Activated Seed & Nut Trail Mix

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One of the many benefits of paying attention to the food you put into your body is of course, better health. One of the downsides to doing a lot of research and reading about health, food allergies, and disease is that all of that information can be extremely overwhelming. Soon, you feel like there’s nothing you can eat that won’t upset your body in one way or another. Well, now you can add raw nuts and seeds to that ever-growing list.

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I’ve known for a while that there was negative information “out there” about eating raw nuts and seeds and how they are very hard on our digestive systems. They were created to survive in harsh conditions and then be able to sprout when the sun and rain makes an appearance. When we eat them raw, the phytic acid that is beneficial for their survival is not beneficial to us. It binds to minerals in the gastrointestinal tract, causing irritation and doesn’t allow for nutrient absorption. When your stomach and intestines are continually being irritated by foods your body cannot digest or foods you are sensitive or allergic to, your immune system suffers greatly. And when your immune system suffers, your entire body is affected.

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You may be thinking, but I feel fine when I eat raw nuts and seeds! But here’s the issue. Our guts are in a battle. They’re in trouble. Your gut is the center of your immune system and ours are a mess which is proven by the astronomical amount of humans with auto immune diseases, cancer, hormone imbalances, IBS, Fibromyalgia, mental disorders, stress disorders, and all kinds of other issues. It’s a domino effect. The more we ignore our guts and continue to put things in them they can’t tolerate, the more out of balance we become. We may not have that immediate reaction of “Oh! What I just ate made me really ill.” But little by little your body becomes overwhelmed and soon you feel “off” or “wonky” or “achy” or “fluish” more than you think you should, or you get sick a lot with colds and other things like migraines, strep throat, seasonal allergies, sinus infections, swollen glands… That’s your body telling you something is wrong. By really paying attention to what you feed it and how you treat it, you can go a long, long, way to feeling better.

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Help your immune system, help you. And for crying out loud, don’t believe everything you hear in the mainstream media. For years we’ve been reading about how fantastic raw nuts and seeds are for our health. “Eat a handful of almonds a day! Add nuts and seeds to your salads! Add them to your morning smoothie! Use nut flours to bake with! Use nut butters, they’re excellent for your body! Get your protein from nuts and seeds!” All of these statements have truth. But only if you’re able to digest the nuts and seeds properly and actually benefit from their nutrients. Otherwise they’re actually harming you, not helping you.

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Soaking nuts and seeds and then dehydrating them is simple. SO simple. I bought this dehydrator on Amazon. It was $73.79 (free shipping with Prime) and is very versatile. You can use it to dehydrate nuts and fruits, make fruit leather, make meat jerky, dry herbs…all kinds of things. And it’s incredibly simple to use, clean, and store.

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It’s BPA free and even has temperature settings already sorted out for you on the lid. The heating element is in the lid and covered so there’s no messy clean up like the old dehydrators with the exposed heating element on the bottom.

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It’s relatively quiet. Sounds like a low fan. I’ve run it all night for two nights in a row now with zero noise irritation or issues. It has 5 shelves and you don’t have to rotate them for even drying.

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You can Google how to soak raw nuts and seeds or use this resource like I did. Super simple and straight forward.

I soaked raw cashews and raw sunflower seeds because that is what I had on hand. Last night I also soaked and dehydrated raw pumpkin seeds. The resource link above will give you an easy timeline guide. I try to time my soaking so that I can dehydrate over night.

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The cashews needed 18 hours of dehydration, while the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds only needed about 6-8 hours.

The beginning stage of dehydration.

The beginning stage of dehydration after soaking for 2 hours.

After an 18 hour dehydration.

After an 18 hour dehydration.

They have a nice crisp, snap to them when broken in two.

They have a nice crisp, snap to them when broken in two.

Crunchy and delicious after only 6-8 hours.

Crunchy and delicious after only 6 hours.

Once the nuts and seeds have been dehydrated you can use them for nut and seed butters, grind them for flours, use them in smoothies, make your own nut milk, snack on them, and bake with them. Just allow them to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Activated Nut & Seed Trail Mix

1 Cup of Activated Organic Raw Cashews 

1/2 Cup of Activated Organic Raw Sunflower Seeds

About 1/2 Cup of Dried Cherries

About 1/2 Cup of Dried Blueberries

About 1/4 Cup Organic Raisins

About 1/2 Cup of Organic Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

1/2 teaspoon of Organic Ground Cinnamon

About 6 grinds of Pink Himalayan Salt

Toss to combine and store in an airtight container.

RESOURCES:

http://yumuniverse.com/soaking-and-dehydrating-nuts-and-seeds/

http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/the-benefits-of-soaking-nuts-and-seeds

http://www.vega-licious.com/soaking-nuts-seeds-and-legumes/

http://wholelifestylenutrition.com/recipes/appetizers-snacks/is-soaking-nuts-necessary-how-to-properly-soak-your-organic-raw-nuts/

http://blog.radiantlifecatalog.com/bid/69542/That-s-Nuts-A-Complete-Guide-to-Soaking-Nuts-and-Seeds

Pure & Simple Organic Body Lotion

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There is some controversy in the allergen world about beauty products.

There’s basically two schools of thought.

The first, is that it’s perfectly safe to use your food allergens like gluten and dairy on your skin. I’ve read all kinds of posts where people are touting that they have no negative outcome from doing so. 

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This includes body lotion, soap, face lotions and washes, and make up. They believe little, if anything, is absorbed through your skin and into your blood stream.

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The second school of thought is much different. They know that your skin is your largest organ and considering that people wear hormone patches, drug patches, allergy patches, slather hormone cream, cortisone and all kinds of other things on their skin prescribed by medical physicians that are meant to absorb…that our skin does in fact absorb all kinds of things and then shuffles much of it along to our blood stream and then through our liver.

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I of course reside within the second school of thought. I once read a blog where the woman said she uses absolutely nothing on her skin that she cannot eat right out of the jar. This made sense to me.

If you’re allergic to gluten and dairy or numerous other things, why would you rub them all over your largest living organ, every single day?

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Soft peaks after about 10 minutes.

There are lotions on the market that are free of dairy and gluten. However, have you ever read the ingredients list? I’m not willing to lick that off of a spoon.

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Stiff peaks after about another 10 minutes. It will end up being the consistency of butter cream frosting.

This home-made lotion is simple. Anyone can make it, it only has 2 ingredients that most of us have on hand. You can add a few drops of essential oil if you have those on hand too, but it’s not necessary if you don’t. I added a few drops of lemon and a couple of drops of peppermint.

Pure & Simple Organic Body Lotion

*Makes 2 Cups

2 Cups of  Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

1/2 Cup of Organic 100% Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I filled a small saucepan halfway with water and set a glass bowl in the top. Bring the water almost to a boil and add the coconut oil. Stir until thoroughly melted. Remove the bowl from the hot water and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Add the olive oil. Pour the mixture into the bowl of your mixer and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Attach the whisk. Whisk the oil mixture on medium high for 10 minutes and on high for 5-8 minutes until it emulsifies and is light and fluffy. Scoop into a container with a lid and keep in a cool place in your bathroom. Apply all over your body after a warm shower or bath.

Go With Your Gut

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Over the weekend I ordered a hot chocolate at a specialty shop downtown. I like to go to that particular shop because I know that their sipping chocolate is dairy free and they will make me a hot cup with almond milk.

Or so I thought. 

If possible, I usually watch people make my food and drinks. Because honestly, no one cares as much about my food allergies as I do. But on this occasion I was on a date weekend with my husband who has been traveling a lot. My focus was on him and we were chatting away, not paying attention to my favorite cup of sipping chocolate. As we walked out the door with my to go cup, I first put my nose to it and inhaled deeply as I always do. Ahhh…chocolate. Is there anything better on certain days?

Hmm…it smells different.

I stopped in my tracks. Took a couple of sips and again realized…something is different. I looked at my husband and said, “Do you think I should go back in and double-check if they made this with almond milk? I asked her to make it with almond milk right off the bat.” For whatever reason, I hate to be an alarmist. I hate to be one of “those” paranoid people who whine, or throw a fit when they think their order isn’t prepared properly. But my husband looked at me and said, “Just go back in really quick and ask. What’s wrong with asking?”

So I popped back in and nicely asked and… you guessed it. She made it with cow’s milk! I told them I was allergic to cow’s milk and that I had asked for almond milk. They apologized (kind of) and gave us a tiny little vegan caramel to share. How generous…and of course, made me another  sipping chocolate with almond milk.

Luckily, those two or three sips only resulted in mild stomach issues and a little swelling. There’s a theory that if you abstain from your sensitive foods and allergens that you can eventually add them back into your diet at some point once your gut has healed. Not so with me. My body now recognizes gluten and dairy almost immediately, where several years ago it would take 12-24 hours to appear.

This “accidental” exposure has happened to me numerous times with gluten and dairy. Seriously, more than I can count. It can make even the most anti-alarmist a little paranoid and skeptical. It has even happened in restaurants where I order off of the gluten-free menu and make sure there’s no dairy in my entrée.  As a matter of fact, sometimes when we are extremely busy, which we have been, we eat out a couple times a week. Even though I’m careful, very careful, I can tell after a few restaurant excursions that I am slowly being fed allergens in one form or another even if they tell me I’m not. Swelling joints, stomach issues, headaches, and if it’s really bad, shingles appear. Then I know for sure.

When we were standing at the counter waiting for my sipping chocolate, my  husband looked at me, shook his head, and said, “Always go with your gut.”

Wise words.

Always. Go. With. Your. Gut.

Who cares if people think you are an alarmist, paranoid, or just into the latest crazy diet fad? It’s your health and it’s important. A good reminder.

Here’s a very interesting article that popped into my email this morning. I am set up on Google Alerts for gluten and dairy intolerance articles. This article is very simple and informative in the way it explains the body’s response system to allergens, antibodies,  and how the inflammation process works. 

*Photo courtesy of DrOZFans.com

It’s All About The Bread

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People who have to go gluten free and/or dairy free are always pleased when they find a great recipe that they can prepare that is satisfying, delicious, and doesn’t make them sick for a week after eating it. Yep, three days to an entire week.  Those of us who are gluten sensitive, allergic to dairy, or have Celiac’s know the symptoms of being exposed to gluten and other allergens all too well, don’t we?

For me it’s joint pain, migraines, flu like symptoms, and extreme lethargy. Not even close to being worth going off the wagon and quite frankly, it can make you a little paranoid to eat other places besides your own home. I’ve been “glutened and dairyied” more times than I can count in restaurants and even at family and friend’s houses when they were sure the food was allergen free.

Because we have to eat to survive, and most of us enjoy eating and cooking, we’re always in search of allergen free recipes that our entire family can enjoy. Of course, all different types of recipes that allergy sufferers can eat and be happy with and that don’t make them ill are nice, but let’s just be realistic. For most of us who are gluten-free…

 It’s All About The Bread

Most people who are gluten-free are in a never ending search for the perfect bread. Perfect biscuits. Perfect buns. Perfect crackers. Perfect pizza dough. Perfect sandwich bread. Perfect sour dough bread…I think you get the idea.

What I have found is that as long as you are not looking for a gluten-free bread to taste EXACTLY like what you remember gluten bread tasting like, you’re going to be fine. It’s like wanting turkey bacon to taste like real bacon. Still great, but not the same.

I’ve tried many, many, gluten-free bread items. Some of them were shockingly terrible and others were surprisingly delicious. And surprisingly delicious is all I’m really looking for. I’m not looking to relive my gluten days, I just want gluten-free food, breads in particular, to be equally as great as any other food.

Over the next several weeks I’m going to be testing a lot of different types of bread recipes. I’m going to try some that are already gluten-free and many that are not and will need to be converted. I’m going to take you along with me and show you the good, the bad, and the ugly. Making gluten-free bread products is not always an easy task and I think it’s only fair that you get to see the work that goes into it. Even the failed recipes, instead of me baking for several weeks and only posting the ones that worked and turned out gorgeous.

So, over the next several weeks we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope that we’ll have several new and delicious bread recipes to add to our weekly menus!

Happy and Patient Baking To You

~ April

**Pictures – eatocracy, glugleglutenfree, marketingandsalesguru, and pettysfinefoods

Change Isn’t Easy But It Is SO Worth It

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Breakfast This Morning - Veggie Scramble with Gluten-Free Toast, Dairy Free Butter, and Cutie Orange

Ahhhh…the allergen free life. It’s gotten much easier over the years but sometimes you forget what it was like when you ate whatever you wanted whenever you wanted and then, well, felt like total crap. When I’m tempted to fall off of the gluten-free and dairy-free wagon I try very hard to remind myself of how terrible I felt the last time I caved in. Horribly stiff joints, neck pain that requires anti-inflammatories, swelling, sore breasts, chest tightness and congestion, feeling so tired that it felt like someone drugged me, flu symptoms, migraines, irritability, itching, stomach and intestinal issues, and if I really overdo it, eventually a shingles break out which then gets my nervous system all whipped up. Just because someone’s throat doesn’t close and tongue doesn’t swell up does not mean that they aren’t allergic to certain foods or  don’t have food intolerances. Sometimes the symptoms are more subtle, sometimes people are eating their allergen foods daily and just have an overall “feeling yucky” kind of feeling. You know, when you’re not feeling up to par and you can’t figure out why? Some people can tell when they eat something that bothers them but they live on antacids instead of realizing that they shouldn’t be eating that food. They may think that it’s just irritating their stomach but in reality, if they are intolerant or allergic to what they are eating, it’s also taxing their immune system. I can’t say this too many times or loud enough…STOP IGNORING YOUR SYMPTOMS! 

We already know that food allergies worsen autism, can cause and or worsen ADD/ADHD, cause irritable bowel syndrome and all kinds of intestinal and stomach issues, and they are finding out more and more about the link between food allergies and intolerances to auto-immune diseases. Food allergies have also been  linked to arthritis, asthma, canker sores, shingles breakouts, eczema, and fertility problems. As Americans, a lot of us over-eat, over-work, over-stress, under-exercise, and ignore our health issues.

Do I miss certain foods? Of course! But not nearly as much as I thought I would. I probably miss pizza the most because to me, it’s the ultimate “I’m tired and don’t want to cook” comfort food. But, such is life. I can make all kinds of GF and DF pizzas that are absolutely delicious without all of the horrible side effects I listed above. As a matter of fact, I absolutely love proving that I can make almost anything gluten-free and dairy-free and still be satisfied and happy with what I’m eating. If you like to cook and bake, it’s easy. If you don’t like to cook and bake or don’t have the time, it will be a little more difficult, but not much. You won’t have as much variety but there are still all kinds of foods out there that you can enjoy.

If you’re new to this world of eating gluten-free and or dairy-free, I feel your pain. But just know that after a few months, you’ll feel so much better and you’ll get the hang of it. I’ve written a couple of articles filled with tips and advice to get you going in the right direction. You can find them here Arm Yourself With Knowledge and here Where Do I Start?.  I promise it’s not nearly as difficult as people make it sound. Placing yourself in the driver’s seat where your health is concerned is a gift of a happy life to not only you but your entire family. I am thankful every single day that I don’t feel like I used to and am taking charge of my own health, and I want you to feel that way too!

11 Of My Favorite Cookbooks

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When I first entered into the gluten-free world I thought I was going to be stuck with what was being sold online or in the very small gluten-free isles in our local grocery stores. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was not going to be OK with a lot of what I was seeing. I did mountains of internet research and spent a lot of time at Barnes & Noble trying to figure out this whole gluten-free thing. I Googled everything I could think of. I read magazine articles. I skimmed through tons of books on living gluten-free. I talked to other people who have food allergies. I tried to absorb as much information as possible because I was unwilling to listen to those negative nellies who told me how hard it is to live gluten-free.

Once I realized that many people before me had obviously been to the grocery store and had a look at what there was being offered in the GF isle and were equally as upset, I started to calm down and settle into this new way of thinking. I experimented with GF mixes and different types of GF flours to see what I was up against. Once I became more familiar with the science of baking gluten-free, then I stepped out and ventured into the world of recipe conversion. Converting gluten-full recipes to gluten-free recipes. It’s so much easier than I would have ever guessed! Once I figured out I could do that, then I was truly inspired and very excited to start creating my own recipes. There are so many things to use for inspiration when baking. Pictures, combinations of recipes, flavors, old family recipes that need a new and exciting twist…the list goes on and on.

I promise you that living allergy free is not nearly as difficult as some people would have you think. Here’s a list of eleven of my favorite cookbooks that I often refer to when I’m looking for ideas and inspiration.

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

I decided to list this one first, because I absolutely love it. It has every simple, traditional recipe you can think of. Kind of funny that it’s called the “New” cookbook because I’m pretty sure someone gave it to us as a wedding gift…almost 20 years ago. It’s a classic, and perfect for looking through when you have ideas about converting recipes.

Gluten Free Mama’s Best Baking Recipes

This cookbook has more than one hundred recipes that you can try with her almond flour blend and her coconut flour blend. One of my families all time favorite recipes from this book is her Blueberry Yogurt Muffins. To die for. Gluten Free Mama’s Almond Blend All Purpose Gluten Free Flour is the number one flour I use for the majority of my baking. It is also excellent for recipe conversions. This is her first cookbook, she now has another one on the market as well.

Cooking For Isaiah

I reviewed this cookbook not too long ago. I can’t rave enough about it! Every single recipe I’ve tried is perfect and delicious. You can read the review and see a picture of  her doughnuts that I made here.

250 Gluten-Free Favorites

My husband and son bought me this cookbook for Mother’s Day a couple of years ago. I haven’t even made it past the bread section, they are that good. I also like the fact that I can change flours and other ingredients without having to worry too much about the outcome.

Better Homes & Gardens Old-Fashioned Home Baking

I have had this cookbook for twenty years. There are food stains in it and half of the pages are dog-eared. Definitely a sign of a great cookbook. Beautiful, classic, old-fashioned baking, right at your finger tips just waiting to be converted.

Rose’s Christmas Cookies

Here’s another awesome cookbook I’ve had for twenty years. It’s moved five times with us so you know it’s worth it. Hundreds of cookie recipes, tons of which work wonderfully with gluten-free flour and ingredients.

Farm House Cookbook

This is the neatest cookbook. Filled with farm-house comfort food recipes that have a little story to go along with each one. Fantastic!

 

Fresh Food Fast

This cookbook is packed with fresh, easy recipes from soups and salad, to sandwiches, shellfish, and poultry. They even have a meat-less section. I haven’t run across one thing in this cookbook that can’t be converted to gluten-free.

Salads A Collection of Over 100 Essential Recipes

I grabbed this one at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago when I was meandering around. It is filled with beautiful, fresh, and delicious salads. Each recipe has its own picture, which I love! If you’re like me and get tired of the same old side dishes, this cookbook is for you.

Easy Vegetarian

I love meat. Plain and simple. But…in an attempt to lighten up on the red meat and enter more veggies and fresh foods into our diets, I purchased this lovely cookbook. Again, this one has a picture to go with every recipe. I’ve only had the chance to try a couple of the recipes but so far, so good. The recipes are so flavorful and the outcome so beautiful, that you won’t even miss the meat.

The Everything Mediterranean Diet Book

Don’t misunderstand the word “diet”. They do claim that if you change over to a Mediterranean diet that you will lose weight. However, that’s not why I bought this book. It’s filled with all kinds of information about eating healthier and living healthier. It has tons of fun and delicious recipes, I would highly recommend it.

Where Do I Start?

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Let’s just face the truth, going gluten-free is a little stressful and a lot overwhelming. Many people not only have to go gluten-free, but dairy-free, corn-free, egg-free, soy-free… When someone receives that kind of news from their doctor, usually the first thing they experience is panic and they wonder if there is anything they can eat. First, my main piece of advice if you are new to this world, is to take it slow and easy for the first couple of weeks. Chances are, you’ve been feeling terrible for a long time and taking a week or so to get yourself organized and familiar with your new life is not going to kill you. Of course you’ll want to double-check that with your doctor first! So, if you can set aside an hour here and there to get your new diet organized over let’s say, a week’s period of time, you are going to cut down the stress of figuring this whole gluten-free thing out by at least 95%.

If you enjoy cooking and baking, you’re going to be shocked at how many things you’re eating now that you can actually make gluten-free.  If your favorite place to be isn’t the kitchen and you’re only proficient at burning water, that’s OK, because there are products out there for you too. You’re not going to starve.

1.  Go through all of the food in your fridge, cupboards, and pantry to determine what is OK for you to eat. (Basically, you cannot eat anything with wheat, barley, or rye.  Also, you cannot eat oats that are not labeled gluten-free. (Google “gluten-free grains and flours” for more information.) Don’t forget your freezer. Unfortunately, many meat products like turkey bacon, sausage, chicken nuggets, hamburger patties, hot dogs, and lunch meats have gluten. Check the labels, and if in doubt, look it up on the internet. Sometimes when they list “natural ingredients”, that means there’s gluten somewhere in there.

2.  Find a grocery store in your area that has a “health food” section. If you’re lucky, they’ll even have a gluten-free section. If you’re in a small town, it may be difficult. You might have to shop via the internet or take a day trip to a larger town to find what you need. Familiarize yourself with some of the things that you might like to try, and keep an eye out for things that you’ll need to replace at home like all purpose flour, pasta, breads, cookies, crackers, certain condiments, etc.

3.  Remember, there are TONS of gluten free items in the regular isles as well. It’s becoming more common for manufacturers to label their products gluten-free or at least list the common allergens that are in them. And yes, gluten is becoming a common allergen. Google is another great tool for this. If I’m in doubt, I Google the product name to figure out if I can eat it. For example, Is Hunt’s Ketchup Gluten Free? Tons of people post things about gluten-free items so it’s easy to figure it out quickly.

4.  Look up all of your favorite restaurant websites and check to see if they have gluten-free menus or options.

5.  Start slowly. There’s still a lot of food that you can eat that didn’t have gluten to begin with, like fruits, vegetables, some meats, etc. Gluten-free and “specialty foods” can be quite pricey so just buy a few things at first and give them a try. I started with the basics – pasta, bread, cereal. Then moved on to bread mixes, different types of flour, xanthan gum, etc. You’ll learn quickly which items you would be willing to buy again and which items you can’t believe people will eat.

6.  Once you’ve been on your gluten-free road for a couple of weeks and you understand more about your diet needs and where to find the items you like, you can start experimenting a little. Go to your local bookstore and look through their gluten-free cook books. There are tons of options! (I’m also beginning to review cook books for this blog, so stay tuned.)

7.  Spend some time researching gluten-free blogs and recipes on the internet. There are literally thousands upon thousands. If you want to make gluten-free lasagna, Google it! You’ll have 20 different recipes in 3 seconds right at your fingertips. Tweak them to your liking or get really adventurous and make up your own recipes. It’s exciting and amazingly rewarding! Pretty much anything you need to know about living gluten-free and cooking gluten-free is available on the internet and in bookstores.

See, it’s all figured out – no worries!  Broken down into manageable steps that don’t involve curse words or tears. Take it slowly, stay calm. This is a new beginning, a fresh start, an opportunity to fill your belly and nourish your body with things that don’t make you sick!  Look forward to it, get excited about it!  It’s Gluten Free Zen…