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Wordless Wednesday: bread isn’t evil! May 20, 2015

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Wordless Wednesday: My brain is fried…erm…baked. March 4, 2015

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Time equals food February 17, 2015

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One of the most frustrating aspects of having Celiac disease is the amount of time it takes away from…everything.  It shouldn’t be that bad…I just have to stay away from gluten.  However, it seems that I’m basically stuck making everything from scratch now.

It’s amazing how many things contain gluten.  I can’t even buy many types of frozen vegetable mixes (!) without running into gluten.  (They use it to thicken the sauces.)  It’s a bit nerve-wracking buying anything that doesn’t have a ‘certified gluten-free’ symbol on it, and even then you have to be careful.  (It turns out that there are limits to the test, and I’ve found I react to anything that has gluten-ingredients, even if it is certified gluten free.  Apparently it’s just too hard to get rid of all of those nasty epitopes in things like vinegar.)

Of course, there are boxed alternatives to most foods that are gluten-free, but you’re paying 2 to 3 times the price for those items.  When we switched over to a gluten-free diet, our eating out expenses pretty much dried up, but the grocery bill jumped enough to make up for it and then some…and I don’t even buy that much processed food.

There is the option of taking a tax deduction at the end of the year to feed into your medical deduction. In order to do this, you have to keep every receipt, denote the items that are gluten-free, find a comparable item that contains wheat, determine the difference, and keep track of the differences.  The problem is that if you don’t hit the minimum on your medical deduction, you can’t use all this anyway.  We seriously considered doing this until we realized that we probably would not exceed the necessary amount to do anything but the standard deduction, and it would take a LOT of time and research to begin with.  Therefore, it seemed like a big waste of time.

Now I’m down to trying to make most things from scratch to keep expenses down, but this is certainly not helping with the time issue.  One example is (decent) bread.  If you buy gluten-free bread, it generally tastes unpleasant, though some brands are more tolerable than others, and you’re easily paying twice the amount of money for a loaf that is a 1/3 to 1/4 the size of your average wheat loaf.  At least.  I used to buy the fancy artisan bread from the local baker and it was probably the same amount as the gluten-free stuff, but it had a LOT more bread.  If you’re used to the grocery store stuff, it’s even more dramatic.  And the choices are pretty limited, too.  If I want a loaf of sourdough, I have to make it myself because there just simply isn’t any premade available.  (And seriously…who doesn’t love fresh sourdough bread?!)  This is not a quick and easy process.

This whole issue wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t enjoy food so much.  As much as not needing to eat would be convenient, I don’t think it’s in the cards.

The luxury of a home-cooked meal November 30, 2014

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The best dressing you’ll ever eat.

 

The other day, I had a discussion with someone who was complaining about something related to fast food. I jokingly said that one way to avoid the problem was to, “You know, buy food at the store and cook it at home.”

That’s a luxury I can’t afford. I don’t have enough time to do that.

I have to admit this comment really got under my skin a lot more than I expected. The primary issue I have with this is that the real luxury is having the income that allows one to purchase precooked meals on a consistent basis. Claiming that cooking food at home is a luxury makes it sound like it’s something I get around to as a way to relax after having bon-bons and a massage on the couch while watching reruns of Quantum Leap.

The other reason it got to me is because I have no choice. Since being diagnosed with celiac disease, I have discovered there are only about three restaurants in the city where I feel comfortable eating. I cannot eat over at friends’ houses because most of them don’t understand the dangers of cross-contamination. Even a crumb of gluteny food leaves me in pretty bad shape for nearly a week. I imagine a lot of people think this is hyperbole; I wish it was.

I have no choice but to cook almost everything I eat. I cannot buy prepackaged foods. If I am lucky enough to find ones I don’t react to, they are priced to cost nearly twice as much as an equivalent food containing wheat. I can’t afford that. In fact, most people I know can’t.

This comment left me feeling like somehow my time is less valuable than this person who said it. Cooking is most definitely work, and it’s time-consuming work, as well. It’s bad enough that domestic work has been ignored in economic terms forever, but now we’re trying to rebrand it as a luxury?

Cooking up a storm August 31, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, food/cooking, older son, younger son.
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I have to admit that I think we’ve finally got the hang of this whole cleaning/cooking thing.  A while back, I mentioned that we’d gotten a housekeeper.  That lasted for almost a year, but then we decided that it wasn’t working as the housekeeper couldn’t keep up.  I suspect it’s because of the overload of fuzzy creatures.

We changed tactics: basically, we just pick a time every weekend to spend a couple hours cleaning (although it doesn’t work so well when we’re gone for multiple weekends in a row) and we all spend an hour or two working through the list.  Each item on the list is worth a certain amount, depending on the effort involved, so this is what the kids get for an allowance.  I think we spend 1-2 hours every week cleaning, and while the house is more cluttered than I like, it’s actually staying reasonably clean.  Also, I no longer have to spend tons of time instructing the kids on how to clean the toilet AGAIN since it has only been a week or two since it was last cleaned.  (Our biggest problem comes in the fact that every one likes to put the cleaning supplies in different places…)

In the past year, though, I found that I am sensitive to even tiny amounts of contamination in a lot of gluten-free foods, and this resulted in a shopping list that involved almost no processed foods.  The amount of time I spent cooking increased drastically, so I recently decided to try this same approach with cooking: the kids now spend about an hour in the kitchen getting dinner ready or helping with other things (baking bread, making snacks) 3-4 nights a week.

It’s only been a short while, but this seems to be working, too.  I’m not sure why I never tried this before, although I suspect some of it is that I was nervous about the younger son handling certain cooking activities, particularly those with knives.  (I have to admit that I still give a lot of those chores to the older son.)  He loves to bake, though, so as long as I get the ingredients out for him, he’s getting pretty good at following recipes.  He makes a pretty mean beer bread…(with gluten-free beer, of course).

I’ve been very surprised how positive their attitude about this has been, particularly since they don’t get allowance for this.  (It wasn’t quite pitched as, “You don’t help, you don’t eat,” but I think they understood that my frustration was almost to that level.) However, I uncovered another reason why this may be working: I suspect the real motivation is that they’re tired of waiting for me to make their favorite foods.  The baking, in particular, tends to be put off in favor of making dinner.  They must’ve realized that if they learn to do it themselves or help take care of some of the other cooking chores, they don’t have to wait as long.  I have to admit that if there’s something they really want to cook, I’m not inclined to say no.

Kohlrabi Catcher July 11, 2014

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I got this very weird vegetable from our CSA:

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I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but it’s apparently kohlrabi. I’d heard of it but never eaten it. After asking on Facebook and searching the Internet, I now have a million ways to prepare it but opted for throwing it in some tikka masala sauce for a first go round.

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Whenever I cook, Teradog and Gigadog hang around the kitchen. Or maybe it’s more appropriate to say they consume the entirety of the kitchen floor space. They know the command “out,” something I came up with after many near-death kitchen catastrophes. However, I still like to provide them with samples of my cooking as much as possible because they’re a quite appreciative audience. Through their sampling, I discovered that Teradog likes pretty much all vegetables except romaine lettuce. Since I was dicing the kohlrabi, I decided to see if he’d like some, as well.  (Just so you know, throwing food and videotaping simultaneously isn’t all that easy.)

Gigadog also liked the kohlrabi, but if you try to play ‘catch’ with her, it bounces off her nose and she looks annoyed at having to wander over to its landing spot.  I guess some food isn’t worth it.

Rhubarb, white, and blueberry muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free) July 2, 2014

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No one in our house likes rhubarb. It’s one of those things that all the German grandmas would bring to church potlucks, and my parents would say, “Isn’t this great!” Meanwhile, my face is about to implode from puckering.

My worst experience was in high school. I had a crush on someone, and when I went to visit him, his mom made rhubarb bars. I had to impress this boy’s mother, so I didn’t say how much I hated it. No, I suffered through the whole bar, eating every last bite. Later, he decided he didn’t want to date me, and I realized that if he couldn’t appreciate how much I’d suffered, he obviously wasn’t the one for me. No man is worth eating rhubarb for.

I was glad, therefore, when I met Mike, and in one of those deep, get-to-know you conversations, I found out he disliked rhubarb as well. He comes by it genetically: his dad hated it so much he would change oil over the rhubarb plants in their yard.

Therefore, when I opened our CSA box last week and saw three pounds of the stuff, I thought, “Oh, crud.” Actually, I thought something else, but I’m too polite to say it in a blog post. I tried to pawn it off on my parents, but no luck.

Anyway, I spent some time pondering and decided to at least try it. I won’t eat tons of it, but I concocted a recipe that uses a tolerable portion. And the rest of the muffin is so good that I don’t mind eating around it. I also discovered that the smaller the pieces that you chop it into, the less intense the flavor. (Now, if you really like rhubarb, cut it into big pieces and substitute a half cup of rhubarb for the blueberries.) I figured it must be okay since the younger son, who is the food critic of the house, really enjoyed them.

And since the Fourth of July is coming up, it seemed appropriate to give it a patriotic theme.

Rhubarb, white, and blueberry muffins

Rhubarb, white, and blueberry muffin

Rhubarb, white, and blueberry muffin

Makes 12 muffins

Dry ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour (if you like to blend your own, I’d use 140 gms or 1 cup white rice flour, 46 gms or 1/3 cup potato starch and 26 gms or 1 tbsp + 2 tsp tapioca flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (leave out if using a flour mix that includes this)

Wet ingredients

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp butter (for dairy free, use coconut oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (for dairy free, use 1 cup full-fat coconut milk from the can (I like Thai Kitchen brand) + 2 tbsp lime juice)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup blueberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place muffin papers in muffin tray or grease and flour muffin tray.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine thoroughly all dry ingredients except sugar and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream butter (or coconut oil) and sugar together. (If using coconut oil and it’s liquidy, I suggest sticking it in the fridge to let it solidify. Cool coconut oil works much better for this. If you’re still not having much luck, go to the next step, using cold eggs, but mix for much longer and it will cream.)
  5. Add eggs and mix for another 20-30 seconds.
  6. Add buttermilk (or coconut milk and lime juice), vanilla, and dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.
  7. Add rhubarb and blueberries and stir until evenly distributed. (Note: I prefer using fresh blueberries because frozen tend to ‘streak’ the muffins. If all you have is frozen, though, pull them out right before you’re going to add them and toss to coat them with some potato starch.)
  8. Distribute batter into muffin tray.
  9. Bake for approximately 28 minutes.
  10. Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes and then move to cooling tray.

 

The symptomatology of a glutening June 2, 2014

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I’m going to be traveling later this week, and I realized that I am slightly terrified after having a bad ‘glutening’ over a week ago.  I went to Jimmy John’s and ordered a gluten-free unwich.  Then, without thinking, I asked them to add extra lettuce.  The extra lettuce came from a bin into which people wearing contaminated gloves had been sticking their hands.

It was awful.

The first thing I noticed was during a run the next morning.  A couple friends and I were doing an 8-miler (and that’s a good thing to have friends for because it’s a LONG run without them).  My hand was really starting to hurt, and I asked them if their hands ever swell up while running.  Both of them said, “Yep,” and I didn’t think much more about it…until the next morning, when I couldn’t get up.  In fact, I spent three days unable to get out of bed because of crushing fatigue and horrible brain fog.  I desperately wanted to get up, but even when I managed it, I would do something inconsequential, become exhausted, and not be able to focus on anything anyway.  And pain all over my body.  Not achiness, like the flu, but pain and swelling.  GI symptoms started two days later.  And then a week after that, with still swollen hands, I developed a rash (probably dermatitis herpetiformes (DH)…I still have purple marks) all over my right wrist with a couple spots on my hand.  At first I thought it was poison ivy, but I hadn’t been anyplace where I would get it, and the rash was too diffuse.

I had this fantasy that maybe, once I’d been off gluten for a while, the reactions wouldn’t be so severe.  I was wrong and they’re actually worse.  (While I had skin problems most of my life until getting rid of the gluten, the DH is something entirely new.)  I am terrified something like this will happen on a trip and I’ll be laid up the entire time.

This is me after a glutening.  I don't think this would work well at a professional conference.

This is me after a glutening. I don’t think this would work well at a professional conference.

On the up side, it really does make me appreciate how much better I feel the 99% of the time I have managed to avoid gluten.  I like not feeling sick and exhausted and brain dead all the time.

Wordless Wednesday: Pictures in food April 23, 2014

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Traveling off the wheaten path April 20, 2014

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One thing I discovered pretty quickly is that I am incredibly sensitive to even small amounts of wheat/gluten.  I am finding that this makes traveling with celiac disease a lot more challenging than I ever anticipated.  It is also frustrating as one of my favorite parts of traveling used to be finding all the cool places to eat.

Unfortunately, travel seems to have become a fairly regular thing for me now, so I’m having to get used to it.

I’m learning some things that help.  First, I have to either be sure there are places I can eat that are reliably gluten-free, or I have to get a hotel room with a kitchen.  (I’ve become a fan of places that end in “Suites.”)  I’ve also discovered that Whole Foods and Trader Joes are my favorite pairs of words when I travel (although probably Whole Foods, moreso).  Planning ahead is pretty vital.

The gist of it is that a trip that involves me driving usually involves me packing a bunch of food to bring along, maybe even a cooler.  If I’m flying, which was the case earlier this month, I have to have a hotel room with a kitchen and a rental car to go pick up food.  I also then have to find this balance between having the right food and not overdoing it so that I don’t leave food to feed an army in the fridge when I leave.

So what do I eat?

I usually do sausage (assuming I can find a safe brand) and scrambled eggs with peppers for breakfast.  Lunch involves salad with chicken (I can usually find precooked breasts or sandwich meat, although I will cook it myself in a pinch) or hardboiled eggs.  For sides, I like baby carrots, and I can even make a very simplistic potato salad fairly easily.  I’m finding there are a lot of packet sizes of things like coconut oil or other stuff that comes in handy as condiments.  If I need something that I can’t get in packets, I just try to buy the smallest available size.

I usually find a place for dinner, but if not, there are options in the frozen foods like fish sticks or corn dogs (with more salad and carrots, of course).  I’m always relieved when there’s a PF Changs nearby.  We don’t have one in Fargo, so not only do I get my Chinese fix, I can do it without any gluten.  And cookies…there are gluten free cookies out there.

Though it’s not the best, I also have a stash of M&Ms or something similar with me…because it’s a good idea in case schedules or something get off.  (While I don’t usually get sick any more, I can’t say I feel the best if I overdo it on snack foods.)

Believe it or not, I pack a few ziploc bags, a lunch box, and a blue ice pack into my suitcase.  I stuff the lunch box full of food before I leave the hotel room.  I imagine I look pretty sporting hauling it around with me (it’s a soft-sided, purple and pink box), but it at least removes the temptation to eat anything that could be dangerous.  And it’s better than spending half the trip sick in the hotel room…or coming back very sick.

The biggest inconvenience is the time it takes.  Going to conferences can be rather tiring, and some days are very long.  If I can get there a day ahead of time, I can do a bunch of shopping and prepare food, which makes it easier.  I also go through and rewash all the dishes by hand before I use them, just in case someone didn’t do a thorough job and there are crumbs or other things on there.  (I imagine this is a good idea, either way.)

I’m getting more practiced at this and finding that it’s not as difficult now that I’m getting better at it.  I don’t even get too many comments about my lunch box any more.

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