Category Archives: gluten free

2013, Quick Update

Family

We’ve definitely had several transitions in the past few months–most notably, our Trinity-girl is now 5 months old(!!). She is utterly adorable–I’m continually shocked at what an easy baby she is. She’s almost always in a good mood (even when teething), eats like a champ, burps herself, rolls over onto her tummy, laughs at anything River does, and has just started “singing,” i.e., vocalizing like a baby dinosaur with high squeals and shrieks. She’s so overwhelmingly cute and cuddly that it’s almost unbearable. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to parent a full-term baby after first experiencing a preemie. It makes me delight in the effortless-feeling, developmental-milestone-smashing course that Trinity is on, rather than taking it for granted.

At first, having 2 children was a bit daunting–the first 6 weeks felt very overwhelming. However, thanks to Trinity’s great personality, River’s surprisingly open acceptance of her sister, and the help of friends, family and babysitter, I feel like we’ve found our equilibrium (well, as much equilibrium as one can muster with children in the mix).

Health

I’m still avoiding gluten as a holistic means of combating my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, although I’ve relaxed a little bit when visiting family. It’s so hard to find gluten free food at parties and gatherings that I tend to chalk up those days as ones that will result in my being very bloated for the following 72 hours. I find that I still have a rather addictive response to the combination of refined flour and sugar, and I’ve had some increased refined-sugar cravings after relaxing my gluten free regimen. Definitely NOT a coincidence, I think. I have settled into a good routine at home and have found that creating a 5 week plan of naturally gluten free breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and dinners (complete with page #s for recipes, etc) makes it a lot easier for me to serve things that all of us enjoy. When I say “naturally gluten free,” I’m referring to meals in which the original recipes don’t call for gluten-containing ingredients. Example: a breakfast might be scrambled eggs with cheese and cottage potatoes instead of eggs with gluten free toast. I’m trying to eat “whole foods,” rather than using gluten free substitutes b/c most store-bought gf substitutes have a terribly high glycemic index and fairly low nutritional value.

I’ve also found an edible, tasty snack/sandwich bread from Elana Amsterdam’s  The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. I LOVE the high protein content and the dense, moist texture of her quick-bread recipes. Here’s a similar recipe from her website for her “Bread 2.0.” The bread is easy to make and actually tastes great without incorporating loads of sugar or rice-flour. I have to say that it’s definitely my best experience with savory, gluten free bread thus far.

On a less holistic note, I’ve also started taking Levothroid. I’m in awe at how fantastic I feel after just a week. My TSH was only at 3.1, but since that’s on the high end of normal and at a level that can have negative hormonal effects, my primary care PA suggested that I try a tiny dose (25 micrograms) to see if it made a positive difference.  My energy levels are higher than they’ve been in over 4 years, I’m sleeping well, and I don’t crash after just a few hours of activity. It’s beyond awesome to feel “normal” again.

I don’t love the idea of being on a medication for the rest of my life, but at this point, having low energy is just not an option, and I haven’t been able to find empirical studies showing that going gluten-free *actually* helps keep Hashimoto’s in check. The suggestion makes intuitive sense to me as a lay person, but I’m willing to concede that it may be misguided. Still, I feel better eating gluten-free, and since I have multiple generations of diabetes in my family history, eating in a way that minimizes my consumption of grains and maximizes my consumption of protein, whole fruits and veggies will still have massive health benefits. I’m not prepared to go Paleo, but I am convinced that eating as if I’m trying to manage diabetes (high protein, carbs from non-starchy veggies, etc), even though I don’t have diabetes, is probably the best thing for my body.

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Filed under 2013, Baby, Blessings, gluten free, Thyroid

On the crafting docket for Feb 2013…

There are so many inspiring resources available that I find myself mentally planning and Pinterest-pinning activities and stopping there. So, I’ve compiled a short, doable (rather than wishful) list of Valentine’s Day related activities that I’m going to do in the next 4 weeks. I think of it as my antidote to Pinterest-paralysis. :)

  • Salt Dough Ornaments in various, embellished heart shapes. I’m going to string these onto garlands–one for us and a few others for friends and family. My plan is to do most of the work on my own, and then have River paint the shapes with glitter paint and glitter glue, since that’s one of her favorite things to do. I made the dough tonight, and it’s in the fridge to use tomorrow. I already have a few ideas for variations brewing–mixing glitter into the dough so that it doesn’t flake off, and possibly coloring the dough pink.Image (Photo credit and idea credit go to the brilliant and inspiring Jean, at The Artful Parent)
  • Soap Petals–I just adore these and have always wanted to make my own for some weird reason. February is a good month to do something like this with the container of pink, silk rose petals in my craft cabinet. My mom has already put in her order for some, and I think River will get a kick out of using them. Image Photo credit goes to Donna DeRosa of the lovely Etsy Shop, Blushing Rose
  • Find and read a story about St. Valentine that’s appropriate for a 3 year old and talk about the origins of the holiday.
  • Memorize a short love poem with River.

I’m thinking that “Love Came” by Rumi might be a truly fun one to memorize with her if I incorporate lots of interpretive gestures. Sure, it might come across as ridiculing a gorgeous, profound poem, but if silly gestures get that gorgeous, profound poem into her head, I’m OK with the indignity of it). I plan to read the poem aloud with her (with gestures), then record it on her digital recorder for her to listen to, then practice it with her a few times a week. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Memorize John 3:16 with River. (Well, I already have it memorized, so it’s more like helping her learn it). I plan to use the same techniques for this verse as for the Rumi poem.
  • Let River go crazy with a pack of 200 heart-shaped stickers to create 6 Valentine’s Day cards that we will address and send to select friends and family. Yes, I’m deliberately doing only 6 cards. If I get very ambitious, we’ll address these cards with photo address labels similar to the ones Meg of Sew Liberated uses in her little guy’s letter-writing activity. My idea for the cards is to have her put stickers on waxed paper, iron another sheet of waxed paper on top of the stickered one, and cut out hearts that she can then glue onto cards. (It’s an easier variation of Martha Stewart’s “Heart Covered Waxed Paper“).
  • Bake a heart shaped cake topped with strawberries and whipped cream. I will probably do a gluten free one so that I can enjoy it. If I’m ambitious enough, I’m going to attempt a GF version of the child-friendly, French yogurt cake that Pam Druckerman raves about in Bringing Up Bebe. If I’m too tired to have my 3 year old “help,” I will do it by myself while she is occupied with playdough. :-P

So, there you have it: garland, soap, stickers, cards, a poem, a verse, and cake. I figure that mixing in “love” themed activities gives me the entire month of February to do some of these. :)

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Filed under 2013, crafts and creativity, gift ideas, gluten free

Gluten Free, (mostly) Soy-Free, and Low-Sugar Update

I’ve been very blessed recently with reasonable energy (not needing naps daily) and with a growing toddler who can do a bit of sustained, independent play, meaning that I can get more labor-intensive food preparation done with less distraction!

After doing some more reading on going gluten-free to combat the thyroid destruction that comes with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I’ve realized that some people recommend going TOTALLY GF…as in, eating as if you have Celiac Disease and striving to remove every molecule of gluten from your diet.

Honestly, at this point in my life, that just sounds insane. I enjoy eating out at restaurants with friends and at other people’s houses. Eating is a very social, emotional, meaningful activity, and I don’t want to complicate it even more than going GF already has.So, for now I’m going to do my best, meaning that I’m going as GF/Soy Free as possible while staying sane and not thinking about food all the time.

A WONDERFUL (with one caveat) resource that I’ve found? A cookbook titled Gluten Free Artisan Cooking, by Kelli and Peter Bronski.They have a lovely blog on which they share some of their recipes and their most important discovery–their whole grain, artisan, GF flour blend. It was such a relief to run across this blend–it’s made of brown rice flour, sorghum flour (a wonderful, nutrient-rich seed), corn starch, 2 kinds of potato flour, and xanthan gum. I am now on my second 12-cup batch of this flour (I mix it up in advance so that it’s easier to make their recipes), and have made the following from their book: Yellow Cake, Pie Crust for apple pie, Waffles, Pizza, and Corn Bread.

Their recipes are designed to taste delicious and have beautiful textures. They’re both hardcore foodies (she’s a baker and he’s Italian), so they really care about the appearance, texture and taste of their foods. I haven’t been disappointed with any of the recipes.My favorite so far has been the cornbread–it was fluffy, light, deliciously nutty with a pleasantly distinct cornmeal flavor, and not too dry. All of my non-GF tasters loved it, and I had no trouble finishing off what was left the next day.

The only caveat is that their flour mixture takes a while to get used to. The cake I made gave me and my taster tummy aches (admittedly, we both ate 3 servings of it)–I think that sorghum is so foreign to our guts that our tummies reacted by getting gas-y, which caused some pain. I experienced the same thing with the pizza. However, the Corn Bread didn’t do this to me, probably b/c it has a lot of cornmeal and just a small amount of the flour blend. It took me about 2 weeks of eating recipes made with this flour blend to get to a point where my tummy isn’t surprised by the blend.

Looking at some of the reviews of the book on amazon, at least one person professed to be unable to digest sorghum, and thus returned the book. So, I’m not alone in having a reaction to the sorghum.

Another thing that I LOVE about this cookbook is its focus on whole, “real” ingredients, as well as recreating comfort foods. The only unusual ingredients that they use are their flours–everything else is easy to find and tastes great. I’m looking forward to trying their cinnamon roll recipe, as well as their recipe for soft, chewy GF chocolate chip cookies.

Some people on amazon complained about the fact that the Bronski’s include recipes that are “naturally” GF (e.g., a few rice recipes, several ethnic recipes, sweet potato recipes, oven-fry recipes, etc). I actually liked this inclusion b/c it’s a good reminder that many cultures’ foods are naturally GF (Hispanic, Asian, African), so eating GF doesn’t mean that one has to modify every single recipe.

Some other resources: A Facebook friend of mine recommended these two recipe blogs:

Oh She Glows (tasty, nutrient rich, vegan and frequently GF recipes)

and

MELOMEALS, a vegan, frugal recipe site maintained by a chef. If you click on the link, you’ll get to my current fave recipe on her site–the Chunky Monkey Mug Cake with Banana Pecan Ice Cream. :)

Happy Gluten Free Munching!

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Filed under 2011, gluten free, refined sugar free, soy free, Thyroid

Why Go Gluten/Soy/mostly-Sugar Free?

It’s funny. For YEARS now–at least ten years–I’ve been toying with the idea of eliminating refined sugar, eating vegan, or eliminating processed foods.

I generally love vegan and raw foods, enjoy whole foods, and feel better when I avoid lots of processed items.

However, my weakness has been–and probably always will be–sugar and sweet baked goods. I LOVE me a perfect cupcake, buttery-crusted berry pie, or meltingly-fresh-from-the-oven, made-from-scratch, chocolate-chip cookie. Take me to a restaurant with a twenty page wine list, and I’d rather see their dessert menu.

Also, I love artisan breads, muffins, pastries, etc.

In this first-world, American society in which I live, wheat and refined-grain products are omnipresent. It’s so easy to eat a bowl of wheat-based cereal for breakfast, have a whole wheat-bread sandwich for lunch, snack on cookies or crackers (wheat flour), and then have a dinner that includes–you guessed it–some sort of wheat-based item (bread, pasta, tortillas, pita, croutons).

These things are all relatively low calorie, often tout their “whole grain goodness”, and are easy and cheap to obtain.

So, I needed an extremely compelling reason to make the radical shift to push wheat and gluten out of my life.

And that reason came in the form of my thyroid. I’ve recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an extremely common form of hypothyroidism. When I read that 1) there’s no cure (once the gene that carries it “activates”, there’s no way to turn it off) and 2) it creates antibodies that systematically destroy your thyroid, I went on a researching rampage.

There was NO way that I was going to NOT find a way to at least slow the destruction of my thyroid.  What I discovered was that there’s a link between gluten sensitivity/intolerance and Hashimoto’s. It’s theorized that both are an autoimmune response and that if you eliminate the aggravation caused by the gluten, you can reduce the antibodies that are attacking your thyroid.

Similarly, eliminating refined sugar has a similar effect.

Finally, consumption of soy products has been found to be less-than-ideal for people with impaired thyroid function, hence my elimination of soy (actually harder to do than gluten!).

So, every time I’m faced with a choice to eat something with gluten, soy or refined sugar, I ask myself: is this worth promoting the destruction of my thyroid? I almost always come up with “No!” as an answer.

However, when I went to Eataly in New York City last week, I enjoyed some gluten-free but by NO means low-sugar desserts. And since I will probably only be there once in my life and since the desserts were out-of-this-world awesome and unique, my answer came up, “Yes!” : )

Having eliminated wheat and sugar from my diet, I’ve experienced what I never thought possible. I don’t crave them! I’ve craved wheat and sugar for as long as I can remember (since I was about 9 years old). Now, I simply don’t.

It’s actually rather weird, and I keep expecting the cravings to return.

It’s not that I’m no longer interested in food–I’m as much of a foodie as ever. I just don’t have those cravings anymore.

What I *have* noticed, though, is that if I make something like a low-sugar, GF cake, I eat WAY too much of it and have a similar, addictive response to it as I used to have to wheat-based, baked goods. So, there’s still a grain dependency to be conquered.

I’ll keep you updated on further developments! :)

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Filed under 2011, gluten free, health, refined sugar free, soy free, Thyroid

New Food Endeavor

I’ve embarked on a New Endeavor: going gluten free and soy free. Also, eating as if I’m insulin resistant (no more than 30 carbs in any 2 hr period + linking carbs with protein when I eat). Oh! And eliminating 95% of refined sugar.

I’ve been doing this for 3 weeks and have been shocked at the difference in how I feel. I wasn’t expecting to feel any different. I chose the dietary changes as a long term means of combating my newly diagnosed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (more on this here).

Changes? No more bloating after meals. Ever.

I used to think that getting a bloated tummy after meals (of any size–tiny snacks or a big lunch) was just what happened whenever I ate something other than a smoothie. Apparently, I’ve had gluten sensitivity for quite some time now.

The Insulin Resistance method of eating is extremely simple to follow and is a gentle, effective reminder to avoid mindless eating and to maintain portion control of high carb/low nutrient foods.

I’ve also cut out 95% of refined sugar. I still eat some super-dark chocolate, and I use tiny bits of honey and agave as sweeteners when needed. I just can’t stand Stevia. I bought it in 2 forms–powdered and liquid, and not only does it not truly sweeten things that I put it in, it leaves the WORST, bitter, chemical-ly after taste. Disgusting. I’d rather have the calories and nutrients of honey.

My doctor wants to test for Celiac–if I end up testing positive, I’ll have to be a lot stricter about being gluten free. For now, I’m avoiding gluten and not eating anything with wheat. However, I’m eating foods that don’t contain gluten but that are processed in factories that also process wheat, etc. For someone with Celiac, it’s supposed to be important to avoid as much cross-contamination like that as possible.

I’m also surprised at how do-able it is to eat GF. When I go out, there’s virtually nothing I can eat at fast food places other than salads, but that’s OK. I almost never went to fast food places anyway.

At home, though, as long as I cook primarily Asian/Mexican (sans wheat tortillas, of course) or Indian, there are virtually no changes to be made other than an occasional substitution of arrowroot or cornstarch for flour as a thickener. And, I’m able to eat “whole” foods, not a bunch of processed, bizarre substitutions.

Giving up soy was a drag for me, but I’ve essentially replaced it with quinoa. While I haven’t attempted to make quinoa milk yet, I’m relying heavily on quinoa as my protein and iron rich “fast” food. It’s nice that River loves it too (she calls it “rice”), so we generally have a quinoa dish together at lunch.

There is a wealth of wonderful information online via GF bloggers. What I’m hoping to do now is to find a wonderful recipe for GF bread that I can make at home (I’m not much of a fan of Udi’s as the quality varies too much between batches).

At the top of my “TRY THIS!” list is “The Mother-loaf” from Open-Ended Question. It looks outrageously yummy. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

I’ve already been extremely happy with the “GF Berry Shortcake”  from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free that I made for our 4th of July dessert.

And, as always, Meghan Telpner of Making Love in the Kitchen remains my go-to girl for creative, whole-food, minimal-grain, gluten free, incredibly tasty goodness. :)

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Filed under 2011, gluten free, health, refined sugar free, soy free, Thyroid