Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Gluten Challenge*

I have been wrestling with the idea of not ever being diagnosed for most of the nearly seven years that I have been gluten free. I have put it off, dreaded it, been unwilling to do so. But the last couple of years, and this past year especially, I have been in pain more than I have not. I am to the point that I cannot know if I am getting gluten accidentally through cross-contamination, or if something else is going on. So I went to my doctor early this week and talked to him about what is going on. He took several blood tests, including one to check for celiac, so he can see where I am starting, and I am challenging gluten. My first was a sandwich with wheat bread, which I had for lunch when I got back from his office. I was surprised (should I be?) to discover that it was awful. Too gummy. Too heavy. Too much to eat. It seemed like it just sat in my stomach all day. I didn’t eat dinner and still wasn’t hungry the next morning. My understanding is that I need to eat the equivalent of 2 slices of wheat bread a day for at least a month, and some doctors say 4 to 6 slices-worth is better, for the best chance of an accurate blood test. It will be tricky to eat that much, and I want to be sure to eat wheat, rye, and barley.

So far, I haven’t been in terrible pain, but there has been a constant nagging pain, nonetheless. I don’t know how this is going to go. Perhaps, if I am only intolerant, and not celiac, as I have thought, I have been off long enough that I can tolerate gluten now. Even if that is true, I would like to remain mostly gluten free, but I won’t have to worry about cross-contamination. Perhaps it will turn out that I do have celiac. I have suspected that, and I also believe that it is what plagued my father from his mid-fifties until his death. He was always in pain, always felt sick, didn’t want to eat, and never had any relief. The doctors tried everything, but nothing gave helped. He died before the gluten issue became well-known enough in this country to be considered.

One of the trickiest part of this challenge is to overcome my aversion to even touching gluten. That might seem extreme, and it no doubt is, but the pain that I have had over the years is behind that paranoia. I was pouring some glutenful cereal this morning and some missed the bowl. I cringed as I picked it up and then laughed at myself. Your going to eat this, silly girl.

One of the nice things about this challenge is I can revisit some foods that I have missed. I expect I won’t care for some of them anymore—taste buds, kindly, change over time—but that remains to be seen. There is one particular coffee shop in our town that makes amazing crepes (so I have been told, and my eyes believe it), and I will be having one of those before I get my results back.

What I am not doing is bringing glutendeath flour into my kitchen. If I do have celiac, I am not interested in completely wiping down every surface of my kitchen and dining room again. Flour. goes. everywhere. But my husband has taken to mixing things outside and cooking them in gluten-tainted pans, so we will be doing that.

*Note to friends: I am posting this to hopefully keep you from freaking out if you see me eat gluten over the next few weeks. Thanks for the use of the photo, Vicki. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sleuth Lost and Found (or: Weeding Your Kitchen)

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A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
Ecclesiastes 3:6

I was trying to find my post on here with a link to an article about how to set up a kitchen when you find out you are unable to eat gluten, basically: what to keep and what to throw away. But then I remembered that the post that was linked to had been taken down. I was looking specifically for how to make a gluten-laden cast iron skillet gluten free again. I did a search and in the process found two blog posts that are extremely helpful. Both mention the cast-iron solution, though with the first one, it is in a footnote, not in the chart given.

Three Bakers has a post, Making Your Kitchen Gluten Free – Our Guide to Preparing Your Gluten-Free Kitchen, which is quite thorough. This site is a great resource.

The second is from About.com (a wealth of knowledge, that place offers). The article concerns gluten free cookware and utensils. Number 3 addresses cast iron.

The hardest part about making your life safe is the stuff you have to let go of; the key is to resolve to be faithful. It isn’t necessarily fun, but it is essential.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Zucchini Zucchini Zucchini Zucchini Zucchini Zucchini Zucchini Zucchini Zucchini ad infinitum

Slice them, dice them, grate them. Buy them, fry them, bake them. Carve lovely designs in the dark green skin, allowing the lighter flesh to peek through. Have a zucchini party! Make zucchini bread! So much zucchini, so little time!

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I love zucchini. I love that it is willing to be whatever you want it to be: sweet, savory, slimy, even invisible filler. Planting zucchini in your garden pretty much guarantees it will be coming out your ears, but I am willing to suffer that abundance. Willing to pursue, and share, yummy recipes. This year, we have had a huge amount of rain, and the result of that is a bumper crop of zucchini, yellow summer squash, and eggplant, so we are eating a lot of them! I have developed a couple of variations-on-other-themes dishes that I want to share with you before squash season is gone.

Recipes for this first item, dehydrated zucchini slices, is readily available on the web, but my variation is about the seasonings.

I am so bad about quantities. I always just pour whatever I am pouring in and decide when to stop, so I am showing you photos of the ingredients with guesses as to how much I used. I know, lame. But this way if they don’t seem quite right to you, you can adjust. The food won’t care if you make the change and neither will I. And I bet it will still be yummy.

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In a large mixing bowl, I put about three tablespoons of olive oil and one of water.

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This is a single-serving dessert dish. Measurements are approximate. Starting at the top and going clockwise, the spices are cumin (1 teaspoon), garlic powder (I ended up doubling that, so 2 teaspoons), oregano (1 tablespoon), and chili powder (1 tablespoon).


Dehydrated Mexican-Spice Zucchini SlicesDSCF5230

Zucchini, cut in 1/4–3/8 inch slices
Olive oil (3 T)
Water (1 T)
Cumin (1 t)
Oregano (1 T)
Chili powder (1 T) 
Garlic powder (2 t)
(Adjust all spice quantities to taste)

The thickness of your slices is a matter of preference, but I really like them a bit thicker and dehydrated longer to compensate.

Put olive oil, water, and spices into a large mixing bowl. Using a spoon, mix the spices and liquids together. Add zucchini slices, tossing to coat. If some of the slices don’t seem spicy enough, you can sprinkle a little more on them. You can also wipe the bowl clean with zucchini slices that need more spice. You want plenty of spice, but if you get too much oil, the slices will be greasy after they are dehydrated. It may take a time or two before you get the feel for this, but even bad batches are still edible and yummy. Load the slices onto the trays, and when you run out of the oil mixture, make a new batch and continue coating slices until the dehydrator is full. If I end up with more zucchini than I have room on the trays, I just stir fry the extras for dinner.

Once the trays are loaded, dehydrate for about 8 hours, or until the slices are crisp (you may want to refer to the owners manual for your particular dehydrator to make sure this timing is right; this works with mine). I make as many batches as I can every year. It was the inability to find a gluten free-version of croutons that I liked that prompted me to start making these. They are great on salads, but they are also nice by themselves as a snack.

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Next up is a blending of a couple of recipes that have been favorites in my home: ratatouille and pizza. This is so deliciously pizza-like, and because there is no crust involved it is a lot less filling than regular pizza, yet very satisfying. I am able to tolerate some mozzarella cheese right now, but when I am unable to handle dairy at all, I just leave the cheese off. If you can’t tolerate dairy, you could do the same or use a dairy free cheese; I just don’t like any of those, so I go without.

Ratatouille Pizza

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Zucchini, sliced (and/or yellow summer squash)DSCF5288
2 eggplants, diced
Onions, chopped
Green pepper, chopped (to taste)
1 6-ounce can of small or medium ripe olives, sliced
Pepperoni slices (1 of the 2 sealed packages of the Hormel that is pictured to the right, or to taste)
Mozzarella cheese (or Italian blend), shredded, as much as you like 
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
Spices, to taste: Italian seasoning (1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons), basil (1 to 2 teaspoon), oregano (1 to 2 teaspoon),
                       garlic powder (1 to 2 teaspoons)

Preheat oven to 350° F

Layer veggies in a 9 x 13 glass dish. I layered mine as follows: squash slices, diced eggplant, onions, green pepper, olives, with the pepperoni slices on top.

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Note that the bottom layer is yellow summer squash. I have a ton of that, too. This was my second time making this recipe, and the first one had zucchini. A blend would be good as well. Also, this one doesn’t have onions, but only because I forgot them. The first one did, though, and they really are a great addition.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, then pull it out of the oven, sprinkle with cheese, and then bake for about 10 more minutes, or until the cheese is as melted and/or browned as you like. This one could have been in there a bit longer.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do at my house!