Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

After scouring the internets for the best picture I could find related to New Year's Resolutions I decided to settle on this bad boy.  Most of the options involved some joke about giving up on the goals, making ridiculous goals, or just not making any resolutions to begin with.  After my MIL posted the following pic on Facebook, I knew I had a winner.

This mantra is pretty similar to how I live my life daily.  There are challenges to living with a chronic illness, but being defeated is usually a personal choice.  So, when you set your resolutions for 2012, I encourage you to think manageable and keep them happiness-oriented.

Kara's 2012 New Year's Resolutions
~Live Healthily: Eat and drink with purpose and intention~
~Exercise regularly for mind as well as body~
~Social Work: Publish, write the curriculum, get a job, etc.~

Are you doing resolutions this year?

Oh, gluten... (and other vices)

I get asked a lot on this gluten-free diet about what happens if I indulge.  What happens if I slip?  Maybe just a cookie?  A cracker? One bite?

There are those out there with serious allergies to gluten and wheat.  One bite could place them in serious pain.  Others, it could be much worse- think of those you know with peanut allergies who go into shock with just a small amount of contamination.  Some people have to think- "I know this sandwich was made with gluten-free bread... but how was this sandwich prepared?  Toasted on the same griddle as gluten?  Do they have a dedicated gluten-free fryer for my delicious fries?"

My answer up until this delicious, memorable Christmas holiday was that I was much more energetic, my bones just moved better, and I just feel better when I live my life in a world of rice, quinoia, and corn rather than Olive Garden bread sticks.  It doesn't sound like a lot.  In fact, one could say I have fallen for the fad.
Holidays in general are hard for gluten-free folks.  All the traditional foods, going out to eat, the unfamiliar fridges... it's a nightmare.  So, because I'm fortunate enough to not be technically gluten-intolerant, I let myself slip.

We arrived into town on the solstice (December 21).  I was good that night.  And then little allowances were made.

December 22nd- Woke up late.  Forgot to eat breakfast as there was no gluten-free bread available.  Ate Famous Star (with bun!) at noon.  Thai food for dinner- didn't check gluten in the curries, pad thai, etc., but the dumplings sure as hell weren't GF.  Whoops.

December 23rd- Seafood buffet at the Coeur D'Alene Casino.  Not inherently bad, but used some bread to sop up delicious clam/crab juices.  Then had a piece of tiramisu.  I was still feeling good.  No problem.

December 24rd- Christmas Eve.  This is the night with my family.  I especially made a GF Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake AND stuffing.  I brought ingredients from Whole Foods especially so I could be gluten-free with my family.  The cheesecake was sooo good.  The stuffing was less so.  So, I made it taste better with gluten-y gravy.  Then sopped up that gravy with a crescent roll.  Whoops.

December 25th- Christmas with my husband's family.  A huge test (which I had planned on failing).  My MIL's monkey bread and homemade orange-coconut rolls for breakfast.  Then my FIL's aforementioned calzones.


I ate the whole calzone.  I had never done that before.

I forget which day I started hurting.  I think it was the evening of the 23rd or the morning of the 24th.  I got more and more stiff until I was downright cranky on Christmas. The next day, I was back on the bandwagon- armed with my Udi's multigrain bread and some gluten-free burritos.  I even had my mother-in-law purchase some gluten-free soy sauce for some Kung Pao chicken they made for dinner one night.  But, the damage was done.  I was achy, I felt slow, I woke up each morning without feeling rested, and getting up off the floor after playing with my nephew was a real bitch.  My fingers swelled up to nice-looking sausages and my wrists decided not to cooperate with any of the work I needed to do.  My Costochondritis acted up- which is always panic-inducing and fun. I was pretty miserable. 

It's important, however, that I mention the other bad things I did that could have caused this.  This isn't a gluten-free blog... it's a lupus blog.  There are lots of different things that could cause a lupus flare, and I was guilty of most of them.

I certainly didn't exercise as much as I should have.  I did yoga once in the nine days we weren't home.  I ignored my resistance band.  I took the dog for only two walks (it was really cold).  Yes, I was constantly running around and moving, but not in a way that kept my joints limber.

And then, I indulged while I was with my family- and not even in moderation.  My slab of prime rib at my family's Christmas dinner was embarrassingly huge.  Then I had another slice for "second dinner" later that night.  Topped with a big dollop of horseradish sauce. There was also snacking- Doritos, Ruffles, cheeses, large amounts of this delicious jalapeno Greek yogurt dip my MIL found.  It's at Costco.  Go find it.

Visiting family also means drinking.  Jack and Gingers, mimosas, hard cider, eggnog (with brandy), Knob Creek, and wine, wine, wine.  I didn't succumb to delicious beer, but that didn't matter. My liver is begging for mercy.  I did my best to drink water, but I certainly didn't do as well as I normally did.

I'm also sure I overdid things while in town.  Helping my grandmother, cooking a bunch of meals (Christmas dinner, cheesecake, three pasta casseroles, minestrone, quinoia and butternut squash bake, two turkey tetrazzinis, and chicken noodle soup), playing with my nephews, sixteen hour car rides, going out in the snow, wrapping gifts... it was a lot of wear on me. Since I visit so rarely I always try to squeeze as much in as possible to be the best friend, granddaughter, auntie, sister, daughter-in-law, whatever I can.  Hard to squeeze in time to be good to yourself when you're so busy.

Then there's the emotional toll of the holidays and some family matters that needed to be tended to.  While I'm going to opt not to elaborate here, I will say that there's some big changes going on and a lot of what-ifs and unanswered questions.  Stress city.  And I did very little self-care in the process. (Spa day, anyone?)

As you can see, I crammed a lot (of gluten, stress, gluttony, etc.) into a short visit to my hometown and I paid for it. It's important for those with chronic illnesses to learn from their mistakes, however, and I fully intend on working on that.

This post is a nice lead up to my next one- New Years' Resolutions!  Yes, I do resolutions.  There is nothing wrong with having goals in your life.  So long as you don't beat yourself up if you find yourself challenged.

Before all that, though...

How are you paying for all the holiday fun?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oh, Bob... I had such high hopes for us...

Yesterday marked my first attempt at using a gluten-free mix for my pizza dough.  As I mentioned in my last post, calzones are a tradition in my husband's family.  My father-in-law is a wizard... those beautiful creations are tailored to each member of the family and stuffed with ricotta, cheese, meat, and usually two kinds of olives.  They make me happy.  As does the two bottles of red wine we typically kill in the process of eating them.

So, I wanted to participate without giving in to gluten.  I was instructed to test out mixes and recipes before our trip to Spokane in December.  Naturally, I put it off.  When dieting, it's not the best idea to go on a pizza quest.  There's a free tip from your health and fitness expert, Kara.

Yesterday at Whole Foods I was armed with the pizza crust recipe from a certain Gluten Free Goddess.  Her picture of her pizza looked so tasty, I knew it would be the one to make my calzone dreams come true.  The first thing I needed was some xanthan gum.  Then a bit of sorghum flour, millet flour, and tapioca starch. No problem, this is Whole Foods, right?  WRONG. My shock at seeing the lack of sorghum flour AND millet flour was surpassed tenfold by the following...

Xanthan gum was 15 dollars per package!

What the hell is xanthan anyway?  Now, I know you only bake with a tablespoon or so at times, but this was still shocking to me.  Add that to the cost of all of the other flours and you've got yourself a thirty dollar pizza- at least!

So, I went for a mix instead.  I contemplated the Namaste brand after seeing positive reviews (I love technology and I love my smart phone), but frowned at the higher price.  Bob's Red Mill seemed like a close second and for only five bucks I was willing to give it a shot.
Just add egg, oil and water?  No problem.  Smooth onto a greased cookie sheet?  Bigger problem.

Pizza making really destroys the kitchen.  All the chopping, shredding of cheeses, sauteeing of mushrooms and zucchini to tender deliciousness... then add in a dishwasher hubby with a headcold and your tiny apartment kitchen is a disaster.  I considered calling FEMA.  But, I tredged on- using the only surface I could to set the cookie sheets on... the oven.  So, gluten is the wonderful protein that makes bread products all elastic and chewy and crusty all at the same time.  Spreading gluten-free dough is like working with a sticky biscuit batter.  I'm pretty sure there is no way to get it to a uniform thickness.  From reading online blogs, I expected this to be difficult.  I didn't expect the heat from the pre-heated oven to begin cooking the bottom of my crust.  


So, I sweated, I swore, and I busted out a pizza...

Chicken breast, spinach, sundried tomatoes, feta, mushrooms, zucchini, and mozzarella.

And it wasn't too shabby!  The edges weren't great... and it certainly wasn't real pizza (I'm a snob), but it was much better than a certain polenta abomination that graced my table when I first went gluten-free.  My husband swears that he liked it and- since he is sick and generally whiny/truthful in those instances- I'm going to believe him.

Then, there was the calzone.  Since gluten-free pizza dough is not, in fact, a dough... it was a bit difficult to form into shape and then fold over.  The results were less than pretty:

The calzone was okay- but I think that the dough really needed the pre-cooking step before adding toppings.  Compared to the pizza, the calzone was a bit more gummy in areas and dry in others.  No bueno.  My filling, however was tasty.  Whenever you have the opportunity to combine sundried tomatoes, cream cheese, and feta I think you should take it.  You won't be disappointed.

So, Bob, I don't think you and I are going to have a long-term pizza relationship.  In a pinch, you would do if I feel the need for a homemade slice, but I'm not giving up on prepacked mixes yet.  And eventually I'll just rip the bandaid off and stock my gluten-free pantry with all the fancy flours (and gums?) required.  But, for this Christmas I'll enjoy the treat of a gluten-y calzone.  If you can't treat yourself during the holidays, when can you?

What's your biggest splurge item in terms of kitchen food?  Personally, I was hoping mine would be some nice truffle oil...

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

WFD? Deliciousness

Ugh, blurry. 
This week I was focusing on the usual- gluten-free and delicious.  This week may be a teensy bit more indulgent than usual, as you can see.  Steak.  Carbs.  An avocado curry that will certainly have me on the elliptical until it's time to do make the shrimp fra diavolo- where I will eat more carbs.

Speaking of carbs...After cooking tonight I plan to post my results of Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix as soon as possible.  With our Christmas trip coming up I've been anxiously awaiting the struggles of being gluten-free for the holidays.  I'm mostly thinking about my father-in-law's delicious calzones and my mother-in-laws amazing Christmas morning breakfast- which typically includes both monkey bread AND orange-coconut rolls.  *swoons*

And now, something important: This Christmas will be without a very special family member.  The magnet in the upper left corner is representative of my in-law's family cat, Schmily (See how much I love you), who was put to sleep last week.  She was ornery, she was pretty, and she generally didn't like people.  But, she was family.  We love family even when they bite.  Rest in peace, Schmily.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I suck at baking...

...with gluten... and then not eating it...

I finally got around to de-glutening my pantry.  It turned up with several boxes of cake mix, two packets of Fiber One Blueberry Muffin mix, and a packet of sugar cookie mix.  My first thought was that a food bank could use the donations... until I realized they were all a couple months out of date.  Now, I know that they are perfectly fine- but having volunteered for a few donation centers I'm well aware that they don't appreciate expired foods.

So, I decided to whip up some baked goods for my g-parents.  The first problem came with the muffins.  As it  turns out, it's impossible to not drip on your fingers while filling up the muffin cups.  And then it's impossible to NOT lick your fingers.  Damn.

Then, the sugar cookies.  I had the cute idea of dipping the sugar cookie balls in holiday sprinkles to make them all festive-like.  The next problem came (I think) when I didn't soften the butter.  Or maybe it was too soft.  Or maybe it was the expiration date issue.  Or perhaps my ineptitude.  Anyone, so they flattened out a lot around the edges and got quite brown.  So then... there were reject cookies.  And I couldn't just let those cookies feel bad about themselves.

I wouldn't be human if I had no flaws, right? At least Mama and Papa will forgive me of my errors when they eat some delish muffins.

Do you ever cook/bake things that you're not supposed to eat?  How do you resist?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Goodbye, Don- Hello, Santa!

My physical therapist broke some bad news to me this morning.  Apparently, I'm at the point in my physical therapy that the insurance company is getting cranky.  I've made too much progress and insurance companies are about continued progress- not maintenance- and certainly not training me to be a long distance cyclist.  So, December 19th is my final day with my good friend and PT of the last two years, Don.  

In these next three sessions (frownie face) we are transitioning me to be ready for strength exercises at the gym and at home.  Now, I know I said I was contemplating P90X, but I am terrified about flying solo.  Who is going to make sure my form is correct?  What about stretching?  And I'm too deeply in love with pilates to say goodbye so soon- how is my core going to continue to be strengthened? Gah.

El Dorado Physical Therapy will always be there for future referrals- it's just that in-between stuff that's scary.  I do stupid stuff all the time, and it always negatively impacts my neck and/or my lupus.  Once, I challenged my husband to a pull-up competition.  I couldn't turn my neck the next day (but I won!).  I also occasionally decide to scrub my bathtub on my hands and knees, sometimes I play superman and horsey with my nephews, and roller coasters are way too fun to pass up. Hopefully, the progress that I've made will prevent these mini flares from destroying me.

I owe all of my progress to El Dorado Physical Therapy.  If you are in the El Dorado Hills/Folsom area and need a physical therapist, masseuse, or personal trainer, contact them.  Then tell them Kara referred you- I think I get movie tickets or something or a pilates session or something.

So, with whatever this new exercise routine will be I'm going to need a new more pieces of equipment:
Resistance Band Set with Door Anchor
Pilates Magic Circle
Arthritis-Friendly Dumbells
Stability Ball
And just a few more things- lifting gloves with wrist support, those yoga toe socks I keep bringing up (*ahem*), maybe some extra fitness clothes.  It's a good thing that Christmas is coming up.  It's a pity that my regular gift givers are not regular Sisyphean Effort readers.  Dommage.  Looks like I'll be shopping for Kara this holiday season.

What's on your holiday wish list? Going practical or fun in your letter to Santa?