dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gluten free · health · Herbs · recipe · vegan · vegetarian

Herbs and Spices for Digestive Health

I’ve been thinking about Indian food lately…yum…but specifically how is it that a (largely) vegetarian diet could have existed so long in a culture without mass IBS issues? Not that I know about the IBS percentages in India, nor have I ever even been there, but I do think I know at least part of the puzzle~ the herbs and spices that are a part of daily life. The traditional foods are prepared with digestive help built-in~ turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, anise, ginger, and more all have positive digestive influences, and some also help regulate blood sugar. (Another bugger with vegetarian diets that one has to watch closely.) If you want to know specific herbs and their detailed affects, here’s a great list. Not only are the meals prepared with these herbs and spices, but in many parts of India is common to chew a spoonful of fennel seeds after each meal. This not only freshens breath but it helps digest the meal without bloating and gaseous effects. Also, many Indians drink chai multiple times a day, with digestive soothing spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves mixed with their (usually) black tea. This means they are getting good digestive support all day long~ something that I bet no one there even thinks about because it is just naturally a part of everyday life. Not only are these customs part of their food and drink regimes, the tri-herbal formula, Triphala, is largely taken by people there for decades upon decades. Triphala has many actions, but one of the most well-known traditional uses is on the digestive tract~ it regulates the intestines. People reach for this blend when constipated especially, and it has an extremely large following for just daily usage. I’ve heard and read it is the most commonly used herbal blend in the world, but I cannot say for sure if this is true and really I have a hard time believing anyone tracts things like “most popular herbal blend” but maybe… I think it’s safe to say that it’s popular anyway. For those familiar with Ayurveda, the three herbs used in Triphala are specific to the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, Kapha, and therefore balance out all three doshas in the body. If you want a very cursory introduction to Ayurvedic doshas, here’s a short bit to read. So it seems all together, Indian cuisine works because it is so fundamentally supported by the traditional herbs and spices used. Personally, I can’t incorporate all these factors into my life, but I have started having chai in the afternoons instead of coffee or plain black tea when I need a lift which is usually around 2:PM. It takes a little more effort than boiling water and grabbing a tea bag (though you can find chai in tea bags) but I must say it has been worth it. Not only is it delicious, I’ve noticed less bloating in the evenings. Hoorah! In fact, I think I’ll put some on the stove right now. Here’s my process:

I bought a chai mix in the loose tea section at our local PCC, near the bulk coffee section. If you do not have that option, there are plenty of recipes online which you can modify to your own specific tastes. Here’s one page I found with several recipes: chai.

First I fill my mug with water and then pour it into a small sauce pan, put the chai into a tea ball, and bring to a slow boil. It is actually better to do this part loosely, with no tea ball, but I find pouring it too difficult without a lip on this pan, so for now I’m sticking to the tea ball for ease of pouring. Also I end up getting two uses out of the chai in the tea ball, putting more water on to boil almost as soon as I finish the first cup.

Chai

Some water evaporates in the boiling so there is enough room to add milk to warm up at the end of the process. I use vanilla coconut milk, but use whatever you wish, or none at all!

Chai with vanilla coconut milk

Be sure to look at the ingredients of chai blends because they can have large amounts of sugar, especially the ones that are in a concentrate form. (If it’s the first or second ingredient, find another brand!) You can add honey or sugar to sweeten if you like, but if you are interested in the most healing blend for your digestive system, stay away from the sugar.

Chai while I type

Enjoy! It’s always nice when something delicious also happens to be nutritious. And who couldn’t use more spice in their life? Well, maybe quite a few people, but as for me…I’ll take it.

essential oils · food · food allergy blogs

Liebster Award

liebster-award Many thanks to Elemental Aromas for the Liebster Award nomination! I love a good aromatherapy blog so it was an extra treat to be nominated by one. Everything has guidelines and the Liebster is no exception so here we go~

Here are the rules for the award:

  • Acknowledge and link back to the person who nominated you
  • Display the award on your blog by including it in your post (the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post)
  • Answer the 10 questions asked by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 5-10 new blogs with fewer than 1000 followers
  • Create a new list of questions for your nominees to answer when they post about the Award
  • Inform the blogs you nominated that they have been nominated for the Award
  • List these rules in your post

The bloggers I nominate are:

Gluten-Free Globetrotter

Positive Kitchen

The Healthy Epicurean

Tonics and Tinctures Apothecary

Greener Me

And here are the questions I need to answer:
What is your favorite flower? Oh gosh, I’m a lily lover but I couldn’t narrow down which lily is my favorite.
What is your favorite scent? Right now, lavender and orange together, but this changes all the time.
What is your favorite season? Late summer/early fall. The BEST.
What is your favorite comfort food? Dark chocolate. And by comfort food I am assuming you mean daily food.
Do you prefer coffee or tea? Coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon!
What is your favorite quotation? Though this be madness, yet there’s method in’t~ From Shakespeare’s Hamlet (This goes through my head at least once a week.)
What book are you reading? Delancey by Molly Wizenberg
What inspires you? My kids inspire me to try to be a better person and make a better world.
What is your favorite place? Europe
Have you had an experience that changed your life? Several! Serving in AmeriCorps, living in Prague for a year, quitting gluten, having children, getting a dog, and many more!

And here are my questions for the bloggers I nominated:

Where do you live?

What is your favorite way to spend a free day?

Who is your favorite author?

What is your go-to weeknight meal?

What is your go-to special meal?

What is your favorite drink?

Where do you most want to visit?

What is your favorite book?

When did you first start writing?

Why do you blog?

It’s so great to connect with other bloggers in this way~ it can be a lonely world but we really do have a little community here in the blogosphere!

 

 

 

celiac disease · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gluten free · gluten free food · gluten free lifestyle · gluten free travel · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant

How to Eat Gluten-Free Abroad (Infographic)

This is a great infographic for traveling which I found on the always informative site, glutenfreeglobetrotter.com.

Gluten-Free Globetrotter

I was delighted to learn that Gluten-Free Globetrotter was included as a gluten-free travel resource on this infographic about eating gluten-free around the world. The visuals are helpful, especially for the brand names in different countries. Once I am familiar with a foreign gluten-free brand, I tend to stick to that brand when I am traveling. Seeing familiar logos for gluten-free brands, like from Orgran and Schar, is reassuring in a non-English speaking country. I also always encourage people to get familiar with some key phrases that help you communicate your need to eat gluten-free.

Thank you Goodness Direct for including me in your infographic!

Gluten free and dread travelling abroad? - An Infographic from GoodnessDirect Blog

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dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gf bread · gf foods · gluten free · gluten free bread · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · Herbs · vegetarian

Canyon Bakehouse Breads

Canyon Bakehouse Breads

We recently had the opportunity to try the entire line of Canyon Bakehouse goodies and we now have some new favorites in this house. The seven grain bread is the closest thing we have had to whole wheat bread. The texture and taste are surprisingly familiar to the whole grain breads I grew up on and altogether different from any other gluten-free bread I’ve had in these past 10 years of being completely gluten-free.

7 grain bread

The other new family favorite is the focaccia. Both my sons loved the taste fresh out of the bag or warmed up in the oven under the broiler. This is a perfect bread to add to the side of soup or salad although really my sons will eat it along anything. This bread is also a unique offering in the gluten-free field and I appreciate the fact Canyon Bakehouse also makes these breads dairy, soy, nut and gmo free.

focaccia

Life is short~ be kind, be wise, and try some new bread.

children · dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gf foods · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · kids · vegetarian

Schar Pizza Crusts

Schar pizza crust

Pizza is one thing nobody should be forced to live without. I tried Schar’s pizza crusts for the first time last night and the pizzas were delicious. I love the fact that there is an actual raised crust on the perimeter of the circle~ that’s the first I’ve seen that in all my gluten-free pizza trials. Does that make sense? Maybe a picture is in order:

crust before cooking

See what I mean? And it’s on a large dinner plate so that is the size of the crust~ enough for two with a side salad unless you are feeding growing boys in which case it is convenient that one box comes with two crusts inside.

Two crusts in every box

I made mine with pesto, mozzarella,  orange and yellow peppers, red onion (which I always want to call purple onion) and sun-dried tomatoes. Delicious. And the crust is not only gluten-free, it is also dairy and egg free which is another hard to find aspect in the gluten-free pizza world. Another thing that sets this crust apart is that it is actually filling in the same way gluten crusts are. You know how a lot of gluten free things feel airy and not substantial? This feels like you are eating something real.  Mmmm~ I think it’s time for leftovers…

Pizza in pieces

celiac disease · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten free lifestyle · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · health · Herbs · supplements

Curing Gluten Intolerance

Asher jumping

That’s my goal. Total healing. I think it can be done too, but the only problem I have is that I don’t know if I’m celiac or not, which would be a whole other story. If it is ‘just’ gluten intolerance though, it seems like it should be something one could get over, with the proper nutrition specific to those with weaker digestive tracts and supplements to support rebuilding the digestive process. It seems like all the people who have problems digesting wheat, and there are many, probably have a variety of reasons for their gluten issues other than today’s gluten being notoriously harder to digest than it used to be. Here are two reasons that I can think of, though I’m quite certain there are many more:

1. Digestive process being hurt by antibiotics in both food and use in medical treatment. Why? Because antibiotics kill the good bugs as well as the bad bugs, meaning the probiotics in our guts are killed off when we take antibiotics, which is why (some) doctors encourage eating yogurt a few hours after taking antibiotics. Once the micro-system of one’s gut is out of balance, the whole digestive system gets wonky. One reason is that bad gut bacteria flourishes on sugars and partially digested food, and guess what we eat way more of than ever before~ sugar. So the chances of taking antibiotics and messing up the little micro-environment down there is very high, and it tends to have a snowball effect.

2. Our diets are largely sub-optimal for digestive bliss. Fruits and vegetables contain enzymes that break down food but our diets mostly do not contain a large percentage of fruits and vegetables. Even vegans and vegetarians usually eat more beans and processed carbs (which are very hard to digest) than fresh produce. If you are familiar with the low-FODMAP diet, then you will know that even many fruits and veggies are on the ‘gassy’ list because they are harder to digest and therefore tend to sit in the gut too long. If your digestive system is ‘off’ I suggest looking at low FODMAP information to see if this rings true for you. If you are eating foods that are causing any kind of digestive distress, you are weakening your system which again, has a snowball effect. People of course can have different foods set them off other than the high-FODMAP ones so it is important to be aware of your body and it’s reactions to any food, but looking at the FODMAP information might be a good place to start for many. Another place to start might be an IgG food panel test that your doctor or more likely, a naturopath, can administer.

2.5 This is related to the above but needed its own space. There is a book, website, and subsequent subculture and devotees to the idea that even severe digestive disorders such as crohn’s disease, IBS, and Celiac can indeed be cured with a specific diet. I read the book a couple of years ago and was intrigued but my lifestyle right now doesn’t lend itself to following a strict diet like the one they tout which is, as you might suspect, very light on carbs and liberal with meat, though vegetarians are given options. If you are interested, check out the website and if you try it please let me know how it goes because I really want to hear all about it.

So if there are causes to gluten intolerance, it seems to me there must also be ways to correct the issue, such as looking at the micro-biome of the gut and working toward long-term probiotic health by taking supplements, being mindful of antibiotic use, and when antibiotics cannot be helped eating more fermented foods, taking higher dosage probiotics and eating less sugar. Then looking at other supplements that support the digestive system as well as taking an honest look at one’s diet and focusing on (personal) gut-friendly foods as much as possible.

So far, my action plan is the following: I always take high potency probiotics and change the brand each time I buy to get the biggest variety of strains into my system. Other supplements I take in support of my digestive system are apple cider vinegar before meals mixed with water and aloe juice. Enzymes before meals if eating anything at all questionably hard to digest. Turmeric on a daily basis for inflammation throughout the whole body including the digestive tract. And most recently I’ve added in Vital Nutrients GI Repair Nutrients.

There are other herbs that I am considering adding in but I take a lot right now so I’m going to hold off and see how a couple of bottles of the GI Repair work for me. I have no idea when I’ll feel comfortable testing this out but I am guessing it will be a while~ probably when I feel like no foods are troubling my system then I’ll give wheat a try to see what happens. Incidentally, I just read a brief article on Schar’s fb page that said if you are already eating gluten-free and want to get tested for celiac, you need to eat wheat for at least a month at a rate of 4 servings per day before getting tested. That’s a lot of wheat! But so good to have the specific amount in mind for future testing. I might do that at some point, but for now I am just going to focus on healing what I can.

dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · vegan · vegetarian

Caveman Cookies

Paleo people, get ready to be jealous. A couple of weeks ago I won an entire box of Caveman Cookies.

Caveman Cookies

Aren’t they cute?! Their tag line up at the top is so clever that even my 9 year old got a kick out of it. Here’s a better pic for reading it:

Just like you great, great, great...

As you may have guessed, the ingredients are Paleo friendly and are also gluten and dairy free. They are made with nut flours and other simple, whole ingredients that result in sophisticated flavor combinations which you can read above. They are also individually wrapped which was a nice surprise since that means they can keep longer and it makes it easier to share them.

Individually wrapped

Now the big question is…did cavemen share? Considering we can’t possibly eat these all ourselves, sharing is exactly what I plan on doing even if caveman manners are debatable. My son and I thought it’d be a nice surprise to put these in the teachers’ lounge at his school because we know there are a couple of gluten-free eaters there and most likely some Paleo eaters there too. As for the others, well, who doesn’t appreciate a free cookie every once in a while? These boxes are so fun that they would be perfect for a gift or in a gift basket for Paleo people so remember these at gift-giving times. (Easter baskets? Passover desserts? Mother’s Day?) And remember, caveman caught more cows with cookies than clubs. At least they should have.

celiac disease · dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gf bread · gf foods · gluten free · gluten free bread · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · vegetarian

Lunchtime

Who doesn’t love a good sandwich? Even when I eat salad or soup, I always have a hearty carb to accompany it, which might take the form of rice with soup or corn tortillas to wrap up my salad, but lately most of my lunches involve Schar Classic White Rolls. These taste delicious with a sourdough flavor and a real classic bready texture that leaves no issues with unseen holes that gluten-free loaves are apt to hide. They are free of dairy and eggs too and make excellent hamburger buns although usually I just use them for regular old sandwiches. They are too big for my toaster even though I have one of those bagel toasters so I always just put them under the broiler for a few minutes each side before adding the extras, unless I’m using cheese and then that goes under the boiler too, just for the last-minute or so. My favorite sandwich does involve cheese, mozzarella to be specific, plus tomato and basil with extra greens and a little olive oil and vinegar for a caprese-inspired sandwich. Yum!

Yesterday I had this salad I’d gotten from PCC’s deli called something along the lines of ‘ravishing radishes’ with my roll and it was so delicious and healthy that I had to see if they had the recipe posted…but, unfortunately I don’t see it yet on their recipe page yet. It was full of radishes, garbanzo beans, feta, cherry tomatoes, herbs and a light vinaigrette. Definitely going to try something similar…Here’s a pic so you can too:

Salad with Schar roll

 

And here’s one with the salad on the roll:

Salad on Schar Can’t you just taste it? So good! If you are tired of your gluten-free loaves surprising you with little holes in your slices of bread, try these rolls instead. They are guaranteed to make your lunch a fulfilling one!

 

Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant

Protein Drink

My youngest insists he is “vegetarian except for bacon and pepperoni” which is fine but getting protein into him is ridiculously difficult. He is dairy, gluten, and almond intolerant, so there goes that lovely cheese protein he used to get, as well as the nut crackers and flours that used to add protein to his diet. He refuses to eat all beans, including tofu, and does not like anything nutty, including peanut butter. It’s hard. We found one protein bar that he likes, NuGo Dark chocolate chocolate chip which has 10g of protein per bar.

nugo-dark-chocolate-chocolate-chip-lg

I’ve made countless smoothies but he just can’t down anything with protein powder in it, that is except for this pre-made drink called Svelte. He loves the vanilla and with 11 g of protein per serving (11 oz) I am more than happy to let him drink a few per week.

Svelte_Header

I’d rather him get use to other forms of protein, but while he’s learning it’s nice to have another source in his limited diet. (It’s soy in Svelte so hopefully that will help him eat/drink soy other places.) Just thought I’d share in case anyone else is in the same position.

dairy free · food · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gf foods · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten intolerance · gluten intolerant · organic · picky kids · vegan · vegetarian

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos (Gluten-free and Vegan)

Just when I thought I never wanted another corn tortilla again, I got a craving for a taco with some sort of orange veggie in it. Whenever we go out to dinner we often go to one of two places where I order a butternut squash quesadilla. I love them, but I hate dealing with squash and its hard shell that eats knives for breakfast so I have never attempted to make them myself. It got me thinking though that wouldn’t a sweet potato taste just as good in that kind of meal? And if I could eliminate the cheese it’d be even better for our family, so onto the web I went and sure enough there are plenty of recipes for sweet potatoes and black beans together in all sorts of fashions~ tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. I went the taco route and used several different recipes to cobble together what is written below to work with what I had in my refrigerator. My husband and oldest son loved these by the way, as did I, and my youngest who only gathered enough courage to try one black bean and one piece of sweet potato admitted the black bean wasn’t bad. That says more to me than the fact that my husband is generally not a huge sweet potato fan, nor a big black bean fan, and really he prefers flour tortillas and definitely cheese and preferably meat. This recipe outshined all that. It is a keeper.

Vegan, Gluten-free Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

Sweet potato and black bean taco

1.5 T vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil and olive oil)

1/2 t salt

1 yellow or red onion (I used red b/c that is what I had and the purple hue was so pretty)

1 pepper (I used 1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper, but orange or green would work)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium-large sweet potato

1 can black beans (or 1.5 c if using dried beans)

1 t cumin

freshly ground pepper to taste

corn tortillas

guacamole (or avocados)

Preheat oven to 400. Using a large cast iron pan or some other oven-friendly pan* sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic until the onions are translucent in 1 T of vegetable oil. (I used sunflower oil). In a bowl coat the sweet potato which has been skinned and diced into bite size pieces with 1/2 T of oil (I used olive) and 1/2 t of sea salt. Add this into the sauté pan and cook for 1 minute before transferring into the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm up the rinsed and drained beans on medium with 1 t cumin in a small sauce pan. Also warm up some corn tortillas** until they are soft. Take the pan out of the oven and if the sweet potatoes are cooked through add the beans and stir to get everything mixed together. Load the tortillas and top with guacamole or fresh avocados. It’s a symphony of flavors played just right. If it were up to me this is what I’d make for Thanksgiving, along with kale chips and pica de gallo salsa. It’s enough to make a pilgrim say, “Ole!” But alas, we are hosting this year and I’m going to have to stick to the more traditional items I’ve already planned.

sweet potato and black bean taco

 

* If you don’t have an oven proof pan, use one that you can top with a lid or plate and add 2 T of water to the mixture to steam it for approximately 5-10 min.

** I use Trader Joe’s corn tortillas b/c they are thick and sturdy, plus they are remarkably clean. Their ingredient list is all of: ground white corn masa flour, water, trace of lime. That’s it. Exactly how it should be. And they taste incredibly good, much better than any other corn tortilla on the market.Trader Joe's corn tortillas