Monday, March 31, 2008 

Lentil soup

I just finished prepping for a big batch of lentil soup. I know that a lot of people aren't a fan, but I LOVE it. I'm prepping tonight so I can just toss it all in the crockpot in the morning. I'm a big fan of the crockpot anyway, but on Tuesdays, it's even more useful because that's the day that Jeremy leaves for work at six. I get home around three-ish, give or take roughly half an hour, and while I COULD make dinner, it's easier to just have something made already. In addition, I LOVE walking into a house that smells yummy.

That being said, it's not very practical for me to do prep work in the morning. So tonight, I picked through the lentils, cut up onion, celery, carrots, and ham, and stuck everything but the lentils in the refrigerator. Tomorrow morning, all I'll have to do is dump the bowl with the lentils (plus a bit of seasonings, including a bay leaf) into the crockpot, add some stock, stir in my ham and veggies, and set it on low. It'll be ready - and just sitting on warm - for me by the time I come home.

I've found that planning ahead is key to me staying gluten-free. I don't necessarily have to follow what I've planned, but it does mean that on afternoons when I come home exhausted or with little time between me getting home and Jeremy leaving, I'll at least have something that I KNOW I can have. I think part of it is just a mind trip I play on myself "Oh, I can't eat anything..." and then I do something stupid, like order pizza. It's also helpful if I make sure to have planned leftover for work so that I don't have to scramble to come up with something that I can eat when I'm dead tired at three in the morning. It sure makes the day a lot less stressful.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008 

Some startling discoveries.

As I sit here, I'm eating popped amaranth, a grain I'd heard of but never actually eaten until I read Shauna's book, Gluten-Free Girl. I've now had it several times and it's pretty good. Today I've added ground cinnamon, some pecan flavored coffee creamer (which gives it both flavor and sweetness), and some I've added some cherry-flavored Craisins. Pretty tasty breakfast, actually.

But, see, I've been lax on this whole "gluten-free" thing. That's because I just assumed that I'd have some stomach problems and that was mainly it. We've also noticed that I've gotten sick more often when eating gluten than not. But then I thought it was because of my other allergies - you know, cats, dogs, dust mites... things I'm exposed to every day. So I decided "Well, what's a little stomach pain? I'm used to that."

But last night, I did some more research. I found out a few things. People with gluten problems are more likely to get stomach and intestine cancer. If gluten is consumed on a regular basis, it can lead to malnutrition (even if you're overweight) as well as osteoporosis. A lot of people with gluten problems are misdiagnosed with lactose intolerance (well, they do have problems with lactose, but that's mainly related to problems absorbing food properly - a lot of people find they can successfully have lactose once they've taken care of the gluten problem). I don't know why I didn't pay attention to any of this before, as it has been mentioned on several of the blogs I read. I guess I was just so busy focusing on the stomach problems and the "I can't have ____" problems that I completely glossed over these other issues.

It's time to get serious about this again. No more gluten for Misa.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008 

Olives

One of my favorite bloggers, Shauna (of Gluten-Free Girl fame), posted about olives and about how much she loves them.

Me too. I love olives so much it's crazy. Sometimes, I'll leave the house to go buy a jar of olives because I really want some NOW. And I've always liked olives. As a kid, the black ones that come in a can were great for sticking on my fingers at holiday dinners. They tasted fine, but I really prefer green olives. And, in fact, this appears to always have been the case. When I was little, and we're talking four or so here, my mother would frequently come into the kitchen at night and find me munching on olives. And then, my mother started finding her jars of green olives with pimentos to no longer have pimentos in them - even though she KNEW she'd bought ones with pimentos. One night she caught me in the kitchen carefully sucking all of the pimentos out of the olives and putting them back in the jar. How kind of me to share.

One of my favorite things to do at the grocery store now is pick out a selection of olives. Yummy.

I guess a lot of people don't like any olives besides those that come in a can (those taste rather bland to me), which just makes more for me, I guess.

What about you? Do you like olives?

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Thursday, November 22, 2007 

Cranberry Cobbler (Nov. 22, 2007)

I used the recipe here. However, I did do some modifications:

- I didn't use the pecans because my husband hates nuts.
- I used 3 cups of cranberries (one package).
- I used the zest and the juice from two oranges.
- I used a large can of crushed pineapple w/juice.
- I doubled the recipe of cobbler batter.
- I used a larger baking dish.

This is, without a doubt, the BEST gluten-free dessert I have cooked yet. I can't even begin to describe how amazing this tastes. I'm really glad I added the extra pineapple. Both my husband and I love pineapple and orange, and they work really well with the cranberries.

And, as I told my mother, "If you didn't know it was gluten-free, you really wouldn't know. It tastes as good as - if not better than - a cobbler with gluten." And that's pretty much the best compliment I can give a gluten-free dish.

I've kind of kept away from gluten-free baking. The prospect is kind of scary for me. I'd hate to spend the time and effort on something, have it look good, and then have it taste... off. But I miss baked things SO much. This dish has really inspired me. I'm planning on doing more baking soon!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007 

"Emergency" foods

Now that I'm at my "permanent" spot at work (about 70 percent of us just moved desks because of shift changes), I am planning on slowly building up a reserve of emergency foods and snack foods. (By emergency foods, I mean things that I can eat if I've forgotten my lunch at home.) Things I'm thinking of getting:

Lara Bars (I love the Cherry Pie flavor. Yummy. I'm not, however, a big fan of anything of theirs that is cocoa/chocolate.)
Shelf-stable packs of tuna (or, perhaps, in tuna in a can.)
Gluten-free soups (canned)
Maybe some nuts
Gluten free crackers
Jar of peanut butter
Canned fruit/veggies
Dried fruit/veggies

I have at my disposal: a toaster (hesitant to use, because of cross-contamination), a microwave, hot water, and a can opener. They also provide plastic silverware and paper plates. Any other food suggestions? (Don't forget that I need them to be gluten-free!)

Monday, November 05, 2007 

It's important to be vigilant.

Here in the US, Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. (Early November is the harbinger of busy-ness in my life. There's Thanksgiving, followed by my birthday, followed by my anniversary - all within a week and a day, followed by Christmas less than a month later.) Unfortunately, if you've got a food allergy or food sensitivity, the "food holidays" can be a mine field. Even when people mean well, it's a lot to think about. And, generally, unless it's you or your spouse who has the food issue, there are little tiny things you might overlook. Please don't think I'm getting "down" on anybody here. It's a lot to learn. I still pick up foods that I think I can eat and learn that I can't. So, I don't really expect others to know what I can and cannot have.

My mother makes a big deal out of her two favorite "food" holidays, one of them being Thanksgiving (the other being Christmas). We always have Thanksgiving at her house (sometimes, when I was a kid, there would be THREE Thanksgivings in one day, always including the one at her house). She makes a turkey, stuffing, etc. We can bring stuff (and I usually do) but even if we only ate what she made, there'd still be way more than enough. And my mother has always been fairly tolerant of my food issues, including when I was being vegetarian. But things slip by. Now, my mother is a cook, and has been for many years. When I was little, she made everything from scratch. And yet, in the same breath, she assured me that she normally thickens her gravy with cornstarch and then "double-checked" to make sure I can have cream of mushroom soup (I can't - it's made with wheat flour, something that most cooks would know, but probably not think about).

This year, I asked if she'd have it at my house. She said no, she didn't want to, and, in addition, she didn't know if she could talk my stepfather into it (he wants to watch football on their much-larger-than-ours tv). So, I'm planning on bringing a couple of dishes. I'm not sure what, but I do know I'll probably be bringing a pie or some type of dessert, in addition to whatever else I bring. And I plan on putting those dishes far FAR away from the "regular" foods. And they will probably be color-coded.

My mother seems to think I'm being a bit obsessive. I like to call it vigilant. I HAVE to be. Flour in the gravy, a crouton in my salad, or cracker crumbs on my plate could set me back a whole three days. When you're looking at something like that, it's important to be vigilant.

Who wants to be in pain, bloated, crampy, and feeling crappy for three days? Not me, thanks.

Sunday, November 04, 2007 

Nov. 05, 2007 Bento


Nov. 05, 2007 Bento
Originally uploaded by Misa Arant
I cut this weirdly because... I need to clean my kitchen. ;) Anyway, in the white container (which is actually the lid), is an instant miso soup packet. And in the upper blue container is an egg purse, a piece of this weird tangy/sweet orange candy, and plum candies (they've been preserved with sugar and salt). In the bottom blue container, I have two onigiris, which have been flavored using some furikake (I think it's a mixed veggie one... the packet had hello kitty on a horse, so who knows?), another egg purse, and another piece of orange candy.

Saturday, November 03, 2007 

Food and organization issues.

I have some bento supplies and have packed some fairly "American"-style bentos. I'd like to pack some bentos that are more fun, though, and have a better variety. Here's the problem: I'm not very organized. Actually, that's being kind. The only thing that I own that moves around (ie not something like the computer that just stays in one place), yet still has its own "home" is my work badge. And the reason for this is that aside from not being able to get into the office if I don't have it (although I can stand there and wait for somebody to come by, it's not a good thing), my bus pass is on the backside of my work badge. AND this way, I'll find it no matter what.

But, back to my point. When it comes to food, I need to be more organized. This is seriously becoming an issue because of my food sensitivities. But, I'm not that "type" of person. I prefer to what I'm going to eat right before I eat it, rather than days ahead. In fact, if I plan to have a certain meal on a certain day, or even just these various meals throughout the week, 99% of the time, that's not going to be what I want when the time rolls around to actually eat that thing. Generally, I just eat it anyway, but feel far less satisfied than if I decided "Gee, today, I'd like steak and potatoes" and went out and got steak and potatoes.

I'm hoping to come up with a list during week of some "pantry" items that combine well with whatever I decide to pick up that day. Now that I'm getting off earlier and going through downtown almost every day, it would be easy to just pick something up to cook for dinner on my way home. We'll see if I actually do either of those things. Like I said, I'm not too organized.

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Friday, November 02, 2007 

Lunch

My work schedule is about to change, now that I'm done with post-training. Starting next week, I'll be working Mon-Wednesday, five to two, and Sat-Sunday six to two-thirty. Our lunches, during the week, are hour long (my "lunch" will be at eight-thirty, when a lot of people are still having breakfast), whereas on the weekend, we only have half an hour. There's a pretty good reason for this. During the week, the food court is open in the next building over (we're connected via an underground tunnel-walkway), as is all sorts of places in the immediate area. And, depending on the time of day you get food, it can take half an hour just to get food - not including the eating part - in the next building over because EVERYONE is there. But, on the weekend, those places close. There's a drugstore nearby that I'm pretty sure is open, but their "deli" is closed on the weekends, too (or so I've been told).

This pretty much means that if I want to eat lunch on the weekends, I have to pack my lunch. It's challenging to find food if you have no food allergies or sensitivities, but in my case, I'd pretty much be choosing between candy and potato chips. (That's a slight exaggeration - they sell canned fruit with syrupy stuff. Of course, half of that has high fructose corn syrup, which I'm also sensitive to.) I don't mind, though. It's not hard to pack lunch, even with dietary restrictions. The only time I buy lunch during the week is if I forget my lunch at home (oops) or if my husband joins me for lunch (he can't come into my lunch room - it's not allowed - but we can go over to the huge food court in the next building). I have the attitude of a two year old when it comes to bedtime (no nap! not sleepy!), so I try to make my lunch the night before, because I'm usually too tired in the morning. This has more to do with "I can't pull myself out of bed" than "I don't want to cook, I'm sleepy" but that's not the point here.

Earlier today, I was having a discussion with somebody who lives three minutes - walking time - from his work. He goes home for lunch. I'd love to do that, and probably could, during the week, but then I'd only have five to ten minutes at home before I had to turn right back around. Thanks, but no. He says that it saves him tons of money to go home for lunch because "you can spend ten dollars or so on lunch at work, when you go out". To which I mentioned that, you know, you could always pack your lunch (like I do). Something about what the guy said next didn't make sense to me, but I couldn't figure out what was "off" about it until he'd already left (I was tired, ok?). What he said was this: "But then you have to make it at home." Now, the logical part of my brain supplied me with the weird thing here. Whether you make your lunch and eat it at home or make it at home and eat it at work, YOU'RE STILL MAKING IT AT HOME. However, at the time, my brain interpreted what he said to mean "You have to make it in the morning," and so I said "Well, you don't have to make it that morning. You can pack your lunch the night before." And the response: "But, you still have to make it. That's a lot of work." I let it go.

As I said before, I mainly pack lunch. Part of that is out of necessity because of my dietary needs, but part of it is because I really do LIKE bringing my lunch. And I hate having to pay for a meal while I'm working. My defective brain likes to tell me how much of my work day I have just "wasted" by eating out.

My question to you guys is this: Do you mainly buy lunch or do you mainly pack lunch?

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Thursday, November 01, 2007 

Getting over the pity party.

About a week and a half ago, I went to see Shauna (of The Gluten-Free Girl fame) at Whole Foods. She was promoting her book,Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back...And How You Can Too and I bought a copy. I'd been hesitant to do so - not because I thought the book wouldn't be good, but because money was really tight for me at the time.

I'm so glad I bought that book.

It almost immediately brought my out of "feeling sorry for myself" mode. My husband had been saying "Don't think about what you can't have, think about what you CAN have," which was good advice, except that I couldn't think of what I COULD have. Shauna's book was able to finish that sentence for him. The book said "... and here's what those things are." (That's not all the book was about, but that was a big portion of the book.)

But now, I'm in a kind of "tough spot". The truth of the matter is that I'd love to try baking with specialty flours and flirting with gourmet ingredients, but I'm not exactly rich. And a lot of those things ARE expensive. So, I'm trying to figure out how to eaten gluten-free without breaking the bank or feeling that my food has become monotonous. I've found some inexpensive naturally gluten free things that have been pretty tasty. For instance, lunch yesterday was rice with cheese on top and tea eggs. It was pretty tasty, and not expensive at all. I packed it in my bento box and for some reason, that always makes things feel a little special.

To slightly switch topics, on Sunday night, we celebrated my mother's birthday at the Old Spaghetti Factory. They now have gluten-free pasta. It's actually pretty good, though it doesn't reheat very well (the same could be said about most noodles, however). The pasta is NOT spaghetti-shaped, but that's fine - it was spiral-shaped. It was okay with the spaghetti sauce, but was REALLY good with the mizthra cheese and olive oil. I think that it seemed like a simple pasta dish that way... maybe "old world" is what I mean to say. The pasta itself didn't really have much flavor, which isn't a bad thing. However, to be fair, I will admit that I'm constantly congested so it's hard for me to detect some of the "lighter" flavors. It had a slightly sweet hint to it. I'd be willing to order it again. Also, I called ahead and the staff was able to tell me what and how to order it in such a way that the kitchen staff would know what to do. It was nice. One of my little sisters was going to order the gluten-free pasta. I told her if she did, that she'd better not have any bread or the cake afterwards... or I'd personally kick her. Hard. I explained that it's hard enough to get places to offer such foods. It's even harder to get people to take us (people with gluten problems) seriously, and not just think it's a "fad" or worse, that we're being picky or want to be "treated specially" and are making it up/lying about it. She opted for the whole wheat pasta instead. I think she realized that I really would kick her. VERY hard. The dinner went fairly smoothly for me (food wise)... I only had a short wistful moment when the bread was down near me. I used to eat TONS of that bread every time we went (embarrassing amounts, really) but I thought really hard about how cruddy I'd feel for three days after eating it and it didn't seem as desirable after that.

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