Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lifestyles of the Tired and Cranky

The last week has been filled with cooking - imagine my surprise - but not so much energy. I'm sure every parent has weeks like this. You stay up late to finish something you've been trying to do for days now, and the next morning, you're up bright and early to cook for your 'day of errands.'

But that's okay, you'll just go to bed early and catch up on your sleep, right?

Ha ha, very funny.

Kids don't fall asleep on time when you need them to, do they? I believe it's a corollary to Murphy's laws. And just to ensure that a parent remains sleep deprived, one child wakes up with a nightmare in the middle of the night, then the other wakes up a few hours later with the same, and before you know it, it's morning again.

And on it goes for the next night, and the next, until you are hallucinating that your house phone called 911 without human help and the police show up at 3am to make sure everyone is all right. Except, of course, that you're not hallucinating. It really happened - it's just so Twilight Zone that it should be a hallucination.

Not kidding on that one. My house is calling for help. I wonder what that says about my housecleaning?

Needless to say, with the downturn in energy levels, desire to cook has dropped like a stone. We still did it though. We made hordes of food, like Gluten-free dairy-free egg-free pancakes, dairy-free smoothies, GF sugarcane-free puffed millet snacks and even a GF lasagna (I'll thank my husband for that one.).

And they didn't turn out too badly. Here, see for yourself.

Shauna's food montage

GF DF egg-free Pancakes
We made these ones using a homemade GF flour mixture (3 parts brown rice flour, 3 parts tapioca starch, 2 parts sorghum flour, and 1 part millet flour), water, salt, and agave syrup. We can't use baking powder, so we substituted cream of tartar and baking soda.

The pancakes did much better if we kept them small - 1/8 of a cup of batter. They turned more easily if they cooked a bit longer than normal pancakes. Also, letting them rest a bit first helped the baking soda and cream of tartar react more and gave more bubbles.

We've tried this with orange juice instead of water, and it gave a nice flavor! Although I think we should have cut down on the cream of tartar - the extra acidity of the juice really set off the baking soda. It was like pancake-baking soda volcano.

DF Smoothie
1 cup each frozen pineapple, frozen strawberries, and frozen mango
1 baby banana, frozen (Those tiny, exotic ones. Their name? Um...banana Jr? *slinks off* Half a normal banana should work, too)
about 2 cups orange juice (Simply Orange brand doesn't add any corn syrup, etc...)

Mix together and blend like a crazy person until you reach desired consistency. Makes about 2 monster servings, or 4 normal servings

GF sugarcane-free Puffed Millet Snack
This is one of those 'throw together and hope for the best' type of snacks. For ingredients, our first attempt had puffed millet cereal, sunbutter (sunflower butter - processed in a peanut free facility), and agave syrup. The result is a bit soft, texture-wise, but not too bad. It sticks together well. I think pressing it into a pan and cutting that into bars would do all right.

We tried toasting to remedy the softer texture.

Not something I'd recommend. Burnt sunflower butter is not something you forget any time soon.

We've also added cacao nibs and dried fruit, and we were thinking of toasting the millet ahead of time, but haven't done so, yet.

GF lasagna
This turned out wonderfully, but I don't know how often we'll get to make it in the future.

We've added in dairy to our diet, as small amounts look okay for the kids, so we were able to use that here. Tomatoes were our latest addition, but the results for them weren't as positive. We'll have to stay away from them and try again later.

For the lasagna, we used Tinkyada brand rice lasagna noodles, Amy's organic family marinara pasta sauce (it is the only one that is sugarcane free), mozzarella and ricotta cheese (we splurged), and browned ground buffalo meat. We mixed the meat and sauce together, we mixed the cheeses together, and then we layered noodles, sauce, and cheese on the way up.

Some notes about the lasagna:
1. You don't have to cook the noodles first! The package directions say that you should, but as long as you cover the top layer of noodles with sauce and cheese, there is usually enough moisture in the lasagna to cook the noodles just fine. If you are worried there won't be enough moisture, I would add a little liquid to the sauce to compensate.
2. If you can't have dairy, the best dairy substitute we've tried for lasagna has been soft tofu, mashed with a fork and mixed with a few seasonings, like salt and oregano. You use it just like you would use the cheese.

If you are interested in some of the products we listed above, here they are...

Product Recommendations:
Simply Orange Orange Juice - We find this at our local grocery store. There are many variations, one of which has added calcium, so that may be a good choice for people who need some calcium help after going dairy free. Especially in the beginning, when you're still figuring it all out. It is also one of the cheaper juices that does NOT come from a concentrate.

- This stuff is made in a peanut free facility, according to their PR. The jar looks just like your regular ole peanut butter jar. It's a bit less thick than peanutbutter, and not quite the same taste, but not too bad as a substitute. If you can't find it at your local healthfood store, here's their website: You can order small tubs, too.

Arrowheadmills Puffed Millet Cereal - This is millet and absolutely nothing else. The company makes a few other puffed cereals as well, such as puffed corn. I have found the corn and wheat versions often, but the puffed millet can be harder to find, so you might need to buy on-line:

Tinkyada brown rice lasagna noodles - We've liked many of the Tinkyada products - good texture, no after-taste. For any of their pastas, if you stop the cooking a few minutes early, drain them, and dump the sauce in for the last bit of cooking, the noodles will absorb the sauce. This helps avoid the 'tasteless' flavor of rice pasta. However, currently they do not sell from their website, so if you can't find it at the healthstore, you have to look for on-line grocery stores. Googling Tinkyada+price will often get you a good site. Their website is useful for seeing what products they make, however:

Re: Amy's pasta sauce. Once again, I am not - entirely - recommending it. The taste is fine. If you don't have gluten issues, it's probably a pretty good choice. However, I am still finding accounts of people who have reacted as though glutened to Amy's GF products. So, I'm erring on the side of caution and not recommending this for people on a GF diet. If you do wish to find Amy's products, however, here's the website:

Monday, January 25, 2010

The most interesting people

I'm a talker. It doesn't really matter if I'm meeting someone at a party or standing in line at a grocery store - I'm happy to chat, about anything. Comparative knife sharpening techniques, why methane really is a likely gas for a planet with alien lifeforms, whether Sylar is a great bad guy because he's an ass or because he's a sexy ass...and most often these days: food.

I pump people for recipes, for ideas, heck, even for whether a food I just made tastes good at all. And at health food stores, I meet so many other people who seem to have the same goal, as long as it's about their pet food issue. It's been funny at times, and frustrating at times, but always, always fascinating.

Take cilantro. Did you know cilantro cures cancer? And, apparently, everything else, including alien albino brain worms (okay, so I made that last one up.). I found that out in the market where I was cornered by a lovely little old lady who corralled me in the produce aisle.

Or did you know that normal organic almonds are evil incarnate, because they are irradiated which, if I understand correctly, puts them on par with Rosemary's baby. Only imported Italian almonds will do. Yes, thank you massively wealthy couple who can afford to buy those. I will remember these words when I next win the lottery and can buy everything imported from Italy. Including their swim team.

Oh, or did you realize that all buffalo is not grass fed? It used to be, but no longer. Now, some is grain fed as well, which means it could have GMO grains in it. Not so good. I learned that from this overly-talkative woman with two kids who...

Oops. That was me telling this to the butcher at whole foods.

*hits head against the desk a few times*

Yes, I have become one of the people who hordes these little facts and passes them on in the health food stores. Terrifying, isn't it? I had no idea I would become this (I'm sure my family will chime in now with rolled eyes. They knew, I suspect).

I'm also one of another fun group, the 'small percentage.'

Where most people don't react to 'such and such,' but a 'small percentage' do. Joy.

Then again, starting down this path, where oddball, tiny little things set me off and send me into a tailspin, I have to study up on food quickly or I'll pretty much starve to death.

I'll be honest, I'm starting to get nervous. I've lost enough weight that I am 3 pounds from my ideal weight. And I still lose about a pound a week. Never thought I'd be worried about getting TOO skinny! Never been an issue for me!

But...enough about that! Push it back, and on to the trivia!
--You didn't think you'd get to avoid the trivia, did you? Of course not!--

You might think I simply listen to the lovely informative and sometimes crazy folk I meet, but I got above and beyond - I check it all out. Hey, sometimes you find out some truly interesting stuff! So, for the above mentioned folk, here you go!

Cilantro - the nutrition and wonder of cilantro. Actually, it wasn't a bad little herb. This is just a quick rundown of the basic nutrition.

Irradiated Food - Okay, I'll admit it, I always thought worrying about this seemed rather stupid. And then I checked it out, and yeah, it's an issue that should have further study, I believe. I don't know if I trust many of the studies that are more than 40 years old, because I don't know what their methods were, really. But it DOES seem to destroy some nutrients in the foods that are irradiated, so I figure we should be aware, yeah? I got the following information from . I don't know if I agree with the tone, but the information seemed interesting enough to repeat.

Some nutrients affected by irradiation(it depends on the level of radiation):
Vitamin A· 4-50% loss
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) - 11-95% loss
Vitamin C - 20-90% loss
Vitamin E - 17-91% loss

And now...I will go to eat my non-irradiated, non-cilantro buffalo meat for dinner. :-)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Roast Beef

I have a confession to make. I have never made a roast - turkey or beef. I have roasted chickens; that I've done. And I've gone so far as to roast a turkey breast, but never the whole turkey, or the beef.

My family wasn't really a big beef-eating clan, before all the food issues smacked us in the face. Now? I'm grabbing whatever food I can get, and meat seems to be a big part of it.

So last night, for the first time in my life, I made a roast. My expectations were low. Nerves were high.

There is simply something about a great, big hunk of meat that is intimidating. The temperature worries, the bacteria worries, the odd smell of raw flesh that I worry is smelling 'off' because it always smells 'blech' to me anyway. I don't understand meat. Breads, I get. Which helps me not at all, now that I'm gluten free. But meat? It feels like it requires 'Alien Cooking for Dummies' to make it turn out well. It doesn't seem like a comprehensible food to me. The food's version of Apple Computers: pretty end product, but how it's all put together originally is a mystery.

I find meat a bit scary.

So imagine my surprise when my first attempt at roast beef turned out great! For my family, that is. Almost for me, too. I was staring at it, all pink and juicy looking, and it was really, really hard not to try a piece and risk the reaction. I had a slice on a fork and was thinking about finding a plate to put it on when my husband gave me the 'Don't be stupid' look and I put it back on the platter. And then scuffled across the kitchen pathetically to go eat my avocados and ground buffalo meat.

Man but it looked good, though. I'd show you a picture, but it was consumed down to small pieces already. Flattering, but hard to photograph!

The best part about this, though, was how easy it was. It took a long time to cook: almost three hours. With an hour out of the fridge beforehand for it to get up to room temperature. But I had about one minute of prep time, five minutes of clean-up, and no mid-roasting duties but the thermometer at the end. Considering how much time I spend on cooking these days, this was heaven!

I found this recipe at, here:

I omitted the garlic slivers, because, as it has been noted, I am lazy. And everyone was going to be hungry soon, so I just rubbed it with olive oil, then sprinkled salt and pepper. Woo hoo, ready for the oven in no time!

I don't know if everyone else in the world is used to just slapping meat on the oven rack, but it was a new thing for me! When I took it off, I got a heavy washcloth, pulled out the rack with my hot pad, and just wiped off the mess from the rack immediately. It came off with no trouble at all; double word score for this roast beef!

The one thing I did note, however, was that rack placement was key. I had mine in the middle, and the top of the roast was more done than the bottom, so next time I'm scooting this sucker's rack down a peg.

In any case, enjoy the roast beef if you care to try this one. We most definitely did!

Friday, January 15, 2010

It All Comes Back to Food

Last night, I was pissed. I made soup and thought that cooking with oregano wouldn't necessitate me covering my nose and mouth with a silk scarf.

My bad. Turns out, my body doesn't like oregano any more than it likes anything else I cooked yesterday. Like onions, and curry powder, and coriander. In fact, by the end of the day, every bone in my body ached, my voice was hoarse, my throat was swollen, and I felt like i would be better off in a drugged stupor until this all went away.

Except of course that I'd react to the drugs, too, so there goes that down the toilet.

I was determined that I wouldn't let it ruin my day today, though. Because I had plans, and I was going to darn well do them. And I did - feeling like I had the flu, but I did them. So my day today went something like this...

5 am - Feed cats because the obnoxious, pushy squirts won't leave me alone. And they're loud.

5:30-7:30 am - Roast a turkey breast. Just because I feel like NOT needing to cook at some point in the next few days.

8 am - Ferociously guard turkey breast against small, bipedal intruders who resemble my children, but seem to think that eating an entire turkey breast for breakfast would be great, never mind that mother will go insane because she thought cooking early in the morning meant she might get a break someday.

8:01 am - Clean up the orgy of dishes from the night before, plus the turkey breast dishes, while supervising the 'making of smoothies' by the kids.

9 am - Clean up the orgy of smoothie dishes.

10 am - Remember that mother needs to eat, too, and make the traditional buffalo meat plus avocado plus quinoa (yeaaa, quinoa day. Again. Sigh).

10:30 am - Clean up the orgy of buffalo cooking dishes.

11 am - Drop off husband at Starbucks for studying. Head to SunFlower Market for phase one of grocery shopping- buffalo meat. The people there think I'm some sort of buffalo obsessed loony, buying 7 pounds of the stuff nearly every week. I wonder what they'd do if I said I was feeding a pet puma.

1pm - Head to AJ's, a.k.a. Foodie Land. Gawk at the huge number of nicely dressed, clean, tidy, unencumbered adults who shop there, and wonder what they do with their lives if they don't have children to watch every second of the - no, don't touch that, honey. Or that. Put that one down. - every second of the day.

2 pm - Head to grocery store number 3: Whole Foods. The black hole of pocketbooks. Send out children on expeditions to find various organic fruits and veggies. Find out the kids packed their box of snacks and left it at home so add in more food, just to feed the kids right now, to the tune of $30. Ow.

3 pm - A brief break in the food day, out in the sun at the park. Small people go crazy on the jungle gyms. A good sight today when I get to sit 20 feet away and can't hear the echo of their voices, unlike the store.

4 pm - Buy food for a sick friend and drop it off.

5 pm - Pick up husband at Starbucks and head home.

6 pm - Cook family's dinner while husband goes to another grocery store for the last four items on the list.

7 pm - Cook my dinner, finally, and eat.

8 pm - and once again: orgy of dishes.

This has become, basically, what my day is like the one day a week that I shop for groceries. Sometimes it takes longer, with more stores added, sometimes it's shorter, but it's always an entire day that revolves solely around food: making it, taking it with us, buying it, cleaning up after it.

I never realized how exhausting food could be. Grocery shopping never used to be this time consuming, this expensive, or this intense. Even going gluten free, I never expected it to be like this. And it's becoming normal. I plan out an entire day, just for acquiring food. Pretty pathetic, compared to 100 years ago, or even 100 days ago, depending on where one lives in the world.

But different for me, I'll be honest.

I'm wondering if it'll ever feel easier. I can't imagine it won't, but hopefully next time, I'll put on my scarf so that darn oregano won't get me the evening before.

Take that, oregano. I bite my thumb at thee.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Food Backlog

Getting overwhelmed and 'backed up' seems to be a part of modern life here in the States. Everywhere, possibly? Voicemails back up, emails breed like rabbits on viagra, to-do lists build up, household repairs keep getting tacked on to the list.

And now food can go on the list. I'm getting food backlog now. Food that I planned to make but was so tired that I persuaded everyone that having a 'snacking' dinner of fruits and vegetables was really a fun and exciting new thing and not a desperate attempt by their mother to avoid cooking. Sometimes it even works if I have enough cookie cutters and gaily colored plates and bowls (They're mismatched, but they secretly make non-cooked food sparkle).

However, the food that I 'planned to make' for a meal will go bad if I don't make it soon. And if I avoid cooking for a couple lunches and a dinner, then I have three meals worth of food that I have to make.

I'll tell you the truth. Normally? I'm a horrible person. I'm the type of person that frugal people gather together in mobs to hunt down and lynch.

I usually just freeze the food, or it goes bad and I throw it away.

Just saying that means that my own mother can never read this blog or she's obligated to come over here and bring some Irish pain down on my ungrateful, food wasting behind.

You have to understand. This is a woman who used to go out to to our rented back yard to gather fruit, underneath the rented plum tree that we secretly loathed because all it did was grow plums and then wait for you to walk underneath so it could drop the over-ripe balls of goo on your head. Or right before your feet so you stepped in it.

My mother, on the other hand, would pick up every plum that had fallen, bring it inside, and cut off the 'bad spots' before keeping the rest. For me, the entire plum was the bad spot. But my mother has some supernatural ability to figure out which parts are 'full of deadly botulism spores that will kill you in ways too gruesome for an NC-17 movie' and which parts are 'getting ready to spawn bacteria, but don't quite have the numbers yet.'

I know this because she will then eat the plums, and she never dies in gruesome horrible ways. Personally, I view eating the fruit that has grown that soft as a sort of gruesome death, anyway.

So you can imagine her view of my food-wasting ways. Evil is a mild word for it. I would be smacked with dollar bills until I'd seen the error of my ways. While 'The Price is Right' played in the background.

She would be so proud of me now.

Because since we're buying nearly everything organic, or non-GMO, and have to get some rather exotic foods to boot, our grocery bill has almost tripled. I look at the grocery bills, then at the food, and I think, "Oh no WAY am I wasting this. It cost too much!!"

See, it just took more pain in my pocketbook for me to become a penny-pinching food-miser.

But that means that tomorrow is the day of cooking. Cooking D-Day. I need to make vegetable stock, and then use that stock to make two different types of soup (butternut and acorn squash), and then I need to make dinner as well, which is teriyaki burgers with coconut aminos and organic ground beef and pineapple and gluten free biscuits which we'll adapt and see how it goes.

I expect it'll take me from 1 am to 11pm, at my skill level. A new world record in slow cooking that's supposed to be fast cooking.

I used to think that catching up on my email was time consuming.

It doesn't feel all that hard anymore.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Without Potatoes

Going gluten free and potato free has been harder than I anticipated. I hadn't realized how prevalent potato starch was as a GF ingredient, before we experienced it ourselves. So many of the GF bread products use it, and far too many soups and sauces use potatoes as well.

On top of that, my daughter has been a huge lover of potatoes her whole life, so taking her off potatoes during the elimination trial has been a constant source of angst. And then we went to California on a trip and discovered the fantastic, amazing Whole Foods in Cupertino; there we discovered Yellow Hannah Sweet Potatoes.

I, as I've said, am pretty food and cooking ignorant. This applies in spades to sweet potatoes and yams. I don't live in the Southern United States where there are more local sweet potato dishes around me, so in my life, this is a food you eat at Thanksgiving dinner with pecans and maple added to it.

I was floored to see the Hannah suckers. They look like a potato in the shape of a garnet yam.

The picture here is a garnet yam on the bottom, and...well, honestly, I don't know what the top one is! Here at our local Whole Foods, they don't label things quite as clearly. All I know is that this is a 'sweet potato.' However, it is similar to the Hannah, so we have been buying it.

As for taste? These have a milder 'dark sweetness' flavor than the red fleshed ones I've found. Much milder. They can substitute in dishes that need chopped potatoes, as long as the flavor of the dish is strong, and guests who eat it haven't even guessed it's not a potato. I think the creamy, yellowish flesh helps make the trick work. The eye sees a potato, the texture is a potato, and so if the taste isn't strong...well, our imagination does the rest.

Foodies might not be fooled, but hey, it works for us!

Also, the kids have really enjoyed the baked sweet potato fries I've started making. They have helped my kids through their 'no french fries, no potatoes' difficulties.

Basically, these pale sweet potatoes are now on my list of what to use instead of potatoes.

If you are potato free now as well, but are as clueless about sweet potatoes as I was, here's a little bit of help!

To know more about different types of sweet potatoes, here's a site that tells a little about them, and also ships a few of the varieties to your home:

And here's a site that discusses yams vs. sweet potatoes and their varieties:

And, in addition, here's just a thought.

Product Recommendation:
Pounded yam (yam flour) - this is essentially powdered yam. I've found it at african or 'ethnic' grocery stores around here, but I'd bet you can find it on-line. You can make instant mashed sweet-potatoes, basically. The type we've found, however, has soy oil added to it. I don't know if it's available soy-free or not. I very much wonder if this would work instead of potato starch in some recipes. I honestly have NO idea, since we can't have soy, so I haven't been able to try it. But, for the clueless like myself - hey, worth a try, eh? If you try it, let me know how it worked out!

Good luck, fellow potato-less folk!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Sometimes, I find it hard not to get angry. Not over what's happening now. Over the fact that so much of this has been going on for years - more than half my life - and it was never, ever diagnosed.

I had full body hives when I turned 16, the same time I was in highschool and had enough autonomy to gorge on the sugary sweets I was never allowed as a child. The only reason the hives stopped was because I had noticed they happened after I had my chocolate or my soda. And I stopped eating it. Now? Now I've found out that I'm allergic to sugar cane.

When trying to get help from our pediatrician, we mentioned the foods I would have before a reaction, and that they all seemed to contain caffeine. My doctor's response was to say that, first, you can't be allergic to caffeine, and second, I wasn't having an allergic response. The hives were always gone by the time we got in to the office.

She didn't believe I was having hives at all until we made sure to walk into the office when they were still swelling my eyes nearly shut.

And months later, when I tried the sugar again, the reaction was gone. So being an idiotic teenager, I went back to sweets and pretty much forgot about it.

I'm thinking about it now.

I'm thinking about the fact that 21 years ago, I was coming to my doctor with hives of unknown origin, that were a daily occurrence, and never referred to an allergist of any kind. That I lived with depression that hit me at the same time in my life, and a physical cause was never suggested as even a remote possibility. That I, at a healthy weight and with no other known issues, had carpal tunnel in both hands, tendonitis in both arms, golfer and tennis elbow in BOTH ARMS, plantar fasciitis in both feet, and a partially herniated disc in my neck and lower back, all showing up at the same time, with the cause unknown...and not one doctor thought that maybe this might point to something.

That maybe if someone is having a heck of a lot of problems in their body, there is something wrong that is causing this. If nothing else, vitamin deficiencies would come to mind, you would think.

Not to any of my doctors, I'm afraid. And that makes me so angry sometimes. I went through years where I could barely walk, where just brushing my hair was agony, where I was angry and sullen and horrible to the people around me as I felt like I was drowning in my own angst. And if just one - just ONE - doctor had taken a little extra time to wonder why I was having all these issues, maybe we could have started down the road to a solution.

When I'm in a bad place in my head, it's hard not to feel like I've been robbed of these years of my life. But then I try to remember: I have more to come where I won't have these problems. Probably a hell of a lot more than I would have if I hadn't finally BEEN diagnosed, and found an aware doctor who is helping me make sure I find out exactly what I need to do to stay healthy.

Still, I AM angry that things don't seem to have changed much. Right now, I'm thinking about the fact that 2 years ago, I was bringing my daughter to HER doctor, with fatigue and congestion that didn't seem to end, and she was never referred to an allergist, either. I was told that 'it sounds like hay fever allergies. Here's some over-the-counter medication you can give her' and that was it.

Without my own diagnosis and insistence on testing her, she never would have been diagnosed either. And even then, it was still: go gluten free. No insistence on testing her for anything further, either. I'm the one who had to get on the ball and think to myself that I wanted to make sure she wasn't allergic to anything else, especially as she seemed so much more tired since going gluten free. I'm the one who's been having the kids on a version of my own diet (with many more choices), and so I'm the one who noticed that yes, she has been doing much better without some of these foods. One of them seems to be doing something to her, even if we haven't discovered which one yet.

Needless to say, we have a new pediatrician. And we have an allergist now to go to, as well. I hope the appointment will go well. I hope he is aware of celiac issues, and is open to listening, because I'm looking for anything we're allergic to, intolerant to, or sensitive to.

According to my GI, celiac folk are genetically more predisposed to all three.

I know he can't find all of them - some of them aren't even his 'jurisdiction,' as it were - but what I don't want is someone who will say that if my child is not allergic to it, he should be able to eat it just fine.

As my first pediatrician did with dairy and my son. He wasn't allergic to dairy, so we should give him dairy. Of course, it makes him vomit if he drinks a glass of milk, and he's bloated and miserable with diarrhea if he eats cheese or any other major dairy product. We'd mentioned this several times, including the day we asked for testing, but it didn't seem to be memorable enough, so we had to mention it again. She reluctantly agreed that he might be intolerant to a protein.

She didn't seem to agree enough to list that information in the chart anywhere, however. Our new pediatrician is in the same practice, and he had no idea there were any dairy issues at all, because other than on the day we had the appointment, it doesn't look like she noted it down.

That's the type of thing that fuels my anger. Most people you talk to now have heard of 'celiac disease' or 'gluten free.' Studies are showing us that approximately one in every 133 people in the United States have celiacs. That's more than the sufferers of MS, less than people with diabetes. Over 2 million of us...and we still aren't being diagnosed.

I know it's hard for the doctors. The symptoms are all over the board, ranging anywhere from simple fatigue and 'getting sick a lot' to extreme weight loss and diarrhea. It's still an illness that needs a lot of research. And we have no drug companies that will make money off of us, so no advocacy material is heading to the doctor's office to help raise awareness.

Just we patients and our outrage and frustration.

I don't want my grandkids to go through this, too. Not that I have any, but I think about it. The medical system is changing slowly enough that I worry it is entirely too likely that they STILL won't have changed much by the time my own children have children.

I went all this time without help. My kids nearly did as well - my own diagnosis was because I requested the test be done; my doctor never suggested it. My daughter's diagnosis was due to the same: my request.

So was my brother's diagnosis, when he requested the tests after he heard about us.

And I won't be surprised to hear that patient advocacy is what has helped my cousin's child as well, who has been having gut issues for years now, has lost weight, and never once has her pediatrician suggested testing for celiac for her, either. But after she heard about our family, she's having her daughter tested as well.

I hear that many doctors hate the internet. That so many people go and 'self-diagnose' and try crazy things that hurt their bodies rather than helping. That's true. But what does it say about our medical community when some of us are self-diagnosing and we're right. It's not like the doctors have not had the opportunity to get the same facts that we have. Most of us would LIKE the chance to tell them what we're worried about.

Of course, the last studies I've seen say that we rarely get that chance. Whether it's HMO's and rising medical costs, personality, training, or all that and more...a lot of our doctors are losing us between the cracks. Too many of them - and I base this on personal experience -aren't listening, so they aren't getting all the facts, so they don't make the diagnosis that we need in order to get healthy.

So me? As long as it's done responsibly, I'm happy with self-diagnosing, and I'm ecstatic over the internet. I can use it, and it doesn't have me on a time limit so that I only give it half the facts. So the answers I get help me know what questions to ask of the doctor, and what tests to ask for if I'm not satisfied with the doctor's explanation of why I might be wrong. Right now, I've been wrong only about as often as my doctors were. And I was right more often.

That's a sad statement.

And I am writing back to these doctors- to ALL of them - to let them know. I am going to write letters to all the doctors I've had over the years who are still practicing, and reminding them of what symptoms I had when they saw me, and let them know what it turned out to be in the end. I don't know that it'll do any good. It may be completely ignored. But I feel like celiac disease and food allergies like this - mild ones, in other words - don't have enough advocates to make an impact. So I'm helping the cause. I'm hoping that some time, some day, that doctor I sent a letter to will have a patient with similar symptoms and that THIS time, it will occur to him (or her) that maybe the problem is food related. And better yet, the preliminary test to see if this is a possibility can be money-free, drug-free, and non-invasive: an elimination diet. Heck, maybe the problem is even celiac disease.

Maybe I, the doctor, should let them talk a little more so I can get a better picture of what this is.

And maybe if enough of us do this, it can start to make an impact that will help us all.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Broccoli beef

Sometimes, I feel like I need an hourly reminder to keep working, and cooking, or the urge to comply with the diet fades as laziness rears it's ugly head. Really, it doesn't even have to be laziness, just a desire to rest for a moment. I cooked up a storm yesterday, and had so many dishes it took three loads in the dishwasher plus about a half hour worth of washing by hand on top of that.

And then I had to cook again just twenty minutes later, and in almost no time at all (maybe 2 nanoseconds?) I had two sinkfulls of dishes all over again, spreading out from the sink to encroach on my counter top. I thought they might be considering the cat as a late night snack.

Really, I am not used to this many dishes, produced this quickly.

I wonder why I never hear about this on the gluten free forums I haunt: how do you cope with the increase in dish washing when you're still trying to find the time to cope with gluten-free foods? I think this is a legitimate concern for many of us!

So, yes, I'm house-cleaning challenged as well as cooking challenged. Is that really a surprise?

I thought not.

However, I am choosing not to dwell on this. I'd rather take note of the positive things, at the beginning of the year now. My first Gluten-Free January. There'll be plenty of time to whine later on, anyway.

So, the Current Good List
- I am 6 pounds away from the ideal weight that I've been trying to reach for about 13 years. I just dug out my old clothes in storage and fit into clothing I haven't worn since I was 23 (I'm 37 now). Of course, the fat I have left seems to have taken up residence in my backside, and the fat that I'm losing seems to be all cleavage. I seem to be missing THAT memo on the gluten-free boards as well. Go Gluten-free and Cleavage-free, a two for one deal! Ah well, feels better to have shed all this weight anyway!
- with less weight, my plantar fasciitis is a thing of the past. Not even a little, bitty twinge of pain, there. It's awesome.
- I don't feel depressed, for the first time since I was a teenager (when I started pigging out on sugar, which we have since found out I'm allergic to. Hmmm.). I'm frustrated, overwhelmed at times, tired, healing, and whiny, but STILL not depressed. It feels like a minor miracle.
- I have been doing a darn good job on this cooking thing this year (Yes, it's been less than a week. Let me say it this way and feed my ego for the moment, eh?) I've put in the hour or two that it takes to find GF recipes that the kids will eat and I can make, or afford to buy ingredients for. I've done the shopping, which usually involves 1-1/2 hours of driving, 4 separate stores and 3-4 hours of actual shopping. And I've sucked it up and made it all, no matter how tired I've been, or how grumpy the kids are. Which is more crucial than it might seem, considering that all the foods I'm making are things that make me react. So I can cook 'em, but I can't taste them! I have to get the kids or my husband to tell me how the food tastes, and what it might need as a spice. Or more important, what a substitute ingredient tastes like so we can try to find something that goes with it. I'm feeling rather proud of myself that I've managed it all this week.

And on that note, let me recommend an ingredient!

Food Recommendation
Coconut Aminos - This bottled stuff can be used as a substitute for soy sauce, and it's only got two ingredients: coconut sap and sea salt. Since we were off soy, my husband grabbed this at Whole Foods when he found it (You can see it here: ). It's a little less salty than soy sauce, maybe a little sweeter, according to my kids. It worked great, though!

Today I attempted to make broccoli beef for the family, and was able to use this coconut stuff for the first time. It was a bit harder, as I couldn't taste how different it might be. But we used the Broccoli Beef recipe from 'Chinese cooking for dummies' - kinda made for me, with that title - and I was substituting all over the place. Rice wine and dark agave nectar and coconut aminos - I was a substituting fiend. And the great thing is, it worked! The kids liked it, the hubby liked it, and there's just enough left over to send with my husband for work tomorrow.

I even added some stir-fried baby bokchoy that turned out as well - my husband took pictures because it looked so 'pretty.' The stir fry is relative easy. Quick, not many ingredients, gluten free, soy free (if I understand the coconut amino labels correctly) and tasty.

Stir-Fried Baby Bokchoy
Get 2-4 baby bok choy, rinse them and chop into pieces. Heat a teeny bit of oil in a wok or frying pan, then add some minced garlic and stiry-fry for a few seconds, until you get a nice smell from it. Oh, sorry - until it is 'fragrant.' Dump in the bok choy and then add a little coconut aminos (or GF soy sauce, if you can have it) and cook enough to wilt the leaves, or until it's as firm or mushy as you like. Take off the heat and serve.

Nice and easy, yeah? Also, if you're looking for prettification? Cut off the base of the baby bok choy as you're chopping, and it tends to resemble a small, green rose which looks nice as a garnish.

It was a nice dinner to have today. One where, even though it was a lot of work, and generated a stunning amount of dishes, it still actually turned out right! The kids liked it - the broccoli beef part - and I even finished my buffalo meat with avocado in time to eat with the family instead of sitting down just as everyone is finishing.

A good day to blog, people. A very good day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Little habits really do die hard, but life can be sweet

Today started out well, and I held it together, but I swear, sometimes I just wanna yowl at the moon when a stupid little gesture screws everything up.

Like, say, when I stick something in my mouth that I often do, to hold it for a second while I do something else. And then I realize the moment it hits my tongue - as my mouth starts to tingle and swell a little - that I've gone against the cardinal rule.

Never Forget to Keep it out of your MOUTH.

This is something that has been VERY hard for me to remember. I'm a physical person. I use my body to deal with little problems: feet, mouth, whatever's handy. If I am sewing and I need a free hand, I'll hold the needle between my teeth for a second. If I need a bead off the floor, I'll often grab it with my toes. If tomato sauce blurps out of the pan onto my finger, I'll absently lick it clean and wait until I'm done at the stove to go wash.

I can't do any of that when it relates to my mouth anymore. In the beginning, far too many times I would accidentally lick my finger clean, chew on my nail, tap my lip...and wham, I'd react. That probably helped speed up my awareness, actually. Nothing makes a point better than feeling like cow manure that's been chopped into pieces and boiled in nettles.

Unfortunately, the lesson didn't stick. Because I've been relatively reaction free for a bit now. I've been so careful, and as a result, I haven't reacted. So my body thinks, I believe, that maybe this was all a dream. Maybe that whole 'throat swelled up, ack, can't talk!' was some weird nightmare that wouldn't really happen again. Which means that today I popped something in my mouth, just like I used to, and the second I tasted it, I could feel my mouth reacting. I could have cried.

Tomorrow I was going to try a new food, darn it!

And I've already lost a food since my last post. Millet is now off my list; my body decided millet and it were not as friendly as it had first thought. I guess millet is like one of those roommates who talks a good game, but once you actually move in together, you realize he is a complete slob and you can't wait for the lease to end.

And as for the food challenges for my kids? Daughter is looking slightly sensitive to corn, and my son is looking pretty positive to being at least sensitive to both eggs and corn, on top of the milk that we already knew about.

If I were to make a slideshow of his reactions, I'd show a picture of a small, smiling boy, and a picture of a small, evilly grinning boy with red eyes who is trying to strangle his big sister.

This is my son, now this is my son on corn.

Yes, in my family, corn or milk = demon possessed child. Eggs just make him feel miserable.

Considering that I never thought, at all, that eggs or corn were an issue, this has come as something of a shock. But makes me feel a heck of a lot better about my son, and reminded me, yet again, of one of the other cardinal rules that I need to remember for this life.

Trust myself.

I have been thinking for a couple years now that something was wrong with my little guy (and my daughter, as well). He would go one day happy and joking and, while still having grumpiness, it would pass within a few minutes.

And then another day, he would be completely out of control. Attacking his sister, the furniture, us. Crying fits that lasted an hour, or more. I can remember his crying himself into an exhausted nap, then waking up to start pitching a fit about the same thing like he'd never stopped!

I was utterly frustrated, and wondering what I was doing wrong (I'm sure the answer is: a lot), but at the same time, I just couldn't help think that it seemed very odd, how it was like a switch. One day as one person, and another day as another person. There didn't seem to be any middle ground, or any mixing of the two behaviors, and I thought: what if something's causing this that's not just 'nurture.'

But I didn't really trust myself all that much, so I didn't seriously pursue it. Now that all this is happening to me, I was more adamant that we should put them on an elimination diet. And I'm so glad I did. It's just so, so important to trust those instincts we have, isn't it?

And so hard to do, sometimes, especially when people around us don't see what we're seeing, and try to talk us out of it. But we can stand firm. We just have to remember all those times people thought WE were the ones who were exaggerating something, or noticing something that 'wasn't an issue. And we have to remember that we were right.

It's letting go of a habit, for me. A habit of feeling like a hypochondriac, because I'm noticing physical symptoms that 'have no cause.' And I need to make sure I stomp on that habit and crush it underfoot. I need to trust that I'm not stupid, or making it up, or delusional.

Whiny...that one I'll admit to.

But I want to make sure I give my kids a good example of how to stick up for themselves and to make sure they talk with their docs and speak out when something needs attention. Like I didn't do enough of, really.

And then I want to give them a good example of what the heck to do when your life is turned upside down. You can sit down and cry, or shake it off, laugh at the dark irony of it all, and get on with things. I've done a little of both, but I'm trying to laugh. And to enjoy what new things I've found out since all this started.

Like Raw Honey - the best substance in the world, holy crud.

Food Recommendation:
Raw Honey - I've had honey - lots of times - but never raw honey. For those of you who haven't tried it, this stuff is usually found in health food stores, and it's usually much paler than the regular honey (even white, sometimes). It's solid, too. It's not processed, so it doesn't get all liquidy like we're used to seeing. It's butter-in-the-fridge solid. Really solid.

But a little bit ago I thought - what the heck. I reacted to honey, but it was to local honey, from local plants, and we found some from an entirely different country. This one wouldn't be the same, would it? I could try it, right?

So, uh, yeah...maybe my reasoning isn't sound, but I was so desperate for a sweet taste at the time, I caved and tried this sweet as my next food. And I don't think that I reacted, either, so woo hoo!

Because let me say: raw honey is amazing!! It's got the honey taste, but it's a little richer, and the feeling of it on your tongue is creamy. As though you just ate a candy made of cream and honey. It is, simply, fantastic. Everyone should try some of this.

I gave it to my daughter and her eyes lit up and she said: oh my god, that's amazing!
Which typically means that now I'll have to hide the stuff so she doesn't start eating it in some sweet binge when I'm not looking, ha.

For anyone who has to be sugarcane free like us, seriously, you gotta check this out. It's so good I wish I'd bought a bigger bottle of it. I have no idea how to use it, since it's not liquid, but I don't care. I would be quite happy to have a little ball of it to eat as a candy treat every once in a while.

Really: try it. If you have any liking for honey at all, you won't regret it. Maybe it can be one of your happy moments of the day like it was for me.