Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chickpea Salad

Yummy Chickpea Salad - healthy & easy to make!

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 plum tomatoes, thickly sliced
1 small red onion, sliced into half moons
3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Enjoy!
Makes 4 servings

See, easy?

Alternate versions: try white beans instead of chickpeas. You can also try sauteed onion and garlic.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Paleo Diet Foods

Here's a great food list for keeping to the Paelo Diet:

Encouraged Foods

Lean Meats 
Lean beef (trimmed of visible fat)
Flank steak
Top sirloin steak
Extra-lean hamburger (no more than 7% fat, extra fat drained off)
London broil
Chuck steak
Lean veal
Any other lean cut
Lean pork (trimmed of visible fat)
Pork loin
Pork chops
Any other lean cut

Lean poultry (white meat, skin removed)
Chicken breast
Turkey breast
Game hen breasts

Eggs (limit to six a week)
Chicken (go for the enriched omega 3 variety)

Other meats
Rabbit meat (any cut)
Goat meat (any cut)

Organ meats
Beef, lamb, pork, and chicken livers
Beef, pork, and lamb tongues
Beef, lamb, and pork marrow
Beef, lamb, and pork “sweetbreads”

Game meat
Bison (buffalo)
Muscovy duck
New Zealand cervena deer
Wild boar
Wild turkey

Northern pike
Orange roughy
Red snapper
Striped bass
Any other commercially available fish


Cassava melon
Honeydew melon
Passion fruit
Star fruit
All other fruits

Beet greens
Bell peppers
Brussels sprouts
Green onions
Mustard greens
Peppers (all kinds)
Squash (all kinds)
Swiss chard
Tomato (actually a fruit, but most people think of it as a vegetable)
Turnip greens

Nuts and Seeds
Brazil nuts
Hazelnuts (filberts)
Macadamia nuts
Pine nuts
Pistachios (unsalted)
Pumpkin seeds
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds

Foods To Be Eaten In Moderation
Olive, avocado, walnut, flaxseed, and canola oils (use in moderation—4 tablespoons or less a day when weight loss is of primary importance)

Diet sodas (These often contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine, which may be harmful; you’re better off drinking bottled and mineral waters.)
Wine (two 4-ounce glasses; Note: Don’t buy “cooking wine,” which is loaded with salt.)
Beer (one 12-ounce serving)
Spirits (4 ounces)

Paleo Sweets
Dried fruits (no more than 2 ounces a day, particularly if you are trying to lose weight)
Nuts mixed with dried and fresh fruits (no more than 4 ounces of nuts and 2 ounces of dried fruit a day, particularly if you are trying to lose weight)

Foods You Should Avoid

Dairy Foods
All processed foods made with any dairy products
Dairy spreads
Frozen yogurt
Ice cream
Ice milk
Low-fat milk
Nonfat dairy creamer
Powdered milk
Skim milk
Whole milk

Cereal Grains
Barley (barley soup, barley bread, and all processed foods made with barley)
Corn (corn on the cob, corn tortillas, corn chips, corn starch, corn syrup)
Oats (steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and all processed foods made with oats)
Rice (brown rice, white rice, top ramen, rice noodles, bas mati rice, rice cakes, Rice flour (all processed foods made with rice)
Rye (rye bread, rye crackers, and all processed foods made with rye)
Wheat (bread, rolls, muffins, noodles, crackers, cookies, cake, doughnuts, pancakes, waffles, pasta, spaghetti, lasagna, wheat tortillas, pizza, pita bread, flat bread, and all processed foods made with wheat or wheat flour)
Wild rice

Cereal Grainlike Seeds

All beans (adzuki beans, black beans, broad beans, fava beans, field beans, garbanzo beans, horse beans, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, pinto beans, red beans, string beans, white beans)
Black-eyed peas
Peanut butter
Sugar snap peas
Soybeans and all soybean products, including tofu

Starchy Vegetables
Starchy tubers
Cassava root
Potatoes and all potato products (French fries, potato chips, etc.)
Sweet potatoes
Tapioca pudding

Salt-Containing Foods
Almost all commercial salad dressings and condiments
Deli meats
Hot dogs
Pickled foods
Pork rinds
Processed meats
Salted nuts
Salted spices
Smoked, dried, and salted fish and meat
Virtually all canned meats and fish (unless they are unsalted or unless you soak and drain them)

Fatty Meats
Beef ribs
Chicken and turkey legs
Chicken and turkey skin
Chicken and turkey thighs and wings•
Fatty beef roasts
Fatty cuts of beef
Fatty ground beef
Fatty pork chops
Fatty pork roasts
Lamb chops
Lamb roasts
Leg of lamb
Pork ribs
Pork sausage
T—bone steaks

Soft Drinks and Fruit Juice
All sugary soft drinks
Canned, bottled, and freshly squeezed fruit drinks (which lack the fiber of fresh fruit and have a much higher glvcemic index)


Monday, December 20, 2010

2011: A new year, a new me!

I recently updated my weight/body fat tracker. The news is not good. I have basically gained a lot of weight – and all primarily body fat. How depressing. Check out this chart that plots my last 4 years of weight. Yes, I’m neurotic but honestly it’s very telling! (click to enlarge)

Today, I’m currently 124 lbs, 26% body fat. Yuck. I’m wasting energy carrying around 32 lbs of pure fat. My goal is 110 lbs, 15-17% body fat. This is totally realistic since I was very close to this composition a mere 2.5 years ago. On April 16, 2008 I was 114 lbs and 15.5% body fat. In order to achieve this goal, I need to lose 13-15.5 lbs of fat and add 2.5-4.7 lbs of muscle.

Over the past week I’ve been working with my former trainer Randy to construct a new eating and workout program. Based on my n=1 (me) longitudinal study, I looked at what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t. You’ll notice in the graph that weight training and caveman/velocity diets are the main loss periods. I did lose weight on the Clean program but I think I ended up destroying muscle mass. Unfortunately, I didn't test my BF % to know if that's a true statement. I want to change my overall body composition and not just lose weight.

Here are the highlights of my 2011 plan:


1. Intermittent fasting. The “fasted state” will last for 14 hrs (16 for males) and therefore I will basically eat 3 meals within an 8-10 hour period. Read up on the Leangains blog. My target is to keep this ‘feeding period’ to 12noon – 8pm. I also saw this fasted state working for me while on the “Clean Program”. The difference is that during the Clean Program, I am pretty sure I lost a lot of my body muscle along with the body fat which was not my goal.

2. Reduce Calorie Intake to 1280/day. Using the livestrong website, I estimated losing 1.5 lbs/week and the result is 1280 calories/day. This is quite similar to the 1250/day recommended by my sports nutritionist two years ago. With a 1.5 lb/week goal, it should take me 10 weeks of strict caloric adherence in order to lose 15 lbs. So in reality, it will probably take me 3-4 months at minimum.

          a. Maintain a predominately Paleo Diet. It’s noted on the graph as “Caveman Diet” and you will see this is the point that I lost a significant amount of weight/fat. Paleo Diet is based on the premise that humans are hunters & gatherers. If you think about it, what did Cavemen eat? Meat, veggies, nuts and berries. Best part is, this is naturally a gluten-free diet.

          b. Reduce carb intake to 36-48g/day and only consume low glycemic carbs. “The immediate pre-workout meal should contain no more than a moderate amount of low glycemic carbs. Approx 0.3-0.4g carbs per pound body weight. Have this meal 1.5-2.5 hours pre training session." Leangains. That’s 36-48g carbs for me at 120 lbs.

3. A new Supplement Program. Increase daily Fish Oils, and add supplements such as proteins in the form of Branch Chain Amino Acids and L-Carnitine Tartrate.

          a. I’ll be increasing Omega 3's to 15/day or 30grams. Lots of health studies available on omega 3’s so I don’t need to bore you with details.

          b. 18grams/day of Branch Chain Amino Acids. BCAA’s are highly recommended by many training professionals. I’ll take 6 grams pre-workout, 6 grams post-workout and 6 grams 2 hours later. I read up a lot on this blog from trainer Randy.  It’s not the easiest read but there’s a lot of good information and the writer consolidates information from training professionals around the world. This is where the basis of my new diet-workout plan started.

          c. 6-8 grams/day of L-Carnitine Tartrate, a natural supplement. I read several articles on the non-toxic supplement and benefits that sold me are:

               i. Increased strength and endurance
               ii. Accelerated muscle regeneration
               iii. Increased cardiac output and lowers heart rate under stress (especially with my super-high heart rate issues)
               iv. Slows aging of the brain (dementia runs in my family).
               v. It’s especially beneficial for those who are insulin resistant and with my high triglycerides, it may prove to work better for me than for the average.
          You can google this substrate to learn more about it. Here or here. Check out a video from trainer Randy.  This supplement was part of my significant weight loss in Feb-March 2008.


1. Train in the morning after a fasted state. I used to train in the morning before work primarily because the gym is less crowded and I can get on any machine I needed. Training in the morning meant that I didn’t have time to eat breakfast before training. Little did I know, this could have actually contributed more to the weight loss rather than training after eating. This article, is a study about fasted state workouts.

2. New workout programs. I started the Christian Thibaudeau Get Jacked Fast program a couple of months ago. I’ve really noticed a change in my endurance and strength. I can now squat 100 lbs again – and not just 1 squat, a whole six sets! I’ll continue on this program for awhile. Just message me for details.
Disclaimer: I'm not a trained nutritionist nor certified personal trainer. I'm just telling you what my plan is and am not recommending this plan for others. Please consult your health care professional. I'm not responsible for anything you try based on my blog. Good luck :)

Holiday Peppermint Bark - a GF Solution to Christmas Cookies!

We had an annual girls Holiday Cookie party this past Saturday.  Everyone bakes 6-7 dozen of their favorite holiday cookies.  With all the different types of cookies, we make variety bags for co-workers, friends, families, etc.

Well, what to do if you're gluten-free?  Unfortunately, you can't eat the cookies that others are baking but you can bring a few options to add additional fun to the mix. 

Here's an easy Holiday Peppermint Bark recipe for you try:

12 oz white chocolate (I used Bakers brand)
12 oz milk or dark chocolate (I used Bakers brand)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract, divided
10 candy canes crushed

1) Crush the candy canes into pieces. Don’t crush too much or you will end up with powder rather than chunky pieces.

2) Melt dark or milk chocolate in the top of a double broiler over just barely simmering water, stirring frequently and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave in a glass bowl.  I don't have a double broiler so I just stacked two sauce pans. Below is a picture of the white chocolate melting.

3) Add ½ teaspoon Peppermint extract to the melted chocolate and stir.  Pour into lined pan and spread evenly over the pan.  Sprinkle with 1/3 of the crushed canes. Refrigerate while you melt the white chocolate until the top is just slightly hardened. Here's a photo of the pan in my fridge.

4) Melt white chocolate. White chocolate will met faster than the dark or milk chocolate so microwave for a shorter amount of time.  Add remaining ½ teaspoon Peppermint extract to the melted chocolate and stir.  Pour over top of dark or milk chocolate. Be careful when spreading white chocolate or you will end up swirling the two together.

5) Sprinkle with remaining crushed canes. Refrigerate for 2 hours

6) Turn upside down onto a clean working surface or clean kitchen towel, peel off the foil and break into pieces.

7) Store in the fridge. The finished product was quite a hit!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Difficult Office Lunches

Being Gluten Free really becomes a noticeable challenge in the office place during catered meals. There's the usual "sandwich and wrap" tray, the "pizza party" or the "bagels and doughnuts" breakfasts. Often times, there's really nothing you can eat save for the lunchmeat you've peeled away from soggy bread. Even then, for fear of contamination, you choose to forego eating the catered meal.

Today, we had a team offsite where each team member prepared one part of our lunch meal. A semi-potluck if you will. The nice thing is that my office has 5 kitchens in one room so each of us could make our assigned recipe in the same location.

Here was today's lunch menu:
Stove Top Easy Chicken Bake
Stuffed Mushrooms with Spinach and bread crumbs
Chicken Parmesan with Parmesan flavored Shake 'N Bake and fettuccini noodles
7 Layer Taco Dip with Taco Bell(R) Home Originals(R) Seasoning
Buffalo Chicken Salad with New Crispy Buffalo Shake 'N Bake

Notice a trend? (other than using all of the brands I work on)... everything had gluten, right down to the taco dip.

I really didn't think lunch would be an issue but as I was going around the kitchens checking out what my team members were cooking up, I started to get nervous. One of my co-workers quickly asked for the staff to cook up a separate chicken breast.  Luckily, there was enough chicken left over to bake up one single breast using just salt and pepper to season.

I write this not to complain that people didn't consider my GF diet for lunch. My business team is so very considerate and even sets aside separate GF taco meat when we have food tastings.  I just want to let other GF people know that they're not alone in these challenging situations.  There's always a solution (like the extra chicken breast), but it doesn't hurt to be prepared with your own food when you have no control over menu options.  Don't be shy or embarrased to ask for what you need.  I should take my own advice since I usually feel too guilty to ask for special treatment.

What was your last office meal experience?

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Good “Gluten-Free Wedding Cake” is Hard To Find

Ernie’s on cake duty… mostly because I can’t eat normal cake.  We’ve been searching for some options that can make us a gluten-free cake, or at least one tier that’s gluten-free.  Ernie contacted lots of Chicago cake companies and here’s the run down:

·         Baking for the Taking: $3.75/slice and they can make the top tier gluten-free.

·         Amy Beck Cake Design: They make gluten free cakes, but at $7.50/slice, the price is too steep.

·         Take the Cake: Their gluten-free option is a cheesecake layer with a flourless chocolate cake base. But, they have a $25 tasting fee.

·         Bleeding Heart Bakery: Amazingly decorated gluten-free cakes but slices start at $9/person.  I would love to go with this bakery but I just can't justify the cost, especially when most people forget to eat the cake.

The only place we have visited so far was Reuter’s Bakery. They were the least expensive option at $3.20/slice (up charged to $4.20/slice with fondant decorations) but they don’t make gluten-free cakes. I offered a solution of using the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cake Mix for the top layer.  Is that ghetto?  Maybe we should just cut a cupcake instead of a cake. 

Does anyone know of Gluten-Free Wedding Cake options in Chicago?

The Gluten Free Bar

A classmate of mine from grad school recently launched “The Gluten Free Bar”. I’d like to think that I was the one who helped him identify his sensitivity to wheat after our trip to South Africa. He was complaining of joint pain and digestion issues so I simply suggested he eliminate wheat to see if it would help. And now, two years later, he’s off on his own venture with these wonderful gluten free bars!

The Gluten Free Bars are definitely worth trying, even if you’re not gluten-free. Ernie loves them too! Currently, there are two varieties: Chocolate and Chocolate Peanut Butter. I used to make my own bars since I could never quite find a gluten-free snack that was convenient and delicious...and now I don't have to make my own! The website boasts “the best gluten-free bar on the market” and while I am sure I haven’t tasted ALL of the GF bars on the market, I would agree that this is the best one.

I love that the ingredients are all natural. GFB’s are made in a dedicated gluten-free facility which eases any worries about wheat contamination. The light puffed rice adds a lovely crunchiness that both tastes yummy and provides a nice texture when chewing. I was surprisingly full for hours, making GFB’s perfectly suitable for a meal replacement. GFB’s are great option for traveling and especially as a back-up in case the pre-ordered corporate meal is the usual sandwich & wrap tray. (You know that happens all too often!)

Here’s to hoping for more flavors! Maybe Mint Chocolate Chip, Peppermint Stick, Cookie Dough… the options are endless. Leave your flavor suggestions in “comments” below and I’ll pass it along to the master minds behind The GFB.

For my friends & readers, please use the coupon code “Cindy” at check out to get free shipping!

Alternatively, stop by the following locations to pick up your very own GFB:
The Gluten Free Bar

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spicy Chicken and Tortilla Soup

You should definitely try out this recipe, it's delicious!

Prep Time: 20 min
Makes 4 servings

1 store-bought rotisserie chicken still warm
2 32-oz containers low-sodium chicken broth
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen
A couple of handfulls of tortilla chips
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped
1 cup crumbled chihuahua cheese
1 lime, cut into wedges
  1. Remove and discard skin from the chicken.
  2. Shred the chicken meat and add it to the broth in a saucepan, along with the onion, jalapenos, and tomatoes.  Cook over medium heat and cook until boiling.
  3. Add corn and heat until warmed through, about 3 minutes.
  4. Place some of the tortilla chips in each of 4 bowls.
  5. Ladle in the soup and top with cilantro, avocado, cheese and remaining chips.
  6. Serve the lime wedges on the side.
Modified Recipe from Real Simple Meals Made Easy cookbook.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Rose's Bakery

We finally made it out to Rose's Bakery in Evanston!  All I can say is Hoooorrray for a gluten-free bakery! It's like walking in to a totally normal bakery filled of delicious cookies, pasteries, pies, cakes, breads, etc... but everything in there is certified 100% gluten-free!  I was a bit overwhelmed and didn't know what to pick out.  I stared at the glass case for a solid few minutes before deciding on some cookies and bagels.

We chose three cookie flavors: Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Craisin and Snickerdoodle.  These are listed in order of my favorite to least favorite.  Ernie even said he thought the Chocolate Chip Cookie tasted like a normal, real cookie!  The snickerdoodle was a bit on the hard side and not soft & moist like the other cookies.  There were lots of varieties so I encourage you to go out and try some.

The bagels satisfied my craving for bagels. I used to work at a bagel shop back in the day with several friends. I ate SO many bagels when I was young and not gluten-free. I really miss smooshing warm bagels into my hungry mouth.  I love all the flavors: egg, pretzel, everything aka "mish-mosh", pizza bagels, cinnamon rasin, onion, garlic, poppy, salt ... But now, I have Rose's bagels. They're soft and not really crispy around the outside, but they are similar enough to the real thing for me to be happy eating them! I'm glad I only bought 2 bagels - otherwise, I probably would have eaten the whole dozen by Monday morning.

I love that they have a little cafe where you can order gluten-free foods.  The helpful gentleman that served me said that everyone who works at Rose's has some tie to "the disease" which I assume he means Celiac's.

There are some specials that Rose's runs throughout the week.

Mon-Wed, Sun
French Berad Loaf
French Bread Rolls
Seeded Sandwich Loaf

French Bread Loaf
French Bread Rolls
Sandwich Bread
Seeded Sandwich Loaf

French Bread Loaf
French Bread Rolls
Herb Cheddar Dinner Rolls
Seeded Sandwich Loaf

French Bread Loaf
French Bread Rolls
Sandwich Bread
Seeded Sandwhich Loaf

Rose's Bakery
2901 Central Street
Evanston, IL 60201

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Quinoa with Tomatoes and White Beans

This recipe is modified from "Bulgur with Tomatoes and White Beans"

Prep: 25 min

1 cup uncooked Quinoa
1 (15oz) can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, cored and diced
4 scallions thinly sliced
3/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf fresh parsley
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

1. Prepare Quinoa per package directions.  Drain into strainer.

2. Add remaining ingredients and mix gently

Makes 4 servings, 281 calories per serving with Bulgur. Unknown calories with Quinoa.

If you want to make the original recipe, use 1 cup Bulgur instead of Quinoa.  Place bulger in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water; let stand 20 min or until softened. Drain into a strainer, pressing down with a large spoon to squeeze out excess water.