Meal Planning Tip #1

Eating with a gluten-free, lactose-free diet is only successful if there is planning!! I cannot emphasize this enough. At our house, if meal planning does not happen, we are forced to make quick, unhealthy eating decisions as we scour the menus of “safe” restaurants in our area.  Planning does not have to be time consuming or scary, though. I have a few secrets that are inexpensive but VERY effective.

The first secret is a website called Plan to Eat.  This website allows you to store and save your favorite recipes, plan when to prepare those recipes, and it will auto generate a shopping list based on your meal plan (seriously, this has saved my life). You can sign up for a free trial (at the time I signed up, I got a free month trial), and if you like it enough (which is likely), you can pay a few dollars per month for the service. Seriously, it is worth EVERY penny!

To set up my Plan to Eat, I spent an entire day adding all of our favorite recipes from the physical cookbooks that I own. Even though it took some time adding all of those recipes, I do not have to open those cookbooks anymore. The best way to add recipes, however, is by getting the browser extension. With this extension (free with subscription), I can search for recipes online, find one I like, and click “Add to Plan to Eat” on my browser. Plan to Eat then uploads and saves the recipe to my profile. It is as simple as pinning something on Pinterest. Seriously. WORTH EVERY PENNY.

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Once I have recipes in, I can click on the “Plan” tab. This allows me to drag and drop the recipes on to whichever day I want to make that recipe. It’s that simple!

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When I have my meals all planned, I can click on the “Shop” tab to see an autogenerated grocery list! I can break the list down by which items I need at different stores or can keep the list as is. I can remove all the items that I have in my pantry and can customize the time frame for the shopping list (say, I want the list for the next two weeks or the list for today). When I go to the store, I can pull up this website on my phone and click on the items as I add them to my grocery store cart.

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Before Plan to Eat, I spent hours each week going through all my recipes (scattered from Pinterest to my physical bookshelf) and compiling shopping lists. I got overwhelmed at the thought of tackling this task every week and often found it was easier to eat out or go to the grocery store every day than to meal plan. Now, I can spend a few minutes planning, checking my grocery store list, and going to the store (or asking Joe to go to the store on his way home).

 

 

My GF Beginnings

Everyone’s gluten-free story is different, but I have found strength in my lifestyle by learning the struggles and successes of others like me. With that said, I wanted to share my story with you in hopes that you can feel a little less alone.

Before gluten-free, I was an overachiever, runner, and lover of all things gluten. As cliche as it may sound, my life was like this until a day in January 2010. Everything changed.

At that time, I worked in a coal combustion laboratory as a secretary. My desk was within the lab, as were offices of research assistants. It was the Friday before MLK, JR., Day, so many people in my lab left early to begin their long weekend events. My roommate was driving home to southern California and had invited me to ride along, but I kindly turned down the offer because I had committed to be to work that day.

When I began my shift, a research assistant informed me that he would be running some tests, so if I smelled anything funny not to worry. Within a short time, I started smelling something really strange. If any of you have been to Yellowstone, you remember the stench that comes from the beautiful geysers? That is the closest scent I can compare what I smelled that day.

Research assistants would walk in to their offices, take a few breaths, and quickly leave because the stench was so strong. I wanted to leave but did not because I was committed to working at that time.

When I finished my shift, I felt different. I drove home, walked downstairs, and sat in a large cushioned chair. I remained there until Tuesday. I felt so empty, sad, and hopeless. I was in pain, but I could not describe what was happening.

When I went to work on Tuesday, there were two research assistants waiting at my desk. They had both seen me in the lab on Friday, and they told me that a chemical had been spilled on Friday. The whole lab had been evacuated that day, but my desk was forgotten. It turns out I had been exposed for over two hours.

I will stop my storytelling there, for the events that happened thereafter are irrelevant; however, after that experience, I noticed that every time I ate gluten I would have flu symptoms and major depression. After months of doctors and researchers studying me, no one could explain the connection between what happened to me and how my body was reacting. When no one could explain it, I knew I had to discover the reason myself.

After almost two years of searching, I came across an article of a young girl that had been in a horrific water ski accident. As she was recovering from the accident, she discovered she had celiac disease. Her doctors concluded that she had a genetic disposition to gluten, and the horrific accident had caused her body enough stress to “push” her genetics to become a celiac. Suddenly, my incident made sense.

Since then, I have learned of others in my family that have celiac disease. Because celiac runs in my family, it is very likely that the stress caused by my accident did to my body the same thing the girl with the ski accident experienced.

I sometimes think how life would have been so different if I had taken my roommate’s offer to go to southern California that day, or if I had left when I first smelled the chemicals. As great as it could be to get in a time machine, I cannot fix the past. I can only accept my present and work forwards.

As hard as a gluten-free lifestyle has been, I have realized some blessings, too. By eating gluten-free, I have to watch everything I eat, but I get to really choose if I want to eat unhealthy foods or not. I also have become a great cook because I create foods from scratch A LOT. I have also been able to find others in a similar situation that have helped me learn and cope. Through the tragedy, I have really learned that what happened to me has been one of my greatest struggles but will be one of my greatest accomplishments.

Favorite Recipes–Poppers, Asparagus, and Quinoa

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In addition to being healthy, quinoa also has the ability to make you fill full and satisfied after a meal. My husband and I love cooking 1 part of uncooked quinoa in 2 parts boiling water until the quinoa becomes nice and fluffy. We also like cooking asparagus in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a little bit of oil and garlic until the ends become crispy. Once we remove the asparagus from the oven, we sprinkle feta cheese over the top and let the feta melt a little bit before serving. 

Then, to top off the dish, we add Poppers. I do not know about you, but I miss the taste of bread straight from the oven. The warmth, texture, and fragrance was bliss. Poppers (as I lovingly call them) fill the void in my life. You can visit the link below for this recipe (the author refers to these rolls as Pao de Queijo). The recipe calls for cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, but I have enjoyed experimenting with other cheeses, too. With a dish like this, it feels good to be gluten free! 

http://www.ourbestbites.com/2011/02/quick-brazilian-cheese-rolls-pao-de-queijo-2/

The Undiet: Day 1

I am trying a new program called the Undiet (by Meghan Telpner). The goal of Undiet is to transition me into a veggie-centered gluten free lifestyle. I have been on a gluten free diet for years now, but I am excited to spotlight vegetables. Dinner tonight was stir-fry. This stir-fry had red cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, ginger, turmeric, garlic, pepper, and cabbage, and carrot and was AMAZING. I would call this meal a success. Image

Veggie Trays

A couple months ago, my sweet nephew, Isaac, was blessed. I wanted to bring a veggie tray that would make the vegetables fun and exciting for my other nephews. These Oscar and Elmo trays were inspired by pins on Pinterest. Oscar is made of broccoli, olives, carrots, and ranch dressing. Elmo is made of cherry tomatoes, olives, carrots,  and ranch dressing.

Oscar and Elmo

Oscar and Elmo

Why “Gluten Free” and “Economics”?

Don’t worry, I use to shutter at those words, too. I still remember the taste of freshly baked bread and mouth-watering cinnamon rolls. I remember getting straight A’s in all of my courses and breezing through tests. Then celiac hit. Then economics happened. Fortunately for me, both turns in my journey arrived at the same time. What I thought was a detour became my new way of life. I stopped eating cereal, pizza, and doughnuts, and found myself struggling to finish a class. At first, I was discouraged when I walked past bakeries or saw classmates understand concepts at the tip of the hat. But, I finally realized that these precious moments I once scorned are shaping me into the person I NEED to become. I need to know difficulty in order to know excellence. I need to learn pain in order to know peace. I need to know chaos in order to know balance. I need to face fear in order to grow courage.

This blog is dedicated to my challenges, triumphs, recipes, and views as a gluten free economist.