A Fresh Start for Better Health

Eight weeks ago today I had my right knee replaced, that demon osteoarthritis did some really major damage inside there.  Now I am feeling somewhat recovered but those first few weeks were pretty hairy.  I lost my appetite on top of all that pain and it was difficult to eat enough to keep my blood sugar decent, I have pre-diabetes as well as my celiac disease. Normally I control that with exercise, healthy snacks and less sweets but when your knee keeps you from all exercise for four months…things can get a little screwed up.  So, I found my self craving fresh produce when I was home from the hospital. Heck, I ate a veggie plate there and a fruit and cottage cheese plate so it began even before I got home. Oranges, tangerines, cuties, grapefruit, berries, snap peas, even broccoli tasted amazing and I couldn’t enjoy a meal without at least a couple fruits and veggies.  That and my reduced appetite gave me a ten pound weight loss which I was more than happy with.  More interesting yet is that I still don’t seem to crave the processed sweets half as much as before.  Oh, they be creeping back somewhat  but I am trying not to buy much of that sort of thing beyond crackers to pair with cheese, plain nuts and some organic baked cheese puffs white-cheddar-puffsI am treating myself to.  Thinking about my close proximity to diabetes plus my recovery time cravings – produced serious soul searching and I have made the decision to try to keep with this program of less processed snack foods and less sugar.

We folks with celiac feel we deserve a treat or two and I am no different from anyone else.  But, now I try to treat those cravings with fruit, nuts or maybe a square of dark chocolate.  Aldi’s has great dark chocolates aldi's chocolateand some nuts that are free of cross contamination. As before, I eat a muffin for a snack most days but it is homemade and baked using coconut palm sugar which has a lower hypoglycemic index which bodes well for my sugar levels. Oh, I’m no saint and I can’t resist an occasional treat of some kind but I am trying to not bake the cakes and cookies I used to delight in.  Pies, tarts, galettes and tartlets are still on my recipe plans so there will be tasty items here on my blog in the future but other than angel food cake or a family birthday party, cake be a rare treat from here on out. I can’t promise no cookies, woman does not live by pie alone…gotta have cookies!

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I will see how the next two months go and let you know if I can keep my plan working.  If you are trying to lower your sugar intake you might want to try some of what I am eating…a good place to start are muffins made with coconut palm sugar.  They are yummy, easy and healthy.  Join me on this new journey and enjoy great homemade foods with less sugar! cranberry-blueberry-muffins

Gluten Free Chips to Munch

If you follow my blog you might notice I haven’t posted many baked goods in the past month. As I mentioned the other week, I had my right knee replacement surgery the first week of March. Due to that I haven’t been able to do much cooking and even less baking.  Just not able to stand around or work hard at anything other than my recovery which is going pretty well these days. I use a cane but in my house I often just walk all on my own. I’ve had lots of company, mostly siblings who came to help me out and to visit our mom who I normally spend time with each week.  This worked out great and now I am on my own.  While they were here people bought a number of things new to me and so I have been doing some product reviews.  Here are two more, both triangular chips and both organic.  In the interest of honesty I should say that throughout my recovery I have been actively seeking not to eat these sort of treats; too fattening/salty/addictive.  I didn’t buy them but I sure couldn’t help myself to try more than a few of each chip.

pink himalayan chipsI love tortilla chips and was excited when my brother bought a bag of Pink Himalayan Salt Red Rice & Quinoa Tortilla Chips by Lundberg in Ca. Everyone likes them but me and my beef is the salt. I guess my salt cutting back regimen for the past year or so is having a serious effect as I found these chips to be way too salty for my tastes.  No one else felt that way; they were noshed on with joy by several of my visitors so get a bag and test them out! Non GMO, gluten free and whole grain…purchased at Giant Food Stores.

popcorners chips

The other snack item I want to share with you are Popcorners, Crispy & Crunchy Popped Corn Chips, by BFY Brands in Liberty NY.  Darn it, but I just love them! No preservatives, no trans fats, not fried, doubled pressed for extra crunch.  I got the variety with some cheddar for flavoring. Thin, crisp but not hard and lightly cheesy: I could eat the whole bag in a day but I have restrained myself so far. These also came from Giant and I love that they have 7 ounces, the other ones were 5.5 so I got another ounce and a half plus they were a bit cheaper so double score on these triangular treats.

More and more tasty gluten free snacks are popping up out there in regular grocery stores; but do read the packaging carefully if you have allergies or want to limit sodium or other sorts of intake. Best not to eat the whole bag at one munching! Enjoy.

Best Places to Shop for GF Foods

If you need to eat only gluten free food it is tough to avoid cooking.  There are only so many frozen entrees you can buy. Gf foods are not cheap; they are sometimes twice or even three times the cost of wheat based similar baked goods. So I bake and I cook lots of yummy gf food. Stores where you can purchase gluten free food products have increased their gf selection dramatically over the past ten years. This is partially due to the increase in folks who chose to eat gluten free for dieting reasons or because they think it is “cleaner” to eat gf. Plus the medical world is getting more familiar with celiac disease and the increase in diagnosis is definitely fueling the need for gluten free foods.

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease four years plus ago I had absolutely no idea what that meant.  I was truly horrified to find out it meant cutting out bread, pasta, rolls and pastry. I was in denial for a couple of weeks. But then I buckled down and started switching to a gluten free diet.  This meant I gave away or threw away all my regular cereals, flours and pastas that had gluten in them meaning everything I had! Replacing them with gluten free food became an adventure of epic proportions; sort of like an Easter egg hunt for safe foods.  Some stores mix their gf foods with regular stuff and others give it a separate location.  A couple of grocery stores even do both.  Here are some of my findings over the past 4-5 months.

aldi sign

My favorite grocery store is Aldi’s. I mostly shop at the one in Bethlehem on Easton Avenue although I have been to the Wilson store as well. They have the best gf crackers, tortilla chips and gluten free hot pockets.  I have gotten ravioli there as well as gf pizza, pizza mix, chocolate chip cookie mix, baked cookies, snack bars as well as gf chocolate. All of these items are clearly marked GF. Occasionally, seasonal gf items come out as well as pushes of new gf stock items that may or may not stick around long term. It is worth checking them out every month for what’s new.  Not particularly gf but important to me are their great prices and excellent quality of foods.  My favs in dairy are the store brand string cheese, Greek cheese and goat cheese. Plus the meat department is small but mighty; super great prices and I find the quality to be high considering the price charged.  They do not have a separate gf section although the freezer gf stuff is together and most of their gf crackers and cookies are placed near each other.

wegmansSecond place goes to Wegmans.  All three Weggies have awesome separate gf departments of cereal, pasta, flours, cookies and snacks plus freezer space nearby where frozen bagels, breads and ravioli reside. Best selection in the Valley. Still, I have found some gf flours over in their baking aisle; millet for example.  I strongly urge them to consolidate all gf marked flours together in the gf section. They have some pastas I can’t find at any other store; a wonderful rice shaped corn based pasta as well as things like gf graham cracker crusts and gf hot cereals that I often buy there. Lots of cookies and snacks too!

Third place: Giant: each store has a separate gf section as well as dedicated gf freezer space in the health food freezer section nearby. The stores do put gf cake mixes with the regular cake mixes.  I am thankful they put them at the top of the shelf.  This is best practice as it keeps wheat based product from sifting down if a package breaks. I hate the thought of getting gluten based cake mix on my fingers and accidentally ingesting it. They also place gf Barilla pasta in the regular pasta aisle although the rest of the gf pasta is in the separate gf section.  There is gf bread crumbs on the same shelf as regular bread crumbs and different brands are back in the dedicated gf section. I have found a few gluten free frozen foods in the regular aisle of frozen items although there is a portion of the freezer in the health food aisle which seems dedicated to gf frozen items. It’s a weird sort of inconsistency but I can’t complain that there are no gluten free items in the stores.

The Fresh Market at the Promenade Shoppes of Saucon Valley does not have a gluten free section.  A few gf items are sprinkled around the store but I didn’t find much to buy there except some rather nice looking wide ribbon pasta and a container of citrus green tea.  Not a place I would go back to in my quest for gluten free items.

Valley Farm Market on Stefko Boulevard in Bethlehem has limited gf choices.  They do have a lot of gf dry flour mixes and baking mixes in a section over near the deli.  The only issue is that they store gf foods with bags of gluten based products right next to them.  Those of us with celiac disease much prefer a separate section for gf foods to cut back on package surface contamination from wheat based flours that might spill.  I didn’t find many gf items elsewhere in the store. I love their produce and meats but gf…not so much!

Shoprite in Phillipsburg NJ has a number of gf products but, again, they can be all over the place. I haven’t shopped but a couple of times in the new store off of Freemansburg Avenue heading towards Easton.   I was unable to find much there of a gf nature other than fresh unadulterated turkeys both whole and a turkey breast which the meat department obligingly deboned for my Christmas meal. I searched for a gf section; found no dedicated area.  Will keep looking!

Some unusual locations for purchasing gf foods are odd lot stores or discount places like Marshalls.  Frey’s Better Foods in Hellertown has a fair amount of gf foods, no dedicated section though.  I have gone west to Echo Hill Store out near Fleetwood for bulk purchases of beans and rice, great prices and interesting selection there.

Lots of great choices for gluten free foods here in the Lehigh Valley.  I seldom buy on line as I can find most of what I need locally. So, whether you eat gluten free occasionally, mostly or always, there are options locally for great meal preparation as well as ready made meals.

My Other Blog!

I recently started blogging on the on line version of a local magazine; Lehigh Valley Style.  You can find my posts on their site: go to http://www.lehighvalleystyle.com/ and click on blogs.  My new post goes up about the 5 to 9th of the month.  It is fun to blog for the magazine, reporting on local places to grab a gluten free bite.  If you live in my geographic area you might want to check out their site.  Working hard to find some new places to eat at; please comment if you have a local place you would like me to review as to their gluten free menu options. blondie-cupcake

This month was Blondie’s Cupcakes in Catty; great halupkies too! That’s stuffed cabbage to the unknowing…they also have fifty funky different versions of the hot dog and a few other things we celiacs can’t actually eat.  Suggest you read my review to know more.

This is a fun new opportunity for me as a blogger. More things to juggle in my busy life! blondie-halupkie

Enjoy!
Halupkie for Supper…mmmmmmm

 

Flavored Kombucha Tea: for Your Good Health

Some of us feel we have been over-indulging for the holidays.  January is a good time to make a fresh start working towards a better life style. Here is one great tip for you; get probiotics into your tummy.  There are probiotics in pills.  You can also drink kefir which I do or eat raw sauerkraut or kimchi. And then there is kombucha tea. Last year in June I posted about my kombucha tea adventures: it is a fermented beverage that has been a favored health drink for thousands of years and no, it doesn’t taste like tea once it ferments.  I’ve been drinking some daily for almost a year now.  I have to say my tummy loves it.  People with celiac have tummy/gut issues and generally need to take a probiotics every day. People on antibiotics should also take probiotics. This is a natural probiotic; you can buy it bottled in the refrigerated section of your health food store or even regular grocery store in the health foods aisle.  But, you can also make your own.  I find it easy to make and really cheap. I drink some most every day; about a cup a day, more or less.  Here is the link to a really great article on tummy/gut health that you might want to read: https://www.verywell.com/how-to-have-healthy-gut-bacteria-1945326?utm_campaign=health_tod&utm_medium=email&utm_source=cn_nl&utm_content=8689384&utm_term=bouncex3

Check my old post on it for directions on making your own. https://myworldwithoutwheat.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/kombucha-tea-for-great-health/  I find making it to be so easy; here is my current recipe – ingredients: 1 big quart black tea bag, 1 regular tea bag, filtered water and a heaping half cup of sugar.  Directions: heat 2 cups of water to a boil, add the tea bags, let it brew for ten minutes.  Remove the tea bags and add a heaping half cup of granulated sugar. Stir well to dissolve it. Then add enough filtered to make 4 cups of tea.  I bottle up the just finished batch of kombucha while it cools, reserving a cup of tea; usually from the bottom of the glass jar.  Add the 4 cups of room temperature sweetened tea to your kombucha jar; the scoby and cup of tea are already in it. Add 4 more cups of room temperature filtered water.  Put a fresh paper towel on the top and secure with a rubber band.  Put in a dark warm place for a week and taste; it should be fairly strong in flavor.  I pour it into glass pint containers and put a lid on.  I put it back in the dark spot overnight and then I like to flavor each bottle; some of my favorite ways are:

  1. half a vanilla bean; take it out after 24 hours, dry it off and save for next week: it lasts for several batches;
  2. a small cinnamon stick; remove after 12-24 hours, dry off and save for next week: it lasts for several batches;
  3. 1-2 ¼ inch wide slices of fresh ginger; remove after 12-24 hours, dry off and save for next week: it lasts for several batches;
  4. a 1-2 inch section of lemon peel; just wide enough to easily fit in your bottle; remove after 12-24 hours;
  5. fresh fruit juice; about ¼ to 1/2 cup; what every flavor you like.  I have even used fresh grape juice.

Let me know your ideas for what you use to flavor your kombucha tea.  Enjoy and be healthy!

 

Snacky Treats Recently Taste Tested

I love it when friends give me new gf products to try.  This week I am sharing two treats that were gifts and three snacks I bought myself.  First up: Tate’s Bake Shop Gf Chocolate chip cookies.  They are 7 oz in a waxed paper bag and in two plastic bags in a plastic tray inside.  I found them to be large, thin, crisp and somewhat addictive.  For those of us who adore chocolate chip cookies, anyway! I believe they came from Giant Grocery Store. I give these cookies a 4.5 on my zero to five scale.  Leaving room for homemade cookies; mine are a 5; see my blog post on chocolate chipperscrunchy-rice-sticks

tates-cookies

 

 

 

 

Second item is Crunchy Rice Sticks; round columns; 3.2 ounces and 8 sticks to a bag.  Fairly bland but not bad at all has rice syrup to hold it together and render them faintly sweet; the sticks are about an inch in diameter and five inches in length.  Great crunch and low calories: 50 to a stick!  I think they came from Giant.

Next up: Cashew Brittle from Aldi’s.  Not my favorite.  Way too sweet for me and not that much cashew in them.  Still, if you like cashews and sweets this might be up your alley.  Made by Crazy Candy Company.  7 ounce bag.

skinny-pop

Popcorn aisle: Skinny Pop Dusted Dark Chocolate Popcorn.  Non GMO, GF, 43 calories per cup.  I believe I found this at Giant Foods. Decent tasting if slightly drab: I have been spoiled by the drizzled with chocolate popcorn I found at Aldi’s this fall.  Now that was freaking amazing!  Can’t find it at present; hopeful it will return to the stores very soon.  There is a drizzled with chocolate and white sugar topped popcorn at Giant but it was a very small bag for nearly $4.  Crazy price for that itty bitty bag.  Time to research and product test my own homemade drizzled popcorn!

 

Final product: Veggie & Flaxseed Corn Tortilla Chips.  They were pretty decent; 10 oz bag purchased at Aldi’s; store brand chips.  Organic and in several colors and flavors although they tasty pretty much alike.  Good with a dollop of hummus.  Salsa works too.  Only thing is, I re-read the label and they are manufactured in a facility that also uses wheat products.  Rethinking this one….bummer.veggie-chips

 

I don’t recommend eating gf snacks all day long but some of these are fairly healthy and not that expensive.  We all enjoy a bit of a treat.  Enjoy!

New Year… Resolutions for a Better Lifestyle!

Well, a week late but here I go.  My New Year’s resolutions: exercise more, eat less processed foods and cut back on sugar.  I already eat a lot of veggies and fruits and plan on as much or more.  Also, sleep longer on consistent basis, (The irony of my typing this post late this night is not lost on me!) avoid harsh soaps and chemicals, find more time to relax, laugh more and smile more.  Find more joy in life

white-cheddar-puffs

So, when shopping I am going to avoid the sugar and processed foods. I bought a bag of cheese curls for my visiting family.  Last bag ever.  Swear it! A couple months ago I found some nummy cheese puffs at Aldi’s that are naturally flavored with white cheese. Their cheesiness is delicate and pure in comparison to those neon orange Utz curls.  Good decision. Keep trending that way is how I plan to roll while grocery shopping.

Less cake…more fruit based desserts is my baking resolution and I will share them with you.  I did my year of pies in 2016 and it was very nice indeed.  This year might be more like lots of hand pies, tartlets, galettes, clafouti and other fruity concoctions.  I also am trying to cut back even more on white sugar; go for honey, maple syrup, raw sugar, or coconut palm sugar. Just say FRUIT and I smile!

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peach tartlets ready for the oven last summer

I also want to explore more spicy entrees in my cooking; Moroccan, Indian, Thai etc. Love spices, love new foods and enjoy the discovery of lovely flavors and textures in my adventures into other cultures.  You may soon be seeing posts voyaging to new foods and spice combinations. Come along for the ride and be an explorer with me in 2017!