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Sopsky Salat

I’ve written before about living in Prague with my flatmate and how often our chatter turned to foods of our pasts~ dishes we missed, restaurants the other had to try, and (more often than you might ever guess) frozen food favorites. As two pescatarians living in the Czech Republic over 15 years ago, our choices were slim to say the least. We ate a lot of minute rice, bread, cheese, and if we were feeling flush, canned tuna. In fact, the fish served in Czech restaurants was mainly carp served with head, tail, and bones fully intact which wasn’t exactly making our mouths water, so tuna was as fishy as we got there. Every once in a while, over tea or too many glasses of boxed wine, we’d grow mindful and imagine some day far in the future when we’d actually miss food from Prague. It seemed almost laughable at the time, and yet what else brings a place and time back more poignantly than food? Maybe it was the endless grey dotted with blossoming trees this weekend that had me reminiscing about Prague, or maybe it was pulling on my winter coat yet again while the calendar teased of spring, much like the Czech winter seemed to drag on well past its welcome. Whatever it was, I made up a large batch of sopsky salat (pronounced shopsky salat) to bring back the taste of that bittersweet year.

Sopsky salat was on just about every menu in Prague, and it was also often the only vegetarian item available, so I have had my fair share of sopsky salat in my life. It is similar to Greek salad without the olives, but everyone makes it a little different. I decided to make a version with what I had in my fridge instead of trying to copy an authentic recipe and it turned out pretty darn good, but not exactly as I remember. It might have just been missing the cheap box wine accompaniment, or (more likely) my favorite Canadian companion.

Ingredients:

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Sopsky Salat

1 yellow pepper

1 cucumber

1 medium tomato

1/2 red onion

Feta cheese (as much as you want but I used about 3.5oz, or half that package shown)

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 T olive oil

salt and pepper as desired

To make, simply chop and mix. Let the salad set in the fridge for at least an hour before eating for best taste.

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This was my son’s and my lunch for a couple of days, with warm (gluten-free) toast on the side. We like to spoon the salad on top of the bread and when the bread is still warm, the feta melts a tad. Delicious. Na zdravi! (Czech for Cheers!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Places Gluten Likes to Hide

Even though I’ve been eating gluten-free for about ten years now, I still like reminders of those hidden places where gluten may lurk. This infographic from Delicious Living is a nice visual reminder for some of those sneaky spots:

10glutenfoods

I would add herbal teas to this list because I often find barley malt on the ingredients lists of herbal tea blends, especially Yogi teas (which I love!). Not all have barley malt, but I know Stomach Ease does and so does Kava Stress Relief, both of which I used to drink regularly and highly recommend if you aren’t avoiding gluten. Otherwise, find another tea to drink and read those labels!

alternative medicine · celiac disease · children · cleansing · dairy free · Food allergies · food allergy blogs · food sensitivities · gluten free · Gluten free eating · gluten free food · gluten free foods · gluten intolerant · health · Herbs · kids

Candida’s Role in Food Sensitivities and Allergies

I’ve been thinking about candida overgrowth lately because of several reasons. One of those reasons is that I’ve lately let my youngest intentionally eat gluten twice to see how he handles it. So far I haven’t seen any issues, but I’m keeping a close eye on him. The reason my kids were tested for food intolerances is because I have such a bad reaction to gluten, but as for them, their reactions were more subtle and not necessarily the gluten. My oldest used to complain about an upset tummy all the time~ almost every day it didn’t feel right. Once he was off all the things he was found to be sensitive to, including gluten and dairy, his stomach issues went away. He can now eat everything that he was once intolerant to, except we haven’t tried him on gluten b/c the naturopath thought that was his main issue. My youngest on the other hand, had less intolerances in general, but a higher sensitivity to dairy. She thought his main issue might be dairy instead of gluten, though he tested intolerant to both (and not much else.) He didn’t complain about stomach issues as much as he had cheeks that were constantly red and bumpy, and bouts of constipation. (If he ever reads this he’ll be furious I just shared that!) He now seems to handle dairy fine, which is why I thought he could try gluten. It’s all just trial and error and figuring out what’s going to best support optimal health, which is why I thought I should probably take a look again at Candida, because a candida overgrowth is bad on its own, and most people don’t even know when they have an overgrowth, but not only that, an overgrowth can actually cause food intolerances and allergies. So, if I want to cure these intolerances of my boys and mine, which I do, then I need to check and make sure our guts are able to support these troublesome foods and that has everything to do with the microbiome.

The simple way to think about it is that candida (which everyone has) can start growing in numbers that cause an imbalance in the digestive system, and when that happens, whether caused by a round of antibiotics, a diet too rich in sugars and processed foods, or any other reason then the candida population can explode. If you have ever had a yeast infection or jock itch, then you have experienced candida getting out of control, and if it made it to one of those places, you can be fairly certain you have too much in your gut, and quite possibly a systemic situation throughout your body. So how does this relate to food intolerances and allergies? Candida can cause leaky gut syndrome, where larger molecules of food can pass through the holes in the gut. These bits of food are too large for the body to recognize outside of the gut, so the immune system kicks in to fight the invader. The offending food becomes ‘labeled’ as bad, so the body reacts to it badly. In this way, food can often go from an intolerance to a full on allergy (with a full immune response). When you stop eating an offending food for a few months, or years as is our case here, then the body forgets that it needs to react badly to it, and if the digestive tract has had a chance to heal in the meantime, so much the better. Probiotics are essential. Now that my kids have had a few years to rid their body of intolerance reactions and have taken daily probiotics (always changing the brand every time we get new bottles~ that’s important too! Not a time for brand loyalty b/c the microbiome is incredibly diverse and all those brands use different probiotics so you get the most diversity by switching up what you use.) My kids seem to be doing pretty well but I do notice that my oldest son’s stomach has a tendency to still bloat very easily. I certainly know the feeling! This is indeed a candida symptom, though can also be a symptom of other things of course, but this particular kiddo used to have a bad issue with yeast and a doctor had him on Nystatin for about six months or even longer, so I know he has the tendency towards candida overgrowth. Before he tries gluten, he’ll have to do some kind of candida cleanse. And as for me, my issues have gone on for decades instead of the small amount of years my sons’ issues have, so I know it is going to take much longer for me. But I do think I’ll get there. It’ll take more work, and a lot more time, but I do think food intolerance can be beaten. It doesn’t just come out of nowhere, and if there is a path the intolerance traveled to become fully present, it makes sense that one can reverse the path.

By the way, there are tons of great articles on candida overgrowth out there, and how to fight it and how to know if you have it. Just do a quick search and you’ll be inundated. To get you started, here’s one I recently read: Candida info.

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

Summer

Our summer began much the same way as last year’s summer, with a trip to Louisville, KY to see family. This year we ate multiple times at Annie May’s Sweet Café and were even picked up from the airport with big pretzels from there (thanks Mom!!) which were the first we have had in years and something my youngest misses very much. They only have them on Wednesdays and if you really want a lot of them you best get there early. If you find yourself there on another day there are plenty of other delicious foods to eat though~ I recommend getting a sandwich while my oldest adores the soup there and the carrot cake cupcake. My youngest had a ‘super cookie’ which he thought more than lived up to its name and in fact all the sweets we tried did not disappoint. They have a sign that says they deliver which my son got all excited about until I explained that meant deliveries around town, not to Seattle. Talk about bursting someone’s bubble.

We also went to Holiday World again and was even more impressed with their gluten-free options than last year. (Disneyland/world take notes please!) Besides the fact you can find  allergy free food as well as just gluten-free food about anywhere in the park, they now set up a little stand that is completely gluten-free.

George's Gluten-free Stand

We flew on Delta and brought our own food which was good since the free snacks were cookies or pretzels. The boys used to be able to eat those cookies so that was sad, but they got over it while sipping ginger ale and eating from their over-stuffed food bags. I had packed enough for an all day delay like the one we experienced last year and since the flights went actually well we ended up with a lot of left-over food. Delta does have one gluten-free option for buying food, something snack-y and overpriced of course, but at least if you are starving you do have something to eat.

We came home to a ripped-up kitchen (husband is remodeling) and continually high 80s and 90 degree heat with no A/C so cooking has not exactly been my favorite pastime thus far this season. I tend to love the heat but after a few evenings of sweating through dinner prep even I am ready for a break in the high temperatures. The farmers market on Saturdays is booming with berries already though with the best blueberries in June I’ve ever had, and my friend just brought over fresh picked raspberries last night and those are the best I’ve ever tasted in any month so I guess the sun and heat are working for some things. I sure hope this means we’ll have an extra long berry season and not just an early one that is over as quickly as it popped up. After the trip to see family my sons were a little sick of photos but I had to take this of the Saturday Farmers Market. There are less gluten-free vendors there this year but my oldest still gets his favorite street tacos there and my youngest has discovered kettle corn. It’s worth the trip for those alone.

Redmond Saturday Market

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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.

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.