Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chicago Gluten Free/Allergen Free Expo Recap!

This past weekend, I had the experience of a lifetime flying to the windy city with my GFF, Abby, to attend the Gluten Free/Allergen Expo!  As college students, we decided to save money by flying to and from Chicago in the same day.  Needless to say, after leaving Minneapolis at 6am and then flying back from Chicago at 10pm, we had a very exhausting, yet fun day!  

The sunrise we were blessed to see upon arriving in Chicago!

Early morning smiles- we were running on excitement and coffee!

This was my first gluten free expo, so I had no idea what to expect, other than what I had read from other bloggers.  We arrived at the expo right when it started at 10am, and stayed until a little past when it ended at 3pm.  Entering the hotel and convention center was such an amazing feeling!  First of all, it was beautiful. Flowers, large windows, and chandeliers made it feel like I was in a fancy European hotel.  I literally felt like I was in a dream.  Then I entered the huge convention center area filled with gluten free food, vendors, bloggers, and a sea of gluten free foodies wearing colorfully designed shirts.  We were given a gift bag filled with coupons, gluten free snacks, and other amazing goodies.  With no worries about cross contamination, Abby and I proceeded to walk around to all of the vendors stuffing our faces with delicious gluten free samples.  There was everything from granola bars, cookies, brownies, chocolate, bread, deep dish pizza, pasta, crackers, meatballs, smoothies, ice cream, and much more.  It was amazing.  It was overwhelming.  It was gluten free HEAVEN! Never have I ever felt so excited and carefree eating gluten free food to my heart's desire.  I am not sure which food I liked the best because it was all so delicious.  I think one of my favorites was the bread from the company "Bfree."  They also gave us a free loaf of bread for filling out a questionnaire, which was super nice of the company!  After an hour of sampling, our bellies were so full of delicious food that we almost had to remind ourselves to stop eating.  We took a break during the expo to listen to a few speakers, charge our iPhones, and rest our sore feet.  

Near the end of the expo, we went to the red apple lipstick booth to try on lipstick just for fun.  I am not a huge fan of lipstick, but it was still a blast trying on some of the beautiful different colored lipsticks!!  While we were there, we had the pleasure of meeting a few gluten free bloggers, a few of whom I follow on instagram and twitter including Sarah from Celiac in the City, Pam from I'm a Celiac, Alissa from Breaking up with Captain Crunch, and Mel from Geekily GF.  I can't even explain how awesome it was to meet these bloggers in real life.  They were all very nice and easy to talk to, and it was an experience I will forever cherish.  I had an unforgettable time at my first gluten free expo, and I cannot wait to go to another one in the near future!!

Sarah from Celiac in the City!

Mel from Geekily GF!

My bag of gluten free goodies!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Positivity: The Best Form of Medicine

After taking quite the blogging hiatus, I am back!  Busy is the main word to describe my life lately.  Class, homework/studying, registration, work, workouts, meetings, fundraising parties, road trips, and the Gluten Free Expo in Chicago (blog post to come soon) is what I have been up to lately.  I think I forgot to mention taking care of myself and sleeping an adequate amount of hours.  Yes, I admit it.  I have not been been taking care my body as I have preached in the past.  It happens to the best of us.  One thing leads to another, and then before you know it you are sick or extremely stressed out, or both.  And by being sick, I mean gluten sick.  Yes, unfortunately that is what happened to me recently.  I got glutened a few weekends ago from some peanut butter that was cross contaminated at a coffee shop.  The entire week after getting glutened, I was even more sick, yet I still managed to make it through class and other activities with the help of medicine, ginger tea, and a dose of positive mental attitude.  To best honest, I feel like trying to staying positive, even when I was feeling sick, was one of the best things that helped me get through a busy week.  Here 10 things I do to stay positive:                 

1. Go running: Getting some fresh air works wonders for boosting my mood.  Also, exercising gives me the biggest endorphin boost.

2.  Play the piano because music truly is one of the greatest healers.

3.  Pin inspirational quotes on pinterest.

4. Paint a picture.

5.  Take nature pics.

"Everyday may not be great, but there is something great in every day." 

6. Bake my favorite muffins.

7. Call my GFF, Abby: she is one of the only people who truly understands what I am going  through when I get glutened.  I like to call it celiac telepathy.

8. SMILE :)

9. Blast country music and sing until my heart is content.  I also do this on road trips!

10. Read blogs: all of you AMAZING bloggers in this gluten free community are part of the reason why I keep on smiling, even when I am feeling sick or sad.  I can not say THANK YOU enough for the number of times you have put a smile on my face with a simple blog post, email, or tweet.  It truly means the WORLD to me! :)    

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gluten Free Communion Hosts!

Hello! This post is going to be short and sweet.  I have exciting news!!  My hometown church finally started offering gluten free hosts.  Since I am home for spring break, I was able to try the new gluten free hosts tonight at Ash Wednesday mass!  As a Catholic, this was a very special moment for me.  It has been nearly 2 years since I have had communion at church.  Sunday after sunday, I have only been able to drink the wine, but not eat the bread at mass.  Every single time, it breaks my heart that I am not able to eat the bread, even though I know I will be doing my body a favor.  I am so thankful that my church starting offering these special hosts, which are shipped in from a company where they are prepared in a safe gluten free environment.  For once, I feel like a normal Catholic.  It's the little things.  Baby steps, my friends.  Gluten free options are improving significantly right now, and I can't wait to see where they will be in the next few years!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mastering Gluten Free in the Cafeteria

I have been eating gluten free at college for 1.5 years now, and it has only been the past few months that new gluten free options have become available.  It has been really nice to have  more options, but I'm not going to lie, I am still beyond ready to live in an apartment and cook for myself next year!  I tend to make myself oatmeal or a smoothie (yes, microwaves and blenders are allowed!) in my dorm room for breakfast, but I rely on the cafeteria for lunch and/or dinner most days.  Dinner is my favorite meal to eat in the cafeteria because it involves laughing and catching up with friend(s).  Also, there are more options available for dinner than lunch, including the delicious "mongolian" stir fry bar.

When I first started college as a gluten free newbie, I felt like I was navigating a maze whenever I went to the cafeteria.  Yes, I had talked to the dietician about gluten free options, but it was still confusing.  I had no idea about cross contamination because no one had ever told me.  I had to figure this out the hard way by getting sick and not knowing what in the world was the culprit.  Thanks to the amazing gluten free community, I soon realized what cross contamination truly was and how it was affecting me.  I learned that I could no longer eat the hummus or salsa in the cafeteria that was most likely contaminated by the pita bread, or have my stir fry cooked on the main grill.  Instead of having a pity party for myself, I started to advocate for myself.  This has not been an overnight change.  It has been continuous throughout the past 1.5 years.  Baby steps is what I keep telling myself.  Here are a few of the things that have made my cafeteria experience better, and I would recommend doing the following if you are a gluten free college student:

1. Talk to the dietician ahead of time about gluten free options.  I did this before starting my freshman year, and it clarified a lot of my questions and concerns.    

2.  Personally get to know at least one of the chefs.   This is important because they really do care about you and want you to be healthy and happy.  I have had a great experience with the chefs at my school.  Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and get to know them, and just remember that their job is to make sure you have delicious and safe food!

3.  Bring your own foods into the cafeteria that are not offered if you wish.  For me, some of these foods include avocados, almonds, goat cheese, and chocolate.  They are random, but delicious foods that are not offered gluten free in the cafeteria. 

4.  READ LABELS!! This should be a no-brainer for anyone with gluten sensitivity/celiac disease in the first place.  I stress reading labels even if you are brought a "gluten free" packaged food/meal because mistakes are bound to happen.  I mean, we are all human, therefore we all make mistakes.  I have found gluten filled "organic" bread in the gluten free fridge before and have been brought "gluten free" soup that is not certified gluten free (packaged in a factory that uses wheat).  Thank goodness I read the labels, and did not eat these foods.  I also informed the dietician and cafeteria workers of the problem.  Again, this is a personal choice, but if you are very sensitive to gluten, it is something I highly recommend.  Better safe than sorry.  

5.  Be patient.  This is a hard one for me, and I am still working on it.  Many times I have to wait double the amount of time for my dinner than my friends.  Especially if I am eating dinner after a workout, I am hungry  starving, and food is all I can think about.  Often, while I am waiting for my gluten free meal, I snack on a salad or chips and rice while I wait.  This is nice because I am still able to chat with friends instead of standing up and waiting for my food for 10 minutes.         

I hope you enjoyed my tips! I am curious: if anyone of you are gluten free in college, what gluten free options are available, and how have your experiences been?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Crazy For Quest Bars!

I am not a huge granola bar fan, but after going gluten free, I realized that having a granola bar or other snack on me at all times is a must!  While running around campus between classes all day, I like to have a snack with enough protein to tide me over until my next meal.  So far, my favorite go-to granola bars are Larabars and Kind bars.  I am always on the lookout for a new product to try, and I have recently come across Quest Nutrition protein bars on Instagram.  Quest bars are high protein (20g/bar), low sugar gluten free bars made from whey and milk protein isolate.  And for those of you, like me, who are lactose intolerant, they are fairly easy to tolerate because they contain a milk-derived protein instead of milk.  They can be found at GNC or pretty much any other supplement store.  I decided to give Quest bars a shot after reading so many great reviews, and plus, they have so many different flavors!  I have only tried 3 flavors: coconut cashew, chocolate brownie, and peanut butter, and my favorite flavor was definitely the chocolate!  The only thing I would recommend is warming up the bars in the microwave for 10-20 seconds because they are a bit chewy.  On Instagram, I have even seen posts about people making cookies, muffins, and other decadent creations out of these bars.  I decided to make my own Quest bar creation using the chocolate brownie flavor.  

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Quest Bar Cookies


-1 chocolate Quest bar
-2-4 tbsp. of Dark Chocolate peanut butter (or other nut butter of choice)
-1-2 tbsp. of powdered sugar


-Microwave Quest bar for 10 seconds so that it softens
-Pre-heat oven to 400° F
-Cut Quest bar into 4 squares
-Round Quest bar squares into balls and flatten so that they make cookies
-Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 6-10 minutes, or until slightly brown
-Top each cookies with a spoonful of peanut butter 
-Sprinkle powdered sugar over cookies 

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Oatmeal Obsession + New Recipes!

Let's talk oatmeal.  I don't even know where to begin.  I am tempted to make an ode to oatmeal because I love it so much, but I don't have much experience with poetry.  Warm. Melt in your mouth. Creamy. Amazing. Heaven in a bowl.  The list goes on and on.  I could eat oatmeal for every meal and be perfectly content!  The reason for this is because of the endless number of combinations; a few of my favorites include chocolate & peanut butter, banana nut, strawberry shortcake, blueberry muffin, carrot cake, tropical dreams, cinnamon sugar, and topped with granola.  It's funny that I am professing my love for oatmeal, because nearly 2 years ago before I went gluten free, I despised it.  Maybe it was because my mom made it every single morning for breakfast when I was in high school.  Maybe it was the disgusting raisins. Maybe it was the fact that I would always end up with a stomachache after eating it.  I'm not quite sure.  All I know is that after I went gluten free, something changed inside of me.  Of course, my chronic stomachaches slowly disappeared, but my tastebuds also became more excited by foods I used to hate.  Enter: gluten free oats.  When I discovered that gluten free oatmeal was an easy and satisfying breakfast option in lieu of my daily bowl(s) of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I was ready to try something new.  I started researching gluten free oatmeal recipes, when I came across the amazing blog the Oatmeal Artist.  I was so excited to see the numerous creative oatmeal recipes, and I realized that oatmeal could be much more than just a boring bowl of mushy warm cereal. 

Since I started college, oatmeal has been my breakfast of choice.  I make it every day in my microwave using Trader Joe's plain gluten free oats, almond milk, and a banana.  My oatmeal toppings change all the time, which is why I never get bored of eating it!  Lately, I have even started making overnight oats to take with me to class, which I discovered from fellow blogger Amber.  The idea of overnight oats is pure genius, especially for college students.  Simply prepare it the evening before by adding oats, milk, and toppings of choice to a container.  Then, voila! The next morning you are ready to grab your tupperware of oats to go when you are rushing out the door.  Plus, letting the oats soak overnight gives them an amazingly creamy texture that is to die for!  

Here are 2 of my favorite oatmeal recipes.  Feel free to make them as normal oatmeal or overnight oats.  The preparation process is the same, except for the overnight oats, let them sit in the fridge overnight before eating them!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Dreams Oatmeal

-1/2 cup gluten free oats
-1 cup milk of choice (I used almond)
-1-2 tbsp. peanut butter
-1-2 tsp. cocoa powder
-1/2 banana, sliced
-sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Directions: Microwave incredigents 1-2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 1 more minute or until desired consistency is reached.  Top with nuts or granola for an added crunch!

Strawberry Coconut Oatmeal

-1/2 cup gluten free oats
-1 cup milk of choice
-1-2 tbsp almond butter (optional, I love nut butters so I was trying out a new combo!)
-a heaping handful of unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut 
-4 strawberries, sliced

Directions: Microwave ingredients 1-2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 1 more minute or until desired consistency is reached.  Top with nuts or granola for an added crunch!

In addition to oatmeal, another one of my favorite uses for oats is in baked goods, such as cookies! I made a delicious batch of these peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and I didn't even have to make a run to the grocery store! I also added toasted coconut for an extra crunch! You can find the recipe here. Enjoy!

Friday, January 24, 2014

New Gluten Free Cafeteria Options!

Second semester is off to a great start!  I love all of my classes and professors, and to make it even better, I don't have any 8am classes! WOOHOO!! While I am busy with classes, work, skiing, and homework, I somehow still find time to eat.  I know, most of us don't have to remind ourselves to eat, but having a busy schedule, I have to make sure I eat enough to keep me going throughout the day.  Lately, I have also been dealing with low blood sugar issues, so eating every few hours is a must! I always carry around larabars, bananas, and almonds in my backpack, just in case I get hungry or start to feel my blood sugar drop.  As I have learned in the past, having a snack with you is SO important.  I have always heard others tell me this, but you don't realize how it important it is until you actually run into a sticky situation, like I did in Spain.  

The first week of this semester, I received an email from the new dietician telling me of the new "secretive" gluten free cafeteria options.  I was both surprised and excited because the options have not been very exciting the past 2 years.  I am calling these options "secretive" because they are hidden in a fridge in the back of the kitchen, and they are only made known to those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.  In order to get any of the new gluten free items, I have to talk to one of the chefs and have him/her retrieve the item from the kitchen.  I have to admit, it is much more convenient that calling ahead and ordering food, but the few times I have asked for a gluten free item, it has taken atleast 10 minutes to have the item located.  For example, yesterday I asked for gluten free almond butter and a waffle, and by the time the food came out, my friends had already finished their meal.  Although this can be a hassle, it is so nice to be able to indulge in a gluten free treat every one in a while.  I can finally eat a real dessert instead of just cereal and a peanut butter.   

The new items I have tried include a Glutino toaster pastry, Udi's cinnamon roll, Van's waffle, Barney almond butter, and KIND granola.  Sadly, I was a bit disappointed in a few of the items, including the cinnamon roll, only because I microwaved it instead of baking it.  The Van's waffles are my favorite treat, but I still find that my favorite meals include naturally gluten free foods.  For example, I have eaten stir fry nearly every night this past week, and I have made a different variation of it every time.  I have even made it with quinoa, which is delicious!  I also bring other foods into the cafeteria to add to my meals that are not usually available such as goat cheese, almonds, hummus, mustard, salsa, and chocolate.  

In addition to these new items, the cafeteria has also started labeling allergens on all of the main food stations.  This has been such a great improvement because now I know exactly which foods and safe and not safe.  I never expected all of these new changes, and I want to thank CSB/SJU for making my gluten free college experience better!  I would definitely give my school a 7 or 8/10 for gluten free options and awareness.  Yes, there are a few things that I would change in the future, but I believe that the gluten free options have made leaps and bounds from 2 years ago.  Check out the list of new gluten free items:         

Glutino Toaster Pastry: Strawberry Chunky Tomato
Glutino Toaster Pastry: Apple Cinnamon Butternut Squash
Glutenfreeda Instant Oatmeal: Apple Cinnamon w/ Flax Chicken Noodle
Glutenfreeda Instant Oatmeal: Maple Raisin w/ Flax
Bakery on Main Instant Oatmeal: Original Dressings and spreads:
Bakery on Main Instant Oatmeal: Strawberry Shortcake Bragg Organic Braggberry dressing
Bakery on Main Instant Oatmeal: Maple Multigrain Muffin Bragg Healthy Vinaigrette
Erewhon cereal: Strawberry Crisp Annie's Naturals Organic Dressing: Caesar
Erewhon cereal: Cocoa Crispy Brown Rice Barney Butter: Almond Butter- Crunchy
Van's Waffles Peanut Butter & Co: White Chocolate Wonderful
Van's cereal: Cinnamon Heaven Earth Balance Butter Spread: Original
Entrees: Crackers:
Amy's Mac and Cheese Absolutely Flatbread: Original
Amy's Garden Lasagna
Crunchmaster Multi-Grain Crackers: Sea Salt
Amy's Bowls:

Broccoli & Cheddar Bake
Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers: Original
Amy's Bowls: Mexican Casserole
Amy's Bowls: Tortilla Casserole & Black Beans Desserts:
Amy's Thai Red Curry Gluten Free has never tasted so good Donuts: Chocolate 
Amy's Cheese Enchilada Gluten Free has never tasted so good Donuts: Vanilla
Amy's Burrito: Non-dairy Udi's Cinnamon Rolls
Full Circle Thai Red Curry Chicken Mrs Crumbles Macaroons: Chocolate
Full Circle Chicken Teriyaki
Full Circle Butter Chicken Granola:
Udi's Pizza: Three Cheese KIND granola: Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters
Pepperoni KIND granola: Oats & Honey Clusters
Margherita KIND granola: Cinnamon Oat Clusters
Glutenfreeda Burrito:
Beef and Potato
KIND granola: Vanilla Blueberry Clusters
Glutenfreeda Burrito: Chicken and Cheese
KIND granola: Maple Quinoa Clusters
Chicken Nuggets