Sunday, December 2, 2012

Can you just eat around it?

How many times have you heard, "Can you just around it?"  As if I could eat the pie fillings, but just leave the crust.  If only it was that easy!

This is a tough time of year, and after almost 4 years of being gluten-free, there will still be times every now and then, it can get frustrating.  I mean, I am pretty cool with the fact that when I go to someone's house, a holiday craft show, or an open house, it is pretty likely that I won't be able to eat anything.  I will make sure I eat something before I go, and If there is wine, I am fine.  I may even have a piece of cheese, if it is on a plate on its own and not next to bread and crackers.  Of course, I always try and bring something, so at least I know I can have one one thing.

Sometimes I feel like I am a broken record when people ask why I can't just eat around the offending gluten, or give me a look like I am being overly paranoid.  Sometimes, I just want to not have to explain myself.  Yes, it is difficult, yes, there is not much available in these situations, and yes, it can suck.  But, it is just food, and I will eat when I get home.  Sometimes I worry it bothers other people more than it bothers me.

And then the worst part, is when people will say casually something is gluten-free, yet, but I don't feel like asking a hundred of questions about asking to see the label, or how it was cooked, and honestly, I don't wish to spend the next several hours being sick, so please don't be offended if I just choose not to try it.

I know people have the best intentions, especially my great group of friends.  And I really do miss the days I could be like everyone else, and just eat what I see, no questions asked.  But now that I know what the outcome is when I do get sick, I won't risk it.  No matter what it is.

I have been to a couple of parties lately that were as usual full of lovely gluten. I don't expect to eat anything, so I am really not bothered or upset.  Then a friend will tell me they made something that is gluten-free, and it is next to all the lovely gluten-filled treats.  I am so appreciative, but it fills me with such anxiety, I just don't feel comfortable to eat it.

I do appreciate when people go out of their way to provide something that is gluten-free, but if I feel the slightest bit uncomfortable, I won't eat it, and then I feel awful about possibly offending them.  But frankly, I will say no, before I risk getting sick.

So, while I feel more comfortable in social situations, because I am used to the fact that I can't eat all those lovely goodies, I wish people were more comfortable about me not being able to eat.

How do you handle social situations during the holidays?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Baked Apple Pancake

I could probably write out a long list of things I miss from my gluten-eating days...a fresh crepe from a street vendor in Paris, a crusty French baguette, deep dish spinach pizza from Gino's East in Chicago, Peshwari naan, and the list could go on and on....  But there is one thing on that list, that I do still indulge in at home, gluten-free style of course. The Baked Apple Pancake I used to enjoy at The Original Pancake House (we are not talking IHOP here).

My mom is to thank for this copycat recipes, she used to make it for us at home growing up, and I simply gluten-free-ized it so I could safely eat it now.

This is a quick and delicious dish for a weekend brunch for guests, or just for your own family.  It also works when you want breakfast for dinner - as we like in our house!

Baked Apple Pancake

6 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup gluten-free flour (I like using Pamela's in this recipe)
3 T. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 stick of butter
2 apples, peeled, thinly sliced
2-3 T. brown sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees;

Mix first 6 ingredients (slightly lumpy);

Melt butter in 12" porcelain quiche dish or 13 x 9 baking pan in the oven;
Add apple slices to pan. Return to oven 'til butter sizzles. Do not let brown;
Remove dish from oven and pour batter over apples. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and brown;

Serve immediately.

What is one of your favorite dishes that you have converted to be safe and gluten-free?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving: What to do?

A holiday completely based on food, a gluten-free eater's dream ...not usually, but it can be.  I like to take advantage of these big holidays and host them myself, so I can feel safe and make them my own.  I love being able to use my menus, my creativity and my ingredients.

But, sometimes we don't have the choice on whether to host.  I have eaten away from home on Thanksgiving, so it is definitely doable.  Here are some tips on how to make eating a Thanksgiving meal in a non-gluten-free home a little more relaxed and enjoyable in a post I wrote for Applegate Farms: 8 Tips for Being a Gluten-Free Guest on Thanksgiving.

Happy Turkey, or Happy un-Turkey, day!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cream of Broccoli Soup

With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I am just wanting to do simple and easy meals leading up to the big day of marathon cooking.  So after a full day of Santa and grocery shopping, I put together an impromptu cream of broccoli soup, and I have to say, it was yummy.  I had two bowls worth, and am now very full.

This recipe is in fact, simple, easy and quick.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

1 Tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped in 1-inch cubes
4-5 cups of chopped broccoli
6 cups of veggie (or chicken) broth
1/4 cup half & half
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
fresh ground pepper to taste

Melt butter in a stockpot at medium heat;

Add onions and sauté until translucent;

Add the potatoes, stir and cook 1 minute;

Add the broth, and bring to a boil;

Turn down to a simmer, and add the broccoli;

Return to a boil, and then simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until potatoes and broccoli are tender;

In batches, blend soup in a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender in stockpot;

Return soup to pot, stir in half & half, nutmeg and pepper.

This would be great with crusty, gluten-free rolls like the new Udi's French dinner rolls.  I didn't have any on hand and it was great and satisfying on its own.

I would have posted a picture, but I inhaled my soup so fast, I didn't have a chance.

I am looking forward to my leftovers tomorrow!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkin Crisp....move over pumpkin pie!

I am a huge pumpkin pie fan.  It seems people either love it or hate it, well, I am in the 'love it' camp.  And, it has to be fresh pumpkin, none of the this canned stuff.  I always buy the small pie pumpkins as soon as they show up at the store in October, so I can have them on hand through the holidays for pumpkin pie, bread, cookies...and now CRISP!

I have to admit, I have been ignorant on the ways of pumpkin crisp until this past week.  My daughter's class had a formal Thanksgiving feast this past Friday.  All the families were invited, and it was pot luck style with all of the traditional Thanksgiving Day foods.  Let's not even get started on how this can suck for someone who is gluten-free, but that is not the point of this post.  As I was eating away at my safe plate of mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes (which I made), I was eyeing this dessert dish labeled pumpkin crisp.  I had never heard of it before, but everyone seemed to be going crazy about it, and saying it was amazing.  I knew I couldn't eat it, but I knew I could go home and recreate it.  

As soon as I got home that afternoon, I went online and searched "pumpkin crisp", and I kept finding blog posts referencing a recipe from Southern Living (November, 2005), which coincidentally is one of my favorite magazines. Of course the recipe was not gluten-free, but that going to stop me? No. And, I just happened to have some leftover pumpkin from a pumpkin pie I made earlier in the week.

I made this yesterday for friends and I can't stop eating the leftovers.  And it is so easy to make!  It is more like a pumpkin cake rather than what I would think of as a crisp (thinking apple or berry crisp), but has the right amount of cake and crispy texture on top.

A word of warning, this is not low fat.  

Here is my version.  The recipe calls for pecans on top, and since I am not crazy about nuts in my food, I have left that out, and made a couple of other small changes (less sugar, and gluten-free cake mix).

Pumpkin Crisp
2 cups fresh, roasted pumpkin (a 15 oz. can of pumpkin will also work)
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 package of yellow cake mix, I used Betty Crocker, gluten-free yellow cake mix
1 cup melted butter
1. Preheat over to 350'
2. Stir together pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon;
3. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish;
4. Pour the pumpkin mix into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture;
5. Drizzle butter evenly over cake mix;
4. Bake at 350' for an hour or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream if desired.

This is so sinfully delicious and easy, this may be my new go-to dessert for the holidays.  I am even thinking of replacing my traditional pumpkin pie with this. I don't think you will be disappointed.

It's getting chilly...

It is crazy how fast time flies, but that is clearly evident to me when I come to my blog, and see my last post was...3 months ago.  Yikes!  If I had as many posts as the ones I wrote in my head this blog would be much longer. And now it is almost winter!

It seems that my countless hours of volunteering for my daughter's school (namely being PTA Co-President this year - what was I on when I thought that was a good idea?), and the community have taken up a lot of my time.  But it doesn't mean that I have any less thoughts, recipes and gluten-free experiences.

Right now I am getting ready to host 9 people for a Thanksgiving feast...just 4 days away.  Gosh, it seems like it was just Halloween.  I have been planning my menu, writing shopping lists and deciding if I have enough dishes and pans to hold all of these dishes.  From roasted Brussels sprouts to classic mashed potatoes.

What is your favorite dish to cook and/or eat on Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Uncle Maddio's Pizza

I recently discovered Uncle Madio's Pizza when my daughter wanted to go out for pizza her birthday.  Well, I wanted pizza too! Yes, I guess I am that selfish, that I actually want to eat pizza along with my family and not have to sit there drinking my drink, waiting until I can go home and eat.  Crazy, I know!

We have a lovely pizza place in our cozy neighborhood, that is walking distance, has a gorgeous patio and is the place to hang out and see friendly faces and socialize, but unfortunately, the only thing I have when I go there is wine. Well, maybe that is not so unfortaunte, but seriously, I get to sit next to everyone else and smell their pizza, while I sip my wine.

So, when I went to the Twitter community and asked for suggestions for gluten-free pizza places that were kid-friendly, Uncle Maddio's was mentioned.

I was thrilled, it has a Chipotle-style format, so you go through a line, and decide on what topping you want for your personal pizza.  They were very helpful in telling me how they prepare the gluten-free pizzas and that it is on a separate dish than the gluten-filled crusts.  It is quick, it is clean and it is yummy.  And honestly, I think my crust looked tastier than the gluten-filled alternative, but then...what do I know?

Uncle Maddio's put out a PR release today with a quote from me, announcing kid-sized gluten-free pizzas.  Check it out.

I look forward to going back soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It may be called gluten-free, but is it really??

Many companies are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon these days.  Capturing the gluten-free market seems like a no brainer and a marketing gold mine, but some companies are so quick to market it, to have something they can provide that is "gluten-free" they don't really take the time to educate themselves first.

Case in point...  I am going to keep the company's name anonymous for the time being.  A new bakery-type place opened up not far from me in Intown Atlanta.  They are hip, cool and the latest thing, and I have heard nothing but rave reviews (from my gluten-able friends).  Someone mentions to me a couple of weeks ago that they will soon be serving gluten-free items.  Of course hearing that gives me hope.  I decide to call them last weekend to see if by some small miracle they have already introduced them.  I was told no, but that they were working on a recipe and they should have them soon, and that they had lots of people looking forward to it.  I believe I was speaking to the owner as they seemed to know what they were talking about.  I asked them how this item would be prepared....Onsite? In a separate area? At a separate time of the day? Using separate pans?

I was then told, that they would be prepared onsite, in the same area, and for this one particular the same fryer!  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  Obviously this person is not educated on what it means to be gluten-free.  I attempted to nicely explain that this is not gluten-free.  Once an item like a gluten-free chip or fries are fried with something breaded or containing flour, this negates all gluten-freeness.  The owner went on to tell me that her items are not really going to be meant for people who have to be gluten-free out of necessity, and that those people should really not be eating in a bakery in the first place (gasp!).  And that her new gluten-free items would only be for people who were gluten-free to live a more healthy lifestyle.

Deep breathe here.

I get that for someone with celiac to eat at any place with a shared kitchen (which is about 99.9% of eateries out there) we assume some kind of risk, and it is up to us to judge, for ourselves, what is acceptable.  But, when you put something in a shared fryer that is not just accidental cross-contamination, that is deliberate. That is not gluten-free.  You can not advertise something that is in a shared fryer as gluten-free.

There are many bakeries I feel comfortable at, and I know they are knowledgeable and take precautions to assure everything is as safe as possible.  Two places in particular are Swirlz cupcakes in Chicago, and BabyCakes.

I also had to mention that people who choose to eat gluten-free in order to live a more healthy lifestyle are most likely not eating these very fattening items anyway.  Those people are not looking for replacement items, period.  It is those with celiac that want to eat gluten-free versions of tasty treats everyone else gets to enjoy.

Not to mention, this could easily backfire on them.  Because, as we who are gluten-free know, when a company introduces something that is gluten-free, and people come in from all over just to have it, only to discover it really is not gluten-free....well, that is going to spread like wildfire throughout the gluten-free community and be no good for anyone.

In the end, I hope I was able to make a difference, and this place will either A) just not offer them; or B) educate themselves as to what really is gluten-free, and make them properly.  I really hope this unnamed company will get their act together.

How would you feel if a company started introducing something that you were really looking forward to, only to find out it really wasn't gluten-free after all?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Something to think about at the sushi bar

The other week M and I had the luxury of a date night.  It doesn't happen often, and I decided I wanted sushi, so we checked out a new sushi place.  I was feeling like a splurge and decided to go for an appetizer, and thought that the edamame was probably the only safe thing to order.  This is fine with me..because who doesn't like sucking out salty beans from their pods.  And then it struck me to ask...what water do they use to boil/steam their edamame?  And sure enough, they use the same water that they cook their (gluten) noodles.

On a plus side, they did have gluten-free soy sauce on hand.

That was a close one!  Always remember to ask when you order something steamed or boiled that it is not being steamed or boiled in the same water as something gluten-filled.

My public service announcement for the day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Alton Brown's basics on celiac and living gluten-free

This link was posted on Facebook by the lovely Jules Shepard (who I have been lucky to meet in person) of Jules Gluten Free Flour, and I just wanted to pass it on and share it with others.

I thought this was a good clip to share with family members and friends who may be totally confused when you talk to them about gluten and celiac and think it is all nonsense. This puts it in fun, simple terms and may shed some light on why we really do have to ask 20 questions when we go out to eat.

Check the video out. It is not you have no excuse!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dear Dairy...

Wow, I have been a major, big time slacker! It has been two months since my last post, and what is my excuse? Well, I suppose I could come up with a my daughter's busy social calendar, my volunteer hours that I put into her school and the neighborhood, and taking every opportunity I can to do some paying work (with husband being recently laid off). Oh, and let's not forget the major redistriciting going on in Atlanta right now...but I won't even get into that, because it is not pretty, and I don't want it to take any more of my time than is already has.

I did think about writing though, all the time, and if I wrote for every time I actually thought about writing..well, you would have a lot to read. I have some great recipes coming hoppin' john pasta, chocolate chip pancakes and baked donuts....yum!

So, last time we left off with being 2/3 the way done of my dairy-free month. Final thought: I hated it. I am not going to lie or beat around the bush, it sucked. I found it extremely more difficult, mentally, than going gluten-free. I found that I could easily do without cheese on a sandwich or in my eggs, but I missed yogurt and I missed sprinkling goat cheese on my pasta.

Pounds lost as a result of a dairy-free month: a big fat freaking ZERO

I heard many people say how great I would feel with taking it out of my diet. But for me that was just not the case. Actually, I felt worse. And I will tell you prepared...this is a little bit TMI...

So, before being gluten-free, I shall I saw...not "regular" in terms to going #2. I just thought it was normal to only go every other, or every 3 days, I didn't know any different. Once, I went gluten-free, I was magically (almost) normal. I was longer no constipated, and it felt so much better. I discovered after going dairy-free last month, I was eating much more fiber than usual and my body did not take kindly to this. I was also using coconut like it was going out of style...coconut oil, coconut flour, coconut milk and macaroons. Coconut overload perhaps? My body protested my lack of dairy but shutting down and going back into irregular mode. Not comfortable! I know some people have the opposite problem with too much fiber, unfortunately, I am not one of those, I never have been.

I do not want to taste coconut for a while!

Of course then I was scared what my body would do when I added dairy back in, and was worried that I made a horrible mistake with this crazy experiment of mine.

Because I was literally in so much pain from fiber-overload, I ended my dairy-free challenge a day early. I just couldn't handle it any longer. I actually had one night I was about ready to jump in the car and take myself to the ER for an emergency enema. It was that bad!

My first venture back into eating dairy-full was a chai latte from Starbucks. Yum! It tasted so good, because let me tell you...I asked for it with water during my month of dairy-free chastity, and it was just nasty!

I am going to let you in on one of my tricks for when I really need to "go". My own form of a laxative, without the buying-a-laxative part. This is true, so don't laugh.....I drop my daughter off at school, I drive to Target, I order a grande chai latte from the Starbucks within the Target, I lazily shop around and without fail...every time I reach the garden/holiday section at the opposite end of of the hits me - I have to go! And this time was no exception, it worked like a charm! It may be mental, it may be the the excitement when I see Target holiday items on sale, whatever it is, I am not questioning it, and just going with works!

My first dairy-filled meal was baked eggplant and pasta full of mozzarella cheese. And the best part was that my body did not reject it.

My month without dairy did help me see that I don't need to have dairy with everything. That burrito bowl is just as good without cheese, and on my pasta I don't really need a handful of cheese. I have definitely learned to be more conservative with my cheese use, but I am also very grateful to eat my yogurt again. My body definitely doesn't like any drastic changes to my diet.

For anyone else who has gone dairy-free for just a little while, or permanently, how did you feel?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 20: The dairy-free challenge

Oh boy! I am 2/3 of the way through the month of no cheese, and I am not going to lie to you, I am not liking it. Frankly, I am hating it. I am following it very well, but it is getting me down. M tells me how he actually doesn't mind it, and as long as he can have some milk in his tea, he can keep on going with this challenge. Yeah, we'll see about that mister!

I have to admit, I am looking forward to February 1st and using Parmesan cheese once again on my pasta. Or using feta in my scrambled eggs. Or to have some yogurt!! This month has definitely made me appreciate how tough it is to have to strictly eliminate it. I really do think it is more of a challenge than going gluten-free. Being that I have to be gluten-free out of necessity, I would never, ever cheat. And with the dairy-free challenge, I am not scrutinizing labels as I would with gluten, but for the most part it is out of my system. I have had no obvious dairy.

I have lost no weight, and feel no different, nor is my skin any clearer. Though, I am a bit worried how my system will react when I add it back in. I know that after I was gluten-free for a month, if I had some gluten, I would have been in miserable pain.

But, damn, I am dreaming of quesadillas and warm, creamy artichoke dip!

I don't doubt that having the dairy out of my system is probably a good thing for me, or for anyone, but I do feel confident that once I go back to dairy, I will be able to cut back a little bit, and enjoy it in moderation. Well, that is after I go on a big dairy binge the first couple days of February.

I think I am going to break down tomorrow and try Daiya, I always see it at the store and hear rave reviews about it, but I really didn't want to use any replacement foods. But I am craving tacos, and I need me some cheese. And silly me thought it was soy cheese until someone, thankfully, pointed out to me on Twitter that is it soy-free (I don't want to add any more soy to my diet). Bring it on!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A slight detour...

First, I am going to give a disclaimer, this is not a post about gluten-freeness. But this is about something I have spoken about before and something that is very difficult and painful for me, and dammit, this is my blog, so I will write about it, and maybe it will be cathartic. Pregnancy and non-pregnancy.

I have written before about how we have one wonderful, amazing, superstar daughter, Z, and she is the light of my life. I could not have ever expected how much you could love someone so unconditionally until I had her. It is hard to imagine I managed to live 32 years without her, before she came into our lives. I also wrote about how I had very serious complications in her pregnancy with severe pre-eclapmsia and HELLP syndrome. Well my little baby Z is now two months shy of 7, and for almost 7 years I have suffered PTSD of that experience.

And in those 7 years, I have enjoyed my time, more than words can say, with my little Z, but because of the PTSD, we only have our one daughter. Whenever I feel closer and closer to being able to give into that fear and just go for it, I get gripped with the horror of feeling claustrophobic and of going through the same experience I had last time, or even worse, of Z loosing her mom, just because I tried to expand our family and give her a sibling. It is a feeling of panic that is difficult to explain. When most people feel joy at the thought of pregnancy, I feel like it is an illness. I see pregnancy as a life-threatening 9-month illness, and my mind can't get away from that.

I have been to a specialist for high risk pregnancies in Chicago, and here in Atlanta, and both times they basically said the same thing. There is a risk it will happen again, about 30%, and a risk I could be on hospital bed-rest with a premature baby. At the same time they also said if I want another I should go for it. Then I ask them what they would say if I was their wife, or their daughter and they said the same thing. The last specialist to tell me that was exactly a year ago.

Well, now I am 39. Six months away from big 4-0. Looming over my head life a freaking black cloud. I used to joke with M that when I was 37 the "shop" would be closed for business, and then it was 38, and now...40? I am so terrified at the thought of being pregnant, yet, I don't want it to be over. I have saved every bit of Z's clothing, and all her toys. I want to use it again. I love the newborn stage and crave to do it again. I want to watch a child of mine grow from a helpless baby to someone with real thoughts and opinions. Why do I have to be so damn scared? Why can I not let go? Why can I not flip a switch? I know so many people who tell me, they know someone, who knows someone who had pre-eclampsia with one and then went on to have a perfectly normal pregnancy. Well, lucky for them!

So, today lucky me, I have my annual girlie check-up. Not one of my highlights for the year. The thought of going to the girlie Dr. brings back terrible memories of my pre-eclampsia/HELLP ordeal, and I will spend all morning in a panic. And of course I walk in the office this morning and the waiting room is full of pregnant women..all except me. Since I am pretty new to Atlanta, this is only my second time to this practice, and last time I felt like the doctor was a little cold, so I decided to try a different one this time around. Maybe not the best decision.

This doctor did her routine check-up, and then I mentioned how I am still not sure I am done, and I still really want another, and then she looks at me like I have two heads and says she would not recommend I get pregnant again. That because of my age and my history, it would not be wise. That I would have a high risk of not only a repeat of the pre-eclampsia and HELLP, but also of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities and my own possible issues with infertility. And then she says this winning gem: "You should have done this five years ago." The tears started forming as the sentence came out of her mouth. How could she say this to someone? Instead, she gave me the card of a therapist to talk to about the PTSD, and my appointment was done. It was the mental equivalent of a one-night stand.

Wow. Yeah five years ago. I should have. But I didn't, and I can't change that now!!! If I got pregnant 5 years ago, I probably would have had to of been taken away in a stretcher because of major anxiety. What can I even say to this? I have made mistakes, but I can't go back in time.

"You should have done this five years ago."

I also have to think, this doctor who I saw today, while she might be the head of the practice, she is not a high-risk doctor, and she has not seen my detailed records as the specialists have. But at the same time, I am going to be 40, and that number can't be disguised. I can't get rid of it, it is standing there like a huge tollbooth that I must pass to cross the bridge into the next phase of my life, and leaving my child-bearing, fertile, young years behind. The specialists may have had more optimism, but I was also a year younger, and I know there is fact to back up with what today's doctor said so eloquently to me, but did she have to be so callous? And there is a good chance that, on my own, I would choose not to have another, because I know I cannot handle the pregnancy part of it. Which is such a shame, because what is nine months compared to a lifetime of having family. But then I guess nine months is a pretty big deal when I risk my life for it. But I just didn't want the decision to be made for me. I wanted to have that little sliver of hope left that just maybe.

"You should have done this five years ago."

It just hurts so damn much to see siblings interact and play with each other, and know that my little girl will never have that experience. She won't have a sibling to love, and I won't have another baby to raise. When my friends get pregnant with their 2nd, 3rd even 5th child I am happy, I really am, but there is a part of me that feels so sad and evious too. Ok, maybe I don't want a 4th, but I would just love a 2nd. I want that experience of having a slightly bigger family.

"You should have done this five years ago."

At the same time, I know how extremely lucky I am to have my one. And I know a lot of women who suffered from pre-eclampsia and HELLP were not so lucky. Many of them have had to leave the hospitals without a baby in their arms, and in some cases their husbands have left without their wives and babies. Z and I really are one of the lucky ones, and I am forever grateful. So why does it seem so unfair when women can have easy-breezy home births, they can have multiple children and be happy and carefree the entire time without a thought of complications. Sometimes I really wish I was one of them. Someone who when I saw that positive pregnancy test would be ecstatic, and that feeling would continue for 9 months. Why does it hurt so much?

"You should have done this five years ago."

People will ask me why we don't adopt, or have a surrogate. And the answer is simple. Money. I would absolutely adopt in a second if I could. It doesn't seem fair does it, with so many children around the world without parents because of war or famine, even in our own country. Yet to give one of these children a loving home we have to have the money to get through the bureaucracy of if to make it happen. Though if I was willing to get pregnant, we would be able to have one for free...well, it would not be free after it was born, but you get my drift.

So, basically today just sucked. I was happy to have an uneventful appointment, but I left there feeling empty, confused and hurt. I still feel like I am 20, how did I get to be almost 40? I am not ready to leave this phase of life, the "childbearing" years behind. Time goes by too damn quickly.

As said on Parenthood this week, 40s are not the new 30s when it comes to your ovaries.

I hope someday there is a cure for pre-eclampsia and HELLP, so others don't have to go through the same experience.

Whoa...I apologize for the heaviness of this post.

I think the words: "You should have done this five years ago," will haunt me for way too long.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 11: The dairy-free challenge

I am officially on Day 11 of being dairy-free, and honestly, I am not crazy about this. I want my yogurt back!

On a positive note, it is really opening my eyes to how much I rely on dairy. Making eggs for breakfast...I want to mix it with milk and cover it with feta or cheddar. I am craving a snack...I want to slice apples and dip it into my favorite mixture of Greek yogurt mixed with peanut butter. Making pasta for dinner...I want to sprinkle Parmesan cheese on it. Or just going into the kitchen, and grab a chunk of cheese. Inevitably, most meals I make I am hitting a road block wondering what I can use instead of my beloved dairy. I am trying to make up for it with pepper, sesame seeds, olives, etc...

I also realize there is a thin line between cutting something out, and then replacing it with something that could be just as bad, if not worse for you. Since going gluten-free, almost three years now, I have loved finding delicious gluten-free replacements....bread, crackers, cookies, cupcakes...bring it! If something says 'gluten-free' I honestly have a very hard time not wanting to try it. And the irony is that when I was able to eat anything, I didn't eat a donut just because it was in front of me. But now if I see one offered that is gluten-free, I feel as if I have to grab and eat in case I never see one again. Ever. In my entire life.

This has been my downfall, and my waist-line can confirm this. Some people think they will loose weight going gluten-free..well, yeah, you may loose weight going gluten-free, as long as you don't replace those gluten-filled items with gluten-free versions. If you can no longer eat those cheese crackers, well don't get the gluten-free version...grab an apple! Just say bye-bye to the cheese crackers. See, I know this rationally, I need to practice what I preach.

So, now that I am eliminating dairy for these 30 days, I am very reluctant to replace with comparable items, such as soy cheese, butter, etc... I am trying to learn to live without it. Plus, I am sure my body does not need anymore soy. Though, I will admit, I broke down the other day, and bought some soy-free Earth Balance to use on pasta. I used a spoonful for a family amount of pasta. It was good, but I felt guilty. Especially since I like to stick with the real thing. If I want butter, I am going to use butter. Sugar, I am going to use sugar, no artificial sweeteners that have a list of ingredients I can't pronounce. I have been using almond and coconut milk and coconut oil, but these are also things I would use before my dairy-free craziness.

Do I feel differently since taking out dairy? Not really. I don't think I notice anything, I wish I did. I am also not noticing any change on the scale, so maybe dairy is not my problem for my inability of loosing weight. I am sure sitting for a lot of the day has something to do it with it.

On the other hand, M has been following along, and been dairy-free except for a couple of tablespoons of milk in his PG Tips (tea)..he is English, so he has an excuse. But yesterday morning, he made himself a big bowl of cereal with dairy milk, and for the next 12 hours...let's just say his tummy was not happy. Coincidence??

For others testing out the dairy-free waters, how do you feel? Do you notice any difference? Have you made any new food discoveries or combinations that you love during this time?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy 2012!!

I know it is technically, the 2nd of January, but for all practical purposes being that it is Monday, it is the real start to the new year. As a result today is my official Day 1 of being dairy-free. As I am still recovering from New Years Eve, I slept in and have only had mint tea today, far dairy-free has been a breeze! But, of course my mind cannot stop thinking of the yogurt that sits in my fridge taunting me.

The holidays were extremely enjoyable and full of delicious gluten-free food, family and friends, and I seemed to make it safely through all of the restaurants and parties. And there were lots of parties! My gluten-radar is definitely more in tune.

The main thing in navigating these situations is to ask questions! If you are at someone's house and that smoked pork looks delicious....then don't feel shy and ask your host what/how it was cooked. Sometimes even if it was made safe, it can scream cross-contamination, with how the dish is placed on the buffet table (next to stuffing, sharing a serving spoon?), or you can't find the creator of the dish - oohh, those potatoes dauphinoise looks scrumptious, but there could be hidden flour. Turkey smoked in beer?? Sounds unusual, but it does happen. The key is never to take anything for granted. After coming across soy sauce in salsa at a local restaurant here in Atlanta (Flying Burrito), I always ask what all ingredients are. Of course, I do so in a nice way, and try to be as polite as possible, I don't want to annoy my host, or sound like a broken record. Because people are not mindreaders, and maybe in the past you have mentioned your food issues and you assume they may tell you, but don't assume. Always ask, and always ask nicely!! I can't stress this enough.

Sometimes things will seem questionable, and in those cases -REFRAIN! It may seem sad not to take part in the collard greens with everyone else, but if you can't be sure if the broth used is gluten-free, it is not worth the discomfort and pain you will feel later that will cause you to leave the party early and miss out on all the fun conversation. It is much better to do without, enjoy that third glass of wine and feel great.

Restaurants can cause another snafu. I have learned that if I ask our server a few questions I can usually gauge my comfort level, if they have to ask me if gluten is found in dairy, I know I need to play it safe (or leave). If they respond by educating me in what gluten can be found in, then I feel I have struck gluten-free gold, and feel much more at ease and willing to try their recommendations. This was my experience for our Christmas Eve dinner at Murphy's, here in Virginia Highlands (Atlanta). I can't rave about it enough, and can't wait to go back! You can read my review here.

Some of my culinary favorites this holiday season were the smoked pork dishes over New Years weekend, smoked turkey (beer-free) I enjoyed on Boxing Day, my brother-in-law's cheese ball, scalloped potatoes, my friend's chocolate flourless almond cake, my Indian meal at Panahar, and this gem on The Pioneer Woman's blog, black-eyed pea dip.

Notice a pattern with many of those favorite dishes? Dairy! I love it, I can't get enough, and now that I am coming up to lunchtime on my first official dairy-free day I am craving that yogurt, the full carton of Trader Joe's eggnog, the block of cheddar cheese, the luscious blue cheese I would like to add to my omelette, the list goes on. But for 30 days, I am saying no. Just so no to dairy is going to be my MO for January. I just have to tell myself that if I can quit gluten, I can quit dairy for a measly 30 days.

And what happens after these 30 days? I am not sure. I will reevaluate if the lack of dairy made me feel any different, if I lost any weight, and take it from there.

So, please bring on your favorite dairy-free/gluten-free recipes, I would love to learn more.

What were some of your culinary gluten-free favorites of the holiday season?