19 October 2016

GFAFExpo Secaucus, NJ Review

19 October 2016 0
Gluten Free AND Allergy Free Expo....Yes please!

Due to family events and life in general, I was unable to attend the GFAG Expo for the past couple of years so I was really really looking forward to this year's Expo.

My family was coming along for some support and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous as to what they would think and if they would find themselves bored and unsatisfied, but I was over it quickly and said, Happy Early Birthday to myself!

Some of the major sponsors for the event were Glutino and Udi's. While these are NOT my favorite gluten free brands, as they do contain some ingredients that I try to avoid for a daily consumption, I have to take my hat off and commend both companies for sponsoring and making events such as this happen! With that said, I went out of my way to visit their booths, try their products and engaging with their representatives.

Some new products:
-Gluten Free Delights - these remind me of hotpockets - not as good as I had dreamed, but heck, if you are craving some old-time comfort food, these will do the trick!

-Perfectly Free- AMAZING allergy-friendly frozen desserts! The salted caramel and vanilla is the fan favorite.

-88 Acres - gluten free AND VEGAN bars with some awesome texture and flavor to them!

Some old time favorites:
-Aleias - the Almond horns are a must!

-Veggie Fries - My family loves these adorable sneaky ways to get some additional vegetables into your day!

-The Greater Knead (formally Sweet Note Bagel) - these are 100% Nicole friendly (gluten free, soy free, vegan, corn free...) and texture and taste are approved!

Bagels are one of the hardest items to find in their gluten-free form that actually taste decent and not a solid brick, so thank you Greater Knead for accomplishing such!

The Family's favorites:
-Banza Pasta, stay tuned for their new meal kits including Mac and Cheese, Shells and Cheese, Mac and Cheese Deluxe and White Cheddar, these should hit the grocery store shelves shortly!  My fingers and toes are crossed for them to put out a vegan mac and cheese product!

-Carolina Rice - My sister was floored when she won a beans and rice packet! It is the simple things in life that seem to excite us!

According to the company's website, there are only two products that contain wheat (Chicken Rice and classic rice pilaf).

-Betty Lou's - The brother-in-law and I were the only ones who still had room in our bellies to try these babies! They Strawberry PB and J and the apricot fruit pie were the favorites! I can't believe they are both gluten free and vegan and this is the first I am hearing of them!

-SugarFlake Bakery - While their rainbow cookies were pretty awesome, but the plain cheesecake was the talk of the town! My aunt, a non-gluten free patron, is ready to purchase stock in this company! The plain cheesecake was the perfectly creamy and rich!

-Feel Good Foods - Feel Good Food's was there and showcasing their dumplings! This one of the few stands in which the family took more than one serving, with the vegetable being their favorite!

-Chebe - Garlic-Onion Breadstick Mix was the favorite!

-Against the Grain - The fiesta flatbread was hands-down the family favorite - now I'm just wishing they would have a vegan version!

-ProYo - the banana was the team favorite and vanilla was deemed to be plain after having had the banana.

My Favorites:
-Betty Lou's - honestly, I find it hard for me to really enjoy foods these days. If I like the taste, my stomach hates me for it. If my stomach likes it, I am bored and flustered with it. Betty Lou's products seem to be both kind to my stomach and enjoyable to the pallet. Knowing that the brother-in-law enjoyed these just as much as I did and because I want to share these babies with everyone, I did share my goodie bag, but now I am wishing I hadn't! :)

-Perfectly Free- AMAZING. Honestly, that is all I have to say! These perfect little-frozen balls are just the perfect snack!

-Canyon Bakehouse - 7-grain bread. The bagel bored me a bit, I think because I already had about 10 that day...but the 7-grain bread had that memorable "airy" texture that I had yet to find in gluten-free bread! The flavor was on par -and  I really enjoyed the crunchiness that the seeds provided.

I had been wanting to try this company for some time, but the expense of gluten-free products and the fact that I don't always enjoy gluten free bread,  (I find it dry, tasteless, and full of preservatives) I steered clear, but I have to say, Canyon Bakehouse, you brought your A- Game and I am sold!

The two representatives for Canyon Bakehouse were my favorite stand! They were engaging and really appeared to enjoy what they do!

-Maddalenas - This one is a stretch for me, not typically going for the dessert let alone something with dairy in it, but OMG the pumpkin cheesecake, fluffy, creamy, and just a wow-factor with flavor! Somehow my family missed this stand or I am sure it would be included on their favorites list.

-Pascha - allergy-friendly chocolate, need I say more?!

-Kevita - I have so far enjoyed the Mojita Lime Mint Coconut, Strawberry Acai Coconut, and the Meyer Lemon Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic. I am having a hard time finding all of the products I want to try in my local grocery store :(.

I have a lot of tummy / digestion issues and trying all the new product at the convention, I found these babies to be my savior! I just wish they were not close to $3.00 a bottle.

17 October 2016

Using Your Talents To Help Others

17 October 2016 2
I really enjoy cooking. It makes me happy - I can't say I am good at it, as there are plenty of times I make dishes and spit them out almost immediately proclaiming how disgusting they are. It's the joy of trial and error that it doesn't matter if I fail on 100 dishes, I have at least one that I truly enjoy and can feed my heart and soul with.

I enjoy cooking for others and thus had to develop awareness of my other senses as I can't taste-test the food in which I am providing to them.

A very good friend that we have essentially just adopted into the family, asked my sister and I over for a Halloween movie night. I figured, since I am off on a little mini-vacation and not working, I would give them a gift that I do not always get to have myself and that is, walking into a house with a home cooked meal!  I looked around my parents' house to see what we had an abundance of today. P.S there is always an abundance of one type of food or another as we do love our farmer's market finds which usually result in cases of food!

I found a case of butternut squash, a case of pineapple, and a very large pumpkin in which we needed to bake down.

I went with a fall favorite of chili and added my own spin to it - creating a butternut slow cooker chili. I pan roasted the onions, ground beef, and tomatoes / pepper mixture with coconut oil before placing it into the slow cooker. Then I left it on medium heat all day to prep for dinner.

Then I thought, what better to go with chili than cornbread? HMMM....pumpkin cornbread!? Why not, so I mixed everything up and backed my cute muffins tins for the drive over.

Lastly, we need a dessert for our mini-movie party!  I found a cute apple-pineapple hand pie recipe. It was pretty easy: cut up an apple and two sliced on pineapple into small pieces, pan fry with some butter, brown sugar and cinnamon until mixture is soft. We added a "touch" of rum to our mixture. Then take 8 pieces of white bread and cut them into a circular shape and flatten them (I let mom do this part as to not 100% contaminant myself). I left everything as is so that when we arrived at Chyle's we could just place the filling into the bread and pan-fry them with some more butter.

When we arrived at Chyle's that evening, I started heating the chili and baking the cornbread to discover that our night was about to have a twist to it. That is, Chyle's husband had received word that it was very likely he would be deploying much sooner than anticipated and that he would miss their second son's 1st birthday, the holidays, and much more.

They had asked for our opinions, but Mia had such a perfect way of putting it, "it wasn't fair for us to provide input as we had never been in a situation such as this". She was right, we have never been in love with someone, created a family, purchased a home and built a life with someone to know that without choice, that special someone would have to deploy at some point in time. How difficult that must be to not only miss and fear for the one you love but now also have the responsibility of an entire family, house, etc fall into your responsibility.

I felt the only thing I could provide was to reassure them that I was here (only 2 hours away) for anything and everything they might need. I was glad that we were that night to provide a nourishing meal and hugs where needed.

I spent the night thinking about how I would feel and what I would do. Wondering, am I strong enough for such a life occurrence or would I crash and burn? Do I have the support team around me that would allow for me to conquer this life event?

While I don't have the answers, I do have a profound new outlook on the lives of those that fight so nobly for our country, and for the families that they leave behind.

14 October 2016

Savory Oatmeal (Vegan & Gluten Free)

14 October 2016 0
It's pumpkin season! One of my favorites! I find that I LOVE comfy fall foods (reminds me of my younger carefree years - so bring on the carbs!), mother nature's colors, the smell of the crisp air mixed in with fall leaves blowing through the air and of course, all of the birthday celebrations!

I'm my happiest when I am around those that I love (family, friends, and adopted / extended family). I find my anxiety is slim to none, my joy is waking up and getting the opportunity to spend time with them in whatever capacity they can provide.

I awake, to the morning's crisp air for a refreshing walk with a cup of tea in hand. These are the moments of the day that I can just stop lift my head and my heart to the sky, I then take in a deep breath and watch as a smile emerges onto my face. Funny how the little, and most simplistic things can just make us smile and fee FREE. Free of regret. Free of fear. Free of obligations. Just free to be who you are in that exact moment of that day.

I spend a lot of my time trying to be someone I am not in an effort to please others - I am starting to see the pattern that when I am who I am and I am true to myself, that is when I am the happiest and content in life. It is when I am trying to determine who I should be for others that I have issues with anxiety and fear. I hope to take this lesson and one day put it into action and no longer worry about pleasing everyone. For those that matter, they will love me for who I am and only encourage such behavior.

I have been having a ton of fun with seeking out unique varieties of squash and pumpkins and experimenting with them. Most recent of my finds is a what they call a cinderella pumpkin. I did a little bit of reading on this pumpkin variety. The origin of a cinderella pumpkin in from France and it is rather difficult to find in the US. The pumpkin itself is a large round pumpkin that looks like someone squished it- hence it's nickname the cinderella pumpkin. The variety is said to be on the better pumpkins to use for baking, as the pumpkin lacks that startch-like taste and encompasses the creamy and velvety tastes of a pumpkin.

I was not in the mood to bake something for myself, nor do I bake in my parent's oven (Italian bread overload!)  and I have been loving and trying to create as many unique savory oatmeal dishes I can come up with.

I steamed the pumpkin and scooped it into a pot with water, turmeric, cinnamon, star anise, and seaweed. I let everything get nice and creamy and then I cooked the oatmeal into the mixture. I wasn't sure I was going to like it, as the smell was not what I had been expecting, but the taste was on-par. I would have this over and over and over and over again - as the cinderella pumpkin delivers on the creamy aspect!

10 October 2016

30 Flirty and Thriving

10 October 2016 0
Here we are, approaching the "real" adulthood measurement. The oldest of 4 Fia gals is turning the big 3-0. While I know many find celebrating birthdays to be a waste and a bunch of hoo-ahh, I find that the world today is tough and when you can find a reason, any reason at all, to celebrate, I say you take it and run with it.

When mentioning to my parents that we would be celebrating and kind of celebrating BIG, since it is the BIG 3-0 birthday this year - my mom sort of looked at me and said, BIG 3-0?! It was not a big birthday when we turned that age, why is it now?

I stopped and thought about it for a moment. Well, because school and post-graduate school takes up more time, people are getting married later, financially it is more difficult to find a way in which to survive, I'm not entirely sure when and how this became a big one, but life is hard so why not celebrate the fact that you are approaching a new decade and this one might be a bit easier on you?!

I asked Fran what she wanted to do for her birthday, and I asked with a bit of hesitation seeing as how I know the BIG 2-5 was rough for her, I wasn't too sure how she was going to feel about this one, five years later.

Fran noted she really wanted something simple, nothing too big of crazy just very low-key so we will go with a nice dinner with good friends and enjoy yourselves. Fran chose Vientiane Cafe for a couple of reasons: 1. they are a cure intimate setting not too far from her home and 2. they are beyond accommodating to my food needs and I have never been sick here, not once and this has become my go-to for dinners out.

I worked with Vientiane to make reservations, not something they always take and off to the planning I went. I recruited the twin and baby sister to assist as well, because honestly, every event always is that much better when their thoughts and talents are also incorporated in.

I had asked the baby sister to help with the table decor and the twin to help with some party favors (old schooling it up!). We kept checking in with one another to ensure we had everything necessary and felt confident we were good to go. We arrived at the restaurant in advance to ensure we had plenty of time to setup and Vientiane was awesome about letting us come in and essentially take over the place. We moved tables, lit some additional lights, placed confetti on the table, etc...

The birthday princess arrived (that's right, we got her her very own tiara and had some little hair-clip tiaras for the rest of the ladies at the table). We managed to get everyone to sit down and start completing their best memory of Fran to be stored in a jar. The thought process behind this was that on any given day she is feeling shitty, she can pull out this jar of love and remember how special she is to each and every single person in her life.

Everyone sort of paired off and started reviewing the menu and asking what was good and who wanted to share which appetizer. My recommendations, everything is good here. The curry, I had only once in the past was not my favorite BUT still wasn't bad.

I knew I had to get the rice porridge, so that was settled but for my main meal I was indecisive. Mainly because I was going to rock one of the entrees and the waitress so kindly let me know that when making it gluten free, they are excluding their house-made soy sauce and adding in tamari. Which of course ,tamari will alter the taste a bit. Sort of flustered and feeling rushed, and only because we have 18 other orders that were waiting on my decision, I said, can you have the chef just surprise me with a gluten-free and vegan dish? That they did!

They brought out the Aw Lao with my favorite fluffy tofu.Not a dish that I would have selected for myself and definitely not on my top favorite, but I blame that on the damn rice porridge! That rice porridge is just amazing that and.....the famous king soup. When you start your Vientiane experience with these two dishes, it is really really hard to top them!

After taking my time to enjoy my dish, I circled around and asked everyone else what they enjoyed. The Panaeng curry (peanut based) looked and smelled amazing! I tried the gluten-free version of the pad thai and that was pretty awesome as well but the fried rice is also calling my name....argh! I need them to offer me a sampler plate one of these days!

The verdict is that all of the attendees, even those that were afraid of trying "Thai" cuisine, absolutely loved their dishes and even the twin loved her food when she was afraid she would HATE it.

Vientiane ,as always, you rock and we all know how picking I am out about food and eating out and while I sort of feel the Aw Lao and the Green Curry dishes have let me down, that rice porridge, king soup, Pho, and my desire to try more will keep coming back.


22 September 2016

Gluten Free and Vegan Tailgating

22 September 2016 1
We take our tailgating very serious and with a noon game, we plan to arrive around 7:00am.

This year, life's funny little reminders that you can't plan life, you can't take life for granite, and that you can't plan your future tossed us a curve-ball as we were involved in a minor accident that morning.

While everyone was able to walk away from both vehicles and only complain about a small discomfort in their back, neck, and knee - I would consider ourselves very fortunate.

It is situations like these where you can't go on blaming anyone. It was an accident and just that. No one planned it, no one meant for it to happen and no one certainly wanted to incur the additional expenses - but life happens and it is rude awaking that you need to start treasuring life. Stop complaining, stop judging, stop fussing, so wake up every day with gratitude that you have the opportunity to make this day a great day. You have the opportunity to love - love yourself, love your family, love your pets, love significant others, etc one more day! Treasure life! Be there for others. Make time for you. Smile more often. Find happiness in the life you have!

After everything was some what worked out with insurance and the police, we made our way to have a great day! I started with some gluten free and vegan oatmeal pancakes.

  • Gluten Free Oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Zucchini
  • Almond Milk
  • Banana
Without the Vitamix, I had to alter this recipe a tad bit in a normal blender....the Vitamix just mixes it up a bit smoother and thicker.

These were simple to heat on my Thermos Grill. Each side took about 4 minutes with the lid closed.
I then topped these with some homemade, sugar-free concord grape jam!

For lunch and dinner (that's right we rock out all day, seriously, anyone who leaves immediately after the game is missing out on all the fun people-watching) I made a stuffed patty pan squash and roasted pumpkin dish.

When I was web searching for creative squash recipes, everyone and their mother appeared to stuff patty pans, which I have never done and found it boring, but when I was crunched for time on the prep and noticed I had another serving of Kitchari left, I said, the heck with it - I am joining the cult!

I simply took 4 patty pan squash, cut their tops off, scooped out their centers and filled them with the Kitchari. I sprinkled a little extra nutmeg on top and some fresh cilantro.

For the pumpkin dish, I cubed up the pumpkin (removing seeds and the skin) and added cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, scallions, dried dates and a small amount of my coconut oil and honey mixture.

 I must say, the stuffed squash was pretty legit and enjoyed! I guess it is okay to sometimes follow the larger crowd!

20 September 2016

Adventures in Squash

20 September 2016 0
Here is the situation: 
When your fridge looks like this - jammed packed with fruits and Squash - you tend to find yourself getting a bit more creative on your squash game.

I tried my best to do some web-searches for squash recipes but I found myself bored of the same things:
     Squash Boats
     Summer Pasta with Squash
     Squash zoodles
...with the lack of creativity, I was looking for, I had only once choice left, to take a look in my pantry and tune into my current food cravings. 

I knew I was craving a seaweed salad and hadn't yet made my own. I started there - soaking the seaweed (just a couple of handfuls) and then adding some flavor (ginger and garlic). I then took a zucchini (which, with the size of this one, it looked like it was on steroids) and spiralized it into noodles. I added some lemon juice, Akwain seeds, and fresh cilantro. Once the seaweed had a couple of hours to soak - I dumped it into my ziplock container with the remaining ingredients and gave everything a good shake. With my thought that this would be the next day's lunch, the entire dish had another 12+ hours to soak in all of the good flavors. 
The next morning, I figured I would want to add something a bit more substantial to this dish, I grabbed some coconut oil, coconut shavings and some patty pan squash which I steamed together and placed overtop of my pasta dish. 

This dish took me no more than 20-minutes prep time (and that is stretching it) and was ready for a light and healthy delicious meal.

Living healthy does not need to be boring! I understand the doctor currently wants me on a simple, light, and heavy squash focused diet, but who said I can't have fun with "simple" flavors?!

01 September 2016

Making your own rice flour

01 September 2016 1

I had some time off recently and it has forced me to learn to relax!

I remembered how much I enjoyed experimenting with new recipes and ingredients!

Before starting my new experiment...I spent some time during the morning to ignore everyone else and all of their needs, their bad moods, their everything. I wanted to enjoy a cup of Chocolate Matte Tea, on the porch, with a book and myself and that is it! I wanted no distractions, no demands just a little me-time!

I thought I might struggle with this and feel "lazy" as I often do when I take a moment to slow down and instead I felt joy and rather content.

I have actually been reading a lot of materials on how doing nothing can be of such benefit to a person. It helps you recharge and prepare to take on more. It helps your body get stronger as you take the time to rest. While I could continue to babble on and on about the benefits, the real trick is to discover and feel it for yourself. I dare you! Go do nothing for 5-minutes, 30-minutes, the whole day, a week - go crazy and just enjoy listening to your own breath and feeling alive in the sheer act of doing nothing!

I knew my peace wouldn't last forever as I was interrupted by other's needs - which I don't mind at all. I am happy to help where and when I can! Once I found I had some more free time, I decided to make my own brown rice flour!

I seriously took a bunch of brown rice, dumped it into the Vitamix and then BAM - flour!

Since I went through all that hard work (teheheh) I decided to get even more creative and I made healthy rice flour zucchini banana muffins! The family was a tad nervous to eat them but once they did, they admitted that for being gluten free, they really aren't that bad!

Lesson learned - stop worrying about everything and just enjoy every moment of every day!

22 August 2016

3 Ingredient Vegan & Gluten Free Pancakes

22 August 2016 1
3 Ingredient Vegan & Gluten Free Pancakes
* 1 cup oatmeal
*1 cup dairy-free milk of your choice
*1 ripe banana
*Cinnamon and ginger of your choice (I added some nutmeg as well)

Place all ingredients into a blender and zoom - blend until smooth.
I made small little pancakes and let them sit on a non-stick skillet for 2-minutes each side.

Topping ideas: honey, nut butter, maple syrup, jam / jelly, fruit, chia seeds, etc.

I decided to rock some elderberry jam on these babies. elderberry is well known for its healing properties.

My next project will be oatmeal banana zucchini pancakes - I will keep you posted on my progress!

Gluten Free & Allergy Free Expo, Secaucus, NJ 10/15-10/162016

It's that time of year again! Come out and join me at the Great Gluten Free & Allergy Free Expo is Secaucus, NJ!

For those of you that have attended gluten free or allergy free expos in the past, I can personally guarantee you they are nothing compared to this year's event in Secaucus, NJ.

The number of exhibitors alone is enough to bring you out - but then add in free samples and discounts and it is a win-win situation!

A couple of vendor on my excitement list are:
1. Hu Kitchen
2. M Superfoods
3. Sweet Note Bakery

A couple of the presentations / classes that I am also excited for:
1. Jenna Drew's essential oils
2. Kim Koeller's eating out gluten and allergy free

To register for the event, simply click here.
With the attached link you will be eligible for the following discounts:
30% off  w/ code EARLYBIRD (thru 9/14)
20% off w/ code ADVANCE (thru 10/14)

In addition, I will be raffling off a couple free tickets.  Please leave a comment below to become eligible for the giveaway!

Sharing some photos from past Gluten Free & Allergy Free Expo events. Again, this is an event not to be missed!

Zucchini Noodle Lettuce Wraps

When you are in a rush and you need a quick meal, these zucchini noodle lettuce wraps are a perfect meal!

Simply take the zucchini noodle recipe of choice and wrap it into some fresh lettuce. I used butterhead lettuce and added some seaweed (dulse) and grape tomatoes.

You can add some additional sauce, spices, whatever makes your heart content.
Enjoy and have fun with your foods!

18 August 2016

Vegan & Gluten Free Zucchini Noodle Mac-N-CHEEZE

18 August 2016 0
With summer harvest over-crowding my fridge - I have started to get a bit more creative on my dishes.
For lunch this week, I am rocking something that I have been craving for some time now, mac and cheese. I am putting a healthy, Nicole-Friendly spin on it! 

I took a couple yellow squash and spiralized them to create noodles. 
I tossed in a little lemon juice to keep them fresh and sprinkled some fresh cilantro and Ajwain Seed (good for digestion and bowel issues). 

Then, as I usually do, I just started tossing items into my Vitamix. 
*Zucchini (deskinned), Cilantro, Dairy-Free Milk, Carrots, Garlic, Mustard, Mustard Seeds, Tumeric.... Basically, whatever I could find that sounded like it might mix well. 

I left the Vitamix on the highest setting for a good 5-minutes to get a nice creamy texture. When I removed the lid and took a whiff, YUM! I can't wait to serve this over my squash noodles!

What's the verdict on taste and texture?

Texture - I want to make this a bit thicker - maybe next time i will choose to use a bit less milk and increase the vegetables for a thicker consistency. Adding in some nut butter might increase the consistency as well.

Taste - taste was not bad, but it was missing something. Maybe a little paprika or a touch of cumin would increase the umami flavor profile.

I will continue to play around with this recipe and find something I love. 

The Birch Tree Cafe & Good Earth Market

On my recent runaway trip - I ran into a big of a snag of trying to find food and I was even willing to verge-out into the meat world and forgo some of my other food sensitivities and I have to say, I am so freaking disappointed with the world and how hard it is to eat a decent, healthy meal! This is not only scary to me but makes me almost sick to my stomach how okay the world is with what is currently offered to them. Maybe it is not that they are okay with it, but perhaps it is that they are ignorant to the facts....

Anyhow, with all the dilemma of trying to find a place that was not pizza, fast food, or a sandwich - Mia and I had to drive a good 30+ minutes out of our way and we were famished by the time we even found this place. I actually remember us both looking at one another and saying, will we even make it until we get to our destination or will we pass out? Good thing we had some snacks packed with us.

When we finally arrived at Good Earth Lane - the immediate response was, "this place is adorable" I do not even care if they don't have food that is Nicole-friendly as I am going to just lay in the grass and enjoy the beauty!

The Good Earth Market is a little farm with their own garden, soon to be tiny-house, and organic market. The Birth Tree Cafe is located within the market and even makes their own gluten-free bread.

We arrived in the cafe, sat down and reviewed the menu. I was a bit overwhelmed as I do get whenever I have the option to pick more than one Nicole-Friendly option.

Since I was unsure of what I wanted and I was so hungry I thought I might eat my arm - I asked if they would be interested in doing a half-and-half option. I was pretty sure they would come back and say - sorry this is not a doable option, but instead, they were beyond accommodating and had no problem adhering to my request.
I went with the Chickpea and Vegetable Sandwich on the normal gluten-free bread.

I enjoyed both sandwiches but I think I preferred the vegetable sandwich, which I added avocado.

Mia and I scarfed down our sandwiches and then roamed around the market for a bit. They had a wide variety of supplements, fresh vegetables, fruit, grains, local honey and two freezers filled with gluten-free goodies.

Before we left, we couldn't help but sneak in a little treat for ourselves.

I went with the seasonal blueberry muffin and a DRY sparkling Vanilla Bean cold drink.

I have to say that I enjoyed the bread more so than I did the muffin, but it was still enjoyable.

After our treat, Mia and I walked around the garden and enjoyed the beauty that it attracted, such as butterflies and bumble bees.

Good Earth Market, not only did you feed two gals when we were beyond famished, you gave us a healthy and fresh meal! We both enjoyed our meal, even Mia who is not gluten-free LOVED her turkey gluten-free sandwich - so much so she talked about it all evening and we found ourselves back here the next day ordering the SAME THING - which I NEVER DO!

17 August 2016

Camping Adventures

17 August 2016 0
Sometimes, well, to be blunt, I avoid social opportunities because I am afraid to be removed from my routine. It's sad and upsetting, I know - but it is a part of my healing process and as I have noted a number of times in the past, my routine has become my "safety blanket".

My twin and I decided to take our sister trip and due to some crazy schedules this year, we tossed it together last minute. I decided to roll with it and just go wherever the wind would take us.

Mia has always enjoyed two things in life - horses and beaches. So when I remembered Assateague Island offered the opportunity to camp on the beach where the wild horses roam - I knew this is where we needed to go.

We got lucky enough that last minute we were able to get a reservation but unfortunately, we could only get one night. I said, oh well, we will find something else - let's just go!

Since I was taking off work and doing so last minute, I didn't have a real opportunity to pack so I tossed this and that into a bag and rummaged through my stash of free-sample foods (you know the kind you get at fairs, conventions, etc). I was so tired when I was packing, that I couldn't even remember what made it into the car and what was missing - but what the heck, if I needed something, I would just purchase it new.

I got my morning yoga routine in and then Mia had arrived and we were on our way! The drive was fairly smooth - no real roadblocks or delays to note. We enjoyed some good music, company, and girl-talk.

The only real snag we ran into was finding a place that was gluten free friendly. Like really people? Is it that hard to accommodate and eliminate disgusting processed foods? Just saying! The world would be a much better place if finding healthy, affordable food was easier. After a long search, and a good 30-minute drive out of the way, we found lunch - but I will save another post to tell you about our amazing find!

Back to the road trip. 4+ hours later and we had arrived! We checked in, drove to our campsite and started to unpack. They only tent we had for our last-minute trip was a 7 person tent, so we anticipated a lot of space for the two of us. What we did not anticipate was the insane wind and how difficult it would be to keep the tent afloat.

We two gals had no trouble putting the tent up - but the stakes that we had just was not doing the trick. They kept pulling out of the sand and the wind was trying to show us who was the boss.
I made the decision to leave Mia behind for a moment and take a look at how other campers maintained their tents.

On my journey, I met a lovely couple who was more than happy to help and let me just say, THEY SAVED US! Without their assistance and materials, we would have blown away - or maybe had to resort to sleeping in our car, we truly appreciated their kindness.

After the tent was successfully up, we ran out for some firewood and then snuggled down with a fire (which again, the wind was trying to show us differently) and dinner. Dinner was a quick sandwich we made from the bread purchased earlier in the day and some fresh fruit!

While hanging out at the fire, it was surreal to see the wild horses wander around the camp and not even worry about the humans in their path.

When we realized we were dozing off, we did a quick run to the bathhouse and then off to bed. The wind was extremely fierce this night and there was plenty of times I thought we might blow away - but we made it through the night safe and sound.

When we awoke we went directly to the beach and watched the horses awake to the morning sunrise.  It was one of the most beautiful and peaceful times I have witnessed in years!

After a brief photo opp, we did a quick breakfast. Breakfast consisted of Natures Way cereal, fruit, and almond milk! Not bad for not having really packed anything!

While our trip was cut short, on the count that we couldn't find any open campsites, we had a fabulous time together and I hope that we never lose the tradition of spending some good quality family time together.

I can't wait to return and bring the entire family!

15 August 2016

How Kitchari has become a way for me to create family

15 August 2016 1
I'm still on this healing journey and I spend many of days feeling sorry and low about myself and the world around me. Some days I live in constant fear: fear of people, fear something bad will happen, fear someone or something will be taken from me - fear I left the oven, lights, washer, etc on...

Other days I am able to pull myself from this black cloud (or what I refer to as my Eeyore days) and realize that it is all okay. I am in a healing process and I just don't have room for others to love me (family, friends, significant other) until I love myself.

I'm focused on diet and exercise as well as mind and body.

I have found myself a place that I call home.
I have found myself a way to engage more and enjoy work more.

I need to learn to embrace all my "failures" and health struggles so that I can heal.

I watch other people, I am a big people watcher, and I wonder how do they do this thing called "life"? What is life? What is it like to surrender yourself completely to others?

On my Eeyore days, I find that I feel like I do not have friends and that my family has their own shit going on and cannot always baby my needs. I tell myself, I need to be a lone-ranger. I have to do this on my own. It's the only way it can be done and I just have to suck it up and do it.

I try to put myself in social situations and I find that I currently get a bit of anxiety on this subject matter. Mainly because I feel people are staring, judging, and already creating a profile of me that is just not true. I think I scare people. Maybe I appear unfriendly or maybe I portray an anger face?

People who I thought were my friends, I find that trying to engage them in social activities is like making them go to the dentist. They do it because they want to maintain their health, but really they don't enjoy it. Therefore, I have started to pull away from people more and more. I have yet determined if this is a good or bad thing, but it is what is happening today.

So I stick to my routine and keep my mind as clear from negative thoughts and worries as possible.
I wake up.
Enjoy yoga
Shower / prep for work
Head to work
Accomplish work
Head home
Get a nice walk in
Chat with Nana, Dad, or some other family / friend
Head home and great ready for the next day
Daily massage
Downtime - this is new and something I am really focusing on. As I still find it difficult to have downtime.

On my good days, when I am thinking clearly. I question, how did I get this bad? How could I have lost myself so much? Then I remember how sick I have been with zero answers from the medical world. How my body is beginning to shut down, my hormones are not aligned (which affects your mood) and the abusive relationship I had shut myself into.

In being kind to myself. I know I will find myself and perhaps an even better version than I once was, or from what I can remember, the person that I was...

I have started feeling better and it's funny the little signs that I see as my way of healing:
-Wanting to update my wardrobe so that I am no longer dressing like a homeless person. I remember being very admin about "you dress for the role you want to play".
-Wanting to get my hair done (again, need to look sharp for yourself and others).

I have taken up some work exchange at my local yoga studio. While I don't get to engage socially during these hours, it does give me a purpose. The lovely couple who owns the studio are unique in that they are true to themselves. They live and run their studio by their own beliefs and values. They are genuine, raw, legit.

We have started sharing stories on Kitchari,I was surprised that someone else actually heard of Kitchari. Many times when I mention Kitchari or Moong Dal people look at me like I am speaking a foreign language. Recently, I have become a tad more creative in my Kitchari recipes.

I am also finding Kitchari to be a comforting food to me. I used to look forward to the weekends as these became my "cheat" days or non-routine days. I can't really call them "cheat" days because I do not eat "bad" food just food that doesn't work for my current healing process.

I would make large bowls of warm fruit or banana whips for breakfast on these "off-days" but now, I find I really just enjoy my routine and my body does as well.
Breakfast - Kitchari
Lunch - Squash soup made with oatmeal and a side of steamed squash dressed in spices
Dinner - Open but typically nothing too hard to digest.

My routine has become my friend and comfort which is good and bad. Good that I am finding comfort bad that I am a bit less flexible in my ways.

I'm excited to see and document my next progress, be it good or bad, on this healing journey.


25 July 2016

Oats Oats Oats

25 July 2016 0
I've been eating a lot of gluten-free oats recently. I find that the fiber is helping me stay full, the carbs are providing some additional energy, and the fiber is helping my stomach over-all during it's healing process.

I have been experimenting with multiple variants.

The variation to the left is what I like to call, CHA-CHA-CHIA.

I soaked the oats and a teaspoon of chia seeds overnight. I think added some cinnamon, warm apple and boom - yummy gooey deliciousness. I sprinkled a little extra flax seeds on the top to provide a crunch.

The variation on the right is one of my favorites. I did not soak the oats overnight, so it provided for a bit longer cooking time but it's simply oats, water, warmed peach, star anise, and cinnamon.

22 July 2016

Review: The Juice Merchant, Manayunk PA

22 July 2016 0
I finally made it to The Juice Merchant in Manayunk, PA.

I knew this review would be a difficult one because I make most of these items myself and it can be hard to have other's compare to your own swing of things. Mainly because you can 100% customize to your liking. 
I figured I would stay away from the smoothies and juices, as they can get expensive. This is not in particular to The Juice Merchant but all juice and smoothie companies out there. It is difficult / expensive for them to maintain the fresh organic raw materials. 

That left me with a banana whip or some food and since this visit was not really intended for a meal, I went with the whip. They add almond milk and gluten-free vegan granola to the whip. 

The taste was just as I expected but maybe a bit more bland than I prefer - no cinnamon or carob or fresh mint...nothing. 

The consistency was not on point. Half of my bowl was melted, while the other half remained chunks or frozen bananas. 

End result. I was not in love but I do appreciate that there are health food options out there. 

I would like to get back and review their food options, especially their brunch which makes note of pancakes and waffles. 

03 June 2016

Desi Village Indian Restaurant

03 June 2016 0
Continuing my journey or trying all the things I have always wanted to try but I allowed someone or something to hold me back - Indian food was on the top of the list.

While visiting my sister and another sister in for a visit, we decided to walk down the street and check out Desi Village. At first, I was a bit nervous, as the first waiter did not understand my question in regards to gluten free meals. No big deal, another waiter came out and was able to help accommodate. Not only was he able to help me review what was and was not safe - my sisters and I couldn't decided on the meals of choice and decided to ask the waiter if he wouldn't mind bringing out three surprise dishes. The waiter took our challenge and met it! A couple of minutes later our table was filled with lots and lots of wonderful white rice and three fantastic dishes.
1. Dal Makhani
2. Chicken Jalfrezi
3. Achari Lamb

Since I don't really do meat anymore, I stuck with the sauces of the non-vegetarian dishes and indulged in the Dal Makhani - which was actually everyone's favorite!

All three of us ate lots and lots of food for under 40.00!

02 June 2016

Getting Strong Each Day

02 June 2016 1
Life has been anything but routine recently.  I have been forced to be okay with things just happening. Trying to adjust to on the whim changes, while still trying to maintain some sort of regime has been, well, interesting.

I think I have done the best that I could have, given the circumstances. In some cases, I think I even grew stronger. I found that my anxiety was coming to visit less often. I was nicer and more forgiving to myself. Allowing myself to take time to just come home and do nothing rather than running the self-shaming game that I partake in all too often. I mean, why is it so bad for me to take days off from running myself ragged at the gym or yoga? Why am I not entitled to rest days? A rest day here and there does not mean that I am never going to go back....right?

Why do I think I saw improvement? My guess, I was around normal people. Most days, I shut myself off from the rest of the world and I just do me. I mean, I interact at work, at the gym, yoga, etc but when I go home, I typically enjoy "me" time. Which is good and bad, because I forgot what it was like to be "normal" and I do use this term loosely - "normal" is not always the answer, but when you need to relearn how to function as a human being - "normal" is important.

I had my sister around for a lot of the support and a new friend has been very influential in my mind-shift to a more positive outlook on life.
I am also starting to remember who I am and finding comfort in that!

My fear is that, now that I am getting into a more routine-like setting, that I will go back to shutting myself off - forgetting to be patient with myself and that my anxiety will come back stronger than ever.

First step, acknowledging out loud that all of these scenarios could very likely occur.
Second step, try to cut-them off before they come back to play.
Third step, okay, they came back - now what? Do I let them take over my life again or do I take control. I would like to think that this time around, I will take control and I am going to squash any negativity in life and just be a ray of sunshine :) - cheesy I know, but it does make me smile.

I have been neglecting smart food options and my Aryuredic doctor this past month, and my body and mind are beginning to feel it!

I have gone back to simple meals like Mong-Dahl. Fingers are crossed that with a little bit of time and patience with myself that all will be well.

Last topic of today's rant. Comparison - we all do it - but why? It's such an evil thing towards others and more importantly, to ourselves.
List of jealous-activities recently:
1. My oldest sister, that she has built herself a support system of loving people that would be there for her no matter hell or high water
2. My twin sister that she is about to be traveling all over the world this summer - that she found someone to love her for her and share a life together forever, and that she is close to family that can quickly come support her needs.
3. My youngest sister - that she seems to know what it is that she wants to do and that she too has seemed to find someone that truly loves her for her.
4. People who do not have student loans! ARGH!

Now that I have listed out my jealous acts, it's real and I have to own them. Meaning, I am making a commitment to myself that I will acknowledge each act and try to pin-point the real reasoning behind them and if they are valid and something is "missing" in my life - well, then it is up to me and only me to fix that. I can't look to any one other person for happiness. It has to stem from me :).

Until next time.....

31 May 2016

Sabrina's Cafe, Not so Gluten Free and Vegan Friendly

31 May 2016 1
Everyone rants and raves about Sabrina's Cafe - which has multiple locations throughout the Philadelphia area. I figured, I had to give it a try. I looked online and there are a number of reviews that Sabrina's is gluten free safe and I did my precaution and called ahead to discuss my food allergy concerns with the company. 

I felt confident that I would be able to eat at Sabrina's with ease. 

Since I was meeting with a larger group and everyone was coming from multiple areas, we decided to go with the Wynnewood location AND since I know they get crowded quickly we arrived around 9:00am - just an hour after their opening and they were already struggling to seat our party of 7 together. They even suggested we sit in separate areas of the dinning room - um no - we came together to be together. That was strike #1. 

Then when it came time to order, I asked for assistance ordering for my allergies. I was told the tofu scramble (the only vegan option) couldn't be made gluten free at this time. Okay, I can try eggs, I will eat them from time-to-time but prefer not to. When trying to order eggs, I was told, this side wouldn't be included because it is not gluten free, BUT I could pay $2.00 more and I could get a side that is gluten free, or and then, I also can't have the side of home-fries because they are not gluten free and the kitchen refuses to make them separately because it would take them too much time. Again, I could pay an additional $2.00 for a side that would be gluten free. Add on to this discussion that to have gluten free toast, I was already being charged an additional $2.00.

Rewind here: Sabrina's, you no longer can accommodate all of my allergies. You will charge me $2.00 more for gluten free. You will take away two sides and not reimburse me for your savings - BUT I have the option to pay an additional $4.00 to have the two sides that should come with the over-priced meal! Where else do you go that the tea comes cold and costs more than a cup of coffee?
Service was slow and horrible! I asked for hot-sauce and I got ketchup. 

Sabrina's I think you should reconsider your allergy-free clients and service! 

27 May 2016

Greater Philly Gluten Free Expo Recap

27 May 2016 0
My apologies for a late post. I have currently been what I like to call - embarking on my friend's generosity (a.k.a homeless) until my new place opens up.

Life is a journey that we can never plan! Instead of fighting it, I have chosen to embrace it and enjoy every moment that I have had with each friend who has offered his/her hospitality to me in my time of need. It has given me the opportunity to see who really are my true friends and I embrace that love throughout my healing journey. Namste my loves!

Back to business - my recap on the Greater Philly Gluten Free Expo.
To be honest, I was not sure what to expect. I have been to gluten free expos before but this one, for some reason or another, had me thinking smaller scale.

Upon arrival, the VIPs were given gift bags and ushered into a waiting area where Happy Mixer Bakery provided some delights to enjoy. I was curious as to why they didn't offer more breakfast-like foods since it was around 9:00am, but I won't lie I enjoyed the brownies. Cookies, I find these are no longer my thing. When I first went gluten free, I went cold turkey and didn't really look for gluten free alternatives to many foods, but as I have been without some of these foods for years, I find I lack interest in them - cookies being one of them.

Once all vendors had confirmed their setup - it was off to the races we go. I had already taken the convention map and highlighted the vendors that I knew I wanted to spend some extra time at.
I ran around like a mad-woman trying to communicate and sample just about everything!

I ran to Sweet Note Bagels - I had been really itching to try their bagels. I have been struggling to find bagels that I enjoy and have been faithfully stalking their instagram and knew I would fall in love instantly! Of course, I did! I was just slightly disappointed because the sample sizes where very small and I wanted to try some toppings - but listen, this won't stop me from grabbing a bag (or a dozen) of my own and enjoying them! Thank you Sweet Note for not only being gluten free, but for being the top 8 allergen free!

I was so grateful that two of my non-gluten free sisters joined me for this special event! I was a bit worried they wouldn't want to try any of the products or that they would try the products and consider them all gross! Let's be honest, I have been gluten free long enough that my taste buds have changed and a girl is grateful to have bread that isn't the density and taste of a rock - just saying....

My sisters actually even purchased some of the products for themselves, one of which was the Patty Up. YUM, that is all I need to say on this one! It can be very difficult to find a gluten free and vegan burger that is free of MSG, Soy, Chemicals, Preservatives, and starch - so again, YAY to Patty up!

Next up was the wonderful Luce's gluten free artisan bread mixes. I love how the company logo matches the owner's beard :). All three of us appreciated the taste and texture of this bread - if I remember correctly, the rye was the most favored.

One of the gifts in our VIP bags was a box of Banza Pasta. I have been wanting to try this pasta, but never wanted to purchase it, as it does contain xantham gum (one of the products I try to avoid). However, for this occasion, most of my food rules went right out the window and I indulged. The representatives let us know that they actually cooked the pasta the night before and they were simply reheating it for today's event. Wait, let me restate that - gluten free pasta was reheated and did not turn into a pile of mush?!? Unheard of!

Krave Jerky was another product that my sisters purchased for themselves.
Meat isn't really my thing so sorry that I can't give a great personal recap myself, but props to you that my sisters enjoyed it!

Aleia's Gluten free products are awesome! We really enjoyed the Almond Horns!

Bread Empire has some amazingly soft gluten free buddah bread.

Garden Lites was there showcasing some of their old favorites and some new products as well. We enjoyed them all! I appreciate them being gluten and soy free, just wished they would also exclude the eggs!

Conte's Pasta was there - they brought along with them some raviolis and gnocchi. Both where delicious and my sisters even comments on how they forgot they were gluten free.

Element Snacks, this was a new company to me. They are cute little rice cakes coated in a variety of flavors. They are vegan, free of preservatives, artificial flavors, peanut and GMOs.

Farmer's Keep - a newer restaurant in the Philadelphia area was another place I have been trying to get to and just had not yet done so. Thank you Farmer's Keep for being one of the few vendors at the expo with real food. I was starting to hit a sugar high! The sample options: Curried Mango Quinoa (golden quinoa, mango, apricot, cilantro, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, honey, coriander, cumin, curry spices, evoo, and salt and pepper)  and Peruvian Purple Potato Salad (purple potatoes, parsley, lemon, lemon zest, evoo, tofu, garlic, onion, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper) - both of these are gluten free and vegan (well I do honey so vegan to me)! ALLELUIA! The taste was out of this world!

Tonya's Gluten Free Soft Pretzel - I'm not really a big soft pretzel gal anymore, but these where pretty amazing!

LUHV foods-one of my favorite vendors of the day was there with their vegan gluten free burgers and two soups! I won't spill too many details here, as I will be doing a full review for them in a later post, but AMAZING! I can't wait for them to open their new restaurant!

They included this amazing sauce on the burgers, not sure what it was, but it was the icing on top of the cake.

Before leaving, I couldn't help myself, I had to go back to Happy Mixer's stand. OMG, the monkey bread and the donuts! Oh man! They definitely make me reconsider my lack of interest in desserts.

As you can see, we enjoyed ourselves and took home some extra goodies to enjoy later on!

I just wanted to send out a special than you to both of my sisters for coming with me and supporting me on this gluten free, well really, allergy free lifestyle. I love you both very much and it meant the world to me that you came out and appeared to really engage in the event and enjoy it. Love xoxo

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