The Power of Food: Homemade Clif Bars

Discovering I had non-gluten sensitivity was the start of my journey towards health.  A post-diagnosis journey which has had, highs, brief moments of calm, and lows. Discovering food was the culprit to my mystery health problems, really made me reevaluate my life and look at the choices I was making.  

My college days weren’t full of beer and pizza, but rather I befriended quinoa and then broke up with dairy, eggs, peanuts, garlic, peas, grapefruit, and pineapple.

Over the past 5 years I’ve learned to mend my relationship with food and have  learned I am the expert of my body. Some of my choices have caused some to shake their heads in disagreement, but over all, this journey has led me to where I am today – more confident, healthier, and the one who is in control of how I feel.

Knowledge is powerful. Gaining knowledge can lead to empowerment. Knowledge can lead you to a sense of control when life feels uncontrollable.

I am in control of the things that I can do to keep me healthy – what goes into my mind and what goes into my mouth. 

Hence my passion for positivity and total  wellness. 

Once again my theory came true this past September – Things don’t happen for a reason, but rather people walk into your life at the right time, when I started going to a new dietitian. For the past few months I had been feeling unusually tired, lost the desire to eat, was starting to notice food pain triggers, and just wasn’t feeling right, even though all my foods were gluten-free.  Knowing there was  nothing seriously wrong and  not wanting my life to be consumed with doctors appointments, I decided once again, it was time to take a close look at my diet. 

Since the day I got diagnosed with gluten-sensitivity I have truly believed, you are what you eat, and what is put into and onto your body matters. This belief continues to hold true. It’s been a month of cutting down on sugar, eating more veggies and raw foods, and less processed foods. 

Clif BarsI’ve made the switch from relying on processed foods to making my own alternatives.   It is definitely more time-consuming, but its helped me to once again see the healing power of food, and has left me feeling happier & healthier! Today, I’m sharing with you a great recipe that my dietitian gave me for homemade Clif bars, which happens to come from Chocolate Covered Katie

Homemade Clif Bars
gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, soy-free
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Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup gluten-free quick oats or rolled oats
  2. 1/8 tsp Himalayan salt
  3. 1 cup freeze-dried raspberries or strawberries (I used combo of fresh)
  4. 1/3 cup Bare Barney Almond Butter (Nut-Free: use Sunbutter)
  5. 1/4 cup honey
Instructions
  1. Line a pan with parchment or wax paper, and set aside. (Recipe fills a 7×5 pan, or you can double the recipe and use a larger pan.) In a blender or food processor (or patiently with a fork), process the freeze-dried berries until they are broken up into tiny pieces or powder. Stir all dry ingredients together in a cereal bowl, then stir in the nut butter. (If your nut butter is from the fridge, gently heat it until stir-able before mixing with the dry ingredients.) Add in the honey and mix until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to the prepared pan, and smush down evenly into the pan with a second sheet of parchment or wax paper. Freeze the pan at least one hour, then cut the bars with a sharp knife. Store at room temp or in the refrigerator for a few days, OR freeze for up to a month. Makes 6 bars the size of the ones in the photos.
Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
http://www.embracegfree.com/

 What has been some of the greatest lessons you have learned since being diagnosed with a celiac, gluten sensitivity or any other chronic health condition?

DF Mavens: Local & Delicious New Find

I’ve gotten away from posting about my finds at the GFAF expo in Secaucus , NJ. Although a month has passed I’ve still got some great products to inform you about. This year at the expo there weren’t many ‘new-to-me companies’ that I came across. However, when thinking about this category of companies, without a doubt my favorite was DF Mavens

They not only had a fun booth, but I love that this is a  local NY company who makes delicious dairy-free ice cream which even non-dairy lovers will enjoy. Mama Clifford was an instant fan after she tried their Key Lime flavor ice cream!DSC_0027DF Mavens is based in Astoria, Queens and creates a variety of dairy-free ice cream flavors, which includes coconut, almond, and soy based flavors.  All products made by DF Mavens are gluten and dairy free, are vegan, and are packed with great flavors.  Additionally DF Mavens makes a no sugar added line.  

At the expo I was overwhelmed with the array of flavors DF Mavens had to offer, so I asked one of their customer reps what their most popular flavors were. Currently their most popular flavors are Mint Almond Cookie, Mocha Almond Chip, Del Lago Chocolate, and New Orleans Salted Praline. However, because they didn’t have Del Lago Chocolate at the expo and I’m not a mint or mocha fan, I went with what Mama Clifford had. Two Key Lime ice creams coming right up! I loved the smoothness and flavor of this ice cream. 

DF Mavens

And if trying their ice cream at the expo didn’t make me happy enough, I was even more excited when I learned they will be opening a store front.  Soon I will be able to go out for ice cream in NYC!!

 Currently DF Mavens Ice Cream is being sold on the east coast and at Whole Foods, and can be delivered to your home!  To learn more about this up and coming company, visit their website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Yoga: Good for the Mind. Good for the Body

If you follow Embrace G-Free on Twitter you have probably noticed that I’ve taken up a new hobby: Yoga!  I’ve become slightly obsessed since I signed-up for a 30-day trial back in August, and now I’ve committed myself for another 3 months. 

I’ve always wanted to get into yoga, have taken a few classes here and there, but there always seemed to be some obstacle in the way.  However, in an effort to get my daily dose of stretching in,and needing a new routine I decided to give a local studio a try.  By no means am I the most flexible or the most balanced in the class.

But  what I have found is yoga has brought me an unexpected balance in my life. 

0d77f7860d9902e7193199676149f5e3Practicing yoga has given me a sense of calmness in the unexpected twists and turns that life can throw at you, it has provided me with peace, helped me to become more mindful, and has become an activity which is helping me to live out my best life. Yoga has allowed me to take time to look within, to heal, and has taught me unexpected lessons.  It’s amazing how the simple movements and words spoken by my teacher has resonated with me.  

I’m not one of those gifted individuals who can re-sight the entire movie of Mean Girls or recall a movie line when someone references the line in a conversations. So when a phrase resonates in my brain, you know the saying has a pretty profound impact on me. 

Honor your body where it’s at. In the stillness we are all perfect. 

The basic principle of self-love: Honor your body, honor yourself.  Like many of you, seeking answers to receive a proper celiac disease/ gluten-sensitivity or any other chronic illness diagnosis took years, cost thousands of dollars, and sucked a lot of energy out of our bodies, our minds and our hearts. 

Once that diagnosis comes it’s the gift you have been longing for: an answer! But after you leave the doctor’s office is when the real healing begins. Just like a wound, at first the ‘diagnosis’ or the ‘script to follow a gluten-free diet’ may hurt more; I’m not talking about the physical pain, but the ‘emotional stuff.’ The fear, resentment, guilt, depression, sadness, grief, or disappointment. But over time, your body and mind will heal. 

This is not to say that moments of frustration or sorrow won’t come up again. They most likely will. However, what yoga has taught me is, honor it all. Honor the good, the bad, and the ugly. Everyday isn’t going to be perfect, but we have the choice to be our worse enemy or our greatest supporter.  Will you choose to be your biggest enemy or your best healer

Make the choice to honor your body in a positive way and have a great day! 

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Fall Flavors from So Delicious

Can you believe it’s nearly October? Our mild northeast summer seemed to zip by, and now many of us are getting ready to pumpkin and apple pick. It sure didn’t feel like fall this past weekend though with temperatures in the low 80s, perfect for this girl who can’t stand the cold and a great day for ice cream! Luck for me, along with some other dairy free goodies, So Delicious sent me their new coconut-frozen treats. 

So Delicious Fall Treats

While I love the creativity behind both flavors I have to give the ‘prize ribbon’ to the candy corn flavor.  Now, I know what you are thinking. How can ice cream that is a replica of sugar filled candy possibly taste good? Because the team at So Delicious are creative geniuses. Instead of the pure sugar taste of traditional candy corn, the team created a treat which you can feel good about.  The top half is a vanilla base, with the tip having a chocolate coating, and the bottom is a familiar orange ice pop taste. 

Papa Clifford also tried one of these frozen treats, his first time eating dairy-free ice cream. While I could not taste the hint of coconut, he picked this flavor up.  I’m thinking my taste buds are more adapted then his to this flavor. However, with that being said he still gave this ice cream treat two-thumbs up! 

So Delicious Candy Corn

Next up, was the Pumpkin Spice frozen treat.  I would of never thought to put this flavor into ice cream, but then again, whenever my school served pumpkin ice cream, everyone went crazy. Except me of course, considering it was full of dairy. However, with this new ice cream I now got to experience pumpkin ice cream my way! 

Like all things pumpkin, this ice cream was good. You could really taste the pumpkin spice throughout this treat. Not only is this fun fall ice cream to enjoy, but I bet, it would make a great fall flavored ice cream shake when paired with So Delicious’ Pumpkin Spice drink. Do I have any takers on this idea? 

So Delicous Pumpkin Spice

Thanks So Delicious for continually creating delicious dairy free products that everyone loves. To learn more about their products, visit their website or check out my other posts featuring So Delicious products. 

Note: The products highlighted in this post were provided to me at no cost, but the opinions expressed on this blog are completely my own. 

Homemade Gluten-Free Granola

I’m all about convenience. Whenever you can make your day a little easier, go for it.  Heck, a few months back, I looked for anyway to have more extra ‘me’ time throughout the day.  While my weeks have been a little less chaotic, the days still seem to fly by. I don’t believe in the word ‘bored’. Boredom in my book, is a choice, not a feeling.  I’m not saying you have to fill you days to the max and constantly be busy. However, what I am trying to express is that we need to get comfortable with sitting still; enjoy some down time on the couch, read a book, or meditate.  This will help you to become more mindful. Allow you to experience your senses, and find peace with where you are in life. 

I’ve found becoming more mindful, makes moments where I just want to pull my hair out a little less stressful; allows me to find comfort with where I’m in life, and significantly decreased the stupid comparison game I often play. 

All thanks to yoga. 

Though I have ‘extra time’ in my days I have never once chosen boredom. There have been many hobbies and things I have wanted to do, but didn’t have the time.  I’ve picked up yoga, want to get more into photography, and have even had time to research recipes, rather than relying on ones that I’ve cooked over and over. 

I’ve always tried to eat ‘clean’, and use products that are non-toxic whenever possible. However, sometimes it was just easier to pick up a package granola, cookies, cleansers, or salad dressings from the store, rather than make it on my own.  Now that I’m out of school I have been finding myself looking up more natural beauty remedies and recipes on Pinterest

Gluten Free GranolaOne blog which was recommended to me was 100 Days of Real Food. It’s not a gluten-free blog, but there are great recipes, which can easily be modified. I have found so many yummy recipes on this blog, some of which I will be sharing on a later date.  Today I’m going to share a new family favorite: homemade gluten-free granola. 

Homemade Gluten-Free Granola
gluten-free, peanut-free, egg-free, dairy-free
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Ingredients
  1. 3½ cups gluten-free rolled oats (if you want bars use steel cut oats so it will stick together better)
  2. 1 cup raw cashew pieces (or walnuts or pecans)
  3. 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  4. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  5. 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
  6. ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  7. 6 tablespoons organic Earth Balance
  8. ½ cup honey
  9. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  10. ½ teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
  11. Also need – parchment paper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cover a rectangular baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the dry oats, cashews, seeds and spices together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Heat the butter and honey together in a small saucepan over low heat. Once the butter melts stir in the vanilla and salt.Pour the hot liquids over the dry ingredients and stir together with a rubber spatula until evenly coated.
  4. Spread mixture onto prepared pan in one even layer. Bake for 75 minutes.The granola will become crisp as it cools at which point you can break into pieces (if making bars) or break it up into small chunks by pounding it in a zip lock bag (if making cereal). Store in air tight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Adapted from 100 Days of Real Food
http://www.embracegfree.com/

Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

Life has been full of adjustments lately, but then again, life is a journey of constant adjustments.  Some people tend to make adjustments more frequently, some adapt quicker, and others just take a little more time to get cozy in the new phases of their life.  I anticipated having a hard time with post graduation life. But then again I think I took a lot of life lessons which I learned and applied to transitioning to non-academia life.  

Mainly, I’ve being living by the philosophy, that there are controllable variables in life and things that are a just 100% out of your control.   Mentally while I didn’t want to be  pessimistic , I also wanted to mentally prepare myself for the reality that I, unlike my brother was not going to have a full-time job come September. I aggressively applied, but the job market in field is tough now.

I truly believed that you end up where your suppose to be in life. Your first job, whatever it be is meant to teach you something you need to learn; maybe not about your profession, but about where you were meant to be in life at this very moment.  Finding peace and shifting your mind to acknowledge the positives helps a lot in those rocky moments of life.

And breathing….don’t forget to breathe.  

In the mist of the transition I’m adjusting to a new schedule, trying to pick up some new hobbies, and hopefully getting myself caught up on blog posts and reviews that I’m just getting around to.   When I started blogging my turn-around was quicker, but once grad school life hit and I realized I couldn’t be super woman and stay up all hours of the night, I took a little more time to be a more mindful, and really think about how I wanted to create my posts.  I want my blog to be a place where people can find quality information. 

Sweet Debbie Bread

Back in June, I was sent a complementary  copy of Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats Cookbook.  I was SUPER excited to test out this cookbook, since it was made with all ingredients that met my food intolerances and was the baked goods where low in sugar.  Well, after taking a long ponder to figure out what I would was going to test out I settled on pumpkin pie muffins and bread! 

Considering it was fall, the pumpkin muffins were an easy choice, but I decided to make the bread because I love the smell of freshly baked bread.  Both creations were delicious, and if I didn’t tell you they were free of gluten, dairy, soy, egg, peanuts and sugar you would never know.  

I mean, look at them. They’re super cute, and so up on the fall trends. 

Muffins 1

In order to make these you will have to make Debbie’s All purpose gluten-free baking flour. It’s  a great blend.  Typically I’m not one that loves to buy a million and one gluten-free flours; it’s expensive! However, as I learn more about gluten-free baking I am learning that each flour does really make a difference when making your sweet little treats.  

Sweet Debbie's All Purpose Flour
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Ingredients
  1. 1 c. tapioca flour
  2. 3/4 c. sorghum flour
  3. 3/4 c. millet flour
  4. 1/4 c. ivory teff flour
  5. 1/4 c. quinoa flour
Instructions
  1. Put all the flours in a gallon size zip lock baggie and toss around and turn upside down the throughly.
http://www.embracegfree.com/
I made a list and checked it twice, but after coming home from my grocery shopping adventure I realized I forgot one flour to make the bread as directed in the book. However, I thought quick on my feet and made a minor modification.  Although the bread is delicious this is not the recipe which I am going to give you a sneak peek into.  The pictures in the cookbook will make your mouth water and there are plenty of great recipes to choose from.  

It’s fall, and if you are anything like myself, you’ve got pumpkin on the brain. Once I made a batch of the all-purpose flour, these pumpkin muffins were straight forward and fairly quick to whip up. An aroma of fresh-baked goods will fill your house. I couldn’t take the anticipation and after about 10 minutes, it was time to try one. They were great! 

You will just have to find out for yourself... 

Muffin 2

Pumpkin Pie Muffins
gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, sugar-free
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Ingredients
  1. 2 standard-size paper baking cups
  2. 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
  3. 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  4. 2 teaspoons sodium-free baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. ½ teaspoon guar gum
  7. ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  8. ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  9. ¼ cup coconut nectar
  10. ⅜ teaspoon stevia powder
  11. 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  12. ¾ cup unsweetened plain rice milk ( I used coconut milk)
  13. Topping
  14. 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper baking cups.
  2. Whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, guar gum and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle.Add the grapeseed oil, coconut nectar and stevia and stir to combine. Add the pumpkin puree and rice milk, and stir until the liquid is absorbed and the batter is smooth.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, dividing it evenly. Each cup should be about three-quarters full. Dust the top of each with a sprinkling of cinnamon.Bake the muffins for 16 to 18 minutes, or until they are golden orange and bounce back slightly to the touch. Rotate the muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking.
  4. Transfer the muffin tin to a wire rack and let sit for about 10 minutes before removing the muffins to cool completely. Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
http://www.embracegfree.com/
Note: The products highlighted in this post were provided to me at no cost, but the opinions expressed on this blog are completely my own. 

Adding my Own Twist: Schar Pancakes

There’s a great debate. When does summer end and fall begin? Is it when the kids go back to school or is it when the calendar says it is? Then there’s pumpkin. Is the flavor acceptable year-round or only starting in late September early October? 

In my eyes, summer ends when the kids go back to school.  There’s something about this time of year where there’s subtle weather changes and the change in people’s pace make it feel more like fall and less like summer. Pumpkin on the other hand, while I typically only start cooking with this flavor late september till Thanksgiving, should be acceptable year round.  It’s one of those flavors which seems ‘weird’ year round, but seriously it’s so good. Why do I, and so many only limited ourself to this flavor for a short time in the calendar year? This trend might have to change this year. Pumpkin is too good to only eat for 3 months. 

Last weekend was the first weekend which had a little bite in the air up in the Northeast.  Saturday was one of those ‘fall days’ where I traditionally like to snuggle up in bed with a good book, or movie under my heated blanket.  Well, I did get cozy and warm under my heated blanket, but instead of a good book or movie, I spent quality time with my National Counselor exam study book. How I missed my roommate Jen and our apartment in those moments… though we conversed in our torture of studying via text. 

IMG_2152The crispy air and a some new products I received inspired me to kick pumpkin season off a little earlier this year. Boy am I so glad that I did.  I started Monday morning off right, with some good-old pumpkin pancakes. 

At the Schar blogger’s event I was one of the lucky ones who walked home with a HUGE basket of Schar goodies.  There were many of my favorite Schar products included in the basket, some new introductions, a few items which I shared with my family {Side Note: Papa Clifford loved the Hazelnut Chocolate Bars} and friend Jackie since I myself could not enjoy some foods due to allergies, and even a $50 gift card which I of course spent on gluten-free food! 

Schar BasketOne of the items which I was excited to try was Schar’s Pancake and Waffle mix.  I rely on many of their bread products since many of them are made without eggs, but never came across this mix before.  The directions were straight forward, and I anticipated that I would once again become more in love with Schar; their products are great and the passion and dedication behind this team is one-of-a-kind. They really live out their company motto which stands above their logo: ‘We Care.’ 

The pancake mix called for eggs and milk so I used an egg and milk substitute which worked very well. The pancakes were great and this was once again a product which “didn’t taste gluten-free.” SUCCESS!

Fall Inspired Schar Pancakes
gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free
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Ingredients
  1. 1 c. of Schar pancake mix
  2. 2 flax eggs (See Directions)
  3. 1 1/3 cup So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Milk
  4. 1/3 c of Organic Pumpkin
  5. 1 tsp of vanilla exact
  6. 1 1/5 tsp of cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Make flax eggs mixing 2 TBSP of flax meal and 6 TBSP of water in bowl. Let sit in the fridge for at least 5 minutes. While flax eggs are resting follow the recipe as directed on back of Schar box. Mix all ingredients together, adding eggs last. Cook pancake on pan and enjoy
http://www.embracegfree.com/
Not only did I get to test out Schar’s pancake mix, but I got to try out one of So Delicious’ seasonal milks.  Because I was, and still am not a milk drinker testing out this milk in pancakes was perfect. This milk is the KEY add-in ingredient. When you open the milk it smells like fall, and adding it to your baked goods or pancakes adds a fall spice. I’m in love with this product and can’t wait to add this milk to my muffins this fall. To learn more about So Delicious’  seasonal drinks click here! Hint: There are more reviews to come. 

Pumpkin Pancakes

I hope you can become inspired by this recipe and doctor up your Schar pancakes next time you make breakfast! Thank you Schar for putting on such a fun event for us bloggers and for the gluten-free swag. To learn more about their products visit their website or find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterst and Instagram

 Note: The products highlighted in this post were provided to me at no cost, but the opinions expressed on this blog are completely my own. 

Pumpkin Pancake

Two Loves Become One: Advocating for Children

I am lucky to be one of those individuals to have a long list of passions. Some are connected and some are just things I love.  There’s advocating, baking, blogging, counseling, educating, organizing, nutrition, fitness, and the gluten-free/allergen free community, just to name a few.

If you have frequented this blog you know I’m a recent graduate and am seeking employment.  Having a lot of passions is great, and I feel lucky to know what I love, but when it comes to trying figuring out my career path things can get a little complicated. Your mind can go in a million directions and although my degree is in school counseling, I’m looking at a variety of options in the counseling setting. I don’t want to box myself in, and want to gain the experience employers are looking for.  

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However, say the words elementary school counseling and I light up.  I absolutely love this age group and love everything about being in an elementary school. Regardless of what I am going through in my personal life, surround me with a group of young kids and something fun to do with them and you can bet I’m all smiles and forgetting about what’s going on in my world. 

It’s easy for me to get into their worlds, understand their culture, and just find a way to making the tough times they go thru a little easier.  As a counselor there are always populations which we want to specialize in or are interested in. Once again having a lot of passion makes me have a lot of speciality areas which I am interested in, but all in all I have one that sticks out the most.  Children living with chronic illnesses.  If I could ask  the job fairy to fulfill my dream job it would be to put me in a setting where I can work with children and their family post diagnosis.  Because regardless of the age of diagnosis there is a need to pay attention to the child’s and family’s emotional health.  e30829903af879505b9a24effde292f8

However, when working with kids you have to make it fun and get on their level of understanding.  They don’t want to ‘talk’ about their feelings, rather you are more likely to see their emotions through their language of play. 

Receiving a diagnosis can really effect the family system and many parents often be unsure of how to explain the children what is happening with their bodies or why they can no longer eat certain foods as their friends.  Heck, it’s hard to explain to some adults that I can’t eat any gluten! Now imagine what this might feel like for a child.  One way to explain a new health situation to a child, without ‘sitting them down to talk’ is thru reading a children’s book.  You would be amazed with how much a story can help them! 

At the GFAF expo I had the pleasure of meeting author and elementary school teacher, Ellena Torsiello.  I LOVE children’s books and was excited to learn about her book.  She was unbelievably sweet and when she heard I was an aspiring elementary school counselor and gluten-free blogger she gave me a signed copy of her book, Gluten Free Willie Villie Meets Casey Kramps in Sprueville. It’s a fun little story with cute illustrations that I think kids will really enjoy. One of the things I also really like in this book too, is at the end, Torsiello, provides parents with tips on how to help parents cope with celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.  I don’t want to give away the story, but I will provide you would the back cover summary.

“Casey Kramps is a 6-year-old little boy who is newly diagnosed with Celiac disease.  He meets Willie Villie from a gluten-free planet who (Spruton) who shows him that he just needs to make dietary changes to live a happy and healthy life. Their extraordinary adventure together allows Casey to understand more about his autoimmune disorder and accept his lifetime of dietary changes.  Casey no longer depressed about this gluten-free diet and looks at his gluten-free diet in a more positive and optimistic manner. “

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via www.willievillie.com

It is one day my dream to have a resources center in my office filled with books for both children and parents.  I can assure you this book will be one which will sit on my shelves. This book is available in both paperback and on your kindle.  You can also visit the books website or find them on Facebook or Twitter

What books have you read or read to your children which have made the coping process a little easier?