Saturday, July 30, 2011

Easy Gluten-Free Bread

Giving up bread is sooo hard, especially when you live with people who love bread and pastry and especially if you live in the French culture where life without baguettes, croissants, pains au chocolat and other goodies cannot be imagined.

I've tried all the ready gluten-free breads I can buy and they range from alright when toasted and smothered in something that can kill the taste to inedible under any circumstances. So I decided that baking my own was the only way to go.

Thankfully, bloggers like Elana are out there to perfect healthy recipes and share them with us. :-)

Last night, I made Elana's Simple Bread. I happened across it and had all the ingredients plus it really did look simple. When I tried it last night I thought it tasted strange - I guess I was expecting something more like a baguette so my expectation was clearly unrealistic. :-)

It did bake into a loaf of bread though and that is amazing. It amazes me that these ingredients made any sort of bread. I mean, it's mostly almond flour! :-)

This morning I made french toast out of it and had it with maple syrup and bacon - delicious.

I believe that Elana has developed a better recipe for bread - I'll try it as soon as I get my hands on some flaxseed meal, probably after our trip to the UK.

I'm still on time to enter this into the July edition of Whip up Something New!, hosted by Margot. Check out the other recipes and add your own here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

YA Mini-Reviews

I read a lot of YA literature. Some of it is the serious, heavy kind that tackles issues that are oh so difficult. And some if it's easy and entertaining and so, so much fun. These three YA books fall in the 'so much fun' category - though some have difficult issues touched upon in them as well.

Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen CookHelen and Lauren have been friends forever. Lauren is popular and outgoing and Helen kind of stays in her shadpw. But they remain pretty much inseperable. Until right before they start 8th grade, when Lauren humiliates Helen and leaves her to be judged by her peers. School is horrible for Helen after that and Lauren is no longer a friend. Helen's family moves away and Helen can move on in a different school, but they end up moving back for Helen's senior year of high school. And that's when Helen sets out to ruin Lauren's high school life of glory. This involves some pretty mean stuff, but I really enjoyed reading about it anyway. ;-) Loads of (slightly wicked) fun.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
15-year-old Isabel (or Belly) spends every summer in the same beach house with her Mom, her best friend and two sons, more or less Belly's ages. Conrad, who Belly has always had a crush on, has always been aloof with her and Jeremiah has always been a buddy, someone to hang out and joke around with. But this summer something is different - the boys (and others too) are starting to notice Belly and things are changing. This is a book of discovery, both of oneself and of the world. It's a real book about what growing up feels like. I liked it, though nor enough to continue with the series. 

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
I think this one was my favorite of this bunch. It's the story of 17-year-old Ginny's summer of adventure. Ginny spends a few months exploring Europe but following the instructions left in 13 letters left her by Aunt Peg, a favorite aunt who died suddenly. Ginny has to complete the tasks in each letter before she gets to open the next one. As she goes from task to task, she retraces her Aunt's journey of discovery and makes discoveries of her own. She finds love and meets people who will make a difference to her life and to the way she sees herself. I loved seeing Ginny grow during the book, change from a shy, self-conscious girl to the confident, worldly young woman she becomes. I enjoyed this story immensely - what a fun idea!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

London, baby!

Yep, that's right, I'm in London all day today. You know what that means? A couple of hours of alone time on the train over, about 3 hours of alone time to browse and generally hang out until I meet colleagues for lunch (at Wagamama's, with plenty of gluten-free and dairy-free choices) and then attend a meeting and then another couple of hours of alone time on the train back. Bliss...

I'm taking my kindle and hoping to get lots of reading done. :-)

Have a good Wednesday everyone!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nurturing Superwoman by Carolyn Moody

I've been pretty obsessed with nutrition lately. Actually, I used to be pretty obsessed with nutrition in the past too, but didn't know enough about how my body works to be able to separate the stuff that made sense from the stuff that didn't make sense. And so much information out there gets published despite not making sense or just being completely wrong! Very difficult to sift through.

I read this particular book because it's written by a friend of mine and it popped up in a conversation. I thought that her take on health was perfect for me right now - the book's subtitle is "The busy woman's guide to stress reduction and dynamic health".

The author thinks that women today are still suffering from the legacy of the 70s Superwoman who thought she could have it all and that it should all be done perfectly. She says that we have let our nutrition slide and that this has resulted in a whole series of health problems - including things that we now take for granted as normal, such as PMS. I can get rid of irritability, fatigue and PMS with proper nutrition? Score!

I was happy to find that the book focusses on something that I never read much about - hormones and how they influence our health. Now, I'm actually pretty surprised to say that I never looked into hormones. I mean, going through IVF messed up my hormones and I sure felt the aftermath. Pregnancy - same thing. So why didn't I try to understand more about how hormones work in my body?

One of the most interesting things for me was reading about oestrogen dominance - what the hormone does and is supposed to do and how we're all exposed to so, so much more of it than we should. The book makes a link to how environmental factors like pollution affect us really and how important it is to eat organic.

Honestly, there wasn't anything about this book that I didn't like. Some of it was quite complex, but I thought that the author did a great job of putting in more personal comments here and there to lighten things up a bit. She also has a way of explaining complex processes in a way that makes them relevant to you. I love learning science stuff that way. :-)

I guess if I really think about it, the one thing that I'm not sure about are the Patrick Holford quotes. I read so much about him in Bad Science by Ben Goldacre and online that I don't know what to think anymore. I know that I don't really trust him, but to be honest I don't care enough about him to spend any time finding out.

The topics covered are for women of all ages - the information covers the menstruating years and menopause. It's a book that every woman should read once and keep as reference. We should all know how our bodies work and why they react in various ways to what we eat.

There are so many stories of people beating disease through dietary changes - this stuff is really worth looking into!

If you're interested, visit her website, Body Balance. You can get the book through there - and she does coaching and workshops and lots of other things, maybe you'll find something you'll like.

Friday, July 22, 2011

July Self-Care Retreat

There is a whole community of health conscious bloggers out there. In a world where there is so much conflicting information, where widely available foods are poisonous to some of us, where awareness of what food actually does to our system is so small, where you can feel so alone when you discover that what you ate your entire life is making you sick, in a world like this one, a community is a life saver. I am grateful to have found it, just like I am grateful I found the book blogging community when I needed it most.

Now it seems that I need both and this blog reflects the changes that my life is going through.

A self-care retreat - this is what Valerie from City Life Eats and Cheryl from Gluten-Free Goodness have organised for the month of July to remind themselves and others about how important it is to take good care of ourselves. Everyone is invited to reflect on taking better care of their needs, both physical and spiritual. Check out Valerie's thoughts and Cheryl's thoughts and participate yourself, if you wish.

As for me, well, as most of you know, since I've been going on and on about it, I recently discovered that I am gluten- and dairy-intolerant. Even more reently, as in last week, I discovered that I am also wheat-intolerant. How do I know? I have psoriasis and I can tell within a day if something didn't agree with me, because my psoriasis turns bright red and itchy and incredibly unpleasant. For gluten and dairy, I also get stomach issues, brain fog, chills and a variety of other symptoms, including an almost debilitating fatigue. No fun at all.

It makes me happy that I can now recognise when something has made me sick. For so long, I thought that's what normal felt like.

In the context of this and in the context of my neverending journey to lose 10-15 kilos, I have been thinking about health a lot lately. Here are some things I am realising and aiming towards:
  • Food is supposed to nourish us and keep us healthy. Choosing foods that are good for me equals treating myself with care and respect. Choosing junk foods puts strain on my body and doesn't give me the energy I need to tackle my busy life. Same goes for my family.
  • Eating out is a risk. Pretty much every time I've eaten out in the past few months, I've been ill afterwards. Everything works much better if I know exactly what's gone into my food.
  • I can't be an angel all the time. :-) I will want to go out to eat, I will want comfort junk food. What I'm aiming for is to make the healthiest choices I can, most of the time. This once-in-a-while rule obviously relates only to the foods that don't make me sick. Those are totally off limits because they're just not worth it.
  • Excercise, ah, excercise. I find it pretty much impossible to work excercise into my schedule. I started running and couldn't keep it up, I started all sorts of programs on the Wii and couldn't keep them up either. I've resigned myself to the fact that with a demanding full-time job, a small child and a theatre hobby, excercise time won't be available to me. The one thing I can do is walk as much a I can.
  • Peace of mind - where are you? I really, really want to become a calmer person. I don't like raising my voice at home, I don't like inner turmoil keeping me up at night, I want to be zen. But this is the one part of self-care that I have no idea how to reach. Ideas, anyone? I'm no good at meditation. Any other ideas? ;-)
Self-care is so incredibly important and yet most people have so much trouble making time for it. By taking the time to think about this and to make small changes, I am doing myself a favor.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

I absolutely loved this book! So much fun! Has no movie been made of this? It would be perfect!

Melissa Rommey-Jones is a regular girl who is down on herself and down on her luck - she lost her job, she's hung up on an ex-boyfriend who is probably not that good for her, everyone else seems to have life figured out except for her. Until she has a business idea that lets her be who she's always wanted to be - she buys a wig, creates a new persona to go with it and lets life's adventures unfold. What she can't seem to realize is that it's not the wig that's responsible for her new life, Melissa and the fake Honey Blennerhesket are the same person, after all!

The story is great fun. It's a perfect light summer read. It's different to other chick lit type books, as it had a very specific sort of charm to it. Melissa is a girl unlike many others, she is naive and trusting and believes the best about everyone. She values honesty and respect and good manners. She likes true gentlemen. Although the story is set in modern day London, Melissa's charming character makes it read like it's set in the 1930's.

Absolutely lovely. I already have the next installment of Melissa's adventures and it's definitely on my vacation reading list.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Must. Try. Soon.

The problem with challenges like the Whip Up Something New challenge and with constantly scouring newly-disovered gluten-free and dairy-free recipe blogs is that you end up with yet more recipes that simply have to be tried. And soon. I don't have any bright ideas for keeping up with the interesting things I want to try, so I'll try listing them in a post once in a while.

Here are the yummy things I discovered this week and want to try soon:
Any more ideas for me to try? If you've made something new recently, don't forget to submit it to the Whip up Something New challenge, July's edition of which is hosted by Margot (if you don't know what this means, go here).

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Make-your-own summer pasta dinner

    Before I went gluten-free and dairy-free, one of my favorite comfort foods was a bowl of pasta with olive oil, garlic and chillies. But I could also eat other comfort foods - pizza, chinese takeaways etc. Now, my choices are much more limited so I tend to get ridiculously happy when I end up with a meal that is incredibly tasty and easy. And you can't get any easier than this pasta dish.

    Put your pasta on. In a pan, heat some olive oil (enough to coat all your pasta) and add garlic slices and chilli flakes, both to taste. I tend to use a lot of garlic. :-) Serve each person a plate of pasta coated in the olive oil mixture. Also set out - torn pieces of parma ham, olives, diced fresh tomatoes, dried or semi-dried tomatoes, roquette salad leaves, toasted pine nuts and torn fresh basil. Any anything else you want - my husband added grated parmesan to his dish last night. 

    The beauty of this is that everyone takes whatever they want. All the flavors are fresh and work well together but if someone doesn't like one ingredient (or likes a lot of one of the flavors) it's not a problem. A super tasty summer dish, perfect for entertaining. We liked it so much that we're having it again tonight! :-)

    This is my entry for the Whip up Something New challenge - July's edition is hosted by Margot, visit her linky post to add your recipe and check out the other entries.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Mini Reviews - I'm on vacation!

    I'm spending the week in Poland with my parents. As always, it's great to hang out with them and great to see them take so much pleasure out of playing with Shane. Joe is coming to join us later this week and I can't wait. I am lucky to have such a lovely family.

    I'm not doing anything interesting - eating, drinking, reading a bit. I've been avoiding the computer, but am now ready to sit down and write something, even if only something simple.

    With such a backlog, I think it's time for some mini-reviews.

    Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
    I read this as part of the challenge I'm doing with Alex. This was the shortest book on the list she gave me so I guess it's no wonder that it got read first. Tuck Everlasting is a fairytale for adults, about a family who have discovered the secret of eternal youth. I liked the story idea, the characters and the message behind it all. But my romantic nature would have like the ending to be slightly different. ;-) Oh, and the frog? What's up with that? What a waste! That bit kind of pissed me off! I still enjoyed it though and hope that the rest of the books Alex wants me to read this year are just as good. :-)

    Fables 3: Storybook Love by Bill Willingham
    So many bloggers (like Alex and Larissa) love this series of comics about a part of New York that's inhabited by characters from fables and fairy tales. This is the third installment and it's still fun to read about the wolf, Snow White, Prince Charming and many others trying to make it in a world that's so unlike the fairy tale world they knew.

    Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

    I love books about Ireland and I love stories about immigrants in New York, so this one was a good fit. I thought it was a strange book. It was realistic, in the sense that I could really see the realities both of the Irish countryside and of immigrant New York. But I didn't like the main character much. I wanted her to do things that she clearly wasn't ready to do. I suppose that's just a difference in personalities, but in this particular book I found it hard to deal with. Brooklyn qualifies as one of my books about New York for the One, Two, Theme! challenge.

    The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
    I listened to this as an audiobook and it was fantastic. The narrator, Jenna Lamia, was fabulous and made the strange future world of the story really come to life for me. Jenna Fox is a 17-year-old girl who wakes up after a year-long coma and doesn't remember anything about her life. When she starts to remember, she ends up with more questions than answers and nobody wants to tell her the truth. What are the secrets that her parents are so intent on keeping? One of my favorite audiobooks and definitely on my list of favorite books read this year. Creepy but realistic.