New Year, New Body

Basically, I decided to put some thoughtful practice into writing. I think I need to make some yearly plans for myself, because I realized something… I have opted out of yoga for the past two days.

Not a serious problem, but if I want to make it a consistent habit, I need to have an accountability system. A blog can help with that. I do not know about you, but publishing your plans to the entire world is a little motivating. Yoga? Meet motivation.

There are some other things on my mind for this semester besides yoga. Here are my other healthy goals for the spring…

1. Write posts and queue them. No more feast and famine style blogging.

2. Read more books.

3. Give more. There’s more to life than me.

4. Sweeten friendships. Global relationships need this.

5. Practice yoga and choose to sleep.

I find that keeping healthy wishes simple makes them easier to accomplish, and motivates me to fulfill them to an even greater degree. I also believe health is strongly connected to your entire lifestyle, not just nutrition or your workout regimen. My healthy goals fulfill personal needs, which then enable me to stay strong in the other areas of health.

Q: How about you? Do you have any healthy plans or fun things on your Spring agenda? I am forming plans for an adventuresome Spring Break! Trips to visit friends all around the United States, hopefully. 🙂

Gluten Free Dairy Free Snack Tryouts – Olympic Style

This will be my first week of work as an intern. Yes, I am nervous. What does an economist intern do? Is it hard to learn? Is it a competition for becoming America’s Next Top Copy-maker? I have no clue. We’ll both just have to find out tomorrow. Meh.

In the meantime, I wanted to start off with a whole lot of tasty pictures, but Olympic style. We have our returning champions from Trader Joe’s…

Dark sweet cherries (no sulpher, no nada!), sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate! I read the label and the dark chocolate truffle has no milk listed. I think it is smooth and safe for us dairy-free folks. I am new to this though, so check to be certain.

Each of these have been quite lovely to munch on in the afternoons, so I am taking them with me to the office! As for the newbies, I turn to some hidden (and remarkably cheap!) promising individuals…

You are looking at: two (new for me) flavors of Larabar (Blueberry Muffin, Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte)… one new Justin’s packet flavor (Honey Almond butter)… and the complete newbies – roasted seaweed! I looked at them and thought to myself… health benefits! how cool would I be to eat these and like them?!

Yeah. I went there. Feel free to judge.

In this Olympic style tryout, the rules are simple. Fill me up, be noms-to-the-delicious, and be portable. Since each of these are pre-packed, I think that last one is covered. We will see how these turn out taste-wise later this week! I am also working on a lunchtime version as well. I’ll sneak-tweet those results most likely, so follow this little bird as I wing out this week.

Q: Do you have New Years Resolutions with trying new stuff? Do you have office go-to snacks?

Q & A Update

Hello lovely readers!

Q: Where have I been????

A: I have not entirely removed myself from the blogging world (check those tweets!). However, I have been reflecting on how difficult it is to find local restaurants which can accurately cater to those with allergies as well as those without. To be honest, I almost felt like giving up. Lame sauce. (That picture? Slushes on winter vacation with Jessica!)

Q: Well… what now?

A: Luckily, my newest semester in school inspired me by accident! Instead of focusing on primarily restaurants, I am shifting my gaze a bit more broad. Here is the future as I see it:

1. Local food or food-based business reviews (per usual)
2. Reviews on products that are local (as defined >>here<<) and are CONVENIENT (read: frozen or workplace oriented)
3. Nifty recipes for home cooking or baking that I make or just want to share (per usual)
4. More life stories which pop into the picture

Q: Inspiration? Explain please.

A: My inspiration came from my internship. Basically, each hour I am not in school I will be interning from 9a-5pm during the week. My internship is near Scottsdale, which gives me reason (and funds!) to venture into local places there. It also means I need to be super UBER practical with how much time I have to cook and what conveniences are worth buying! I hope that as my life takes a little twist, you can enjoy the new look right along with me.

Q: What do you (lovely readers) think? Do you like the tweets via instagram?

A: Comments below!! 🙂

A Tale of the Little Vegan Gingerbread

This weekend, as announced, I went for it. Gluten free gingerbread house or bust baby! I even found the sacred sorghum flour. Never used the stuff before. I always used oat flour as a substitute because it was easier to find. Well not this season!

On Friday I planned to bake my little heart away and begin the serious academic studies on Saturday morning. Not so. Like most of my semester, I have had constant, fresh reasons to add more to my schedule. Boo. Friday multiplied into three student meetings, an additional paper, and more meetings scheduled for Christmas break. Lame sauce. I had no time to bake a thing.

rediculous. pugs.

Saturday morning, I realized I could procrastinate postpone study until Monday since final exams mean no classes. I also found out I had three interviews for positions next semester! Good vibes to work from.

Then my dough crumbled. And crackled. And miserably failed. I did not know what I would do. Like a two year old, I threw the dough in foil, chucked it into the refrigerator, and left it. Spitefully. Who needs gingerbread! …I am so going to lose any readers I have after this.

For some reason Monday, I got spunky. I dragged it out wishfully, then plotted. Why not just pour a bunch of almond milk in? It’s not like things could get any worse! Like magic, the vegan gingerbread dough did a complete 180… but went sticky. Luckily, adding the other half of the crumbly fridge dough fixed both the stick factor and the dry factor. Saved!

From this experience, I have a few practical tips…

1) Seriously, use a silpat sheet. For the love of humanity, use a silpat. You’ll go crazy otherwise getting the shapes onto a sheet or off of a sheet without destroying the shapes.

2) Do not remove the cookie cutter before you tear away excess dough. And use a butter knife for the tricky parts. Particularly if you find sick pleasure in cramming as many cutters as possible onto the sheet. Guilty as charged, but then again, I’m an economist. I’m prone to maximizing output. Hehehe.

3) Believe in the dough. Believe and watch out for sticky. Karina low-balls the amount of almond/coconut milk in the recipe as far as my experience goes, so pour on! (that way you get cute little poombahs in the oven!)

From Karina’s lovely recipe, I managed the following: 4 regular-sized ginger people, 1 mini, four 5.5″ walls, and 24 mini cutouts! What a generous stash. I found those cookie cutters (in such fun sizes and shapes) for $5 at Michael’s. Complete STEAL.

The time it took to do all this certainly ate into study time, but I was prepared. Management materials are not so hard to memorize when you’ve written multiple class papers. Later that night, I finished reviewing, but not before I churned out one more culinary feast

…which I will tell you about in the next post! Savory, local Arizona produce plus a few key seasonings made total vegan comfort food. Perfect for the rain!

But you have to wait til next time to find out the dish’s name. 🙂

Q: What is the best part about rainy days? I love falling to sleep listening to rain.

*image source: baking bookie, pugness

Let’s Create: the Alternative Holiday Treat Magazine!

Wouldn’t you like to have a nice back-pocket reference for the holidays?

Perhaps you would like to share some new concoction that tastes simply divine!

Maybe you have the cure for a frazzled parent in need of a quick, safe solution.

Well here is my opportunity for you. This month I hope to collect your favorite recipes for cookies, bars, or treats centered around the holiday you celebrate, since both Christmas and Chanukah will be celebrated simultaneously this year (for one day, anyway). There are a few rules which I outline below…

1. The recipe must be gluten free. That’s the only strict rule I have.

2. Mark any other avoided food allergies in your NAME box. Please code as follows: DF (Dairy Free), SF (Soy Free), EF (Egg Free), TNF (Tree Nut Free), PF (Peanut Free), CF (Corn Free), and comment below if you would like to code something else. I’ll update! Example recipe name: “Nana’s Gooey Snickerdoodles (DF, CF)”

3. Remember, this will be open until the end of December. If I have the opportunity, I may send one lucky participant something special for providing others with their hard work! It may be super cute if you happen to be a lady. It will definitely have to do with the theme of this link up! 🙂

4. Click to get started! You’ll get to see the current collection too. I made sure we have pictures with each link! Yay.

Please, please share this with your friends. I have come to realize how hard it is for those with harsh food allergies, especially in the middle of December. To find yourself without easy access to safe treats can be so difficult, especially when this season focuses almost exclusively on special foods. Your generous recipes are appreciated.

NOM NOM Gluten Free

One thing I realize now is that I must end my dependance on Starbucks.

It is slowly killing the nutritional aspects of my grocery spending. Until recently, coffee really did not work for me. I loved the smell, but absolutely hated the taste. I would imagine such a great flavor and be completely shocked each time I tried another sip. Gross. Well, that was until I found the special versions with fancy names and holiday syrups at Starbucks. I have no clue if there is gluten in the syrups, to be honest, and I frankly do not want to know. Not til February. (Hee hee.) Call it strategic ignorance. (No substantial reactions yet…yes!)

On the other hand, I am in love with the caffeine. Never in my life have I felt so awake! In need of a little midterm paper motivation? BAM that coffee lights your world up like a Christmas tree! Fortunately, I do not have too many of those. I actually have a little happy thought to share with you. I studied to the loss of social life so well that I averaged the top scores in my hardest economics class this semester AND no longer have to take the final. The hardcore efforts over this semester actually allow me to indulge my other focus. Perhaps you’ve noticed…

hideous and adorable. pugs can do that.

One thing I have yet to get out of my system is the need to BAKE COOKIES. I have had plenty of encouragement though, do not assume this is completely my doing. Hee hee, it’s just mostly mine…

A close guy friend of mine in St. Louis was excited to tell me about his plans this past weekend for a cookie making class. As he described the complete selection of fancy names, delicious thoughts of chocolaty orange, buttery cranberry, and rich molasses got me thinking. I wanted to bake. I wanted to bake such delicious treats it made the batter jealous.

Certainly, those ideas sounded perfect and wintery to me. I mean, I am the girl who cannot wait for the Christmas cookie magazines to hit the stands. If I could actually eat the Wilton products without headaches, I would cover everything in pearlized, glittery, shiny products. Mmmm. Tis the season!

However, when I was thinking about this, I recalled the best wintertime activity of an elementary school student’s existence and changed my direction. Does anyone else remember (back long, long ago when healthy did not destroy the surplus of candy available to those 10 and under…) making graham cracker gingerbread houses out of milk cartons? We covered ours with as much frosting as possible so that more candy would stick! Heheh.

obviously this kid had supervision - multiply that candy by 10X please!

Ridiculous, but brilliant. No one could stand the “icing” or whatever that stuff was once it dried out. I mean, seriously, it held that graham cracker to the cardboard and year after desperate year, I failed trying to get that sucker off. Hard as a rock. Solid.

Well this year I am super excited to try out a legitimate gluten free gingerbread recipe from none other than Karina (seriously, her recipe stash = the Hail Mary to gluten free baking). BUT I want your opinion because I aim to make something serious. We’re talking big kid size.

Should it be frilly? Or maybe a little more EPIC. Should I try some detail frosting instead of focusing on the home itself? A more tailored appearance perhaps… Well, it’s up to you! Please comment with examples and as inspiration hits, I’m going for it!

We’re talking pictures. And details. And drama! The more ammo you give me, the better the results will be.

However, I am one to have a PLAN B. If all attempts fail, I have decided to create a gingerbread teepee and call it sustainable housing. 🙂 We will solve the environmental issues one gingerbread experiment at a time if necessary at my house. My brothers are behind this one hundred percent. How organic of them.

Q: Seriously, thoughts on gingerbread houses? Want to show off your creations? Funny stories or gingery drama? Tell me. That, and tell me if there are any Arizona-based products I should try to get my mitts on for decorating/baking purposes!

image sources: starbucks, pug, domo kun, frosting, school house, martha stewart house, teepee

Local Treats: Frost

I wanted to share a little treasure I found this past weekend with you. Consider this local frosty treat…

I believe it is gluten free (removing the wafer) and it is certainly dairy free. I chose a strawberry-champagne sorbet with, as the employee put it, a “sample” of limoncello sorbet on top. Generous “sample” and generous staff!

Jessica’s mom actually recommended this location after hearing word of my poor reaction to Cold Stone. I need not describe all the details, but I do believe I am lactose intolerant. (Six hours of nausea and intense stomach pain. Thanksgivings started rather poorly in the early hours of Thursday morning.)

En liu, the Frost Gelato Shop offers a wonderful selection of flavors for the lactose intolerant and those who can enjoy dairy! I believe I could taste the bubbles from the champagne in my sorbet. Really amazing. The texture surprised me the most since it was so creamy. Sorbet? Creamy? What a top notch alternative since my dairy days are over!

If you want to check it out, a Frost Gelato Shop can be found in Tucson or in Gilbert at SanTan Mall (where I went). The original store opened in Arizona, even though it has out of state locations. Please let me know if you go and try other flavors. I love recommendations and am curious about their sorbettinis and (hopefully dark!) hot chocolate and… well, I need to make a few more trips. 🙂

Q: What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Do you have seasonal favorites?

*For those who may have noted: Yes, I am allergic to citrus (strawberry, lemon) and so I did pay for that sorbet later, but sometimes you eat the bad stuff. Particularly when you know the reaction isn’t as bad as a dairy or peanut reaction. Particularly when you are lamenting the loss of ice cream. C’est la vie. I live to tell.

Double Up Smores: Food Allergy Friendly

Curious about my whereabouts this Thanksgiving? I have been sneakily waiting for the after party (my own creation) and plotting how to rock the season sans allergies! I love you guys and want you to be super healthy and happy this season. Therefore, I am bringing you treats of all shapes and sizes, and none of which will encourage your waistline.

Tell me more! Tell me more!

How about the healthiest SMORES you’ve ever tasted and a fire to huddle around for starters? We need to show the build up, and then I’ll break down the specifics… we’re making two. (Come on, one smore SO does not cut it. Gotta get our fix!)

First, a gluten-free graham cracker that tastes just divine. Does not crumble easily, and therefore tis perfect. Compare:

GF = gluten free, DF = dairy free/casein free, SF = soy free, PF = peanut free, TNF = tree nut free. Wow. So much avoided and so yummy. You’ll notice the calories indicated, but I save my explanation for the end. Ignore for now. Instead, hooray for the Smorables’ ingredients list! It is 2 ingredients short of completely recognizable and therefore very body friendly. Points.

Next, we assemble the most important filling selection: the chocolate. I think these mini chunks taste terrific melted and even beat the usual. Once again, an ingredient list you can read. Comparison…

We have 3 squares chocolate per smore. I like a ratio of 2 parts graham to 1 part chocolate. Flambe marshmallow just bonds the two together of course. Hehe. One importance thing to notice is that Enjoy Life offers chocolate without dairy, nuts, or soy. Huge deal. Huge.

FINALLY the critical marshmallow. Your typical marshmallow is full of crazy.

And not just that crazy. You know there are crazy ingredients in them. However, a nice little switch in labels means the same great taste, the same results can be had, BUT made from natural ingredients. Marshmallows that love your bod. Is not life so good today?

Alright. A nommy set of smores for us. What about this calories business, right? Perhaps you could care less about the calories, but my calorie notes serve a purpose. Those calories indicate how much of your intake comes from that product. If the calories are majority junk, then your treats are needlessly bad for you. It’s the holidays! Let’s indulge in really good stuff. 🙂 Our waistlines can jiggle from laughter all year round since we made smores and could enjoy them too!

Q: Do you have any other ideas for using these marshmallows, grahams, or chocolate pieces? I do!

*images: Smorables, Honeymaid, graham crackers, marshmallows pink, Elyon marshmallow & cartoon, Jet Puff, smore pics, Hershey, Enjoy Life, mini chunks

Gracious, the Season!

Hold. the. phone. What has happened to the winter season? I feel invaded by the world of commercial living! Since when do you begin posing Christmas materials before the end of Halloween? Since when do you post frosted cookie recipes before the start of Thanksgiving? I love the decor, the frosted cookies, the whole nine yards. I really, really do.

This year just feels so different. I almost feel pushed shoved into one of my favorite experiences. The Christmas season. For others, the Diwali or Chanukah or general giving season. Does anyone else feel this way too? It is rushed. Impersonal, even. I almost want to sit back and just soak up the outdoors for a few moments and forget certain holiday activities. Present as opposed to pressed in the world around me. Winter months are a wonderful time for remembrance, thankfulness, and overall generosity. I want to experience those things with the people I love.

A kind of grounding method for me is sipping hot liquids. It unwinds the mind. To me, this acts against the go-go-go push I keep feeling, and replaces it with a comforting ahhh moment. Of course, my preferred drinks are in harmony with the season. Fabulous for one or a multitude!

Hot apple cider is my current favorite and great for those with any food allergies. It’s easy to make at home, and hits the sweet and spicy notes just right. And did I mention it provides great nutrition? Perfect!

For any college students out there, the thing you simply must have is RAW, unfiltered apple juice. Not Motts, Juicy Juice, or any other brand. You want the real stuff from a local source because it makes or breaks any recipe you use. Adults (haha, with real jobs) can buy the cinnamon sticks and actual cloves. To save a few bucks, spend it all on the raw apple juice you’ll need and then dash the pot (filled with however many servings – I base mine on my mug by pouring from it) with a serious amount of ground cinnamon, a little ground cloves, and boil it for a minute or so. If you like, add a few orange slices too. Those are generally cheap to get. I think you’ll love it.

Now, for those with real jobs, you too need to make sure you buy literal raw apple juice to use. It should have murky stuff swirling around the bottom of the container. It makes the difference, I swear. If you can purchase local, Arizona apple juice you may have liquid gold on your hands. Delicious. Unfortunately, my favorite cider recipe disappeared from the face of the internet due to a downed food blog. None of the recipes come up anymore. Boo. I do have one which reminds me of it though, so here it is!* Enjoy.

*Note: Neglect the need for a cheesecloth. That is completely unnecessary. Just strain it.

Q: Do you have a particular seasonal recipe for a quick fix? How do you feel about the push, push, push of this season?

24 Carrot Gold (with cookies!)

May I present the bff holding the perfect example of our topic this post. Cookies. Throughout this week, I have inhaled delicious wafts of baked, glutinous treats, drizzled with chocolate, sprinkled with bright crystals of sugar. I wanted some. So badly.

Lucky for me, I got my wish, but by complete surprise. How did my best friend manage to come across such a tantalizing cookie (and one which we both could eat)? Well, it started with an impromptu adventure Friday morning. I say adventure, because Jessica had no clue that the breakfast location I chose happened to be completely vegetarian, somewhat vegan, and partially raw vegan in its menu. If you have not already guessed, she eats meat.

Walking in, I noticed 24 Carrots‘ eclectic looks with clusters of tables, chairs, and comfy spots to lounge around. It took us a while, but we finally made up our minds and ordered off of the chalked up menu.

As we sat down near the glass windows to catch up on conversation, other guests filtered in, and picked up carry out orders. Eventually our choices arrived. I completely caved when I discovered gluten free, vegan french toast on the menu.

A yummy choice. My fork got a little cinnamony because I needed to scrape off the beautiful strawberries. Jessica unknowingly ordered a more exotic breakfast.

In-house made “eggs” and “bacon” along with kamut toast and real jam.

When the plate touched the table, everything was fine. We welcomed the arrival of brunch. However, she suddenly gave me and the “eggs” quizzical looks. Jessica could tell something was up. I explained, “it’s vegan…(another look)…no dairy, no meat.” The discovery of tofu “eggs” came at her complete surprise.

She eyed the “bacon” and tried to figure out the next mystery. “What is this then?” We believed it to be seasoned firm tofu, and I was shocked when she proclaimed it to taste just like meat. Success. She thought the Indian twist on the “eggs” tasted good and offered me a bite. A house specialty? Yes please!

I continued on, drowning my french toast treat in maple syrup while Jessica moved on to her toast. She pronounced the kamut delicious, especially with the jam. As for my french toast, I loved that it tasted just like a tangy sourdough: a strong bite of chewy flavor. Good beginnings. BUT we started this discussion with a focus on cookies, right? What about the cookies…?

Well, when I wrote to 24 Carrots, I actually mentioned my cookie craving. Yes, cookies can be a legitimate, consuming priority. To be fair, I did discover 24 Carrots searching for something healthy. I only realized after looking at the 24 Carrots website that the “raw” vegan options might actually be food allergy friendly… including ‘treats.’

So… cookies! Sasha, the owner, graciously wrote me back and offered to make something special. I was floored. It was not until I arrived with my best friend Jessica that I realized how much consideration for food allergies 24 Carrots has to offer… as well as how delicious their cookies are!

You might guess that this is a special kind of cookie, and it is. Both Jessica and I could enjoy it, because it contains no dairy, no gluten, no corn, soy, or peanuts. Dark chocolate, raw cocoa, and freshly ground almonds combine into a blissful brownie-like cookie. Noms to the delicious!

Sasha’s specially made cookie reflects more than just a kind gesture, however. It shows how she treats all her customers, including those with literal lists of allergies. Making confectioner’s sugar from scratch, corn-free, is just how far Sasha will go. Her dedication comes from personal experience.

Sasha grew up vegetarian, and in the state of Kentucky, this was no small feat. One particular school field trip left Sasha eating a bowl of tomatoes for lunch because no alternatives could be found. From that point on, Sasha decided that no one else should go through her experience, including those with food allergies. This experience and personal compassion certainly shape 24 Carrots today.

A little history: 24 Carrots opened as a juice bar, but customer demands led Sasha to offer a rotating menu. Her devotion to fresh, local food and the customers still keep her working well into late nights. Rising bread does not pound itself, you know. But that is the farm to table atmosphere and quality Sasha has served from day one and I must agree that the taste proves it. The competition for certain treats on twitter and facebook is quite amazing. Apparently, I am not the only one who has found this diamond.

I will let you know there are rumors that Sasha is working on a dark chocolate orange granola this winter. When I come back with Jessica, it’s on. Sasha focuses on making nutrition dense recipes, lower in fats, using healthy sources, with as little sugar as possible. Even more reason to take the granola and run! …but maybe back to grab a cookie first.

For more about 24 Carrots’ whereabouts or their vegan granola or story, click the blue words!

Q: What kind of breakfast do YOU like to eat? Would you ever try tofu eggs or bacon?

granola image sources: dark chocolate, pumpkin pie spice