Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Catholic Confessional ~

I meant to post this a while back with my Cultural Abundance entry...given the fact that it's from Basque TV in Spain - it's so humerous, even if you don't speak Espanol orrrr you are Catholic!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blue and Green and So Many Beautiful Things...

As I traveled all around my stompin' grounds, a.k.a the San Francisco Bay Area, this past weekend, I was stopped in my tracks several times, realizing that the primary colors of blue and green were painting themselves in front of me everywhere I went...funny, yet so amazing. In addition to the crystal clear, (and windy) beautiful blue sky, the Eucalyptus trees all around the Legion of Honor Museum perched high above the Golden Gate Bridge, seemed exceptionally green this weekend, as did the lush and dense trees and ferns surrounding the Lafayette Reservoir, along with the multi-shaded greenness that has taken over my alma mater, Saint Mary's College of California. Everything was screaming out to me, "look at us, we're so lush and green"...and when you could stand back and pair-up the gorgeous blue sky with these green beauties, it was simply amazing to be privileged enough to have such a view.

So if those weren't feast enough for the eyes, my friend Laura and I visited the Legion of Honor to view the current Annie Leibovitz exhibit (highly recommend, by the way), and as we walked into the main gallery we were stunned to see this amazing Chihuly glass sculpture in front of us...and just try to guess what the primary colors themed throughout his glass vision were??? You got it, vibrant blues and greens just calling me towards them, oh..and Laura too! We both took turns snapping our version of "artsy" photos of the piece, just trying to capture its complexity and swirls with my tiny Pentax digital camera lens. So, how did we do?

Another thing of beauty that I found at the Legion of Honor was that their museum cafe is safe for Celiacs to sit down and enjoy a delightful lunch, while looking down over the cliffs at the crashing waves splashing about under the Golden Gate bride - WARNING - you just might forget to eat due to the trance this view can put you in! So my friend and I both ordered the delicious Waldorf chicken salad and it was great...so great that I will now attempt to recreate the recipe right here and now for you to try at home...yes, it's safe to try this at home.

Here goes.

Waldorf Chicken Salad

4 Long pieces of Romaine lettuce

1 Cup of boiled chicken cubes

2 Tbsp. Best Foods Mayo

1 Tsp. Thyme

1 Tsp. Cinnamon

1/4 Cup of golden raisins

1/4 Cup of chopped walnuts

1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar

Simply mix together the mayo and chicken cubes, then mix in the Thyme and Cinnamon. Fold in the raisins and sprinkle in the walnuts. Neatly place the four long leaves of Romaine evenly around a dinner plate and scoop the chicken into the center of the plate. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar onto the plate as desired.

Sadly...I was so distracted by my appealing salad that believe or not, I forgot to take a picture of it for this recipe! Please just use your imagination and taste buds!

In sticking with my all-things-blue-and-green theme, including my salad, I would be remiss if I didn't share some photos that I snapped while wandering around my old stomping grounds of Saint Mary's College and taking in the view of the lush, rolling green hills with our stunningly white chapel juxtaposed against the vibrancy of the perfectly blue sky.

It was during my senior year of college here at SMC, when I first began experiencing or suffering from the severe side effects of gluten intolerance, though I certainly did not have an inkling as to what was really going on inside my small intestine or what lie ahead. I had traveled to Central America for a month to study the Mayan culture and partake in an archaeological dig in Belize and Guatemala. Upon my return, I began experiencing abdominal bloating and several other lovely symptoms that I'll spare you from the details of, knowing that you might be eating your Waldorf salad right now! My doctors were convinced for almost a year that I had picked up a bug or parasite during my travels, followed by the idea that I had Giardia from swimming in Lake Tahoe...the list goes on and on. Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS), surely it must be an eating disorder, wait...maybe it's Colitis?? Holy moly...you get the drift.

Thankfully my little villi were able to hang on (somehow) and still absorb what little nutrients they were taking in (given my frozen yogurt diet), long enough for me to have enjoyed my college experience, compete on the women's tennis team and dear God thank you...have been able to drink as many Zima's(ahh remember those...think 7-Up mixed with citrus and some sort of hops)at my graduation party as I liked! My dear pal Laurie can attest to this fact.

Small blessings.

So as I meandered around good old SMC the other day just taking in all the familiarity, while experiencing a multitude of flashbacks from my college days (not induced by Zima, I promise), and I got a chuckle out of the idea that I survived college without ever even hearing the word "Celiac" or having a clue what I would face in the almost-decade of serious illness that ensued. So as I took in all the beauty on my little walk, I said a prayer of thanks for my time spent in this spiritual institution and for the blessings and abundance that being a Celiac has brought to my life, and hopefully to many, many others, as well.

Don't forget to find your own palate of colors and enjoy the beauty all around you today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cookie Support ~

Just look at these little beauties...ah yes, almond raisin gluten-free cookies ~ Hallelujah!! I slaved away for hours baking these. OK no I didn't...I bought them at Whole Foods in the gluten-free bakery section that seems to be growing by the week, which is great news except for the fact that these little goodies are pretty pricey$. So my next weekend with some free time will be spent testing out my own almond raisin cookie recipe and baking away! Do check out your local Whole Foods, however. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the variety of baked goodies available to enjoy; pumpkin bread, peanut butter cookies, banana nut bread, chocolate chip cookies and let's not leave out the torta al cioccolato - chocolate torte, my friends.

I thought for this entry, it might be fun to throw in a couple of photos of some recent GF meals that I have created - very simple, safe, low in fat and delicious.

Everybody loves pancakes, right?

I do.

So last Sunday I woke up and thought, "mmmm, I want to make some delicious pancakes," so I did. I admit that I did not mix my own GF flour but instead used my favorite baking and pancake mix by Pamela's - Use it to make waffles, cakes, pie crusts, scones and of course, pancakes! So here's my secret to making these lovelies so healthy and tasty:

I sprinkled each pancake with some cinnamon and a touch of butter, then I plopped a large dollop of Brown Cow non-fat vanilla yogurt (my absolute favorite!) on top, along with two tablespoons of fresh, organic blackberry jam and finished off with some organic raspberries ~ simply fresh and just the perfect amount of sweetness.

Are you hungry yet?

Here's one last morsel for you - I threw together a one-dish meal that was quick and quite tasty and nutritious.

I usually use GF pasta from either Italy (products that I've bought and brought back to the States with me) or another favorite is Tinkyada rice pasta. I just love the texture and way the pasta holds together...truthfully, it's better pasta than wheat pasta, which I DO remember the taste of.

The recipe is simple:
1 cup of rice pasta
2 shallots
6 asparagus spears
4 oz. piece of wild salmon
1 tbsp. Spanish olive oil
2 tbsp. grated formaggio parmigiano cheese

Sauté the thinly sliced shallots in olive oil until they start to caramelize, then add the washed and chopped (into 1/2 inch pieces) asparagus and continue sautéing until al dente. At the same time, slowly grill in a separate pan, the piece of salmon, while boiling the pasta to your liking. When finished cooking, toss the pasta with a bit of olive oil, then add the vegetables and finally toss in the salmon by cutting into bite-sized pieces. I like to then sprinkle with cheese and salt and pepper to taste...Viola! Buon Appetito!

Every time I post a blog entry and reflect on what brings me to this moment, I am always humbled when I stop to acknowledge and honor the tremendous amount of support, compassion and love that has surrounded me on my journey as a Celiac. It's really astounding that so many loved ones in my life have taken such an interest in, well...feeding me.

It sounds funny, but it's really true.

I cannot count the number of times over the past eight years when my friends and family members (once they understand the concept of gluten-free eating) have shown up at my house or work, via phone or email with delicious products for me to try or with tips on a new restaurant they heard about that's safe, et cetera. Isn't that great! I have a co-worker in Reno who has been my macaroon support system - seriously. She's always on the lookout knowing how much I love those French little tasty treats and another dear friend who's always checking out restaurant menus on my behalf. Good times.

Without the amazing Internet network of support that's out there for all of us too, I would not be nearly as educated about all-things-Celiac, as I am today. It truly does "take a village" to learn how to live with abundance, while living gluten-free...but I will honestly say that I'm so thankful for the gift of this diagnosis. It has changed my life forever in ways that most will never know, and caused me to never give up on the search for more information, more knowledge and to dig deep in my soul and find the energy and strength to always take the time to help others with Celiac, or anyone. I can truthfully say that this life is my other full-time job, the job that is filled with abundance and rewards that are far-reaching and far greater than any paycheck.

Just the other day, I was contacted by a young woman who saw my new "author" page and blog that is now posted on Celiac.com - I was so excited when they accepted me as one of their new writers and contributors. Happiness. Anyway, she was just recently diagnosed with Celiac and is in that state of shock or that place of being totally overwhelmed...the place each one of us who has been diagnosed with Celiac has stood in, wondering how we would manage to get to the next sunrise, but we all do...day by day, helping hand-by-helping hand...the journey.

I was so honored that this woman is entrusting little ole me during such a crucial and confusing time in her life. All I can say is...Yes. Of course I will help. Just as SO many others have stepped up and guided and supported me to this very day on my journey, I will do the same for my new friend.

It's called the Celiac Circle of abundance...

Well, that's what I call it.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cultural Abundance ~

Last April I entered an essay contest that the North American Basque Organization (NABO) held. I was hesitant at first to even delve into attempting to answer their questions, not feeling quite educated enough or cultured enough to answer accurately, in spite of being Basque. The process was actually quite cathartic and miraculously, I won the essay contest!

Pretty funny, no?

I thought this was a good forum to share my essay and share more about our most amazing and unique culture. It's a little lengthy, but hopefully worth the read!

Gero Arte ~

NABO Submission ~
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” – Proverbs 29:18

1. What does it mean to be Basque, yesterday, today and tomorrow?

In order to wrap my head and my heart around this question, I feel it necessary to approach the answer from two different angles or vantage points; the first being an emotional or spiritual-type response and the second referencing the actual history and factual foundation which this great culture and nationality were built upon.
For me, being “Basque” is something ingrained in my DNA and in my being. Since the first day I entered this world, having both parents of Basque decent, I quickly learned that this great and unique culture set me apart from others simply by the fact that I always knew where my family roots resided and from where we came. Wearing a beret, sneaking sips of red wine at the table, helping my Aitatxi shear sheep, sitting on both of my grandfathers’ laps and intricately learning the shape of these strange yet familiar profiles that mirrored only the faces of strong Basque men – these are memories of my yesterdays which linger into my todays and most definitely into my tomorrows.

I believe that the answer to this question is a very complicated and personal one, with nor right or wrong answer…only the very individual and soulful connection to one’s heritage can adequately begin to explain the feelings a Basque person has inside for his or her culture. Being Basque to me means knowing who I am, knowing my soul and what inspires me to live and to delve deeper into many aspects of life, but most importantly, believing strongly in the preservation and growth of this great culture we share with so few, yet so many.

Being a Basque woman is the essence of who I am, of who I will become in this life and beyond, I believe. The way that I see the world and shape my future is absolutely influenced by knowing that I come from a culture that is rich, abundant and unique in its heritage; one that values God, tradition, family, the earth, and can be traced back to the beginning of European civilization. Knowing these facts and standing on the soil of Euskadi is all that I need to know about where my soul truly resides and there I can feel the connection to my past ancestors and these connections are God-given and can never be denied.

Being Basque means sharing a deep love of family and for God and preserving these traditions established as devout Catholics. It means remembering the hardships that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents endured for us as they bravely set sail to a strange new land, far from the comfort and warmth of their own families, their basetxe, villages, farms and towns. It means never forgetting the values which they have instilled in us and the work ethic, sense of pride and determination to overcome obstacles which cross our paths. It means respecting the differences in generations within one family and the ways that each view the world, depending upon their order of birth. It means preserving our language through continued education and instilling the value of its roots in our children and grandchildren, while focusing on the future and what lies ahead for the future generations. It means sacrificing and taking the time to study and learn the importance of this culture through the great abundance of resources available to us due to painstaking research, well-preserved documentation of our forefathers and great literary contributions to the Basque culture.

Pointing the “Basque boat,” so to speak, in the same or similar direction might seem quite impossible or daunting when we take into consideration how spread apart on the globe we all are, yet there seems to reside within our worldly community a great inner-strength or magnetism, which pulls us back to center around what is important and crucial for the survival and proliferation of our culture. With this said, I do not profess to understand all of the politics nor inner workings of the Basque government; however, globally speaking I believe that most Basques know no other way than to persevere and persevere without a governments’ guidelines for rowing in the same direction, but with that said, we do face a considerable challenge to maintain and grow the culture, especially in the United States.

Growing up and becoming a young adult who is passionate about the future of our people, language and ethnicity, I take the time to educate myself and constantly learn more and more about who we are as a culture and how/why we have survived as a unit for so long, and will continue to do so. It’s quite beautiful to attend annual Basque festivals throughout the west and to see the continued growth of education for our youth, the Ikastolas and the rich Basque Studies/educational programs offered through the University of Nevada, Reno and in Boise, Idaho and the collaboration with the Basque Country to facilitate such amazing programs that not only educate our Basque children but non-Basques alike. Education is a key component for our “tomorrow” and without acknowledging this fact and continuing to develop new and on-going programs, as well as archiving the past relics of our history, we would be facing great difficulties in the next generations.

In addition, I have been privy through my profession in public relations to be aware of and assist on some levels, with the nationwide and global effort to promote our culture through a variety of mediums with the hope of driving an influx of tourism to Euskadi, and this is apparent through the great amount of press received in the past five years. In my opinion these efforts to learn and see the Basque County for what it is, prospering, resource rich and ever increasingly more progressive, are all very positive spins on our home land and culture, and continues to peak the interest of travelers worldwide whose interests have been peaked by this greater level of awareness and information about the Basque people.

Through government-based tourism programs, education programs in the United States, and the proliferation of Basque “celebrities,” such as Gerald Hirigoyen, restaurateur/chef/entrepreneur, based in San Francisco the culture is thriving to new levels of exposure and recognition, only further spurring on great interest in who we are and preserving from where we come. Speaking to this is the recognition that award-winning author, Mark Kurlansky has received and brings to our culture through his great writing and passion about the Basque country and the notoriety he’s received through his numerous books. I believe that young, Basque entrepreneurs, musicians like Kepa Junkura, Ken Zazpi and other artists hold the key to further educating our youth about the “tomorrow” of the culture by taking it to the next level of “cool,” while stretching more traditional views of what being a Basque really means. Music has always been of such great importance to Basques and therefore, programs created to teach our youth the cherished songs of old and of new, is a vital way in my opinion to continue “rowing the boat” towards the future while preserving such monumental and important parts of our history and culture. The key however, is to continue rowing in a similar direction by working together locally, regionally, nationally, and globally as one group sharing the same vision and purpose. These crucial components that make us who we are as Basques have been the glue holding us together for so very long and I believe will continue to do so.

2. Why Be a Basque? Why Bother/ Is there something of Intrinsic Value?

In my humble opinion…you cannot, NOT be a Basque if you are born as one. It is who I am, who my family members are and what makes us tick. That’s like asking, “Why be human?” If you are blessed enough to arrive into this world with Basque bloodlines then from there the journey begins, learning from a very early age how to drink from a Bota bag and what it means to learn the Jota, whether you want to or not! (Ha) Not only are we set apart by our unique physical characteristics but by a deep-set knowledge that we come from a culture with strong ties to Europe/Euskadi, where many of our family and friends still reside. I believe there is a major gravitational pull between Basques in the United States that keep us together and continually, subconsciously reminds us why we are Basque and choose to perpetuate this great heritage.

I do know that being Basque and “bothering” to be does take some effort and gumption, because we are still a small enough group that we need to seek out one another and educate ourselves, especially those of us who are non-Euskera speakers. With that said, I have learned from my grandparents and especially from my mother (Laca side) that the gift of “bothering” to be Basque envelopes your soul and life like a warm blanket and infiltrates every ounce of your being – I thank God for this gift and I’m so proud to know where I come from. The energy and effort that it takes to travel to festivals, join Basque clubs, communicate with family in Euskadi, and travel there are all sacrifices in some regard, but really they define who we are as people and the determination that we share, and that IS the essence of a Basque man or woman.

As Basques, we share defined characteristics like no other culture I have known and I still see those intrinsic values holding true within myself, my family members old and young, and all of my Basque friends on both sides of the pond. So if having to “bother” with being Basque is a burden or hardship, then I’m there for the long haul and will never forget to teach my children and their children the inherent nature of what all of this means and to never forget from where we have come.
There is no price you can put on the intrinsic value of being a Basque. I believe that the richness of community, core family values, noted characteristics of determination, pride, dedication, loyalty and oh yes, stubbornness…trace the outline of who we are as a whole people, yet individually we take these values and grow into unique and irreplaceable parts of a greater good. Though we have much work to do as a group to ensure our history and legacy remain intact, we persevere – it’s innate to who we are as a culture and therefore I have no doubt that 50 years from now, another young Basque will be submitting a similar-type essay to NABO, reflecting back on his or her life and how being Basque makes them who they are. I also have no doubt that their values and concerns will reflect in some manor the same vision we are following now…”rowing” in the same direction.

**(Thank you for this great opportunity to express myself in this way and for taking the time to listen) Eskerrik asko.
Aimée Laca Eiguren

P.S...Just to tie this together...did you know that 1-2 persons of every 100 Europeans have Celiac Disease and highest frequencies are observed in parts of Spain, Italy and Ireland? And did you know that 1 in every 133 people in the United States have Celiac Disease?
Here's and interesting bit of Celiac information for review.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

These are a Few of My Favorite Things...

Luckily for you, it's not possible for my vocal rendition of this Julie Andrews classic to be heard through cyber space...but I guarantee that you are now humming the song on your own at this moment...when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling saaaaadddddd...Sorry, but it doesn't take much to suddenly be transformed to the hills of Austria, now does it? This song got me thinking about all the little wonders of the world that have become a few of MY favorite things, and as a Celiac who spends many hours of my life researching everything under the sun that I can and cannot consume or use (as a product), I decided to be ever-so-kind and share some of these simple treasures with you, my oh-so-dedicated readers! Haaa The handful that I have...you know who you are!

One favorite thing of mine...this lovely tree in my backyard. There's a long story behind this sweet Pluot fruit tree (which has yet to produce any fruit, mind you!) that's heart-felt, but I'm keeping it to myself for now. When I walked out to my backyard yesterday I was stopped in my tracks by these beautiful new blooms that had suddenly appeared...transformed from tiny green buds to these little, white, delicate beauties with the tiniest yellow pods inside. So I suppose that spring is here even though the foothills of northern Nevada are still receiving a light dusting of the white stuff over these past few days.

Knowing for some time that I wanted to write this specific Blog entry, I compiled a list of all kinds of goodies that have enhanced my gluten-free lifestyle and are hopefully preserving my youthfulness in some way, shape or form! Geez...they ought to! A fact that most non-Celiacs do not realize is that WE pay a premium for the "special" products that we enjoy because of their non-gluten containing ingredients...but that's okay - we are all worth it, right?!

So every lotion-loving person is going to thoroughly enjoy these body products made by Gluten-Free Savonnerie™...I found this company a few years ago and have been hooked on their lotions, foaming soaps and body oils and let me tell you, any product that helps produce more moisture for my skin while living in this desert climate, is a huge bonus in my book. Plus, it's great to support a small mom-n-pop business, such as this one. Give them a try and I'm sure you'll be hooked too.

In my never-ending quest to find products that continuously give moisture back to the skin...as my best pal in Australia would say, I have also become a giant fan of anything...well, almost anything from Kiehl's of New York. I only say "almost anything" due to the fact that some of their lovely products do contain certain gluten-type ingredients such as wheat-germ, oat kernal flour and triticum vulgare. For some Celiacs simply using products with any gluten can cause the skin to break out in a rash - I happen to be one of those lucky people, so I'm very careful with the body-lotions that I will put on my skin - it's just not worth it otherwise.

Tapping into my love of Italy and all things Italian, I found a most-excellent and fairly unheard of line of cosmetics, Erbe Dermocosmetica, that are molto bene and all made of the purest and most organic blends and ingredients that are safe for Celiacs. ERBE products are completely free of: mineral oils, animal substances, synthetic fragrances, wax, colorants or dyes. Nothing is tested on animals, either. The only catch is that this stuff is pretty tough to find...you can order it through PURE in either Sun Valley, ID or Jackson Hole, WY or visit the website and flagship store in New York City.

Buona Fortuna!

And along similar lines, my last tip on a wonderful and well-researched product would be a line called SUNDÃRI. Founded by a former high school classmate of mine, otherwise known as Christy Turlington, (yeah, the Supermodel, folks) she and two other gals dedicated to the practice of Yoga, the Ayurvedic principles and way of life, created an amazing line of products that are not only restorative and plentiful, but full of all kinds of amazing ingredients indigenous to India. I LOVE this stuff and have used it for over three years now.

Switching gears back to food and this side of the globe, I was introduced by my lovely Aunt to a wonderful bean company named Rancho Gordo...that's right, fresh old-fashioned Heirloom beans grown in the gorgeous Napa Valley, or just over the hill, as I like to say. These beans are amazing and so pretty...seriously. I first learned of them while visiting my Aunt in Seattle last month and then had to pick some up for myself at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. After diving my hand into the giant bowl of beans that Rancho Gordo had displayed on their market table for all the curious, wanna-be bean cookers, I was convinced that these were the coolest and prettiest beans I had ever seen...who wants to cook and eat these, but rather they should be displayed in a vase,, on a table with just the right light shining down upon them to display the sheen and color of each little bean...okay, I am sounding a little crazy now, but check out their web site and see for yourself. Better yet, visit their booth at the SF market and play with the beans too!

I picked up a couple packages of the beautiful Flageolet white beans, perfect for a beige, winter-type soup that my Aunt so graciously taught me how to make, along with buying some of the Cranberry Cargamanio. I can't wait to create a light,spring soup that will hopefully do these little beauties justice. Check back later and I'll post a recipe for both of these beans. Here's a look at my first pot of Flageolet soup ~

So the next time that the dog bites or the bee stings or you're feeling sad, simply remember some of my favorite things, and then you won't feel so bad!

Gluten-free abundance to you and yours~