Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adios 00's Bring on the 10's

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Ten years ago I was 19 years old, a freshman in college, and home in Plymouth for Christmas break. My friends from home and I decided we'd make the trek into Boston for First Night. You just buy a first night pin for $30 and you get admission to all Boston has to offer for New Years Eve. Of course, at 19, all we cared about was drinking like fools and being ridiculous. We were so carefree and young and life was good.

Being born on a new decade year, each new decade brings a new phase of life. In 2000 I turned 20 and left my teens behind. I thought I had it all worked out. I met the love of my life, we talked about getting married, we played house in our tiny one bedroom apartment, I was on top of the world. Ohh how naive I was. The twenties have been the most defining years of my life so far. I fell in love, got my heart ripped out, spent years trying to mend it, got sick, got diagnosed, graduated college, went in a totally different career direction, and lost my job. Made new friends, lost old friends, lost loved ones, and watched the next generation being born. I've learned so many things about myself, and others, and life in general. And yet, I still feel like I have so much to learn. In less than 5 months I'll turn 30 but I can already feel the next phase of my life beginning. My health is good, my heart is happy, and my head is in a good place. I'm ready for whatever it is that 2010 has to give me. If I've learned one thing, it's that no matter what life throws at me, I can handle it.

So even though that beer isn't gluten free, just pretend that it is, and let's toast to saying adios to the 00's and hola to the 10's. Happy New Year everyone!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

Maggie Kate

Isn't she just precious??? I am so in love with my little niece Maggie. I can't wait to squeeze her tomorrow on her first Christmas! I have a bunch of food reviews to write and upload, sorry for the lack in posts here. Things are going well and I'm sticking with the gf/cf diet. My stomach is not perfect being off meds, but it's not horrible. I also just started montly B12 injections. I'm actually thinking that I will probably not argue when the doc asks me to go back on the meds. Being off of them for a few weeks and feeling the difference in my stomach, I realize that they really were working. We'll see what happens on January 5th I guess. I hope you are all doing well during this holiday season! Happy Holidays to you and yours!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'M AN AUNTIE!!!!!!

Maggie Kate

My BEAUTIFUL niece Maggie was born tonight, 12/19/09 at 8:09pm, 9lbs 13oz and 21 inches! She's perfection. Mommy, Daddy and Baby are all doing wonderfully. I am the proudest auntie in the whole world!!! I can't wait to get back to the hospital to hold her again! I was lucky to be in the room throughout her labor and it was the most amazing experience of my life. My sister is part of my soul and I am so thankful that we are so close. I'm overwhelmed with joy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Research on Immune System and Crohn's

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might have figured out by now that I whole-heartedly believe that the rapid increase of autoimmune disease among Americans is caused by environmental factors. I feel that it starts with a genetic pre-disposition but the trigger is the environment. The biggest factor being our diet. Processed foods with little to no nutritional value, scientifically altered food, lots of stuff that our bodies are not designed to recognize and therefore reject. Did you know that wheat is now scientifically altered to be 90% more glutenous than it was just 40 years ago? It's no wonder Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are rampant. Most doctors have not come around to this mode of thinking yet, but every now and then I come across new research, like this article, that shine a little light on this theory. It gets me so excited to read articles like this!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

So far, so good.

I'm finally getting my groove back after a rough week last week. My only misstep was on Saturday night. I went to a birthday party at my aunt and uncle's house and there was not much of anything I could eat. I had eaten plenty beforehand so that I wouldn't have to worry about it. My uncle had made chili and deemed it "safe" for me to eat. I wasn't actually going to eat anything but later in the evening I got hungry so dished myself up some chili. There was a flavor in it that I knew I recognized but couldn't place... four bites in I figured it out. BEER!! "Hey Mike? Is there beer in this chili?" "Oh... yeah, but it's lite beer! And there's only about 1/2 a cup in the whole pot!" I laughed it off and explained to him that no matter how much beer there is, it's inedible, and handed the bowl off to my Dad. I don't know if I reacted to it. I didn't feel anything until last night but I can't tell if it's not just anxiety. I also have done nothing but sit on my arse for the past few days so my hips are sore and I feel like I'm wasting away. I've got to get moving!! It's really nice out today so I'm going to just get out and get some all natural Vitamin D from the sun. I might even walk to the bank instead of driving.

In other news, today is my sister's due date! No baby yet.. she could go at any time, I can't wait to get the call!!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Not even apples are safe.

403903441_c996d63de7_b

I ate an apple the other day and had a pretty bad reaction to it. At first I thought that it was just because of the sugars, or too much fiber in the skin. Because when you have Crohn's, you are supposed to avoid indigestible foods, like apple skins. And too much fructose can cause a flare. But I wanted the darn apple. The funny thing is, I don't always react to apples. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Strange huh? Later in the day I'm reading through my blog reader and I come across this post by Dr. Wangen about the wax coating that is put on apples to give them shine before they go to the grocery store. This wax coating can be made of a few different sources, one of which is milk protein. Did you get all that? Let me break it down for you...

THERE IS CASEIN ON MY APPLES.

I am casein intolerant. WHY is their casein on my apples??? You think when you're buying fruit that you're doing your body good. Little did you know...

Thankfully organic apples do not have any synthetic coating, if they look or feel waxy, it's simply the natural wax produced by the apples themselves. Just another reason to go completely organic I guess! Boy was I blown away by this.

Photo Source

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A week of failures.

Frustration

What a week... This picture sums up my frustration this week. The other day, all I wanted was cornbread. Version one, Bob's Red Mill, was a failure. I had some various flours hanging around, so I decided last night to bake Carol Fenster's version. Failure #2. Yesterday, between breakfast and dinner, I ate nothing but an apple and Glutino pretzels. By dinner I was shaking so badly I thought I'd surely pass out. Today I am feeling achy and gurgly and just yucky. At lunch time I wanted something warm and savory. I found a package of Thai Kitchen Spring Noodles in the cabinet so I cooked them up, tasted them.. and they tasted funny. Looked at the package "best if used by November 2008" uhhhh.. oops. Next I found a package of rice, it's Carolina rice so automatically I think, safe. So I absentmindedly cook the rice and when the timer goes off twenty minutes later, I lift the lid to stir... this is not yellow saffron rice, this is rice pilaf. Unsafe. Defeated, I grab a bowl of Koala Crisps. Not what I was looking for, but safe and easy and it worked. I'm sorry to be a downer this week but even though I've been doing this on and off for 3 years, right now it feels like the first time. I know it will get better. Right now I'm going to make some meatloaf (I'm praying that my Gillian's bread crumbs are ok!) and that always helps!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tis the Season..

For giveaways! There are TONS of fantastic giveaways going on in blogland. Through Twitter and Blogs I've found tons of new blogs and people that are so fun to follow. One in particular is Amanada's Cookin. Check out her KitchenAid giveaway!!

The Job Situation

So, I'm still unemployed. It's been 3 and a half months. I've been interviewing at a company that I was referred to by a friend that works there. I've had three interviews and they all went very well. My recruiter says "everything looks great" but the group that I interviewed for doesn't have any spots in the upcoming training classes. I've been waiting for a month to hear about the January trainings. She called yesterday and said that the group I interviewed for didn't get any slots in the January classes but they haven't finalized it yet and she should know more in about two weeks. There is a February class, so maybe I'll get into that one... maybe. This job is a great opportunity, awesome benefits, close to home, same pay as I was making before... and it's in the medical technology field. It's a stable job. Can you read the lack of enthusiasm in my tone of type? I was pumped for this job when I first started interviewing for it. But now, this waiting game, is making me think. This is the time in my life where I have the opportunity to do something great. To do something meaningful. I was talking to my sister a few months ago about what I would do if I lost my job and I said I'd do something food related. I looked into going back to school for nutrition but it's too expensive and takes too long. I need to work full time. I've looked high and low at the jobs around here, I've sent in resume after resume and nothing. It's so competitive out there. It's all in who you know, getting in on referrals.

Anyway, so now that I know I'm looking at another couple of months of time off, it's making me think that maybe I should be thinking about other options. My biggest passion is helping people. I've done a lot of volunteering, with the homeless, people with disabilities, foundations for cancer research and lots of other things. I still work part-time as a fitness instructor which I love. I write this blog, which I also love. I am the assistant organizer of the Celiac meetup (which is unfortunately totally inactive at the moment). There has to be something that combines these things I love?? I thought about it a lot when I first got laid off, but then this other job came up so I basically dropped everything else to pursue this one. But now I'm feeling like I need to think again.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. What are you passionate about, and then, what do you do for a living? Are they different things? Are you happy? What would you do differently if you had the chance?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Review: Kettle Cuisine Chili and Bob's Red Mill Cornbread

Chili and Cornbread

It's only been a few days since I switched back to a strictly gluten and dairy free diet. It's funny how when I was eating gluten for a while, people would ask me if I was reacting to it and I'd say "no, I feel fine" and I thought I did. Well the thing is, because I was on medication my immune system was suppressed, therefore not reacting as severly as usual to the bad foods. Immediately after going off the meds the painful cramping returned. I knew going gluten free was the answer, but I just didn't want to do it. It's like starting all over again. Then last night I was getting ready for bed and I realized... my stomach was totally calm. All day. No cramps, no bloating, no gas, no gurgles. Just quiet and calm... and wonderful. Then I started thinking back over the last 6 months or so that I was eating gluten and realized that the entire time I was experiencing all the symptoms I had in the beginning, just to a much lesser degree thanks to the meds. I was in denial!! Deep in the back of my mind though, I knew I should've stuck with the gf diet. I even voiced it a bunch of times. I'm glad that I had to get off the meds. It's exactly what I needed, a wakeup call if you will. Sigh. It's a learning curve...

Anyway, so since it's my first week back on the wagon, I am pretty low on groceries. I'm also pretty low on funds. Yesterday I went to the grocery store to grab a few things and it was lunch time so I was looking for something quick. I was at the GF section and saw the Kettle Cuisine soups, which I love, so I grabbed a new one for me, the Chili. And what goes with Chili? Cornbread of course! I knew I didn't have all the ingredients to make it from scratch and I saw they had the Bob's Red Mill mix so I picked it up. I have not been a fan of Bob's Red Mill mixes in the past but I was obviously in a haze of hunger confusion and bought this anyway.

I threw the mix together and put it in the oven for 30 minutes, and then put the chili in the microwave at the last few minutes. Easy.

The chili was very good, as far as frozen chili goes. I also am not really a chili expert and don't eat it that often, so for me it was delicious. The beef tasted great and the overall flavor was yummy, not too spicy but spicy enough. Kettle Cuisine wins me over once again.

The cornbread... I should've paid attention to that little voice in my head that said "don't do it!". It was horrible. Didn't even taste remotely like corn. Gritty, tasteless, blech.

Now I should say this, the individual flours that they sell are great. I also like the hot cereal. But the brownie mix and the cornbread have both been a big disappointment. I've heard that the pizza dough is good and I will give that a shot one of these days.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm a tech geek.

Google Chrome

My blogging life and my personal life tend to stay separate. Meaning that there are only a few people that know me personally that actually know my website address. Of course all of my friends and family know about my personal struggles with Crohn's and my dietary issues, but this website is more for those in the "community" if that makes any sense. So that means that on my Facebook page you won't find blog references and my friends list consists of family and friends and "real life" people. Not that you all aren't "real life" people, but do you understand what I'm saying? I also have multiple email addresses, two twitter accounts, and numerous other accounts that I manage online. I've been using Mozilla Firefox for years because it's far better than Internet Explorer. Yesterday I was thinking that it would be easier if I had two separate browsers, one for blogging stuff, one for personal stuff. Mainly because I have multiple gmail accounts and can't be logged into all of them at the same time. So I downloaded Google Chrome. This is now the browser I use for blogging. My bookmarks toolbar contains my blogger dashboard, my website, stat counter, flickr, twitter, bloglines reader, gluten-free faces and then a bookmarks folder for websites I want to save or blog about in the future. I love this browser, it's faster, cleaner, easy to use and nice to look at. I like that there's a little button at the top so I can open a new tab quickly and it brings up my most recent pages. That's the screenshot you see above. Now I'm actually thinking I'd like to use this browser for everything. Anyone know of a way to be signed in to multiple gmail email accounts at the same time? And Twitter accounts? My iPhone is all set up this way and I LOVE it. I can check all my email addresses at the same time, both my twitter accounts, etc. I need the same kind of platform on my computer.

I know this is completely unrelated, but I have nothing interesting to write today, so there you go. I am trying to figure out what to eat for dinner and I just had a great idea... meatloaf!!! That would be perfect today.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

French Meadow Bakery Gluten Free Bread

Eggs and GF Toast

This morning for breakfast I tried that new GF bread that I mentioned the other day. It's a new brand to me - French Meadow Gluten-Free Multigrain Bread. I really like this company's mission, they use "Earth- and Body-Friendly Ingredients". This bread is full of whole grains, nutrients, protein and fiber and it doesn't taste bad either! I only tasted a small bite of it plain and then ate the rest of it topped with my scrambled eggs. It's not crumbly, it toasts well and has a soft texture. Doesn't have that funky GF smell when toasting which is big for me, I hate that smell. It's expensive, but I think it's worth it for all the nutrition in it. Most GF breads that I've found are completely lacking in nutritional value. I definitely recommend it! They offer a lot of other GF products as well, I'd love to try the cinnamon raisin bread. Oh and their products are casein free as well!!! This bread is also very low in sugar, just a touch of honey. Love it!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sugar and Spice is a metaphor. Of course.

Day two without medication. Yesterday I had something of a revelation. All along I've been writing on this blog about diet as it pertains to health. And how ultimately I want to be med free and the only way to do that is to be gluten and dairy free and low in sugar. But the meds were working and I was feeling fine eating gluten every day so why would I stop?? Well because the meds worked temporarily and then went bad and that's what will keep happening if I go that route. So guess what. It's time to go gluten free... again. (are you totally sick of hearing this? yeah? sorry..)

The thing is, most of the food in my house is gluten free. The only thing I buy each week that contains gluten is a loaf of bread. But I eat it every day. And when I go out to eat I eat whatever I want. I don't go out to eat that often. Since I've been unemployed I've actually eaten quite well and that will continue. So what I'm saying is, this is not an earth shattering thing.

I found this new (to me) gf bread at the health food store yesterday that is chock full of whole grains. It's 150 calories per slice!!! Yeesh, but it is packed with nutrients. And it's expensive and there aren't many slices in the package. I bought it just to get me through. I eat a lot of eggs and toast and this will replace my regular bread. I only eat one slice at a time anyway. I'm looking forward to trying it and will give my review when I do.

Someone tweeted today about Big Mac sauce containing gluten, I very rarely eat at McDonald's but this prompted me to take a look at their allergy info. I know that some people think that their french fries are GF, but beware, they are definitely not. Not only that, they also contain dairy! Gross. But what's worse than that? Their grilled chicken breast contains gluten!! Their beef is 100% pure beef, yet their chicken contains all sorts of additives, including hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat proteins. Blech. I'm no fool, I know fast food restaurants serve gross food, but you don't even realize how gross until you read the ingredients lists. I know that if I were in a bind, and needed to go through the drive-thru, my instinct would be to get a plain chicken breast. Boy would I be wrong. I'd be better off getting a slab of beef... just don't put any Big Mac sauce on it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Med Free... for now.

I got a call last night from The Doc saying that my follow up bloodwork showed another decrease in my WBC count. He said on my voicemail to drop the dose in half and come back next week for another blood draw. Then he called again this morning and told me that he wants me to just stop the meds completely until I see him again in January and to go in for a blood draw in a couple weeks. So I guess I'm getting my wish, at least temporarily, to be med free. So now the question is, what do I do about my diet? Obviously staying dairy free is important and as low sugar as possible, but the big question is, do I go gluten free again? I just went grocery shopping so I have a loaf of bread and english muffins to go through but that's it. I have gf crackers and cereal in the house already. I'll probably finish up the regular stuff this week and just think about it for a few days. But basically, the plan is to eat as clean and healthy as possible. If it works out well and I feel good on January 5th I'm hoping to ask if I can try to stay off the meds for a while longer. The thing is, if I start this new job in January, I don't have time anymore to be running off to BIDMC to get blood work done and go in for docs visits. So I really just hope this works and I stay healthy and can continue this path.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Focus!

I DVR'd The Biggest Loser this week and today when I went to watch it, somehow I also managed to DVR the Where Are They Now special! I was so pleasantly surprised! I've been crying through the whole show seeing how far these people have come. It's so inspiring. I've been working really hard to get healthier and it pays off.

Thanksgiving was awesome. My cousin announced that she's pregnant by showing everyone her nephew's t-shirt that said "I'm Gonna Be A Big Cousin". It took my sister a few moments to understand, since she's pregnant, he'll be her baby's cousin too. But then you could see the light bulb go on and her face just dropped and she looked at Lauren and burst into tears. There is so much joy right now!

My body changes every day, the less I consume the bad stuff, the less I want it and the more severely I react when I eat it. I had 3 beers the other night and felt like I got hit by a truck! All day at Thanksgiving there was so much sugar around and I wanted none of it. I took home leftovers from dinner but didn't even bother with the dessert. I just keep moving forward. I finally feel like I'm not stuck anymore.

2009 is almost over and the year flew by. I am really looking forward to the new year. This year was a long one and I spent most of it just existing. In the past few months I started living again. I feel more alive right now than I've felt in probably seven years. Or maybe ever. I love my life. It's so full and amazing and I don't take a moment of it for granted anymore. Sure there are shitty days (literally) but so what? For the most part, I can control that, and that's the biggest piece of the puzzle. Mind over matter baby. If you want something, whether it be better health, or to quit drinking, or to exercise more... it's all about you making it happen. I'm talking to myself just as much as I'm talking to anyone out there that's reading this.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What a difference a day makes....

Yesterday I was thinking about updating. Saying how awesome I've been feeling. The workouts, the energy. Today I slept til noon, then I woke up and decided to watch Funny People, about Adam Sandler getting cancer. In the middle of the movie, The Doc calls and tells me my white blood cell count has dropped and he wants me to come in Monday for another round of bloodwork. It's 3.2. That's too low. He says not to stop my meds but come in right away and call him after so we can go over the results. This is what the meds do, they lower my WBC counts to suppress my immune system, to keep my Crohn's in check. I have bloodwork once a month exactly for this reason. My levels have stayed steady, between 4 and 5 for months and months. It jumped to 10 in September when I had a UTI. A drop like this is bad. I am highly suseptible to infection. Which is strange because I have felt healthier lately than I have been in years. I'm sure it's just the meds. Working overtime. But I've been worried all along that these meds were a bad idea. Knowing how many people have healed themselves naturally. I've said this all along. What do I do? Do I say enough, I'm done with medication? I am very curious to see what happens on Monday. Well, can't let it get to me, nothing I can do at the moment.

You know what though? This is what bothers me. They are watching me to make sure I don't get cancer. All along they say you have to be careful because your immune system is suppressed and you are more prone to infection... but the reality is, they are worried that I might get cancer. Every day I worry that one of my blood tests is going to come back funky and it's going to be cancer. And today is that day when I get the call that the blood tests are funky and you have to come in right away because we are worried. I've had a swollen lymph node in my neck since September. It gets bigger, it gets smaller, I worry, but my bloodwork has been fine so I just ignore it. Then I get the call. I've had a lump in my groin for years, and the doctors say it's nothing to worry about, but almost every day I check it to make sure it's not getting bigger. Sometimes it's sore but usually not so I don't worry about it.

I'm sorry to be so candid and morbid, but I've always been honest here. There are only a couple of people that I know in "real life" that read this, so this is a somewhat safe place for me to write. My Mom doesn't read it, because if she did, she'd freak out. My life is so good right now. I've been so happy. I'm unemployed but that doesn't matter, everything else is awesome. My two best friends in the world are pregnant. I'm going to be an auntie for the first time. This weekend I went to see my favorite band in the whole world and I met them for the second time and they remembered me and we had drinks and it was amazing. I went to a party with friends and didn't worry about drama or issues, I just had so much fun and things are good and I am so incredibly happy for the first time in a really really really long time. So why do I have to be sick. Why do I have to spend every day worrying about what I eat, and what meds I take and how I'm going to feel when I do this or that or the other thing. Why do I avoid dating because I'm afraid to show someone what I really go through. Why do I have to deal with this for the rest of my life?

I don't think I have cancer, don't get me wrong, I'm not spiraling down the self-pity I might have cancer dark hole. I am just frustrated. I am angry and annoyed and I just want to be healthy and normal and not have to worry about the inner-workings of my digestive system, or how many white blood cells I have, or how my liver is functioning. Most days I accept that this is my life and I get on with it. I love my life, the disease actually helps me keep things in perspective. The bad days are bad, but the good days are amazing and there are so many more good days to come. On Thanksgiving, my cousin is going to announce to my family that she's pregnant, and my 8 and a half month pregnant sister just might get so excited that she goes into labor. And my other cousin's 1 and a half year old son is going to help make the announcement. A new generation is starting and the next phase of life is happening and I am so excited about it and no bloodwork result is going to get me down. Again, sorry for the tough post, but I had to talk to someone and you all understand what I'm talking about. Thanks for being here and reading. On Monday I find out about the bloodwork and on Tuesday I'm hoping to find out more on that job I've been going after. Send some good vibes my way ok? I'd appreciate it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I'm Freeeeee

Throwing away the scale was a great idea. I have no idea how much I weigh right now and I don't care!!! I'm still counting calories and working out and I feel great. I don't have much else to report. It's a busy time coming up and I'm hoping to just enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. And go see New Moon ASAP. And I got an iPhone... oh man do I love it.

I'm watching Yes Man right now, I need to say Yes more often! I've also been watching the tv series 30 Days by Morgan Spurlock where people do things that they normally wouldn't do. Like an Athiest woman lives with a Christian family for 30 days. And Morgan lives in jail for 30 Days. And an ex NFL star lives in a wheelchair for 30 days. It's inspiring and thought provoking and I cry at every episode. I highly recommend it. I've been watching it on Hulu which is also something I highly recommend. Hulu rocks!!

That's all for now. If I don't get back here, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fighting Old Demons

Scale

Yes, that's right, my scale is now residing in the trash barrel. As you know I've been counting calories and exercising in an effort to take off some extra pounds. It's been going great, I've felt great, people have noticed and given compliments, I even wore my skinny jeans yesterday! So why then am I so depressed today and feeling the need to binge? Because last Friday I was down 5 lbs on the scale and today those 5 lbs have magically reappeared. How does that happen? I only went over my calorie allotment two days out of seven and not over nearly enough to cause a 5 pound gain! UUUGGGGGHHHHH. This is the beginning of a VERY vicious cycle that I've been through many many times before. You might remember the post I wrote back in February about it during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Since that post I have done a great job of eating well, not bingeing, not eating in secret, not falling back into the trap of disordered eating. Not one week into "dieting" here I am feeling that familiar pang. I lost and then gained back 5 pounds, this is useless, it's not worth it, LET ME EAT CAKE!

NO. Not this time. I am NOT going back there. GOODBYE SCALE! You will haunt me no more. One of the issues of calorie counting is that it's easy to just eat whatever you want, as long as you stay within the numbers. But the key to lasting weight loss and optimum health is not eating less, it's eating better. Make the right choices. Which I am a lot better at these days. Last week I cooked a lot, I ate very well, I felt great. Saturday and Sunday I ate at an arena, a diner, and at my mom's (aka Candyland) and ordered takeout. It's no wonder with the amount of sodium and sugar I consumed over the last couple of days that I quickly gained back 5 lbs. The weekends are tough, there's no doubt about it, it's a matter of being prepared, making good choices as much as you can and then keeping it super clean during the week.

I'm still doing yoga almost every day. I love it. Today I wasn't really feeling it but now that I've written it out I feel better. Lasting change doesn't happen overnight. It's taken me 7 years just to get to this point, and even though it doesn't seem like I've made it that far, the truth is, I really have.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Eating right and exercising actually works... who knew??

I've been a fitness instructor for over four years. You'd think I'd be all super fit and healthy... and I totally used to be. Then I got diagnosed with Crohn's disease, took tons of meds, lost all my strength and energy, gained a ton of weight.... and continued to use the diagnosis as an excuse. I was so weak! I was so tired! I needed to start back sloooowwwwly. It's been a year and a half, not a whole lot of time when you look at the big picture, and today I feel like the girl pre-diagnosis. Minus the yucky stomach. I've been eating really well, doing yoga, cardio and strength training. I have energy, I don't ache, I feel strong, I've lost five pounds so far. It's absolutely awesome. I feel like myself again. Tonight at the gym one of my co-workers said "hey Jen, you look great, it's good to see you working out again" and that just was so awesome to hear. I've just been reminded that with just a little bit of effort you can achieve great things. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Beef Stoup

It's kinda like a stew but kinda like a soup, so I call it Beef Stoup!

Beef Stoup

I just kinda threw this together so it's not an exact science, but here is the recipe:

Beef Stoup
Serves 4

1 Large Potato, peeled and cubed
1 Large Sweet Onion, peeled and chopped
4 Carrots chopped
4 Stalks of Celery chopped
4 oz. of mushrooms chopped

1 lb stew beef

2 Cups Beef Stock (I use Kitchen Basics, it's GF)
2 Cups Water
3 Tbs Butter (earth balance)
3 Tbs Olive Oil
All Purpose (GF) Flour for dredging

2 Bay Leaves
Thyme
Oregano
Celery Salt
Salt & Pepper

I used a deep sided skillet for this, but you could use a dutch oven or soup pot. Whatever you like.
Melt the butter and olive oil in the pot over medium to med-high heat. Dredge the beef in the flour and add to pot.
When beef is browned, but not cooked through, remove from pan and set aside.
Add veggies to pot, except the potato, and cook for about 5 minutes
Add the stock and water, beef, potato and seasonings including bay leaves.
Cover and simmer for about a half hour.

The potato was mush but that's fine with me, you might hold off on adding the potato until the last 10 minutes or so.

Looooved this stoup, another delicious and healthy meal with not even close the same amount of fat, sodium, and calories, not to mention additives in a can of Dinty Moore. I grew up on that stuff but I'll take this new version any day!!! Sure it's easier to open a can, but it was very very easy to put together this stoup. And cheaper! I have one serving leftover in the fridge for tomorrow and 2 servings in the freezer for any other day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gluten Free, Casein Free Tuna Noodle Casserole

Tuna Casserole

Fall is the time for casseroles! They get a bad rap as unhealthy but if you do it right, casseroles can be a delicious and healthy meal. When you use a can of cream of whatever soup as your casserole sauce, you definitely are loading up on sodium, fat and calories. Making the sauce yourself is just as easy as cracking open a can and is a much better option. Tonight I was in the mood for tuna noodle casserole. Growing up it was a favorite, but my Mom would make one of those boxed mixes where you just add the can of tuna. Have you ever read one of those ingredients labels??? YUCK!! I decided to wing it and go as close to nature as possible and this came out absolutely delicious. The only change I would make next time is that I didn't put enough milk in so it was a little dry.

This makes a small casserole and divided into four servings it comes in under 300 calories each. Add a big serving of veggies like broccoli and you've got a great dinner. Here's the recipe:

Tuna Noodle Casserole
Gluten & Casein Free

Ingredients

1 Tbs Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 Tbs Flour Mix (Beth's All Purpose)
1/4 C Almond Breeze Unsweetened Milk (This was not enough, try at least 1/2 C)
3 oz Fresh Mushrooms
2 Carrots chopped
2 Celery Stalks chopped
1/3 C Frozen Peas & Pearl Onions
1 Can Solid White Tuna
10 Glutino Plain Crackers (crushed for topping)
4 oz Dry GF Pasta (I use Tinkyada)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil the pasta as directed on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, melt Earth Balance in a skillet over medium heat.
Add carrots, celery and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Add flour and milk and simmer until sauce thickens but not too thick, 2 or 3 minutes
Add peas & onions
Drain tuna and add to skillet, cook all together for a couple minutes.

When pasta is done, drain and add to casserole dish
Add vegetable/tuna/milk mixture and stir to combine
Crush crackers and sprinkle over top of casserole

Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes

Enjoy!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Roadtrip

My cousin and I took a drive down to Philly this weekend for our friend's wedding. It was a great weekend and the wedding was beautiful. We stopped on the way down at this little diner in Connecticut, the sign said it was a "vegetarian enclave". It was pretty much a regular diner though, but they did have a couple of GF options:

Shoreline Diner

But I had this:

RB Club

It was great.

I got that new camera last Christmas, I did my research, I read reviews, I thought I was getting a good one... and I hate it. I am so disappointed. I needed a P&S camera that could handle a high ISO without a lot of noise. This camera gives me a ton of noise. I can't be lugging around my DSLR all the time! So frustrating. Oh well. The big issue of the weekend was realizing how much weight I've gained. I had already started cutting back last week but now I'm going hardcore. I've got to take off these extra lbs! Here I am with the bride and my cuz:

Wedding

ETA: The Shoreline Diner is in Guilford, CT visit their website and no, I did not bring GF bread, this sandwich is not GF. While I am trying to cut down on how much grains, especially GF grains, I eat in general, I am not totally gluten free.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Yoga.

I finally started yoga today. I signed up with yogadownload.com and downloaded a free 20 min beginners session. Is it weird that I got a little choked up at the closing Namaste? No, I'm not kidding... I have tried yoga a bunch of times but always got discouraged because it was tough and I'd give up. I realize now that I was jumping the gun, going to yoga classes that were full of experienced people and watching dvd's for people that know what they're doing. So I started with Gentle Hatha Yoga #1 which is all basic poses and slow moving and totally awesome. Aside from one or two classes I've taken at the Y, I don't think I've ever finished a full session so to do this and finish it felt great. Maybe that's where the emotions came from.

I really like the audio session, I tend to be a visual learner so I thought it would be tough, but you download a pdf pose guide for the workout so if you get confused you just glance at that and it's so helpful. I actually think I like it better that way so I can focus on my body rather than keeping my eyes glued to a tv. I'm encouraged to keep going. I am going to keep doing the beginner session until I've really mastered it. I have the most trouble with the breathing so I need to focus on that.

Aside from that, there are some sad things going on around here so if you're the spiritual type, please say a prayer for those in need. A friend passed away the other day and another friend's sister had her adopted child taken away by the birth mother. It's a horrible, terrible thing and I am devastated for her and her family.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

You Are What You Eat

I'm watching this BBC show called You Are What You Eat about this lady that helps people clean up their diets and get healthy. There was this lady that had to run to the bathroom upwards of 10 times per day and with some dietary modification she got significantly better. So true, so true! I love it. If you eat crap, then you are crap! hehehe.

I've been doing very well, Halloween was a bust.. ok well the three weeks before Halloween were rough... but now I'm getting better. This is the hardest time of year to not go crazy with chocolate and other delicious treats. Friday I started counting calories again. I can count really high! Pfft.

I have a wedding to go to next weekend and I had to buy a larger size dress. I feel horrible. I really want to get back into the dating scene but I honestly am just not happy with myself and you can't meet someone new when you're not happy with yourself! I feel physically great so now is the time to hit the gym and whip myself back into shape! How many times have I typed these same sentences....? Oy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Insert whitty title :here:

I can't think of anything good for the title of this post! It's a quick one because I am running out to a meeting. I just wanted to say that day two of the gluten free, dairy free, low carb diet is awesome. Flare - GONE. Feeling great and so happy about it. I did break down and have a Magner's last night at the concert that I went to but I regretted it. Not physically, just wasn't feeling like having a drink last night, did anyway, and just shouldn't have. Oh well. The conert was really fun though, it's Ryan Gosling (of The Notebook fame, ::sigh::) and his friend and they created this band called Dead Man's Bones and they sing scary Halloweeny type songs with childrens' choirs. It sounds strange but it's awesome. This video is one of the songs that they sung last night. There was a sign at the venue that said absolutely NO photography or video at the show but I managed to snap one good pic of Ryan. I won't post it here though because I'm afraid they'll come after me! But check out the video anyway. We had a great time!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Making progress.

No more whining and complaining about how much I love cake. I just re-read this article about a man that has been through hell because of this disease and it made me realize how lucky I am to be mostly healthy right now. It also made me realize that if I don't make these changes to my diet now, I just might end up living like that man and no piece of cake or cheeseburger is worth the pain and suffering I go through that will only get worse.

I've only been blogging again for a short time but in that time I've received some awesome advice and support and I am so thankful for that! I really feel ready to tackle this and make the changes. No gluten, no dairy, low carbs. I'm avoiding artificial everything, eating as close to nature as possible. I feel better already.

Tonight Sally and I are going to see Ryan Gosling!!!!!!! He's got this band and he sings with kids' choirs... crazy, but so exciting.

Edited to add: I've had several people ask me if I practice yoga as it's an excellent way to exercise, de-stress, and is also great for the digestive system. I would like to get into yoga but haven't yet for several reasons, lack of funds to pay for a class, lack of space to do it at home etc. But I'm going to look into it again. Thanks!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One down, hopefully two to go!

I finally got home from my interview... phew! I feel good about it and am hoping to hear back soon about a 2nd interview. If I do get a second interview, I have to give a 10-15 minute presentation about a healthcare topic.... ummmm... seriously?? I just have no idea what I could possibly talk about....... HA! So I'm kind of excited actually for the second interview and will start working on my presentation right away.

I've been making a tiny bit of progress with my diet. Yesterday I was out and about and needed some lunch and I thought I might stop at this little place in Quincy center that I had heard serves gluten free bread. Well, I hate to say I wasn't surprised about this but, I got to the door and it was closed. Out of business. (Eatin' Healthy, Liz) I was bummed! The owner was the wife of a guy that I used to train at the gym and he had given me a gift certificate a couple of years ago and I never got around to using it. It's a tough spot to have a restaurant in Quincy, there's no parking and not a lot of foot traffic, which is why I wasn't all that surprised that it was closed. There are just so many other options in Q center that are convenient to parking.

Well, I don't have much else for today. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, October 12, 2009

I've got flare!

I wish it were the good kind of flare... my stomach is revolting. I'm hoping it's just anxiety over the fact that I have my first interview in 10 years tomorrow. Or it could be the yogurt I ate today in an attempt to get more probiotics into my diet. Yup, still can't tolerate ANY dairy whatsoever. So I bought some acidophilus (sp?) pills today that I'll start taking tomorrow instead. I think additionally I'm having issues because I started taking a multivitamin with iron last week and it constipated me, so I stopped.. and now I'm becoming unconstipated..... um yeah. Sorry folks, this IS a blog about Crohn's afterall ;-)

Anyway, I'm definitely starting to make the changes to my diet that I need to make. Probiotics - check, gluten free - working on it, dairy free - most definitely after today! It's going to be a baby steps process. The dairy first, that's the easiest and fastest and the one thing I've been trying to do all a long. The gluten is the next step, which shouldn't be too hard. I don't really have much gluteny food in the house anyway. The probiotics start tomorrow. Once I am completely gluten and dairy free I will start cutting back on carbs/starchy foods and sugars. The sugar thing though is something I'm already conscious of.

Ok, well that's enough for now. I need to get to bed. I am not feeling good at all. :(

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My head is spinning.

I spent most of the weekend reading about Crohn's disease and organisms and antibodies and the specific carb diet (again?!?!) and life without bread and I've been emailing back and forth with AJ and he's just about rocked my world. I started getting sick 15 years ago, progressively getting worse until the first ER visit back in the fall of 07, followed by 2 more in 08, and finally a Crohn's diagnosis. I started the gluten free journey in 06 when I thought I might have Celiac. In the last few months, after feeling better on prescription drugs, I gave up caring about my diet anymore. I just wanted my life to go back to normal, and for the most part, it did. But... I still don't have the same energy that I used to. I rarely workout anymore. I run out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs. My hips still often ache and I break out in cystic acne after eating too much sugar (I think it's sugar, still unsure). I'm still using steroids as the excuse for why I've gained so much weight... even though I've been off of them for over a year.

So where's my head at now? Well, my body is saying to clean up my diet. My head says "UGHHHHHH". Going gluten free is easy, that's not the issue. It's cutting way back on starch, because this is the Crohn's problem, not Celiac. My mom used to say that she hoped I didn't have Celiac because it would be so difficult to maintain a gluten free lifestyle. HA! I say now. Oh to just be a Celiac! To cut out gluten and be fine and not have to worry about sugars and dairy and whatever else makes me gassy, crampy, poopy, not poopy, weak, tired, achy... my goodness. I know there are many of you out there that know what I mean and I'm not by ANY means trying to make light of having Celiac disease. Absolutely not at all. I'm just whining because I just feel like whining. If I could just go out and buy some Kinnikinnick donuts well that would be just fine, but I can't. Believe me, I stood at the freezer case this evening wishing I could.

I am the first person to proclaim to be an advocate for healing through diet, and I'm also the first to cheat on said diet. I'm tired, literally and figuratively. I do want to heal myself, not just suppress my symptoms with drugs. It's just that every time I get to this point, where I'm ready to do it, I sit here and think.... what the heck will I eat???? Eggs. It's all I ever eat. Steak and chicken and fish and pork. Some fruit, veggies, a little rice, potatoes. Eating like a caveman perhaps. It's healthy, and it just might be the thing that puts my CD into remission. And maybe I'll get back to the gym. And maybe I'll lose this weight. It's mind over matter here and since I'm not working, I have plenty of time to plan out my meals. Now's the time to just do it. I'm glad I have this place to talk it out and get support. Thanks to you all that have stuck around :)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Going Gluten Free: Take #3,472

Well, I don't know how many of my regular readers are still reading after my little hiatus, but if you've been hanging out with me for a while, you'll understand why this post is so important to me. I took a little break, but then started blogging again last week when I wanted to share my delicious pork and potato/apple/onion dinner with you. I went to see the doc, found out my B12 level was bottoming out, and it made me realize that although I feel better, I am probably not actually healing on the inside. If anything, my insides are silently getting worse. Yes I still have grumbles and groans and cramps and gas and pains and diarrhea and constipation, just to a MUCH lesser degree, thank you pharmaceuticals. But is that really a smart way to live? Eating whatever I want knowing that it's causing my insides to attach themselves?

I've been gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free at different times. I've considered the SCD on more than one occasion. I've seen the benefits of my efforts, and I've seen my body break down literally to the point of losing consciousness when I am not taking proper care. Numerous times. I don't ever want to see the insides of the emergency room ever again.

So why am I writing this out of the blue again? Are you thinking to yourself... oh boy, here she goes again! ? Well let me explain. Last night I received an email from a man named AJ. He's a biochemist that also happens to have Crohn's disease. I'm not going to get into all the details of the conversation we've been having, but just tell you that everything he says confirms all of the research I've done myself. He has scientific proof that Crohn's disease is directly related to diet. I can't get into all the scientific terms becaues I don't fully understand them myself, and I know I'll botch it all up, but the bottom line is that what I've always known to be true, is actually true. Gluten, dairy, sugar..... the common denominator = starch. It's not necessarily the gluten protein, it's the starch in gluten grains, it's also sugars, fructose, lactose, sucrose, sorbitol, malitol... makes complete sense now. The problem I have with sugars are an autoimmune response, not the typical hydrogen response in someone with lactose or fructose intolerance, hence the reason my tests came back negative.

I was blown away by what AJ had to say and we are still having the conversation. He's trying to get his book pulished so once I have more info on this I'll most definitely share it with you. Especially my Crohn's readers.

So now what? He recommends gluten free, low carb, and add probiotics. I of course will also be dairy free. Will I do it? I guess you'll have to keep reading to find out! I'm a little overwhelmed at the moment but now's the best time to do it. I have all the time in the world to make it work. We'll see what happens next.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I went shopping today and didn't yawn or need to sit down once....

I've only taken two doses of B12.. but seriously, I haven't had this much energy in years. And on top of that it's a particular time that I usually have even less energy, but nope, I feel just fine. Lately I haven't been able to even go shopping, I get fatigued, winded and dizzy so fast. Today I went outlet shopping and managed to traipse through 4 stores and buy an enormous amount of stuff (oops!) without so much as a yawn. I felt fine the whole time! It's amazing, in just two days! I'm so happy.

Dinner with the girls was a lot of fun, sorry I forgot to take my camera with me so no photos. But everyone enjoyed their dinner and no one got sick, so yay for that! The lettuce wraps were so good just as I had heard, I would order them as my meal next time, yum!!! We shared them as an appetizer, I had the lemon chicken for dinner. As Asian food goes, this is pretty Americanized, which is funny because the location that we went to is right on the outskirts of Chinatown. I love authentic Asian food so I was not all that impressed in that aspect, but I understand that it's next to impossible for GF people to go to an authentic chinese restaurant and survive. I just love eating with chopsticks, honestly.

Ok I'm off to check out the damage... I might not have enough money left over to buy much for groceries this week, but at least I will look cute :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gluten Free Girls Night Out!

Tonight I'm heading out for dinner with Sally, Allie and a new friend, Lisa. I'm pretty excited that we're hitting up P.F. Chang's because I have never been there. I just got my hair cut too so that's exciting. It looks good, but it's a safe choice for me. I have really long hair and I was going to cut it very very short, like chin length. But as soon as I sat in the chair she says "you have very pretty hair" and it was all over. I couldn't do it. So I got about 4 inches cut off and now it rests just below my shoulders. I like it though.

Yesterday I went to see The Doc and he informed me that my B-12 level is getting dangerously low. The range for normal is 200-900 and my number is 294 and dropping. Because B-12 is absorbed in the TI (terminal ileum), my crohn's disease is causing me to not absorb it. He suggested trying supplements first and if that doesn't work I'll have to get injections. Of course I came home and immediately googled it... turns out this is common for Crohn's patients, and I will have to supplement forever. If it turns out I need shots, I will have to have shots FOREVER. Awesome! But the upside is that the low levels of B-12 could be causing my terrible fatigue problems so I hope the supplement works. And the cool thing is, they are disolvable little tablets that taste like kids chewable vitamins. I really hope I see an increase in energy soon, I haven't been exercising and I really need to! I hate feeling weak and tired all the time. I can barely walk up stairs anymore without getting really winded. I took one tablet today and I feel good, I'm sure it won't help overnight but hopefully sooner rather than later!

Well, I am off to dinner! I'll bring my camera....

Friday, October 2, 2009

:)

Today I baked an apple pie, and right now I have chicken cacciatore simmering on the stove. When my roommate gets home we will eat dinner and then head over to our friend's (my cousin) house for an Arbonne spa party! I can't buy anything since I'm broke but it will be fun to have a girls night. I haven't had one in a long time. I can't wait to dive in to that pie! I'm bringing it to the party. I will post photos tomorrow. I spent the afternoon researching cookie recipes. I'm going to make the favors for my sister's baby shower and they are going to be baby shape cutout cookies with icing. I am thinking that each little gift bag will have 3 cookies, one chocolate shortbread, one gingerbread and one sugar cookie. All iced with pastel frosting. I can't wait!! The party is October 24th so I'll post about that later. Yesterday I spent the afternoon planning the party with my mom and my sister's mother-in-law and sister-in-law. It's gonna be fun, I can't wait for my neice to arrive!!! She'll be here in a little over two months!

One of my friends put my resume in at the company that he works for. On the way home last night I was thinking about the fact that it had been a week and I hadn't heard anything. No sooner did the thought cross my mind, the phone rang. It was a recruiter from the company! We talked briefly and she asked me to come in for an interview on October 13th. I am so excited!!!!! I really want this job, it's in the medical technology field and it's a great company. I am really looking forward to the interview. Keep me in your thoughts!! Oops, dinner is ready, goodnight all!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hello Friends!

Best Dinner

Wow it's been a while! Quick updates, I'm still unemployed, enjoying a little time off before I drive myself crazy looking for a new job, and have been feeling pretty good. The first couple of weeks were madness, submitting resumes, working part time as many hours as possible and I felt like I was busier than ever. This week is the first week that I've actually found myself with absolutely nothing to do, so here I am! I was eating takeout every day for a while there. I was stressed out and busy and didn't feel like cooking at all. Unfortunately my unemployment hasn't kicked in yet so I'm using a borrowed credit card to get me through until it does. That means that I have not been ordering out because my Mom would be like "what on earth are you doing spending all that money on junk food?!?!?!" and she's right. So I've been shopping and today I finally decided to cook. God I LOVE cooking! Oh how I've missed it and didn't even realize. It's apple season so I bought one of those bags of apples and was thinking about them today. For some reason I was not craving desserts, I wanted a savory apple dish. My friend Abi makes this delicious potato salad with apples in it and that's what was on my mind but I didn't want something summery and lathered in mayo, but the main ingredients of that dish were still appealing to me. I did a quick search and found a recipe on Food Network from Rachel Ray. It was perfect. Potato, apple and onion hash. What to have with it? Well what goes better with apples than pork? I didn't have any pork so I had to go back to the store. I got some nice bone-in chops and some green beans, gotta have some green.

Here's what I did to create this delicious masterpiece:

Baked two potatoes in the microwave for about 10 minutes, let them cool and then cut into pieces.
Sauteed two sliced up apples and one small yellow onion in 2T of olive oil and 2T of butter for 5 minutes, add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, cook for 5 more minutes.

In the meantime, broiled 2 pork chops, seasoned with thyme, garlic powder, parsley flakes, salt and pepper. They took about 7 mins per side.

Boiled some frozen green beans.

Put it all together and enjoy. It was exactly what I was craving... soooooooooo delicious. And the kitchen smelled like fall while I was cooking. So awesome!!

For a little dessert I had some Mi-Del GF Ginger snaps, the perfect compliment!!!

I hope you are all well out there in blogland. I've missed writing, and cooking, and taking photos. Maybe I'll be writing more often. I'm trying to kinda let the energy take me where it will to find what I love and do that. I have too good of an opportunity right now to just jump into the first job that is available. We'll see how it goes!

Edited to add: I have not been reading blogs either.. I have 750 blog posts to read in my gluten free category alone... yikes. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Update

Yup, it's been pretty quiet around here. Sometimes life just gets in the way. Sunday I sat down with my family and we decided together that my time as an employee of the printing business is up. I'm finished. Joining the ranks of the unemployed due to economic woes. This business, quite honestly, has been on a roller coaster ride for a while now. I am not surprised that it has come to this. I won't get into all the nitty gritty details because this blog has never been about work so you don't need to know all that. Just know that the biggest reason I haven't been writing is because my attention has been needed elsewhere.

Since I'm writing now, I should tell you that the sugar experiment has gone very well. My skin has almost completely cleared up! I've had a bit of a bad week food-wise so my stomach is a mess, a result of being laid off, but I'm going to remedy that asap. I'm feeling good, I'm positive about the future and excited for a big change of scenery. Working with the family in our own business was an experience I'll cherish forever, but it most definitely taught me that I do not ever want to own my own business! It's way too much stress. I'd much rather work for someone else and leave work at work. Have my weekends to myself. And actually get to take vacation time. For real. I can't say I'm not excited about being unemployed for a short time either. I just hope it's not too much of a time. Not only will I get bored, but I need a real paycheck! Unemployment will barely cover my expenses. Actually, honestly, it won't, but I'm going to work that out.

I have no idea when, or if, I'll get back to regular writing. This blog has been an awesome experience as well but it might be time to wrap it up. I need to focus on stepping away from the computer for a while. I've been glued to it for far too long. Thanks everyone for the journey and all your support. I'm not saying goodbye, I'm saying see you when I see you. :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blog Awards

I have been meaning to post this for a while but I kept forgetting Amy over at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free tagged me for a blog award!! Thanks Amy!! What you said was very sweet. There are so many people in the blog world that have inspired me, it's just impossible to pick people to give this too. Plus a bunch of them have already been given the same award! So I will just say a very sincere Thank You to Amy for the award and to all the wonderful bloggers out there that have helped me get through this crazy journey.

Score= Jen 1; Sugar 0

The sugar experiment continues, and I have to say, I'm impressed. I know I said it yesterday but I really noticed this morning that not only is my skin significantly less irritated and blemished, but my bloated belly has really flattened out!! I have not made any other changes to my diet aside from cutting refined sugar almost completely out. So we've discovered that cutting out dairy and sugar have both made a huge impact on my health and well-being. In the back of my mind I can't help but think, should I go for the trifecta? I still don't have nearly as much energy as I should and I can't help but think that last final piece of the puzzle, gluten, might just be worth giving another shot. The reason I haven't cut it out is because my stomach is great so why should I? Because I find it impossible to get out of bed in the morning and I haven't exercised regularly in over a year? I'm going to keep on trucking with the sugar experiment for a while and dairy too and see how I feel in a month or so. Then I'll decide.

On another note, my girl ALLIE is getting MARRIED today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GFC_Spree_048

She's probably gonna kill me for reposting this pic, but it's the only one I have of her and her new hubby Matt (at the GF Cooking Spreee). I'm so happy for them and love that I always get to re-tell the story of how I was there when they met. Well I wasn't there the night that they met, but I was there the next day when she waited (im)patiently for him to call. It makes me smile thinking back. Matt's awesome and they are great together and I wish them all the happiness in the world. It is a GORGEOUS day here in Boston and I know they're going to have a perfect wedding. CONGRATULATIONS ALLIE!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zeer just got better!!

I know a lot of you were avoiding a Zeer subscription because it was so expensive. Well they were listening and now you can sign up for only $4.95 per month!!!!

Check it out:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rants and Raves

Apologies for the lack of posts! You know, sometimes you just need to step away from the computer for a while. But I'm still here, and the sugar experiment is going well so far. I haven't gone cold turkey but I'm making progress and I think my skin is responding. Now, on to the real stuff. First, the rants:

This morning I'm sitting at my desk having a lovely day, when a guy that used to work for us stops by. He was "let go" almost a year and a half ago. Pre-Crohn's diagnosis, which means pre-steroids, which means the last time he saw me I was at my lowest weight. Now I realize that people have noticed that I've put on a few pounds, it is what it is. Most people know why/how it happened and are sympathetic. Well this guy takes one look at me and goes "what did you do to yourself?" and I'm thinking I have spilled ink on my shirt, or fell and scraped the skin off my face without noticing and that's what he's referring to... but I check myself out and nope, still look the same as I did this morning. So I say "what do you mean??" and he pauses (very briefly) and says "Well it looks like you've gained some weight!" ....... collect yourselves.. I'll wait...

Ok, good? Yeah so I sharply reply "Well I was diagnosed with CROHN'S disease last year and was on STEROIDS and gained THIRTY POUNDS!" and he says "Well you still look good, your face just looks a little pudgy, or puffy" or whatever.

Um....

I didn't cry. I'm not a delicate flower. But I was upset. My first immediate reaction to myself was that I was kinda glad to hear it. Weird? Well I worked so hard to lose the weight before, only to instantly gain it back through no control of my own, and then do nothing to fix it. I have been off steroids for 10 months? 11? And I've talked a big game about losing the weight but have not made any valiant efforts. I kinda needed that slap in the face. It's nice to hear blatant honesty sometimes. And the truth is, he didn't mean to be mean. He and I used to talk a lot about losing weight and eating right and working out because I he had seen me lose the weight before. So I'm sure to walk in and see me heavier than he's ever seen me was a surprise. I'm not mad at ya E. Thanks for the wake up. So I did what any sane person would do, I ate a cheeseburger for lunch. With french fries. I thought about starving myself, but that's just eating disorder behavior. I could've had a sensible lunch too, but what fun is that? Aren't I always preaching about moderation? So yeah, I'm over it. But now maybe I'll try a little harder.

Now, onto the Raves. I went to Burton's on Friday night with Liz and Sally. Liz moved away :( but she was back in town for a couple weeks so I was excited when she asked to plan a gf dinner out! Sally had been there before so we knew it was safe. I wrote a review on Yelp so if you want to read more about it go here. I'll just post the photos here:

Gluten free dinner rolls with herb butter: YUM

Gluten Free Rolls

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis (not GF! but awesome)

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Chicken Roulade with Lobster Risotto - oh.my.gosh heavenly

Burton's Grill Chicken Roulade

Yes I ate gluten and dairy and yes I paid for it, but it was so delicious!!!! That's one of the drawbacks of having crohn's instead of celiac. I'm not required to eat gf/cf I just choose to, which means sometimes I choose NOT to. Sometimes I suffer, sometimes I don't. But I feel a heck of a lot better now than I ever have, so I'm not complaining!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

What's the real deal about sugar?

Ok all you sugar experts out there, I have some questions. I've been doing some research and I'm confused about cutting out sugar. I see that people cut out white, refined sugar and HFCS, but then say that they use maple syrup, honey, molasses, and other things as substitutes. But the thing is that, all of those are sugar too... so what gives? What's the logic? I read on Wikipedia that black strap molasses is full of nutrients, technically it goes through the same processing as the sugar that's extracted so what's the difference? So many questions... I'd love some insight!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Holy Moly

Thanks for the encouragement on my new venture. I just got back from the grocery store and oh my word, I thought gluten and casein were bad, sugar is in EVERYTHING!!!!

I had fresh scallops for dinner with rice and brussels sprouts, awesome. :)

Hello, my name is Jen, and I am a sugarholic.

Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while now may have noticed that I am having a love affair with sugar. I talk a big game about eating healthy and trying to lose weight and all that jazz, and then the next day I'm posting a photo of the brownies I baked or the entire line of Betty Crocker Gluten Free mixes that I just had to try. My header even has mostly sugary photos and the name of the blog is A life of SUGAR and spice!! I didn't even realize how bad it was. I eat sugary foods on a daily basis. And not just once a day, multiple times. And I wonder why these extra 30 pounds are being so stubborn... But this isn't just another one of those posts where I profess that I'm going to start eating healthier and lose the weight! I posted recently about clean eating and I mentioned that I was having some trouble with acne all of a sudden. I thought it might be an issue after re-introducing gluten, but I'm not having any other symptoms. I feel quite good actually, except for when I eat diary, which is still very much a problem for me. I clearly did not stick to the clean eating lifestyle after I received shipments from Betty Crocker and coupons from Turtle Mountain. It was almost two months ago that I posted that article and the acne is still there, and worse, all over my chest, shoulders and face. It's awful! I've never had acne like this before! Especially during the summer where tank tops and bathing suits are a must. I feel like an awkard teenager. I knew in the back of my mind that it has to be diet related. There are so many theories about acne and what causes it. The biggest one being hormones, but not specifically how hormones cause it. I did a little research today and found a lot of info on sugar intake, liver reaction, hormone production, and the resulting acne. I thought to look into sugar because over a few days I barely ate any refined sugar and the acne started to clear up. Then I went back to my old habits and it reappeared. Coincidence? I think not! So now, for real this time, I'm going to cut out sugar for a while to see what happens. I've done this before and it's not as hard as it sounds, it's actually quite easy after the first few days. The cravings go away. I get horrible cravings when I'm eating sugar, but when I stop, the cravings go away. If there's one thing I've learned throughout this journey, it's that if you eat something and then are craving it again 5 minutes later, that's a bad thing! There's a difference between craving protein because you've been eating too many carbs, and craving sugar because your body is addicted to it. So here I go. Sugar free. I was going to post a "before" picture showing the outbreak on my chest and shoulders but I figured you all wouldn't want to see that... but maybe once I have a good "after" shot, I will!

Monday, August 3, 2009

::crickets::

Sorry for the short absence, just taking some time away from the computer! Back to normal posting tomorrow :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Boston GF/Celiacs Meetup Event with Zeer

Last night I attended my first meetup event with the Boston Gluten-Free/Celiacs Meetup group. The event was a taste test of sorts, to get our feedback on various gluten free products. We tested cookies, cracker, pretzels, chips and brownies. The event was organized by Shannon and Gillian who are not only organizers of the Meetup group, but also happen to work for Zeer, the sponsor of the event (and also the sponsor of the meetup group). I'll talk more about that in a minute, but first, some photos!

I didn't take that many pictures, but I'll highlight the best and worst foods of the evening. First things first, the WORST "crackers" I've ever tasted in my life:

Paper Crackers

These are Hol Grain Gluten Free Brown Rice crackers. I took a bite and had to check to make sure that I had bitten into the cracker, not the cardboard box... nope it was the cracker. I am not exaggerating. These were the hands-down winner of the worst food item of the night.

Of course, the favorite of the night was the brownies!

Brownies

Unfortunately only 1 out of the 5 samples were dairy free, they were made from the Pamela's Chocolate Brownie mix. I thought they were good, very rich, fudgy, and dark chocolate. I actually like the Betty Crocker mix better, but they had prepared them with butter so I avoided them at the tasting. The Pamela's mix actually made me think fudge, not cakey brownie.

One of the tasters at the event was Andrea from the Food Should Taste Good company, which I blogged about last year when I met the people from the company at the GF Cooking Spree. They were nice enough to give us all a surprise bag full of chips!! I love their chips, they are so flavorful and delicious, and have a lot of great varieties.

Food Should Taste Good

This was a fun event and I met some great people. Especially the folks from Zeer. I have only heard of Zeer very recently through a couple of mentions on some blogs and just checked it out for the first time this week.

Zeer is a two year old company, based in Cambridge, MA that is focused on helping the gluten free community to get information on food products quickly and easily. Zeer.com is a database that contains over 30,000 food items and is constantly being updated. You can join for free and search products, but in order to use the advanced features of the site, you must subscribe for $14.95 per month. When I first saw how much it costs to subscribe, I was put off. But after talking with the staff last night, I realized how valuable this resource is. It might seem pricey, but take into consideration that they do not sell any ad space on their website. Their main source of revenue to keep the site running comes from subscriptions. They are constantly in contact with vendors to make sure the site is up to date and not only that, they are also in touch with the consumers. They listen to what we need and want and do what they can to give back to us. These people are passionate about what they're doing. There are a lot of great things in the works with this company and I definitely encourage you to at least check it out!!



And yes, I am now affiliated with them, but like I said before - I only affiliate myself with companies that I trust and support and think are valuable resources for the gluten free community. Thanks to Mark, Shannon and Gillian for the wonderful event last night and for the service you're providing!!

As for the Boston Gluten-Free/Celiacs Meetup group, I'm going to be an assistant organizer! So if you live in the Greater Boston area, please join us! Hopefully we'll be lining up some great events very soon!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: Bhuja Snacks

If you read this blog through a reader, stop by the page to check out the new header!

Bhuja

I first discovered Bhuja snacks at the Gluten Free Cooking Spree last year and I loved them. Recently I received a bag of each of the four varieties for reviewing. I've so far only opened the cracker mix which is a mix of "crispy multigrain noodles, crunchy garden peas, peanuts and rice crackers with a savoury blend of aromatic spices." There are also raisins in the mix which add a nice sweetness because this mix is spicy! But it's not nearly as hot as the original mix, which I tried last year also. I love this stuff, it's a great alternative to chex mix. It goes great with a hard cider!

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It's Indian spicy, so if you aren't a fan of that kind of spice you might not like it, but I think it's great! I am looking forward to trying the fruit and nut mixes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Review: Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Mocha Almond Fudge Ice Cream by Turtle Mountain

Ice Cream

I have some coupons for Turtle Mountain dairy free products but hadn't had a chance to go get some. Today I have a day off from work and it's HOT and I thought it would be a great day for ice cream so I headed over to Good Health to pick something up. I saw the Mint Chip first and was going to get that, but then I noticed one last pint of Mocha Almond Fudge hiding in the back and I knew that was what I wanted. These are of the coconut milk varieties. I am not a big fan of soy milk based ice creams. I had to run home to eat this before it melted!

Oh. My. Gosh.

This is heavenly. Rich and creamy and you'd never know this isn't regular old cow's milk ice cream. The coffee flavor with fudge and almonds - delicious. I am so impressed. I'm having a hard time not running back over to the freezer and finishing off the pint! I highly recommend it. Next I will definitely try the Mint Chip!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Family Rocks!

Reunion 09 021

Those of you that have been reading this blog for awhile have probably already seen photos of this lovely lady - she's my 92 year old Great-Grandmother. She lives out in Kansas City, Missouri with my great aunt and every summer they come home for our family reunion. Her memory is so packed full of 92 years worth of stuff that she gets a little fuzzy sometimes, but otherwise she's quite the power house. She's my inspiration. The family reunion was Saturday and it was awesome as usual. I am so fortunate to have such an amazing family!! But the star of the day, aside from Gigi, was the FOOD! My uncle Mike is a fantastic cook and he spent the day feeding us all. The best part - the smoked ribs... sooooo delicious!

Reunion 09 006

Today I spent the day with my 2 great aunts and my cousin at the beach. They have lived in the midwest for a long time so they really miss the ocean. It was supposed to storm today but it ended up being a gorgeous day and we had a blast.

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I love summer!!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

BC Cookies 004

Well look what we have here! Tomorrow is my annual family reunion with my Dad's side of the family. I picked up my Gigi (aka G.G. = Great Grandmother) and Great Aunt Berni at the airport last night. I can't wait to see everyone tomorrow! I thought this would be the perfect time to bake my last Betty Crocker mix so I can bring them to the party. I followed the directions online to make them dairy free, which calls for vegetable oil. I once again, am wondering how they would've turned out had I made them according to the package. I have read all the other reviews out there and most of you aren't dairy free so you make them with butter. They come out just like the "real thing" and are great. I'm finding that the dairy free recipes are not working out as well. The vanilla cake didn't work out and these cookies, honestly, just aren't as good as I hoped they'd be. I like them, but the only real flavor comes from the chocolate chips, and they crumble in your hands. Next time, I'd use Earth Balance buttery spread instead of oil, which is the same thing I said for at least one of the other mixes, but for the first round, I wanted to make them as Betty Crocker said to. Will I take them to the reunion? Yes, definitely. I don't need them hanging around here tempting me to eat the whole bunch of them! Will I buy the mix again? Honestly, probably not. I don't often buy cookie mix anyway. Having said that, if you're a dairy eater, I do recommend it for a quick and easy mix, assuming that the butter makes them taste as good as everyone else says they do.

Review: Nature's Path Whole O's

Whole O's

Looks like a bowl of Cheerios doesn't it? It almost tastes like one too! Almost. This is Nature's Path Organic Whole O's, a gluten, dairy, egg, and soy free cereal. They don't have a whole lot of flavor on their own but with some fresh fruit these would be great. They don't get too soggy too quickly either which is great. I've been eating these with Pacific Natural Foods, Organic Almond Milk, vanilla flavored. The sweetness of the milk is a great touch with the cereal. I don't know what else to write about these, except that they taste good, are a good substitute for Cheerio's, and are healthy with only a few ingredients. I definitely recommend them!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Single girl on a budget and a special diet... eek!

My Meatloaf

This week is a particularly tight week for me financially. That is to say, I'm totally broke. So I'm basically cooking up whatever I have hanging around the house and I have to get creative. Last night when I got home I had a hamburger patty defrosted in the fridge, but no buns or any bread for that matter. Not even a few lettuce leaves, well actually I did have lettuce, but it was too wilted. I had to cook the burger or else it would go to waste but I didn't want to just eat a plain old burger patty! Then I had a great idea, why not turn that little burger into a single serving meat loaf?? My new favorite meatloaf recipe is from Carol Fenster's 1,000 Gluten Free Recipes so I just altered the recipe to make it fit for a single serving. Ok, so it didn't exactly turn out the same, I didn't really break down the recipe and do it exactly, but it was an easy and satisfying dinner and my burger didn't go to waste. That's a success in my book!

Coming up, I have product reviews - Bhuja snack mixes, Nature's Path cereals, Turtle Mountain Ice Cream, and Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookies (that I still haven't baked yet). I'm also waiting on the arrival of a new book that I'll be reviewing - The Un-Constipated Gourmet by Danielle Svetcov - I can't wait to read this one!! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Betty Crocker Re-Draw

Hey folks, sorry for taking so long to post this. I had to re-draw the Betty Crocker Contest because I never heard back from Jamie. The winner, once again chosen by Random Number Generator, is Sally!! Congratulations Sally! Please send me an email with your address so I can get the prize pack sent to you!!

Answers about Autoimmunity

Mike over at Agriculture is a Fad posted a link to this awesome article about Celiac and Autoimmunity. I am so excited about this article that I can't even pull my thoughts together to write this post. Alessio Fasano basically breaks down the Celiac process, saying that CD is a result of a genetic pre-disposition, exposure to an environmental trigger (gluten) and an unusually permeable intestinal wall. He says that scientists are starting to believe that this may be the case for many, if not all autoimmune disorders. What have I been saying all along?!?! There is some environmental factor that is triggering my Crohn's disease, so how the heck can we figure out what it is and eliminate it? And what if there are multiple factors? I am just so glad to find out that the research is being done and that we are getting closer to having solid answers about these diseases. The article ultimately is about the therapies that he is working on, "...celiac disease might one day be prevented or treated by ingestion of selected helpful microbes, or 'probiotics.' " I'm still on the fence about these types of therapies but the rest of the article is very informative and I highly recommend checking it out.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Review: Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cakes

ETA: I have still not been able to get ahold of Jamie, the winner of the giveaway. If I have not heard back by the end of the day, I will re-draw a new winner! Stay tuned...

This weekend I had a BBQ to go to, so I thought it would be the perfect time to bake some Betty Crocker Gluten Free cupcakes. Once again, I followed the recipes on the Betty Crocker website so that my gluten free cupcakes would also be dairy free. I baked both the vanilla and chocolate mixes. First, let me just say that baking in 87% humidity is NOT my idea of a good time, (I do not have air conditioning in my apartment!) but these were so quick and easy to make it wasn't so bad.

First I baked the vanilla:

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Then the chocolate:

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And then after letting them cool, I whipped up a basic buttercream frosting using Earth Balance Buttery Spread for the butter, and Light Vanilla Almond Milk for the milk. I used the recipe found on the box of confectionery sugar. It turned out great. I put a little too much milk in it so it was a little more runny than I prefer, but it tasted delicious.

IMG_8095

I had to test them out before I left the house. Didn't want to bring gross cupcakes to a BBQ! My roommate and I split one of each. We tried the vanilla first. They were a little dry. I baked them for 20 minutes, the recipe recommends 18-23. Next time I'd check them at 16. They also had a funny taste, both of us were reminded a little bit of a corn muffin. I was surprised because I've read so many great reviews of this mix. I wonder, once again, if it's because of the shortening in the place of butter? Next time I might try making them with Earth Balance. Next up was the chocolate (devil's food) and we were both pleased. These tasted like devil's food cake, moist and delicious and chocolatey. Very impressed.

Overall so far I've had good results with the Betty Crocker mixes. The brownies and devil's food cake were great, the vanilla cake might just need some tweaking. I haven't tried the cookies yet but I'm sure that will happen soon enough! I need a break from sweets though so they'll have to wait until I have another gathering to go to so that I can share them.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Basic Gluten Free, Casein / Dairy Free Pancakes

Chocolate Chip Gluten Free Pancakes

I haven't had pancakes in a really long time. I think the last time I had them was when I made these oats and honey pancakes. I had been eating a lot of savory dinners lately and I was craving something sweet. My oats are expired (oops) so I didn't want to make the oats and honey recipe, so I just went for a basic pancake.

Basic Gluten and Casein/Dairy Free Pancakes

2 Cups Brown Rice Flour
2 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Egg lightly beaten
1 1/2 Cups Almond Milk
2 Tablespoons of Canola Oil

Mix all of the ingredients and drop by the 1/4 cup onto skillet over medium or medium/high heat. I use a non-stick pan and do not grease it.

The flavor was all brown rice flour, too much for me, next time I would make a flour mix of some kind to give these a better flavor. This time, to make them delicious I dropped a few Tropical Source gluten and dairy free chocolate chips on them. That was the perfect addition.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Starbucks: Let Us Eat Cake!!!!

As many of you already know, Starbucks has announced that they are discontinuing the Gluten Free (and dairy free too!) Valencia Orange Cake, much to our dismay. They think that a Kind Bar is an appropriate substitution. What they don't realize is that most of us carry those kinds of snacks on us already in case of an emergency, and that cake was our only substitution for those delicious scones and pastries that the rest of Starbucks patrons enjoy. Triumph Dining has started a petition to get that cake back! Please sign it!!! Even if you're not gluten free, help support the millions of people that are. That cake was a huge step forward, and getting rid of it feels like ten steps back. Thank You!!

We're going Pro.

You may have noticed some changes to the blog lately. I wrote last week about the new domain, but now I'm sure you've noticed the new buttons and ads.

::gasp, ads?!?!::

Over a year ago when I started writing, I swore that I would never monetize the blog. I would stay pure and true and commercial free!! And then I started getting more traffic and made my way higher up on the Google and companies started emailing me. Of course I'm more than happy to receive samples and coupons and do reviews, that's the fun part. I was hesitant to get involved in affiliate programs and other things that lead to ad placement. A while ago I received an email from Triumph Dining, talking about the affiliate program that they were going to launch. I love Triumph and think it's a great resource for the gluten free community, so I was open to that. When they told me recently that the program was up and running, I didn't hesitate to drop a couple buttons in my sidebar. Then I found Foodbuzz. I had noticed some other bloggers had become Foodbuzz Featured Publishers and I wanted to be one too!! So I signed up. And now you see that ad banner in my sidebar. ::sigh:: I officially have broken my promise to myself.

The thing is, I'm here to write about food and awareness for food intolerance, allergies, and autoimmune disease. I want to help people that are looking for answers and recipes and products that they can enjoy. I love to do it and if that means promoting some great companies that support people like us, then I'll do it! Becoming a featured publisher is just going to give me a wider audience which will just promote awareness and I'm all for it. I will do my best to make sure this place doesn't become a billboard, and will only allow ads that are relevant to you, my readers. The content, if anything, will just get better because I'll be writing more often and more focused posts. I will also start labeling posts so they're easier to find. It's only going to get better from here, so stay tuned!! And as always, THANK YOU for reading!!!!