Attitude of Gratitude

As we close out 2014 and enter a new year, everyone’s minds jump to New Year’s resolutions. There are things that we all want or wish for 2015 to bring and parts of 2014 that we may be ready to leave behind. But what about the best moments of 2014? That ordinary day that you spent the evening laughing with friends. Or the day that you had a great phone date with a loved one. Or the day that the killer migraine you’d been fighting finally went away. In our assessment of the year, these aren’t times that we reflect on. Instead we focus on the bigger moments. The day that you graduated or got a promotion at work or the day he first said I love you. But when we breeze through the year and only look at these moments, we miss the small, wonderful ones in between.

For about a year now, at the end of every day, I spend a minute or two and write down five things that I am grateful for that day. Some days, it’s easy to think of the five and some days, it’s a little bit harder. And then there are the days that can only be classified as “bad” and it feels difficult at all to see the good. But no matter what, I find things to write about. Because in the end, you have something to be grateful for, regardless of what is going on in your life. You have a warm place to sleep or you have food in your pantry or you have clean water to drink. And on the really bad days, those are still really great blessings.

I’ve found that by writing these things down at the end of the day, I’ve learned to approach the day with an attitude of gratitude. Focusing on the good things not only makes you a more positive person, but it brings a lightness to you and takes the stress away a bit, even if it’s just for a moment. In fact, it’s scientifically proven that grateful people are happier, get sick less often, sleep better and have more energy. And aren’t those all things that you’d like to have in 2015? So I encourage you this coming year, to take the minute or two before you go to sleep and write down your list. Not only will it be fun to look back on in the future, but it could very well change your attitude, and in turn, your life.

Question:

-Have you ever done a gratitude journal?

Paleo Mexican Chicken Zucchini Boats

One thing about living with food allergies is that sometimes they can seem to cut off access to various types of cuisines. For example, since finding out I had a severe corn allergy over a year ago, Mexican food has pretty much been off the table. Living in CA, I’ve always had excellent Mexican food options and especially when I lived in LA. One of my favorite food memories is senior year of college when my best friend Krae and I would meet at our favorite place, La Sirena Grill in El Segundo for endless chips and salsa, margaritas, the perfect burrito and girl talk. (If you find yourself in LA, I seriously recommend that place… it’s pretty much amazing and I would love to live vicariously through all of you!) But between the celiac and the corn allergy, Mexican food has kind of felt off-limits. One day, I decided to change that. After all, who says you need corn or a tortilla to have a fabulous Mexican meal? These zucchini boats are full of Mexican flavor and are gluten-free, corn-free, dairy-free, paleo and totally delicious!

Mexican Zucchini Boats GGGF

Ingredients

  • 5 Small-Medium Zucchini
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 1/4 C. Chopped Green Onion
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1/4 C. Cilantro, Chopped
  • 1/4 C. Salsa
  • 1 Package Frontera GF Key-Lime Cilantro Skillet Sauce*
  • 2 Chicken Breast Cutlets (About 1 Lb)
  • 1/2 t. Oregano
  • 1 t. Cumin
  • Olive Oil Spray

* 1 cup of any salsa will work, this skillet sauce is my favorite one though!

Directions

  1. Spray bottom of crockpot with any nonstick spray (helps immensely in the clean-up process) and put 1/4 of salsa on bottom of crockpot. Layer chicken cutlets in, adding salsa between them and on top. Don’t worry too much about the layering process here as all will combine when you shred. Place on High and cook for 3 hours.
  2. When chicken is cooked, shred with forks and set aside.
  3. Cut ends off zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Hollow out inside of zucchini. People commonly use a melon ball scoop for this, but I used an apple corer and it worked like a dream, was fast and easy and ensured smooth boats! Set aside insides of zucchini that have been scooped out.
  4. Heat 4 Cups of Water in a bowl and drop zucchini boats in for 1 minute. You could do this with a pot of boiling water on the stove, but I just poured hot water into a bowl and it was so easy. Remove boats and set aside.
  5. Chop zucchini, onion and green pepper into fairy small pieces and set aside.
  6. Chop fresh cilantro until you have about 1/4 cup.
  7. Heat a large saucepan on the stove and 1 T. of olive oil. Add chipped onion and stir for about 3 minutes until they start to become translucent. Add garlic and cook for a minute more.
  8. Next, add green pepper, chopped zucchini and cilantro along with cumin and oregano. (If you want to up the spice factor, you could also add chili powder but my salsa had enough heat.) Cook for about 5 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Add shredded chicken to mixture and stir to combine, cook on low to let flavors combine for a few minutes.
  10. Now it’s time to stuff the zucchini boats! First, spread 1/4 of salsa on the bottom of 9×12 pan.
  11. Use a spoon to fill the boats with the mixture until they are smooth and flat. Then, overstuff them by using rounded spoonfuls to pack on mixture. Carefully set in pan.
  12. Cover pan with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes and garnish with chopped green onions.

Question:

What’s your favorite Mexican dish?

The BEST Paleo Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Let’s face it. Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t like a good chocolate chip cookie? It’s a classic for a reason and the scent alone makes them instantly crave-able. There are a lot of amazing chocolate chip cookies out there, including in the gluten-free world. Unfortunately, a lot of them have sugar and shortening or vegan butter and those are ingredients I’d prefer not to put in my body. Enter- the paleo cookie. I can’t actually take credit for this recipe, as I got it from my amazing sister-in-law Julia, who started making this when she and my brother went paleo. Enter the night before Easter this year, when my brother had a craving for some delicious chocolate chip cookies and he and I whipped these up (ok, so he was mostly my sous chef, but an excellent one). ;) I’ve since made these cookies for various occasions and everyone loves them! I’m talking my Grandma (who’s weary of gluten-free things) as well as friends who had never even heard of paleo. They are a true winner and you’ll feel like one too when you make a batch of these!

Paleo Cookies & Milk GGGF

Paleo Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 C. Almond Meal
  • 1 C. Enjoy Life Mini Chips*
  • 1 C. Chopped Pecans
  • 1/4 t. Salt
  • 1/2 t. Baking Soda
  • 1/3 C. Honey
  • 2 T. Melted Virgin Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 t. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Egg

*Any chocolate chips will work, but I love these dairy-free/soy-free mini chips. Also, although tempting, don’t add the whole bag, as it will become difficult to get them to stick together.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients (almond meal, salt, baking soda) together.

3. Add the chocolate chips and chopped pecans to the dry mixture and stir evenly.

4. In a separate bowl, heat oil and honey together to liquify in microwave for 30 seconds.

5. Whisk the wet ingredients together (honey, oil, vanilla extract and egg).

6. Make a crater in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the whisked wet ingredients.

7. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until thoroughly mixed.

8. Using a spoon, scoop and roll 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.

9. With your hand, gently press down the cookie dough balls as they don’t spread much during baking, so make them the size and shape you like.

10. Bake for 13-15 minutes and let cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack and enjoy!

Paleo Cookies Close-up

Real Talk: When Jokes Have Consequences

The month of May is Celiac Disease Awareness month and is supposed to be a time of education and support. However, lately I’ve been noticing that comedians have selected a new victim to pick on: people that follow gluten-free diets. One of Jimmy Kimmel’s recent Man on the Street style interviews asked people who followed gluten-free diets what gluten is. A simple enough question in theory and yet almost no one was able to answer it. The fact that these people weren’t able to answer what gluten really is, doesn’t bother me, different people have various reasons for avoiding gluten and some might not have done their research. It was Jimmy’s comments that did, like, “maybe gluten just doesn’t exist” and “some people can’t eat gluten because of medical reasons, which I get- it annoys me– but I get it.”

Look, I get it, Jimmy. A joke is just a joke, right? It’s all in the name of fun. Or is it? My problem isn’t that comedians have chosen to focus on making fun of people on gluten-free diets. I wouldn’t choose it, but I also wouldn’t like them to poke ‘fun’ at any group of people. My issue is with the public perception of it. The more people that see these segments (and Jimmy’s alone has 2.5 million views), the more people start to think that being gluten-free isn’t serious. And for some people, I realize that it’s not. I know it’s “trendy” now and the latest health food fad and that’s ok. But for those of us with Celiac disease, it’s something entirely different.

In the past seven months, I’ve been glutenized twice at restaurants. The first time was at Whole Foods, supposedly the mecca of healthy eating. I purchased a soup that said it was gluten-free, read the ingredients list three times and left the store. I specifically chose the soup because I thought it had the least chance of cross-contamination as they have only one ladle per soup. I ate my soup on the way to a movie and within minutes, was throwing up in the bathroom. Tears were streaming down my face and I was screaming from the excruciating pain. I was on the floor of the lobby of the theater and basically had to be carried out to the car and rushed to the Emergency Room. At the ER, it took doctors three doses of very strong medicines to stop the pain. I was dreadfully sick for about a week and almost missed Christmas. But here’s the part that people don’t realize. It took me months for my body to recover. For people with Celiac disease, gluten doesn’t just cause outward symptoms, it’s actually damaging the villi in the small intestine which allows for absorption in the body. Finally, months later, my body slowly started to recover. Then a little while ago it happened again. I am so careful about what I eat and there are very few restaurants that I trust, but there is one Italian restaurant that has a gluten-free menu that has always been safe for me. I ordered plain grilled chicken and vegetables and explained Celiac disease at length to my waitress and told her how extremely sensitive I am to gluten. She said that she understood and would hate for me to get sick on her watch and said she would tell the kitchen.

20-minutes after I ate, I was screaming and crying in pain again.

Now the common thread in both instances was that the meals I purchased did not have gluten in the ingredients. So both reactions were from cross-contamination. If you are new the world of a Celiac, you might not know, but it only takes 1 crumb to make someone with Celiac horribly sick… one single crumb!

And yet if the cooks in the kitchen had watched Jimmy Kimmel or watched and read other numerous comics and jokes on the topic, they might think that someone is making this illness up. That the person they are serving can’t really be that sensitive and it won’t matter if they use the same work area as where the bread was sitting, or use a spoon that was touching wheat noodles to stir a soup or use the same pans that the pasta was just cooked in. It is all really that easy to cross-contaminate and has dire consequences. Every time someone with Celiac disease eats at a restaurant, they’re putting their lives in the hands of the cook. And it’s really scary. It makes it extremely difficult to enjoy a meal without being nervous, both for myself, and as I recently found out, my family too. Everyone just kind of holds their breath and you hope that they took your order seriously. I understand that some people may wonder why people with Celiac go out to eat at all if it’s such a big risk. It’s just that so much of our culture and getting together is meeting for meals that to eliminate that really bars you off from something you used to enjoy. Plus, as much as I enjoy cooking, it’s also really nice to have someone else prepare a meal too.

I can take a joke, but I draw the line when it could be the very thing that compromises someone’s health. Let’s face it, what people hear infiltrates their thoughts and they might find themselves at a party, contaminating the one gluten-free item or in a kitchen rolling their eyes at the thought of taking special care to make sure a dish doesn’t come into contact with gluten. I think that there are far funnier subjects that we can be discussing, rather than someone’s serious illness. Let’s change the conversation.

*This isn’t to say that all restaurants and bakeries don’t take it seriously and I will being doing spotlight posts on some great establishments that do!