Gluten Free Goodies

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m trying out a gluten-free diet to see if that helps get rid of my GI-woes. I mean it when I say this isn’t necessarily a choice I wanted to make, but one that I felt was necessary in order to try and figure out once and for all what’s going on in my gut. That’s my new goal of 2012 – have a diagnosis and actually feel better by year’s end. So obviously in order for me to start this gluten free diet, I needed to make some quick changes in the kitchen.

I started out with a trip to Trader Joe’s, where I grabbed some necessities (for me). Since we get a CSA box each week, our grocery trips have resulted in picking up less items – just beans, grains, milk, yogurt, some type of snack and dessert, and miscellaneous fruits and veggies we need but didn’t get in our box.

My biggest concern was bread. I don’t usually have sandwiches at work, but I do have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before most long runs. So I picked up a package of Udi’s bread, which tastes a lot more like freshly sliced bread, rather than sandwich bread. The slices are small and the price is high ($4.99), but if it means I can keep my pre-run routine, I’m okay with it. I don’t want to mess with perfection (good joke, my running is far from perfect).

In addition to bread, I wanted to find a pasta alternative; even though I don’t eat pasta too often, with marathon training kicking it up (20 miler is looming!), I wanted it (even if it’s more for my mental state than my body). So, I picked up some corn pasta, which my mom made a face at. Yes, I realize it’s weird, but at this point, I’ll try anything. I’ve also seen some black bean pasta and things like that around the blogosphere, so I’ll be on the lookout for any alternative.

In addition to lunch and dinner staples, I needed to find breakfast options. I typically eat breakfast at work, which involves some sort of cereal – I was used to the luxury of mixing it up each week. A lot of the labels I looked at didn’t blatantly say wheat was or wasn’t included, so I settled on a granola that was labeled gluten free. I found myself typing the same phrase over and over again in Google: “is X gluten free?” I can tell you I learned lot this past weekend! I would have automatically assumed oats weren’t gluten free, but some of them are. Of course the giant tub of steel cut oats I have at home isn’t gluten free, but I’m glad to know there are options out there (like the beloved Love Grown Foods, which I also picked up).

 Snacks were another big concern, since I usually have some type of cracker, fruit, and yogurt (spread throughout the day). While I didn’t need to worry about the fruit and yogurt, I needed to find a substitute for the crackers. I picked up a package of granola bars and rice crackers, and they’re both just okay. I know there are tons of options out there (I’m looking at you, delicious KIND bars), I just have to actually spend the money on them.

While the goodies I picked up should get me through the week, there is another equally important gluten free option I need to find… beer! Thanks to the suggestions of Twitter, I have a brand I’m planning on trying that my local liquor store seems to carry. I just have to cross my fingers that when I go, they have it. I also scored some gluten free pizza crust mix at Marshall’s of all places. The package says it makes two 14-inch pizzas, so I can’t wait to try it. I’m glad I can still enjoy pizza Fridays, gluten free style!

In my Googling frenzy over the weekend, I read mixed things about how long it could take to feel better, if you do in fact have a gluten intolerance. For some it’s a matter of two days, while for others it’s months. I’m thinking that I should see some difference within a week or two, and if not, it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe it’s just the time of year (I felt pretty bad around this time last year), or stress, or a combination of it all, and it really isn’t anything I am or am not eating. But the only way to know for sure is to try it. I mean, it can’t hurt (more).

Are there any other must-have gluten free foods I should try? 
I’m trying to stay away from overly processed foods, but am willing to try suggestions! 

April Foodie Pen Pals!

I can always tell just how quickly time is passing when I have to sit down to write another Foodie Pen Pal post. I joined the fun back in December, and have been loving every minute of it since! The idea of getting to put together a box of goodies and exchange with people who also love food and blogging is right up my alley. I’ve yet to be disappointed with anything in any of the packages I’ve received, and usually devour everything.

This month’s box came from Emily over at The Last Corral. Emily asked if there was anything that I liked/didn’t like, and I mentioned my affinity for chocolate. Well, she didn’t skimp and sent me quite a few goodies that had chocolate in them! To balance out the chocolate, there was also some healthy stuff, but you know what I went for first!

As you can see, there was plenty of snack foods, which my husband and I are always on the hunt for. We both like to have portable snacks to enjoy throughout the day at work, and I was able to use pretty much all of what Emily sent me as a snack at one point or another! First up was the chocolate – dark chocolate malt balls, a chocolate covered Peep, and homemade “slutty” brownies! I couldn’t help but laugh at the name, and Emily’s note hoping that I wasn’t offended. She said they’re called slutty brownies because they’re fast and easy – ha! The Wheat Thins were also appreciated and quickly devoured – I loved the little hint of buffalo hot sauce right when you first eat the cracker, and then it mellows out to a regular Wheat Thin. I may or may not have had them as a snack at work for a week straight…

Emily also included some healthier options, like the berry edamame blend and two KIND bars. I’ve actually never had a KIND bar, and I’m not sure why – I seem to always pass them by in the aisle at the store. But not anymore – these things are delicious!

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the almond & apricot simply because I’m not a big apricot fan. This bar didn’t taste like the dried apricots I remember from my childhood, but instead it was fruity and tropical. The fact that there were full-sized almonds in the bar was also a nice change of pace. I knew I’d be in love with the almond & coconut bar, and it didn’t disappoint. It had huge chunks of coconut, and again the whole almonds. They were SO good and I can’t wait to get more. I’m really glad Emily introduced me to them!

Thanks again to Emily for the goodies – I loved them all!

If you’re interested in finding out what I sent this month, head over to Richa’s blog, Hobby and More and check it out! And if you want to participate next month, here are the details (you really should!):

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.

If you’re interested in participating for May, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by May 4th as pairings will be emailed on May 5th!

*If you’re from somewhere besides the US, Canada or Europe and want to participate, send me an email and I’ll see if we get enough interest this month!