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Aug. 18th, 2007

Feasting on Asphalt

Although Alton Brown is working on an unattractive curmedgeonly persona, just this close to turning into the Bill Geist-cum-Andy Rooney of the Food Network*, the secon Feasting on Asphalt series is making my mouth water just as much as the first one did last summer. So while I'm waiting for this weekend's episode, where I have reason to believe we will catch a glimpse of the almost-mythical Delta tamales, I am making what he ate last week -

Beef Tips on Pancakes

The technique is probably listed on foodtv.com. I remember that the lady simmered her tips for 45 minutes in water or stock, and then baked them in barbecue sauce until, well until they were done. She was amazed when Alton saw the pancake griddle and, as he does when being pleasant rather than pretentious, got all 7-year-old excited and ran all over the restaurant insisting that if chicken and waffles are great, beef tips on pancakes would be transcendent. And apparently, they were. So we will be using:

A box of frozen pork rib tips, baked slowly so they don't overcook. A package of Bob's Red Mill buckwheat pancake mix, v. hot griddle, fried in butter not oil so they brown and caramelize the second they hit the pan. Oh my god I wish it were dinnertime right now.

* Yes, I said it. Alton was such an asshole to the contestants on "Next Food Network Star" that I was actually checking his left hand for an absent wedding ring, thinking people usually act that weirdly mean only right after a divorce.

Aug. 17th, 2007

Bread salad

That's right, I said "bread salad" on a gluten-free blog. Anyone who's had experience with breads free of wheat know that wheat is not only the stretchiest flour, but also the one that holds moisture most effectively. Meaning that even with the most careful of storage methods, rice bread is super-dry and crumbly after Day 3. But I refuse to waste it! If I can't make French toast with it (and I can, oh I can), then I'll find some other excuse to pour liquids over the bread (oh, custard over a bread pudding, butter over croutons, you get the idea).

Not a lot of time to post, but I'll write down what I made for lunch. This was just what was on hand in the fridge, the best kind of meal some days:

3 thick slices of gluten-free bread, well toasted
1 medium/big beefsteak tomato, chunked
1 large avocado, in slightly smaller chunks (good and ripe)
2/3 cup leftover Italian-marinated bean salad (favas, haricots, onions)
2 Tbsp. mayo
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1/4 cup grated white cheddar
Big grinds of: salt, black pepper, and something labeled "pizza herbs" from the spice merry-go-round

Mix all, let sit a few minutes, fall upon as if starving. Which you will not be for long, as this made enough to serve 4 generously.

This salad is delicious cold, but I saved the bread-toasting 'til last today and had the produce at room temp, so it was gorgeously warm and almost wilty-feeling.

Basically panzinella is cubed bread, tomato, and vinegar/oil dressing. Adding beans of various kinds is traditional for bulk, as are cheeses and herbs, but as you can see it withstands quite a bit of latitude, even accepting the early California Cuisine touch of avocado with no sense of being overloaded. I have heard of people adding chicken too, if you simply must have meat on a meal-size salad.

So do not feel you have to waste that hideously expensive g-f bread just because it will no longer stand up to being a sandwich! There are all kinds of ways to turn that stuff into a fork meal.

Jul. 9th, 2007

Keepin on

We've decided to continue gluten-free for a while. J. says until the end of July, I'm plugging for the rest of the summer, we'll see what I can convince him of. Because rheumatoid arthritis is such a slippery thing to get a hold on, we feel like we need more information - is this just a summer slowdown regardless, or might he have had a bad episode were we still eating wheat? As always with RA, it's just hard to say. Still keeping the pain/energy diary, and bloodwork is next week.

Our original goal was just until his birthday, a couple weeks ago. That gave us five weeks. The older thinking with an elimination/challenge was, eliminate the offending food for 2 weeks, add it back in slowly. The newer thinking is, eliminate it for longer, have a "glutton day" of the food, and if you have a strong reaction to it, eliminate it again for one day, then start adding it slowly back in over time until you reach a point at which you notice you are once again having the reaction.

There are problems with this approach. For one thing, no matter how long you say you are going to stay off the target food, some asshole naturopath will tell you it's not long enough. (And by "some asshole naturopath," I specifically mean the one I can't stand who hurt my ears when I consulted her, and the one who is married to my husband's acupuncturist, who is not actually an asshole at all but just gives the impression of buying into every ND fad going around right now, particularly "we're all allergic to wheat" and "oh god don't eat soy.") So we have people telling us we have to stay off for three weeks longer than whatever random length of time we tell them we're going for. Which is really really irritating.

But worse than that, is the fact that really nobody knows what the hell they're talking about when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis. And I include J's kind, patient, well-educated rheumatologist, who sees J. several times a year, in that number. Now I don't mean to run these people down. They are trying their damndest. When I hear Sean talk about the accidental discovery of the effect of Tumor Necrosis Factor, or listen to his explanations of growing biologic modifiers on hamster ovary tissue, I have no doubt that there is a crack team of people trying to figure out what the flock to do about this disease. When I can look at a sort of time-lapse video of synovial fluid in the metacarpal-phalangeal joints thickening, stiffening, and even folding back upon itself, I know they are keeping a close eye on the phenomenon. And yet --

They don't really know how to stop it.

They aren't the tiniest bit clear on why it happens.

They don't know what day J. will wake up just a little stiff, and what day he will be at work and suddenly have such a searing pain in his hip he has to ask someone to drive him home because it hurts too much to drive.

And when we try out a treatment, ANY of them, from any tradition - they have very little good idea if it will work. "Work" meaning, lessen the pain, slow the thickening, convince J.'s body somehow that really, his own joint lining is "us," not "other."

So when one of them tries to tell us, after our seven years of diligence, that "That's not long enough," I want to step on their toes and yell at them. Really, you're confident that if we just stick it out eating gluten-free for another six weeks, we'll have a clear answer? Just like you were confident we'd have a clear answer after the first five? How about all those months we spent letting MDs check his blood sedimentation rates, or letting NDs burn his stomach with oregano oil capsules, while we waited for a diagnosis - that wait doesn't count for time served? Or the additional months he deferred starting methotrexate, a known teratogen, so we could try to conceive our son, even though his wrists sustained irreversible damage and he could hardly pick anything up during that time? Or the year he had to take the steroid, adding weight that is now hard to lose and that sucks his remaining energy?

Encourage us in our struggling exploration. Admit that you only know a few people who have turned it around significantly by eliminating wheat. But don't cavalierly stand there, enjoying your theories and effortlessly moving your joints and eating a burger for lunch, and tell us that we just haven't tried hard enough. We're trying, and you're trying my patience.

Jul. 3rd, 2007

Fast Food

I am putting in a plug for Kinnickinnick brand pre-baked pizza crusts. Oh my dear god these are delicious. Get them in the freezer section of your local more-organic-than-thou grocery store - they are 7" across and come in a package of 4.

To prepare, since they are already baked, all you have to do is heat them up a little before topping. Unlike wheat-flour breads which toughen under this treatment, rice-flour breads respond beautifully to microwave thawing, so this step is superquick.

I topped ours (2 for the 3 of us) with my own spaghetti sauce (crammed with veg of course), canned mushrooms (they hold up in the oven better than fresh), pepperoni slices, and the remaining pitifully small amount of mozzarella. Normally I would slather on a bunch of cheddar and jack also, but amazingly, since I stopped eating wheat I am not buying nearly as much cheese either, so we were out of all but the mozz and a scoshe of parmesan, which also went on.

Into the toaster oven at 450 for about 5-6 minutes - just enough to melt, blend, and crisp a tiny bit. The child hopped right up to the table and ate 3 cute little triangles, while J. and I praised him for sudden Pleases and Thank Yous and got non-stuffed full very fast. There are still a few slices left for the boy's lunch tomorrow even.

Really, come on. A meal that filled us all up, was fairly inexpensive (don't think about the cost of all those organic vegetables in that sauce don't don't don't), and truly took 15 minutes from concept to table. Yowza!

It's been a good "health" weekend all around, really. I got a massage after far too long a break (and I know better, I do it for a living). After hearing me rave about how much better I feel, J. actually let me book *him* into an empty spot in my schedule today, so I had the unexpected pleasure of working on my husband in my treatment space. It felt so good to be able to actually do something to make him comfortable, to help his health along. And he felt comfy on my table, enjoyed the music (Dean Evenson "Tao of Healing," which he bought for me years ago), and really felt better. We went out for a salad lunch afterward, feeling virtuous and light and even taking a short walk.

I know, listening to somebody else's health kick doesn't interest most people. I always like reading this kind of thing, though, and it feels good to be able to write it myself.

Jun. 30th, 2007

Bread still oh-my-god-worthy

Despite dire warnings that riceflour bread, if not carefully FROZEN (not just refrigerated) will not keep even 24 hours without crumbling to dry dust . . . despite this, this morning I took the remaining half-loaf from the fridge, sliced it up, and served it toasted to all three of us. (With strawberry jam my mother and I made last week, you may all bow before me as I can see you want to.)

It was so yummy that at one point, as I was absentmindedly eating while starting up an episode of Blue's Clues,* I actually yanked the toast back from my mouth thinking, "What am I doing eating WHEAT!?" Yep, that good.

* Yes, we watch quite a bit of the BC around here. Also the Backyardigans, the Wonder Pets, and on the sly away from the toddler, that crazy Icelandic hit Lazytown. What? We eat organic, we're starting to compost, we're losing weight, that's enough for me.

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