The Path of Life

I truly believe in life we are taken down roads which we can handle.  These paths might have a lot of bumps, are smooth, or the path may be full of crossroads where you have to make choices which decides the new direction.  As I write, I’m preparing for a new journey.  A journey which will begin in a little less than two months: post-grad life, the real world, big-girl job time.  Call it whatever you like, but all in all I expect it’s going to be one new adventure.   

I’m excited for this new journey.  I’m ready, and although there are so many unknowns, I must walk with the attitude, “expect the unexpected.”

It’s a lesson that El Salvador taught me, but one which I had lost sight of for a while because I was so caught up in anger and frustration of CRPS.  Just like when I first went gluten-free, I failed to be present, to really go down the path that I was on, and to accept it.  

We all go thru ups and downs when faced with a new challenge.

Sometimes it’s really not clear why certain things happen to us. Maybe you are going thru some health problems, maybe you are beating yourself down because you keep feeling like eating gluten-free is hard, or maybe you feel alone because important people in your life don’t seem to get what you are going thru.

I’ve taken lessons that I’ve learned with coping with my food restrictions and tried to apply it to accepting CRPS.  However, I was angry.  I couldn’t find peace, and started to focus on the can’ts rather than the cans.  This was the complete opposite reaction I had when I went gluten-free.   

Fourth Day .jpgBut then I found peace, and began to see an attitude change.

Now having a clearer mind, I look back on the grieving that I went thru and say, “that was silly”, “why couldn’t you get pass it quicker” “that was stupid.” However, then I stop and remind myself it was part of the process, part of the path I had to go down, and another journey that has helped to shape my character. 

When you are living with a chronic condition or constantly trying to prepare to ensure that you have safe food, its hard at times to embrace spontaneity.  However, if there is one thing I have learned it’s that “it is in the unexpected moments that we learn the most.” 

I hope you find peace.  It’s one of life’s most beautiful gifts; whatever path you are finding yourself go down, remember this: 

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My Date With Mr. Banks

Lately on the weekends I’ve been on a movie kick.  It’s been my escape from school, internship duties, and job applications.  After all weekends are about relaxing and getting recharged! On my list was: Dallas Buyers Club, Catching Fire, Frozen and, 12 Years of Slave.  All were films which phenomenal. However, last weekend, I had an extra special date with Mr. Banks! 

My roommate was home for the weekend and it seemed as though everyone had plans with their significant others.  So instead of having a pity party for myself, this single lady made the best out of her alone time.  First order of business, I cooked up one of my favorite meals: turkey veggie burgers with homemade French fries. This meal was even more special because I hadn’t had it in a long time.  Then I spent some time blogging, and closed out the night by watching Saving Mr. Banks. You may be thinking, “that doesn’t sound like a special night,” but oh was it! 

Because I had a special treat.

Cookies and Cream 1 .jpgAlthough I’m a foodie, food really doesn’t get me excited, simply because I often lack the appetite.  However, despite the absence of an appetite I was excited for this dessert, because it was a food I had been deprived of for five years.

I’m always asked if there are foods I miss after people hear I am on a restrictive diet.  Time after time, the answer is no; this remains true.  I can still have my favorite: Almond butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, and the occasional morning muffin. However, when I’m craving ice cream there is one flavor I always missed until now.

Cookies and Cream Pint .jpgEver since I was little Cookies and Cream Ice Cream has been a favorite of mine. There was a time, where I literally had a bowl of ice cream every night after dinner {oh, how times have change}, and it was one of the last gluten filled desserts that I can remember eating.  When I first went gluten-free it was a food that I missed, however, as time went on and I realized how sick gluten and dairy make me feel, this food desire became a distant memory.  It’s funny how our bodies can do that! 

But then one of my favorite companies, So Delicious, made an announcement that they just released a new flavor!  It was the most exciting news of my day. Gluten and dairy free Cookies and Cream; the next time, I went to Wegman’s it was going to be my mission to scout this new item out.

This ice cream was heavenly
Creamy, with big cookie pieces found in the middle
Just as I remembered!

Cookies and Cream 2.jpgMy date with Mr. Banks was wonderful.  The movie left me feeling happy and my taste buds were excited knowing they could once again enjoy a past time favorite treat!  The ice cream was so good that I wanted to eat the whole container, however, I knew my tummy would not be a happy camper, so I resisted.  Be sure to keep your eyes out for this new creation from So Delicious. You will be impressed! 

A Response: 27 Reasons I’m Thankful to Be Gluten Free

I’m not one to give attention to those individuals who are negative. I’m not talking about individuals who are going thru a difficult time, I’m referring to individuals who automatically see the negative, or see the faults in others; people that try and take power, when they have no right.

It’s a lesson that took me a long time to learn, but honestly if you are amongst individuals who are positive, innovative, caring and compassionate, it’s only going to put you in a better place.    

This blog was built on this philosophy.  I want Embrace G-free to be a forum where you are inspired and empowered.  Not brought down by the cannots or  the negativity that is out there when talking about the gluten-free or allergen-free diet.  By no means am I saying life has to be peaches and roses all the time. In fact, I’ve shared my struggles.  However, I’ve learned if I give more energy to the negativity attitudes will never get better. 

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Last week the Huffington Post published an article titled “27 Reasons Why I Could Never Go Gluten-Free.”  Without even reading, I was angered by the title, but I went ahead and read it.  I was curious, because honestly, I couldn’t think of any

I’ll give Joe Satran one complement for stating,  “Now, I have nothing but reverence and respect for the approximately 3 million Americans with Celiac disease, for whom avoiding gluten is a matter of life and death. And I buy the idea that a few million others suffer from a less severe, but still real, form of gluten sensitivity. So I’m glad that the market has made more gluten-free foods available to them.” Other then this statement, honestly, was there any good reason to publish this article?

My immediate thoughts were, I bet it could of taken him just as long to write an article title, “27 reasons why I could never go gluten-free.” A post was inspired. However, because I’m a busy intern I didn’t get around to it until the weekend.  

Thankfully though, the gluten-free Rockstar Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Fun put together a great response on Tuesday. Then on Thursday Priyanka Chugh published an article “27 Reasons I Am Gluten-Free” on the Huffington Post Blog

This gave me the idea:  a gluten-free positivity chain reaction
So here’s my response….

27 Reason I’m Thankful to Be Gluten Free

Embrace G-Free1. My glowing smile

3rd Blogiversary2. This blog

Appetite for Awareness 2011.jpg3. The connections I have made as a results

Cookie 24. My baking skills were “kicked up a notch!” 

Kayaking

5. I can go kayaking without my stomach suffering

Chex6. Chex makes mornings sweeter

Disney BakesNYC7. Disney World Is 10x more magical with BabycakesNYC

Scranton 20128. I was a stronger {literally} graduate 

DSC_07839. Fruit is naturally gluten-free: there’s nothing more refreshing 

Stuffing10. Thanksgiving is so much better when you don’t get sick, year after year

Betty Crocker Gluten Free 11.  Smiles are created with special birthday treats 

photo12. Now I have two special days to celebrate me!

Trail Mix 113. I found my inner foodie 

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14. My family put a new spin on a Christmas morning tradition

Irish Soda Bread .jpg15. Family Recipes are more meaningful after I not only make them free of  gluten, but dairy and eggs too!

Vegan Brownies17. I get to experiment with unique ingredients

1391829_3609824381902_60968231_n18. Mama Clifford’s homemade applesauce 

IMG_104319.  And gluten-free bakery adventures with her

IMG_120821. Sweet Freedom

Almond Butter Cup21. A summertime ice cream treat

Sweet Note 221. gluten-free “NY style” Bagels

Pizza 1 22. Veggie pizza nights

Crockpot Recipe23. Roomie crockpot cookin’ 

DSC_069924. To-die-for homemade muffins

Gluten Free Holiday Cookies 25. gluten-free “virtual” cookie exchanges 

El Salvador 26. A greater appreciation for beauty 

DSCN084427. Because life truly began after going gluten-free

Join the movement. Let’s start a chain reaction! What are your 27 reasons? Use the hastag #gfreepositivity or comment on this post below.

Ooey Gooey Egg-Free, Dairy Free, Peanut-Free, Vegan {And of Course G-free!} Brownies

Over intersession the weekends were quiet, and the demands were low.  As a result, I took full advantage of the time I had to get organized, have a little fun and relax before the semester kicked into full gear.  

Now, the semester is nearly half-way done, my classmates and I are all exhausted, and are just about adjusted to our “full week” schedules due to the massive amounts of snow days we had early on in our internship experience. #problemsofworkinginaschool.

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All week, I struggled to get out of bed and dreamed of sleep this weekend. However, thanks to my biological clock, I was up at 5:30AM, and it was impossible to fall back to sleep.  Though there’s school work to be done, it was just too early for my brain! I took advantage of this time to catch up on some blogging tasks I’ve been wanting to accomplish; on being to finish this post which has been sitting in my draft folder for about three weeks!

Suddenly, on a quiet night I wanted to bake and was craving brownies.  I quickly turned to one of my favorite websites, to look for an egg free brownie recipe.  I had Jules flour and cocoa in the cupboard and knew I could easily convert a recipe to be  gluten-free and dairy-free if the recipe was not.  Immediately, results popped up.  It was a 4 star recipe and I had all the ingredients.  What was there to lose? 

Egg-Free Brownies
gluten free, diary free, egg free, peanut free, vegan
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Ingredients
  1. 1/3 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter
  4. 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  5. 2 cups evaporated cane sugar or white sugar
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 2 cups gluten free all-purpose flour
  8. 2 1/2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  10. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch pan. In a heavy saucepan combine the 1/3 cup of flour and water. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until thick. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter. When butter has melted, add the cocoa and mix until smooth; set aside to cool. Beat the sugar and vanilla into the cooled flour mixture. Stir in the cocoa mixture until well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, stir into the batter until just blended.
  3. Fold in walnuts if desired. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool before cutting into bars.
Adapted from All Recipes
Adapted from All Recipes
Empowering Others to Live Their Best Gluten-Free Life http://www.embracegfree.com/
The brownies were great! I love how all of the egg-free brownies recipes I have tried are unique. I really enjoyed how soft and fudgy they were.  These brownies would be wonderful aside a scoop of dairy free ice cream or some sweet strawberries.  

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On the Journey, Love and Passion Were Found…

As both an undergraduate and graduate counseling major during the past six years, I have not only learned the craft and gained practical experience, but I have also learn so much about myself. Not only do I believe this aspect helped me better understand my beliefs and biases, but these years of reflection have helped me to further understand my passions, and have helped me focus some of the research that I have done in classes. 

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Though I love my school counseling internship experiences thus far, I’m thrilled to be graduating shortly, and am looking forward to starting my professional career.  However, I know I will be going back to school at some point to continue my education.

You would think after all this schooling I’d be over school!

But the truth is this journey I have had at Scranton and particularly this summer at Brooks, has in a way led me to the path that I want to take next. After getting some school counseling experience I really want to work in a medical setting with children and adolescents who have chronic conditions. 

It’s so important to support children and adolescents emotionally.   When reflecting on my practical experience and personal experience I began to see that there is such a need to support children with chronic illness in schools. Without the proper support they risk falling behind academically and having difficultly socially.  

So in an effort to combine multiple interests into one project, I developed an In-service for parents and teachers which was titled: Food as Fuel: Addressing the Needs of Growing Adolescents.  Though this was specifically designed for an adolescent class it is a topic which is important for all age ranges.  I specifically connected this topic to academic performance, and then looked at four medical conditions which are common among children and require different nutritional interventions.  

My inspiration was my own experience. 

Not only is this a population that so many professionals forget about, but it’s a topic and population that is lacking in research. However, although I didn’t find a lot of research related to chronic health conditions and the child’s emotional health, what I did find was a wealth of resources from many articles which would be helpful for teachers, parents, even doctors on ways in which they can help the child.  

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Though I have yet to have the opportunity to deliver this in-service what I learned from doing the research is that what it comes down to is: Not only is this love driven by personal experience, but it’s driven by a love to educate and help spread awareness, and provide others with the appropriate resources.  I may be going down one path now, but I truly believe that these two loves will eventually come together and turn into one. 

So for now I will leave you with some gluten-free and food allergy resources which I came across that you might find helpful: 

Social Issue for Teens with Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity

Creating a 504 for Your Gluten-Free Child

Coping with a Diagnosis 

CDC National Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools 

Food Allergies and School Health 

When Your Child is Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness: How to Cope 

Managing Food Allergies in the Classroom 

Managing Food Allergies in the Cafeteria 

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Food For Life: Product Spotlight

Every once in a while it’s nice to change food routines up. Especially this semester, I’m trying to get creative with my “on the go breakfasts” which are usually being eaten during my commute to internship.  Lately, I’ve been on an almond butter and Joan’s English muffin kick! However, after running out of English muffins I decided to give a new product a try: Food for Life Exotic Black Rice Tortillas.  

Food For Life

Using these tortillas I made an almond butter and jelly wrap.  The wraps are best kept frozen so I heated the wrap in the microwave for a few seconds and then added my toppings. When trying to fold this wrap it easily broke and couldn’t be rolled tightly. Additionally I found that these wraps harden quick when heated in microwave.  For best results I would recommend heating on the stove.

These wraps would be best when making quesadillas because they hold together better when you put one tortilla over the other.  The flavor was good and paired well with tuna. Food for Life Exotic Black Wraps are not only gluten-free, but are also vegan and yeast-free.  This was a plus since I also avoid eggs and dairy. 

Thanks Food for Life for letting me test out your new product! To learn more visit their website, or find them on Facebook and Twitter

Start a Chain Reaction: The Power of Education

While the snow has calmed, it’s been a stormy month.  As my doctor said yesterday, “it’s been the worst winter since you have been born,” which has contributed to a flare I couldn’t overcome on my own.  

In the past two weeks I’ve visited the ER twice in two weeks.  This felt like a huge defeat, as I hadn’t made a visit to this dreaded place in a year and a half.  However, despite this stormy time there have been many small victories 6 months after leaving Brooks:

I ran for 10 minutes for the first time in 2 years
I’m no longer going to nerve blocks every month
Completed a successful practicum experience
Passed all my school counseling certification tests
Became certified as a Board Certified Human Services Practitioner (HSCB-P)
And am managing to balance all the demands of an internship 

When you are dealing with a chronic condition like Celiac Disease, CRPS or food allergies, it’s easy to feel defeated, it’s easy to feel frustrated, and it’s easy to feel like you don’t have the energy to keep up (whether that’s literally having the energy or in the way of always having to be prepared).

Flares can make me feel this way
Getting glutened can make me feel this way
Even the negativity of others can bring me down from time to time

But then I think about the victories, about how  adversity has shaped some of my life goals, has contributed to my maturity, and has allowed me to look at life thru a lens that is unique.  It’s given me the ability to empathize (watch this great video from Cleveland Clinic), to genuinely be interested in others stories, and to be passionate about educating and advocating for others – especially children and adolescents with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or other chronic conditions.

During the past month I have been planning on posting an ‘education’ themed post, as part of my “take the pledge” posts series…. then the events of the last two weeks occurred and this post took a back seat.   However, in the past two weeks, education and self-advocacy took on a whole new level of importance when I had to visit the ER (for the 1st time) and dealt with an incompetent, insensitive and down-right arrogant doctor who instead of helping to reduce my pain, caused me to have more pain. 

Having a nurse say she has to “Google your condition” – (I know CRPS is rare, but that’s a comment I didn’t need to hear), is just as bad as having someone not understand the medical necessity of having to follow a gluten-free diet. However, if we stay silent, and don’t educate others on the misconceptions that they often learn from the media, nothings going to change.

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We all have to do our part to be the one person to educate, because knowledge is power. Because you never know when the knowledge you share could change a life… maybe even lead to a diagnosis. 

How can you educate and start a chain reaction of your own? Easy! This month the NFCA launched their Test Your Gluten-Free Knowledge campaign which was designed to help clear up common misconceptions about celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and the gluten-free diet through a 10 question quiz.

 Take this quiz, test your knowledge, and then share it on your social media page! 

Who needs Green Bagels… When you Can Have Irish Soda Bread!

Can you tell it’s been a busy, non-stop semester, with no free time on the weekend?  Let’s just say I’m enjoying my internship experience, but after a long day I’m in bed by 8PM! Hopefully with having a break from classes this week I will be able to write a little bit more and have some posts ready. I literally have a post-it of blogging ideas on my computer… if only I had endless energy and time in the day. 

Though it’s a little late in the day I had to share my new revisions to my family’s favorite Irish Soda Bread.  Although I am Irish, soda bread is just about the only traditional St. Paddy’s Day food I eat, and it is something I look forward to every year! Last year I made it gluten and dairy free, however this year I had to do without eggs.  

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I was thrilled when the bread came out of the oven and tasted very similar to what the original recipe tasted like.  I made a second loaf for a friend that also follows a gluten-free diet.  Both she, and my brother enjoy it. 

Irish Soda Bread
gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups sifted GF flour (I used Jules all-purpose flour)
  2. 2/3 cup sugar
  3. 1 Tbs. baking powder
  4. 1 tsp. salt
  5. 1 tsp. baking soda
  6. 1 1/2 cups raisins
  7. 2 eggs, beaten - See note for Flax Eggs
  8. 1 1/2 cups buttermilk - See note of Dairy free instructions
  9. 2 Tbs. coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Sift (I used a whisk) flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Stir in raisins. Blend eggs, buttermilk, and add oil. Add liquid all at once to flour mixture, stirring until moistened. Turn into a greased round cake pan. Bake 350* for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Check doneness after 1 hour. Check with knife to make sure it is not wet. Cool 10 minutes before taking out of pan. For a big crowd, double the ingredients and use a springform pan!
Notes
  1. DF Buttermilk: 3 tsp of apple cider vinegar, fill liquid measuring cup with almond milk until reacher 1 1/2 cups mark, let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Flax Eggs: 2 TBSP of flax meal, 6 TBSP of water, stir, let sit in fridge for 10 minutes.
Empowering Others to Live Their Best Gluten-Free Life http://www.embracegfree.com/

Hope you had a lucky start to your week! 

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