… And Then Cancer Moves Up On My List Of Health Concerns (and why I’m ok with it)

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Two years ago I figured out that a severe gluten intolerance was the culprit of my ill health (as a side note, I’m still awaiting determination if it’s Celiac Disease). By strictly modifying my diet, my ill health improved drastically.

Just over a year ago I suffered a mental breakdown and began treatment for clinical depression. Again, huge results in my mental and physical health after I started on a low dose anti-depressant.

Now, Cancer is on the forefront of my list of health concerns that I need to keep an eye out for. Warning: This is a bit of a long story.

Remember the kids’ story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day“? The particular day in question wasn’t quite as bad as that … but it was the start of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

I woke up the last Monday of March and it was just one of those days. It was one of those days where I just feel like all I want to do is sit down and cry and there was absolutely nothing that I could think of that had set it off. Once upon a time it was a regular occurrence. Now, it only happens from time to time. I’m not sure what exactly it is that spurs it on … it could be that my anti-depressants were taken too close together or too far apart. Perhaps it was related to my monthly cycle. Who knows what triggered it. I just knew that if I got up and carried on that it would likely pass at some point throughout the day and if not, my mood/state would be reset the following day after waking up after a long nights sleep.

Later on that day I had a message from my mom saying that my dad had went for an ultrasound and something had shown up. The next day, he returned for a CT scan and the results indicated that most likely one of the polyps in his stomach had turned cancerous.

This was not 100% entirely unexpected. My father has a condition called Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP). If left untreated, growths (called polyps) can form in the colon and turn cancerous over time. A regular colonoscopy can check for these growths and if present, they can be removed at that time. My father had his first polyp show up at the age of 40. By the time that he had turned 50 the number had multiplied so rapidly that there were hundreds of polyps in his large intestine – too many to “burn off”. As a preventative measure, he had all but a few inches of his large intestine removed. The following year polyps began forming in his stomach. And similarly, they multiplied to the hundreds. At first there were talks about removing his entire stomach, connecting his esophagus to his small intestine, a process referred to as a gastrectomy . But it would be such a huge impact to his body considering that there was only a few inches left to his large intestine, and in his particular case they expected him to be on a liquid diet and probably have to use a feeding tube. They decided to monitor at 6 month intervals with the intent that they would be able to do the surgery the minute (figuratively, that is) that the polyps started to turn. He was due to go back in a few weeks for his 6 month “inspection” but over the Fall he wasn’t feeling well, having a lot of pain, and that past week he was starting to get nauseated, in addition to the other new symptoms that he was experiencing. That’s when they put him on the fast track for the ultrasound and CT scan.

I ended up calling in to work that Wednesday and said that I wouldn’t be in. I had a lot to process.

My first thoughts were just getting him through his surgery and treatments. Then I started to think about what was to come next. I thought about how his life would be affected by no longer having a stomach (I suspect I inherited my ‘foodie’ personality from him). And then it occurred to me that if I ever do get my restaurant idea off of the ground, that my dad would not be able to enjoy the food that is prepared there. And it made me sad. My dad has always been super proud of my accomplishments and I would hate for him not to experience it in its entirety.

And then my thoughts started to shift from my dad … to my eventual fate.

I, like my dad, am gene positive for AFAP. I’ve known that I’ve had the condition since I was little, due to genetic testing. Screening for polyps started for me while I was still in high school. My dad didn’t get his first polyp until he was 40. By age 50, he had the majority of his large intestine removed. I had my first polyp at age 26. The next year I had my first polyp in my stomach. So I worry, if it progresses at the same rate as my father, will I be looking at the removal of my large intestine by age 36? Or, like with his stomach, could the polyps in my stomach multiple so quickly that I have to deal with cancer and/or have my stomach removed before I hit 40? It was a lot to take in.

Then I started to wonder “What if I get cancer and/or have my stomach removed? What happens to my restaurant dream then??”

This blog has been a component of that dream and I’ve been having so much fun doing it. My blog and dream restaurant is my passion right now. It’s what drives me.

It’s funny. That Monday morning when I woke (before any light had been shed on the extent of the worsening of my dad’s health), I had read an interesting post on Offbeat Home, “I caught that dream that I was chasing. Now what?“. I could relate to the post because: 1) the writer deals with “Imposter Syndrome” and 2) I’ve also been wondering that exact same question. Despite waking up that morning feeling bad from the start, this post was just what I needed to make my bad day feel a little brighter. I felt encouraged that morning to continue after my dream.

Despite reading that post and feeling better about my bad day, after receiving the news of my father’s predicament, it fast-tracked my future-fears of battling cancer myself. In addition to that, I started to worry about what would happen if I had to have my stomach removed. Would I even want to continue to develop this blog and/or my restaurant dream if I were unable to partake in the pleasures of food? Or, if I did achieve my dream restaurant, would I come to resent it??

Then I started to wonder “What if I can no longer enjoy food? Will I become a social hermit?”

I thought about how we love to entertain and its always based on food. True to Newfoundlander form, we’ve always been known for our “kitchen parties”. For this reason, our new home is being designed with our kitchen as our focal point of the house. It’s where we will spend the majority of our time. What if I start to despise those kitchen parties because I would feel out of place because I can’t enjoy dining with my friends?

My not-so-final thought: “Should I give up on my dream?”

This was a lot to digest for one day. I felt lost and I felt like I should give up on my dream rather than face the possibility of my dreams eventually being crushed. I had an overwhelming feeling of “what’s even the point?“.

Then I received an email response to a previous request to do a guest post on my blog. They said that they wanted to do a post on Celiac Disease and Depression, and that they had found my blog by doing a Google search. I think it was what I needed to snap me back out of the funk that I had found myself in. I started this blog as a means to help others through sharing my experiences. By labelling my blog “Food Allergies Etcetera”, the etcetera portion has allowed me to delve into the topic of mental health. And I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who have read my posts related to mental illness because they could truly identify with what I had experienced, and they found that they now had someone else who knew what they were personally experiencing. So what, if at some point I may not be able to enjoy food and share in foodie experiences. Perhaps this blog will morph into something else that is useful to others … perhaps it will serve as a connection point for others with AFAP/FAP, or perhaps it will be a vessel to share my future story of cancer prevention and/or survival.

On the first Friday of April (funny how April just happens to be cancer awareness month), my dad received confirmation that, since his last 6 month inspection, he had cancer in his stomach. His GI surgeon advised that he would not be doing  the gastrectomy at this time and that chemo was the better treatment option. A referral was made to see an oncologist, to discuss chemo. Things have moved very fast and it’s already been just under three weeks since he started treatment and he is doing well with it. Other than being fatigued, he’s not felt sick, has no pain, has stopped losing weight, has regained his appetite and is able to enjoy food just as he always has. And best of all, he still has a full head of thick hair that any 58 year old would be envious of 😉. Hopefully this is an indication of the effectiveness of the treatment!

It’s been a month since that horrible, no good, very bad day … but since then, I’ve stumbled across this article about a young woman in her 20s who decided to have a gastrectomy, and it was quite positive. I also found the No Stomach For Cancer website which has a lot of valuable information, including this overview of a Gastrectomy (You’ll find a lot of useful info related to life during and after a gastrectomy. Just hover over “Gastric Cancer” at the top menu, then hover over “Life Without a Stomach” and you’ll find 4 subpages). In addition to this, I was connected with someone (who I’ll be meeting in the coming weeks) who also decided to have a gastrectomy because she knew that stomach cancer was imminent (due to genetic markers) and she claims that the surgery saved her life (in addition to many other of members of her family). I think she will be a huge resource should I ever decide to go that route in the future. As a result, I’m starting to feel that although having a future Gastrectomy would be life altering, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

My final thought: “You know what? … this situation isn’t as bad as it sounds”

I know the information that I’ve laid out in this post is a bit much to take in … and it sounds like a sad story. But I’m not letting it manifest that way for me. I know our family can beat this. I had a bit of an epiphany moment and its really helped me to deal with the whole situation:

Everyone has their expiry dates. If my eventual fate was to be hit by a bus and killed in a months time, I’d have no idea … And would go on living as if I had years to accomplish what I want to accomplish in life, only to be cut short of those accomplishments. Now I get to live as though I don’t have all the time in the world, it will motivate me to be healthier, appreciate life more and make the best of it.

I wouldn’t come out and be as cocky to say “bring it on!” to cancer … but if it happens to me I’ll be ready for it. I live a relatively healthy life, and am consciously aware of my physical and mental states. I’ve learned over the years that I need to listen to my mental and physical needs. If something seems to be wrong, I’ll immediately arrange to have it checked out. Perhaps in the years to come I’ll be pro-active and have a partial or full gastrectomy, if it looks like it will reduce my risk of developing cancer. I’m upbeat and positive and have an amazingly huge support network in my life, including a fantastic local-gone-national Non-Profit Organization called Young Adult Cancer Canada. I’ve been supporting this group since I’ve discovered it in 2009 and take comfort in knowing the fantastic support that they give to young adults dealing with cancer. I’m not in despair by the recent series of events … I am motivated and I am ready for whatever life has to dish out to me! 🙂

Have you, or someone close to you, had a gastrectomy, been affected by stomach/colorectal cancer, or are a cancer survivor? If so, care to share any advice?

Thanks for reading. As you may or may not have noticed, I recently took a short hiatus from blogging. I have a feeling that for the time being I might continue with this break or at least not blog as actively … although there is potential for some guest posts to pop up from time to time.

Also, positive thoughts are appreciated for our family at this time.

xo

Krista

Avocado Encore: Chocolate Avocado Pudding

I know that it’s Easter weekend and the typical thing to post about would be Easter-related. We’re not exactly holding the traditional Easter weekend this year. So, I thought I’d do a post on a recipe that I tried out last week.

Remember how I had said in my Mango Avocado Salsa post that my Quack had recommended that I eat more avocados? Not long after I did that post, I found an article in my Living Without magazine all on Avocados. If you are a subscriber to the magazine, you can get the full Avocados article when you log in here. If you’re not a subscriber, and are interested in the article, you can buy that particular issue (February/March 2013) here under Recent Living Without Back Issues.

The article includes the following recipes (for those of you with a subscription, you’ll be able to use the below links to log-in and access the recipes if you’re February/March 2013 issue isn’t handy):

Avocado Lemon Quick Bread
Avocado Dinner Rolls
Chocolate Avocado Muffins
Blueberry Avocado Pancakes
Simple Avocado Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Avocado Chocolate Pudding

So far I’ve only tried the Avocado Chocolate Pudding, but I intend to try most, if not all, of these recipes.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

I don’t have a food processor so I used my blender, so the pudding came out with some small avocado chunks in it. I think it’s time that I finally invest in a food processor. Speaking of food processors, local blogger Colorful Canary just did a post on a BPA-free Glass Bowl Food Processor that looks economical.

Because Living Without is a subscription based website, I didn’t want to reproduce the recipes here. I did notice that the Avocados article was written by another blogger, Colette Martin, of Learning to Eat Allergy Free. So I checked out her blog and she just happened to have the Chocolate Avocado Pudding recipe there. The only difference is on the blog the serving size is half of that in the Living Without article (Living Without version Serves 4) as well as the Living Without version also recommends to refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. So I’ll direct you over to Colette’s blog to check out her Chocolate Avocado Pudding recipe.

If you’ve tried this recipe, let me know what you think! I thought it was delicious! 🙂

Mango Avocado Salsa

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One of the foods that my Quack suggested that I incorporate into my diet was avocados. “Great”, I thought sarcastically, “I don’t particularly enjoy guacamole”.

So when I discovered this Mango Avocado Salsa recipe in Free For All Cooking (check out an overview of the cookbook in this post), I thought it was a great way to incorporate avocados because I hadn’t yet had a chance to do any searching for recipes using avocados, and I have loved mangoes ever since my first Mango Daiquiri at the Mexican resort that our good friends got married at, in back in 2011.

Mango Avocado Salsa

(from Free For All Cooking)

Serves 4

1 large mango, peeled and diced

1 large ripe Haas avocado, peeled and diced

1 cup black beans, rinsed

1/2 ear cooked corn, cut off of the cob

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

Approximately 3/4 teaspoon Tabasco

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss together to combine. Taste to determine if you like more spice.
  2. Serve with corn tortilla chips, Golden Potato Latkes, Fish Tacos, or over grilled white fish like tilapia, orange roughy, or flounder.

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I didn’t have Tabasco on hand so I decided to throw on a dash of Tex-Mex spice and topped it with a dab of sour cream. It was delicious and a great option for anyone with an tomato allergy/intolerance who miss the ability to enjoy salsa (I’d caution to check any spice mixes that you might use to ensure that they are free of tomato).

What types of recipes do you like for incorporating avocados?

My Meal Making Equivalent of the 10-Second Tidy

If you were a Canadian child (or caretaker of a child) of the 90s, then you are likely familiar with the phrase “10-Second Tidy”. If not, it was one of the many aspects of a Canadian children’s television show called “The Big Comfy Couch

I work at an 8 AM to 5 PM job for an oil & gas company … but often it’s closer to 6 PM before I clue up for the day and make my way home. By the time I get home and play with my pup, who’s been home alone all day while we’re at work, I’m in no mood to to make a healthy meal that’s going to take the entire evening to prepare. And I wished that I could speed myself up like Loonette does while doing her 10-Second Tidy.

As a result we’ve come up with our favourite options for speeding up meals when we are late getting home from work:

1. Prepare chicken or salmon in advance.

We usually cook 1 to 2 packs of chicken and sometimes a pack of salmon on Sundays and keep it in the fridge all week to assemble meals to take to work, or to quickly prepare a meal once we get home. We typically just drizzle on some olive oil and some spices and bake in the oven. The spices that we’ve been using are the Clubhouse mixes like Vegetable and Lemon & Herb. I know that these have additives, sulphites, etc. so once these are gone I’m going to switch to a natural spice mix. We use the salmon as a meal in itself, but we use the chicken as a main, in salads, wraps, tacos, various recipes, etc.

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2. Roast asparagus in the oven.

Place asparagus in a glass baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle a little salt and squeeze juice of 1/2 a lemon over top. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Easy Peasy!

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3. Panini-press grilled sweet potato fries.

Chop up a sweet potato, drizzle some olive oil and your favourite spice and grill on your panini-press for 15 minutes. This method is super quick if you have your fries cut up the night before, but they will turn out a little soft (which I don’t really mind). However, I did find this recipe which has a tip for avoiding soggy fries. If I were to use their tip, I’d have my fries cut in advance, so that all I would need to do is place them in the water to soak for 30 minutes as soon as I get home so that they soak while I’m playing with our pup, Jax.

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4. Keep salad ingredients on hand.

I often make salads for lunch. I have my usual salad and my ‘I feel like a break’ salad.

My usual contains spinach, dried cranberries (Ocean Spray has a gluten-free and tree nut free statement on its package), sliced almonds (be careful of may contain ingredients), diced cheese (if I have it on hand), sliced chicken (from 1. above) and my salad dressing is usually just olive oil, balsamic oil and honey. I don’t measure out the dressing ingredients. I usually just eyeball it as I’m pouring it into a small container. It’s roughly 1 part honey, 2 parts balsamic vinegar, and 3 parts olive oil.

The other salad that I make when I want a break from the usual, contains spinach, mandarin orange segments, sliced almonds and sliced chicken. The dressing is similarly eyeballed. Its roughly 1 part sesame oil, 1 part soya sauce (I use VH soya sauce and got confirmation that it’s gluten free), 2 parts juice from the can of mandarin oranges, and 2 parts olive oil.

5. Slow-Cooker meals.

I discovered this blogger, Stephanie O’Dea, who does slow cooker recipes that are gluten-free, due to her daughter’s Celiac Disease. We use her Honey Garlic Chicken recipe on a regular basis. It is delicious! I like the fact that by using the recipe for left overs for the week that we can skim off the excess fat from the chicken thighs after it has congealed in the refrigerator. It all settles to the top so it’s very easy to skim off and dispose of.

6. Keep gluten-free pizza crusts on hand.

I like to make quick BBQ chicken using Kinnikinnick GF crusts, leftover chicken (from 1. above), BBQ sauce and cheese (if I have some on hand). In just over 20 minutes the pizza is ready.

7. Keep Ian’s Gluten-Free chicken nuggets on hand.

The package says to bake in the oven for 13 minutes but I like to bake them for just over 20 minutes to make the batter slightly crunchy.

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8. Keep cooked rice on hand (either packaged or prepared yourself and stored in the fridge).

You can use it as a quick and easy side or as filler in a wrap.

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9. Keep chopped veggies in the fridge.

Our usuals are peppers, mushrooms and onions.Use them to make a quick omelette, or fry up some peppers, onions and mushrooms with a little bit of seasoning for use in wraps, tacos, on paninnis, or simply as a side dish. Your kitchen will smell delicious as it fries.

These are just some of the ways that are able to eat in a short amount of time once we return home from work.

How about you? Do you have any 10-Second Tidy meals that you’d like to share?

Second Time’s A Charm: Granissimo Andean Mix Salad

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While shopping at Winner’s Home Sense, during the period between Christmas and New Years, I discovered this Go Go Quinoa product:

I figured I’d give it a try considering how I LOVE their Granissimo mix which I use regularly to make Go Go Quinoa Salad. Like with the Granissimo mix, I decided to go with the recipe on the back of the package.

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I unfortunately didn’t have carrots in my fridge at the time or celery, although I did have some celery salt so I decided to go ahead with what I had.

Andean Mix & Pumpkin Seeds Recipe1

Although it looked like it was going to taste great, the result was just ‘meh’. I thought that “salt and pepper to taste” was a bit of an understatement, but to their credit my attempt at the recipe was lacking the carrot and the celery. Perhaps these two components would round out the recipe by adding a sweet and savoury note.

I had kinda given up on the mix and it laid dormant in my pantry until I discovered their Granissimo Andean Mix Salad recipe while searching for recipes on their website to use with their Anelli Vegetable Pasta (which I later used to make Gluten-Free Spaghettios).

Granissimo Andean Mix Salad

by Go Go Quinoa

Ingredients:

1 cup of Granissimo Andean Mix with pumpkin seeds

1 cup of corn

2 mangos diced

2 cups of chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1 cup of dried cranberries

½ red onion thinly sliced

3 tablespoons of olive oil (or more to taste)

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (or more to taste)

1 red pepper diced

Salt to taste

Preparation:

In a medium pot, cook 1 cup of Granissimo in 2 cups of water until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Set aside, add the olive oil and let cool until room temperature. Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix. Refrigerate until time to serve.

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I didn’t wait for the salad to cool in the refrigerator. I ate it while it was still warm and it was delicious. I placed the remainder in the fridge so that I could bring it to work the next day, and about an hour later friends showed up with my guy and they asked what smelled so delicious. I grabbed a bowl and took out a small serving from the fridge for him to try. He had a funny look on his face and said “This would probably taste a lot better if it were warm”. I had said that I had only made the recipe that night for the first time and had tried it warm, but I had assumed that it was fine to serve it chilled as the Go Go Quinoa Salad is great either warm or chilled.

I tried the chilled version of the salad the next day, and I have to agree with my friend that it is, in fact, best if served warm.

Have you tried this Andean & Pumpkin Mix? If so, What’s your favourite recipe?

Chocolate Power Balls Recipe Trial

This past Sunday I realized that I had all the ingredients I needed to try out a new recipe that I had flagged. The recipe is the second that I’ve attempted from the Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food recipe book that I first introduced in my peach & blueberry smoothie post.

I know what you’re thinking: Are you vegan now? … No. However:

  1. I’m interested in learning about vegan cuisine, and
  2. I had planned on using it to attempt recipes for my friend who blogs at Am I Vegan Now? before she decided to move to the opposite side of the country.

(Sharon, if you’re reading this: I totally would have surprised you with these had we been living in the same city. If you try these, think “Supreeze!” as you imagine me gifting them to you).

There were three things that drew me to this recipe:

  1. Most importantly: Chocolate
  2. Cardamom
  3. Chia seeds

I have been in love with the combination of chocolate and cardamom ever since I first had a bite of this Polish chocolate bar:

I had discovered these bars at a specialty food store several years back. Apparently they would only stock the bars around the holidays because they claimed that it wasn’t worth the cost of importing the bars (from Poland) regularly throughout the year. Considering this, whenever my guy would ask what I wanted for Christmas, I would respond saying that all I wanted was a box of these bars to keep me going all year long.

The same year that I went gluten-free, he stocked up on these chocolate bars and stuffed them in my stocking. Sadly, I discovered that these delicious bars had a ‘May Contain’ statement for wheat. At first, I decided to take my chances and tried a piece. And I can confirm that the ‘May Contain’ statement was valid … and I have not indulged in such deliciousness since that last bite 😦

As for the chia, I explained in my naturopath post, that my “Quack” had recommended I introduce chia seeds into my diet to increase my Omega Fatty Acids

… Just curious: hands-up if you sung “Cha-Cha-Cha-Chia” as you read the word chia?? I sing it every time I pull the package out of our pantry 😀

So, when I saw the combination of chocolate, cardamom and chia I had to try this recipe out! 🙂

Chocolate Power Balls

Makes about 16 Balls (my attempt yielded 20)

1 cup walnuts

1 cup cashews

1 cup pitted and chopped Medjool dates

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon flax seeds

1 tablespoon pure vanilla

1/2 cup Enjoy Life Foods vegan chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (I opted for the 1/4)

1 tablespoon of water or orange juice

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  1. Place nuts and dates in a food processor and pulse until ground. Add the rest if the ingredients and whirl until the mixture begins to form a ball.
    (I don’t have a food processor, so I used my blender. I threw in all the ingredients as it directed but I started to get a perimeter of nicely chopped nuts and dates, but would jam up under the blade preventing the remainder from chopping. As a result, I had to take the blender jar off several times in order to shake and stir-up the contents. When I do this recipe again, I’d use smaller amounts in the blender and then transfer it to another bowl in order to chop the rest. I also think that the intent was for the chocolate chips to be grounded into more of a powder so that I would more easily disperse … but because there was so much volume to the recipe, very few of the chocolate chips would hit the blade. At first I thought that this was a downfall of how I had executed the recipe, but after the fact I realized that I quite like having the full chocolate chips intact. I thought I would point this fact out for anyone who might want to try out this recipe).

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  2. Remove the mixture from the food processor and put in a large bowl. Spread some waxed paper on a cookie sheet and with clean hands, form small balls (about tablespoon-size) and place them on the cookie sheet. Place in the refrigerator for about an hour to harden. 

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We love these! The recipe recommended that you keep the balls in the refrigerator and consume within one week. Considering that the recipe yielded 20 balls that were made on Sunday afternoon, and it’s now only Tuesday evening and there’s only 3 left …. I don’t think that will be an issue 😉

Let me know what you think if you try out this recipe! 

Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastry … A Surprise From My GFF!

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This week I discovered a new term from Glam Without Gluten, that I love: GFF … i.e. Gluten-Free Friend.  I thought this was very clever to use a phrase that is equally as catchy as the widely recognized phrase, BFF. Glam’s blog is full of great posts and videos. You should check her out!! 🙂

A few weeks back I first mentioned my GFF in my post titled “Become A Promiscuous Shopper“.  Once again, she returned from the States and this time she surprised me with Glutino‘s take on a gluten-free version of the popular Pop-Tart. She picked up a box of each variety, and split between us. The pastries are individually wrapped with no markings, so when she swapped two Apple Cinnamon toaster pastries from my box with two Strawberry pastries from her box, I had no idea which flavour it would be until just before popping it into my toaster bag at work. Quelle surprise! 😉

Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastry

Now, it’s been likely 15, if not 20 years since I ate my last Pop Tart. I went through a spurt of eating them when I was a kid but I found (for me, personally) that the texture was a bit too dry, and the ones that were coated in icing were too sweet while the plain ones seemed like they were missing something. I later started eating Toaster Strudels, and fancied those more because the pastry was slightly more moist, the filling was a little more gooey, and it came with a pack of soft icing that I could apply to my individual liking. Like I said, it’s been at least 15 years since I had either of these … so my memory isn’t quite as reliable for comparing to the non-gluten-free versions of the Pop-Tart and Toaster Strudel … but the Glutino version reminded me somewhat of a cross between the two (minus the packet of icing). This quick breakfast option isn’t available in Newfoundland yet (and perhaps even Canada), but hopefully they start popping up on shelves soon as it’s a quick and easy breakfast option when you’re too busy to prepare breakfast ahead of time, and unlike the majority of the population where you can’t just pop out to the nearest coffee shop to get a quick snack.

Thanks again to my GFF for my GF Surprise!! 🙂

Have you had a chance to try these breakfast toaster pastries out? What did you think? What’s your favourite flavour?

I Experimented … With Kale

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There’s several reasons why I started this blog and do varying posts.

  1. I want to help those in the St. John’s, NL area find out what options are available in terms of gluten intolerance and other dietary restrictions … My main focus is in dining out, and this is just starting to kick off. Expect the premier post, soon! 🙂
  2. To share my experiences in exploring natural living and cooking. I’m just a regular Joe, with no  nutrition or culinary background. I assure you that if I can do it, you can most certainly can too.
  3. I want to learn from others. I post things because I want to tell the story of what I’ve tried and attempted, but I want to get ideas from others like me who are exploring the same things and what they’ve found has worked and what hasn’t.

So today, I experimented with Kale. I’ve been wanting to try out cooking with Kale for a long time. Mostly from seeing various graphics on the benefits of Kale such as this one:

And also from seeing various posts from my friend Sharon, at Am I Vegan Now?, on how much she loves Kale. More recently she’s got me thinking about a trying out a breakfast scramble.

So today, I decided to try out a Kale Scramble.

Kale Scramble

I went with Sharon’s advice and used ingredients that I had on hand in my pantry and fridge. Last week’s Small Fruit and Veggie Box from Real Food Market consisted of organic Kale, Spinach, Potatoes, Tomatoes and Bananas. So, for the scramble, I used:

  • Organic kale
  • Organic Potatoes
  • Organic Tomatoes
  • Organic onion (left over from my last RFM purchase)
  • Organic pine nuts (that I purchased at Whole Foods when I was in Toronto recently)

as well as:

  • Non-organic red and green peppers
  • Non-organic bacon

 … as I mentioned at the start of this post, this is my exploration into more natural living so I’m not 100% organic, but I’m getting there 🙂

I fried the bacon in a separate pan in order to remove excess fat. I fried all of the harder veggies first (such as the potato, peppers and onion) and once softened, I added in the kale and tomato. As for seasonings, I didn’t need a lot because the veggies naturally give a lot of flavour … as well as the bacon … but I did add in a pinch of celery salt at the end.

The result was delicious! Thanks Sharon for making me want to try out cooking with Kale … and attempting a scramble. It was as easy and delicious as you said it would be 🙂

Do you cook with Kale? If so, care to share links to your favourite recipes? How about Scrambles? Have you tried any interesting concoctions? 

Uh-Oh! (Gluten Free) Spaghettios!

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Remember Spaghettios?? They were a staple for me when I was a kid.

That is, until I developed an food allergy (or intolerance) to tomatoes. At the time I was suffering from severe gastro pain and would be up sick several nights throughout the week for hours on end until the pain went away. On a few occasions the pain was so bad that I thought I would pass out. It was a little scary for my parents because there’s a long line of bowel cancer in my family due to a condition that we have called F.A.P (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis) and it wasn’t anticipated that it would affect me until I was much older (I was about 10 at the time). But all of the tests came back clear for any signs of cancer but I was still having issues. I remember going back and forth to the hospital on numerous occasions, when finally a new doctor recommended that it could be a food allergy. Months later I had the allergy test and it concluded that I had an allergy to tomato and egg yolk (in addition to several non-food allergies).

In hindsight, it made perfect sense. On average I consumed 3 or 4 cans of Spaghettios a week. I stopped the Spaghettios and other tomato based foods and I got better. It was hard to give them up cold turkey. I went tomato free for many years and eventually I was able to wean my way back to tomato based foods.

But then I grew up …. and grew out of Spaghettios.

Now, I am severally gluten intolerant (if not Celiac … which I’m in the process of trying to determine). I’m usually pretty good with not pouting over the foods that I can no longer enjoy. But the other day I passed the canned section and a can of Spaghettios caught my eye. And it was discouraging that I was able to “grow out of” my tomato allergy … only to be affected by a severe gluten intolerance as an adult. For a minute, I just wished that I could have a can so that I could feel like a kid again. Sadly I dropped my head and carried on.

On my most recent trip to Toronto, I picked up a pack of GoGo Quinoa Anelli vegetable pasta, while at a natural food store, because it looked interesting and I wondered what it was like. It’s completely organic and consists of Organic white rice flour, organic quinoa flour, organic beets, organic spinach and organic tumeric. It’s wheat-free/gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. The pasta was in my pantry for over a month while I wondered what I would do with it. … Then it hit me! SPAGHETTIOS!! Yes, his was a most excellent idea!

So I woke this morning, excited because I was going to attempt gluten free Spaghettios!

IMG_1787 1

I decided to google “Spaghettios Recipe” and found several hits. One of which, seemed straight forward so I decided to try it out. Get the recipe here: http://www.examiner.com/article/make-your-own-homemade-spaghetti-o-recipe-frugal-recipes-for-picky-eaters

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) tomato soup
  • 1 soup can water
  • 1 soup can milk
  • 1 pound small pasta rings, alphabets, or stars
  • 6 ounces Velveeta cheese (processed cheese), cut into very small cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Pinch of sea salt, optional

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, minus 3 minutes. This will ensure that the pasta, once added to the tomato soup, does not become mushy. Drain pasta.
  2. In large pot, add tomato soup, milk, water, butter, cubed cheese, and salt. Bring to simmer over low heat until cheese is melted. Stir in cooked pasta. Bring back to a simmer over low heat, stirring often, until heated through and thickened.
  3. Yield: approximately 6 to 8 one-cup servings

I had used ingredients that I readily had available in the house such as: PC Brand Blue Menu Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup, almond milk, Havarti cheese, and the Anelli pasta. The can of soup that I had was 591mL so I had to scale the above recipe back somewhat. I also skipped the additional water.

The result was tasty but there was an obvious lack of sweetness to make it just like the Franco-American version that I grew up on as a kid. I decided to add a little bit of Ketchup to sweeten the taste. I think this is a trial and error basis, so I’d start out with a 1/4 cup of Ketchup and add more to suite your taste.

I also recommend waiting for the dish to cool a little before you dig in. The cheese will solidify slightly and the texture will seem that much more familiar if you just wait a few minutes for it to cool down. Trust me, your tongue will thank you! 😉

Spaghettios

The Anelli was fantastic and the sauce worked out well. It really did look and taste like Spaghettios and I really did feel like a kid again while eating it…. minus the severe gastro distress! 🙂

Let me know if you try out something similar!

Cheers!

Krista.

Become A Promiscuous Shopper

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There’s been several things that I’ve learned since having to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle due to my severe gluten-intolerance.

  1. You’re gonna have to do a lot more shopping for supplies
  2. You will likely have to become a “promiscuous shopper”.
  3. It’s best if you familiarize yourself with whats out there.

… well, if you live in larger centers, then you might not have to be so promiscuous when it comes to shopping to accommodate a food allergy or dietary restriction, but if you live here in the St. John’s and surrounding areas you can expect the need to shop around in order to find all of your groceries.

First, lets look at Supermarkets.

Not only does the variety in the Natural Food Section (or as I lovingly refer to it as, “The Freaky People Aisle”) vary between Supermarket chains … it also varies within each chain.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a creature of habit. So I’ve always stuck to Sobey’s stores … and in addition, I’ve also gravitated to the same location. I like familiarity and efficiency. The minute I have to go to a different store I feel like I’ve landed in “Shelbyville” and I suddenly can’t find the items that I’m looking for as easy as I would in my regular  store . I end up getting distracted, it takes me twice if not three times as long to find what I’m looking for, and if my guy is waiting for me in the car …. I can expect to receive “Focus!!” texts to ensure that I’m not dillydallying and stay on task.

That all changed when I discovered my food intolerance.

Over time I realized that Dominion has a great selection in their Freaky People Aisle. So I now break up my shopping between Sobeys and Dominion. I also realized that the selection varies from Sobeys store to Sobeys store (and similarly with Dominion). What would show up in the freezer section in one location, might show up on shelves in another. Dominion’s brand, President’s Choice has introduced it’s own gluten-free line and these products show in the regular bakery section. At my regular Sobey’s location, delicious Udi’s products show up in the bakery section whereas in other locations I have to go to the “Freaky People” freezer section.

I recommend:

    1. Scoping out the various supermarket chains and various locations to see what products you are interested in.
      When you are ready to restock your pantry, you know exactly where to head to successfully find your favourite products; and
    2. Making note of the days where the natural food shelves/produce/dairy /meat & poultry sections are restocked.
      I find that the poultry section seems to be better stocked on a certain day but there’s a slim chance that I’ll find my favourite variety of Greek yogurt in stock.

Nourish Gluten-Free Bakery

When I was first advised by my “Quack” (i.e. Naturopath) to go gluten-free, the first thing that she recommended was that I check out the newly opened 100% gluten-free bakery, Nourish in Paradise. I enjoy their selection of bagels, tea buns, flatbreads, brownies and various other goodies. I also enjoy Ashley, the owner & operator, who I’ve interacted with on many occasions since I first became a customer. I like that they use all natural ingredients and avoid preservatives. You can purchase from them directly, or you can order a limited number of their products online from Real Food Market which I’ll discuss next. You can also enjoy several of their products when dining out around town. One of the places not mentioned on their list is Post Espresso where you can enjoy several of their tea buns, lemon loaves, coffee cakes and brownies (on occasion) to go with their delicious espresso based drinks.

Real Food Market

I first learned of Real Food Market from my Chiropractor of all places, lol. He had mentioned that he had a patient who was in the process of starting up an online organic market for the St. John’s area and asked if I would like to pass along my info to that person. He couldn’t provide me her name at the time but I did give him permission to share my info and Melissa later contacted me once he mentioned me and the fact that I want to start a restaurant that caters to people with food allergies and dietary restrictions. Melissa has been great to chat both in person and via email.

Real Food Market is an online organic grocery store that either delivers direct to your door, or allows pickup at their warehouse if you prefer. They have a dedicated Gluten-Free section as well as a dedicated Vegetarian/Vegan section. Within the DairyGluten-Free, and  Vegetarian/Vegan sections you’ll also find a Butter & Butter Substitute sub-section. Dairy milk substitutes are found in a sub-section in the Vegetarian/Vegan section. Check out the Vegetarian/Vegan section for all of the available sub-sections.

From my experience, the Gluten-Free section tends to be items that are marketed as gluten-free. I’ve found other products in the non-GF sections that were naturally gluten-free and confirmed to be so after digging further into the companies website/email. Check out the other sections and if there’s something that interests you, do some research to see if it is in fact, safe for you to eat.

Winners Homesense

I would never have thought to check Winners Homesense for Gluten-Free, organic or alternative foods. My neighbour’s sister worked at Winners Homesense in the Avalon Mall for a period of time and she mentioned to me that her sister had said that there were gluten-free items available there. Sure enough, I discovered that they also have a “freaky people aisle”. The only thing is that it’s never consistent. You’ll find that the different locations carry different products and the selection various nearly every single time that you go. If you are there and you see a product that you like, snatch it up! … you’ll never know when you’ll find it in stock again. I liken their selection to that of a “grab bag” or “surprise package”.

I apologize to those of you who have been unsuccessful in finding CocoMira’s products. When I see these in stock … I stock up. I buy whatever is left on the shelves.

As a side note, I have since discovered that you can find Coco Mira products at Chapters (if not in store, it’s available on their website). If I happen to be buying books online from Chapters, I usually top up my order with Coco Mira if I haven’t already reached the free shipping status 😉

Bulk Barn

I had avoided Bulk Barn like the plague after going gluten free … The thought of the bins and potential cross-contamination terrified me. That is, until one day my co-worker asked if I knew that Bulk Barn had a dedicated Gluten-Free Section. My reaction was immediately “Is this a joke??” but sure enough, he advised that they actually have labels to identify the gluten-free item bins and they are all confined to one area. That weekend I checked it out, and not only were there dedicated gluten-free bins of bulk GF flours etc., but they were also carrying other packaged GF goods as well, such as Go-Go Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies which are my new go-to cookie. They have a variety of food alternative products that you can find in their “health food” section.

Health Food Stores

There are several Health Food Stores around the city that you can check out. My favourite would have to be Whole Health … mainly because it’s close to my office and I enjoy dropping in occasionally on my lunch break to pick up some GF snacks for my stash at my desk … and to also chat with Megan, the owner, who I also enjoy. Lovely girl! Other Health Food stores include The Natutral Health Shop on Stavanger Drive, and Food for Thought on Duckworth Street.

Farmer’s Market

The St. John’s Farmer’s Market runs from June to mid December, and have several vendors which cater to various food allergies, one of which is Gluten Free Treasures because 1) the treats are delicious (especially the pumpkin cinnamon rolls!), and 2) Valeria is a sweetheart!

Other regular vendors who cater to dietary restrictions include: A La Tarte! and Le Doyen, to name a few. I DO NOT recommend getting a “Almost Gluten-Free” waffle from The Waffle Lady. She has a gluten-free waffle mix but uses it in the same waffles irons as the regular non-GF waffle mix. Anyone who have Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance should not eat them. If you one of those who are eating gluten-free because it’s the new fad diet …. fill your boots. If you are gluten free because your health depends on it, stay away).

Costco

I don’t have a Costco membership myself, but from what my co-workers have told me they carry a lot of GF products, and I’ve seen that on the blog “Living Gluten Free in St. John’s, NL”, Janelle has many posts on gluten-free items that she’s picked up from Costco.

Various Online Websites

Well.ca is one site that a Facebook friend introduced me to. I enjoy that they have a dedicated Specialty Diet section which includes Gluten-Free, Dairy Free, Vegan among several other sub-sections. They also provide free shipping on all Canadian orders over $25 (unless you live in a remote area).

The “Buddy System”

If you have friends travelling out of province or out of country, see if they would mind picking up a few items if they stumble across them in their travels. I  have a good friend who I’ve met through the CCA-NL Chapter and every time she travels to Ontario or to the States, she always manages me bring me back some form of gluten-free goody … and if I’m really good,  it might be several goodies … on one occasion she brought me back a basket full of goodies! I also get surprises from my non-GF friends and family as well. There is no shortage of cake mixes in my pantry! ha 🙂

Canadian Celiac Association Meetings

I’ve been a member of the CCA-NL since June of 2012… and I’ve yet to be to a meeting where I didn’t come home with free stuff. I’ve lost count the number of times that I’ve come home with free pancake-, cake-, pizza-, and bread-mixes. Who doesn’t love FREE??

So, what caused me to compile this useful list? My quest to find Certified GlutenFree Cornbread in the city. It was impossible to find any without a ‘May Contain’ statement. I could find Bob’s Red Mill GF Cornbread Mix, but not the coarser corn meal. I figured that when I was in Toronto recently that I’d be able to find it. The Whole Foods store near my friends house in Toronto were much like St. John’s in that the only versions that they carried had ‘May Contain’ statements. It should be noted that Bob’s Red Mill produces two versions of Corn Meal: a certified GF one and a NON-GF one. It took several attempts while in Toronto to find the GF version and I found it at the 3rd health food store that I visited. They had 2 packages of the Bob’s Red Mill certified GF Corn Meal and I stealthily “squirrelled” them up! 🙂

I hope that you find this list useful.

Let me know if you’ve found places around town or online that have helped you cope with your food allergies and dietary restrictions. I’d love to hear of them so I can amend this list.

Are you a promiscuous shopper??