All Natural Snacks and Drinks

The newest New Hope Blogger Box had some great options for gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, health-minded people. Whether you are Paleo or a prefer a house of carbs (like I do), there’s something here to suit your snacking needs.

Oats are one of those things that cause confusion in the gluten-free world. There are two issues to consider: 1.Oats do not have gluten in them, but they do have a protein that is similar to gluten and it can cause problems for those who are both gluten-intolerant or celiac. 2. Oats are mostly processed on the same equipment as wheat and therefore there is a high likelihood of cross-contamination unless they are certified gluten-free. This makes granola off limits for many, especially those that follow a grain-free Paleo diet, or at least it did until now. The #NewHopeBloggerBox had this delicious sample in it from Grandy Oats, and it really is a fantastic substitute for oat-based granola. I’ve happily never had a problem with oats so I eat granola pretty much everyday, and this one tastes just like any other I’ve munched on lately.

If you are gluten-free and soy-free, finding a protein bar is nearly impossible. These Hi-Health bars are both, and some are vegan as well, using pea protein, while other flavors contain hormone-free whey. I probably should have used something other than a soy candle to prop up the bar since they are soy-free, but hey, it was handy.

Turmeric is all the rage these days, and with very good reason. It helps with inflammation, has adaptogenic properties, and is probably the most rigorously tested herb out there. Gaia makes taking your Turmeric easy and enjoyable with this golden milk powder. Just add it to warmed milk or milk alternative, and reap the benefits.

The literature with Gaia’s golden milk encourages the drinker to add one of their tinctures to the golden milk for extra health benefits. They suggest Ginger for digestive support, or Holy Basil for easing stress. Raw and Root puts extra herbal support right into their golden milk powder, with Ashwagandha, Gotu Kola, and others. (Gaia’s actually has Ashwagandha in it too. Turmeric has reigned supreme for some time now, but I think Ashwagandha’s star is rising if this box of samples is any indication.)

This is the second time Jackson’s Honest has been part of the New Hope Blogger Box so my kids were eager to dig into this bag. They have a heartbreaking story behind their mission based brand that has directly resulted in clean, organic, simple ingredient lists. This chip has only three ingredients: Organic Yellow Corn, Organic Coconut Oil, and Salt, and that’s clearly all a chip needs because these are delicious. Love to Jackson’s family.

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Speaking of clean ingredients, have you looked at your mayo jar lately? Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo is clean, soy-free, non-gmo, and made with cage free eggs. Real food.

Cascadian Farms has a new flavor of granola and it tastes like a lemon blueberry muffin. I’ve never had lemony granola before and was skeptical, but it actually really works. This granola is not made with certified gluten-free oats though, so if you are following a gluten-free diet then this won’t work for you. I tried it because I’ve been systematically working to get over my gluten-intolerance so I figured a little cross-contamination wouldn’t cause me harm, and it hasn’t.

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Have a great holiday weekend! Do something special and try something new.

Wheat: Is it the Gluten or the FODMAPs?

When I first went to a gastroenterology doctor to discuss my blood tests that were positive for gluten reactions, his advice to me was not to go through the scope for celiac testing because, and I quote, “Lots of people have trouble digesting wheat. You just don’t eat wheat. That’s all you could do if you were diagnosed celiac anyway.” This struck me as mighty unconventional in an industry that loves to order as many tests as possible, but I followed his advice and I think I now understand that he must have seen people with wheat issues day in and day for decades to form that view. (And this was over ten years ago, before the gluten awareness explosion.) It isn’t just the gluten though, people can have trouble with wheat because of the FODMAPs, which makes wheat a particularly hard food for a lot of people since the protein and/or the carb can be the problem. It’s no wonder so many people find some relief when taking it out of their diet, but it might not be the cure-all they were hoping for. If that sounds like you, don’t get discouraged, there’s more you can do.

While gluten, which is a protein in wheat, rye, and barley, is the issue for celiacs and other people with gluten sensitivity, for others it might be the carbs of wheat, which fall under the FODMAPs acronym. FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, which are molecules in certain carbohydrates that some people have trouble digesting. Wheat is one of the culprits but other items which fall under the FODMAPs category are beans, many dairy products, some fruits like apples and apricots, and a variety of vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. For a complete list, check out Fodmaplife.com but before checking it out you should know two things: 1. the list is extensive and can be overwhelming at first glance, but don’t let it deter you because 2. not everyone reacts to all the items the same. When you start to explore if you are one of the people whose digestive issues stem from FODMAPs, you will need to limit all foods high in FODMAPs, but you then can start adding some back into your diet and experiment with what really bothers your personal system and what can actually be tolerated and at what doses. So, in other words, the list is not a list of foods you can never eat again, think of it merely as a starting point.

An easy way to experiment with this and take the guess work out of your meal planning is to try Delicious Living’s Low FODMAP Menus for a Week. They have put together meals that avoid all the high FODMAP foods and instead focus on healthy foods that are easy on the digestive tract. Here’s a preview of what you’ll find:

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If you have gone gluten-free and have found some relief but not total relief, it is worth a week of effort to try low-FODMAP eating to see if you can’t be healthier (and therefore happier). Time to go shopping~

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The low-Fodmap diet is often encouraged for people who suffer with IBS. It is worth trying if you have consistent digestive issues that do not fully respond to other diets or remedies as many people find it to be just what they needed. You deserve to feel your best so don’t give up searching for ways to make you feel great on a daily basis. Best health to you and yours.

Gluten Free Snacks

These are new snacks that arrived in my New Hope Blogger Box that would be great additions to a holiday gift basket or as party food. These are all gluten and dairy free, with clean ingredient lists that you can feel good about sharing.

My favorite of these products is the Thrive Tribe Paleo Bites. These aren’t the kind of product I normally buy so they surprised me with how delicious and snack-able they are, uh, actually were. My oldest son and I finished them off quite quickly. The vanilla in these is the predominant taste and we’ll be buying these again for sure.

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My son also loved these gimMe Seaweed snacks. He likes to snack on the regular seaweed so I gave him these which have extra crunch with the added ingredients, and he really enjoyed them. I’ll be getting more of these too and with only 100 calories per package, that’s quite a healthy lunch box addition.

Jackson’s Honest  chips are as clean as you can get, and the colors are incredibly vibrant which speaks to the quality of the foods and their minimal processing. The sweet potato chips are just sweet potatoes, coconut oil, and salt. The purple potato chips are just potatoes, coconut oil, and salt. That’s it! Their company is on a mission to bring more healthy oils to the table because they have helped the owner’s oldest son who has a rare autoimmune condition. This is a company you can feel especially good about supporting, and about eating and sharing.

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The R.W. Garcia Co. chips are a nice change from a regular tortilla chip. They are flavorful on their own with the hummus coming through much more than the red pepper. Both my sons gave their thumbs up and my youngest is an extremely tough customer to please so these are sure to be crowd favorites.

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Happy snacking and merry-making!

Thanksgiving in Prague

This time of year always gets me thinking about the Thanksgiving I spent in Prague, over 15 years ago. We didn’t celebrate on the day that everyone in the states celebrated, we instead had a dinner party sometime between Canadian and American Thanksgiving because my flat-mate and I were from those two countries. We had another good friend who lived with us up until about that time in November when she changed schools (we were all English teachers) which meant she also had to change flats. She was from South Africa and if I remember correctly, it was her first Thanksgiving dinner.

The evening started out well, besides the fact my Canadian flat-mate’s turkey turned out to actually be a duck. (We couldn’t read that much Czech so it was an easy mistake to make, plus neither of us ate poultry at the time so we didn’t have any clue it didn’t taste like a turkey until our guests started commenting on the delicious duck to which we replied, “It’s turkey” and they all answered, “No, it’s definitely duck.”

After the dinner party which included English teachers from various countries and backgrounds, my South African friend and I headed out to meet a sketchy guy we barely knew at a club across town because we were young and thought it would be a fun, exciting end to the evening. My Canadian friend saw that it was all folly and most likely not going to end well, so she stayed home. She was the youngest of us there, but somehow managed to be the wisest more often than not.

Another teacher who had attended our Thanksgiving celebration decided to go with us which was not exactly good news to us. By that time the South African and I knew each other quite well and had a mutual understanding of people and timing that makes going out to late night clubs across town to meet sketchy strangers a little less of a bad idea. If one of us sensed it was time to turn around, we trusted the other to do it. This other young woman was a wild card in that respect and we both had our reservations about her, but what could we do? She came along.

At the club we ended up splitting up right away. The South African had recently moved into a flat occupied by a British couple who were in the middle of a very long break-up, and they happened to be at the club. They immediately drew her into their issues so she found herself playing peacemaker and go-between, as much as one can anyway with ear-bursting techno music pounding through the dark rooms. The other teacher disappeared in a social frenzy of partying as though she’d just been let out of her strict family home for the first time in her life. I was being dogged by a young American boy who actually was on his own for the first time in his life and seemed to decide I could be something along the lines of a babysitter with benefits. Not surprisingly, the sketchy stranger who told us we ‘had’ to go to that club that night never showed up.

My friend and I found each other and realized we were both having a terrible time so the plan to go home was quickly made with the last reasonable tram putting a tight timer on our ability to find the third one in our group. When we managed to find her and talked her into leaving, she confessed she had lost her keys. It was hard not to panic as we frantically looked everywhere in the dark until someone asked the DJ to make an announcement at which point the music stopped, the lights came on, and the announcement was made that “the Americans” had lost their keys. Other comments were also made which had an unflattering cadence but the Czech words were a mystery to us, but it produced a sea of eye-rolling and grumbles and side-eyed snickers.

I honestly can’t remember if she found her keys or not, but we eventually all left together. It was all very embarrassing and my friend and I were annoyed, which made the flaky social-butterfly annoyed at us in return. We walked as fast as we could to the tram knowing if we didn’t make it we would have to wait an hour in the cold, dark, midnight hour of downtown Prague which was much more than our thin coats were prepared for. Luck finally shined on us and we made it, but because of the tension all around, or maybe because she was embarrassed, the teacher with us refused to get on and instead started walking towards her room along the unlit, desolate streets of the city center. We couldn’t believe it and my friend ran after her to try to talk sense but I saw the stubborn set of her chin and knew there was no reasoning with her. I stayed near the tram with pleading eyes and hand gestures, but ended up just watching it ‘ding-ding’ away and it felt like it took all the warmth in the world with it. Sure enough, the South African came back alone, unsuccessful in her quest to keep us all together, so the two of us sat on separate benches, freezing, silent, worried, and desperately watching for the next tram.

Since it was the day we were celebrating Thanksgiving, I finally broke the silence by suggesting we think of things we were grateful for about living in Prague. The black quiet was even more complete after that because we were both so cold, worried, and miserable that neither of us could think of a single thing. Not one thing. It was the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had in some ways, and yet despair so easily slipped up on us with some challenges, bad choices, and the cold that neither of us were properly prepared for that entire long, grey winter. (That is another area where the youngest of us came out on top. She was Canadian after all and had the most enviable winter wardrobe and warm accessories.)

Everyone made it home that night, and once I was in my warm bed, I’m pretty sure I was able to feel gratitude. There really was so much to be thankful that year, the friendships, the beauty of the city, the life of young twenty-somethings living abroad with basically no responsibilities. I learned so much that year, and one thing is for sure, if you want to keep your humor about you, dress well for the weather. A warm coat, or the lack of one, can make or break one’s attitude in a big way.

Here’s a recipe for Sopsky Salat (pronounced shopsky) which is found at pretty much every restaurant in the Czech Republic. There are many ways to make it, and I went with what I had on hand instead of trying to make it completely traditional. It’s like a Greek Salad without the olives and it’s one of my favorites. I hope you like it too:

Sopsky Salat

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1 pepper (red, green, orange, or yellow)

1 cucumber

2 medium tomatoes

1/2 red onion

Feta cheese (as much as you want but I used about 4.5oz, or half that package shown)

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 T olive oil

salt (that is my favorite salt/herb blend ever!) as much as desired

pepper as desired

To make, simply chop and mix. Let the salad set in the fridge for at least an hour before eating for best taste. It actually is much better the second day.

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I like to spoon the salad on top of warm (gluten-free) bread and let the feta melt a tad. Delicious.

I hope all your Thanksgivings are full of warmth and gratitude. Na zdravi! (Czech for ‘Cheers!’)

 

 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos Gluten-Free and Vegan

This is a post from around this time of year three years ago from my first blog. I’m hoping to get all the relevant recipes over here now. We actually are not hosting Thanksgiving this year but I still need to bring a few dishes…tacos instead of turkey? Maybe….

Just when I thought I never wanted another corn tortilla again, I got a craving for a taco with some sort of orange veggie in it. Whenever we go out to dinner we often go to one of two places where I order a butternut squash quesadilla. I love them, but I hate dealing with squash and its hard shell that eats knives for lunch so I have never attempted to make them myself. It got me thinking though that wouldn’t a sweet potato taste just as good in that kind of meal? And if I could eliminate the cheese it’d be even better for our family, so onto the web I went and sure enough there are plenty of recipes for sweet potatoes and black beans together in all sorts of fashions~ tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. I went the taco route and used several different recipes to cobble together what is written below to work with what I had in my refrigerator. My husband and oldest son loved these by the way, as did I, and my youngest who only gathered enough courage to try one black bean and one piece of sweet potato admitted the black bean wasn’t bad. That says more to me than the fact that my husband is generally not a huge sweet potato fan, nor a big black bean fan, and really he prefers flour tortillas and definitely cheese and preferably meat. This recipe outshined all that. It is a keeper. (Unfortunately, the pics I took are not very good. Next time I make this, I’ll take better ones.)

Vegan, Gluten-free Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

1.5 T vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil and olive oil)

1/2 t salt

1 yellow or red onion (I used red b/c that is what I had and the purple hue was so pretty)

1 pepper (I used 1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper, but orange or green would work)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium-large sweet potato

1 can black beans (or 1.5 c if using dried beans)

1 t cumin

freshly ground pepper to taste

corn tortillas

guacamole (or avocados)

Preheat oven to 400. Using a large cast iron pan or some other oven-friendly pan* sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic until the onions are translucent in 1 T of vegetable oil. (I used sunflower oil). In a bowl coat the sweet potato which has been skinned and diced into bite size pieces with 1/2 T of oil (I used olive) and 1/2 t of sea salt. Add this into the sauté pan and cook for 1 minute before transferring into the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm up the rinsed and drained beans on medium with 1 t cumin in a small sauce pan. Also warm up some corn tortillas** until they are soft. Take the pan out of the oven and if the sweet potatoes are cooked through add the beans and stir to get everything mixed together. Load the tortillas and top with guacamole or fresh avocados. It’s a symphony of flavors played just right. If it were up to me this is what I’d make for Thanksgiving, along with kale chips and pica de gallo salsa. It’s enough to make a pilgrim say, “Ole!” but alas, we are hosting this year and I’m going to have to stick to the more traditional items I’ve already planned.

 

 

* If you don’t have an oven proof pan, use one that you can top with a lid or plate and add 2 T of water to the mixture to steam it for approximately 5-10 min.

** I use Trader Joe’s corn tortillas b/c they are thick and sturdy, plus they are remarkably clean. Their ingredient list is all of: ground white corn masa flour, water, trace of lime. That’s it. Exactly how it should be. And they taste incredibly good, much better than any other corn tortilla on the market.

 

 

Healing from Food Intolerances

2730B37F-B732-45B4-8C22-BD6DD51DD537[1]Food intolerances are rampant these days, and it’s no surprise once you understand the relationship between optimal digestive processes and our modern world’s challenges to that system. First there’s the fact that our food is mostly not what our ancestors would have recognized as food. Unless you are eating heritage grains, organic, non-gmo produce, meat and dairy products, and very little processed food (canned food, frozen foods, boxed products you just stick in a microwave) then you are taxing your body’s digestive system. Many people blame Monsanto alone for the extreme rise in gluten intolerance, but I think there’s a lot more to it than that. Despite the challenges to keep your gut healthy, as promised in my last post about managing food intolerances, there are ways to heal and kick intolerances to the curb.

Antibiotics are also a major player in the weakening of our digestive systems, because they inevitably kill off the beneficial bacteria in our intestines while doing their rightful work on the bad bacteria they are supposed to be targeting. Practically no one has escaped a round of antibiotics in their life, and some people have taken them every year of their life, even multiple times. Antibiotics are necessary, but so are the probiotics that they are known to destroy, which leads to an imbalanced ecosystem in the gut. If you don’t make a conscious effort to reestablish the beneficial bacteria environment in your gut, then the bad bacteria, and especially candida, gain momentum and the ecosystem spirals downward. We’ve all heard a lot about probiotics lately and they are in fact major players in more than just digestion. They are a huge part of your immune system and studies show a major link to mental issues and what’s happening in the intestines, so much so that the gut is often called ‘the body’s second brain’. So, probiotics are really important all the time, but when you take a round of antibiotics they are even more important, and if you have food intolerances they are essential in recovery. My all time favorite probiotic is VSL3 which is the highest potency probiotic that I’ve found, but I linked to a couple of other good ones above. My sons love Rainbow Light’s gummy version which doesn’t require refrigeration which is a bonus for traveling.

But there’s more you can do to beat food intolerances and eat freely once again. First of all, just taking steps to curing yourself instead of only avoiding trigger foods sends a message to your brain that you are on the mend. This is important because it relieves feelings of hopelessness and that horrible feeling of being out of control which leads to stress. You are in control and you can get over food intolerances and in fact be healthier than ever so phew, less stress already, right? One thing you will want to figure out is if you have a candida overgrowth. This can be tested at a doctor’s or naturopath’s office, or you can self diagnose through questionnaires found on the web (there are quite a few!) and if you think you have an issues with it, get on a candida cleanse. Now some people do a cleanse that is quite restrictive in food choices which is great if you want to go that route, but personally I’ve always liked taking a candida cleanse supplement, and there are several good ones to choose from but the one I linked to is my favorite. Some doctors or naturopaths will prescribe medicine for candida, so if you are getting diagnosed that way then you can discuss options at that time with them, as well as the possibility of a prescription probiotic. If you have no idea if you might have candida then I’ll give you three clues to consider~ Have you had two or more rounds of antibiotics in your life and did you replenish your system with probiotics afterwards? Have you have ever had a yeast infection or jock itch? Are your cravings mostly the dairy and sugar kind? If you answered yes to any of those, it’s time to start seriously looking into candida cleansing. The good news is that once you kick candida then you are well on your way to recovery, the bad news is that candida really messes up your intestines so you’ve got some repairing to do.

Now, to repair the gut you want to obviously stay away from the trigger foods, but you also want to eat foods that will be easy to digest and provide the most nutrition for rebuilding a strong intestinal lining. Can you guess what is the best macro-nutrient for rebuilding? If you guessed protein, you’re right! Make sure you are getting plenty of protein in your healthy diet, and supplementing with extra L-glutamine is one way to give your healing an extra boost. There are products containing L-glutamine specifically for rebuilding your intestines so it’s easy to add to your daily routine, plus most of the products come with herbs and other nutrients that add extra support to the healing. My favorite is by Renew Life. I put it in a jar of water first thing in the morning and let it settle for a couple of minutes so I can easily shake it, then drink it. If I don’t let it sit and settle first, it is clumpy.

BittersBack to that easy to digest part I mentioned above, in order to get the nutrients out of the foods we eat and also to make digestion optimal, we rely on our bodies’ enzymes to break down that food into bits small enough for the body to assimilate in a healthy way. For many reasons, people can lack the ability to make sufficient enzymes in order to start that whole digestive process off right. If it doesn’t have the right start, things can only go (ahem) down from there. Seriously though, enzymes are important and there are two ways you can supplement in this case. You can take enzymes when you eat, or you can take bitters before you eat (about 15 minutes) to stimulate the pancreas to start pumping out enzymes. Bitters are a classification of herbs that are usually taken in tincture form so that you add a dropper of the liquid herbs to a couple of ounces of water, hold them in your mouth for a few seconds because it is the taste that stimulates the action, then swallow. If you know you are not digesting your food well to begin with, you can actually take both bitters and enzymes, then slowly decrease your enzyme usage as your pancreas gets more efficient.

These will help get you over your food intolerances and onto your best health. I’ll post an article about other herbs for the digestive system as well because there is a lot more healing that can be accomplished with herbs, but I wanted to just get the basics out there first and let you ‘digest’ them. And if nothing else, at the very least take a high potency probiotic supplement. That’s going to give you the most bang for your buck and treat the issue where it most likely started~ in an unbalanced intestinal ecosystem. Fermented foods like yogurt and drinks like Kombucha are fabulous additions too, but a high potency probiotic is truly essential in turning a food intolerance situation around.

The links above are for ease of shopping. You can check out my affiliation policy on my page dedicated to that information. Keep in mind that herbs and supplements are not something to buy based solely on price point. Use trusted brands from known stores and assume that for any natural product it will probably take 6-8 weeks before you see a difference, although sometimes it happens much faster. Also, if you are adding herbs into your healing mix, be aware that herbs have fiber and if you add more than your body is used to then you might get diarrhea. Your body can adjust to more fiber intake but it has to be done slowly so dial back your new herbs if that happens, and of course discontinue if you have a severe reaction.

Also, I have a background in herbs and also of working in the natural foods/products industry, which led to me figuring some of this out, but the whole picture came about from seeing a physician, Gastroenterology doctors, a naturopath, and a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, plus loads of reading. I strongly suggest you also consult the medical professionals in your life because we are all unique in our bodily needs and healing.

Best health to you and yours! Always remember, you deserve to be optimally healthy to live your best life.

Managing Food Intolerances

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I’m happy to share this e-guide from Enjoy Life Foods and Delicious Living about living with food intolerances or allergies. Just follow the above link and you can download the free guide right to your device/computer from Delicious Living’s website. If you have food allergies or intolerances you most likely are already very familiar with Enjoy Life’s products which are free from the most common food allergens and sure make life a lot easier, especially if you are new to avoiding certain foods.

This free eGuide will help you: 

  • Identify food allergies and sensitivities
  • Eliminate problem foods
  • Stock a Free-From pantry
  • Make great-tasting allergen-friendly recipes

My next post will help you actually overcome your food intolerances by building your digestive system up into its healthiest form, but while you are rebuilding that system you will definitely need to avoid the trigger foods, and that takes time. This e-guide can help, especially as we move towards the holidays. Please share this with anyone you know who has food intolerances or allergies~ it’s free and can only help.

Best health to you and yours!

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