Sunday, September 30, 2012

{Hail to the Farmer's Market and Menu for the Week}

I am lucky to live in a state that has a very active agriculture community.  The Raleigh Farmer's Market is a part of the NC Department of Agriculture and runs year-round.  

I have to be honest and say that I haven't been to the Farmer's Market in a while....It is quite far from our home and just isn't as easy.  Well, that all changed yesterday....  I am now a reformed Farmer's Market shopper.  I got $40 out of the ATM when I arrived and I was prepared with my list.  Here's my haul:  

  • (3) Sweet Potatoes
  • (1) Butternut Squash
  • (1) Spaghetti Squash
  • (1) HUGE Sweet Onion
  • (1) Head of Cabbage
  • (2) Summer Squash
  • (3) Bell Peppers - red, green, and yellow
  • A bunch of okra
  • (1/2 peck) Honey Crisp apples

I came home with $14.  Of the $26 that I spent, $12 was on the Honey Crisp apples.  I hadn't planned to get the apples, but I have an unrealistic craving/love/obsession with Honey Crisp apples.  I'd say that spending $14 to get all those veggies was a steal - definitely cheaper than Trader Joe's and Harris Teeter!  Will I be able to do all of my produce shopping at the Farmer's Market - yes and no.  If I were more disciplined about planning around what is available and if I were willing to plan after purchasing produce, I would probably be able to do all my shopping there.  Unfortunately, that isn't always realistic and planning needs to be done ahead of time.  Either way, a bargain for fresh, local produce!

Each Wednesday or Thursday, I email Jason a menu plan for the week.  We go back 'n forth some, moving things around, changing side dishes, etc.  Once we have the menu for the week, I make our grocery list.  I try to only purchase the items on our list in an effort to save money and not waste food.  The menu plan generally only includes our evening meals.  Jason pretty much takes the same types of things for lunch every day - deli meat "roll ups", a fruit or vegetable, and crackers or a sweet item.  I usually eat leftovers from our dinner the evening before or from my freezer stash of different soups.

Here's our menu for this week:
Saturday:  Chicken and Sausage from The Meat House; Roasted Broccoli and Carrots; Farfalle and Spinach (sauteed spinach for me) (Our friends Mary and Brian had dinner with us)
Sunday:  Grilled Chicken Breast; Hash Browns 
Wednesday:  Pepper Steak; Brown Rice for the hubs/Yam Noodles for me
Thursday:  Grilled Pork; Roasted Sweet Potatoes; Sauteed Spinach

This will be the first time we have prepared the Hash Browns, Beaufort Stew, Chicken Curry, and Pepper Steak.  LOTS of recipe reviews coming this week!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

{An Open Letter...}

Edited on October 28, 2012:
I owe a fellow blogger a big apology.  I first found Christy's blog, Truly Madly Freely, a few weeks after I was officially diagnosed with Celiacs disease.  Her words touched me.  I read her open letter multiple times a day those first few weeks.  When I realized how powerful her message was, I edited it very slightly and posted it on my blog - again, without crediting her.  For this I am very sorry.  I emailed Christy about using the letter, and didn't follow through with crediting her appropriately.    

Please note that the open letter below is nearly all from her original open letter, with very few edits to fit my diagnosis.  If you have Celiacs disease, whether recently diagnosed or not, you should read Christy's Open Letter

Dear Friends and Family,

If you are reading this, please know you are someone very important in my life.  That is why I am sharing this with you.  Sharing this is very hard, sad, confusing, and challenging for me.  I need your help. I also need you to be open to listen to and try to understand the information I am sharing.  I understand that it will likely be confusing and foreign, just as it was to me.  With your help and understanding, I hope to have a bright and wonderful future full of love, happy memories and great meals. :-)

I have Celiac Disease.  Along with this recent diagnosis, I have been given a list of 7 cross-reactants (coffee, egg, rice, white potato, corn, sesame, and soy).  In other words, my body treats these additional items just like it treats gluten and I cannot consume them.

What IS that?
By medical definition Celiac disease is a chronic digestive disorder in which damage to the lining of the small intestine leads to the malabsorption of minerals and nutrients.  The destruction of the inner lining of the small intestine in Celiac disease is caused by an immunological (allergic) reaction to gluten.  Gluten is a family of proteins present in wheat, barley, malt, rye, and sometimes oats.

What is gluten in?
Umm....Almost EVERYTHING!!  Unfortunately it’s not as simple as looking at a label and not seeing the words wheat, barley, rye or oats.  To make matters worse, the cross-reactants and their derivatives are an even longer list.  Anything that is processed has a chance of containing gluten, one (or more) of my cross-reactants, or a derivative.  Gluten can hide in terms such as malt, vinegar (certain kinds can contain gluten), dextrin, modified food starch, Bulgar, kamut, semolina, farina, smoke flavoring, natural flavors (try to find a processed food that doesn’t contain this one!).  This isn't even a quarter of the list!  The cross-reactants hide behind terms like malodextrin (corn), corn syrup, corn starch, vegetable oil (sesame), tahini (sesame), soy lechtin (cooking spray), edamame (soy),  rice oil, The worst part is that sometimes even if a product says “gluten free”, it’s not.

How do you know if something is gluten free?
Well, if I am choosing to purchase or consume a processed food items and/or eat at a restaurant, I do a ton of research (ask poor Jason!).  It seems like every single day, I am Google'ing something to make sure it is safe.  There are many safe companies but finding them takes a lot of work - sometimes Google'ing isn't enough and a phone call is needed.

Why do you have to check manufacturing processes?
Even if a product has no gluten containing ingredients in it, that product could have been made on the same equipment with other products that DO contain gluten. That “gluten free” product is now contaminated. I cannot eat it. If one speck of the gluten manufactured in the other product makes it into my mouth it could/will make me sick.

Sick.. how?
Here's where I am very lucky as a Celiac sufferer...  I do not have an immediate, severe reaction to gluten.  Let me rephrase that... I don't have an immediate, severe reaction that you can see.  To me this seems to be almost more harmful than a Celiac that has an immediate response.  Why? Because it takes me a little longer to know that I have been “glutened” and I can't always pinpoint the culprit.  Many Celiac sufferers have immediate and extreme intestinal symptoms, migraines, vomiting, and dizziness. The list goes on and on.  For me, within a few hours after I have been “glutened”, I begin to feel "off".  I become slower, less responsive, and ridiculously tired.  This causes me to have increased anxiety and mood swings.  It takes several days to get back to "normal" after being "glutened".  Sometimes the reactions are more severe than others.  Depending on the amount of gluten consumed, my speech becomes slurred and I sit down and immediately fall asleep for 30 minutes to an hour.  Not fun!  Some suffer horrible pain for weeks.  While I may feel better after a few days, damage is still occurring inside my body for a very long time.  Just because you cannot see my pain on the outside does not mean that my body is not being slowly destroyed on the inside.

"So gluten just makes you feel bad right? Then can’t you cheat once in a while, enjoy having meals with us and eat the things we make for you? That’s really the polite thing to do."
Yes, I suppose that would seem polite, right?  Think of it this way - what if I put a little bit of poison in your coffee every day it wouldn’t really kill you right away, right?  You might feel a little yucky but hey, if that’s how I make my coffee you really should drink it so as not to hurt my feelings.  Sounds ridiculous and callous, right?  Well, not to be a twit, but that’s how it sounds to me when you ask if I can just eat a little gluten.  Gluten is like a poison to me - a slow poison that will damage my insides.  A crumb will do damage that will take months to heal.

Why it’s NOT ok for me to have just a little, just this once…
The symptoms of Celiac disease can range from mild weakness, bone pain, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and worse.  If a person with the disorder continues to eat gluten, studies have shown that he or she will increase their chances of gastrointestinal cancer by a factor of 40 to 100 times that of the normal population.  The big “C” is just not something I wanna mess with.

is serious. This is not a fad diet I am on to help me lose weight (obviously, it isn't working...haha). It’s not cool to be gluten free even if that’s what you see in the media.  Just because a celebrity does it, it does not make my disease any less deadly or real.

Are people going to think I’m crazy? Do waiters roll their eyes at me when I have to ask a million questions at restaurants? Will I have to go without eating when there is no safe food available? Will I have to bring my own food to your parties and dinners? Will there be places that I cannot eat anymore? Will I have to decline invitations sometimes?  Yes

Does that mean I don’t want to be asked to events anymore? Does it mean everything will center around me and what I have to eat? Does it mean that I can never eat out again? Will the food at my house taste weird?  No

Just because I have to be careful of everything I eat doesn’t mean that I want to stop living. I still want to be involved in all of the same social events as before. And it doesn’t mean that I expect anyone cater to me. In fact, it is much safer and easier for me to bring my own food. 
As awesome as it is that you might want to cook for me, it is scary.  Some of the things I have to do to stay safe may offend you.  I have to ingredients you use to see if there is any hidden gluten.  Anything made in a manufacturing plant CAN contain gluten.  I know it seems like I am being over the top. But believe me when I tell you, I’m not.  I would not choose to have to go through this if it weren’t 100% medically necessary.

Please don’t take this as my way of saying that I never want you to try.  Because, if I have friends and family that are willing to make me a safe gluten free meal I will count myself as truly blessed.  I can’t just eat something you prepare so that I don’t hurt your feelings. If I do that, then I am only hurting myself…in ways that the medical field cannot even 100% understand yet.

Thank you for making the effort to understand. I am happy to answer any and all of your questions. In fact, your questions show me that you do in deed care and want to know what is going on with me. I apologize now if anything I ever say or do offends you.  It is scary what I have to deal with sometimes, but I have to keep myself safe. I want to be around for a long, long time and thrive while here.  This diagnosis isn't going to go away.  I do, however, hope that this letter will help you, as my friends and family, understand the implications of this disease.  Feel free to ask any questions.  We'll learn together!

Love to you all!

Friday, September 21, 2012

{New Recipe 31 - Paleo Orange Chicken}

It's been entirely too long since I posted a recipe post.  Unfortunately, while I was dealing with the wheat/gluten intolerance diagnosis, etc. I lost a lot of my cooking mojo.  It's back!  YAY!

Chinese food has always been a staple for us. We love going to Peace China or Spring Rolls for dinner.  Unfortunately, that's probably not the best idea now. I have been craving Chinese and ran across this recipe on Health-Bent.  It looks crazy simple and was ridiculously delish!

Paleo Orange Chicken:
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 Tbsp. coconut oil (I used 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil)
Juice of 2 oranges
Zest from 1 orange (oops! I forgot this!)
1 tsp fresh ginger
3 Tbsp. coconut aminos
1 tsp Sriracha
3 green onions, diced

In a medium size sauce pot, add the orange juice, zest, ginger, coconut aminos and chili garlic sauce or sriracha. Set over medium heat and let simmer to reduce and thicken while the chicken cooks. In a saute pan, heat 3 T of the fat of your choice, over medium high heat. Add the chopped chicken thighs and cook until a nice brown crust has developed on the chicken pieces, about 6 minutes. Add the chicken to the sauce pot and stir to coat with the orange sauce. Serve topped with sliced green onions.

When it was all done, I served it with some steamed broccoli.  This was so good that evening, but even better the next day for lunch!  Definitely on our must have again list.

{Holstee Manifesto - Words to Live By}

As I walked into my box for my lunch WOD, this was the first thing I saw.  I was intrigued and just stood there reading it (instead of doing my warm-up - whoops!).  After the WOD, I read it yet again.  If you haven't read this before and really thought about it - do it.  Words we should all live by.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

{Vacation Recap - Food!}

I had all intentions of writing a ridiculously long vacation recap...but for some reason my heart isn't into it.  I am guessing this is because work is insane and I have some other things going on that I'll write in another post.  Anyway...

Jason and I headed to Walt Disney World on Friday, August 31 to stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort.  The week was filled with visits with my best friend (Margaret) and her family, a trip to World of Beer - Dr. Phillips, a couple park visits, and lots of food.  

About 2 weeks before we left for vacation, I was diagnosed with a wheat/gluten intolerance, along with six cross-reactants.  I was already having enough trouble dealing with the changes to my diet, but adding the thought of vacation stressed me out!  A couple of friends and a coworker reminded me that Disney is supposed to be the best about food allergies/intolerances, etc.  After a little pre-work on my end, I was set to see if Disney could live up to the hype.  They did - surpassed every expectation I had!

When Jason and I arrived at each restaurant, we let our server know about my food intolerances.  The server would immediately say something along the lines of "....We're going to make this a great experience for you...  I am going to get the chef to come talk to you..."  A few moments later, the chef would arrive.  Several times the chef already knew my intolerances and was prepared to review the menu with me.  Other times, I would give them "the list", reframe the situation with the list of what I could have, then we would discuss meal options.  Every single time, the chef would say something like this: "...What would you like? We have a lot to work with here and will create a delicious meal...."  And they were always right!

Here's some of what I had:
Narcossee's - I had mussels for the first time (so yummy!). I had grilled halibut over roasted mixed vegetables. Until I got this, I had no idea there was purple cabbage!

Kona Cafe - Our chef at Kona was Katrina and our server was Rebecca. They were so great!  Katrina made me a sauteed vegetable and quinoa medley.  This was topped with grilled mahi, with a cucumber and cashew relish.  Best meal of the entire trip - so good that I cleaned my plate (I never do this!).

California Grill - Halibut over chiorzo and vegetable salad, followed by fruit fondue for dessert!

Kona Cafe (visit 2) - Grilled Teriyaki Steak with Grilled Pineapple Salsa (salsa and sauce on side), with quinoa and a big bunch of yummy sauteed veggies.

Basically, if you have any food intolerances, I'll tell you that Disney is the place to go.  It was so awesome to be able to go to restaurants and talk to someone about my needs versus trying to guess by the descriptions on the menu.  Can a Disney chef just move in with me and cook for us all the time?