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Holidays Still Happen…

Pretty much everywhere I went today, I heard the same refrain, “Enjoy the long weekend”, “Have a great holiday”, or some other line expressing the same sentiment.  Yes, tomorrow is a holiday (at least here in the great U.S. of A) and that means fireworks, days away from the office, and of course: cookouts. For some reason, holidays in our society have becoming increasingly focused on two things: food and commercialism. I guess one could argue that these are 2 sides of the same coin. Regardless, there’s nothing easy about your first holiday on a restricted diet.
Before I continue, there is something you should know about me: I LOVE traditions. So much so that it became a family joke growing up. I’m a person who likes familiarity and routines. To me, each holiday had specific actions, rituals, smells, sounds, sights, and yes foods. Without these, it just wouldn’t be the same. Well, imagine my surprise when Christmas rolled around and I learned candy canes were no longer an option, when Valentine’s Day came and 90% of my “To Miss Burke, Love Your #1 Student” treats (apparently I had 20 #1 students that year) ended up in my friends’ kitchens, and of course that dark day when October arrived and I learned that my relationship with candy corn was over. Honestly, I can handle a lot but that was just too much. You’re talking to the girl who used to stock up the day after Halloween. I’ve been known to have bags left in March. I wish I were kidding…
Now I have yet to confront my first Easter without chocolate (well I guess technically I did this year but I don’t think it counts since I was sitting in Urgent Care with hives)…so prayers will certainly be appreciated come next April 🙂 The point is holidays will be hard for the first year because there will inevitably be something else that you can’t have anymore which never crossed your mind. The good news: this is the perfect opportunity to start new traditions…and to focus on other aspects of holidays that you may have overlooked before!
1)   Try to find safe versions of old favorites: A few years ago, my sister started a new tradition of making homemade macaroni and cheese as a side for Thanksgiving dinner. She just switched the noodles to gluten-free ones. Easy fix. I used to make chocolate chip cookies for just about every holiday. Now I just make egg-free, dairy-free, almond flour chocolate chip cookies. Not too different. If you haven’t become friends with pinterest yet, you need to. As soon as you finish reading this…I’m serious.
2)   Food Fades Away…Family Doesn’t: Whether the major grocery  stores and Butterball want you to believe it, holidays really were not always about the food. Well, maybe Thanksgiving…that whole learning togrow corn thing was pretty important. We’ve all seen enough Hallmark
holiday tv specials to know the real value of a holiday is found in the
people with whom you share it. My first gluten-free Christmas still stands
out in my mind as one of my favorites. While I normally would spend much of the afternoon laughing and talking as I helped arrange biscuits on baking sheets or refilled plates of mozzarella sticks, I instead found myself sitting for hours next to my grandfather. Instead of running back and forth between the kitchen and the living room, I just stayed: listening to story after story of Christmases past and watching as my grandfather took in the sites of Christmas present. I noticed things I never would have in my normal holiday haste: the pride on his face as he watched his wife and daughters finish dinner preparations, the joy in his voice as he spoke about his grandchildren, and the twinkle in his tear-filled eyes as he watched his great-grandchildren rip open their presents. It was the first time I understood in a very real, non-tacky/Hallmark sense that the beauty of a holiday really is in moments like those. The trays of delicious treats will be a distant memory in no time…but conversations and time spent next to my grandfather will stay with me for years to come…until I’m sitting with my own grandchildren telling them the same stories about a man they’ll never be lucky enough to know. It was the first time I really saw my new lifestyle as a gift. It may not have happened for you yet…but I promise you it will.
Christmas 2011- One of my favorites 🙂
3)   Focus on the Fun: Besides family, holidays are also all about fun! Granted, a lot of times this fun seems to be intertwined with food…but there’s no reason it has to be. Or that it has to be tied to a food you can no longer consume. The running bug bit me about 5 years ago. Living with 2 Varsity track stars during my senior year at Villanova was enough to get me going. (Frances and Jill, I bet you didn’t realize your passion would be so infectious…but look what you started!) Before I knew it, I was signing up for 5Ks, 10Ks, relay marathons, and even a half-marathon. And each year, there was a tradition I was excited about: the Pumpkin Pie 5K. (I know, most places have turkey trots but what can I say, we’re unique in the Pocono/Lehigh Valley area). Now for a variety of reasons (mostly travel-related) it proved impossible for me to make it to Bethlehem, PA in time for the Pumpkin Pie 5K. And with my newfound gluten issues, pumpkin pie waiting for me at the end of a 5K was no longer an incentive, but a recipe for disaster.
So I decided to do what anyone would: start my own 5K. And convince my family to join me. The beauty is we couldn’t run until all family members had arrived…which is usually about 1 PM. So suddenly not being able to snack on the trays and trays of food all morning didn’t seem like a burden…instead it was part of my strategy. Maybe some people can chow down before a 5K but I am certainly not one of them.  Now of course every good 5K needs a theme…and some kind of reward at the end. So I settled on a treat that we had always enjoyed as a family on Thanksgiving, but one which had taken on new meaning for me in my suddenly limited state: apple cider. Hence the Burke Family Cider Dash was born. It was a resounding success (at least I think so) and it made Thanksgiving more about family, fun, and fitness…rather than just food.
Just look at those smiles!
The family that runs together, stays together…or something like that 🙂

So as you face your first (insert food here)-free holiday tomorrow, take my advice. Bring your own safe snack. Make it patriotic (blueberries, strawberries, banana skewers anyone??). Be careful with the food aspect of the holiday…but most importantly savor the moments. Take in the beauty of the fireworks, share a laugh with the grillmaster, have a fireside conversation with a friend while roasting marshmallows (whether you consume them or give them away), etc. Whatever you do, remember that each holiday is a gift…don’t waste it by dwelling on the aspects you can no longer enjoy.

Happy 4th of July!!

In case strawberry,blueberry, banana skewers aren’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, try bringing these to the BBQ:
Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies:
·      2 cups almond flour (or I used almond meal…either one)
·      ¼ cup coconut oil
·      ½ tsp baking soda
·      ¼ tsp salt
·      1 tbsp maple syrup (100% pure if you can)
·      1 tsp vanilla
·      as many chocolate chips as you want (for me that’s a lot!)
o   I used EnjoyLife dairy/soy/gluten free chips…you may need to venture to WholeFoods or a local organic market to find them
Bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Pure delciousness. Just make sure to warn anyone that has a nut allergy since it’s ALMOND flour 🙂

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