four snacks that are grain-free and sugar-free

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know that I recently gave up sugar and am avoiding carbs in my snacks. So I’m here today with four of the snacks that have been keeping me going over these past few weeks without grains or sugar.

First for a substantial snack, I’ve been reaching for hummus and bell pepper. Instead of chips/crackers, I have been chopping red bell pepper and stashing it in the fridge (convenience is an important part of healthy snacking, having some pre-chopped is key). Then, I dip them in the excellent hummus that I found at our natural foods store (way better than sabra, though that would do) and enjoy.

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Next, a replacement of a usual go-to for a rushed morning at work, individual yogurt cups. Instead of the sugar-laden yogurts that we used to keep our fridge stocked with, I have been mixing frozen fruit, plain yogurt, and a little shredded coconut (optional) in small mason jars at the beginning of the week. You could also add a little honey for extra sweetness, but I’m being especially careful about my sugar intake and find that the fruit offers enough sweetness for me.

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Third, something that helps me with my sweet-tooth / sugar cravings. Frozen berries, shredded coconut, and whole milk. It’s like ice cream because the berries freeze the milk. There’s a lot of sweetness in all three of the ingredients (if you can’t taste that, your tastebuds are still numb from refined sugar). This one’s kind of weird, but I really like it.

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Finally, a snack for those times when there’s snacks out somewhere and you can’t eat any of them because those things are all full of sugar: mixed raw nuts. I have been keeping a small jar of nuts in my purse at all times. At work there are often sweet treats for all of the staff, and when I’m at a party there’s rarely anything with substance that I can eat. So these are a helpful backup.

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Any other snack recommendations? I’m still exploring, and will keep you updated with what works!

no gluten, no sugar, no snack time carbs.

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Feb. 1st marked my 3 year anniversary of eating a gluten free diet. I do not have celiac disease, so not eating gluten is a choice for me. I do however, have a thyroid disorder called Hashimoto’s. Strangely, eating gluten makes my arms break out in weird little dry patches. Three years ago, I read that there may be a link between that skin allergy, Hashimoto’s thyroid disorder, and gluten intolerance. So that’s where going gluten free started for me – I thought, “why not try and see if the arm thing goes away.” It worked, and here I am three years later, still avoiding gluten – for the most part.

I’m lucky enough that I don’t have celiac disease, and can eat gluten when I really want to or feel like it’s worth it. For instance, at the Indian place down the street, they serve the most amazing naan with garlic on it that I always have at least a bite of. Or when I’m out somewhere and get caught at a meal time with no gluten free options, I can eat what’s available to me. And, as a result, my arms will break out a day or two later with a weird little dry sore or two. If I’m really heavy on the gluten, my stomach gets upset – but I suppose that’s just from not having eaten it and not being acclimated to it anymore. Does kind of make you think though, maybe we’re not meant to eat something if we have to acclimate to it? That’s a whole rabbit hole school of thought that I try to avoid though.

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Now I’m trying something new. I am pregnant, and so I had a routine test for gestational diabetes that I did not pass. When I got the call with those results, I was extremely upset. I felt like I had let my baby, and his father down. I wasn’t the epitome of health that I was supposed to be. I read a little bit about gestational diabetes from some reliable sources, and learned a lot. It’s something that usually goes away when your baby is born, and can be treated with a careful diet and exercise regimen. So I read about what that diet looks like, and decided to make some changes. The next day I gave up refined sugar, and decided to avoid carbs as snacks. I had two weeks before I went in for the follow up test to ensure that I did indeed have gestational diabetes, but I didn’t feel like with just months left in the pregnancy, I could spare two weeks risking my baby’s and my health. The follow up test is a more fail-safe test that involves fasting and getting your blood tested four times over the course of three hours. Luckily, I passed that test. Am I sticking with the new diet anyway? Absolutely.

Until this time I had never really confronted my sugar intake, and it was high. I was eating a bowl of sugary cereal (usually Lucky Charms – damn that gluten free seal on the box) at least once a day. And I tended to have a consume all of the chips in the bag or no chips at all problem. Hence the new, no carbs for snacks rule. I have a family with a history of diabetes, and have just watched my mom make some major changes in her diet (she eats no grains and no refined sugar) for preventative reasons over the past 6+ months. So, I feel good about sticking with these choices for the long run.

The crazy big takeaway that I have from these new dietary changes though? It’s that sugar is absolutely, without question, a drug. And that I was addicted to it. Giving up gluten was hard, but as it became trendier, more alternative options appeared and now I can eat pretty much anywhere with all of the gluten free options that are available in not just grocery stores but also in restaurants. Giving up sugar was completely different. I absolutely felt like an addict coming off of some kind of hard drug. I craved lucky charms, and sugary treats in a way that I had never craved food before. I went through withdrawals that made me a crazy person for at least two or three days. One night I couldn’t sleep because I was crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason. (Just ask my boyfriend who got to have a screaming fight with me in public because of it. He’ll tell you, it was bad.) I would attribute the craziness to having reached the notoriously hormonal third trimester of my pregnancy, except that it leveled out after about five days and I feel totally better now. I wholly believe that it was the sugar, or lack thereof.

If you’re still with me, either you’re oddly curious about my personal diet – or you are relating in some way. If the later’s the case, stay tuned tomorrow for some excellent tips on gluten free, sugar free snacks that I’ve been enjoying over the past several weeks.

I don’t really get on the everyone should avoid gluten bandwagon, it works for me but I think that’s because of some really specific stuff about my makeup. Sugar though? I believe it’s poison. You should stop eating it. Just try giving it up for a week. See how that makes you feel, I think you’ll be shocked to find that you were addicted. Then stick with it because you’ll be better for it. And really, if you make it through the withdrawals, you might as well stick with it!

Quick Guide to Eating Gluten Free in Fayetteville

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A friend recently asked where she could take a gluten free friend out to eat and have more options than a salad. I realized that I have learned a lot through trial and error that I should probably share with the world! I stick to a pretty strict gluten free diet, but I do not have Celiac disease – so many of these restaurants may not be suitable for someone who needs gluten free foods cooked in a dedicated gluten free environment. You decide what works for you, and here’s a list to get you started!

  1. Deluxe Burger has gluten free buns for their burgers. They’ll charge you a bit more for the substitute, but it’s so worth it to be able to go out and eat a delicious burger with the bun (like a “normal” person). General gluten free burger eating tips: If you are elsewhere and want a burger, it’s usually pretty easy to order one without a bun. They’ll usually serve it on a piece of lettuce or two and you can munch away with fork and knife. The greasier/cheaper the place, the harder it is to extricate the burger from the bun – so beware.
  2. The Arsaga’s on Church & Center that serves toast has a house made gluten free bread that’s phenomenal and can be subbed in on any of their amazing toast options for just .50 more!
  3. Arsaga’s at the Depot has a gluten free crepe that you can sub in to wrap up any of their delicious options (even their sweet crepe offerings). It’s their buckwheat crepe, which despite it’s name is actually wheat and gluten free.
  4. Eureka Pizza actually makes my favorite gluten free pizza. Their crust has honey in it to act as a binder and it’s just perfect. Plus, it’s pretty cheap – as far as a gluten free pizza goes!
  5. Woodstone Craft Pizza has a gluten free crust as well, and is a good option if you’re looking for something a little more upscale and unique. The crust is usually both rubbery and burned at the same time – but the toppings are so good that it’s worth trying anyway.
  6. Apple Blossom Brewing Co. has two excellent naturally gluten free options: cheese fries (of a few varieties) and a polenta dish with roasted vegetables.
  7. Khana Indian Grill‘s basmati plates are naturally gluten free. I have tried each one and love them all. The dish is served with naan, so you might ask to leave that out – or give it to someone else at your table (I might have tasted it once and discovered that it’s really, really good).
  8. Hammontree’s sometimes has gluten free bread available to sub in on any of their sandwiches. It isn’t on the menu, just ask.

I want to know what you know about eating gluten free in Fayetteville. I’m not eating out this month, but I’ll take all of your suggestions and seek them out in September!

NWArk Local harvest CSA – Week Two

Week two of my Northwest Arkansas Local Harvest CSA included:

  • IMG_9352sweet peppers
  • summer squash and zucchini squash
  • eggplant
  • cucumbers
  • “not so pretty” pears

 

 

 

What I did with it all:

This week the sweet peppers didn’t get any special treatment, and just got chopped to top salads.

The summer squash, zucchini squash, and one of the eggplants all ended up in this tain (like a gratin with chopped onion and other veggies sliced in with the potatoes). It turned out super delicious (though mine did not include tomatoes).

The other eggplant went into these surprisingly excellent tacos. The eggplant was something I’m not super used to cooking, but both the tian and the tacos were really good. Do you have a go-to eggplant recipe that I need to know about? Share it in the comments if you do!

The cucumbers made perfect refrigerator pickles. This time I added fresh dill to round out the flavor a little bit.

IMG_9413IMG_9414And lastly, with the so-called “not so pretty” pears, I made a crisp from my America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. The CSA farmer, Paul, writes about what makes the pears “not so pretty” on this week’s CSA blog post.

P.S. Did you know that everything I cook and bake is gluten-free? Yep. I just substitute a gluten free flour mix where regular wheat flour is called for in any recipe and it usually turns out just as good if not better than the original.

Natural Grocers

Natural Grocers - Now OpenOn Sunday I got the opportunity to attend a sneak peek lunch at Fayetteville’s newest grocery store. Colorado based Natural Grocers will compliment Fayetteville’s existing and coming options for healthy grocery shopping experiences.  The store focuses on science based health and nutrition practices. I was really impressed with the staff’s knowledge of various diets and nutrition from a truly scientific background.  We heard all about the store’s beginnings in Golden, CO and their dedication to health.  They explained their policies and practices in their fabulous little (reservable) meeting space in the front of the store.

natural grocers talkThe thing that has me sold, aside from lower prices, is the list of things the store won’t sell. It’s amazing being in a store where you literally don’t have to read any labels.  Grocery shopping takes me ages because I’m constantly checking the ingredient list for things I don’t want in my food (MSG, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) – at this store, you don’t have to do that!

I giggled, because they don’t provide grocery bags (though they do have boxes in case you forget your bags like I always do).

Things I’m stoked about them carrying: store brand granola at affordable prices, house made peanut and almond butter, organic apple varieties I’ve never even heard of. What has you excited about the new grocery store option?!

 

What Going Gluten Free Has Done for Me

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It’s been just over a year since I stopped eating gluten. The original reason I made the switch from wheat based flour to rice based flour was an article about the ways in which gluten can negatively impact someone with a thyroid disorder – which is something I have. I’ll leave the details of my personal health issues aside, except to mention briefly that going gluten free also cleared up a rash I had on my arms. That’s a little irrelevant to most people, so I’ll focus more on the overall benefits that I have discovered instead. There are two big reasons why I’ve stuck with it for so long and why I won’t be switching back.

The first reason is that I feel healthier. I don’t feel as sluggish and I’ve lost weight. My metabolism has sped up and it feels great. I can eat all day and never feel bloated. Wheat is a filler food, in large quantities it can be really bad for you. Brooke is a great example too because while she still eats gluten, she eats a lot less of it than she used to. We buy gluten free pastas, breads, and flours. She still eats gluten when she brings something home from the restaurant, buys something like granola bars with wheat in them, or of course, when she drinks a beer. She’s living the happy-medium lifestyle and has also lost a lot of weight. It may be lacking specificity, but all I can say is that I really and truly do feel healthier. There’s a lot of science behind it, and you can read books like Wheat Belly to find out more. Really though, I encourage you to give it a try. Don’t eat gluten for just two weeks and you’ll start to feel better, I promise.

The second thing that I really love about being gluten free is something that I thought I would hate. I finally conceded to my parents’ urging me to try giving up gluten in February of 2013. I had just received a whole slew of baking supplies for Christmas including the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Cookbook and a brand new Fiestaware pie pan. I was so terrified that being gluten free would mean giving up baking. Or baking gross cardboard-ish deserts. Instead, I learned a lot. I started making my own flour blend and baking right from that book with it. Pie crusts turned out to be just as good gluten-free. Instead of baking less I started baking more because old favorites were new experiments. Almost everything turned out just as good and some things were even better. So if the fear of losing cookies, brownies, and pies is holding you back – you’ve lost your excuse. Remember how I said I lost a lot of weight? Well it certainly isn’t because I cut these things out, I eat them all the time. It’s the gluten guys.

Are you gluten free? I’d love to hear why! Leave a comment, share your story or fears or tell me why you’d never do it! I want to know!

gluten free chocolate chip cookie mix

chocolate chip cookieschocolate chip cookiesI finally found a chocolate chip cookie mix that fits in a mason jar and is not overly complicated.

Adapted from our 13 year old Betty Crocker cookbook.

Dry Mix:
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup +2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1  1/4 cups gluten free flour blend
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips

Mix sugars together and place in a BNTO. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips in a bowl and funnel into a pint and a half size mason jar. Set the sugars in and close. Write the instructions as seen above on a card and tie or tape it to the jar and you’re good to go! The sugars can be mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, but creaming the butter with them will yeild a better cookie.

gluten free orange cake

orange sweetbreadOne of my most used pins on pinterest is this orange cake recipe. I’ve probaby made it at least a dozen times. I’ve since adapted it to be gluten free. Here’s my recipe:

½ cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon caster sugar (sugar between the texture of granulated and powdered, can be made from granulated sugar pulsed in a coffee grinder or blender)
2 eggs
1 ½ cups + 2 ½ tablespoons gluten free flour mix
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon milk
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
4 tablespoons orange juice

Orange icing:
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar (it’s important to sift the sugar so you don’t get a clumpy icing)
2 tablespoons orange juice
zest of 1 orange, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 350° and line a 8″x4″ loaf pan with parchment paper and grease.
Beat the butter and sugar for 8-10 minutes or until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Add the flour and baking powder and mix well. Add the milk, orange juice and zest and mix until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes or until golden and cooked when tested with a fork. Cool completely on a wire rack, then carefully unmold.
To make the icing: combine the sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Use a palette knife to spread the orange icing over the cake and top with the zest.

gluten free pantry chocolate cake

As I’ve mentioned before my parents have recruited me to make them gluten free cookie mixes like the dry mixes that you can buy. You know, just add an egg and some water and you’re good to go. Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds to make such a simple mix. I’ve been trying all kinds of cookies and haven’t exactly had smashing success (they are never simple enough, and they never fit in the jar). However, that’s not why we’re all here today – enough complaining and on to the good news.

The ever so simple “Pantry Chocolate Cake” from America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, aka: my bible, fits in a jar! I’ve adapted the recipe a bit in order for it to be gluten free, but you can use all purpose wheat flour too.

6a00d83427794753ef019affc6bed6970d-800wicakeAll you’ll need is:
1  1/2 cups gluten free flour mix
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder

1) Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl.

2) Carefully funnel into a quart size mason jar. Measure the cocoa powder into a BNTO (a zip lock bag tucked in the top of the jar will work too).

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3) Add a cute label and some instructions and give it away or stash in your own cupboard!

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home made gluten free dry mixes

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My parents have requested that I make them a variety of gluten free cookie mixes. I started with a layered oatmeal raisin mix that fit well into a large jar, but only when the recipe was halved. My next attempt was chocolate chip, and the above is what happened.. I had to use two jars.

So, I seem to be having trouble getting any of my mixes to fit into my mason jars. My frustration is that I want to use my own recipes, not those designed to fit into a jar.

I think perhaps I should just invest in some bigger jars.muffins

Until then… Here is my oat bran muffin mix not fitting in a jar.

Do you make these jar mixes? How do you get them to fit? Help!