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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Well, it’s been a while! Let’s just say that it was a tough semester but I got through it with flying colors – and most of my sanity intact. (My husband may say otherwise.) Woo-hoo! In addition to school I was also volunteering and started working a couple of days per week at a hospital. So it’s been a blur, but I am finally beginning to feel like I can see straight again.

I am only taking one class during this summer semester and working two days a week so I should have a little extra time! Yay! I might actually be able to cook and blog about it again.

The past few months we’ve depended on more convenience foods than usual due to my crazy schedule. Dinners weren’t quite as elaborate as they had been. As well, there was one day per week this past semester where I was on campus the entire day and so I would bring a lunch and multiple snacks to keep me full and gluten free. I enjoyed using my thermos to bring hot or cold foods to eat, whether they were dinner leftovers, a can of soup or a heated up frozen dinner.

One of those items that I would make and stick in my thermos was Saffron Road’s frozen entrees. They have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. I buy both, the vegetarian ones for both of us and the non-vegetarian ones for me. I started buying the non-vegetarian ones when my local grocery store had them on sale since they say right on the package “Gluten Free Certified” by GFCO. (Not every single one of their products are certified GF but the vast majority are, please check out their FAQ’s for more information.) And I also could feel good about eating these meaty meals because the animals are humanely raised.

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Recently I was offered some free samples of their vegetarian frozen entrees and I was game. Unfortunately, finding the vegetarian entrees was a bit more challenging for me in this not-so-vegetarian-friendly, cattle-heavy state! I don’t often venture to Whole Foods but I was finally able to find the vegetarian entrees there. They had two of the vegetarian entrees to choose from: Manchurian Dumplings and Chana Saag (but the company produces many others).

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Look! You can even see the little GFCO stamp of approval in the bottom right corner!

The dumplings were intriguing and different. They are made of rice flour and vegetables and they tasted good. But I expected them to be more dumpling-like, in that they would have stayed together on my fork, more like a meatball would. Instead, they sort of crumbled when I tried to stab one with my fork. Despite this, the flavor was good and although it says spicy on the package, I didn’t find it to be especially spicy, although others might. I liked the tangy sauce as it had an interesting flavor profile. The basmati rice was perfectly cooked (surprising for a microwaved entree). It should also be noted that this entree is vegan – no animal products whatsoever. It comes in at 340 calories, mainly from the generous serving of rice, and only 6 g of protein. In the end, it was a tasty entree but not one I would likely buy again since it didn’t keep me very full for long. I liked the unique flavor and concept but it didn’t pan out as well as I had hoped.

Chana Saag Entree

The other entree was the Chana Saag, chickpeas in spinach, with cumin rice. This entree is vegetarian, it does contain dairy in the form of cream, as is typical of saag. This one was more my style as I love chickpeas (chana) and I love saag. And the cumin rice was dynamite. Again, the basmati rice was light and fluffy and nicely flavored. I could recommend this entree to almost anyone new to Indian flavors as it is not spicy, although it does have a lot of flavor from spices (it’s different, you know?). This one came in at 420 calories, more than the dumplings but also 12g of protein, since the chickpeas are the star of the show here.

This entree was more filling although I did go ahead and throw it over some fresh greens once it was cooked. I often do this with a frozen entree, to get more bang for my buck and to fill me up. (It’s something I learned from my time at Weight Watchers.) You can use anything, mixed salad greens, lightly steamed kale, spinach, etc. I like how when I spoon the hot entree over the greens it lightly wilts them. Try it!

I will definitely buy the Chana Saag again. And I will also continue to buy the meaty entrees for myself for emergencies.

So now for the GIVEAWAY – Saffron Road is offering one of my readers coupons for three free frozen entrees. And you can get either the meat-based or vegetarian entrees, your choice. All you have to do is visit the Saffron Road website and then come back here and indicate in the comments below which of their frozen entrees you’d be interested in trying. This giveaway will close next Wednesday, June 12th at midnight, mountain time. The winner will be notified via email on Thursday, June 13th.

Also, when you’re over on their website, check out the flavored crunchy chickpeas!! They sound awesome – and all three flavors are GF. I love making my own but haven’t done it in quite some time. I am keeping my eyes peeled for these!

*Products were provided free of charge but the opinions expressed here are my own.

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes and a Giveaway!

Okay, so don’t look back and see how long it has been since I posted last. Yes, I know it was May. A lot of bloggers that say that once you get out of the habit of posting that it can be hard to get back into it. I would agree. But also, a lot has happened since May!

I am sitting here now, staring at my Anatomy and Physiology notes, making flash cards to help me study connective tissues. Yep, I am back in school. I am studying Nutrition with a goal to become a Dietitian!

My journey began in the fall of 2011. For almost 15 years I had been working as a landscape architect. I made the decision to go to school to become a landscape architect when I was 16. Very few of us know who we are at 16. And most of us continue to evolve as people our whole lives. Over the past few years, I had discovered that landscape architecture was no longer my passion. It was a hard realization to come to as it felt like I had failed. I spent a good portion of 2011 trying to become “okay” with this realization.

As well, at 16, I didn’t realize then what an impact food would have on my life. I was diagnosed with celiac disease at 19. And while it did make an immediate impact on my daily life, I didn’t know then how much it would change my whole perspective on food, life – and the world. A few years later, I was lucky to become involved in the Chicago Chapter of the Celiac Sprue Association (Thanks to Ed and Betty for convincing me to get involved!). And then through that, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center (Thanks, Michelle!). All of those experiences have played a huge part in how I got to where I am right now.

And so I knew I had to get off my bum and do something about these feelings I was having. I was finally okay with leaving my old career behind. So, I did my research and talked to folks in the field and realized that yes, this is where my passion now lies – in healthy, great-tasting food!

So I met with the head of the Nutrition department at the University of New Mexico and figured out how to get this ball rolling in December of 2011. She suggested I go to the local community college and take care of the health sciences prerequisites I would need. So on January 2nd, 2012, I signed up for my first class at the community college – First Aid! The advisor suggested this in order to get me into the system so that I could have existing student/priority scheduling for the summer semester.

And so in May, shortly after my last post here, I started taking one class – I was still working full time in landscape architecture, and saving as much money as we could. I started out with General Chemistry I, which I hadn’t had since high school almost 20 years ago. Yikes! Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of extra time this past summer since I was working and battling chemistry! It was enough to get dinner on the table, groceries in the frig and keep the laundry going, let alone blog (or clean the house – thanks, hubby!). But all that work paid off with an A and a feeling that yes, I was headed in the right direction.

This past August rolled around and I left my job to start school full time. It has been an adventure. Education has changed A LOT! Technology, in particular, has changed everything. Last semester was filled with more chemistry, biology, public speaking (yuck!) and my first nutrition class. It is now the third week of the new spring semester and I have a full load of classes, along with some volunteer work to keep me busy. This semester it is organic chemistry, microbiology and anatomy/physiology. Whew! I have also applied to transfer to the University of New Mexico in the fall to start my junior year there. Fingers crossed.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to these last 8 months!

And when KIND Healthy Snacks contacted me asking if I was interested in helping them celebrate National Peanut Butter Day by hosting a giveaway, I said sure! It was a perfect reason to get me back here and finally write this post.

Yes, today, Thursday, January 24, is National Peanut Butter Day.

Happy Peanut Butter Day to you!

Now, I don’t know about you, but KIND bars are already some of my favorite gluten free on-the-go snacks. I almost always have a KIND bar in my purse or backpack for those moments when nothing else is safe and available and/or I need something RIGHT NOW! (You have those moments too, right?) I even took a big box of KIND bars to China with us when we went a few years back. If nothing else, I knew I would be able to eat a KIND bar! I love KIND bars over most other bars because they are made from healthy nuts and dried fruits – real food that I can see – with the occasional chocolate drizzle – and peanut butter! As well, they aren’t covered in chocolate, so they don’t melt. (Although some flavors can stick to their wrapper a bit after they have been banging around in your bag for a while, so eat up!)

KIND was kind enough to send me some samples of the giveaway products to try, most of which are new to me. Did you know that they have a Healthy Grains line of granola-like clusters? I didn’t. But I have to say, the peanut butter clusters are pretty awesome! And yes, celiac friends, they use gluten free oats, as it states clearly on the package ingredients.

Last night I was volunteering with some fellow nutrition students and so I took some of each of the products in the giveaway to share with them and everyone gobbled them right up. The verdict was  that they were all super tasty! (And everyone but me was a gluten-eater, so you can be assured that they don’t “taste” gluten free.)

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In honor of today, KIND is allowing me to give away a selection of their peanut butter products! One lucky recipient will receive the KIND Peanut Butter Cube which contains the below:

Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters (2 pouches) – Tastes like crunchy peanut butter and is made of 100% whole grains like amaranth and quinoa

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein (4 bars) – Healthy, satisfying blend of peanuts and antioxidant-rich dark chocolate.  It’s so good some people confuse for a candy bar.

Peanut Butter & Strawberry (4 bars) – If you don’t have time to make a PB&J sandwich, this bar tastes strikingly the same, and is just as good.

What is your favorite way to eat peanut butter? Let me know below, by midnight Mountain Time on Tuesday, January 29th, and be entered to win a KIND Peanut Butter Cube of your own. One entry per person, please.

I’ll start:  My favorite way to eat peanut butter is on toast with sliced bananas. Or with a spoon and a chunk of dark chocolate. (I can’t pick one favorite, can you?)

*The products were very kindly provided to me free of charge, but the opinions expressed above are my own.

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Hello! I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. We did. And now we’re back and catching up.

Something that has been on my to-do list for a little while is to add a Recipe Index page and I today I marked that off my list! Be sure to go over and check it out.

Back soon with a couple of new recipes…

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Box of Katz Winner!

Well, we have a winner! I randomly asked my husband to pick a number, and he chose 4. So, Jill – email me your mailing address (rseuler{at}hotmail{dot} com) and I will forward along to Katz Gluten Free so that they can ship out your package. Remember, it all freezes very well! And those cupcakes defrost quickly in the microwave for those unexpected cravings…

Entry #4 – Jill – Renee! Have you tried their bread yet? I have been off the wagon and sweets never last around me so I would probably not order online but if my sensitivity worsens then I may be tempted. I would be happy to find tasty bread.

Thanks for playing!

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If you’re like me, at this time of year, every day in the mail you receive a request for a donation. They run the gamut, in our case, from the local food bank to environmental causes to our tiny local library. As well, every year we receive requests from a couple of celiac disease organizations and programs.

This year I have already chosen to donate to my favored program, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program, through our annual United Way campaign at work. And yes, there are other programs out there but the UCCDC is close to my heart. You see, I was a support group leader in Chicago at the time the program began in 2001. Our group helped to support Dr. Guandalini in whatever way we could. One of our support group board members helped hire Dr. Guandalini’s first Program Director and I can remember when the Program Director’s office was basically a large closet. Eventually I sat on the board and helped out wherever needed, such as co-writing and producing the quarterly newsletter for the program. As well, the Center assisted our support group in whatever way they could.

I also believe in the people involved in the program and the work that they are doing. Dr. Stefano Guandalini was born, raised and educated in Italy, which many of us believe to be a hot-bed of celiac disease awareness and knowledge. His specialty is pediatric diarrheal diseases with a particular emphasis on celiac disease. As founder of the program he works to increase awareness and improve the lives of all of us impacted with celiac disease. He is also a lovely and kind man.

Another of the staff, Dr. Bana Jabri, whom I only met once during my tenure with the program, is a leading researcher in celiac disease. The one time I met her at a board meeting, soon after she became involved with the center, she was explaining the mouse model research that she wished to complete. And that work is underway…thanks to donors such as ourselves. The mouse model will recreate celiac disease in a mouse so that researchers can work to develop vaccines and/or a cure.

In the recent mailing I received from the center, it states:

“we believe we can find a cure for celiac disease in the coming 10-15 years”

Wow. How exciting is that? Wanna know how you can help? Yes, I know you are but one person and may only be able to commit a few dollars to the cause this year, but every little bit counts. I know this for a fact, from working behind the scenes in such an organization. Yes, the big money from wealthy donors is amazing, but the little money counts just as much. Our money is worth just as much as theirs! And if you can’t afford to send a monetary donation this year, do you live near one of the centers? Can you afford some time to assist them with whatever they need? (I know they need it, no matter how much money they have.)

So, be sure to check out the UCCDC website and see if what they are doing speaks to you. There is a lot of great information for the celiac patient on the site. In fact, every year I print out their “Post Diagnosis Follow-Up” sheet and take it to my primary care doctor to get my annual blood work completed.

And know too, that this center, as well as all the others, are there for us, whether you are trying to get diagnosed or need follow-up assistance. Call them if you have a question or need some information for you or your doctor – or a friend – anyone, really. That is what they are there for! The UCCDC has an information hotline that you can call at 773-702-7593.

I know times are tough and gift-giving is down but please consider one of these organizations as a recipient of how ever much you can give. It benefits us all.

Other programs for you to consider:

Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University (Dr. Peter Green)

The University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research (Dr. Alessio Fasano, a former student of Dr. Guandalini’s)

Celiac Disease Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Wm. K. Warren Medical Research Center for Celiac Disease at University of California at San Diego

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Celiac Disease

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) – advocacy

Please let me know if I have missed any!

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Hello world! Sorry to be MIA for so long but we’ve had a lot going on. I think in my last post we were headed out-of-town to visit friends in Boulder, CO. The day before we left, my company laid off another 30 people. I, luckily, was not one of them. So it was a much-needed getaway after that chaos and we had a great time eating lots of yummy gluten free food and drinking some gluten free beer. But more on that later! Boulder and Denver are both very gluten free friendly. Check out the Boulder Farmer’s Market below.

After we returned from our trip we packed up our house (except for the kitchen and master bed/bath) and put everything in the garage in order for our concrete floors to be stained. It took the contractor quite a bit longer than anticipated – six days to remove the existing paint from the floors and then two days to stain, seal and wax it. Ugh. And during that time one of our dogs got kennel cough so he couldn’t stay at the kennel, making things a bit more complicated than they had to be! Isn’t that always the case? So we spent two days at the Days Inn down the street with two dogs. (Days Inn is one hotel/motel chain that allows dogs.) During this time we had no internet connection since everything was unplugged in the office and our laptop, when we had a connection at the hotel, is slower than molasses and about to croak. So I didn’t get a lot accomplished online during this time. Sorry!

And in case you’re ever thinking of doing it, can I just say, don’t ever paint your concrete floors!!! The previous owner ripped up all the carpet in the house and painted the concrete slab. And while they didn’t look horrible painted, they were starting to show some wear. But the amount of work to get paint off of concrete so that you can do anything to the floors is incredible. A couple of months ago we attempted to remove the paint ourselves. Can I just say that there were a lot of swear words and tears involved with that? Don’t. Do. It.

So I called a contractor I had met on the USGBC-NM Green Built Tour. We ended up paying him as much money to remove the paint as it cost to stain the floors. But now we have beautiful floors!

And now for the past week, we have been working on putting the house back together and purging some of the unnecessary stuff we’ve accumulated. My husband has also been working on sanding and refinishing the baseboards, which aren’t back on yet.

So…it has been busy around here and we’ve been eating a lot on the fly and simple stuff that doesn’t take too much time to prepare. Those tamales we made a while back and stuffed in the freezer sure have come in handy!

We also needed a new car. So we finally bought one! During the rest of the chaos! Yeah! Yes, we’re crazy to do so many things at once! A new Toyota RAV4 with plenty of space in the back for two pups and 4 adults! We already took it up to the mountains – to escape from the contractors working through the weekend at our house. We found a lovely stream to walk along where the pups could splash.

The wildflowers were gorgeous, the butterflies and dragonflies were flitting about and there were plenty of mushrooms for my husband to discover. We can’t wait to get out more and explore this beautiful state with the two dogs and our new car.

This week we have visitors coming to town, my mom and stepdad, and so we will be getting in the new car again and traveling south for the first time, down to Carlsbad Caverns and/or White Sands.

Do any of you have any recommendations for particular trails to hike, things to see, places to eat or stay in either of those areas?

I will be checking in tomorrow with a Meal Plan and I will post more now that we have our internet connection back and the house put together!

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Tricked you. No meal plan as of yet. Sorry. It was a crazy day back on a regular schedule after vacation and life threw us some curve balls, so I am a little behind. One of the dogs woke us up at 3:30 am this morning scratching, scratching, scratching his ears. He gets lots of ear infections, but he normally doesn’t scratch like this. So my husband got to take him to the vet this evening. And I went out to get in my car to go to work this morning and it wouldn’t start. Grrr. We had to jump it twice today. Double grrr. So this evening I got my battery replaced. Luckily it was just the battery. But I think it knows that we are looking at getting a new car…

So, I need to get back on track this week. Our cucumbers are producing again, both regular and ‘lemon’ cucumbers, which we planted unknowingly. They were labeled as ‘slicing’ cucumbers and we weren’t quite sure what they were when they started producing. We haven’t tried any yet but they are beginning to come on strong so I had better figure out what to do with them! Any ideas?

I think one idea for the week is a chilled cucumber and avocado soup, with the regular English cucumbers. Other than that, I am feeling less than inspired this week after the day we had. I do know I want to make some more yummy ice cream in my new maker, but I need to decide what kind. So I will think about it tomorrow and save my shopping until Wednesday evening. It’s off to bed now since we didn’t get much sleep after 3:30am… (Sigh.)

See you around later this week.

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