Biopsy time

I’ve been mulling this post over in my head for weeks. How to approach it. How I feel about it. What words to put to it.

Tomorrow, after a 10 plus year odyssey of gluten free and not, I’m finally having a biopsy done to see whether I have celiac disease.

I finally convinced my primary care physician a few months ago to send me for genetic testing. Why they’d be willing to pay for genetic testing but not a biopsy is beyond me. So off I went. I won’t say that the genetic counselor was incredibly helpful, but I had to get her approval to get tested for the genes associated with celiac.

Lo and behold, I carry the DQ8 gene (though they couldn’t tell me if I had one copy or two). This is the rarer of the two genes associated with celiac disease, but one that is also associated with type I diabetes. Fits into my family tree quite nicely (my dad is a diagnosed celiac and I have a first cousin on his side with type I diabetes).

With that information in hand, I was finally able to get approved for a biopsy. And I can’t tell you that it hasn’t come at a better time. Eating gluten for a year and a half now has been WONDERFUL. It just makes life easier. But symptoms have returned, and they aren’t pleasant. Today I don’t have the wonder of why I feel like I’m being choked from the inside. I know it’s severe acid reflux that medication won’t touch. And while my stomach hasn’t returned to what it used to be over 10 years ago, things are still not normal. And it’s annoying. I don’t want to live my life feeling this way. But I also don’t want to wonder what’s wrong with me.

So tomorrow at 9:40 am, I’ll get general anesthesia for the fifth time in my life. And hopefully soon I’ll know if I really do have celiac disease. What that diagnosis could mean for me is something I’m still thinking about.

500 Fruits – update #7

I didn’t actually try that many new fruits in 2012, but I see it’s been well over a year since I updated. So here’s my up to date list. I’ve tried 128 129 different fruits since I started this project in May 2010!

39 africot, black velvet
91 apple, ambrosia
82 apple, arkansas black
67 apple, cortland
64 apple, crab
117 apple, ginger gold
92 apple, granny smith
120 apple, gravenstein
81 apple, haralson
72 apple, honey crisp
80 apple, northern spy (2011)
65 apple, paula red
116 apple, pristine finer
101 apple, water
61 apple, WI gala
115 apple, Williams pride
87 apple, winesap
14 apricot
123 aprium
26 asian pear
17 avocado
6 banana
44 banana, red
31 blackberries
18 blueberries
58 cactus fruit
29 cantaloupe
46 cherries, dark sweet
28 cherries, rainier
38 cherries, sweet red
37 clementine
77 cranberry
126 currants, red
70 date, medjool
51 eggplant
122 feijoa
56 gooseberries
104 granadilla
98 grape, muscat
32 grapefruit
50 grapes, black
55 grapes, concord
20 grapes, green seedless
10 grapes, red seedless
5 guanabana
127 jujube
121 kiwi berries
7 kiwifruit
84 kumquats
52 lemon
78 lemon, meyer
100 lemon, orange, Costa Rican
34 lime
42 lychee nuts
102 mamones
62 mandarin, daisy
89 mandarin, gold nugget
124 mandarin, pixie
96 mandarin, royal
2 mango
60 mango-nectarine
110 melon, galia
109 melon, honeydew orange flesh
53 melon, horn
125 melon, musk
119 melon, pepino
47 melon, sprite
36 mulberries
103 nance
15 nectarine
41 nectarine, white
106 noni
114 olives, kalmata
83 orange, blood
90 orange, moro
12 orange, navel
4 papaya
9 passion fruit
11 peach
54 peach, donut
99 pear, abate fetel
43 pear, bartlett
86 pear, bosc
88 pear, comice
24 pear, D’anjou
108 pear, forelle
76 pear, harrow’s delight
85 pear, luscious
30 pear, packham’s triumph
27 pear, red anjou
73 pear, seckel
63 pear, star krimson
107 pear, taylor gold
71 pear, tosca
97 pear, ya
113 peas, snow
112 peas, sugar snap
25 pepper, bell (red)
33 pepper, jalapeno
74 persimmon
35 pineapple
22 plum, black
48 plum, dapple dandy
66 plum, egg
3 plum, purple
21 plum, red
45 plum, yellow
23 pluot
40 pluot, red velvet
75 pomegranate
59 prune plum
95 pummelo
79 quince
118 rambutan
13 raspberries
128 satsuma
57 star fruit
8 strawberries
111 string bean, purple
105 tamarind
94 tangerine, murcott
93 tangerine, pixie
19 tomato, grape
69 tomato, heirloom
68 tomato, roma
16 tomato, vine on
1 watermelon (May, 2010)
49 zucchini
129 tangerine, mineola (2013)

Dying, Death, and Life

I’ve been having problems holding my seams together. It’s no surprise really. I’m pretty sure I know how I got here. But I think I can see the path forward.

Rascal had a tough past year and a half. After three seizures last June, an initial diagnosis of hypereosinophilic syndrome, then downgraded to small cell lymphoma, a battle with prednisone induced diabetes, and then rapid weight lose over the past couple of months, it was actually really impressive how friendly he still was.

In the weeks before last week, Rascal hadn’t been doing well.  But The ManBeast and I had a conference in Knoxville to attend.  I couldn’t stay home.  So I made the hard choice of boarding him with the vet.  I couldn’t with any peace of mind ask my friend, who normally watches the cats, to deal with Rascal’s issues.  He was up to twice weekly Leukaran for the lymphoma, an appetite stimulate every three days, and a twice daily irritable bowel medication.  Not easy to deal with.

So the Friday previous I dropped Rascal off at the vet.  I’ve been mourning for him for a long time, but it was still hard.  We were off to Knoxville the next morning to return sometime Thursday night.

We hit the Beltline in Madison at about 5:30 Thursday night and I made the joke that we should go get Rascal and save the $16 on boarding him for an extra night.  But we both decided we were tired and to just put it off to the next morning as originally planned.  

45 minutes after getting home I got a call from the vet that Rascal likely wouldn’t last the night.  

He had had a stroke the day before, and likely another one that morning, and the vet told me he was fading fast.  He was dead by the time we made the (racing) 15 minute drive over there.

I knew this could happen at any time, and that I got more time with him than we had originally thought was possible.  But I’m not sure it’s made it any easier.  Rascal was my friend for the past 7 years.  I got him the year I lived in Capitol Hill.  He moved with me once in DC, and then made the move here to WI when I came for grad school. I often reminded The ManBeast that Rascal had been with me before he came along.

I am thankful that I did get to see his body.  But I can’t help thinking “if only the vet had called me sooner” or “if we’d just stayed on the Beltline a few more exits”…  I would have gotten to see him one more time.  It breaks my heart.  I feel like I’ve been falling apart at the seams.

A wise friend told me a few years ago that one of the things she dealt with with her father dying was people simply not saying anything to her.  How it shocked her that some people just didn’t say anything to her.  It’s something that’s stuck with me for a long time.  So when bad things happen to people I know, I try to at least say something so that they know I’m there for them.  I rarely know what to say, but I’d rather say something awkward than nothing at all.

The hard part I’m having in all this is that I’m not sure how to let people be here for me.  I honestly don’t feel like talking to anyone about any of this.  And frankly, much of the world isn’t well set up for grown adults mourning the death of a pet.  So if you see me, know that I’m doing the best I can right now to keep it together.  And if you hug me, don’t be surprised if I burst into tears.  And if we’re in public, I probably won’t let you get too close.

The ManBeast and I have been talking for quite some time about what we would do when Rascal died.  One thing we never talked about was how Thor would react.  As a cat, I can’t tell you how he’s doing.  Sometimes he seems like his normal aloof self.  Other times, I’d like to think that his behavior is indicative of him missing Rascal.  But only he knows the truth.

The thing The ManBeast and I did talk about what getting another cat.  He was of the opinion that the next one needed to be named Loki.  It would pay homage to Rascal, and would be a good name match for Thor.  Last Saturday, we went to an adoption event held by the group that I got Thor from.  They didn’t have anyone we were interested in, but when we were done, I really didn’t feel like coming home.  So I dropped The ManBeast off and went down to the Humane Society.  And I met Loki.

Long story short, Loki, a four month old kitten, is now home with us.  And Loki is his name; we didn’t have to rename him. He has an upper respiratory infection and is supposed to be kept isolated from Thor until his symptoms clear.  I’m hoping that is soon because I really think the two will have fun together.  I’ll pictures of him soon, but if you find me on FaceBook, I did post a video there the other day of him.  He’s a cutey.  I hope he gets better soon.

I am glad that I can now give a home to a cat who might not otherwise have gotten one. Loki was a surrendered kitten to our local humane society whose previous owners might not have been up to dealing with a feline upper respiratory infection. While keeping him isolated is hard, only having to give him one pill a day is a walk in the park.

It really helps that he’s a cuddler. A cuddle with your face cuddler. Even in the midst of tears, he makes me laugh. And for that, I am grateful.

Canning; or, what I did with 40 lbs of tomatoes

A friend asked me if I’d talk a little about this, so here it goes.

This was my second year canning. Last year I did just salsas. This year? I branched out a little. And scaled up.

Honestly, canning isn’t hard, if you can follow directions. If you like to wing it, or figure it out as you go along, canning likely isn’t for you. Botulism is a real concern for home canners, and you should follow directions carefully. For that reason, I’m not going to write out any recipes here. I can’t add anything to the conversation about how to properly can, so I’m not going to even try.

The only two plants in my garden this year that produced anything were the jalapenos. Everything else was a waste of water. So this means all my hopes of canning my own tomatoes were down the drain.

I started with a shopping bag full of roma tomatoes from a coworker. She had mentioned at some point that they usually get overwhelmed, and I offered to gladly take them off her hands. I added another 25 lbs from the farmers market. This is what 25 lbs of roma tomatoes looks like:

It was pretty easy for me to come up with ideas of what to do with everything. I actually think the hard part was picking which ideas to follow through on.

This is what I ended up with:

So, what did I make?

I honestly don’t remember what the “? salsa” was. Well, I remember it was “leftovers” of at least two salsas, but I think a third recipe might have been in there.

Tomato Salsa-Slicing and the Peach-Apple Salsa are good solid salsa recipes from the University of Wisconsin-Extension Cooperative (pdf warning).

The Sweent n spicy tomato jam recipe came from White on Rice. It’s really tasty, even if I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it.

For the diced tomatoes, I followed use real butter’s directions. This was the only recipe I messed up this year. Seriously. And this is probably the easiest recipe out of the lot. It wasn’t until the jars were in the boiling water that I remembered that I didn’t add lemon juice. *sigh* So when they were done and cool enough to handle, I re-canned them in clean jars AND new lids, this time with lemon juice. There will be no dying of botulism in this house!

The plain tomato sauce recipe also came from use real butter. I could have put spices/herbs in it, but we decided against that so that the sauce will be more versatile when we actually go to use it.

The tomato butter recipe is another one that I’m not sure what I’m actually going to do with. But it’s tasty. And I’m glad I made it. This one came from Food in Jars.

The Hot Giardiniera Pickled Peppers was a bitch to make. The recipe, yet again, came from use real butter. I told the ManBeast that I won’t make this again unless he really likes it AND he helps. Too much chopping for something I don’t really eat.

Sadly, you can’t really see the pickled peppers. I followed a general recipe for that, pickling a combination of hot peppers from the farmers market, including my own jalapenos. I frankly don’t remember which exact recipe I followed for this, but the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has a recipe that looks like it’s pretty similar to what ever it was I did.

Somewhere in there, I also made normal pickles:

Half the jars are regular dill pickles. Half the jars got some pepper flakes too. I followed this recipe for refrigerator pickles. Since this recipe is NOT fit for canning, I didn’t can them (duh). But that also means we have 7 quarts of pickles. Oh well.

In the process, I’ve also come to covet these jars. So cute. So tiny!

In hindsight, there are few things I wish I’d done different. I wish I’d caught peach season and made Vanilla Peach Bourbon Jam. I’d kind of still like to make apple butter, but I’m almost out of jars, and I’m not sure I’m in the mood to buy more. I did learn that it’s actually the supermarket that we shop at that locally has the cheapest cases of jars. And Amazon is NOT to be trusted for jar prices. They are incredibly overprices. I’ll keep looking for jars in the thrift store when I go, but sometimes, it’s easier to just buy them new. Oh, and the farm I got my tomatoes from? While they are at our local farmers market, I actually found them on craigslist.

Until next time, I get to figure out how to spend $50 my parents gave me for my birthday for “canning” stuff. I haven’t decided if I want a cookbook or two (the Ball cookbook I’ve used I’ve borrowed from the library for the past two years). I’d also like to buy a pot large enough to fit the quart jars in.

And here’s a picture of Thor and his fascination with the new record player:

Rainbow cupcakes with raspberry buttercream

A really nice coworker made me “cupcakes” for my birthday:

So of course I had to try to top her and make something even more awesome for the next person’s birthday. I went with rainbow cupcakes with raspberry buttercream.

I used version II of the white cake recipe from “The Joy of Cooking” as my cupcake recipe. I wouldn’t suggest using this recipe. You lose some of the loft from handling the batter so much for these cupcakes. Now I know.

Here’s what the plain batter looks like:

I used standard food dye to make the colors:

And you can be damn straight that I put the colored batters in the right order:

The buttercream. The person who actually had the birthday told me that she liked raspberry. So I made raspberry buttercream.

Raspberry Buttercream
1. In a small sauce pan cook down about 12 ounces of berries. I didn’t have 12 full ounces of raspberries, so I put some blueberries and blackberries in too. You want to cook this until it’s pretty thick. The directions I followed suggest down to 1/4 cup, but I lost patience and stopped before then. Let it cool.

2. Sift/filter (what word am I looking for?!?) out the seeds.

3. Cream 1 stick of butter.

4. As the mixer is going, add in batches, 2 cups powdered sugar, the sauce, and 1/2 tsp lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

5. Add another 1.5 cups powdered sugar, or to taste and desired consistency.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ta da! I finally figured out how to get straight to the ‘make a new post’ box that lets me do html from the beginning. Not the BS that WP seems to think I want.

I made stuffed acorn squash last night. It was great last night. And it was great today as lunch, as I’m sure it will be tomorrow too. Even the ManBeast approved and said I can make this again. You’ll want to do this on a day when you have plenty of time. This is NOT a fast recipe.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

0. Preheat oven to 400F.

1. Split and clean out an acorn squash. In a baking dish, put the cut side down. Put water in the dish to about 1/4″ up the side of the squash. Or some estimation of that, with more being better than less.

2. Bake squash for 1 hour.

Towards the end of that time, prepare the stuffing.
3. Cook 1/2 lb ground pork sausage. With some crushed red pepper if you like spicy. Set pork aside.

4. In same pan, sautee 1/2 onion, and a few cloves of chopped garlic (I used 4 small ones).

5. When the onions are soft (or done to your liking, this recipe is pretty flexible), add a 1/2 stalk chopped celery, 5 sliced/chopped mushrooms, and a 1/2 peeled/chopped tart apple. The recipe I followed called for 1/2 c pecans, but I forgot them. I’d probably like them, but I’m not sure the ManBeast would.

6. Cook until nice and soft and everything is well cooked. Put in same bowl as pork.

7. “Deglaze” pan with 1/4 c white wine. This didn’t work so well, as our cast iron is now well seasoned, but I did it any way. Reduce wine a bit.

8. Add in pork mixture along with 1 egg, 2 T milk, and a 1/2 c “bread crumbs”. Spice/herb to taste. I added 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, a 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp salt, and some pepper.

9. Hopefully in there somewhere, you took the squash out and let them cool a bit. Flip them over and be careful of any water that has sucked back up into the cavity. You might want to scoop out some of the squash, mix it with the pork mixture. Stuff the cavity with the pork mixture. It will likely mound over a bit. I put some more crushed red pepper over the top.

10. Bake at 375F for 1/2 hour. Top with parmesan cheese.

A word about the “bread crumbs”. You could use actual bread crumbs, or something else bread-ish. I made biscuits the night previous and while they tasted good, they didn’t quite get the fluff I wanted. So I hacked up 3 of those and used them as my “bread crumbs”. You could probably even do this without the bread crumbs.

A word about cost. We get ground pork sausage for $2 a pound (or maybe less, I can’t remember). The acorn squash was $1.50 at the farmers market, and the apples, I paid maybe $1 for two. The celery was a wilting stalk that normally I would have thrown out. The mushrooms were left over from another dish where we didn’t need the whole package. So really, all told, you could probably do this entire dish for well under $10. To me, the pecans would likely be the most expensive, and I’m kind of glad I left them out. I even used one of the cheapest bottles of white wine I could find. This worked out to be four meals for us.

Breakfast burritos

So, what have I been up to?  Quite a bit.  What, with getting engaged, going to Copenhagen for a conference, canning probably close to 50 pounds of tomatoes (and other things), and trying to get science done?  I’ve been a little busy.  Today, I give you breakfast burritos.  Hopefully later this week I’ll talk about rainbow cupcakes and my canning adventures (not canning rainbow cupcakes though).

Breakfast burritos


As always, I’m a fan of mis en place (mess in place).  This recipe includes:

1/2 diced onion
4 garlic cloves minced
2 peeled and “diced” baking potatoes
1 diced red bell pepper
1 package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3-4 chipotle peppers in adobe, chopped
~7 extra large eggs*
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1/2 pound maple breakfast sausage
Oh, and my cooking fat was bacon fat

With about 3-4T bacon fat in a large skillet, brown your onions, add the garlic, then the potatoes.  The potatoes will take longer than you think to cook if you haven’t pre-boiled them (which is an option).  You might want to do something while they cook.  I scrubbed the cabinet doors:


(I consider the left one clean enough, the right one will get done another day).

This is about what your potatoes should look like when you’re getting close to done:


Once they are done, set them aside and briefly saute the red bell pepper in the same pan.  More if you like them cooked more, or less if you aren’t as fond of overcooked bell peppers as I am.  Set them aside in the same bowl as the potatoes.

Now cook your sausage.  You could probably use a number of different meats here.  The recipes I used for inspiration included chorizo, poached pulled chicken, other types of ground meat.  Pick what works for you.

Once the meat was cooked through, I added the potatoes and red peppers back to the pain and topped that with the egg/cheese mixture along with some salt, pepper, and a 1/2T of ancho pepper powder.  You want to stir gently here as the Pioneer Woman reminds us (which was one of the sites I used for inspiration).

Once everything was cooked, I let it cool for a bit.  I used basic flour tortillas as my wraps, putting 1/3 cup of mix in each wrap.  My 10 pack of wraps actually had 11, and I had enough left over mix for 7 more wraps.


Each wrap was wrapped in plastic wrap and then loaded into a freezer bag.  That and the left over mix went into the freezer.  Tomorrow I’ll pull out one (or maybe two) wraps and reheat them in the microwave. Suggestions I’ve seen are to wrap in a paper towel and reheat for anywhere from 45 seconds to 3 minutes.  I’ll see what my microwave takes.

*I say 7 eggs because I actually had 4 yolks and 1 egg white to use up from other recipes, and then added 6 actual extra large eggs.