Recipe: Dirt Cake

Summer is officially here, as you can tell by the heat, and that means lots of summer gatherings! I often volunteer to bring dessert as I love to bake but in the summer who really wants to heat up the house by baking a batch of cupcakes? Another option is to pick up a couple pails of ice cream but then you have to figure out a way for it to stay cold. So then the search is on for a great recipe that is delicious but won’t melt away or heat the house.

Here is where this recipe comes in. Dirt Cake has been a family favorite for my family for many years and it’s not only easy to make but the kids can get involved as well!

Dirt Cake:

One large package of Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Crème Cookies

½ stick margarine or butter                                                                                                                                                       8 oz. package cream cheese                                                                                                                                                  One cup powdered sugar                                                                                                                                                           3 ½ cups milk                                                                                                                                                                         Two small packages pudding (one chocolate and one vanilla)                                                                                              One 12 oz. carton of Cool Whip                                                                                                                                                 New flower pot and spade or a 9X13 pan

Step One: Crush one large package of Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Crème Cookies

Step Two: Cream together ½ stick margarine or butter, an eight oz. package cream cheese and one cup powdered sugar

Step Three: Mix together 3 ½ cups milk, two small packages pudding (one chocolate and one vanilla) and one 12 oz. carton of Cool Whip. Add to step two and mix well.

Place layers of cookies in new flower pot or 9X13” pan, top with a layer of cream mixture. Repeat this (cookies then cream mixture) until all is gone ending in crushed cookies.

Now comes the fun! If you’ve put this recipe into a flower pot, you can decorate with a flower and a small potting spade. I have even put gummy worms into the layers for some extra fun. If you’ve put it into a 9X13 pan, you may want to use frosting or gels to decorate it like it’s a garden. I’ve actually used this recipe at Halloween as well, making it into a graveyard.

I love this recipe because the whole family can jump in on the fun, the kiddos will love to help crush the cookies, do some mixing and decorate this project.

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The Struggle is Real

I’ve been putting off writing on this topic for a while.  I mean, who wants to talk about depression, being sad and struggling?  No one.  When someone on the street, in the store, in your social group says “How are you?”  they really don’t want to know for the most part.  What would they do if you said “Actually, I’m going through a rough patch, am struggling with depression and don’t know how to pull myself out of it.”  Eyes would get huge and they would probably stumble through a “I’m sorry you’re going through that” and find the nearest exit.  And who can blame them?

At the beginning of the year, there were a lot of changes in my life.  We had major change at work that resulted in a lot of stress at work and with that came a bit of depression.  I started researching the Celiac-Depression connection at that time.  Then quit researching and from time to time have gone back to the research.  For some reason, now is the time to write about it.

Because I promised myself, and my readers, transparency I’m going to write things super honestly in this starting with the fact that I’ve struggled with depression on and off throughout most of my life.  Most people who know me, if you ask them to describe me, will say that I’m an outgoing and happy person.  Which I am most of the time but there are times, sometimes weeks where I struggle to even pretend that things are ok.  In fact, there are few friends, when I’m like that, that can pull me out of my shell where I’m hiding.

In my research I found some interesting things.  The first is that there is a strong connection between Celiac Disease and Depression.  People without Celiac do get depressed but there was a higher incidence with those with the disease.  In fact, a 1998 study showed that there was a 31% higher chance of an adolescent with Celiac having depression, compared to 7% in an adolescent without Celiac. (Carta, Hardoy, Usai, Carpinello, and Angst, 2003).  A survey of 177 women (yes, I know that’s a small pool) with Celiac showed that 37% of them met the diagnosis of depression.  (Arigo, Anskis, and Smyth, 2011).  Now that is a HUGE number!  And yes, women with Celiac are more likely than men with Celiac to be diagnosed with depression.  I am assuming that this is because more women than men have the disease.

So WHY?  Why the connection?  There are a few ideas on why.  Some say that it’s a B vitamin deficiency, that because of the malabsorption of this vitamin, there is a link to depression.  Others say that the malabsorption of tryptophan (which is needed for production of serotonin and helps with moods) is a cause.  Another reason could be that, even though you’ve gone gluten free, you are still getting “glutened” and that is a cause for depression.

I think one of the biggest reasons is the gluten free diet all together.  All of  sudden you can’t eat the things you love, when you go out you are “that person” asking for a gluten free menu and modifications to your meal.  When you go to a friend’s house you have to ask about EVERYTHING on the table or be left out or bring your own food which leads to odd conversations.  Nothing is normal anymore because all social events revolve around food.  The birthday cake in your office is off-limits and you have to explain why even a little piece could hurt you.  All of a sudden you feel like an outcast…and it’s painful sometimes.

So sometimes the easiest thing is to hole yourself up in your house and not go out because you know that you’re safe in your own kitchen.

This has been a long, emotional journey to get me to write this.  I honestly sit here writing and crying and thinking about a couple people I’ve been talking to the last couple weeks who are struggling with the isolation and my heart hurts for them.  My heart breaks all of the people who deal with this because I understand how hard it can be and I hate that we have to live like this but the struggle is real, folks.  And you’re not the only ones going through this.  Just KNOW you are not alone.

If you are struggling with depression, get help.  Find someone to talk to, have friends who can sense that something is going on and that you need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on.  Have people in your life that you know you can go to.  If it’s advanced, PLEASE seek medical help.  While the world is a tough one, there is SO much good in it.  Let’s find the good…

My hope and prayer in writing these blogs is to help people.  To see the good in the world despite the fact that we have to eat differently.  To become stronger despite the fact that we are different.  Together we can make a difference it the world, I believe it.

By the way, there is a lot more research out there on the Celiac-Depression connection.  I’d be happy to share it with you if you are wanting to know more.

Fight or Flight

You’ve probably heard of fight or flight.  It’s the response that a person has when confronted by something dangerous.  You are approached by a robber and your instinct is to take the bad guy on or to run from it.  I believe that it happens in any instance when we feel threatened, not just those immediate danger instances.

Here’s why I say that.  I’m sometimes a “flight” person.  Things get tough, I have a bad week, or I encounter something I don’t like and I just want to go away.  Run away.  A couple months ago I was looking into Austin, TX.  I thought maybe a new start would be good.  Or I want to just ignore the problem or hide it.

Now, it’s not all flight.  Until living in Grand Junction, I hadn’t lived anywhere more that six and a half years so I feel like I have some gypsy tendencies.  So it’s not all flight.  I honestly do like it here and have no idea where I’d go if I left.  

Back to fight or flight…for example, I got my belly button pierced when I was in college.  It was kinda a disaster. I had taken an ibuprofen beforehand (I wanted to manage any pain) plus they nicked a capillary so I bled for a while.  My solution?  I didn’t want it anymore. I wanted to removed it.  A type of “flight” in my eyes.  

Don’t get the wrong.  There are times where I hit issues head on and you don’t want to mess with me.  I’m not a pushover. 

The last couple days I’ve been in flight mode.  Or maybe my gypsy wanderings are kicking in.  Either way, visiting somewhere new has been appealing.  Maybe it will be a new home…or maybe just a needed getaway. 

Staying on the Positive Side

Let’s be honest, sometimes life gets us down.  This is a story of getting down and then getting over it.

I have a pretty positive outlook on having Celiac Disease, having to eat gluten free and not getting to eat things like egg rolls and Chinese food in Chinese restaurants.  About once a year I get PF Chang’s and satisfy my Chinese craving for a bit.  It’s not as much as I used to eat it but it helps.  Eating gluten free isn’t really that bad either.  It could be worse, I could be allergic to dairy, avocados, and almonds.  Things that I eat EVERY day.  But it’s just gluten, right?

Well, last Monday was my “feeling sorry for myself” day.  I had been at JUCO (the Junior College World Series) which happens every May in Grand Junction.  It’s basically a week of sunshine, baseball and more sunshine.  I spend as much time attending games and chillin’.  Memorial Day I got to the stadium at 11 and stayed there all day.  I had brought my usual snacks to tide me over and had plans to jet at 6 to grab a bite to eat before the 7:30pm game.  Plans changed and I ended up taking photos of the team the Grand Junction Lions Club hosted (every year we host one of the teams) and not going to eat.

Mind you, this was my fault…I will admit that.

I had, earlier in the day, started wishing that I could go to the concession stand, pick whatever I wanted and just EAT.  Not have play 20 questions with the gal behind the counter and then hope that she was right.  It’s like playing Russian Roulette, really.  I was tired of being different, of not being able to grab food and go, to have to leave the stadium to get something to eat and then come back, try to find a parking spot and…it was too much.  I’m guessing the sun and heat had something to do with this breakdown as well.

But I had a pity party.  I almost started crying and had to compose myself several times.  Sometimes being gluten free really sucks.  In fact, I found this and posted it to Facebook:

Don't you ever just want to be normal?

Don’t you ever just want to be normal?

I had friends comment on the picture from “Be strong!” to “I have those days” to “I wouldn’t eat normal for the world, I know how it hurts me”.  The support was so good.

I ended up getting fries.  They told me that they were gluten free.  I hope they were right…

So, I had my moment, ate my fries, watched the game, went home, went to bed and the next day I was fine.  My outlook was better.  Sometimes you just have to have a moment and move on.  The sun always comes up tomorrow, I’ve been told…and that is a true statement.

The moral of the story is twofold:

1.  Have a pity party, get mad or sad or whatever and then MOVE ON.  It’s life and the way it is whether it’s Celiac or a dairy allergy or something else.  It could always be worse.

2.  Stay positive.  Negative energy only brings you and everyone else around you down.  The more negativity, the less people will want to be around you and, when you really need support, it won’t be there.

Gluten free isn’t always the most glamorous or the most fun but it’s the most healthy for me.  It could be gluten free or death and I choose gluten free.

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