Summertime Fun with So Delicious

Around this time of year, the wonderful people at So Delicious send me delicious samples of their frozen treats! Although I had already brought their newest flavor of dairy-free, gluten-free deliciousness, Cookies N Cream, I was so excited to get this sample in the mail! Originally, I thought the company was just sending  me the almond-based and coconut-based Cookies N Cream, however, to my delight, they not only sent me a quart of Cookies N Cream, but also their amazing gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, as well as, some ice cream products from their no sugar added line. 

So Delicious Ice CreamI have seen So Delicious’ no sugar added ice cream when browsing thru the frozen section of Whole Foods, however, I was always hesitant to try it.  Traditionally I don’t go for no sugar added products because they are often packed with artificial sweeteners, plus I don’t usually like the taste.  

However, when it comes to So Delicious I trust the ingredients they put in their products and had full confidence this ice cream was going to be just as good their regular dairy-free ice cream. I was also excited since I am trying my best to limit the amount of sugar I eat, as I have notice this increases my CRPS pain.  

Not only was I excited, but my brother’s girlfriend, Jackie, who also follows a gluten/dairy-free diet was excited to try this ice cream since she is trying to also limit her sugar.  Due to my computer crashing and loosing some photos, I can’t show you  what our tasting party looked like on the Fourth of July, but what I can tell you is that we loved all the ice cream and had tons of fun! We both couldn’t tell that the ice cream was a no sugar added product.  

Cookies and Cream 1 .jpgIt isn’t summertime without some ice cream! Hurry, run to the store and pick up some So Delicious Ice Cream! It’s hard to pick my favorite, but I have to say it’s a clear tie between their gluten-free coconut based, Cookies N Cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Jackie’s favorite of the no sugar added flavors was Mint Chip.  Which one will you choose

To learn more about So Delicious products visit their website or find them on Facebook Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Also be sure to check out my other reviews of So Delicious products! 

No Sugar Vanilla So Delicious

Be KIND to your Body

It’s a glorious afternoon on Long Island, the sun is shining and there is not a cloud to be found in the sky. While there is studying to be done, and job application searching to do, I decided to put all those tasks aside for a moment.  

Though I am lucky to have summer employment, I have to say I’m not so in love with funemployment. I’m not stressed about getting full-time employment knowing that loans are going to start kicking in, or because I’ve been waiting over a month for my NYS school counseling certification, yet, I want to find a job because I truly love with the field I am in, I love working with kids, I feel privileged to hear others stories, and each time I work with a new client I get better at my job.  

However, I’m trusting the process and I’m trying to take a step back and allow myself to relax a little too.  Because although I know I am going to love every moment when I become employed, I also know there may never be “down time” like this when I’m working. I don’t want to look back on this time and think, “man, I wish I had the time to do x,y, and z” but didn’t do it because I was too wrapped up in studying my brain off and researching jobs like crazy.

So while job searching, and studying for my national counselor exam is on the agenda today, after working this morning and an afternoon workout I decided to take some down time and  do what I really want to do – blog.

 It’s so important to be kind to your body.  This doesn’t mean just eating the right food, and exercising regularly,  but it also means taking time for yourself, to veg, to activate the mind, or to do the thing that you have been wanting to do all day…. I know, you are probably thinking, there is not enough hours in the day.  But being kind to your body is so important for your wellness; 5 minutes is better than none!

This idea of being kind to your body came to me while I was munching on some KIND granola.   Because after all KIND products are one of the gluten-free products you can feel good about putting into your body.  

While I can’t eat many of KIND products due to my peanut and sesame allergy, I have recently fell in love with KIND’s Healthy grain bars which I found towards the end of semester at Wegman’s and KIND’s Raspberry Clusters with Chi Seeds which KIND recently sent me to sample. They generously sent me four packs of the Raspberry Clusters, so I decided to share the love with one of my friends who also follows a gluten-free diet! 

KIND Healthy Grain Bars: Currently KIND has five bars on the market. I am not able to have all the bars due to my additional food allergies, but am in love with the Oats, Honey and Coconut bar and the Vanilla Blueberry bar. I love how they are soft and chewy. They are the perfect bar to carry around in your bag and are a great mid day snack! I love that these bars are packed with 5 super grains and contain 3g of fiber.  

KIND Clusters

KIND Raspberry Clusters: When it comes to granola, I’m typically pretty plain, so you can imagine that I was a little hesitant that there was dried raspberries and chi seeds in this granola. However, I was optimistic considering raspberries are my favorite fruit.  

I enjoy the KIND raspberry clusters in some of my favorite dairy free yogurt and some peaches.  It was absolutely delicious! I loved the texture and flavor.  Enjoy this in the morning, or for a snack. You will be sure to be impressed.  In addition the raspberry clusters, KIND also makes  eight health grain clusters.

Not only does KIND make great products but they are a company that gives back!  KIND has teamed up with NBA all-star Kevin Durant’s “to prove the best way to show strength is to choose kindness. And to pay it forward even more, KIND is donating $1 million to the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation to create specialized education and after-school programming for at-risk youth to teach them how to be STRONG & KIND.”  I just took the pledge today, you should too! 

Thanks KIND for the delicious samples! To learn more about KIND products visit their website our find them on Facebook and Twitter

Beer Butt Chicken Made G-free

One of my favorite past-time recipes comes from our family cookbook.  It’s a fairly simple recipe, but for the longest time we couldn’t figure out how to make it gluten-free. As you probably assumed from the title, one of the main ingredients is beer!  While there are plenty of gluten-free beers on the market they all come in glass bottles, which would be difficult to stick up the butt of the chicken. 

Since it’s a simple recipe, I’m keeping the post simple.  This recipe comes for my Uncle Robert, who it always up for a good “cold one.”  We made a few modifications, to make it “Candice friendly” and there you have it: Cider Butt Chicken is ready to be enjoyed. 

Warning: Don’t be shocked by the recipe instructions. Yes it says to drink half the cider {if you are 21+ of course} before putting the cider up the chickens’ butt! 

Sadly, my computer crashed so I no longer have the delicious looking pictures…you will just have to make it yourself to find out how good-looking this recipe is.

"Cider Butt Chicken" Robert's Way
gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, peanut free, garlic-free
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Ingredients
  1. 2 small chickens
  2. salt and pepper
  3. Any Spices you want (we used dairy-free pesto)
  4. 2 cans of cider (we used Smith and Forge hard cider)
  5. cut-up shallots
  6. cut-up onions
Instructions
  1. Rub small chickens with salt, pepper and your favorite spices. Next got the the refrigerator and get two can of cold beverages. Open the cans and drink about half of the cider. Cut up some shallots, and some onions and drop them in the rest of the cans of cider. Now comes the fun part. Hopefully you won't take this the wrong way, but proceed to stick the cider cans up the chickens' butts. Barbeque for an hour and a half, covered, or 2 hours in the oven ant 300*. The chicken will be moist, steamy and falls apart.
http://www.embracegfree.com/

Gluten Free Birthday: 5 Years Strong

I can still remember the day, I can still remember the drive to the hospital, entering into the pre-op room, and waking up.  I can remember the nerves I had – such a timid, scared, and sick girl. It was the first time I was “alone” as I waited for my procedure.  Alone with my thoughts, my fears, my emotions, and my excitement.   It was the end of a long journey, and the start of a new adventure.   quote Regardless of the results, I knew I had my doctor’s blessing to go gluten-free, as everyone had seen how sick I became on the torturous six-week gluten challenge.  I went from the girl who had just been the best family vacation in five years, to a sick, ill-looking girl the longer I put the poisonous protein in my mouth.   

I knew July 14, 2009 was a day I would forever remember.  

It was one of those days which started a chain-reaction, of new beginnings, new attitudes, and new challenges. However, what I didn’t know is this day would become a day that is just important to me as my birthday.  It was the day I had the opportunity to have a second shot at life, after realizing how precious life can be. Because being chronically sick can do that to you.    

Physically, according to doctors I wasn’t dying, but if you could step into my body, and feel what I felt everyday, it sure felt like it.

Discovering how to relive, wasn’t easy. I had been so sick that I really didn’t know how to be a “normal teen,” my life revolved around doctors appointments, rather than social gatherings. I thought July 14, 2009, was the end of my medical journey, but as doctors have said, I’m a bit complicated! Or as my brother says in the most loving way, “you’re special.” 

The journey of living life gluten-free was only beginning of the lessons I would learn as I coped with this new way of living.  Little did I know it would teach me about the grieving process and the concept of empowerment, more than any counseling class could.  It would allow me to become a “foodie” in my unique way, it would provide me with opportunities I could have never dream of if I was still sick, and it would allow me to find support in unexpected places. 

When thinking about a title for this post “5 years Strong”  came to mind.  It seemed the fit perfectly. Because while things will never be picture perfect, these past five years of living a life free of gluten, has taught me a lot about strength; both the physical and mental kind we all need to survive in this world.  strenght image I have learned to find strength in the moments of fear, in the darkest of times, in the support of others, and in the moments of accomplishments. Strength is the little bursts of energy that helps me keep on keeping on, it’s what helps me get up on those really tough mornings, and it’s what gives me hope.

Cheers to another 5 years strong! Do you acknowledge you gluten-free anniversary? Comment below. 

Fourth of July Oatmeal

I hope everyone had a great and safe Fourth of July weekend. The holiday seemed to come and go, and although it was a washout of a day on the 4th the weekend was gorgeous!!  I have this theory that once the 4th hits the rest of the summer flies by, but I’m hoping this is not the case. After last winter I am savoring this weather.

Other then being a holiday, the Friday of Fourth of July started out as any other day, and if you been reading this blog for a while, you know that means I started the morning with a workout! Before heading to the  gym, I hinted to my mom I would love baked oatmeal for breakfast.

Mama Clifford has been making this easy recipe for a few months and my dad and brother love it. It could easily be made gluten-free, egg-free, and dairy-free but the base of the recipe calls for bananas – one of my allergens. We have been experimenting for a while with this recipe and finally perfected it on Friday! 

Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal
gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cup raspberries
  2. 1 1/2 cup blueberries
  3. 1/4 cup honey (or agave)
  4. 1 cup uncooked quick oats ( I used Bakery on Main Instant Gluten-Free Maple Muffin)
  5. 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  6. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  7. 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  8. pinch of salt
  9. 1 cup almond milk
  10. 1/3 c. apple sauce
  11. 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Lightly spray a 8 x 8" or 9 x 9" ceramic baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Arrange the blueberries and raspberries single layer on the bottom of the ceramic dish. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of the cinnamon, 1 tbsp of the honey and cover with foil. Bake 15 minutes, until the soft.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the oats, half of nuts, baking powder, remaining cinnamon, and salt; stir together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining honey, milk,apple sauce, and vanilla extract. Remove from the oven, then pour the oat mixture over the bananas and blueberries.
  4. Pour the milk mixture over the oats, making sure to distribute the mixture as evenly as possible over the oats. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries, raspberries and walnuts over the the top.
  5. Bake the oatmeal for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the oatmeal has set. Serve warm from the oven.
Adapted from Skinnytaste.com
Adapted from Skinnytaste.com
http://www.embracegfree.com/
The oatmeal was so yummy. My mom said it wasn’t as firm as when she uses the bananas {usually cuts into squares} but I didn’t mind. Next time we are thinking about adding more oatmeal.

The great thing about this breakfast is you can put the leftovers in the fridge and then heat it up in the morning. It’s a great healthy, and quick {as long as you cook the night before} breakfast option which you can either bring to the office or eat quickly before your way out the door.

Baked Oats

Newbie Gluten-Free Resource: Gluten Free Buyers Guide

Recently I received a complementary copy of the 2014 Original Gluten-Free Buyer’s Guide From Josh Schieffer. However, the opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced.   My first thought when skimming through this book was, “this would be a great resource for a gluten-free newbie.” 

When I was first diagnosed I received a care-package from a friends’ friend who is also gluten-free.  It was an act of kindness that has not gone unforgotten.  When I hear of someone who has just gotten the news that they must start a gluten-free diet, I try my best to reach out, whether it’s by my sending them an email or giving them a phone call. I have even made up a care package which was super fun!.  

In life I genuinely what to help people. I know, a lot of people have the desire to do good in the world, but it’s almost like this is what I feel called to do. Maybe it’s from the random acts of kindness that were given to me when I was sick. Or maybe It’s because helping others is how I have discovered to become alive again.   Well, that was a side rant, but anyway, my point is that the gluten-free buyers guide would be a great resource to include in a newly diagnosed care package.  

Buyers Guide

After all it is an accumulation of all the nominated and winning products from The Gluten-Free Awards, or as I like to call it “People choice awards of the gluten-free community.”  Some of you G-free veterans might be wondering, how could this resource benefit me? Well, as someone who has been gluten-free for almost 5 years, The Gluten-free Awards even introduced me to some new products to try out! Also, although this book will be updated each year, it is a resource that I will be holding onto.  I’m secretly a resource junkie, and you never know when it will come in handy when lending a helping hand. Fun Fact: I’ve held onto all my Ultimate Guides to Gluten-Free Live – Columbia University, and have eventually passed this book on to someone else who is in greater need

What I also like about the buyers guide is it also has a few “Top 10 entries” which are written by advocates and influential members in our community, such as Jules Shepard and Taylor Miller

Just think about your first trip to the grocery store after being told you have to start a gluten-free diet, this book is another resource out on the market that can make the first trip less of a burden! The Gluten-Free Buyers Guide is $25 (color), $20 (B & W) or $10 (ebook).  To learn more about the guide visit their website, or follow Josh on Facebook and Twitter

Happy July – Time to Get Back Into Blogging!

Helloooooo! Woahhh its been a while.  Not only after an intensive, but successful two weeks at Brooks, but hopefully back to being more present on this blog, now that school is officially over – Still weird. 

When I went down to Jacksonville, I knew things were bad.  I was back to falling and my CRPS was spreading. But I still wasn’t sure what I needed to learn during this second go around.  I was optimist, but questioned myself days before starting the program.  I was a bundle of nerves. 

Through all  I have gone thru, at an early age, I began to find meaning from the tough situations which occurred in my life. It was my way of coping.  Most of time finding meaning occurred when I was in the “thick of it.”  For me a lot of clarity at Brooks came in the second week as I was getting ready to leave. Now I wasn’t questioning my decision to come back for a refresher, but was wishing I had one more week. However, after some positive reframing I knew I was ready.  I was time to put my brave pants on and conquer the real world. 

In life we will never stop learning, but I knew deep down, as much as I didn’t want to leave, Brooks had taught me what I needed to learn.  I knew I could continue to fight this yucky syndrome, I knew I had the tools, and now it was time. So here I go, sharing some of these lessons with you. Because as I learned at Brooks {and in the GF community} having a shared experience, or being able to share your knowledge is a way impact many. Hopefully it will start a chain reaction. 

1. Giving up on a goal, doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you are doing what best for yourself in the moment: The ride was fun, but after 11 months of being back on the treadmill, I decided it was time to put my running shoes on the shelf. While there is nothing like a runner’s high, I know it’s the right choice for now.  My goal of running a race won’t be happening, but It sure doesn’t mean I failed.  Looking back, despite the setbacks this year, I really did come a long way.   

Sometimes when goals are set we have to reevaluate. Tossing one, doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, you are just making the best choice to benefit your life. Maybe it’s giving up on the hope that you will one day run a race or maybe it’s just changing your thinking to make your goal a little more realistic. 

2. Support is Huge: Ok, maybe I didn’t learn this lesson for the first time when I was down at Brooks – it was reinforced. Compared to last visit I was able to lean on fellow patients compared to just the incredible team.  Before going down, I had a bet with my dad that I was going to be the youngest patient, but to my surprise I wasn’t – there was a girl also in the program around my age! Though we both didn’t have to same condition, pain is pain, and we found a lot of support within each other. I hate that we both suffer from chronic pain, but it was truly a blessing meeting her.

Also during my last week someone came into to the program with CRPS. He was newly Dx and didn’t know anyone with the condition. I didn’t think I did much, but through sharing a bit of my experience and providing some encouragement he found inspiration.  

Support is HUGE.  Maybe you are in need of it, or maybe you know someone in need.  Reach out and speak up.  Maybe this means asking for help, or helping someone in the grocery store who clearly looks like they are confused in the gluten-free section of the store. Even if you don’t know the person, giving the support to that stranger can go a long way.  Your helping hand might impact more people than you will ever realize. 

3. I don’t believe things happen for a reason, but I do believe that certain people walk into your life at the right times: Just a life theory I have, and one that keep holding true. 

4. Social media detox are needed, and oh so healthy: It’s no hidden fact, I love Twitter! I’m not so in love with FB {other than seeing my adorable cousins}, and from being in graduate school I’m constantly checking my e-mal.  While I have to admit I did check my email occasionally {Good thing, because I received my PA School Counseling certification!} and went on Facebook {I had to,Baby Clifford was born!}, I stayed off twitter and kept my usage to a minimum.  

There is something about being connected all the time that is exhausting. In fact, I recently heard on GMA, checking your email or going on social media before going to bed can make you more tired! I’ve learned from both my two-week stay in Brooks and my travels to El Sal, that it’s so important to ‘check-out’ at times. I’ve been trying to stay low-key since my return, and I’m even contemplating taking my email off my phone {for the summer}!

I know, some people will say they would miss out on news, important emails, or what friends are doing, but think about it… if they are your closest friends you will find out the news eventually. 

5.  There’s always something new to learn: I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to learn when I went to Brooks, but there was truly a new lesson I learn each day. 

It confirmed two important ideas:

1. I have the tools to manage this yucky syndrome. If I did it in graduate school, I can do it anywhere! 

2. My heart is drawn to counseling kids while working in the medical field. I’m not giving up on schools yet, but having an impact in the medical field is where I feel I should be.  

Life is about learning, recharging, and re-energizing.  Without these three things we can’t grow.  Summer is a great time to learn & grow. Maybe you’ve wanted to experiment in the kitchen, maybe it’s a new hobby, or maybe it’s visiting a museum on a summer getaway. The possibilities are endless!

It feels good to be back!  

A Little Social Media Detox

As school is out and I am just settling in back home, I am enjoying a little least chaotic schedule.  I’ve had moments of tears over the weekend, but overall I’m not exactly sure if graduation has fully hit me or if I am less emotional because my experience at Scranton felt complete and I’m ready for the next step in the journey.  

DSC_0110

While I am in between seeking employment, I am grateful to have secured summer employment, and am giving my brain a rest before I begin studying for my National Counselor Exam.  So while the commitments are low, I’m going to use the summer to rejuvenate, get reenergize, while also remaining busy with job applications and studying – seriously this is like a full-time job in itself!

Not having the commitment of school has allowed me to slowly get back into a routine of blogging and staying up to date with what is going on in the gluten-free community. While blogging is a passion and hobby, writing good posts is like having a second job {without the paycheck}, and I had a really difficult time keeping up with it all on top of school this semester.

I’m hoping there will be positive changes coming for Embrace G-Free this summer. More consistency and more recipes!  Although I launch a monthly newsletter back in March I haven’t had time to write one each month, and will be resuming this new feature of my blog in July!  Sign up today for monthly inspiration.  

However, before this change happens I will be going on a two-week social media detox starting Sunday.  This is a choice I’m making because I feel it is the best things for me to do now. I need time to fully unwind, get recharged and focus on me.  But there’s a purpose and a reason behind this decision… 

On Sunday I will be traveling down to FL and will be enrolled at Brooks for a two weeks refresher course.  I went back and forth if I should share this on my blog. Because  although I have shared my journey living with a chronic pain condition, this is a blog focused on Living Gluten-Free.  

But I have always shared my journey,and this is part of what is in the cards for me.

I grew so much from the time I spent at Brooks and the experience along with my practicum and internship experience has shown me my heart is in the medical field. Brooks strengthen my desire to counsel children and adolescents with chronic medical conditions. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to be open with how I was truly feeling and the experience helped me to grow even more during my last year at Scranton.  Without enrolling in this program I am convinced I would have had a much challenging year.

DSC_0039Brooks taught me how to cope with pain.  How to live a full life with a chronic pain condition and not let me chronic pain dictate the direction of my life.  Brooks taught me that sometimes taking a risk can turn into one of the best decisions of your life. Like I left pieces of my heart in El Salvador and The University of Scranton, a piece of my heart will forever be with the team and pain program at Brooks because all of these experiences have been life-giving.  

Clearly I am full of gratitude. But I never anticipated returning to the program not even a year after I first enrolled. I am grateful for the opportunity but as the start day is quickly approaching I am beginning to feel the nerves.  Feeling like I failed, when I know this is clearly not the case.  

The worst winter in years, two falls, and a spread inhibited my progress. Not a lack of effort. 

So as I learned on 4th day, it’s time to once again trust and respect the process.  It’s time to focus on me.  It’s time to continue to be positive and keep smiling as I have been doing since last Thursday. It’s time to go on a hard-working {but also family} vacation. It’s time to soak up knowledge.  It’s time to relax by the pool reading a book after a hard-working day, and it’s time not worry and go on a social media detox.  

As I have said, I truly believe we are all meant to go down certain paths in life, and while each obstacle I faced had its on challenges, they all helped to shape me into the young woman I have become. I wouldn’t change that for anything. This is the path I must travel. See you in Two weeks! 

DSC_0957PS. I’m making a new playlist to stay motivated when having to push through the pain.  What are your favorite workout-motivating songs?