December Self-Care Wisdom Part 2

My December has intentionally been pretty mellow–but this past week, the hou1stress of the season somehow crept in. Fortunately, I had a group of my favorite bloggers share their wisdom last weekend,  with Debi, Erin, Jonathan and Shirley. Today I’m delighted to share a post with you from Ms. Ricki Heller, formerly of Diet Dessert and Dogs. Ricki is a long-time blogging buddy, and I’m delighted to have her sharing her thoughts. She’s an amazing resource for all things vegan, and has wonderful DELICIOUS and creative low-sugar and gluten-free options. Thank you so much, Ricki!

Self-Care Over the Holidays

No doubt we all experience stress over the holiday season (just the fact that we live in the 21st Century means we all have stress in our lives—at the holidays, and the rest of the year!). But add “chronic illness” to the typical stressors of family gatherings, office parties, holiday cooking, planning, gift buying, and navigating social obligations–well, then you might really begin to notice the effects of that stress on your mind and body. And one thing’s for sure: those effects are not usually good.

As someone who has dealt with candida-related complex (an overgrowth of yeast in the body that can cause a cascade of symptoms) on and off for many years, I know first-hand how much stress affects my general health and well-being during busy the festive season.

For me, the most important factor I need to address, before all else, during the holidays is stress. No, that doesn’t mean I stop exercising or throw my anti-candida diet to the wind and start scarfing shortbread cookies or guzzling eggnog; but even the most perfect HighRawGlutenFreeAIPVeganOrganicGAPSSuperfoodPaleoSCDGrainfree diet in the world won’t be of use this time of year if you regularly counteract the effects with excess cortisol, impaired thyroid functioning, high blood pressure, increased blood glucose, lack of sleep or gut issues—all the potential results of too much stress.

So, my goal for the 2014 holiday season is to cultivate serenity during the festivities. (Okay, let’s be realistic. Maybe “some serenity.”).

Here’s what I’ve found most helpful in my quest so far:

  • Meditation. You don’t need a mantra, you don’t need to contort yourself into a pretzel, and you don’t need to burn incense. I prefer the method made popular by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book Full Catastrophe Living (which aims to relax each major muscle group one at a time as you move up the body), but really, any kind of focused breathing will work, even just sitting silently for one minute and breathing slowly through your nose and deep into your belly. If you can, start with 5 minutes and work up to 20 minutes a day (or more, if you can manage it). According to Kelly McGonigal, an expert in stress and meditation, you’ll notice beneficial physical results after as little as 3 hours (total) of meditation. You can do this first thing in the morning before you tackle the daily menus, last thing before bed, while you wait in the car to pick up the kids at school, or even right after your shower in the bathroom (while the door is still closed and no one is bothering you).

Cheryl’s note: many of you know I’m a huge meditation junkie advocate. I have a bunch of my favorite meditations from a variety of great teachers here–many are freely available.

  • I’ve certainly held a grudge at times with the best of them, but over the years have learned that it’s really true: anger harms the person who harbors it much more than the target of the anger (who usually isn’t thinking about you at all). But I know that forgiveness can be a tough call, especially when there’s a disconnect between our knowledge of the truth and the reality of our behavior in the real world.

That’s where the Hawaiian forgiveness practice called Ho’Oponopono comes into play. I recently learned about this powerful ritual that really makes a huge difference in my outlook and behavior on a daily basis. Its simplicity belies its effectiveness: you simply focus on the person or people you wish to forgive, then “mindfully” repeat these four phrases (being sincere in your desire to embrace forgiveness is key here): I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. That’s it. Do this for one minute a day and you might be surprised at the results. Read more about the practice and why it’s so powerful here. I think this is an ideal practice at this time of year, when we can hold such high expectations for our loved ones and find they’re not always met; loving forgiveness allows us to appreciate the positive aspects of those relationships.

  • Like most of us, I’m pretty tapped into technology, like it or not: I write a blog, I have two computers and a smart phone, I watch TV and check social media way more than I should. When I attended a three-week retreat last spring, I panicked when I learned I’d be offline from early morning until after dinner each day–how would I survive? Well, guess what? I survived just fine. . . and was made painfully aware of how much of my time online isn’t really necessary. Since then, I’ve attempted to “unplug” as much as possible on the weekends so I can focus on other, non-digital, activities. And while I’m not as successful with this one as I’d like to be, I’ve found the results are really beneficial. Next time you attend a holiday soiree or even throw one of your own, how much more enjoyable would it be without the cell phones, Instagram, Facebook updates, etc—so that you can really and truly focus on the interactions right there with other, live, human beings?

As I continue in my quest to keep my stress levels to a minimum right through the New Year, I’m always looking for more strategies and techniques that help. I’d love to know what you do to chill out and decompress, or if you’ve tried any of these methods, above. Please share in the comments! LCGDaCapoCover

Ricki Heller is a holistic nutritionist, whole foods chef, writer and educator who shares sugar-free, gluten-free, allergy-friendly recipes and healthy living articles at, where shares her own story of learning to thrive on an anti-candida diet and demonstrates how easy it is to eat well on a “restricted” diet—proving that a healthy lifestyle can, indeed, be sweet. Her latest book, Living Candida-Free, will be published on January 27, 2015.

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December Self-Care Wisdom

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s December…and not even a peep from me! It’s the end of a trimester of teaching, so I’ve got a whole lotta term papers to keep me engaged and occupied. So I asked a group of bloggers that I appreciate and respect to share their wisdom on self-care through the holiday season. In fact, I got so many wonderful responses that this will be Part 1 and Part 2 will be up on Weds. Oh, and for holiday dessert inspiration & a TasteGuru giveaway, hop on over to my website.

And please–leave comments on how YOU take of yourself and your family through the holidays!

Jonathan is the blogger behind the Canary Files. His recommendation:

The energy of the Holidays, often manic and unfocused, can threaten to unhinge even the sturdiest of constitutions.  So when I feel myself being carried away, I bring it back to my breath.  Breathing in mindfully, experiencing the full capacity of my lungs, and then letting it all go, filling myself with emptiness and space.  And in doing so, I remind myself that every moment, every situation, and every challenge or joy in life, is like a breath:  Fully there, and then fully gone.  It brings me back to the bigger picture that the bounty of life is not experienced in holding on and struggling to keep things the same.  Rather, it is in letting go and allowing one’s self to become a contributor, as opposed to a bystander, of the unique beauty within a moment.

His recent post on stepping back from social media is a winner, and I love this part:

Many have remarked to me, often with concern, that they don’t see me as much on social networks or here on the blog.  That they miss my posts, that they hope I am okay and that something more fun is occupying my time, and that they trust I will reconnect again soon.  To which I can only smile and reply that the reason I am less “social” is because I am connected.

I had the pleasure of meeting Erin a few years back. Erin is the voice behind Gluten-Free Fun and Gluten-Free Globetrotter and also the founder of the NYC gluten-free meetup group, so she’s a great one for gluten-free support! She offers these suggestions:

After a long year and a flurry of activities between Thanksgiving and the New Year, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmake sure you make time for yourself this holiday season. Make a big cup of tea and watch Love Actually for the hundredth time. Bundle up your loved ones and go for a drive looking for the most elaborate display of Christmas lights in your neighborhood. Eat that extra gluten-free sugar cookie if you want it. Stop and reflect on the amazing things you have accomplished in 2014 and what’s to come in 2015. Smile and hug your loved ones.

Debi is the writer behind Hunter’s Lyoness, where she shares her journey, her recipes and her restaurant reviews. I love her words of wisdom:

Holidays with chronically ill me are not the scenes of Norman Rockwell artwork. I don’t pull out the decorations the day after Thanksgiving and throw tinsel and holly boughs all over the apartment. Things changed for me long ago as I explain in When Tradition Gets Tossed Out The Window. My yearly reminder is to not meet everyone else’s expectations and focus on my own instead: maintaining my health and sanity. If I have any inkling that my physical or mental well-being is at risk by doing something people might expect during the holidays, I don’t do it. I know it’s hard to let go of expectations; that when you see everyone else decorating and baking you feel you should be doing the same. But when you are bedridden, or close to it, and you regain that precious health, you do anything to protect it. I just lost an aunt I’m close to right after pulling myself out of an adrenal crash and was facing other stressors. After helping clean out her condo, I’m back home, the stressors piled on, facing Christmas while trying to prevent another adrenal crash. I’m counting my spoons each morning and taking everything moment by moment, not caring if anything holiday related is done or not. 

Y’all know Ms. Shirley Braden already, right? She’s the author of Gluten-Free Easily and also All Gluten-Free Desserts, so if you need last-minute dessert inspiration, that’s where you’ve got to head. Her advice:

Just “Be.” We spend so much time and effort trying to do everything else, but that.  Other than that, I’m still letting go of stuff as self care. Christmas decorations and such. It’s a wonderful thing, but also takes some effort to do, so self care is still important while doing the purging process. I let fewer and fewer items on my “to do” list, but no matter what, life always seems to “fill up” and add some stress, you know? I’m working hard to not let that happen, but maybe resistance is worse than letting it happen. ;-)

Personally, the letting go of “stuff” is the hardest for me, and yet the most necessary.

Need more inspiration? There are a ton of posts from previous self-care retreats:

…and we’ve got a Facebook community for daily-ish quotes and inspiration on gluten-free living well.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

snuggling feesI hope you’re having a day filled with friends, family, fabulous food and a full and grateful heart.

I’m grateful the powers that be were able to temporarily fix our furnace and we’re toasty and cozy in the meantime.

I’m grateful for my husband, and how much he loves me.

I’m grateful for Genghis Khat, who is such a part of my heart that I can’t imagine the world without him. I’m grateful for Houdini’s sweet nature and love.

I’m so grateful that I’m stronger this year than I’ve been in the past decade. It’s such a joy to experience.

I’m grateful for the smells of delicious foods filling the house, and the abundance all around me.

Wishing you and your loved ones a beautiful Thanksgiving!

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chicken gravyI love gravy. It kinda makes the whole Thanksgiving thing perfect, doesn’t it? And so I was determined to make a gravy that I’d thoroughly enjoy. I looked at a few recipes but didn’t quite find one that hit the spot for me. After a few years of trial and error (I ust to only make gravy for holidays) I think I’ve come up with THE gravy for Chez Harris. It’s got a creamy, luscious mouth feel, and while it takes a while, there’s not a lot of work involved. It’s starch-free, Paleo-friendly and delicious. I imagine it could be made vegan as well. Despite Mr. Dude’s loathing of onions, he really enjoys it too. Go figure!

  • 2 TBSP oil of choice
  • 2 cups chopped onions (I often use the pre-chopped containers from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Brazil nuts (~7-8)
  • 2 TBSP pan drippings
  • 1 TBSP fresh thyme
  • salt/pepper as needed

Heat the oil over medium low heat and add the chopped onions. Saute over low heat so they’re just sizzling for ~20 minutes or until browned. Stir as little as possible. Add the chicken broth, bring to medium heat and allow about half of the broth to evaporate.

I’ve also discovered that this is amazing with chicken, or even roasted broccoli, so it may well be a year-round staple at our table. I’ll find out soon if it freezes well…

Puree the onion-broth mix and the nuts in a high-powered blender until smooth, creamy and gorgeous. Add in the herbs and salt if needed. Voila!

I’m linking up to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

GFW is co-hosted by Shirley of gluten free easily, Linda of Gluten-free Homemaker,  and Lynn of Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures.

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Big Butterball G-Free Turkey Mistake

UPDATE NOV 11th: Butterball apologized for their mistake and edited their website to remove the problematic sentence. Many thanks to you for your help getting their attention, and keeping fellow gluten-free peeps safe!

I’m one of those g-free advocates that gets cross-eyed when I see ignorant comments online. But my head starts spinning when it comes to mistakes from large companies who have a specific responsibility to know better. Yes, I’m talking to you, Butterball. I was updating my yearly gluten-free Thanksgiving newsletter and I saw this doozy:

butterballSo if you look closely above, you’ll see the problem

22655-07100 Butterball Ready To Cook Premium Stuffed Young Turkey with Herb Roasted Stuffing (note: Wheat gluten is in the stuffing only. The turkey itself is gluten free.)

Yes, they’ve listed as exceptions and not gluten-free, but the problem is this line:note: Wheat gluten is in the stuffing only. The turkey itself is gluten free.

Um, no. The turkey WAS gluten-free. Then you stuffed it. It is no longer gluten-free. Poof. Magic. Presto chango. Now gluten-full.

So I know many of you are thinking, well, I know better, and I bet you do. Or maybe you’re thinking, well, I buy a free range turkey so it doesn’t matter to me.

But it does. If Butterball is one of the main sellers of turkey in this country, that’s a problem. Especially since I’m sure that everyone has heard the “oh, just eat around the stuffing/pie crust/crouton” BS at least once, if not 10 times. They can do better and they need to start. Like, now.

Pretty please, make my day and nudge Butterball to change their website. They owe the gluten-free community clear and accurate information.

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Almond-Coconut Pie Crust

chocbanpieIt’s pie crust season for sure, so I wanted to get this posted ASAP! This is my new favorite-most thing. Most pie crusts use eggs or palm shortening, which I can’t have. My old one used agave, which I’ve been using much less. And, for some very strange reason, Mr. Dude hates the taste of almonds. Almonds! For years he had been complaining about something having a “weird, gluten-free taste” and by process of elimination, I discovered it was the almond flour. I get having an aversion to the taste of, say, amaranth or quinoa. But almonds? I don’t understand how this happens. He is a good person, I swear, but I guess we’ve all got to have some flaws, right?

So…while this is an almond crust, it tastes coconut-y. In many pies, this is a bonus. So it’s perfect with my Chocolate Banana Mousse (updated recipe coming soon!) and I can’t wait to make it with my Sweet Potato Pie. It holds together and cuts fantastically, and it’s obviously gluten-free, grain free, vegan and Paleo friendly.
pie crust
2 cups almond flour
2 Tablespoons coconut flour
1/3 cup of coconut oil–still solid, smushed into the measuring cup
pinch of salt
pinch of vanilla powder
1/4 cup maple syrup.

In a food processor, pulse all but maple until well combined and no chunks of coconut oil remain. Pour in the maple syrup and it should come together in a ball. Pat into 9 inch pie crust. Bake at 325 for 18-20 min until golden.

…and that’s it! It holds together beautifully, and I’m loving it.

I’m linking up to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

GFW is co-hosted by Shirley of gluten free easily, Linda of Gluten-free Homemaker,  and Lynn of Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures.

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Thankful for Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoes 2014

There’s something amazingly lovely about digging in the garden–and pulling up big ‘ole sweet potatoes! I didn’t “cheat” and check, so I had no idea they’d grown so well.

So a big thanks to the deer for not pre-nomming the vines, and hopefully a delicious harvest.

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Thankful for Beauty

treeIt’s the most wonderful time of the year. Sing it with me! I’m not a fan of winter or the holidays, but oh, how I love Autumn. I was trying to find the *perfect* tree to photograph, and came to the conclusion that it’s the array of them that makes the magic.

It’s such a pleasure to have a show while I’m driving around.

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Halloween Fun

pumpkins and ghostsIt’s almost Halloween time! I’m totally enchanted with my strawberry friends–dipped in melted white chocolate/cocoa butter (or vegan chips). They’re best served the day they’re dipped.

I also wanted to take the opportunity to share my post on a healthy, happy Halloween from my website. Enjoy!


Think outside the candy dish…c n pumpkin

About 10 years ago, I made the choice to stop giving out Halloween candy. Candy isn’t the only fun kind of treat, and I really didn’t need or want to be staring at a bowl of candy the month prior and the month after Halloween. My husband was definitely not happy with my decision, and I was a little nervous, until my first trick-or-treater ran back to his dad and said, “Cool! A slinky!” One year, a group of girls even told my husband that she looked forward to the “rubber ducky house” every year.  Somehow, I resisted the opportunity to say I told you so.

There are plenty of good options for stickers, toys, rubber duckies, mini games or even temporary tattoos for children you know well. Amazon has a ton of fun toy assortments (glow in the dark fangs, anyone?) Oriental Trading Company has a wide selection. G-free peeps, do remember that Play Doh has gluten. Some are more expensive than candy, but it depends on how you halloween treatslook at it. When you average in the bag of candy you bought on sale in September (and ate), the one in mid-October (trust me, that one will disappear as well) and the one you have to run out at the last minute and buy, it evens out in the end.

One of my clients, Stephanie, got really creative and put together goodie bags of her own (above). She found the DIY approach was cheaper than ones she could buy. I predict they’ll be a hit!

Extra bonus–if you decide to go the non-food-treat option, there’s a new registry so that children with food restrictions can find safe houses to visit. FARE also just announced the “Teal Pumpkin Project”, a new initiative for people with non-food treats to paint a pumpkin teal and put it on the doorstep, so children and parents know that safe options are available.

This isn’t a rant against candy. Like everyone, I have great memories eating excessive quantities of candy on Halloween as a little kid, and I trust there will still be more than enough to go around without my help. There’s nothing wrong with that on occasion. I’m a fan of eating treats when I really, really want them and will enjoy them, not eating treats because they’re sitting right in front of me and then *poof* where’d they go? You can also opt for healthier treOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAats, like mini Larabars and mini Kind Bars, all fruit leathers, mini-packs of pistachio nuts, etc.

Tips for Enjoying Halloween with Food Restrictions

  • Talk to teachers and friends about focusing parties around activities (like pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, costume contest) rather than just trick or treating.
  • Pre-stock your Halloween bag with foods that are ‘legal’ for your child (and/or you) so that you can safely snack along the way. Some treats that are normally gluten-free or allergen free have different ingredients in the special holiday versions, so always double check.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Here’s the 2014 list from CDF.
  • Stash safe bags of candy/treats at friend’s houses for your child.
  • Have a trade in. Your child can trade the “problem” candies and treats for “safe” treats, or games, prizes, special outings, etc. You can either stash the “problem” candy somewhere out of reach, or donate it to the foodbank.
  • Kids with Food Allergies has a great resource for safe Halloween activities, games, tips, etc.  Although it’s not directed at people avoiding gluten, a lot of the strategies are the same.

Fall recipes:

One of the things I love most about autumn is the beauty of the leaves. The food is a close second! Here are some of my favorites:

  • Butternut Squash Bisque: The tastiest way to get vitamin A! A wonderful soup for the fall or winter. Allergen friendly with a dairy free option.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Hot Mulled Apple Drink: a favorite at our annual pumpkin carving party. It’s the perfect drink for a crisp autumn day.
  • Pumpkin Seeds: several variations on this classic snack.
  • Roasted Green Beans: So easy to get green beans this time of year. Yum yum yum!

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Thankful for Support: Thankful Thursday

Sometimes it’s hard to put into words, so I’ll use more elegant words than mine:

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
~Albert Schweitzer

I’m thankful for the ones who know me and love me anyway. ;)


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