Thursday, June 5, 2014

Organic Wines from Costco

An April 2014 trip to Costco resulted in two organic wines: one table red and one Chardonnay. At $6.49 they were definitely a deal. However, I'm shopping for wedding wines and am hoping for something even cheaper. To spend $6.49 a piece for my wedding wines I'd have to be pretty impressed. Both of these wines were pretty good and worth purchasing individually. I probably won't buy them for my wedding though. 

Pacific Redwood Organic Red Table Wine

This wine was very appropriately woodsy. I wanted to like this wine because I'm from the Redwoods and wanted to represent where I am for my wedding - especially to my fiance's East Coast family and friends. However, the first notes come on too strong and it is a bit overwhelming in the woodsy flavors. The flavors do mellow out as the wine opens up. The description on the back reads blackberry and plum, but this seems to be overshadowed by the smokiness. I had a friend try it and she liked it but felt it was unremarkable. 
We rated it as a 3 out of 5 - the interpretation being it's at least good enough to drink for free. 

Badger Mountain Certified Organic Chardonnay 2013

This wine definitely has a little something special to it - a complex melange of crisp, tart, dry, and fruity. With a slightly sweet start, the wine actually ends up dry and would make a nice table wine for rich cuisines of all variety. This would definitely be a great wine to take to a party. 
We rated it somewhere between "I'd drink it for free" and "I like it!" Landing this Chardonnay a 3.5 out of 5. 

Overall, I am not terribly impressed with Costco's organic wine selections. These were the only two and they were not impressive. I would buy the Chardonnay again but not sure if I will shell out $6.49 a bottle for my wedding. I like the Green Fin organic Chardonnay for $3.99 at Trader Joe's just as much if not better. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Book Review: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

A Review of Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

When times are hard, escape into a good book, another world, is something that I relish. With the ups and downs of attempting healing diets and medications, I’ve been on and off the roller coaster of hope and disappointment. Alexandra Duncan’s new book Salvage took me across space and time, transporting me away from my worries and pains of my earthly body.

Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a Sci Fi futuristic tribe of Mormon-ish people? I was hooked from the beginning of this story! This is a fascinating novel, albeit a little bit contrived at times, especially in the beginning, as the stage is set. We are introduced to the customs and language of a tribe and their spaceship through a day in the life of Parastrata Ava. This is no ordinary day – it is the day she is to be wed during a trade agreement with another tribe.

Duncan created a dystopian future in which a young woman, seemingly bound to a destiny, is ultimately liberated by what starts out as her demise. Ava is the daughter of a captain of what is described as a “trans-celestial merchant tribe.” A misunderstanding sets Ava onto another course, Earthside. It is then that we learn more about why the tribes are spaceside.

Through her journey to the futuristic Mumbai in search of her aunt, Ava slowly awakens to her true destiny. She is aided by a young girl who teaches her to read and the girl’s mother, who teaches her to fly a small mail carrier. Finally, as the ending draws near, and the anticipation of what I both wanted and didn’t want to happen builds, I found myself wondering how the book could conclude in a way that felt right. Two final twists at the end left me completely satisfied and simultaneously sad that the book ended. Here’s hoping for a sequel.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Writing to Heal: A workshop with Deborah from Heal Write in SF

Long before I started eating to heal my gut, I was drowning in depression. I felt as if I was reaching out to grasp reality but I was weighed down by a fog that kept me confused and exhausted. This was before my gut pain started , when I was around fourteen years old. It was around when I was 11 when my first journal entries show tendencies towards depression: melancholic reflections on my and the world's failings. In my teens and 20's doctors attempted to treat me with anti-depressants and anti-psychotics before I started hearing anything about the gut-brain connection. Finally, ending my twenties, I started exploring how food was affecting my health. Upon the removal of gluten and dairy I felt 10 times better! But I still have a ways to go towards experiencing what would be called a "normal" level of health for my age.

When I first heard of Heal Write workshops, I thought, "Perfect!" I love to write and I am working on healing. Writing has been an integral part of my emotional and physical health management since I was, well 11! But, lately I've been wanting more guidance. After I signed up for a workshop I started to wonder if it would actually be good. Now, after the experience, I can say I agree with other reviewers of Heal Write on Yelp that Deborah creates a safe setting to explore creative writing through wonderful prompts!

In the two hour workshop we had four writing exercises. The last exercise was prompted by a lovely poem about the life a daffodil, breaking free from the ground and into the harsh extremes of the weather. Deborah then asked us to write about an experiencing breaking free. This is what I wrote:

Freeing my mind
from the think pea soup of fog,
lifting a molecule,
a lie,
away at a time.
But the lies lay
on axioms that
I can't yet see
through the murky green.

A molecule,
a thought at a time
gets you no where.
pulls more in.

And the movement
starts a churning

What is true,
what is real?
it doesn't matter.
I am
My own normal.
stop the spinning
defining my own

is where
IT is.
is where
I stand.
Throw all the pea soup at me
that you like.
I'll eat it up
Spit it out.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My Top GAPS Diet Mistakes

The body is a complex system and our digestion is the foundation. Messing up our digestion can mess up any number of other body functions. For me, I've suffered intense adrenal depletion, body chemistry changes, emotional stress, lowered immunity, and elimination issues. This affects how I need to do the GAPS diet - particularly the adrenal fatigue. This blog is about the mistakes that I made; they may or may not apply to you. I hope this will be helpful whether you are trying to learn about the GAPS diet or are someone in my life trying to learn more about me.

1. Not enough broth

My first month back on the GAPS diet, I did not notice much effect on my digestion. When I thought back to what I ate, I realized that I was not eating bone broth every day! The recommended broth intake is with every meal. I bumped up my broth/soup consumption to at least twice a day and now I am noticing a difference. A good homemade bone broth is rich in gelatin, healthy fats, and minerals. The gelatin is very soothing and healing to the digestive track. The minerals in the broth are highly absorbable and essential for healing.

Solution: Continuous brew broth.  I have a crockpot going all weekend and just keep making soup and then adding more water. The last batch is usually not very gelatinous, but, it is still beneficial. This method keeps me eating plenty of soup, which is so much more digestible for me.

You can also make lots of broth at once! It makes your house smell, so it can be good get it all done at once.

2. Too much fruit and honey

I am not endorsing eating cats.
Without dairy, grains or sugars, I have been at a loss of what to eat. Smoothies, fresh fruit, applesauce and other treats started filling up my diet, as they are "GAPS legal." But, I've been overdoing it to the point where I feel nauseated from eating too many sweets. The bad bacteria produce alcohol, giving me the symptoms of being hung over. Fruits do have some di-saccharides in them, and they do provide food for bad bacteria. While I wouldn't avoid fruit altogether, I definitely am eating too much. I also believe many fruits may be too acidic for my stomach. I'm not worried about them affecting my body pH - I actually feel like my stomach is burning when I eat them. 

Solution: Eat more soup! I have to keep telling myself, "It's okay to eat soup all day!" I eat boring soups, I eat fun curries with pumpkin.  I have to keep eating every 2-3 hours so my blood sugar doesn't drop. Unfortunately, this means a lot of prep to constantly have soups and non-fruit snacks available. I also juice a lot of veggies instead of fruits.

3. Too low carb 

It's pretty hard to get carbs without grains and fruits! My adrenals are so taxed, that going so low carb makes me almost useless. It's abundantly clear that eating any grains at all makes my gut incredibly inflamed. And fruits make my stomach burn and are possible not good for me to eat a lot.

Solution: Eat a bunch of squash. My favorite is kabocha squash, either steamed/mashed or roasted with coconut oil and salt. Or, I like to roast it and then cut it into cubes to go in Thai curry.  Ultimately, it's better for me to eat something than let my blood sugar crash. My latest favorite is to make curried roasted root veggies.

Recipe for Curried Roasted Root Veggies:
Chop a bunch of beets, carrots or radishes, coat in coconut oil and sprinkle generously with curry powder. Roast on 400F for 45-60 minutes, depending on how small the chunks are.

Grain free bread - not terrible for you in moderation.

4.  Too many baked goods

Baking grain free means baking with coconut or almond flour. I don't seem to digest nuts with ease, although much more easily than grains. I also think that eating a ton of nuts is not part of a well balanced diet.  And, I feel it keeps me from what I should really be eating which is vegetables and broth. I will still eat some baked nut flour treats, but not daily.

Solution: The problem is the solution - baked goods kept me from eating soup. Eat tons of soup!The roasted root veggies can really help satisfy the need for something baked and sweet.

Fermenting purple cabbage and kombucha.

5. Not enough fermented foods

I try to eat fermented foods with each meal. To do this, I need a bunch of plain kraut on hand at all times. Kimchee doesn't go with everything. But, I do like to have kimchee around too, as well as other fun variations on kraut.

Solution: Invest in kraut making kitchen goods and starter cultures. Then you can make tons of fermented veggies cheaper!  Drinking kraut juice or beet kvass can really help keep up the intake of probiotics. Here is a recipe for fermented herbal tea that I want to try!

6. Too much alcohol 

The GAPS diet says some liquor and dry wines are okay "occasionally." What does that even mean? For me, figuring out how much I can drink and not feel negative results has been difficult. Finally, I think I've realized that I cannot really handle any alcohol right now. And what's the point anyway? I am not a glass of wine with dinner kind of person - I rarely only want one glass. Usually I want to drink because I am in a social setting - a wedding, a birthday, etc and so usually I want 2 or 3. But that's definitely too much.

Solution: Avoid drinking situations as much as possible. Ask friend to go to tea, for a walk, to the beach etc. Living in San Francisco, I really enjoy seeing old films at the historic theaters like the Castro theater.

7. Not enough planning
Going on the GAPS diet is a major lifestyle change. It has changed not only what I eat, but how I spend my time, who I hang out with, and just about all parts of my life. I started the GAPS diet several times and couldn't maintain it. There always seem to be a reason to cheat - a wedding, a work trip, stress, etc. Often I don't have enough snacks to keep my blood sugar up.

Solution:  Keep meat and veggies well stocked at all times! Prepare lots of foods in advance. Have at least two different flavors of soup on hand at all times. Have ready to eat protein like salami, cooked shrimp, or cooked sausage (some of these are not recommended for severe GAPS patients). Always have broth cooking or in your fridge. Buy extra broth from butchers who make it from bones. Always bring your own food where-ever you go. See my post on Traveling on the GAPS diet.

It is okay to eat soup for breakfast! Beet kvass makes a great beverage too - sometimes I even crave it!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Traveling on the GAPS Diet

Eating on the GAPS diet is hard enough when at home, but what about when you are flying? There is rarely food in the airport that is GAPS friendly, and even if it is, I have a serious concern with gluten contamination.

For me, today is day one of starting the GAPS diet again. I vow to make it to six months as the doctor ordered, and to do that I am vowing to avoid traveling by plane! Despite the snacks I bring, I usually end up breaking down and buying something warm or moist, rather than the packaged dry stuff I usually bring. However, I have come up with some ideas that are helpful.  Before I made my vows 0 I already bought a plane ticket to New Orleans for Jazz Fest this year, so I am still going to put these suggestions to good use. I'm not saying these recommendations are the perfect GAPS friendly, but they are better than binging and eating something that is not GAPS friendly at all and which may not be gluten free.

I have a friend who says she takes a roast chicken on the plane with her! I haven't tried that yet - it sounds messy and smelly. I do eat a lot of jerky, however this is hard to find sugar free. You can make your own jerky, but I have not ventured into that realm. At least you can get gluten free jerky! And when I eat mostly protein with a little bit of sugar, I don't seem to have too much of an issue.

I also bring packages of super food green drinks which add probiotics in addition to many vitamins, minerals and some protein.  You can add it to water or apple juice.

One of my weaknesses is fruit snacks and the airport is usually where I break down and buy some. Fortunately, I've learned to make my own! I've adapted a recipe from Butter Believer and I'll write a post about it later.  These are really chewy so they can help relieve ear pressure as well!

I also like to make mini muffins, GAPS friendly ones of course! The mini muffins bake through better, and are less crumbly which means they are less messy. Since they are basically bite size, that also reduced the messiness.

I've been a soda junky my whole life! When the flight attendants come around with drinks, it is so hard for me to resist. Try packing a tea you are excited about and ask for hot water. Though they don't have honey on the plane usually, I bring a little thing of my own honey and some pure stevia packets. I know stevia is questionable to some people, but my doctor said it was okay for me to have on the GAPS diet. You can also bring tea bags that are made for ice tea and add them to bottled water. However, I prefer not to have caffeine on flights where I want to sleep.

Being stressed is usually what gets me craving food.  To avoid that frazzled, stressed experience that going to the airport can be, you can try taking some aminos such as 5HTP (a precursor to serotonin) or L-Theanine, a relaxer and stress reliever which is also found in green tea (bring green tea bags!). I take something called Total Amino Solution on a daily basis which has additive therapeutic benefits, helping me feel happy and sleep easily. Another option is to try Rescue Remedy, a floral based de-stresser.