterdam.

Dark Chocolate Pie Crust
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate  (73% cacao), melted over very low heat
1 pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons honey (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the almond flour, pecans, and pinch of salt in a large bowl
3. In another bowl, combine the oil, honey, vanilla extract, and melted dark chocolate.
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until completely combined. Using your fingers, press the dough into a 9 1/2 inch pie pan.
5. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. (Make sure you don't over bake it!)
6. Remove, making certain to let cool completely before filling.

No Bake Pecan Pie Filling
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons agar flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups agave nectar (I used honey)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups whole pecans, toasted (I did not toast mine...I forgot)

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the agar flakes and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the agar flakes dissolve. This will take roughly 10-12 minutes.
2. Decrease the heat and whisk in the salt, agave nectar/honey, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Continue cooking over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until all ingredients are well incorporated.
3. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and stir in the pecans.
4. Pour the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until pie has set.

This one everyone liked, except me. Don't get me wrong, it tasted good, but I don't actually like my sweet potato's tasting sweet - like dessert sweet. I've never been a fan of putting brown sugar or marshmallows or anything on them. I like them tasking like potatoes. This recipe makes them dessert sweet, so if you're a fan of that kind of potato, you will love this.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe taken from Paleo Comfort Foods, by Julie & Charles Mayfield.
2 pounds sweet potatoes
1/4 cup coconut milk (I used the canned version)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into equal sized cubes. Place all in a large sauce or stock pot, cover with water, and boil until potatoes are very tender.
2. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
3. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Using a handheld mixer, blend in coconut milk.
4. Add eggs, vanilla, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest.
5. Place sweet potato mixture into 9x9 pan, or oval baker.
6. Sprinkle crushed pecans on top.
7. Bake 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

This one was my very favorite. I loved the blend of ingredients and the extra oomph the coconut gave it. The frosting was a tad tricky, but so worth it. Also, I discovered that my baking pans were different sizes, so I had to get a little crafty with the outcome, but I think it was pretty, if I do say so myself. When choosing your raisins, go for the nitrate free ones. When choosing your coconut flakes, go for the real ones - pure coconut. It makes a world of difference.

I have only kind-of, sort-of tried baking from The Gluten Free Baker. I like that it's GF, but I don't like some of the ingredients, like the sugar, so I find myself changing the recipes. I'll have to give it more of a fair try, though.

Carrot Coconut Cake
Recipes taken from The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook, by Elana Amsterdam and The Gluten Free Baker, by Hannah Miles.

Carrot Coconut Cake
3 cups almond flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/4 cup grapeseed oil (I used avocado oil instead)
1/2 cup agave nectar ( I used honey)
5 large eggs
2 cups carrots, grated
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup apple, cored and grated

1. Preheat over to 325 degrees . Grease two 9 inch cake pans with coconut oil and dust with almond flour.
2. In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the grapeseed/avocado oil, agave nectar/honey, and eggs.
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
5. Fold in the carrots, coconut flakes, raisins, walnuts, and apple. Scoop the batter into the prepared cake pans. *I put my walnuts on top of the cakes for a more layered look.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in pans for 1 hour.

Coconut Frosting
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used the canned kind)
1 cup agave nectar (I used honey)
1 cup coconut flakes
1 pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 cups coconut oil, melted over very low heat

1. In a medium saucepan bring the coconut milk, agave nectar, and salt to a boil, stirring to combine.
2. Whisk the ingredients together then decrease the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. In a small bowl, dissolve the arrowroot powder in the water, stirring to make a paste. *This is where it got tricky for me. Make sure you are stirring this non-stop until you are ready to add it to the sauce, otherwise it becomes a nightmare. Then make sure it dissolves entirely or else it gets hard and chunky.
4. Raise the heat under the saucepan to medium high. Add the arrowroot paste to the coconut mixture, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute. *For me this was longer than 1 minute.
5. Remove the pan from the heat and very gradually blend in the coconut oil with a handheld mixer.
6. Place in the freezer for 30-35 minutes, until frosting solidifies and turns opaque white.
7. Remove from freezer and whip with handheld mixer until more fluffy.
8. Add in the cup of coconut flakes and stir together evenly.*Mind you, it will be a little chunky due to the flakes. 
9. Frost the cakes and place one on top of the other.
10. Add whole walnuts around the edges to make it pretty, if you want. Or if you have two different sized pans like I did.

This next one we did for dinner one night. By we, I mean Justin made it and I ate it. I've always heard good things about cauliflower mash, but never tried it, and I must say it's pretty darn good.

Mashed Cauliflower
Recipe taken from Paleo Comfort Foods, by Julie & Charles Mayfield.
1 head fresh cauliflower
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Cut your cauliflower head into small chunks of the florets and stem.
2. Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan or Dutch over and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to medium, cover, allow to cook for 20 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is very tender and easily mashed with a fork. You may need to add more stock if everything is dried up...or if you have a lot of liquid still remaining, pour most of it off and into a bowl and reserve. Much better to start with too little liquid than too much. Cauliflower holds a ton of liquid, so start with less than you think necessary.
4. Carefully pour cauliflower and all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, or keep in pan and use a hand mixer to mash. If the mashed cauliflower seems too dry, add in some of the reserve liquid or additional chicken stock.

The recipe I need to re-do, and will soon is: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Maple Cinnamon Sage Sauce.
My version of it is three recipes is one, based mainly off of Giada's original, which is amazing, but not gluten or dairy free. I promise to report back.

Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving recipes?

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Food Allergies and The Great Gluten Debate

Photo Credit:
More and more people are being diagnosed with a variety food allergies, including dairy, soy, and gluten. In the last couple of years being gluten free has gone from being a necessity for some people to a lifestyle choice for others.

But why? Why all of a sudden could you be allergic to something now? If you're not, should you avoid it anyway? Should you get tested for food allergies? What's the difference between allergies and intolerances? And can you one day eat everything again?

There are answers. I'll explain. You can decide what to do next.

Food Allergies: What I learned and what you can do to overcome them

I've had allergies all my life, but they were always limited to plants and dust type things. I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to the earth. A couple of years ago things started getting weird with me. I noticed my hair falling out, and not just on my head, but my poor little eyelashes and eyebrows too. My fingers would swell and my whole body just felt terrible. I had a hunch that maybe there was a food I was allergic to so I went and got tested at our local Southwest Naturopathic Medical Center.

Turns out I was allergic to: Almonds, asparagus, blueberries, cabbage, cauliflower, coffee, corn, cucumber, eggs, garlic, gluten, grapes, lettuce, malt, cow milk, peanuts, green peppers, pineapple, rye, soybeans, tomatoes, watermelon, wheat, bakers yeast, brewers yeast, yogurt.

What one thing was I not allergic to, that I happily, HAPPILY would have been? Splenda, and it's not even real food.

I was deeply distraught.

How was I going to survive? Have you ever tried to eat out and avoid lettuce? The concept of gluten free was becoming more mainstream, but lettuce free? Nope. Who had ever heard of that craziness?

The naturopathic center worked out a treatment plan for me which involved rebuilding the strength of my intestine through removing all 27 foods, then slowly adding them back in, and taking a variety of natural supplements over the course of what felt like forever. They explained that certain characteristics in the foods, like what causes green bell peppers to be green, were causing my reactions. Interesting.

I hated every single minute of the treatment because I was angry. I was angry at the test results, at the food, and at myself for not wanting to be different like this. Different in the sense that my whole life was going to become dramatically limited. How would I travel? How would I eat at my friends and families houses without causing a fuss?

I had many questions, so I turned to Google. I researched what I could online and became terrified. All the articles I found seemed depressing and hopeless. The Internet is sometimes a dangerous thing to use (which I know is ironic because this blog is on the Internet and Google may have brought you here). Everything on my list was full of nutrients and things I needed to be healthy, so how in the world could they be hurting me? And why all of a sudden? I wanted better answers.

I took a Taoist Healing with Foods Five Elements Nutrition class at school. When I told the teacher my allergy dilemma he simply said, "There is nothing wrong with the food. They do not cause allergies. There is something wrong with your body." Well, OK. Great.

He had a solution. To figure out what organs of my body were weak and to then strengthen them. We proceeded to go over a chart outlining what organs coincided with what elements of the earth, and what those specific organs would need to once again function as they were intended to. Based on the chart it was determined that my liver was the weakest link (in America, most people's livers are, due to too much sugar). To heal it I had to eat liver healing foods, like artichoke. The more I ate those foods, the stronger my body would become, enabling me to eat anything again. I took what I learned in class that day and added it to my already ongoing treatment plan from the docs. But I still wanted more answers.

I told my friend, Josh, who is a hypnotherapist, about my weird food situation. He explained to me that in hypnotherapy they believe that allergies are caused by emotions that are built up, not addressed, etc. This made sense as well. I had things I wasn't really dealing with and we all know what stress does to the body, so this was definitely plausible.

I went home, took all the information I had gathered from my three sources, and applied it all. I avoided the foods, took the supplements, ate the liver specific foods, and dealt with things. I believed that I would be able to eat my favorite foods again. I believed it would work.

And guess what? It did. I'm almost normal again, y'all.

I still do my best to avoid dairy, soy, gluten and wheat because I still feel funny after eating them, I just plain don't care for them, and not eating them isn't going to upset me like say, having to avoid lettuce.

Let's Get Down to Business

If you've recently come to wonder if you have food allergies, it might be time to get tested. Here's what you need to know:

1. Do not, I repeat, do not panic. Especially if you get a list like mine. 
I can eat 24 out of the 27 foods again without one single problem. You know what this means? If I can do it, so can you. Anyone can. Your body can be healed.

There is, however, a difference between a severe food allergy and a non-severe one. Severe means you will die, in like 5 minutes, after eating the food. Non-severe is a delayed reaction. The tests will show you, based on a scale,  just how allergic you are. Keep in mind that if you have an incredibly severe food allergy it probably can't be healed. There's no sense killing yourself just to try and test it out.

2. Pay close attention to your body. 
It is still very hard to tell the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. Some signs are clear, like for example if you eat a peanut and your throat closes. In that case you definitely have a severe allergy. Avoid peanuts at all costs.

Most allergies are sneaky, though. They are delayed reactions that don't happen until hours, days, weeks later, after you've eaten that food. They cause inflammation in the body which results in hair loss, weight gain/hard to lose weight, swelling, mood swings and depression, among many, many other things. Weight issues, in particular, are often a sign of an allergy.

Intolerances are very similar. Your digestion system doesn't function properly. You feel tired, sluggish. Not so good overall. This is why it's hard to diagnosis one from the other. Your best solution is to avoid the food entirely until you heal yourself up.

3. You have to avoid the foods. 
You seriously have no choice, for now. The reason? When your body is in a state of disarray inflammation occurs. It cannot mend until the inflammation has subsided. So if you keep eating foods that cause inflammation, your body will never have a chance to heal itself.

You will have to avoid the foods for months. And months. But if you can overcome it, it's worth it.

4. Switch it up.
It's been thought that eating the same foods over and over and over will cause a food allergy. If you look at this from the Tao Five Foods Healing perspective it makes sense. Without alternating foods your organs won't gain what they need to remain strong and healthy, thus leading to weakened organs, which can definitely result in intolerances and allergies. If you don't alternate foods you are greatly limiting your nutrient intake and overall well being. Even if you have allergies to certain foods you must branch out and try all kinds of other foods. Then, once you've regained harmony in the body, you can try introducing your old favorites back in.

5. Try a multitude of methods. 
I sincerely believe that there is never just an A or B option. If I had only done one thing I highly doubt that I would've come out of this so well. I think all three things played an integral part in my healing.

Try it all. Give it everything you've got.

6. Mind over Matter
Most importantly, believe that you can overcome this. I'm living, breathing proof that it can be done. It can be hard. You suddenly no longer feel normal. Your friends and family still eat "normal" foods, but you can't. Maybe they don't even think you really have an allergy or they don't understand. It's hard on everyone. You might feel left out. You might feel like the black sheep. You might be stubborn like me and refuse to stop eating everything at first. But don't let The Man hold you down. You need to do this for you, no one else. Educate your friends and family on it. Suggest options. Do research. Do what works for you.

Here is a great article from some people I know and trust, all about food allergies.

Bodhi Body: Food Allergies and the Ninja Anti-body

The Great Gluten Debate

The other day I was in Sprouts getting supplies for a recipe I was manipulating. I needed maple syrup and I wanted the genuine stuff, not the fake sugar free kind that has who knows what in it. I'm in the aisle staring at all these bottles of syrup when I notice that none of the real ones have the gluten free sign on them. How could that be? I stood there for a second wondering how someone had infiltrated maple trees.

Here's the thing: They hadn't. I should know better, but I was thrown off in my hurried holiday shopping. Being gluten free has become a big market now. So big that some manufactures are putting signs on things saying they're gluten free when they never had gluten in them to begin with, and I've gotten so used to it that for a second I forgot that not everything will have a gluten free label even when it is indeed gluten free, like pure maple syrup.

So what is gluten exactly? Just like in the name, it's a protein that acts as a glue. And it's everywhere. Salad dressings, sauces, and of course things like bread. Gluten is a component of wheat, so when you try to avoid gluten you ultimately have to avoid wheat. A gluten free item will always be wheat free, but a wheat free item will not always be gluten free. Keep that in mind.

Gluten and I don't get along. It's becoming more and more clear to me that this is a battle I am not going to win, and that's fine, now that so many things are gluten free. This is wonderful news for all of you as well. Especially if you have an intense reaction to gluten, better known as Celiac disease. If you have this you must absolutely, positively avoid gluten at all costs. 

Gluten allergies/intolerances are actually more common than most people realize. I would wager a bet that there are tons of people walking around with this issue and they've never realized it, never had it diagnosed. For example, do you have digestion problems and your doctor told you that you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? That's not an answer, ladies and gentlemen. It's a "We don't exactly know why you feel awful, so this is what we're going to call it" response. It's like putting a bandaid on a cut, but never treating it. You need to rip it off and get to the bottom of the problem. You don't just hurt because. There is a reason. 

A gluten allergy/intolerance causes a variety of reactions including swelling, inflammation, digestion issues, abdominal pain, constant lack of energy, dark circles under the eyes, and weight issues. That's right...trying to lose weight, but can't? It could all be because of gluten.

Being gluten free has also become popular because people who have no intolerance and have avoided it, have reaped the benefits. But there is still a huge gluten debate out there about why you should or should not avoid it, if you don't have to. Basically what it comes down to is one group says that they feel better when they avoid it for X, Y, and Z reasons. The other group says it's an important nutrient and if you don't eat it you lose out on X, Y, and Z minerals and vitamins.

My thought is this: Give yourself one good, solid month of no gluten. See how you feel. If you notice more energy/weight loss/feeling overall more awesome than you did before, then you need to avoid it. Your body doesn't like it. However, if you go gluten free and nothing - not one single thing - changes in you, keep eating it. It's not hurting you then, clearly.

If you eat out a lot, no worries! Do a Google search for Gluten Free Restaurants and several links will pop up, all of which are dedicated to listing gluten free restaurants in your area. Awesome, right? Being gluten free has never been easier. In fact, I was just sent an email on a new book, The Intolerant Gourmet: Glorious Food Without Gluten & Lactose by Barbara Kafka. I haven't tried it yet, but don't worry. I will. And I'll tell you all about it.

Also, I just discovered something that made me giddy with joy. I saw this article which lead me to this website, Gluten Freely. This site is dedicated to being gluten free. They have recipes, tips, and coupons. Who doesn't love coupons, c'mon now! The article basically says that one of the big food companies, General Mills, has gone gluten free. Little did I know that there were all kinds of gluten free things in the normal aisles of my grocery store.

Being gluten free is your choice...unless you have to, like some of us. But hey, if there's ever been a time to be gluten free, it's now.

One Last Thought (Don't try this at home, kids. Let me test my crazy theory out some more.)

All in all, most of my food allergies are gone. When it gets right down to it gluten is still my #1 enemy and I can't always avoid it. I don't always, especially when I travel, because I'm stubborn and I want to experience the culture and foods of other places. Or I don't want to offend someone. And maybe I'm still just stubborn and want to keep challenging myself. But, and a big but at that, I know my body well. I know all the signs of when I feel bad, when I'm good to go, when I need to call it a day. I'm all about researching and I am my own best tool for that. But I think I've discovered a secret...sort of.


When I travel I am so, so happy. I mean happier than in everyday normal life and when I eat something that may cause my hands to swell, they don't. In fact, nothing happens. Ever. Not a day later, a week later, ever. It's like my extreme happiness overrides my reaction. It's magically beautiful. Going back to what Josh said about emotions, I have to agree. 

Maybe happiness is the answer to everything. 

Questions? Concerns? I'm here to help.

Healthy (Budget Friendly) Family Recipes

So you want to eat healthy, but you're on a budget and you have a family to feed? No problem. This can be done. 

The first step is finding out where you can get good for you foods at a cheaper cost. 

Low and behold, I give you Costco. I am more and more impressed with them lately. Their brand of chicken is antibiotic and hormone free. They have huge tubs of organic spinach, not to mention quite a few other fruits and veggies that are organic. The have wild Atlantic salmon, tubs of gluten free hummus, and sausages that are all natural and nitrate free. Since healthy living is becoming more mainstream, more and more places are getting in on the health craze, which is good for all of us. 

Even at your local grocery store (in the regular food aisle, not the fancy healthy food section) they now have gluten free pancakes mixes, brownie mixes, and bread mixes. I had no idea until last week! Incredibly impressed, I am.

Another option, as mentioned here, would be simply avoiding "The Dirty Dozen" fruits and veggies. Or going to your local farmers market. Believe it or not, farmers markets can be cheaper than grocery stores.  In Mesa there is a place called Superstition Ranch Market. It's an indoor market which has incredibly low priced fruits and veggies. You can leave there with bags full of good stuff for $15. Sometimes it's hit or miss, and it's not all local or organic, but it's great if you're on a budget. A lot of towns have places like this just waiting to be discovered. Do a Google search for local food markets and see what you come up with. 

Now that you have your foods, it's time to get recipes. 

The key to a healthy recipe is the ingredients. You don't have to get all crazy and buy out your local health food store, thus spending a zillion dollars. You simply cut out the bad and add in the good. You substitute, if you will. Instead of butter, use olive oil. Instead of white flour, use wheat or a gluten free version. Limit fried foods or avoid them all together. Make your dinner plates be veggie packed. If you want to save meat, which is always the most expensive thing, substitute a meal once or twice a week with another type of protein, like beans or quinoa. 

I am no recipe making genius. I either accidentally make a recipe out of hunger or I re-create something I've seen. I like to take recipes that other people have and make them good for me. I  sign up for Whole Foods emails where I get recipes about once a week. Yes, Whole Foods can be expensive, but the recipes are great and they very often have amazing coupons. Plus, you can always substitute what they call for in a recipe with something else that's more affordable. 

If you can't do gluten, sign up for Living Without's weekly recipe. I also like Eating Well as they often have pretty good recipes and budget plans, all in one.

Another trick I learned from my whole foods cuisine training with Rachel was: Shop Ahead, Chop Ahead, Cook Ahead. This simply means make enough of whatever you're working on for plenty of leftovers. This way you're not spending extra time trying to come up with a new healthy recipe for dinner or lunch the next day. 

Here are some yummy, budget friendly, healthy recipes to try out with your family.

Beef and Potato Salad with Smoky Chipotle

Cincinnati Chili

Also, one of my favorite dinner items is breakfast. Make this quiche recipe and you'll stay on your budget, plus have leftovers. The beauty of it is that you can add whatever you want to it. More veggies, more seasoning, whatever you want.'s so easy to make. The only "special" ingredient you need is almond flour.

If you have kids and you need to get them eating healthy, smoothies are a great start. You can make a yummy green smoothie or a berry antioxidant rich one, providing them with good nutrients and a delicious start to their day.

To make a green smoothie, take my Banana Smoothie recipe and add in a handful of kale or spinach, or both. To make it tropical, add in a peach or mango. For a berry mix, throw in a variety of berries and blend. Voila. Good for you and delicious.

One of my favorite snacks is the peanut butter apple sandwich, which is a kid favorite. It's incredibly easy and good for you, but I took the recipe from Whole Foods and made it even easier and healthier. Just use the apple and peanut butter and leave everything else off. The apple in itself is sweet enough if you get the right kind. If your kids allergic to peanuts, no problem. Substitute almond butter instead.

Thanks to my two Jessica's for wanting info on this topic! Excellent Idea!

More questions? Let me know. Or if you have any healthy budget friendly recipes, email me. Sharing is good for all of us.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Y'all are probably three steps ahead of me, but I recently found out there's this thing called Free Music Tuesdays on iTunes.

That's right. Free music.

And at least one song is always good. I've discovered all kinds of artists I might not have ever found. You may also be ahead of me here on some of them. For instance, a few years back I thought I had "discovered" these two amazing singers, Chris Cornell and Thom Yorke. Yeah, well, not so much. Don't worry, I was laughed at then so feel free to laugh now. I can't help it if I don't know peoples names when they're in a band. I know, I'm a horrible fan. For shame.

But really...I only know that Florence is Florence because the band is named after her partially. On that topic, Florence + the Machine just released their new CD and it is a-MAZE-ing. I'm thoroughly enjoying Seven Devils, Bedroom Hymns, No Light, No Light, and What the Water Gave Me (below). She seems to have a thing for water and drowning, but whatever. The songs are good.

I have some new favorites from this wonderful Tuesday thing they've got going on. Check these out. Most of the videos are boring, but the music is great, which is what this is all about anyway.

Daughter - Landfill

Robert Earl Keen - I Gotta Go

Bat for Lashes - Daniel

Radical Face - Ghost Towns

Kascade - Lessons in Love

Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown - Shackles

Florence + the Machine

Friday, December 2, 2011

Anyone Got a Snuggie?

Winter has officially hit my city. I know this because I'm about to freeze to death, my fingers are turning purple, and most importantly, I had to put a long sleeved shirt on.

I blame my lack of tolerance for the cold on being a native. Sunshine runs in my blood. I drive in the summer with the windows up and the AC off. That's just how I roll, yo. This is a problem because I am almost always somewhere where I'm cold. Like my home town, where they actually have four seasons and this crazy white stuff called snow. Or the office where the AC is set to turn me into a popsicle.

I know there are easy fixes, like say long johns and jackets. I know, I know. But here's my problem: I hate sleeves.

I don't know why I have an aversion to them, but I do. I own shirts with sleeves, I just don't use them properly. I will be knee deep in snow with three sweatshirts, two pairs of pants, a hat, a scarf, and gloves - and my sleeves will be pushed up. Right now, in fact, I'm sitting here still trying to resuscitate my frozen limbs and my sleeves are up at my elbows.

My solution? A snuggie.

There's no way I can roll anything up because each sleeve is like a giant tent. I would go mad attempting that every 3 seconds. I would still try, but eventually it would backfire on me like a Pavlov experiment gone wrong.

On top of my near death experience today, my shirt broke. I left a trail of tiny sequins wherever I went. My fix? Tape.

That's right ladies and gentlemen, I walked around the office today with a piece of tape stuck to my side and no one was the wiser.

Admittedly, I am a failure at certain Mrs. Cleaver type qualities such as sowing. My poor future children will all have store bought clothes. That or pieces of fabric taped, stapled, and paper clipped together...because this is how I have learned to deal with every single pair of pants that I own being 4 inches too long.

When I got my first Corporate America type job, where I had to wear business pants and walk around on my feet all day, the high heels were out. So I did what any self respecting 17 year old would do and I stapled those mo fo's up. That's right. Worked like a charm, too. I have since learned that their is such a thing as a seamstress, but in snafus that pop up, like today, tape and other office supplies always work.

Feel free to steal that brilliant idea.

Got any crazy outfit situations? Do you have a snuggie I can borrow??? 

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