Friday, June 29, 2012

I'm gluten free now where the hell do I shop??

1.“How the hell do I grocery shop?”
2.“Where the hell do I grocery shop?”
3.“How do I know if something is gluten-free?”
4.“Eeeek, my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/son/daughter/cousin/friend/ aunt/ uncle is eating a treat!! I want one!!!”
5.“OMG, can I eat at restaurants?”
6.“How do I go camping and eat gluten free?!”

Common questions to the newly gluten-free-er and common questions that have popped through my mind in the past couple months.

How the hell do I grocery shop?
-Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan.  As simple as that sounds, it’s very important.  A lot of families already do weekly meal plans, and I especially encourage it to those that are eating a special diet.  Every Sunday I sit down and create a plan for what I will be making for supper each day that week.  The website, Pinterest, has a huge impact on the meals I like to make and experiment with.  If you haven’t checked it out, definitely do it.  There are also many great books you can buy or check out at your local library.  After I write down the meals I will be making for that week, I write down the ingredients I need for each meal.  Sunday night I head to the grocery store and purchase all of the ingredients I will need.  The biggest positive regarding meal planning is the amount of money and time you will save instead of going to the grocery store every day.

Where the hell do I grocery shop?
Oh, yay! I just love this question!  Up until a couple days ago, I was quite hopeless when it came to finding gluten free products in Saskatoon.  Then one sunny day in Saskatoon I decided to venture on outside and find gluten free groceries.  These are the ones that I have been to so far:

1. Bulk Barn – I’ve already went over Bulk Barn, but I will remind you that this store is great for baking needs (such as flours), teas, vitamins, some supplements, snacks etc.

2. The Griffin Takeway – WOW!  The Griffin Takeaway started out as a small business, and has turned into a completely gluten free (and mostly vegan) bakery/deli.  Over the weekend I purchased a few items, including a gigantic chocolate cream puff!! A-MAZING! It was way better than any regular cream puff or desert I’ve ever tasted.

3. Your local grocery store – in almost every grocery store there will be a small section of gluten-free food items.  So far, I have noticed that Safeway, Walmart, and Superstore have gluten-free sections, although I couldn’t find one at Sobeys.  

4. Dad’s Organic Market – Hello heaven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Dad’s used to be a small nutrition store that carried mostly vitamins and supplements but purchased the property next door (which, hilariously and immaturely enough, was a sex toy shop), knocked down the walls, and expanded into a full grocery store.  They carry everything from organic fruits and vegetables, to vitamins/supplements, to organic shampoo/conditioner/soap, to meat and fish, and other many other items.  Most of the groceries that they carry are gluten free and almost all of the meat that they carry is purchased from local farms.  Let’s just say I spent way too much money.  I came out with waffles, coconut milk yogurt, granola, buns, burgers, breakfast sausage, and cereal.

Also, I discovered an app for my iphone called GFshopping.  It has been very helpful in finding restaurants and grocery stores that have gluten free product.

How do I know if something is gluten-free?
-Not everything is labelled gluten free, but, as of July 1st, 2012, all manufacturers will have to label their food items as to whether they contain gluten.  Of course, it will probably take about a year for all of the old food items to get off the shelves, but this is a big step!

“Eeeek, my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/son/daughter/cousin/friend/aunt/uncle is eating a treat!! I want one!!!”
-I, myself, try not to eat a lot of sugars other than the natural kind, but of course I crave a good pastry once in awhile.  The Griffin Takeaway is a great place to get pies, cakes, puddings, pastries etc.  The Bulk Barn, Dad’s, and grocery stores that contain gluten free items will have cookies, bars, gluten-free chips, rice cakes etc.  My mom’s lovely cousin also pointed out to me that Chapman’s Ice Cream is gluten-free.

“OMG, can I eat at restaurants?”
Yes! You absolutely can!  The restaurants with gluten-free menus I have eaten at so far are The Spadina Freehouse, The Rook and Raven, Keos, The Berry Barn, and La Bamba.  Check out this website for a list!  You will notice that it’s a long one!  And, if you ask, servers are usually good about letting you know if something on the menu contains gluten.
Berry Barn:

“How do I go camping and eat gluten free?!”
Blaine and I are going camping to Banff, Alberta at the end of the month, and we usually head to the lake every weekend during the summer.  So it was a scary moment for me wondering if I’d be able to eat “camping food” while at the lake.  But again, with the help of Dad’s Nutrition and some other gluten free grocery places, it won’t be a problem.  For instance, I’m heading to the lake this weekend.  For groceries I am bringing burgers, buns, eggs, sausage, and perogies from Dad’s, as well as steak, potatoes, chicken kabobs and gluten free snacks I found at Safeway.  Easy peasy!

A few weeks ago I went for an appointment with a Naturopathic doctor.  Obviously we discussed my diagnoses, but we also discussed the connection between the mind, gut, and gluten.  She explained to me that the mind and gut are very connected so if one is sick, the other is usually sick as well.  I found it very interesting, so I did a little background research.  Not only does gluten cause physical problems, it also causes depression, anxiety, and mood swings.  Not many people realize that gluten-intolerance is actually primarily a neurological disease, not a physical one.  There has been a vast amount of studies done on a variety of people who have mental health problems, issues concentrating, or memory problems.  These studies have shown that a lot of these types of people also have gluten sensitivity, and, when they changed to a gluten-free diet, their symptoms greatly improved.  It takes about 6 months for your body to completely rid of gluten and I’m very interested to see how my brain feels at that time.

I will leave you with a recipe for the greatest summer salad of ever.

Black Bean, Corn, and Red Pepper Salad

-2 15 ounce cans of black beans – rinsed and drained
-2 cans of kernel corn (or fresh corn)
-1 minced garlic clove
-1/4 cup minced shallots
-2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-1 tbsp sugar
-6 tbsp olive oil
-4 tbsp lime juice
-Avocado, chopped


Have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Floor Food and Corn, Potato, and Bacon Soup

I don't know about you, but when I cook, half of it ends up on the floor.  A broom, cloth, and apron are my 3 most important items when cooking.  Somehow, no matter how hard I try, I am covered in oil and sauce and my floor is scattered with vegetables and meat.  I'm not too handy with the flipper buddy and my boyfriend, Blaine, knows he will be ducking and diving for cover almost every time I pick the utensil up.

And don't get me started on baking.  That's a whole other story.  Why is it so hard to keep all of the dry ingredients in the bowl??  When the recipe says it makes 12, I double my recipe.  After mixing with a whisk or beater, half of it covers the entire counter, apron, and floor, while the other half seems to safely be in the bowl.  So, in the end, I come out with 12.

And then there's the dishes.  Does anyone else somehow use ALL of their dishes to make one meal?  Every measuring cup, spoon, knife, cutting board, frying pan and plate ends up in the sink.  Do I forget that I already used one?  Do I really need to use a new utensil or cutting board every time I chop or scoop something new?  Luckily, I do most of the cooking and Blaine does most of the kitchen cleaning.  Bahahaha....jokes on him!

The last step of my meal or baked goods making is a shower.  I need to wash the oil off my arms, scrub the sauces off my skin, and shampoo the dry ingredients out of my hair.  It is quite the process!

Let's get down to today's recipe.  I love a good soup.  Soup truly does warm the soul, even on a hot summer day.  Corn, potato and bacon soup is my favourite summer soup.

Corn, Potato and Bacon Soup

-Salt and pepper
-2 cups almond or coconut milk (or, you can use fat-free skim milk)
-4 oz turkey bacon
-1 cup red bell pepper
-1 can whole kernel corn or 4 pieces corn on the cob
-1/4 cup chopped onion
-1/2 cup celery
-1/2 cup green beans
-1 medium potato
-Olive oil
-Hot sauce

1. Boil potato and when soft, mash.
2. Take out a large sauce pan and put the oil in it.  Fry up the celery, onion, green beans, red pepper, and corn for about 5-6 minutes.  (You can also use vegetables like broccoli, asparagus or any other veggies you enjoy).
3. Put the bacon and milk into the saucepan and stir.  Stir in the mashed potato and mix together.  Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce (only as much as you like).  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

And, yum!!

Now, I will warn you that some people with Crohn's disease don't respond well to corn.  It's one of those things that can go on either side of the fence.  For me, it isn't a problem.

In my previous post, I already told you the benefits of red bell peppers.  Delicious and full of vitamins and antioxidants.  Green beans also contain a fabulous amount of vitamins, as well as they act as a laxative to protect the membrane of the colon.  Beans also contain Iron and magnesium, which are very important for those with Crohn's and Bipolar disorder.  Celery contains Vitamin C and and other compounds, that may help lower cholesterol and chances of getting cancer.

Voila! A wonderful summer soup.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

Reasons why you want to eat bell peppers:
  1. Because they’re delish
  2. Because they’re colourful and colourful = fun
  3. Om nom nom nom – Oh, sorry, I was eating a bell pepper and forgot that I was typing
  4. Bell peppers were named by Christopher Columbus and Christopher Columbus is cool

There are also many other very important reasons to eat bell peppers:
  1. They are LOADED with vitamins.  A red bell pepper contains almost 300% of your daily Vitamin C intake (needed for proper absorption of Iron) and 105% of your daily Vitamin A intake.  They are also a great source of Magnesium and Vitamin B6 – this combination has shown to decrease anxiety.
  2. They contain tons of Antioxidants, which keep your body the power house that it is.  Antioxidants play a large part in conquering illness and studies have shown they help treat depression, as well as prevent further harm to your body if you have Crohn’s disease. They are also a great source of Lycopene, which has been shown to lower risk of certain cancers. 
  3. They increase your metabolic rate, in other words, they help burn calories.  One bell pepper contains only about 30-40 calories so this is a delicious choice for the weight conscious person.  They are also low in fat and cholesterol free.

Now I’m not the type of person who can sit and chew on a bell pepper for a half hour, but if you are, all the power to you.  So I’ve found various ways to cook peppers and my favourite way is to stuff them.  Stuff those babies like you stuff a turkey on Thanksgiving when your mother-in-law is in town.
Stuffed Bell Peppers:
-4 bell peppers (preferably red)
-1 cup of cooked rice or Quinoa
-1 pound of lean ground turkey
-2 garlic cloves
-1/2 cup chopped onion
-1/2 cup diced tomatoes
-olive oil
-Salt and pepper
(Now, I will say that this is the most simple stuffed pepper recipe.  I would encourage you to add things like zucchini, mushrooms, celery, carrots, etc., and any spices that you like – for example, cumin, basil, cayenne, thyme, sage, or cilantro etc.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut top off bell peppers and dig the crap out of the inside and chuck it in the garbage 
  3. In a pan fry oil, ground turkey, crushed garlic, onion, and tomatoes (and any other veggies or spices you add) until browned.  Add salt and pepper.
  4. Scoop mixture into the bell pepper halves.  Place peppers into casserole dish and cook for 30 minutes.  If you would like, you can also melt cheese on top. 

Now the BEST part about bell peppers is that you don’t lose any nutritional value by cooking them.  So cook those bad boys up like no tomorrow and enjoy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I don't know about you, but I like finger foods

Chicken and coconut.  Do these things really go together?  The answer is yes, yes they do.  They absolutely do.  

Scenario 1: You're having the guys over to watch the football game or the girls over for some appetizers and wine (or to watch the football game) and you can't/don't eat gluten so you're not exactly sure what you can make that everyone else will like.

Scenario 2: You've had a long day and you're going crazy and your kids are going crazy, so you need to make a relatively quick, gluten-free meal that children will love just as much as you do.

Scenario 3: You just really friggen crave chicken. And coconut. 

BAM - here we are.  Coconut Chicken Bites.

Coconut chicken bites:

-2 lbs chicken breasts
-2 eggs
-1/2 cup coconut flour
-1 cup gluten free panko crumbs
-1 cup, shredded, unsweetened coconut
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 cup olive oil

1. Cut the chicken breasts into strips
2. Prep your breading station - In the first bowl, combine the flour and salt.  In the second bowl, crack the eggs and whisk together.  And, in the third bowl, stir together the panko crumbs and coconut.
3. Place 1/4 cup vegetable oil into a pan
4. While the oil is heating up, cover the chicken strips in the flour/salt mixture, then the egg mixture, then the panko/coconut mixture.
5.  After breading the strips, place them into a pan.  Depending on the size of your pan, you will probably be able to put in 6-10 strips.  Do not layer on top of one another.  Fry for about 3 minutes on each side (they will cook fast since they are thin strips) or until crispy and brown on the outside.
6. Once they are done, you can place them onto a paper towel on a plate.  I serve them with gluten free sweet chili sauce - yum! Or you can serve with ketchup.

I made this recipe last night for my boyfriend, his cousin, and 2 children and we all loved it.  It was originally made with gluten products, but with my own twist, I turned it into a gluten-free recipe and in my opinion, it tasted even better.

As most people know, chicken is a really great, lean meat to eat (yes, I do realize that rhymed), especially for people with any sort of disease or disorder because it provides the optimal level of nutrients necessary to maintain good health.

I paired this delicious chicken recipe with steamed broccoli.  Vegetables are a great source of antioxidants, which are nutrients that support your body's ability to defend itself from infections and disease.  Broccoli also contains folic acid, which is one of the proven natural treatments for bipolar.  I will expand a little on this topic:

Bipolar and Folic Acid benefits:
1. Relief from depression
2. Relief from mania
3. Prevention of serious birth defects

Although I'm absolutely not suggesting that eating foods that contains folic acid will cure you from the symptoms of bipolar, I am suggesting that folic acid may assist.

Enjoy this yummy and simple lunch, dinner, or snack!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bulk Barn & Gluten-free Baking

OOOHH EEEMMM GGGEEEE was the first thing I said out loud when I first realized I could no longer have bread.  OH EM GEE!  But wait, what did I know about gluten? Umm....well...absolutely nothing.  So, after googling it for awhile, I found a definition.

Gluten: A protein consisting of a mixture of glutelin and gliadin, present in cereal grains, esp wheat.

That doesn't seem too bad, right?  I'll give you a few brief reasons why I don't include gluten products in my diet.
1) Gluten causes gut inflammation
2) The inflammation causes intestinal cells to die prematurely and causes oxidation on those cells
3) Gluten has a strong association with cancer

Now, back to that "OH EM GEE!"  Let's subtract that statement for a second.  After a little research, I found that I could substitute normal gluten products in baking with other types of flours, such as almond flour and coconut flour.  Great!

A friend of mine mentioned to me that Bulk Barn was a good source for gluten-free foods so I drove over there a few weeks ago and realized that she forgot to mention that it is ROYALLY AMAZING!  I have been to Bulk Barn 5 times in the past 2 weeks...obsessed?  Yeah, I would say so.  Not only do they have all the candies, teas, coffees, dog treats, cooking supplies, drinks etc that an average person would consume, they have a whole line of vitamins and supplements, as well as a whole wall of gluten-free products.
They carry a variety of gluten-free items such as soup stock, breads, crackers, cookies, chips, etc. and all of their bulk gluten-free product is labelled clearly on a red poster.

My favorite type of bread is banana bread so I was on a real adventure to find out how the hell I could make gluten-free banana bread that is delicious as usual.  With the help of Bulk Barn, google, and a few different trials of my favorite types of gluten-free flours, I now have a recipe that I can make on a regular basis.

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

-1 cup almond flour
-1/2 cup coconut flour
-1/4 cup flax seed meal
-1 1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-4 eggs
-2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
-1 tbsp maple syrup
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 large banana, mashed
-Handful chocolate chips or carob chips (I use carob chips because they are made from from a plant, have no sugar added and don't have the caffeine that regular chocolate does - but they do taste basically the same as regular chocolate chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl
3. Combine wet ingredients in a bowl and whisk together
4. Pour wet into dry ingredients and mix together
5. Divide evenly into pans (I make them into muffins)
6. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, remove from oven and let cool

You can find coconut flour, almond flour, and flax seed meal at bulk barn.  It is way cheaper to get it from there than to buy it from a health food store.

And there you have it, Gluten-free Banana Bread.  Moist and sweet, like a regular banana bread.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lime Pumpkin Seed Salmon with Baked Parmesan Zucchini

I LOVE SALMON! Truly, salmon may be one of my true loves.  Not only does it taste fantastic, but it is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which plays a huge role in strengthening the immune system and helps manage inflammation and joint pain.  There have also been some studies that suggest that Omega-3 fatty acids have assisted in levelling out the depressions in mood disorders.

This is one of my favourite salmon recipes. 

-Unsalted pumpkin seeds
-1 tablespoon olive oil (some people use butter, but I stick with olive oil)
-2 tablespoons lime juice
-1 tsp grated lime zest
-1/4 teaspoon chili powder (can put on more or less, depending on how much of a bite you want.  Honestly, I drown that thing in chili powder, but I wouldn't recommend that on your first time making it)
-1 pound salmon fillet (a 1 pounder will fill up a family)

1. Place the pumpkin seeds in a bowl with the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice and chili powder.
2. Grab a frying pan and spray with cooking spray.  Salt and pepper that bad boy (The salmon, I mean) and place the fish in the pan (if you need to, you might need to cut the salmon into about 4 pieces to fit into the pan).  Cook for about 2-4 minutes each side, or until brown and hot throughout.
3. After it's cooked, put the salmon onto a plate.
4. Put the lime/pumpkin seed mixture into the pan and heat it up (it won't take long).  When it's hot, pour the sauce over the salmon and...

VOILA!! You've got dinner!  Well, part of it.
The second part is the Baked Parmesan Zucchini.  Mmmm mmmm!  Now, I will tell you that I have a love-hate relationship with vegetables.  Okay, I lied.  My apologies.  I really only have a hate relationship with
vegetables.  A friend of mine actually pointed out to me once while we were making dinner together that I seem extra violent when cutting veggies.  I cut those babies up like nobody's business! But I do know how good vegetables are for you...yadda yadda I have found several recipes that I really do like.

Baked Parm Zucchini

-4 small zucchini
-1 clove garlic
-Salt and pepper
-1/3 cup parmesan
-1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.  Cut the zucchini into circular pieces.  I put them all into a bowl and mix with the olive oil, salt and pepper and garlic.  Then, put spread them evenly onto a baking pan.  Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over top.
2. Put in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until brown.

DINNER IS SERVED! Now, when am I coming over for supper?

I also wanted to thank everyone for the amazing support I have received after my first blog post last night.  It was amazing to hear other peoples stories and it's really inspired me to keep going.

I'll be venturing out this weekend to find the best gluten free products in Saskatoon, so stay tuned for more adventures!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Starting out

So here it is! My food blog.  I never would have dreamed of a day where I would be creating a food blog.  The blog part, yes.  The food part, hell no! Now here I am, writing and food-ing.  It wasn’t only until a few years ago that I learned how to cook.  And by cook, I mean real food.  Not macaroni and sour cream & dill for sauce (which, believe it or not, I used to eat on a regular basis) or shrimp fried in a pan with tomato soup mix.  I now have the knowledge to cook using what they call an oven.  And I can now cook using more than two ingredients at a time.
So anyway…this blog is half about the actual cooking and half about the information behind what I cook.  I’ll take my first entry to explain.
Four years ago I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type II and a General Anxiety Disorder.  So for those of you who don’t know, Bipolar is a mood disorder that affects about 390, 094 people in Canada.  Paired with an anxiety disorder, I’ve had many struggles with severe depressions, some ups, and a general irritable mood.  Once I was diagnosed, I was more relieved than anything.  Growing up, I knew there was something very wrong, so now that I knew what it was, I could start my road to recovery.  Through humour and extremely hard work (and, I should mention, support from my family and close friends), I have now found myself to be a fully functioning person.  I would say about half of my recovery has been through diet and exercise.
About a month ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  I am definitely still in the process of finding my own path when it comes to this disease.  Now, for those of you who don’t know much about Crohn’s, it’s a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that can occur anywhere from the mouth to the rectum and mine seems to be in my small intestine as of right now.  Unlike Bipolar, I don’t know a whole lot about Crohn’s just yet.  But I do know that diet has had a huge impact on my symptoms.

After I received my diagnosis, I immediately did some research and decided to go on a gluten-free dairy-free diet.   And HOLY CRAP (Haha sorry…that’s my Crohn’s joke of the day.  I almost promise it won’t happen again.) I feel 100X better.
My regular symptoms of bipolar have been depression, exhaustion, and some moodiness.  My regular symptoms from Crohn’s have been severe (and I mean, severe) fatigue, throwing up, diahrea, stomach pains, fever, and uncontrollable sweating. Since giving up gluten and dairy, my mood has been more stable, I’m absolutely no longer exhausted, and my bodily functions have been on the regular.
So, now here I am.  I am writing this blog to share the food and recipes (and the odd exercise workout) that have worked for me, as a gluten and dairy free eater to free me from emotional and physical pain.  I would like to say though, that I am in no way suggesting that if you eat this way that it will 100% work for you.  I am still in the midst of my diet journey, but I do believe that a gluten and dairy free diet is the way to go for a lot of people and I'm hoping that I may be able to assist people with or without the same experiences as myself.
Cheers! XOXO
PS. stay tuned for the first recipe!