Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Rhapsody On Zucchini

During the summer between 6th and 7th grades, my family moved into a new house. We were living in Oregon at the time. My parents had rented a house upon first moving to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. But that summer we moved into our brand new, custom built home. Our house was one of the first in the subdivision. It was so new that the forest grew right up against the neighboring lots. There was many an occasion when a mama deer and her babies would take a stroll down our cul-de-sac. This house will live forever in my mind as "the best house ever!" It was the first time I could remember living in a house with two floors. I had a HUGE bedroom. We could see Mt Hood from our front step. The kitchen was spacious with a beautiful butcher block island. Then...there was the garden. While gardens may not be rare to some of you, this was special for us. You see, we had moved to Oregon from Arizona. Aside from the grapefruit tree in our backyard there was no garden. The climate was not hospitable enough. At the new house Dad created this amazing multi-tiered garden. We grew everything (it seemed). Potatoes, swiss chard, green beans, snap peas, tomatoes, onions, and (best of all) zucchini. Ah, that zucchini. How I loved that zucchini. We would have tiny baby zucchini and great big giant overgrown zucchini. My dad and brother had this idea that they were going to let one of the green buggers grow for as long as possible to see if they could beat the Guinness Book of World Records. Alas, the final fruit fell short. That being said, we had to find a variety of ways to cook all the zucchini. We cooked it in casseroles and roasts. We sauteed and grilled it. I wish we had known about this fantastic recipe for stuffed zucchini that Mom and I made for the first time last night (with zucchini from their current garden). Now, while I have only tried a few recipe's from Elise's site, they have all been winners.

I have to say, though, that my absolute favorite is still zucchini bread. What??!!?!? You say you have never had it? That you think it sounds icky? Scandalous!!! Never speak ill of my beloved 'chini! Zucchini bread does not, in fact, taste like zucchini. The shredded green stuff gives the bread a great moist texture, and some wonderful healthy vitamins. (Makes it easy to justify eating an entire mini loaf by yourself in 24 hours.) We have been using the same recipe for my whole life. After doing a bit of research it looks as though most of the recipes out there are variations of the same one. So with four ginormous zuchs sitting on the counter, Mom and I began the Zucchini Cooking Royale. Ok, maybe it wasn't so grand as all that, but it sure turned out tasty. We started with the Zucchini Stuffed with Ham and Cheese (the recipe linked above.) I used Ener-G Bread Crumbs for the first time and thought they were pretty good. Even Dad thought they were the real thing. Next we tackled zucchini bread with Kinnikinnick flour. I only had the Pastry and Pie crust flour mix at my parents' house. It turned out fine, I just omitted the salt (since it is in the mix.) Mom then made a "regular" batch so that I could have the GF loaves all to myself. Yay Mom! Sadly, I do not have my camera with me. No pictures for you! But I do have the recipe. Enjoy!

Pineapple-Zucchini Loaf
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 T vanilla (yes it calls for 3 T, but you can use far less)
2 cups peeled, grated and well drained zucchini
3 cups Kinnikinnick GF Pastry and Pie Crust Mix
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9x5" loaf pans. Beat eggs until fluffy. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla and blend well. Add zucchini. Sift together flour, baking powder, and soda and add to batter. Stir in pineapple and nuts and mix well. Turn into pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on wire rack before removing from pans. Wrap and store overnight to develop flavors before slicing. (Note: If using another GF flour mix, add 1 t of salt with flour.)

If you are like me and my father you will love topping this bread with butter or, better yet, cream cheese.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Finally getting somewhere

I went to the GI today in response to my 6 month follow-up blood work. As I had mentioned in the past, I was not thrilled with my doctor. Absolutely no communication. I went to a new GI today at Rush Hospital. He works with the dietitian I have been seeing. I am kicking myself for not going to see him in the first place. All of my other specialists are located at Rush. I had to break the mold once and go to Northwestern. (OK, it is a wonderful facility, as well. I just had no luck.)

Anyhow, Dr. Demeo is great. He took him time, talked through everything. He actually read my chart and referred back to items in it. While he never flat out said it, based on his reaction to the fact that I was severely anemic in college and I was diagnosed with an IgA deficiency when I was 8 years old (although that went away), he feels that I have probably had Celiac far longer than I have had GI symptoms.

I finally got a bit of a translation of my blood work. The normal range is a ratio of 1:10. My level is 1:160. I would say that is a bit high. Unfortunately, he does not use the same blood test as my previous doctor. Dr. Demeo uses the TTG. While he is not going to run that one right away, I had blood drawn to check my folate and B12. I need to schedule a DXA scan. He is requesting the results of my last CBC, and he is asking for copies of the slides from my endoscopy. I will probably be going in for a follow up in a few months.

He has a strong belief that the GI system, and especially Celiac, effects more than just stomach and bowels. I believe he referred to Celiac as being a multi-system disorder. Just by touching my shoulder he was able to tell me I have allergies (if you scratch your skin and the color changes to super pale, that is an indicator.) He also knew that I would get cramps (sorry guys) mid-cycle during ovulation and was able to point out exactly where I felt the cramping. Incidentally, the pain is not located near the ovaries. This is apparently connected to Celiac. Eh? Not sure if it is 100% true, but the man knew these things before asking me.

He said in all likelihood that I have been eating fine, but the extent of the damage is probably severe enough that it is taking a while to heal. The long and short of it is that I need to continue the diet and food journal (possibly adding symptoms to the journal), do the tests, pray I do not have osteopenia or (worse) osteoporosis. The strongest order from both the doctor and the dietitian (who came in and spoke with me again) is ti eat more and gain weight. When was the last time you heard a doctor tell a patient to gain weight?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

2 new finds!

Well, on Tuesday I had a meeting at school with our new principal. I had to get up early during summer fair! After peeking in at the disaster that is my classroom, I decided I was starving. A quick phone call and I was off to the burbs. I met up with my boy at a little cafe I have been hearing about for a while called Joyful's Cafe. Apparently it used to be more like a small market with tons of gluten free products. Unfortunately it did not make enough money. On the up side, the owner (Mark, I believe) turned it into a cafe/deli. Very cute. Great decor. Sandwiches and salads make up the bilk of the menu. All items on the menu can be made GF. I think the owner's son has Celiac and that was why he has this business. It makes me trust them more with the preparation of my food. I ordered the California Turkey sandwich. Oh yum! Good, moist bread. Turkey, avocado, bacon, cheddar, onion, and lettuce. I had almost forgotten how good a huge deli sandwich could be. It was heavenly. So, of course, I had to ask if they sell the bread by the loaf. The gentleman I spoke with said they had Kinnikinnik white, another sandwich bread, cinnamon-raisin millet, and banana-nut millet. The cinnamon-raisin was sadly sold out. I went home with a loaf od banana- nut millet bread. I had never had bread made with millet flour. The verdict? Very good! This was not homemade. It was a frozen loaf from a place called Sami's Bakery based in Tampa, FL. This bread, while made with banana, is not your typical sweet dessert bread. There was the subtle flavor of banana, but it is almost neutral. I don't think I could use it with coldcuts for a sandwich, but perhaps grilled cheese made with munster and/or a mild swiss. It is fantastic fresh out of the bag or toasted and topped with cream cheese. Oh yeah. I am definitely going to check out more of the products from this bakery!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer "cooking"

Cooking. It is such a wonderful thing. The fact that a person can combine a few ingredients and create a whole new dish is amazing. Usually, when I think of cooking a stove or oven come to mind. In the summer (or year round if you are my dad) this extends to the grill. I compensate by owning a George Foreman. (Don't knock it till you try one!) For some reason I just can't call it cooking if there is not some sort of heat source. Silly, I know, but there you have it. I can prepare a meal/food without heat, but it is not cooking.

This afternoon I prepared a meal for lunch. It is hot here in Chicago. There was absolutely no way I was going to turn on my stove or (worse yet) oven. Heck no. What to do? Well, I would have just noshed on rice cakes, cheese and apples, and Gatorade. Appetizing, I know. For some reason, though, I was inspired to hit the veggie market on my way home for the Capoeira workshop I attended this morning. (Good lord, my legs hurt!) At the market I bought so much lovely produce: cherries, strawberries, bananas, plums, red bell peppers, endive, eggplant, vadallia onions, basil, chives...the list goes on. In the fridge section they had a small selection of prepared salads. Almost all of them were off limits (couscous and tabbouleh). There was a tasty looking chickpea salad nestled amongst the verboten items. Hmmmm...interesting. Sadly, the salad was from the same company as the others and I did not want to take the chance. What to do? Make my own!!! OK, so I don't have any chickpeas, but I do have white beans. A little modification and this is what I made:

1 can white beans
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4-1/3 vidallia onion, diced (these suckers are BIG!)
2 T chopped fresh basil
olive oil (I like one with a strong flavor)
red wine vinegar
kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper

Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl. Toss together gently. Drizzle the salad with olive and vinegar, lightly season with salt and pepper. Mix. Taste. Add additional oil/vinegar/salt/pepper to taste. (I like to add a generous portion of pepper.)

It is the ultimate in summer "cooking", that non-cooking in which no heating element is involved. Yet the end result...a healthy, flavorful meal that will definitely go in the repeat file.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back from Atlanta

I have to start by saying that Atlanta is such a beautiful city. Really very lovely. If ever you have to opportunity to go there, do. I am partial to Chicago, it is my home, but Atlanta is now in my top five. A great mix of old and new architecture. Warm. (OK, a bit humid.) Very green. Lots of large hills (not sure I can really call them mountains since I spent most of my childhood living in the Rocky Mountains.) Compared to Chicago, the city has very little traffic, foot or automotive. I look forward to going back.

I you do ever happen to head to that fair city, you MUST try a restaurant we went to. It is called The Real Chow Baby. It is one of those make-your-own-stir-fry places. The wonderful thing is that, on their regular menu, each sauce is labeled if it is sugar-free, low-sugar, vegetarian, vegan, or... gluten free! My boyfriend, who has no dietary restrictions, loved the place. You can be as creative or conservative with your ingredients as you want. All of the rice noodles are cooked separately from the wheat-filled ones. If you indicate that you have a food allergy/are gluten free, they cook your food on a separate wok. All you can eat for $12.99. A great place to take someone who has a hearty appetite. Avoid the mojitos, though. Among the worst I have had. (Very disappointing.) Oh, and do not go there if you are in a hurry.

In my effort to make sure I had gluten free options for the trip I over packed a bit. We brought along a cooler that we filled with cold cuts (Applegate Farms has the best turkey ever!), cheese, drinks, mayo, etc. I baked some Chebe flatbread to use for sandwiches. Chebe is officially my favorite GF quickbread. So tasty and easy. Even the boyfriend liked it. The only problem is that I now have more trail mix than I could ever possibly eat. What was I thinking? It is rather good. Cashews, hazelnuts, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dried cherries and dried blueberries. Mmmmmm... Because of all the food we brought along, and the free continental breakfast at the hotel, we only had to buy one meal a day. We saved a ton of money that way and I did not have to worry about finding tons of places to eat that could accommodate my diet. For my first vacation since going GF, it was a resounding culinary success. Oh, and the city was pretty darn great, too. ;)