Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gluten Free Lunches and Secret Weapons

I was recently asked by a friend who was thinking about doing a month long trial of gluten free, WHAT do you eat for lunch?? I admit, eating gluten free leaves me with a lot of dirty dishes. I cook, and cook, and cook some more. I was THRILLED to get a text last week telling me that since she went gluten free a couple of weeks ago, she hasn't had ONE headache! SO exciting!! I thought I would share a few of the things I've been doing for lunch lately. In the beginning I made salads at home, but that got old and boring REAL quick.
 Lately, I've been on a sauteed veggie kick for lunch. It's super fast, and only dirties one pan (none if I grill them!). Experimenting with different combinations is fun and keeps me excited to try new veggies. Up top, I sauteed some broccolini (which was a first for me and I loved it!) in a pan with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper for a few minutes by itself since it takes longer to cook, then added big chunks of fresh asparagus and sliced mushrooms. I could eat asparagus and mushrooms every day. At the end, I added a bit of butter, and fresh garlic, then melted some shredded Parmesan cheese.
 Here, I used some skinny local asparagus from the farmers' market, mushrooms, zucchini and yellow squash. I used the same method as I did above.
 This picture is the bottom of my bowl today (when it dawned on me to take a picture). I simply cut up tiny Persian cucumbers from Trader Joe's, a ripe tomato, fresh basil, and drizzled a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I used fresh garlic, pepper, and a bit of Himalayan Pink Salt to season it. I know I need protein, so I ate it with a side of bacon! Ha! Not sure if bacon is in the meat or fat section of the food pyramid, but I've cut out so many bad things, that I don't care! No one is taking away bacon once a week!
This my friends, is a brainstorm gone terribly right. I have never really been an avocado person, weird, I know! For some reason I felt like I might like it if I opened it up, added salt and pepper, then topped it with either feta or cotija cheese, then gave it a simple drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Guess what? I LOVED it! I eat them like this all the time now. 
I have the benefit of being at home most days since we home school. It is nothing for me to flip on the gas grill and cook a fresh piece of salmon and some asparagus. These asparagus are seasoned with a bit of melted butter and Montreal seasoning. 
I don't do it often, but when I make it to Fresno and pick up some Udi's gluten free pizza crusts, it's easy to make a pesto pizza with tomatoes and fresh basil. I've tried the dry pizza crust mixes and I just did NOT like feeling like I was eating a brick. This crust gets crisp and light.
Now we get to the secret weapons I've learned in the past few months. Chipotle salads are what I eat at least once a week (not always at lunchtime though). If you look at their website, you'll see that you're GF ok as long as you don't eat the flour tortillas. That means you can have a salad, burrito bowl, or crunchy tacos and fill them to your heart's content with all their tasty goodness. I am a sucker for their salads though because of their vinaigrette. It is like crack.

For snacking I love to keep baggies of raw almonds and Guittard semisweet chocolate chips. Their chocolate is GF and it is my all-time favorite anyway. Score! 
My last secret weapon is these GF Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies! My entire family goes crazy for them. Heat them up for a few seconds in the microwave if you like to make them soft again after they cool. I add about 3/4 bag of Guittard chocolate chips to her recipe, and instead of grinding my own almonds I just use a cup of Almond Meal from Trader Joe's. It might sound like it's a complicated recipe, but it's not. The second time you make them, you'll have it down pat and have your cookies ready for the oven in five minutes. Trust me, I've made these dozens of times. I bake mine on parchment paper and they just slide right off. I am tempted to mix in a bit of Chia seeds next time and see if the kids notice. These cookies are better than any boxed GF mix you will ever find. Trust me! Just make sure you use gluten free oats.

This last picture is just so you can see what the almond meal looks like. It's super cheap at Trader Joe's. I also picked up that GF flour to use if I need to thicken anything. That opens up a whole new world. My husband saw it and immediately yelled "Gluten free fried chicken!!" Ha ha. I haven't tried it yet, but I may splurge and try it soon to see how it turns out with this flour. Hopefully these ideas help! As always, please check your products and seasonings to ensure your brand is gluten free, don't take my word for it! ;)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Custom Monogram

I just HAD to share this custom order that ships out tomorrow! A customer asked for a 20x30 of my charcoal gray metal monogram. What a fabulous idea!! Keep the custom orders for Distressed Beautiful coming, I love the creativity I discover in the process!

InstaCollage with Persnickety Prints

I have been wanting to print some of my Instagram photos for awhile now. I discovered Persnickety Prints (via Instagram, actually!) and ordered a bunch of the photos of my kids. The cool thing is that if you posted it on Instagram, it's probably something you want to remember, so it's easy to choose which photos to print. I ordered the 3x3 prints, but they also have other sizes. I was a bit tempted to order 2x2's and buy a big white poster frame to make a InstaCollage. 
 The things is, I have this really old frame that I bought for $2 that I totally LOVE. It's even better in person, because it has the faintest hint of having turquoise on it at some point in its life, and is smeared with gold. It didn't have glass, or a back, so I had to get creative.
First, I laid them out on a piece of cardboard to see if they fit. Then I went and bought a piece of black foam board and cut it to fit.
I spread out my options for attaching them to the board. I wanted to use white photo corners, but I had JUST enough room for the photos and the corners added too much space. If your frame is a different size, or if you're using less photos, I think the white photo corners would be super cute.
 I went with the double sided tape in all the corners so that I could put them right next to each other.

Now I can see all of the things my kids have done over the past year or two in one glance. It's pretty cool, huh? I love that with one look I can see: my daughter's reaction the day her first American Girl doll arrived, a bubble bath beard, a lost tooth, a day of kayaking in the bay with our girls, a photo snapped of the girls piled on daddy's back when he was on the floor, a birthday wish, tire swing fun at the park, their first trip to the bowling alley, etc. All sweet moments I want to remember.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Universe Juice

If you read my last post, you know WHY I finally decided to eat gluten free.  My goal is not to lose weight (although that it is happening), but my goal is health. I wanted to cool the fire of inflammation in my body. One of my favorite habits I've begun is starting our day with what my hubby calls Universe Juice. My husband calls me his Pepper Potts, he's my Tony Stark, and we start each day with universe juice. ;) Yes, we're Ironman fans. 
There are a million different ways to make a smoothie, but right now we've been making this same one. I cut up a few bananas, put them in a ziploc, and freeze them overnight. I do that every few days. In the morning I simply break a handful off (I actually take the bag out of the freezer, drink my coffee, THEN break off a handful because it's easier after they spend a few minutes out of the freezer), pour in a cup (I don't measure) of Vanilla Almond Milk, a tablespoon of peanut butter, and then fill it with baby spinach to the top. You can add ice, or not. Tony Stark likes his with ice, I guzzle mine up as is because the frozen bananas make it cold.
 If you google "green smoothie" or look it up on Pinterest, you'll find a million different combinations. In my opinion it tastes like a banana-peanut butter smoothie.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Gluten Free "Why"

I've been putting off blogging about this for awhile now, but I feel like I am finally ready to put it out there. Some people might say (or at the very least, think) I'm crazy. I consider the words "whole wheat" my enemy.  I started eating gluten free at the end of December. On a Sunday evening was our annual girlfriend dinner. I had just ended a few weeks on a horrible dosage of steroids. I was chasing away my worst allergic reaction yet and they had to use three different steroids and epinephrine (and more benadryl than the average person will probably take in their whole life) to get it to go away. It. was. horrible. The steroids made me gain weight, the high dosage of benadryl made me retain water, and was SO bloated that I literally could not wear any of my jeans. I remember telling my friends not to tag me in any photos that night because I felt like if you stuck a pin in me, I'd burst.

The other important background information that I'll try to sum up quickly are the YEARS of pain and suffering I've endured with colon problems. I'm talking since 7th grade! I'm turning 31 next month so that's quite a few years. In my 20's I had to have two colonoscopies because my pain was so immense and my food would not digest. They would always say that it looked good, but then the biopsies would come back "moderate to focally severe chronic inflammation". They'd give me new meds. The meds wouldn't work. I finally gave up.

A friend posted an article about "reasons why you probably shouldn't eat wheat" and I thought, "it's time." After just a few days of eating gluten free, my bloating went waaay down. I've now been gluten free for almost three months and I've NEVER felt better! I no longer live as a slave to the nearest bathroom. My allergist did a celiac blood test a few days after I went gluten free (not ideal, but that was when my unrelated appointment happened to be), and it came back negative. That's great news, but it also tells me that you don't have to be allergic to something to be intolerant to it.

After going gluten free, I started buying all of the "gluten free" labeled stuff in the grocery store. THEN, I started reading Wheat Belly. It's quite interesting to find out how they have mutated the genes of what we know as wheat. The book also spells out the why I feel so much better after cutting out gluten. All the packaged stuff has just replaced flour with alternative gluten free flours. The further I read, the more I became in tune with how directly what I put in my body reflected how my body was going to feel. Your mama knew what she was talking really are what you eat. After realizing that the packaged food wasn't actually "good" for me either, I stopped buying it. Most of my time at the grocery store is now spent in the pretty section, the produce! Most of what I eat now was at one time a living thing, or came from a living thing. Don't even get me started on all the chemicals in food!

The most wonderful things have happened since I've changed my lifestyle. I can actually FEEL the lack inflammation in my body. One other thing I forgot to say is that I have osteoarthritis. So bad, in fact, that I had to have a partial knee replacement in one knee that was bone-on-bone. My other knee is heading that way, but I'm putting off surgery until I can't walk on it. The amazing thing is that my knee that is waiting on surgery is actually HARDLY hurting anymore! Before I went gluten free it was terrible.

All of this was just the beginning of a wake up call for me. It's really made me see that we need to be peeling produce stickers off of what we eat instead of opening boxes and plastic packaging. Instead of a long list of ingredients, we should be eating things with a four digit code on them. Now we eat grilled salmon or chicken with mounds of grilled veggies or roasted asparagus. It's such a change for me. I've even started using my stationary bike about 4-5 times a week! That's huge for me. Putting good fuel in your body, makes your cells feel ALIVE, and you have energy to do things that you used to dread. I still don't enjoy exercise and I probably never will, but I know that I will get out of this body what I put into it. My years can be sleepy and achy, or they can be energetic and healthy. They can hold the hope of trying new things. My hubby and I are going on a zip line tour of the Santa Cruz Redwood Canopy next month! I kayaked for the first time in my life last month! That's a far cry from the girl who screamed bloody murder when her parents took her down a shallow river in a canoe as a child.

 I want to feel good enough to do the things I thought I'd never do. THIS is what I want: I want a life fully lived.