A Weekend Away

Usually I only have to worry about food for myself when we go away for the weekend, but thanks to this year’s Whole30, we spent an entire day prepping food for both of us before heading out of town to visit family. I know I’ve written about traveling with freezer meals before, but I always love sharing recipes that are easy to make, and freeze/travel well. I’m sure it makes me a little selfish, but it was nice to have someone else that could only eat food brought from home for a change. I’m sure it was extra difficult for my hubby, since he doesn’t usually have to restrict himself so much.

Trying to keep things simple, we chose three meals to make in larger quantities. This ensured we had enough food for our planned three days away. We also decided we’d stop at Chipotle on our drive home, so we wouldn’t need to worry about reheating food. That meant cooking and freezing each of these so all of our meals were set!

The first thing we got cooking was Chicken Masala. Trying to minimize our efforts, we chose this since it’s a crock-pot meal and always turns out perfect.

 

 

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons curry
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (usually in the international aisle of the grocery store)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 5 large chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes (no sugar added)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (no sugar added)
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish
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Best part of crock-pot recipes, getting to throw all the ingredients in and leave it alone!

After getting that going, we riced a head of cauliflower to go along with the chicken. It was only enough for two servings, but there was plenty of chicken for at least six meals!

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Finished product….Chicken Masala

Our next major task was to get the chili going. This recipe was one we found a while ago, and loved it so much that it’s now a regular in our menu.

Sweet Potato Chili

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large can (29.5 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 small can (15 oz) fire roasted petite diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 5 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Dash oregano
  • Dash red pepper flakes
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Cooking the beef and onions before adding the remaining ingredients

In a large pot, brown the beef, onions, and garlic. Drain the fat when browned. Add remaining ingredients to pot, mixing well before bringing to a boil. Simmer for 30-40 minutes. By the way, that little green thing in the pot below actually belongs there! It holds the bay leaves, so you can easily pull them out of the pot when it’s cooked.

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Simmering the pot of chili

While the chili was simmering, we started chopping up sweet and red potatoes for our usual morning side dish. Along with eggs, we start every morning with sauteed potatoes. My go-to spices are chili powder, turmeric, smoked paprika, and a little salt and pepper to taste.

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Looks tasty, right?!

Branching out to something new, our final task was to take on Stuffed Acorn Squash. This was a completely new recipe for us, and thanks to the ease of the crock-pot chicken and simmering chili, most of our efforts were focused on this.

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Acorn squash, ready to be frozen for the trip

We really lucked out with the temperatures for this trip too! Go figure, we managed to see the coldest temperatures I’ve ever seen while we were up in New York that weekend…all the way down to -20°F!!! Thankfully, that meant we could leave the cooler in the car and not worry about anything thawing too quickly. As we bounced around visiting everyone, all we had to do was bring in the cooler to start defrosting and cooking our next meal 🙂

 

Kitchen Confessions

We all have that one go-to source when it comes to the kitchen. A lot of my recipes and inspiration come from Pinterest, but there’s one source I just can’t live without! Years ago, I can’t even remember when, my mom bought my sister and I the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Seriously. I don’t often use actual recipes from the book, but the reference and cooking basics it includes are invaluable. Each section in the binder style book includes cooking references based on the section (fish, poultry, meat, vegetables, etc). I can look up whatever we’re making for dinner, and get the oven temperature and cooking time needed for just about everything! Even if I already know approximations, this gives me the comfort that I’m doing it right. I know, I know, Google is faster, but there’s something so comforting about knowing just where I can find the information.

The other night, I stumbled into the easiest recipe I never knew existed. We were making a tomato soup with chicken, but I wasn’t willing to wait the time required to slow cook the soup (recipe loosely followed from here). We’d just gone grocery shopping, and hunger was hitting hard. I quickly threw together all of the ingredients, except for the chicken, and went to my trusty cookbook to see what options I had. Flipping to the poultry section, I realized I could broil chicken breasts in a casserole dish, giving the soup plenty of time to simmer. I covered the chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper, cooking it for a total of 30 minutes (flipping halfway through). As I took the chicken out to chop, I was surprised by how much moisture it had retained. Why had I never done this before?

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Our finished chicken tomato soup

Using this new found way to cook our chicken, I gave it another shot last night. This time, I opted for more spices to dress it up, including smoked paprika and a barbecue rub from Salt Lick BBQ in Austin, TX. For our sides, I roasted broccoli with salt and pepper, and mashed potatoes with ranch seasonings. I have to say, this is one of the most “normal” and delicious meals we’ve had since starting the whole30 this year. Take a look for yourself 🙂

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Broiled chicken, broccoli, and mashed potatoes

What’s your kitchen confession?

Note – we were using thicker (2 – 3 inch thick) boneless skinless chicken breast. 15 minutes per side may be too long for thinner cuts.

Super Bowl Recap

What were we thinking?! For the second year in a row, we’ve been on Whole30 during the Super Bowl. Shockingly, it’s turned out well both years. If the Steelers had been in the game (or Giants for hubby), I think all bets would have been off. Wanting to still make the day fun and full of great food, I scoured Pinterest for new ideas. Putting together the grocery list once we had our snack recipes was pretty simple, and because we weren’t buying the typical Super Bowl snacks, we had no issues buying everything the day before.

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Our Super Bowl Spread

Without further ado, here was our menu:

  • Bacon Wrapped Butternut Squash
  • Homemade Sweet Potato Chips and Guacamole
  • Bacon and Sweet Potato Jalapeño Boats
  • Buffalo Ranch Stuffed Peppers

Bacon Wrapped Butternut Squash

I can’t stress how incredible this appetizer was, and on top of that, it was easy to prepare too! The only thing that took up time was getting the squash peeled and cubed. With only a handful of ingredients (bacon, butternut squash, olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt) it was a simple yet incredibly delicious course. I will say, they flipped much easier with the bacon sealed on the bottom…so don’t take that step lightly!

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Bacon Wrapped Squash…finished and ready to devour!

Homemade Sweet Potato Chips and Guacamole

Unfortunately, I don’t really have a recipe for this one; however, I will say it’s made much easier by a couple clutch Pampered Chef tools. A couple years ago, a Pampered Chef consultant hosted a party for my Team in Training race team, with proceeds benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I stocked up on a few unique tools, and have used them more times than I can count! We make our sweet potato chips by slicing the potatoes using the Simple Slicer and baking them with the Microwave Chip Maker….seriously, that’s all it takes. The slicer has multiple thickness settings, so you can make them as thin or thick as you’d like, and the chip maker quickly turns them into the perfect crispy snack.

For the guacamole, I don’t have a recipe either…it’s just the following ingredients chopped and mixed together until you get the texture you want:

  • 2-3 avocados
  • 2 vine ripe tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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Guacamole…the chips didn’t last long enough for a picture!!

Bacon and Sweet Potato Jalapeño Boats

True confession…we found this recipe last year during our first Whole30. Turns out, it’s a HUGE hit with everyone on or off the Whole30. These have made appearances at Easter, The Walking Dead premier, New Years, and pretty much any other time that called for a great appetizer.

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A couple quick variations we’ve made along the way are only loosely scooping out the seeds (can’t help it…we like things spicy), and cooking the bacon first and setting it aside. This will keep it crispy, rather than leaving it in the pan while the sweet potato cooks. Trust me, it makes a difference!

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work in progress…see the seeds we left behind, and the bacon on the side

Buffalo Ranch Stuffed Peppers

The last recipe, and main dish for our Super Bowl Sunday, was this fun new recipe. It’s no substitute for hot wings, but was a great way to get that buffalo taste for the game. All of the recipes we picked were as simple as possible, but really packed a punch of flavor. We tried to minimize clean-up, and spread it out leading up to the game…that way we didn’t have to miss a moment!

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cooked chicken and onions to stuff the peppers

Learning all of the spices that go into a ranch flavor from this recipe was great…I’ve since been dressing up other veggies on regular week nights to have that ranch flavor while still sticking to Whole30.

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adding the cubed chicken to the buffalo sauce mixture

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finished product! seriously so great!

Hopefully we’re the only crazy people that do this to ourselves during such a big event, but if we’re not…hopefully these will help you plan for a Whole30 safe party!

Dining In

Very few diet plans or cleanses can truly get you excited for what you’ll be eating next…but Whole 30 never ceases to amaze me. I think it’s the lack of simple sauces or dressings we can grab from the fridge, or that we can’t make our typical easy fix meals, that get us to really think outside the box. Each time Hubby and I do another Whole 30 challenge, we get adventurous at the grocery store. Anything from the lollipop lamb chop recipe we found last year to the simple veal we had the other night. Dinner every night this week has felt like a gourmet meal out. Here are our highlights!

First off, a few tips in tracking down the right recipe. I usually start with Pinterest, and searching on major ingredients I know we have. Disclaimer, I don’t always measure, or freak out if we don’t have every ingredient on hand. Cooking isn’t always a precision science, and with a working family, you can’t make everything perfect! When something looks good, we just go for it 🙂

Dinner Day 2 – Veal and Veggies

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This was a ridiculously simple dinner! All the veal needed was olive oil, salt, and pepper. It was pan seared for a little less than two minutes on each side, and we drizzled aged balsamic vinegar on top. The veggies were a blend of eggplant and asparagus, seasoned with Italian spices. Also cooked quickly in a pan, we added tomatoes once the eggplant was soft.

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Dinner Day 3 – Chicken Pad Thai

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Like I said earlier, even if we don’t have every ingredient…that won’t scare me away from a recipe. This one called for sprouts and scallions as well, but who thinks to buy sprouts in advance? And why would I stop myself from making delicious Pad Thai (recipe here) just because we didn’t have the right type of onions?? We made ours work with carrots, mushrooms and a yellow onion…the spaghetti squash made up for the lack in additional veggies.

Dinner Day 4 – Avocado Stuffed Meatballs

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Tonight’s dinner was a nice surprise! I came home and Hubby was already in the kitchen chopping everything for a recipe he’d found for Avocado Stuffed Meatballs. We didn’t have Whole 30 compliant mustard, so we swapped it out for 2 tsp dry ground mustard. While he was getting those ready, I seasoned potato wedges with salt, pepper, onion powder, and smoked paprika. To top it off, we sauteed green beans with salt and pepper.

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Hope these give you some great inspiration…happy cooking!!

The Ghost of Gluten Future

In honor of throwback Thursday, I have a bit of a reflection to share with you. When I first found out I’d have to live gluten free for the rest of my life, I felt like a sponge trying to soak in every piece of information I could find. Gluten free labels were hard to come by, reading strangers blogs became a comfort, and it took hours of reading every label at three different grocery stores just to restock my shelves for the week. Not yet confident in sharing my experiences, I’d spend evenings scrolling through comments on popular gluten free blogs to feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie.  I remember coming across an article about what would your last meal be if you’d known you’d never eat gluten again. One of the comments spoke to me, “the ghost of gluten future.” I am absolutely haunted by the ghost of gluten future! The thought of future delicacies I’ll never be able to try wears on me in ways you can’t imagine. I’ve shared many of my travels on here, and one of the things I’m most proud of is that I’ll try most any dish at least once. I wasn’t always like that, as I child I had a very strict chicken finger diet! I spent an entire week-long family vacation finding every variation of chicken fingers on every menu. I’ve come a long way since those days, and I love seeing the reactions I get when I share some of the most exotic meals I’ve tried around the world, and in my own backyard. What’s the most exotic thing you’ve ever tried? If you could turn back time, was there something you never gave a shot that you now wish you could?

Returning to Italy

If you’ve read the About Me page, you know I found my passion for traveling while living abroad in Italy.  It’s been about eight years since that semester abroad, and I am well overdue to go back.  My husband’s family is Italian, and it’s been a goal of his to see where they’re from.  Naturally I am 110% behind him on this goal, and could not wait to go back to the spark that ignited my love for world travel.  There’s only one thing that’s been lingering in the back of my head…how on earth will I get by in the land of gluten?!

Immediately I have visions of gnocchi, pizza margherita, tiramisu, everything I can no longer indulge.  Here’s the wonderful thing I found out though as our plans begin to come together, not only do Italians have an understanding of celiac disease, but they’re incredibly sympathetic to our needs.  I found dozens of sites and travel reviews referencing the stipend that Italian citizens receive to purchase gluten free foods once they’ve been diagnosed.  Upon stating “senza glutine” restaurant owners will quickly work with you to offer gluten free meals, understanding the importance of washing their hands and paying attention to avoid cross-contamination.

I can’t speak from experience on this, but I’m excited to return and see just how accepting they are of my needs!  I would love to hear from all of my readers to see what your favorite restaurants, sites, etc. are that you consider a “must do” in Italy.  Please share your experiences with me, I love a good recommendation prior to a big trip!!

Want to know what made me fall in love with Italy the first time?  Here goes…

The old world charm of Cinque Terre

The old world charm of Cinque Terre

 

The view of Firenze (Florence) from the Duomo

The view of Firenze (Florence) from the Duomo

 

City lights in Torino (Turin) during the 2006 Winter Olympics

City lights in Torino (Turin) during the 2006 Winter Olympics

 

Eastern-most edge of Italy in Trieste

Eastern-most edge of Italy in Trieste

 

Last, but certainly not least, the view from our dorm room of Mt. Grappa in Paderno del Grappa!!!

Last, but certainly not least, the view from our dorm room of Mt. Grappa in Paderno del Grappa!!!

Anxiety in Lima

Lima, Peru is a beautiful city that I’ve been so lucky to have visited twice in the last three years.  When I found out I’d be going back last summer, I could not have been more anxious!  Not only was the trip was scheduled smack dab between Ukraine and China, but Lima held some not so great memories from my first visit.  Technology has become a wonderful thing, connecting each of us regardless of location.  Thanks to Skype, I was able to connect with my mom and sister (in the DC metro area) to call and wish my grandmother (in Florida) a happy birthday while I was gone.  I was staying a few blocks from Miraflores, and was so excited to show off my hotel room to everyone back home…it practically took up an entire city block!  Later that same week on a video chat with my boyfriend (now husband), I reached a near breaking point with what I would eventually find out was celiac disease.  We’d been catching up about my day when mid conversation I ran to the bathroom and began vomiting.  I’d only had one beer with dinner, which had been at a highly recommended sushi restaurant.  I hadn’t been drinking any local water, and could not for the life of me figure out what was wrong.  This wasn’t the first time I’d done this either, only a few weeks prior I’d had the same thing happen while I was in Charleston, South Carolina.

Fast forward two years later, I now know why the beer and sushi made me sick that night.  But how sick had I been?  Were there other meals that upset me that week?  I was excited to experience Lima again, but would I run into the same problems armed with the truth about celiac disease?  My second trip started out a bit rocky.  I’d been getting phone calls and emails from United all morning telling me my flight to Newark had been delayed.  Before even arriving at the airport, I knew there was a good chance I wouldn’t make my connection to Lima.  As I checked in at the counter, a sigh of relief came when they informed me I’d already been re-booked, and would be connecting through Houston.  My coworkers were not so lucky, I’d been given one of the last seats on the Houston flight, and United had no other options for them.  Eventually they were switched to another airline, and we were all set for our trip.

One of the great things about having to travel for work, is that you don’t always have time to go out to eat.  I know that sounds counterintuitive and normally I’d be annoyed by this, but it actually put my anxiety at ease.  Our hotel staff were great, I’d mastered the phrase “sin glooten” and they were especially careful with each room service dinner I was served.  Each morning started out on the right foot as well, our hotel offered omelets made to order (my favorite!), and freshly squeezed juice from local fruits.  When we finally got our workload under control, I took my team out to what I think is the most incredible site in Lima.  We had dinner at the restaurant overlooking the Huaca Pucllana, it is actually built on the grounds of the Incan ruins, which are illuminated after the sun has set.

Overlooking the Huaca Pucllana during dinner!

Overlooking the Huaca Pucllana during dinner!

I have to admit, I truly love trying new things when I’m outside my comfort zone.  If you’ve read my blog before, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it a time or two 🙂  Peru is one of those places where there are so many fun new things to try!!  I was a little afraid of going for the full fledged guinea pig that street vendors sell.  If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, google image search “Peru guinea pig” and I think you’ll understand.  BUT, when it’s cooked and served like any other meat, I’m all in!  I’d tried the appetizer sampler platter before at the Restaurant Huaca Pucllana and wanted to share with my coworkers some of the unique foods Peru has to offer.

Appetizer sampler at the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant - the guinea pig is in the upper right corner!

Appetizer sampler at the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant – the guinea pig is in the upper right corner!

Dinner at the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant

Dinner at the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant

Please forgive me for not remembering everything I ordered…unfortunately this trip pre-dates my blog, and I’ve now started to keep better track of everything I’m trying!! Trust me though, if you ever find yourself in Lima, Peru this restaurant is a can’t-miss opportunity.  The ambiance, menu, and wait staff make the experience one to remember.  If you love food as much as I do, I’m hoping you’ll appreciate the next two pictures of some of my other favorite meals while I was there.  As I said before, everyone in the hotel staff (we stayed at Golf los Incas) was incredibly helpful with my gluten free requests.  One of the first nights we were in town, my team and I enjoyed dinner at the hotel restaurant, where I could not get enough of this great dish!!

Steak and potatoes at the Golf los Incas Hotel

Steak and potatoes at the Golf los Incas Hotel

Any trip to Peru would not be complete without their signature dish….CEVICHE!!!  On my first trip to Lima, I tried ceviche for the first time and seriously could not get enough of the stuff!  For those new to the dish, ceviche can be any assortment of raw fish, cooked in the acid from local lemon and other citrus juices.  Talk to any Peruvian and they’ll tell you that you can’t recreate the dish anywhere else, because the local citrus is what makes the dish.

Enjoying ceviche in Miraflores

Enjoying ceviche in Miraflores

The last two pictures I want to share with you all today are from two of my favorite spots in the city.  The first is on the water in Miraflores, where you can watch people para sailing over the coast line.  Although I didn’t get the opportunity to actually try this myself, it was great to watch as everyone else flew over the hazy coast line.  The last picture is quite simply a beautiful contrast of new and old on the Miraflores water front.  This quaint home is situated between two high rise apartment buildings, and boasts the most enchanting home garden and front door!

Watching people glide in over the coast

Watching people glide in over the coast

Beautiful juxtaposition of old and new :)

Beautiful juxtaposition of old and new 🙂

 

Planning Ahead

As I sit down to write this post, I’m slightly exhausted from the marathon last two hours.  We’re planning to visit family out of town, and it’s much easier on everyone else, and safer for me if I plan ahead.  I got a great idea a while back from a friend that had figured out how to have nice meals each night on her own without having to cook after a long day at work.  She’d picked up those aluminum foil containers, cooked dinners until they were nearly done, packaged them individually, and froze them for later!  With this thought in mind, I was determined to make a variety of dinners for our trip.

Meal #1: Chicken Parmesan with Corn & Rice Spaghetti

I was feeling ambitious for the first meal, you can tell by the number of pictures that as I got further into the process, I was taking less photos and typically running all over the kitchen!  For this meal, I started by dipping each chicken breast into an egg.  I then covered the chicken in Italian bread crumbs.

boneless skinless chicken breasts, egg, Italian bread crumbs

boneless skinless chicken breasts, egg, Italian bread crumbs

I then pan fried the chicken for about 2-3 minutes per side, just long enough to brown the edges.

Browning the chicken breast

Browning the chicken breast

The chicken was transferred to a glass baking dish, where I covered it with marinara sauce (I used Ragu sweet basil).

Sauce covered chicken breasts, ready to go into the oven

Sauce covered chicken breasts, ready to go into the oven

With the oven set to 375ºF, I baked the chicken for about 25 minutes.

Fresh out of the oven!

Fresh out of the oven!

While the chicken was cooking, I boiled my gluten free pasta.  After it was cooked and the water had been drained, I separated the pasta into to individual foil containers.  I took the leftover sauce from the container, and poured it over the pasta.  I think the finished product turned out pretty great!

Two Chicken Parmesan dinners, ready to be frozen for our trip :)

Two Chicken Parmesan dinners, ready to be frozen for our trip 🙂

When it comes time to reheat these, I’ll put these back in the oven for 3 – 5 minutes.  Since this is a first for me, I may have to play around with the reheat temperature/time, but I’ll let you all know how it turns out!!

Meal #2: Balsamic Chicken, Roasted Red Potatoes, and French Cut Green Beans

Here’s where my multitasking started to kick in.  Before I started the Chicken Parmesan, I put two of the chicken breasts in a ziploc bag, covered in balsamic vinaigrette.  While the first dish was cooking, I cut red potatoes into quarters.  Heating a large frying pan with about 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, I added the quartered potatoes.  I never cook these the same way any two times, so for this time, I seasoned them with ground pepper, sea salt, garlic powder, and blackening seasonings.  There’s no magic amount of time to cook these, I just keep the heat at a steady medium temperature, and continue stirring them occasionally until I can cut through a potato with my spatula.

Red potatoes in the frying pan with seasonings

Red potatoes in the frying pan with seasonings

Once the oven was free from the first round of chicken, I put these balsamic vinaigrette covered chicken breasts into the oven.  Again, I cooked them at 375ºF.  Because I hadn’t browned the chicken first, I left these in the oven for about 20 minutes per side.

Balsamic vinaigrette chicken breasts

Balsamic vinaigrette chicken breasts

To round out the meal, I split a can of french cut green beans between the two foil containers.  The finished product for this looks pretty great too 🙂

Finished meal: Balsamic Chicken, Roasted Red Potatoes, and French Cut Green Beans

Finished meal: Balsamic Chicken, Roasted Red Potatoes, and French Cut Green Beans

Again, since I’m new at traveling with meals like this, it’s going to be a bit of a guessing game when I reheat these.  But thankfully, since the chicken is mostly cooked, it shouldn’t take too long to be ready!

Meal #3: Stir-fry Chicken and Rice

Here’s where the craziness of three meals in two hours started to hit me.  I’d been trying to keep up with the dishes, and with what seemed like constantly beeping kitchen timers! For my last meal, I went super easy.  I cubed the last two chicken breasts, and chopped up a crown of broccoli.  I put the chicken and broccoli in a fry pan with Mirin (sweetened sake) sauce, gluten free teriyaki sauce, and ground ginger.

Stir-fry chicken with broccoli

Stir-fry chicken with broccoli

Meanwhile, I cooked a cup of white rice in the rice cooker.  Splitting the rice between the last two foil containers, I topped it with my stir-fry concoction!

Stir-fry Chicken, Broccoli and Rice

Stir-fry Chicken, Broccoli and Rice

All six containers are now safely in the freezer, and ready to go 🙂

My Celiac Running Crew

Learning to live with celiac disease can be both challenging and frustrating, especially if you don’t have a great support group.  I totally lucked out, and hit the support group jackpot!  My sister introduced me to two of her friends that both have celiac disease, Liz and Amanda.  Though I had only met them a few times, I reconnected with Liz (her blog here) at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk.  I hadn’t been running seriously in years, but really wanted to get back into now that I felt my celiac disease was under control.  To refocus my running, Liz talked me into training with Team in Training (TNT), which supports the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Although we didn’t always make it to the team runs, we put together a great group of girls that get together on the weekends for training and fun runs!  The best part is, four of us are living with celiac disease!  These runs have become something I truly look forward to on a weekly basis.  We gripe about the latest frustration or glutening (glutening explained here), talk about local restaurants that can safely prepare gluten free foods, and gush about new recipes we’ve found.  There is nothing better than a fifteen mile training run spent catching up with other celiacs that “get it,” and yes, I said fifteen miles (Liz’s blog about our run)!!

Thanks to the support of these girls, I am happy to say I finished my fourth half marathon last weekend.  I ran the Nike Women’s Half in DC with my TNT team, Out for Blood (check out my race recap here).  This was the first race I’d run in over two years, and truly shows how far I’ve come since my diagnosis.  I had such a blast that I’m joining TNT again for the Marine Corps Marathon this coming fall, which will be my first ever full marathon, and has been a goal of mine for a long time now!

So what’s the tie to celiac disease with this post? I’m glad you asked… celiac disease patients with ongoing intestinal damage have a higher risk for lymphoma than those with healed intestines.  Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that begins in the lymph system, and can eventually spread to other parts of the body.  The following is an excerpt from a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“This study included more than 7,600 people with celiac disease who had follow-up intestinal biopsies six months to five years after their diagnosis, and were then followed for roughly nine years.

At the time of their follow-up biopsy, 57 percent of the patients had healed intestines while 43 percent had ongoing intestinal damage, according to the study, which was published in the Aug. 6 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Overall, the patients with celiac disease had an annual lymphoma risk of about 68 of 100,000 people, which is nearly three times higher than the general population’s risk rate of about 24 of 100,000.

Meanwhile, the annual risk for patients with ongoing intestinal damage was about 102 of 100,000 people, compared with 31.5 of 100,000 for those with healed intestines.”

That’s definitely a startling piece of information, and just one of the many risks that come along with having celiac disease.  In its 25 years, TNT has trained more than 570,000 participants for endurance sports, and investing more than $875 million in blood cancer research.  Help me declare that cancer ends with me!  Support my next run with TNT for the Marine Corps Marathon by donating to my fundraising page, linked in the TNT graphic below.

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Simple Pleasures?…Maybe Not!

The 12 year old version of me cried last night.  What used to be such a simple pleasure, has unfortunately become another victim of celiac disease.  After dinner, my husband and I had an unshakeable craving for ice cream.  You know, the delicious kind that comes with a few different flavors and toppings, and is served to you without any of your own hard work.  Let’s be honest, there really isn’t any other kind!

So why is this such a big deal as a celiac you ask?  Because that meant we had to start googling.  First we searched for our options in the area.  Unfortunately we didn’t have too many local choices, but Baskin Robbins nearby looked promising.  Then began the search for whether or not I could eat some of their flavors…and that’s where my 12 year old self got incredibly disappointed.

Think back to the last time you had ice cream from a specialty shop…you request a couple flavors, so does the person in front of you.  The workers grab a scoop from a bowl of water and start to pack it all in.  Did the person in front of you get a cone?  Did they order chocolate chip cookie dough?  Was the same scoop used after they touched the cookie dough, and presumably bumped the cone as well?  Let’s not forget the toppings, all crowded close together in small bins on a buffet…where do they keep the cookie crumbs? Or the candy bars? Are they close to the chocolate fudge or fresh fruit you were planning to add to your ice cream cup?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All of it, that’s right, every last flavor and topping is at HIGH risk for cross contamination.  And in my world, any risk is too high to chance 😦

There was a bit of a silver lining, we were able to scan a couple different flavors of Edy’s ice cream that were safe for me at the grocery store.  In the comfort of my own home, I knew the ice cream scoop was safe to use, and nothing had been crossed in the fresh tubs of ice cream.  These are the things each of us battle every day as we deal with celiac disease.  It’s so much more than no beer, pasta, or bread.  It affects even the smallest decisions and the simplest pleasures of our lives.