Cut It Up Into Bite Size Pieces

This week when I made chicken soup for my 95-year-old cousin (isn’t she cute!),
CEI cut the chicken up into bite size pieces. It was really more like chicken stew – thick and full of carrots, celery, potatoes, black eyed peas, and rice. Until I cut up the boneless, skinless chicken thighs I included, it was impossible to take a bite that contained vegetables, broth, AND chicken. In fact, the full size chicken thighs were an obstacle that made it difficult to even get s spoon down to the vegetables and broth. Breaking that obstacle up into small pieces resulted in a uniform consistency and full flavor in each and every bite!

When I started the soup, I didn’t spend much time thinking about what it would look like when I was done. I just knew I didn’t want to have to clean another cutting board right then, so I didn’t bother to cut up the chicken before it was cooked. Once I was ready to eat the first bowl, I felt frustrated by the large pieces of meat I had to deal with. Obviously, that was low level frustration. It was only soup and I knew exactly how to fix the problem in a matter of minutes.
But let’s say it hadn’t been soup. What if I were feeling frustrated by the idea that committing to a gluten-free diet means I’ll never have my favorite rolls again AND I’ll have to read labels or ask questions before ordering food. I won’t be able to drink my favorite beer. I may have to eat before parties or carry food with me. I’ll have to figure out a system for keeping my food separate from the rest of the family’s. I’ll have to explain to my grandmother why I can’t eat her scrumptious strudel. It will be harder to eat fast food for dinner or doughnuts at the office. It just seems like way too much trouble.

Most of the gluten-free community has walked down that road at one time or another. I managed to get my mind around the obstacles, make the commitment, and stick to the diet only to find myself a couple of years later on a business trip, really hungry and standing in the cracker aisle of a grocery store…pouting. Seriously, I was pouting like a small child. I eventually grabbed a banana and some nuts and was fine, but I had that moment of, “Do I really have to do this?” Of course, by the time I was pouting, I also knew how much better I feel when I’m gluten-free so I wasn’t really tempted to cheat.

If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, you could have gluten-intolerance or celiac disease and, after testing, your doctor may recommend a gluten-free diet. If the idea of making such a significant change feels overwhelming to you, perhaps you can take the chicken soup approach – figure out your biggest obstacle and break it down into easily digestible pieces then proceed with a plan. As you have success, it will build upon itself and the process will become easier and the routine more uniform.

Vague abdominal pain
Weight loss
Malabsorption (Abnormality in digestion or absorption of food nutrients in the GI tract.)
Steatorrhea (Formation of non-solid feces.)
Behavioral changes
Fatigue or malaise
Growth delay

Hematologic diathesis
Skin/Mucous Membrane
Dermatitis Herpetiformis (Skin manifestation of celiac disease.)
Alopecia (Baldness – both universalis (from the entire skin) and areata (diffuse hair loss))
Aphthous ulcers (canker sores)
Abdominal or generalized swelling
Epistaxis (nose bleeds)
Easy bruisability
Cheilosis (Scaling at the corners of the mouth.)
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (Chronic dry eye.)
Stomatitis (Inflammation of the mucous tissue of the mouth.)
Scaly dermatitis (Inflammation of the skin.)

Non-specific bone pain
Joint pain(8)
Osteopenia (Low bone mineral density. Possible precursor to osteoperosis.)
Tetany (A combination of signs and symptoms due to unusually low calcium levels.)
Hyperreflexia (Overactive neurological reflexes.)
Carpopedal spasm (Spasms of the hands and feet.)
Laryngospasm (Spasm of the larynx, the voice box.)

Ataxia (coordination problems)
Myelopathy (Damage to white matter that carries motor signals to and from the brain.)
Peripheral neuropathy (Numbness and pain in hands and feet described as tingling or burning.)

Abdominal pain
Anorexia (poor appetite)
Dyspepsia (Recurrent discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen.)
Flatulence, distention
Foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily
Hepatic disease (liver disease)
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Steatorrhea (Formation of non-solid feces.)
Stomach upset
Bowel is less able to absorb nutrients, minerals, and the fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K.
Abnormal coagulation
Anemia (Lack of healthy red blood cells.)
Bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine
Failure to thrive (Poor weight gain and physical growth failure over an extended period of time in infancy.)
Growth Failure
Hyposplenism (small and under active spleen)
Hyperparathyroidism (Excessive production of parathyroid hormone because of low calcium levels.)
Bone deformities
Broken bones
Swollen joins
Iron deficiency anemia
Megaloblastic anemia
Muscle Wasting
Pubertal delay
Vitamin K deficiency
Weight loss

IgA deficiency (Means you’re 10 times more likely to develop celiac disease, AND gives a false negative on screening.)
Increased risk of infections
Autoimmune disorders:
Sjogren’s syndrome
Thyroid disease
Diabetes mellitus type 1
Autoimmune thyroiditis
Primary biliary cirrhosis
Microscopic colitis

When you consider the time and energy you lose to pain, fatigue, doctor’s visits, and managing symptoms, it will soon become clear that removing those obstacles will result in plenty of time and energy to pursue lifestyle changes. And unlike using pharmaceuticals, removing gluten from your diet has no deleterious side effects or long-term health dangers. You can eat a healthy, balanced diet without the artificially fortified grain-based products that predominate our grocery stores and television ads.

If you feel you just can’t give up fast food, don’t. That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to eat all of your favorites, but a quick review of the nutrition facts on convenient fast food restaurants’ websites will give you options that you can rely on when you’re pressed for time or want to join your kids in an occasional outing.

If you travel to rural areas for business, throw a Kind bar in your bag so you feel confident that you won’t get too hungry while searching for a local steak and potato restaurant. I sometimes carry a cooler bag with a couple of peeled & salted boiled eggs and some baby carrots along with a banana. That’s enough for a meal if I run out of restaurant options. And never assume that you won’t be able to find anything in a convenience store. I recently saw Glutino pretzels and gluten-free fruit snacks at the gas station in a small town.
While I failed to do this when making soup this week, the process is always easier when you visualize what things will look like in the end, so imagine what it will look like when you no longer feel sick, tired, and grumpy. Holding that vision in your head helps you break overwhelming ideas down into tiny, bite size momentary decisions that aren’t hard to make. And really, that’s all it takes.

I remain gluten-free with lots of very simple decisions every day: ordering grilled chicken rather than fried, no croutons on my salad, no gravy on my potatoes, befriending a waiter who will help me communicate with the kitchen, reading the labels on packaged food, hosting meetings at my house, and saying no when I need to say no. And I don’t think I’ve felt like pouting in the past 9 years!

It’s natural to feel some fear and temporary depression when making significant change. The good news is that these feelings soon dissipate just like the sore muscles you get when you start lifting weights and no matter how you feel right now, improvement will result from the small, gradual, and consistent positive steps you make over time. Perhaps we should call it a Gluten-Free Practice.

Two Wrongs Can…Make Delicious Breadcrumbs!

This week’s recipe tests proved that two wrongs can…make delicious breadcrumbs! Periodically, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating new gluten-free recipes. I cook, record what I think I’ve done, and then prepare the recipe again to see if I’ve gotten it right. If I have, the recipe is ready to be sent to out for a final test. If I haven’t, I try again. I think biscuits took about 9 tries, but the result is definitely worth it.

Anyway, this week I was concentrating on a new yeast roll and sandwich bread. The first batch of rolls went a little long in the oven, so I tweaked the baking time and the second batch was delicious! Confident, I started on the bread.
I wanted a really wet dough for the sandwich bread. I was happy when I poured it out of the bowl into the baking pan. Unfortunately, I filled the pan too full. It rose beautifully, but once I put it in the oven, began to rise over and drip down and around the pan. The good news is, the stalagmites formed by the dripping dough were incredibly good. The bad news is, the bread would not hold together when sliced thin.
At the end of the day, I had 10 rolls and a loaf of bread that were less than satisfactory. As you know, gluten-free flours don’t come cheap, so I wanted to put the mistakes to good use. I thought about making bread pudding, but decided I wasn’t in the mood for dessert. After exploring other options like croutons, I landed on bread crumbs as the thing I would use the most. I freeze them for later use in tuna croquettes and stuffed mushrooms or to top casseroles. I can also use them in meatballs or meatloaf.
With my bread crumb plan, I let the bread sit for a couple of days, then crumbled it into a flat pan and placed it in a 200º oven for an hour, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. I then let them sit out on top of the stove for the rest of the day. Sometimes, I’ll let the crumbs sit uncovered in a cool oven for an additional day.

Once the crumbs were dry, I placed them in a food chopper and ground them for a few seconds to make them more uniform. They were then ready to be put in an airtight container and stored in the freezer.

My sister is sometimes hesitant to try new things in the kitchen because she wants all her efforts to turn out well. I don’t worry so much about the first result because my mistakes are often fortuitous in one way or another. This week two wrongs made great breadcrumbs. Who knows what next week’s failings may contribute? I’m looking forward to finding out!

Gluten-Free Bowl Mix

bowl mixYou may think Gluten-Free Bowl Mix is so named because it’s made in a bowl or served in a bowl. I guess that COULD be true, but we call it that because we like to crunch on big old handfuls while watching football during the holidays. Of course, that means we’re watching lots of bowl games – you get the picture!
It’s easy to find the mix ingredients now that mainstream food companies are making gluten-free cereal and most boxes are clearly marked. Be sure to check the Cheerios box to make sure you see the gluten-free stamp. I saw some boxes in a dollar store the other day that were not gluten-free.

My sister recently introduced us to Certified Gluten-Free baked Goldfish Mega Cheese Puffs. Now I like to include them in the mix for an occasional cheesy bite. You can add even more than I’ve included in the recipe; just make sure to add them at the end after everything has cooled off.
Here’s the recipe I used for tonight’s College Football Playoff National Championship game:

Gluten-Free Bowl Mix

6 tbsp butter
4 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
2 cups gluten-free Cheerios
1 1/4 cups mixed nuts
1 1/4 cups small gluten-free pretzel twists
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 cup gluten-free Goldfish Mega Cheese Puffs

Preheat oven to 250º.

Place butter in a large roasting pan and put in oven until melted. While butter is melting, mix cereals, nuts, and pretzels together in large bowl. Remove butter from oven and stir in Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Pour cereal mixture into roasting pan and stir until all pieces are coated in the butter and seasoning.

Bake at 250º for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. If you like a few burned edges, after 45 minutes of baking, increase the temperature to 350º and reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes. Once the mix has baked, remove it from oven and place on paper towels to drain and cool. Once completely cool, stir in Goldfish and place in an airtight container until time for the game.

We’re carrying our Bowl Mix to a friend’s house to watch the game and enjoy sausage balls, vegetables and hummus, and personality Snickers. That’s what we call food, football and fun! I hope you have some fun planned as well.
Roll Tide! (That’s for my daughter-in-law.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Forget the Resolutions and Pick a New Year’s Theme

Most of us make New Year’s Resolutions that we won’t keep for more than a few weeks, so maybe it’s time to forget the Resolutions and pick a New Year’s Theme. If we’re to believe media reports, most resolutions involve improved personal appearance or health like losing weight, working out more, eating healthy, or stopping some bad habit. Other common resolutions seek to improve our lifestyle by saving money for the future or ridding ourselves of clutter.

I’m not sure anyone really takes New Year’s Resolutions seriously. Maybe that’s the reason we fail so often. It does seem like a good idea to approach each new year as a new beginning in which we can improve our lives. In fact, I’m a big fan of setting intentions for pretty much anything. Unlike goals, intentions simply require that I be mindful, aware, and follow a process rather than achieve a certain outcome. It’s much harder to fail that way! But when it comes to creating a big picture path for the year, creating a theme can be much more fun! And adding more fun to our lives is always an improvement!

What are some possible themes and how could I implement them?

curiosityCuriosity would be a good theme for the year. It’s a choice that could lead me to watch documentary movies, spend time learning programming on Codecademy, attend lectures, try an escape room game, join a meetup group, try online dating, or read science fiction. It would also be a chance to step back and get curious rather than angry in any confrontational interaction.

peacePeace is a good theme for any year. For me, it usually begins with being mindful of spending my time with people who exude calm and kindness. It also means making a choice to curb my impatience when communicating with tech support and customer service reps.

comfortComfort sounds like a possibility. If I choose it, I’ll be mindful each day when I get dressed to choose fabrics that feel good on my skin, shoes that do not hurt my feet (no matter how cute they are), and waistbands that allow me to breathe. I’ll sleep on sheets that feel good. I’ll eat food that doesn’t hurt my tummy. I’ll choose furniture that fits me well.

yogaStillness is one of my favorites. Being able to sit still did not come easy to me, but has given me some of the biggest improvements in quality of life. Stillness can include a practice of meditation or yoga or can just be simply turning off the TV, computer, or phone, and spending time with yourself.

boundariesAfter some thought, I think my theme for 2016 will be boundaries. It’s an oldie, but a goody. Good boundaries are essential for healthy relationships and give me a guilt-free space in which to say, “no”. Lots of things remind me to be conscious of my boundaries: fences, curbs, ropes, hula hoops, parking spaces, walls, cubicles, carrels, plates, placemats, elevators, swimming pools, basketball courts, tennis courts, porch rails, squares, circles, and doors. Lucky for me, the reminders are everywhere.

Are you ready to forget the resolutions and find a theme that will help you focus on improvement all year long? If so, join me and share your theme!