Whole30 – Week 1

I’ve found myself on day 8 of the Whole30 challenge, which means it must be time for an update!  For starters, I got used to the taste of black coffee by day 3.  Not only was I used to it, but I’m actually enjoying it!  I sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon on the bottom of my mug, then pour in the coffee so it’s mixed well.  I’ve been enjoying every last drop this way, and will probably think very seriously about maintaining this after the challenge is over.

I’ve read through the Whole30 timeline a few times, trying to figure out what to expect.  Week one highlights these winning moments….here’s what I thought about them all:

Day 1: So what’s the big deal? Spot on judgement of how I felt on day 1.  As you all saw in last week’s post (Reset), the recipes came pretty easily, everything tasted delicious, and it didn’t seem like such a far stretch from our normal meals.  I was excited to get through out shopping list, and fill the house with all kinds of fresh produce.

Days 2-3: The Hangover.  Apparently I must be eating healthier than I realized, because I didn’t feel the full effects of sugar withdrawal.  Did I have a small headache around days 4 and 5? Absolutely! But it was bearable, and thankfully came to an end fairly quickly.

Days 4-5: Kill all the things!  I really hoped and thought this phase wouldn’t actually hit me.  Why?  Because irrationally, I thought somehow my experience would be different, and that must be an exaggeration.  Low and behold, I came home from a relaxing massage on day 6 to realize my husband had finished all of the delicious leftovers that I was looking forward to eating.  We had nothing already prepared in the house, it was late, and I was hangry!  Thankfully, he’s very understanding, and helped me whip something up quickly…but in those few minutes before we figured out what to do “kill all the things” came out 😦

Days 6-7: I just want to nap.  This phase hit me pretty hard, like the night I fell asleep on the couch at 8:30, or when I just couldn’t keep myself up after dinner and quite literally put myself to bed at a toddler’s bedtime.  Getting up from my desk and walking to/from meetings kept it from hitting me hard during the day, but at night, all bets were off!

The thing that’s helping this challenge make even more of a difference for me, is that it coincides with a “Commit to Fit” challenge I’m doing with a close family member (hubby’s cousin from Lexington).  During week one, I not only ate super healthy, but I also swam 36 laps in our local pool, got 45 minutes of cardio work in after work, and ran 8 miles with my Celiac Running Crew today!

So what were the most successful and delicious recipes from the week?  Here are my top 3 (in no particular order)…

1. Orange chicken with sauteed broccoli and yellow squash.  I got this recipe from a good friend and running buddy, who is also taking the Whole30 challenge.  Here’s the link to her blog, and the Orange Chicken recipe.  I adapted it a little since we didn’t have cauliflower on hand (that only lasts about a day in our house!), but I have to say I was really impressed with how rich the sauce was with so few ingredients!

Orange Chicken with Sauteed Broccoli and Squash

Orange Chicken with Sauteed Broccoli and Squash

2.  Fish tacos with mango salsa and avocado cream, paired with steamed green beans.  This recipe came after scouring Pinterest for fun new ideas.  We’d been a little heavy on the poultry earlier in the week, so I was trying to track down something light with fish.  I came across this fish taco recipe, and it could not have been more perfect! First of all, it was super easy for a mid-week recipe.  All we had to do was chop the ingredients for the salsa, and puree the avocado with coconut milk.  Seriously, it was that simple.  Not sure what to pair with it, I steamed green beans, and drizzled lemon infused olive oil on the top.  Perfection!

Fish tacos in lettuce wraps, topped with mango salsa, avocado cream, and a side of steamed green beans.

Fish tacos in lettuce wraps, topped with mango salsa, avocado cream, and a side of steamed green beans.

3. Every. Single. Salad!  We’ve come up with fun and exciting ways to dress up each of our lunchtime salads throughout week one!  Today’s specialty was a mixed bag, I never really know what all I’m going to include until it’s all on the plate.  First I sauteed shallots in coconut oil, and added in about half a pound of ground turkey along with one egg (I was making enough for two salads).  While I was cooking, I seasoned everything with salt, pepper, curry, and ground Jamaican allspice.  I added in pine nuts, green tomatoes, kale and grapes (don’t look at me funny, that salty/sweet combination was awesome).  Once the turkey was browned and the kale had cooked down, I filled a plate with mixed spring greens and baby spinach, and topped it with half an avocado.  I threw half the pan contents on top, and added a drizzle of olive oil and apple cider vinegar.  This was definitely one for the books 🙂

One of the many salads made this week, this one complete with a salty/sweet flavor!

One of the many salads made this week, this one complete with a salty/sweet flavor!

Lexington, KY – A fun family weekend!

Since it’s Thursday, I thought I’d post a throwback to a trip we took last year.  I started this blog post on our flight home, but never quite finished writing.  Hubby and I took advantage of a three-day holiday weekend, flew out to Kentucky to visit his family, and witnessed Keeneland first hand.  We took a late Thursday flight and started the weekend midday on Friday 🙂  I have to admit, this was one of those trips that I wasn’t able to do recon beforehand on the gluten-free options we’d have.

We started our Lexington fun with a local chain, and favorite of hubby’s cousin, Saul Good.   There honestly could not have been a better start to the weekend.  One of the things I was really bummed out about in Italy was that I only found gluten-free pizza in two restaurants.  Saul Good not only had gluten-free pizza crust, but they also had my favorite spicy Italian red sauce as one of their options!   The staff was more than friendly about working with me and double checking each item I ordered.  They offered to put together a fresh vegetable platter for me when I told them I really wanted to try the dip, but could not have their chips.

Our tailgate fare was all low-key, and made for very little prep work that morning.   We’d stopped at a grocery store early in the trip so I could help make sure we had enough gluten-free food for me.  Be forewarned, I did search around to find gluten-free food options inside the track before we went, but didn’t have much luck searching online.  Armed with that in mind, we packed enough pregame food to be sure I wouldn’t go hungry.

We hit up Local Taco for brunch Sunday morning,  where I was pleased to find that their menu had gluten-free options marked with a convenient “GF”.  After confirming with the manager that their chips and salsa were safe for me to eat, I put in an order for four specialty corn tacos along with the chips.  I can not put into words how good those tacos were after a full day tailgating at Keeneland.   The smoked brisket was by far my favorite, but trust me, they were all pretty delicious.   Thankfully,  I remember to snap a picture of my plate before devouring all of it!

Smoked Brisket, Tequila Lime Chicken, and Steak & Eggs  Tacos from The Local Taco

Smoked Brisket, Tequila Lime Chicken, and Steak & Eggs Tacos from The Local Taco

Later that night, we decided to hit up the movie theater after a quick dinner.  Hubby had been in the mood for barbecue, so we made our way to City Barbeque.  In frustrating fashion, my phone froze just as I’d started downloading their allergen listing.  Thankfully, the list was also printed out and kept at the front register.  Without hesitation, I went straight for the naked brisket.  After combing through the gluten-free sides, I settled on baked beans and sweet vinegar slaw.  As we completed our order I mentioned that my meal would need to be carefully handled, and that the staff would need to change their gloves for safety.  Just as I said that, the woman at the register told me she’d already put our order in, and quickly called over another person from the kitchen to ensure my dinner was safe….phew!  I made a quick mental note that all of their sauces were safe, but realized I’d need more help when I saw the condiments station.  All of the sauces were kept in large serving vats, with a single ladle in each one.  Knowing this was a sure-fire way to make myself sick, I grabbed the woman manning the pickup area to see if she could help.  Once I explained my concerns about cross contamination with the sauce ladles,  she came out with two fresh to-go containers of sweet sauce for me to enjoy.

Our final culinary stop in Lexington was at the one and only Shakespeare & Co.  I have to say, the Victorian decorations were very unique, and I totally wanted to stop at every table so I could sit on their vintage couches.  We made it here about midday, making it the perfect time for a late brunch.  Upon asking for a gluten-free menu, I was told the restaurant had gluten-free bread, pizza crust, and quinoa for substitution in nearly any dish.  I asked for some help since I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted.  Our waiter told me hands down that I should go with the Salmon and scrambled eggs.  Let me tell you, that dish did not disappoint!  The gluten-free bread had been cut into rounds as if it were a biscuit, with perfectly shaped salmon and eggs on top.  It came with a side of roasted potatoes and hollandaise dipping sauce, which I obviously smothered all over the eggs 🙂 one word ladies and gentlemen: heavenly!

Our final stop before going home was to the Town Branch Brewery and Distillery.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have any gluten-free beers for me, but the first part of the tour was pretty cool anyways.  We were each given four tasting tickets at the beginning, so I stashed mine away for the Kentucky Bourbon.  I’d done some research about whether or not it was actually safe for me to drink Bourbon, and come to the consensus that the distilling process should make it safe, but that some celiacs still have issues.  Personally, I’m a fan of Bourbon, so it was worth giving it a shot for me.  I tried their Bourbon, Rye, Pearse Lyons Reserve, and an especially tasty Bluegrass Sundown.  My favorite hands down was the Bluegrass Sundown, which is a dark roasted coffee infused with Bourbon and sugar.  Our tour guide served it with hot water over cream, and it just might have to replace the Irish coffee on my list of cold weather spirits!  The best news is, I had no reactions to the Bourbon…line ’em up 😉

Copper pot stills at Town Branch Distillery

Copper pot stills at Town Branch Distillery

Kentucky Bourbon straight from the source, aging in fresh barrels!!

Kentucky Bourbon straight from the source, aging in fresh barrels!!

Reset

Happy New Year everyone (a little delayed)! In this New Year, I’ve decided to hit the reset button in more ways than one.  First of all, I’ve taken what has been a much too long break from the blog.  It wasn’t intentional, but during the break I visited Italy, Kentucky, and New York, ran my very first marathon and was able to get a lot of inspiration for the blog.  If you’re a regular reader, you’ll notice the blog got a much-needed face lift as well!

The second reset button is on my eating habits.  Stress at work and busy schedules has caused us to eat quick meals that aren’t exactly the healthiest.  Think those gluten-free goodies like rice pasta, frozen pizzas (which have really come a long way), and corn dogs.  Yes, I’ve been eating like a child lately.  It’s taken a toll on my body, energy and motivation.  After seeing some of my celiac running crew take on the Whole30 challenge, my husband and I decided it was time for us to try the same.  We’re just starting day two, and the hangover hasn’t quite hit yet.

Not sure what the Whole30 is?  Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.  It’s a 30 day program in which sugar, grains, dairy and legumes are completely eliminated from your diet.  It’s not every day that you find a program that allows you to eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds.  One of the main premises is to eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.

So what’s been the hardest thing so far? Not being able to put our hazelnut creamer in our coffee!  I drink usually 2-3 cups of coffee every morning, and that little bit of creamer makes it taste just perfect.  We experimented with coconut milk on day 1, but it just wasn’t right.  Today we tried a teaspoon of pureed coconut (coconut manna by Nutiva) topped with cinnamon, and that was much more bearable.  I’m hoping to get myself to a point where I only need the cinnamon by the time this is over.  We really enjoyed the first day of Whole30 meals, I posted the Chicken & Zucchini Poppers recipe we used for dinner in case anyone wants it!

Here’s a look at how we started day 1…

Breakfast: Sautéed ground turkey and potato hash, with 2 eggs over easy.

Breakfast: Sautéed ground turkey and potato hash, with 2 eggs over easy.

Lunch: Salad with romaine lettuce, kale, tomato, celery, avocado, and ground turkey with a fried egg (seasoned with adobo, chili, salt and pepper). Dressing – avocado oil and vinegar.

Lunch: Salad with romaine lettuce, kale, tomato, celery, avocado, and ground turkey with a fried egg (seasoned with adobo, chili, salt and pepper). Dressing – avocado oil and vinegar.

Dinner: Chicken and zucchini poppers with guacamole and sautéed sweet potatoes.

Dinner: Chicken and zucchini poppers with guacamole and sautéed sweet potatoes.

Our ever-growing produce corner!!

Our ever-growing produce corner!!

Back from my hiatus

I may have been off the grid for a while, but I promise it was with good reason!  My husband and I just got home last weekend after two weeks traveling through Italy 🙂  I told you all a while ago about how nervous I was getting prepared for the trip, and how they’d be able to handle celiac disease.  Not only was I impressed with what I found online before our trip, but let me tell you, Italy did not disappoint.  I have plenty of restaurant reviews, tips, and experiences to share with you all…but for starters I thought I’d walk you all through our itinerary, and how we felt our time was best spent.

While I was in college, I had the privilege to study abroad in a little town called Paderno del Grappa.  We were nestled in the Dolomite mountains, and though we didn’t have a train station in our town, we were close enough that we were able to take some great weekend trips through Italy while we were there.  My main focus of this trip was to make sure my husband got to see everything he wanted to (this was his first trip to Italy), that we were able to meet up with his distant relatives near Rome, and to take advantage of going back to see anything and everything I may have missed out on years ago!  We knew we wanted to spend two weeks over there, so once we found our flights it was time to hammer out where we’d be staying.  Here’s the official breakdown we came up with:

  • Rome: 5 nights
  • Florence: 3 nights
  • Cinque Terre: 2 nights
  • Milan: 1 night
  • Venice: 3 nights

Initially we were so overwhelmed with everything else in our lives that we though about reaching out to a travel agent.  The more I thought about it, the sillier I felt asking someone else to figure out our accommodations…I KNOW Italy!  Having studied abroad, I knew where we’d want to stay, how we’d get from town to town, and that hotels are definitely NOT the best option out there.  We spent an entire Sunday looking through our options and tracking down the best Bed & Breakfasts, or in some cases, smaller hotels.  Here are some of the resources I leveraged to find exactly what I was looking for, and why I used them:

  • www.hostelworld.com – This site was one of my best resources studying abroad.  If you’re thinking you’re too old for hostels, don’t worry!  You can use the search tools to select exactly what you’re looking for.  For us, that was narrowed down to either hotels or a B&B with an ensuite room (meaning a private bathroom).  Depending on what else you need, there are other facilities that you can ensure the host can offer such as luggage storage, air conditioning, breakfast, internet access, etc.
  • www.venere.com – For those smaller properties that might not be listed on other sites, Venere was a great resource.  This helped us track down other B&B options that might not have been listed on Hostel World.  Definitely be aware though, once you find the place you want to stay, check to see if they have their own website or contact information.  You’ll usually get the best rates directly from the B&B or hotel, and not through a middle-man website.
  • www.tripadvisor.com – This was our final line of defense in making sure we made the best choices.  Once you think you’ve narrowed it down, check on TripAdvisor to see what people are actually saying about the place.  Read the most current reviews, as things can frequently change, and you want to be sure that anything you’re reading is as accurate as possible.

We’ll be working on getting a review posted for each of the places we stayed, and once we do I’ll be sure to post a link to it here!  For now, I hope you enjoy a few quick pictures from the trip….don’t worry, there will be plenty more 🙂

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The Roman Forum, wandering around the city after flying in, but before we could check into our room!

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The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome.

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Getting a tour of Frosinone, a small town outside of Rome, from relatives of my husband’s family.

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Overlooking the Ponte Vecchio and Arno River in Florence.

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The front facade of the Duomo in Florence.

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Miles and miles of vineyards in the Chianti region, stunning view from San Gimignano.

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Looking out into the street from Sforza Castle in Milan. They’re really gearing up for the 2015 World’s Fair, the buildings on either side of the picture are from entrance tents to the fair.

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Enjoying the streets of Burano after a day watching all of the talented glass makers in Murano.

 

 

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 🙂