Tuesday, March 23, 2010

And life gets a little better

My computer died. It was gruesome, like a slasher movie. Or at least I was screaming like a bimbette in a slasher movie. So close enough.

Of course, if I wanted my baby fixed, that meant I had to go OUT, which I'd been avoiding for nearly a week. But I did it. I put on the gear - which still needs a ninja symbol on it, seriously - and headed out. It took all day.

And nothing happened. Just like that Monty Python skit. I had no reaction. I came home without a sore throat. I was the super-nonallergic woman.

So the next day, we went hiking, and I took off my mask and again, nothing happened. So hay fever allergies? HA! Take that, pollen! Kiss my patootie! You have no power over me! Or...something like that.

So, now we have no idea what made my body flip its lid, but whatever it was seems to have ebbed, so I'll simply count my blessings and move on.

Actually, you know what? Let me rewind to the computer-store's mall for the first little 'count my blessings' moment. I said nothing happened that day, but that's not completely accurate. Nothing BAD happened.

But a moment of true Awesome did happen.

I tried on a pair of pants.

Usually, not my favorite pastime. I don't enjoy shopping - which may have something to do with the fact that my shopping typically includes two small, loud people following me everywhere and complaining about how little they want to be there and asking if I'm done yet and, my favorite moment, telling me: I don't think you should wear that one, Mommy. It's for skinny people.

Ah, the joys of childish honesty.

But shopping at this mall? I found my little corner of heaven. I have to go for the tall sizes, since I managed to avoid the hobbit genes in my family and snuck over to the 'vikings visited our hobbit village and got busy' genes. So I went into the filthy-rich only store, gathered up my pants, headed to the dressing room, and slipped on the first pair. Medium.

And they didn't fit me. The smalls didn't fit me. The EXTRA SMALLS didn't fit me. I am now, officially, a Skinny Bitch. They give out cookies for that or something, don't they? Really tiny, skinny cookies. With no frosting. But still cookies!

Seriously - that was awesome. A total 'look look look!' moment, where you want to dance out of the dressing room and blather at random strangers. "Do you know what SIZE this is? It's extra small, baby! I am SMALLER than an extra small! Rockin'!"

And part of it's just sharing the joy, and part of it's - let's be honest - a little bit of bragging. Which is rather strange. I feel like bragging about the size of my backside - yet another thing I never realized would happen in my life. Although, perhaps that's because I never thought it would get this small (yeah, okay, so I was taking another moment to brag. It's a sickness, seriously). As though I did any work to get here?

Of course not. It wasn't very fun, but I sure as heck didn't do anything other than eat what doesn't make me die.

Most of us tend to do that, I think.

In fact, in the spirit of eating things that help keep us alive, here's a quick and dirty corn tortilla recipe for the gluten-free crowd.

GF corn tortilla and meal variations -
What you need:
corn masa
warm water

What you do:
1. Put the salt and corn masa in a bowl, blend it together with a fork. If you're on a low sodium diet, omit the salt. No problem.

2. Add the warm water and mix it into a dough. The amount depends on your altitude, the humidity levels, etc... You want a heavy dough, but not too sticky, and not so dry it's crumbling. It takes a little trial and error.

3. Heat a skillet to med-high heat.

4. While skillet is heating, you roll out the tortillas. Get two sheets of wax paper. Make a ball of dough about the size of an egg. Put it on one sheet, place the other sheet over it and roll it out between the two sheets of wax paper. This will keep it together. If you don't do this, the dough tends to stick to the rolling pin. Adding corn flour to try and prevent that dries out the tortilla too much. There are also corn tortilla molds you can purchase. Of course, the cheapest method is just patting the ball of dough into a tortilla in your hand. I'm sure some can do this well, but mine are a bit thick when I try it that way. Still taste good, though.

5. Lay the tortilla in the hot, dry pan. Iron skillets and non-stick will do fine without any oil added. Stainless steel you should add a little oil or fat first. Heat the tortilla until the bottom side has some brown spots on it, and then flip over and cook until that side is done as well. If you have a thicker tortilla, you may have to flip it again a couple times.

6. Topping ideas: beans, cheese, butter, any kind of cooked meat, green chile, red peppers, portabello mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, probably some wilted greens would work, too.

1. If it's a tiring day and you want to make it an all-in-one-meal? Add in some toppings to the dough before you cook. You'll need to pat it between your hands rather than roll it. Corn, chile, cheese, meat, bell peppers, tomatoes or tomatillos, herbs or spices, whatever works!

2. These tortillas will work just fine, once they are cooked, for making a mexican-style lasagna. Just use the tortillas instead of lasagna noodles. We usually layered it with already cooked chopped chicken, green chile, and pre-cooked chopped red peppers. We kept some of the juices to make thing moist, if we didn't use cheese. If you have fructose issues and can have corn, I think the meat with a little cheese would taste great in this.

3. The dough itself can work as a kind of pot-pie crust as well, although we've usually only used it on the bottom. We simply pressed the dough into the shape of the glass container, piled in meat and veggies, and baked it. You have to take care not to make the dough too thick, so it will still cook, but the flavor is nice.

And let me end with a quote to help with those really bad days, when everything feels like it's never going to get better:

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying "I will try again tommorrow." (Mary Anne Radmacher)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The smell of spring is in the air...hack, cough, gasp, wheeze...

That bad day a little while back? It's kind of become the bad week. Which turned into the bad 'allergy season.'

Yup, allergy season is here, and this year, it makes my throat swell up just like my foods were. The food reactions are much worse, and much faster. The lovely doc. gave me steroids to take to tone down the reactions.

What do the pills have in them, though? Did you guess corn?

Ding ding ding ding, we have a winner!

Back to the drawing board, I guess.

I am currently double bagging myself. I put on a paper mask, and a scarf over that, and I can go out of the house and drive into town. I last about 2 hours before my throat starts to burn, the flu symptoms start up, and I have to get home before my throat starts to swell.

I feel like the masked marauder. People look at me and wonder what dread disease I have, or what strange religion I belong to. Hmmm...I'm the Patron Saint of Allergy Sufferers? With my doughnut halo that doubles as a shuriken with sprinkles that snap out like blades.

Uh, yeah....one gets a bit crazy contemplating the fact that I'm nearly housebound for the next 6 weeks or so.

Or longer.

It's shocking that I feel actual fear going out of my house now, like some strange allergic agoraphobic. I can take benadryl, but I better hope to god that my throat doesn't swell up too much before the active ingredient kicks in, or I'm toast. And epipens? Well, yeah, I can use it....but it feels so...final. If I used my epipen every time my throat swelled up, I'd use it at least three to five times a day. That's insane. It would ruin my body, and my pocketbook, both.

So I just go through the day, and every time I smell something, or the wind hits my face, or I go into a new building or a new car, I'm tense. I wait to see if my throat swells up or not, and if it does, I have to try and judge. Is it going slow? Is it stopping? Is it getting worse? Is there anywhere safe I can go where it will stop?

Is this the time it goes so quick, so much that I can't breathe anymore?

I HATE that. When did the scent of good food actually become potentially deadly? It's ridiculous. Like some Castle mystery where someone figures out the super-cool way to kill someone off: by scent. You'd think, 'oooh, clever.' But you'd never think it would REALLY happen.

And you'd sure as hell never think it would happen to you.

I'm wondering, tonight, what I'm going to do this year. Can I go away for Thanksgiving this year? We go to visit the same great people every year, and I'm wondering if it's safe for me to drive there, to stay there, or if I'd be setting myself up to react and be unable to stop. What about Christmas? Vacation?

Right now, I'm feeling like a bus ran over me and then backed up, just to make sure. That was merely going out of my house for a few hours, double bagged, not even taking off the mask to get a drink of water. Indoors the entire time.

And my allergy tests? They say my reactions are miniscule. They say this should never be happening to me...so you can imagine that if I try to get any special equipment to enable me to leave the house (you know, like a gas mask, or a space suit, or my own version of cyberman-wear.), well, insurance will just jump at the chance to pay for it, I'm sure.

I'm trying to keep this in the back of my head. Push it back there, get on with life, and keep going. Invite people to my house instead of going out. What the heck else can you do? Wallow? Who wants to do that?

Whine? Well...okay, that I can do, a little bit anyway. And then it's back to shoving this down and moving on, because getting angry about this? I don't think the pollen and the dead chicken in the fridge care all that much. My body doesn't seem too inclined to listen, either. So it's time to learn Japanese some more, write a bit more than that, and review Emily Dickinson's life...you know, just in case.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sometimes, it's hard to be cheerful

It's been a bad few days. The type of bad that makes you just want to sit down and cry, which, frankly, I did a couple hours ago. My hubby took the kids and let me go have a bath and rest, so he gets major kudos for that one. Thank you, honey!

So, what have my last couple of days been like?

My folks came to visit a few days ago. Yesterday, we went in to town and my throat started to swell up from breathing something in the car - we're thinking coffee or potatoes, but my vote is coffee.

The stuff is evil. Seriously. Coffee shops are everywhere; they're insinuating themselves into our hearts and mind. But when we least expect it, the coffee will come alive and we'll all be eaten by their little coffee-bean mouths and turned into drooling caffeine zombies of doom. Although considering the state of my husband before he's had his morning fix, maybe the invasion has already started...

Ahem, moving on.

I'm not actually sure what I reacted to. *cough* evil coffee *cough* It could be martian allergy dust for all I know. At this point, my body is not a temple, it's a bawdy house that invites everyone in and suffers appropriately.

In any case, I took a benadryl and my very sweet, very worried father nicked in to the local drugstore to get me a little paper face mask that would hopefully keep me from reacting more.

I promptly reacted allergically to the little paper face mask. And the benadryl (Turns out, it has corn in it. Which I can't have right now. Argh.).

Lips tingly and puffy, body collapsing, and voice so hoarse I sounded like I could make a career as a male blues singer, I pretty much draped across the back seat until we got back home. It took me seconds to head to bed and whimper quietly to myself for the rest of the night while my still-very-sweet parents volunteered to watch the kids.

And then they left this morning. I missed an entire day of their two day trip. Considering we don't see them except every few months, that completely, utterly sucks. To add to the fun, because I reacted so much, most of today I felt like I had a migraine, a case of H1N1, and a stomach bug, all in one.

Why yes, I am a bit whiny right now, why do you ask?

It's okay, though; the epic body fail was ebbing by tonight. I felt hungry again, ached less, system coming back on-line, all systems go.

I didn't get to eat until I cooked for the family, but then I got to cook for myself. And that was awesome. Woo hoo, food time! No more hunger! No more headache! No more feeling like crap!

I got about five minutes of celebration before I started reacting to the food! The buffalo meat I used is from a new source, and it is ground by the store itself. I'm pretty sure I'm reacting to something in it. God, I hope so, otherwise it means that one of my few foods is now screwed.

I don't want that.

But I just wanted a few minutes of 'I feel okay' this week. One of my 'good' foods taking that away was completely demoralizing. So I retreated into the bedroom and cried like a snot-nosed kid losing their first baseball game. And then I took a bath, read a book, and took a lot of deep breaths.

Really, I still feel like crap, but I can suck it up and honestly say - Annie style - the sun'll come out tomorrow. Because I live in a freakin' desert, and so the sun darn well WILL.

Here's hoping your sun is bright and shiny tomorrow, and will give you a much better day than today.

Oh, and lest I forget, a Cooking Tip.

When making Tomato Free Meatloaf with Sweet Potatoes - use the red ones. The one I made today was with the milder, pale yellow sweet potatoes, and it was not half as good. It lacked that 'mild BBQ flavor.' Frankly, the pale ones added texture, but not much taste. Not good for much but nutrition. I'd make burgers and sweet potato fries next time, honestly. Would have tasted better.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Keeping abreast of food allergies in a modern world

I came across some great advice today, from Jenny Connors at cornallergens.com. The labeling laws don't help her all that much, since her allergen(corn) isn't one of the big 8. I think corn is one of the little 52, or maybe it's one of the medium-sized 112. These allergens just aren't as popular, sadly. It's the big ones that get all the press, the glory-seeking jerks. They get all the rules made about them.

Other allergens get left out in the cold.

Obviously, this makes it harder to find information on corn-derived ingredients. Because corn is sneaky. It hides in the shadows, like some superhero's nemesis. Since I suffer from the same issue with a lot of the foods I avoid (they're part of the not-quite-so-big 207), I was eager to see what Jenny had to say on finding some of the more cunning allergens.

I wouldn't mind finding the shy ones, either - they don't curse as much when they answer the door.

After reading her site, I thought she had some great advice for keeping on top of the ever-changing world of food: ideas on how to find information about ingredients. Her advice is completely adaptable to all my family's food problems.

I... do regular Internet keyword searches for, say, corn or corn products every few months. For example, since corn is hidden in lots of ingredients, a common search I use is corn + derived or corn + source.

So easy to use this with sugar cane, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.... Simple, and yet I never do that. I look up ingredients, and then my research zig-zags through the internet for nearly an hour before I find what I need.

Not like I wasn't aware that I have 'search issues.' I had a clue that I was not the most efficient researcher when a search for sugar cane sources ended with my having knowledge about factory floor rules, the pineapple trade in Hawaii, and some girl named Candy who had something to show me.

I think Jenny's method is going to work better.

Glad someone had a clue. And doing it every few months? A very, very smart idea. My natural laziness is already slowing down the research. I'm sure new information would have waned to a trickle over the following months as I focused more on cooking and less on what foods to use.

I mean, really - I know everything now, right? I am the god of food information, the guru of grains, the Grand Vizier of vegetables. I don't need to know anything else, ever... as long as the food industry stagnates into uniformity and nothing ever changes from this moment on. Please.

Sigh. I think I'm going to need to put 'hit up the internet for more info.' on the calendar next month.

Hopefully, Candy will have found someone else to show her stuff to by then.