Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Did I get glutened, or did my appendix just burst?

I rarely have a reaction to gluten (mostly because I’m pretty careful, but I'm also very lucky), but when I do get glutened, oh geez, watch out.

When that gluten hits...

First thought: Did I get glutened, or did my appendix just burst?

Second thought: Should I go to the hospital or wait to see if this is just a gluten thing?

Sucks getting glutened. It’s kind of like getting food poisoning, except your stomach hurts so bad you can even walk.

I was first glutened one summer about a year ago when I decided I was going to eat a eggroll, dammit, and no one could stop me!!!

Sidenote: No one could stop me because I was alone, where most of my bad decisions are made haha.

About six hours later I was laying on the ground, writhing in pain, facetiming with my spouse (who was on a business trip to Japan) trying to figure out if this is what getting glutened felt like, or if my intestines had somehow turned into a molten lead.

So last night I was pretty sure that I got glutened, and it wasn’t a medical emergency, but I couldn’t help but feel extremely frustrated. When the F did I get glutened? I hadn’t cheated (I’m rarely even tempted anymore),  I’d been making mostly my own food, and I’d been careful about what I ordered when I went out to eat. I know that I eat trace amounts of gluten all the time, because I do eat out a lot, and I never have a reaction. So what happened?

Now I’ve got a whole new crazy set of ideas running through my brain. Am I more sensitive to gluten now? Is there a kind of gluten I don’t know about that I ate? Are the labels lying? Do I need to be even more careful?

I drank a ton of water, settled into bed (because moving felt like absolute death), and put a heating pad on my belly. My spouse snuggled in with me and in the morning I started feeling better, but still not myself yet. But more than the physical pain, I’m worried about the mystery gluten, and will it strike again? 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Can I Stomach Eating Out Ever Again After Reading "Kitchen Confidential"?

Its sunny and 75 in California which means 'tis the season for my favorite summer past time--poolside reading while sipping on that sweet fermented grape juice.

Despite all my better judgement (since going out to eat is my favorite hobby, second only to napping), I picked up Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" for my daily dance with skin cancer (kidding--I wear SPF 180. No, seriously. If you can't tell from the pictures I post on here, I'm pretty sure I'm at least part albino).

So, to answer the big question: after learning about the dirty little freak show which is the food industry, will I be eating out again ever again?

Answer: Hell yes.

If nothing, Bourdain's book made me more appreciative of the rough and tumble world of restauranteering. Sure, Bourdain confirmed all my worst fears about the restaurant business, but those fears were more like solid suspicions anyway, and it didn't stop me before. Like Bourdain says in his book, "Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride." (But for real, folks, as much as I enjoy the sentiment I must say your body is a temple. Enjoy it, but be good to it!) Although I disagree with his stance of vegetarians and, well, many other things, I love Bourdain's attitude that food is an adventure of the fearless variety.

Here are my five major takeaways:

1. I have a new respect for chefs. Not only do they make incredible food, but they are also human resource managers, inventors, grave diggers, publicists, and supreme organizers—all rolled into one salary.

2.  I’m glad I have celiac disease so I’ll never be tempted again by the “recycled” bread baskets.

3. Again, so glad I don’t eat flour after learning that staff feel free to use the stacks as liberator shapes (aka sex pillows).

4. After learning about all the work, sweat, and blood (literally—ew) that goes into every meal I will never again complain about my food unless its really, really bad. (To be fair, I don’t think I’ve  ever complained about my food before, but I have a whole new appreciation!)

5. My pseudo-dream of being a chef is shattered. I’m definitely not dedicated enough. I don’t want to hire/fire, give up every weekend, work my fingers until they are bloody stumps, and stress about every sprig of parsley. Home chef is just fine for me, thanks. 

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.” 

 Food Books on My Summer To-Read List:
(you're welcome to read with me!)

The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J Adams

Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free by April Peveteaux

Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis 

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis 

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern, Daniel Ahern

Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner by Rick Archbold

Thursday, March 20, 2014

If Patients Had To Sign an Expectations Contract Before Entering the Hospital...

I love being a nurse. I think it is the most rewarding job in the world. I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to help people every day AND get paid for it. But nursing definitely comes with frustrations. It’s not just the best job in the world, but it can also be the hardest.  Some of those frustrations come from the expectations of patients. 

Empty playground at a hospital in Ecuador, 2012
Patients are the reason that nursing is a great profession, but sometimes the expectations of what nurses, and the medical community can do, is misunderstood by patients. And this causes stress for everyone. I joke all the time that everyone would be so much happier if patients had to read and sign a contract before they were admitted to the hospital so they had a better idea of what to expect.

After a particularly hard week at the hospital, I wrote a “joke contract” as a form of pseudo-therapy for myself. But all joking aside, apparently some doctors are already instituting patient expectations contracts. I find this really interesting, as both patients and the medical community need to take responsibility for patient expectations and outcomes.

I think it would be so great if patients were given a clear, honest picture of what to expect as a patient from the medical staff. I think this could only improve patient care and satisfaction, and open up more of a dialogue between the staff and patients on what they are hoping to accomplish by the hospital stay. Here is a start to what I would have patients read and sign before admission. 

The Patient Expectations Contract

1. I understand that I am in a hospital and will likely experience pain, nausea, discomfort, anxiety, sleeplessness, frustration, more pain, and boredom. I understand that, although medicine is wonderful and advancing every day, there may not be a medication or miracle to solve all of these problems, including the problem I was admitted with. The staff is doing their best to make me happy but sometimes I will just have to grin and bear it.

2. I am my best advocate. When I need something, I will ask for it before the need becomes extreme. I will speak up when I am scared, hurt, hungry, etc., before I take my frustrations out on the staff. I will ask questions while my doctors are in the room, especially when it is a question only a doctor will answer. I will write down my questions and thoughts so I can share them with the appropriate staff and not forget them. I will say no when I want to, because it is my body.

3. I realize that my nurse is not my waitress, maid, punching bag, or personal slave. My nurse is my nurse. My nurse’s job is to keep me alive, and as comfortable as possible. It may not be possible to keep me comfortable. My nurse is my advocate, but can only advocate as much as I let them. For example, if I tell my nurse I’m in excruciating pain, and that nurse summons the doctor, yet I put on a brave face for the doctor, I realize my nurse will not get an order of pain meds from the doctor, and cannot help me. I realize for my nurse to help me I must be honest, clear about what I need, and straightforward with all members of the medical team. 

4. I acknowledge that I am not the only patient. I will have to wait, sometimes a long time, for things that I need. My doctors and nurses will not be able to spend as much time with me as they want to. I will rarely get things the moment I ask for them. My doctors and nurses will do the best they can to accommodate when I want to walk, eat, sleep, have tests, and talk to them, but I will also have to be very flexible and patient because things rarely go exactly as planned in the hospital.

5. I know that my doctors and nurses are only human. They are not gods, miracle workers, or invincible. Although my doctors and nurses care about me (yes, we really, really do) and will use all their skills and compassion to do everything they can for me, I know that not all medical issues are fixable, and most medical courses run into complications. My doctors and nurses have feelings. They get frustrated, sad, and hurt, just like me. They also celebrate with me, and are genuinely happy when I get better. They will do everything they can for me, but I will be kind to them, too.

*Alright, so this isn’t exactly a “gluten-free” post. But I wanted to share it, so hopefully you’ll give me some slack ;)

Wearing my grandmother's medal for "most compassionate nurse"

Disclaimer: Having been both a nurse and a patient, these opinions are entirely my own and not necessarily the opinions of my employers or fellow nurses, past or present.

Monday, March 17, 2014

10 Reasons to Grow Your Own Herbs

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

- e e cummings

Day 14 - Sprouts Abound

Reasons to Grow Your Own Herbs:

1. They are beautiful

2. They are alive.

3. You can save a lot of money.

4. Cook with the freshest ingredients.

5. Save yourself a trip to the store.

6. The only way to guarantee no pesticides. 

7. It's satisfying to grow something yourself.

8. They smell wonderful.

9. Embrace your artistic side picking out a variety of pots. 

10. You start to truly appreciate your food. 

Bonus reason: You can be 100% sure they are gluten-free ;) What, you thought I wouldn't mention that on a gluten-free blog? Pish. 

Have more reasons? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Why Kale is Crucial to People with Celiac Disease

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, it was because my nurse practitioner (NP) was looking for an obscure tropical parasite that she suspected was ravaging my body. You can read more about that here. Unfortunately, the answer wasn’t as easy as a round of antibiotics. Instead I got a lifelong disease that would completely change my entire lifestyle. But in the process of figuring out my diagnosis, my NP ordered a full round of blood work. And what she found was scary.

Even though I looked like a healthy, strong 26 year old (ah—I was so young. C’e la vie!), my labs were completely out of whack. Especially my electrolytes. And the biggest red flag of all? My calcium was terribly low.
Pre-Colonoscopy Hospital Gown Selfie! In my defense, there's not a lot to do in a clinic waiting room but read curled-paged magazines and feel anxious. Sent this to my spouse with the caption "shit's going down."   

But why? I asked. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in this world who loved ice cream and cheese more than me. How could my calcium be low?

Well, what some of you may know who have had the disease for a while, and what some of you new-bies or “just curious” readers might not know, is that celiac disease wreaks havoc on your intestines when you are eating gluten*. This causes massive damage to your intestinal villi which leads to nutritional deficiencies. In laymans terms: I could eat all the calcium I wanted, but my body wouldn’t absorb it.

Oddly enough, the year previous to my diagnosis I’d volunteered for a research study on bone density and received a bone scan. The head researcher ended up following up with me, and asked me if I had malabsorption problems. I said no, and he said I better start eating more foods with calcium. I think this was his polite way of saying I have old lady bird bones.
Sweet Chili-Lime Kale (recipe below)

Anyway, how does this all relate to kale? Well, like most greens, kale is gluten-free. It is also a nutritional powerhouse. Although kale is considered trendy, it’s for a very good reason. Kale has huge health benefits, and not just to people with celiac. But I would say, especially for people with celiac.

First of all, kale packs a huge punch when it comes to calcium, having a higher calcium content per calorie than even milk! This is great for us gluten-free foodies, because many of us have suffered from calcium deficiencies our whole lives without even knowing it. (My many broken bones throughout childhood should have been a hint though…)

One of the other labs that came back very low was iron. Now, this was also troubling to me. I was a vegetarian for three years at the end of high school and beginning of college and knew that I was having trouble finding enough iron rich foods for my diet. But by the time I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I was eating meat all the time. I’d actually become quite a whiz at the grill and was eating more ribeye than your average Texas cowboy. But I was still iron deficient.

Kale Garlic Superfood Stir-Fry (recipe below)
Well, kale has the answer there, too. Kale has more iron per calorie than your average steak! Although keep in mind that kale is low-calorie, so you need to eat a healthy amount.

Now, I know I’m not the only person with celiac who is deficient in calcium and iron. In fact, calcium and iron are two of the most common nutritional deficiencies in people with celiac disease.  And yet, there is a food that is high in both, AND has many other health benefits. How amazing is that?

And if I haven’t convinced you yet of the importance of kale for gluten-free girls and boys, here are a few more important facts about kale:

1) Kale is packed with fiber. Keep that colon clean, people!

2) Eating kale can help reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease**. Really, that should be reason enough to give it a try!

3) The Cleveland Clinic is calling Kale the “king of leafy greens” because kale is a powerhouse of nutrients. Not only is it full of calcium and iron, but also lutien, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A***

Convinced? Here are some recipes to get you started on your own conquest of kale!

Recipes soon to come: Kale Chips and Turkey Kale Cabbage Stir-Fry

Recipes I Want to Try By Fellow Bloggers (outside links):

Cited Sources: 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Happy Unofficial National Sweet and Sour Chicken Day

"Craving is a good thing. In matters of culinary art, craving creates wonders." - Andy Paula

I don't know if you heard, but yesterday was a very important day, aka National Pancake Day. Now, I had every intention of celebrating. I even went out and bought syrup! But for the last few days I've had a huge craving for sweet and sour chicken--a craving that overwhelmed even my love of pancakes. I know, but what can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants.

So I declared yesterday unofficial sweet and sour chicken day. You're welcome. 

1 pound raw boneless chicken breast tenders
½ cup frozen pineapple tidbits (or chunks)
1 cup frozen mix of sliced red bell peppers, onions, and green bell peppers
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup white sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
½ teaspoon garlic salt
pinch of salt 


Step 1: Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x11 pan with vegetable oil.

Step 2: Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Take two small bowls. In one, put the cornstarch. In the second, add the two eggs, and beat.

Step 3: Add vegetable oil to a small pan and turn to medium heat. Dip each chicken piece in the cornstarch (just a warning—touching cornstarch is about as pleasant as running your nails down a chalkboard), covering completely, and then dip in the egg liquid, covering completely again. Step 4: Carefully place the chicken into the oil (spoiler alert: oil is hot and splashes if you drop things in it!). If your chicken isn’t covered by the oil, cook for 1-2 minutes and then flip, cooking for another 1-2 minutes, until lightly browned. If your oil does cover your chicken, 2-3 minutes or so works well.

Step 4: In your greased pan, add the frozen vegetables and pineapple tidbits.  Transfer the browned chicken pieces to your pan.

Step 5: To make the sauce, mix your apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, garlic salt, sugar, salt to taste, and ketchup. Pour on top of your chicken/vegetable mixture.

Step 6: Cook your delicious entrĂ©e for 50 minutes, stirring halfway through (more often if you’re motivated).

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

On Making “Cauliflower Wings” and My Thoughts on Imitation Food

"Imitation cannot go above its model." - Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Last night I made “imitation wings.” I signed up for this gluten-free food box subscription (Groupon: the Achilles heel of the adventurous but cheap) and one of the foods came with a recipe for cauliflower wings. It sounded fun and it meshed well with my quest to eat more vegetarian. Plus, I have a lot of cauliflower in my fridge which is teetering dangerously on the edge of going to that big white cabbage in the sky.
 So, I thought, hey, why not? I followed the recipe--it was pretty good--but I found myself feeling disappointed. My spouse scarfed it down, confused, as usually, by my mixed emotions. “What?” he asked. “These are awesome!”

But I just didn’t like something about them, and I couldn’t figure out what. The sauce was decent, they were cooked just right, and the dip was filled with oniony goodness. I should have been thrilled with a successful new recipe. But something was wrong.

Then I realized it.

They weren’t chicken wings.

I was expecting to eat chicken wings.

The search for more vegan/vegetarian recipes has brought me back to a food trend that I’d almost forgotten about: imitation everything. You see, this ain’t my first imitation rodeo. I went through this trend when I went gluten-free.

When I first was diagnosed with celiac, I tried to make imitation everything. Imitation gluten-free bread, imitation cake, imitation pancakes, imitation, imitation, imitation. Some recipes were successful, some sucked more than Edward on Bella’s face.

But I learned something very quickly: making “fake” versions of the foods I loved would never taste exactly the same, and trying over and over was frustrating. It usually led to me missing those foods that I couldn’t replicate even more.

I realized that if I was going to make a huge dietary adjustment, my food based happiness was going to stem from learning to embrace the foods I could eat. I think this is true for vegan/vegetarian eating as well.

Imitation meat. Imitation protein crumbles. Imitation cheese. Seriously, have you tried imitation cheese? I’m going to follow the old truism here--if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

I’m tired of seeing fruits, veggies, and legumes that are smashed, shaped, and forced into trying to taste like something they’re not in the name of imitation. All these foods have natural flavors that should be celebrated, not hidden to try to create something artificial. After all, embracing and enhancing the natural flavors of your ingredients is what makes for the greatest recipes.

That’s not to say that there aren’t excellent imitation foods and recipes out there. In fact, I know there are, and I certainly appreciate them. The world would be a much bleaker place without gluten-free brownies. But I’m just saying, if you make a piece of cauliflower and cover it in BBQ sauce and expect it to taste exactly like a chicken wing, you’re likely to be disappointed. But if you embrace it as cauliflower, you can really appreciate what you’re eating. 

Instead of trying to make an “imitation wing,” why not try to make the best damn BBQ cauliflower out there?