Tips and Tricks: Hair Ties

One of the worst situations is when you’re at home trying out different hairstyles and you just randomly pull your hair up and it looks good, and then you need a hair tie but you can never find one. If you have a group of girlfriends, or if you are in school/college, you probably have experienced a shortage of hair ties several times.  There will always be a girlfriend every now and again who will ask to borrow an extra hair tie from you. Obviously, chances are, you might not even want it back after it’s been used. Or if you’re okay with that, your friend who ‘borrowed’ the hair tie is never going to give it back. Let’s just face it: A hair tie borrowed is a hair tie lost.

Moreover, I’ve noticed that many of the popular kinds of hair ties wear out pretty quickly. I’m talking about those thin black elastic hair ties with a little silver binding clip. I remember using them and having to throw them out after a few weeks because they wear out so fast.

Add that to the fact that someone always wants to borrow a hair tie and you will be in a shortage of it more often than you would like. It was back in school when I came up with this awesome idea. I have rarely ever bought hair ties after I came up with this. It saves me SO much time and money and I almost never experience a shortage! Buy one of these:

Elastic

Elastic

It has been a life saver. You get a large amount of elastic for the price of 4-5 elastic hair ties. Obviously, buying the elastic is way more cost-effective. They are also often better quality and last much longer than store-bought hair ties. Here’s what you do:

STEP 1: Using one end, hold it around your wrist till it meets the other end of the elastic. I use this is a guide for how long I need the elastic to be. I like to wear my hair tie around my wrist for when I’m not wearing it so I don’t want it to be too loose. I do add an extra inch thought for tying the knot.

STEP 2: Cut it off when you’ve achieved your desired size.

STEP 3: Take both ends and tie a knot. Pull both edges (the loop and the extra bit after the knot) to tighten the knot.

STEP 4: Cut off the extra bits just after the knot.

 

There you have it! An easy way to make hair ties yourself! I usually make sure the knot is underneath so it doesn’t show. This way, you can make hair ties whenever you need them for a lesser price and they usually last longer as well. Win-win!

Confirming a Diagnosis of Celiac Disease

GlutenFreeGal

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People have lots of questions about how to get tested, if they should get tested, what if the tests come up negative yet they feel the test is wrong. Here is an interesting article from Dr. Sheila Crowe, a professor in gastroenterology and hematology at the University of Virginia, to answer those questions in detail.

http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/confirming-a-diagnosis-of-celiac-disease/?_r=0

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10 Gluten Free, Allergy Friendly Survival Tips

After having been gluten free, dairy free, almost Top 8 free for a year now, I have come up with some survival tips that I hope will help some of you.

  1. Step away from the food that anyone else offers you
    It might be rude but trust me, it’s not worth it. They could tell you that it’s gluten free but did you know that there are quite a few people who don’t know what items contain gluten? What if they added soy sauce to it? Or maybe some oats? What if it actually is gluten free but they packed the food without having washed their hands after making a sandwich? Not worth it, my friend.
  2. Beware of restaurants
    Avoid eating at restaurants unless they have a clear understanding of what it means to be gluten free. Regular restaurants will be sharing kitchen equipment, utensils, space, etc. all contributing to cross contamination.
  3. Salad dressing is your enemy
    If I go out to eat, I will sometimes have salads but skip the dressing. Unless the waiter/waitress can provide you with an ingredient/allergen list for the dressing, you’re not going to know what’s in it. Keep it simple – drizzle with olive oil or squeeze a lemon over it but skip the dressing.
  4. Always read the ingredients
    With the above being said, I cannot stress the importance of knowing what’s in your food. Even at restaurants that have allergy friendly/gluten free food, always double check the ingredients. Also, don’t forget to read the ingredients on other products like handwash, body wash, shampoos, creams and makeup. You might be surprised to see that they contain ingredients like gluten, milk, and oats. To make matters worse, they use the technical names of these items, making it harder for the common person to identify. I have gone to the extent of googling each and every single ingredient on a product to make sure that none of them are derived from offending foods. Don’t just go by the sticker that says “gluten free.” Some gluten free foods STILL contain gluten, but those amounts are apparently ‘negligible.’ Tell that to my stomach.
  5. Take note of gluten free restaurants
    Google for a list of restaurants in places that you are likely to visit often. If you have pro memory skills, store this data mentally. Otherwise, a list on your phone or in your diary/wallet will suffice. Go to the websites of these restaurants and have a look at their gluten-free menu online. If you find meals that are suitable for you, make a note of it. If you wish to call the restaurant for further clarification, do so. This way, the next time you go out with your friends, you can suggest a restaurant where you can also (finally) eat a meal with them, instead of sitting in the corner of the table away from all the gluten with an empty plate, trying hard not to let your tears fall onto it.
  6. Carry plastic spoons, hand sanitizer and tissues/wipes
    This has been a life saver. Sometimes, I carry food with me when I know I’m going to be out for long hours. Because of this, I bought a set of plastic spoons and take them with me, so that I can avoid using spoons in my friends’ houses. The reason is that sometimes, it just gets a bit awkward to have to wash the spoons in someone else’s house before eating. Also, when you’re being served and you’re given a spoon at the table, you’re just not sure whether the person handing it to you has gluten on their hands or not. It would be really weird if you’re served at the table and then get up to go wash the spoon and come back. It also helps when you’re out and you want to avoid eating with your hands (like I often do, in case I might have some gluten on me from shaking hands with people or something). The hand sanitizer and tissues or wipes work well for when you want to clean your hands before eating or after handling items that may be contaminated. It’s not always convenient to find a place to wash your hands (and honestly, I can’t always be bothered to wash my hands after coming in contact with things).
  7. Carry snacks with you
    Have you ever been at school or work, packing up, ready to go home and then you’re told that you need to put in an extra couple hours? Then your stomach starts rumbling in rebellion. Go grocery shopping and look for little snacks that you can nibble on when you’re on the go. Lately, I’ve been carrying Mrs Crimble’s Apple Flavour Rice Cakes since they come in convenient travel packs. ALWAYS carry snacks with you when you go out. Keep some in the car, throw some in your purse. You never know when you might be stuck outdoors, and for how long, without an allergen-free bite to eat. Sometimes you get so hungry that you think that you can afford to risk it and try to order a supposedly gluten free meal at a restaurant and then your stomach punishes you for it later. I used to do that. If my friends were going somewhere to eat, I’d just order fries thinking it would be safe. Potatoes, vegetable oil, salt. That seems pretty safe. Except that it wasn’t. I found out the hard way later. It’s not worth risking. It would be wise to invest in some travel sized airtight containers to pack your snacks in. I actually have a little bag that’s stacked with plastic spoons for when I eat outdoors. Pick a nice looking bag, stack it with tissues and plastic spoons and use it to carry food or snacks with you when you go out.
  8. Fruits are your friends
    When I went on holiday to India earlier this year, every time I got hungry, we’d stop by a fruit vendor and buy bananas and apples for me to eat. I still continue the practice here. Stop by any gas station or grocery store and buy bananas or any other fruit. Keeps you going for a few more hours at least! Great and healthy snack.
  9. Learn to cook
    Try replicating some of your old favourite meals without the allergens. It’s amazing that today, compared to several years ago, many allergy friendly recipes are available online. Tweak the recipes and experiment to find out what works for you. Bake cakes and indulge in cookies. Make smoothies. Give yourself a treat once in a while!
  10. Don’t cry
    I know it’s hard. I know you feel lonely. I feel awful every time I go out and can’t eat, or when I’m at a birthday celebration and everyone’s eating cake, while I stare. The good news is that over time, you will learn to cook for yourself and you will eventually come to realize that you are now eating so much healthier. Once I cut gluten out of my diet, I automatically ended up losing all the junk food. I never realized how much rubbish I had been putting into my body really. You get accustomed to living like this and then you find that it’s not so bad. You just have be a little more careful about your food choices but it’s worth it in the end. Nothing is worth the pain that comes with eating the offending foods. You’re feeling better and that’s all that matters. It’s difficult, but you can do this! 🙂

Protein Packed Pizzas – GF, Dairy Free, Vegan

I finally ate a gluten free pizza that actually tasted like pizza! OMG!!!!!!!!

Inspired by this recipe for quinoa pizza crusts and by this recipe for cheesy cauliflower cream, I set out this morning to experiment. I just bought a new non-stick baking tray and it was, I don’t know, useless. I greased it just to be safe but the batter kept getting stuck to the pan and we had to scrape it off. Eventually, I ended up cooking it on the stove in a frying pan with a lid on top. Long ago, when I was making pancakes for the first time in my non-stick pan, I had greased it lightly and the pancake batter got stuck to it. The second time, I skipped greasing the pan and my pancakes turned out beautifully. Maybe I should try just placing the batter on the baking tray without greasing it first? Will experiment next time!

The pizza crust was a bit on the soft side but it was quite pleasant. It’s rather floppy so you would have to eat it with a knife and fork. I’m not complaining about that though. I usually avoid eating with my bare hands anyway! While it was cooking, I was just amazed at how “pizza-like” it smelled! This is so fantastic. It’s like junk food that’s not really junk! It’s clean and it’s fresh and it’s healthy! Extra protein too!

Protein Packed Pizzas - GF, Dairy Free, Vegan

Protein Packed Pizzas – GF, Dairy Free, Vegan

 

The following recipe makes 2 small sized pizzas.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • A quarter of a cauliflower for preparing something I like to call Caulicheese
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 flax egg. See directions below
  • Your herbs: Oregano, basil, parsley, etc. according to preference
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Pizza sauce. See directions below
  • Olives
  • Onions/green onions
  • Capsicum
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • Rice flour (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  • Make the Caulicheese: Cut up the cauliflower into smaller florets and place in a pot. Add water, salt and 1/2 tbsp lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then simmer for around 15-20 minutes until cauliflower is soft and tender. When the cauliflower is done, drain the water and put it in a blender, or in a bowl if using a hand mixer. The cauliflower should turn into a creamy puree. Add a pinch of salt to this. If you can still smell that cauliflowery smell, add some more lemon juice. Add 1 tbsp coriander powder for flavour. Add any other flavours you like – onion powder, garlic powder, etc.
  • Make the pizza sauce: To make your own pizza/pasta sauce, heat up some oil in a saucepan and add onions, herbs, coriander leaves, and coriander powder and saute until fragrant. Then add a little tomato paste and cook for a minute or so until the flavours have all combined.
  • Make the flax egg: While the cauliflower is being cooked, prepare flax egg by mixing 3 tbsp of water with 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds. Set aside for 15 minutes at least to gel.
  • Make the batter: To the quinoa, add a pinch of salt and your herbs – I used only oregano. Blend using a hand mixer or blender until the quinoa forms a doughy like texture. It’s rather sticky. I added 1-2 tbsp of rice flour. If you skip the rice flour, the crust will be very difficult to flip. You will need two pans then and will have to slide it off one pan and into the other. Adding rice flour holds it together.
    Once your batter is ready, add the flax egg and mix in using the blender or a spoon.
  • Scoop an amount of the batter and with wet/oily fingers, flatten the batter in a non-stick frying pan.
  • On medium heat and with a lid on, let the pizza crust cook for about 7-8 minutes. Check for doneness. If you feel like you want it crispier, cook it for a little longer. When it’s done, flip it over using a spatula and add your toppings.
  • First top your pizza crust with tomato sauce. Then add the caulicheese on top. Sprinkle any herbs or flavours you might want. Top with tomatoes, onions/green onions, capsicum, olives, etc.
  • Put the lid on again and cook for another 8 minutes. Check for doneness. Again, cook for a little longer if you want it to be crispier.
  • Sink your teeth in and enjoy! 😀

Protein Packed Pancakes – GF, Dairy Free, Low FODMAP, Vegan

These pancakes are AMAZING!

Usually, in the middle of the night, I get hungry and start brainstorming for new recipe ideas. I google for recipes late into the night and try to mix some up to create one suitable for me. This recipe was inspired by these recipes here and here, which resulted in the BEST gluten free pancakes I have ever tried! I have tried making pancakes with:

  • Soaked quinoa seeds and banana. It wasn’t that great. Turned out to be rather dry.
  • Sorghum + white rice flour. It was gummy and musty. Probably because I didn’t add any starch but this was my most preferred combination of flours for pancakes.
  • Amaranth + white rice flour. It was gummy and musty. Again, probably because I didn’t add any starch.
  • White rice flour + almond flour. Very nice and toasty but burned rather quickly, and ever since I found out heating up almonds isn’t really all that great for health, I’ve quit baking with almond flour.

GF, Dairy Free, Vegan, Low FODMAP Protein Packed Pancakes with Raspberry Jam

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 1 flax egg. See directions below
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp oil (I use olive oil)
  • Water or (dairy free) milk. See directions below

DIRECTIONS

  • Make your flax egg so it can set while you’re preparing the pancakes. 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds and 2-3 tbsp of water. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to gel. I usually keep mine in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
  • Put the quinoa, white rice flour, baking soda, salt and sugar in a bowl and give it a stir.
  • Add the lemon juice and oil and pour in a little milk/water, maybe a 1/4 cup to begin with. I have stopped going by recipe directions for liquids. Somehow I end up adding too much and my batter ends up very liquidy. It’s almost as if I have no control over the glass that I use for adding liquids. Weird. Anyway, a great tip I read once was to add only half the suggested amount of liquid and keep adding little by little until you reach the desired consistency. So add a quarter cup, and using a hand mixer, blend everything together. You can also do this using a regular blender. If it’s still too dry, add some more liquid.
  • Once you reach the consistency of pancake batter (I usually add enough liquid until it is like cake batter – pourable but still thick), add your flax egg. Either blend it with the blender/hand mixer or mix it in with a spoon.
  • With the flame on, using a non-stick skillet or a greased skillet, do the water droplets test to make sure the pan is hot enough. Sprinkle some drops of water on to the pan and if they dance around before evaporating, your pan is hot enough.
  • Pour batter according to how big or small you want your pancakes. Mine always turn out to be miniscule. I don’t know why.
  • It is time to flip the pancake when you see bubbles forming on the surface of the batter and popping, leaving behind pock marks or holes. The sides will also look slightly dried out. If you’re not sure, take a little peek before completely flipping it over.
  • Flip the pancake and cook the other side. Again, if you’re unsure whether the other side is done, take a peek. It usually takes about 2-3 minutes though, but don’t take my word for it. Sometimes they cook faster, sometimes they take longer.
  • Serve with either jam, maple syrup, chocolate syrup, honey, fruit… the possibilities are endless!

Also, the good thing about using quinoa for this is that it turns out nice and toasty! The pancakes can be cooked for a little longer and then the outside becomes a little crispy! While I was cooking them, I was getting a whiff of something buttery and nutty – it kind of smelled like I was toasting buttered bread! These were the best pancakes I’ve had so far. I had my brother test them, just like I’ve made him test all my disastrous cooking experiments before. He said these pancakes were better than the other flour combinations. Hurray! Bonus: PROTEIN PACKED PANCAKES! OH YEAH!

Dairy Free Alfredo Pasta? Is it true?!

IT IS! IT REALLY REALLY IS!

I bought some rice milk the other day. Since I’m the only person having it at home, there’s quite a lot left over and I didn’t want it to go to waste. I started looking for recipes I could make using the rice milk. I googled for pasta sauces with rice milk and happened to find this AMAZING recipe for dairy free alfredo sauce by Chocolate Covered Katie.

It tasted so similar to the white pasta sauce that I used to make before my gluten free/lactose free days! I have been craving white pasta for so darn long and honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to taste like this. Why? Because this sauce is made from…

CAULIFLOWERS!

Can you believe it?! Holy Jalapeno! Cauliflowers?! But it tastes so so so gooooood! It tasted creamy and cheesy and so awesome! I generally hate the smell of cauliflowers when they’re boiled but this one didn’t smell much like cauliflowers at all! I can’t believe it! Finally a dairy free alfredo sauce that can be made without mock cheese and nutritional yeast (both of which I can never find in the supermarkets)! I tweaked the recipe a bit to suit my tastes. This isn’t low FODMAP, mind.

Creamy, Dairy Free, Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

Creamy, Dairy Free, Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • Cooked pasta
  • Half a medium-sized cauliflower, cut into smaller florets
  • 1/4 cup rice milk (or any other milk you like). You might need more milk though. Read directions below
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • A handful of coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano leaves
  • A little freshly squeezed lemon juice. 1 tbsp should be enough
  • Olives, tomatoes, and any other veggies to top with

DIRECTIONS

  • Put the cauliflower in a pot and pour in some milk. The milk should be enough for boiling the cauliflower in so it’s cooked well. Put as much is needed to cook the cauliflower. I would say for half a cauliflower, 1/4 – 1/2 cup of milk should be enough.
  • Add 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then cover the pot and simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower is soft and tender.
  • Pour contents into a blender or use your hand mixer and make a puree out of this.
  • In a saucepan, add some olive oil. Throw in some oregano, coriander leaves, and coriander powder. You can also add parsley, basil, garlic powder, etc. Saute until fragrant.
  • Add the cauliflower sauce and mix everything up so it’s all evenly distributed.
  • Add the pasta and mix.
  • Add olives, tomatoes or any other veggies

I actually forgot to add the lemon juice before boiling. I added it later, before making a puree out of the cauliflower and milk. Prior to that, the pot smelled like cauliflowers and that smell really puts me off. I hate eating cauliflowers that smell too cauliflowery. But adding the lemon juice made the smell go away! I was googling how to get rid of the smell when cooking cauliflowers, and an interesting tip I read online was to add a bay leaf to the pot. I might just try that some other time! Sounds cool!

Review: “Superfine Eyeliner,” “BB Cream” and “Stay Natural Concealer” from Essence

essenceAfter checking the ingredients of several eyeliners, I found out that a few select Barry M and Essence eyeliners contain no tocopheryl acetate. If I can’t confirm the source of the tocopheryl acetate, I avoid using the product. It could be where gluten is hidden!

I usually wear liquid eyeliner – never use eye pencils. I find liquid eyeliners have a more defined, precise and neat look. I checked out the Barry M Wink eyeliner. The nib was too thick for me, and the tip was far too flimsy to be able to draw a proper defined line. It cost 30 AED here in Boots.

My next option was to try out Essence. They have an online booklet where all product ingredients are mentioned. After poring over the ingredients for days, I made a list of all the items that would be safe for me. Since they haven’t replied to my email yet, the ingredients I was on lookout for were: tocopherol, tocopheryl acetate, denatured alcohol, and of course gluten, soy and corn.

eyelinerThey have quite a few makeup products that are safe from these ingredients. I chose Superfine Eyeliner because the name fit what I was looking for. I wore the eyeliner today and I don’t know why, but for the first minute or so, it tingled and I felt a slight burning sensation. It went away after that. I hope this eyeliner is okay for me – I don’t want to go hunting for another gluten free eyeliner again!

Anyway, so the eyeliner is pretty nice. It creates a nice, dark line and it’s very easy to use. The nib is also pretty sturdy, unlike the flimsy Barry M one. The nib is very thin so you can create a well-defined line. It cost 17 AED. If I have no adverse reactions to this product, I’m going to stick to it. I quite like it! I also like how I don’t have to keep dipping my eyeliner brush into a bottle. This just makes life so much easier. Also, it dries up pretty fast. No need to wait a few minutes before using eyelash curlers! Give it a few seconds and it’s set!

Since I contacted MaxFactor and P&G replied, asking me to look at their website for information about the source of tocopheryl acetate, which I haven’t been able to find AT ALL, I have decided against using my MaxFactor foundation. Gluten free foundation and concealer is rather hard to find. Almost all of them contain wheat. I accidentally even tried on some Essence foundation that had gluten! Thank goodness I had only tested it on my hand! I was terrified though.

I tried on their BB cream in shade 02 Natural. It was quite nice. It minimized my pores, and kind of created this dewy look. Gave a little glow. It only cost 25 AED, so that was a bargain. The good thing was that their BB cream was fragrance free. The downside was that the BB cream had a funky smell. The smell wore off after a few minutes but it was still a bit odd. Moreover, later I noticed that my skin was a tiny bit itchy. However, that could be due to how hot and humid the weather was. I was about to buy this product but upon looking at the ingredients list, I noticed that it contained sorbitol. Sorbitol can be derived from corn and I’m sensitive to corn. I figured it would be better if I stayed away from it, as I have reacted to corn in my makeup before. Better safe than sorry! Really wish I could have bought it though! Seemed to give decent coverage. It wasn’t perfect, but workable. Better than no foundation!

concealerSo I ditched the BB cream. Now what the heck was I going to use on my face? I figured I’d just buy the “Stay Natural Concealer” and use that to cover up. It worked quite well actually! Again, the coverage isn’t that great. It doesn’t make my blemishes disappear, and when I tried it on in the store, along with the BB cream, coverage was quite good. On its own, it’s okay. Just kind of reduces redness and makes blemishes a little less prominent. It comes in a nice little pen-type tube. You have to twist the bottom quite a bit before the concealer comes out. You can apply it directly using the brush tip or apply a little on your hand and then use your finger to dab it onto your face. Cost 16 AED. Pretty good for the price! It will make do for now – until I find some actual gluten free cosmetics with non-threatening ingredients.

Essence is supposedly “hypoallergenic” and it’s aimed at young teens. I find it odd though that their products contain parabens (just like so many other brands out there). Even so, apparently no one has had any complaints about Essence products with regards to allergies, accordingly to what the sales lady told me. Hope that’s true! I wish I could confirm if these products were manufactured in a gluten free facility, and if there was no risk for cross contamination. I figured I’d just check the ingredients carefully since almost all cosmetics companies cannot guarantee being gluten free. Essence products are very affordable and they do the job. Not as well as I would’ve liked but fair enough – it’ll do for now.

Yummy, No-Sugar Added Chocolate Chip Cookies

Our Favorite Sound is Yum

Today, we tried CFCU’s Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies and they were delicious! The recipe is linked below. Instead of white flour or whole wheat flour, the recipe calls for almond flower (we used Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal/Flour), which makes the cookies gluten-free and nutritionally beneficial. Maple Syrup makes them sweet, but you can substitute honey in for the maple syrup if you like the taste of honey better. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

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http://www.crossfitcu.com/foodie-friday-best-paleo-chocolate-chip-cookies-yet/

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