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.

Sweet Potato Salad

I’m not sure where the ManBeast found this recipe, but it’s been a favorite all summer.  We were making it every week for a while, and now we’ve settled in to about every two weeks.

Sweet Potato Salad

1.  Peel 3 sweet potatoes, cut them up into chunks, and boil them until they are JUST tender.  You don’t want mush here, but you don’t want them crunchy either.
2.  Add in:
2-3 diced celery stalks
1 medium diced onion
1/2 c mayo
1/4 c diced pickles
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
a touch of prepared mustard (we usually just put in about 1 tsp yellow mustard)
3. Mix well!

Sesame chicken

Why are so many websites these days changing to be less and less usable?  I haven’t (obviously) done much here lately, but I hate the changes wordpress has rolled out.

This recipe can easily be made gluten free, or gluten full.  The amounts are also flexible.  You could easily do more chicken in the batter (I think the most we’ve done is a pound an a half), half or double the sauce.  Depends on how you like your food.

Sesame chicken

1.  Chop about a pound to a pound and a half of chicken into bite size pieces.

2.  Marinate in the following for about 20 minutes:

2 T soy sauce (gluten free if you need it)

1 T sherry

1 T sesame oil

2 T flour (random mixtures of gluten free flours have worked for us)

2 T corn starch

2 T water

0.5 t baking powder

0.5 t baking soda

1 t vinegar

3. While that is marinating, combine the following in a sauce pan:

1/2 c water

1 c chicken broth

1/4 – 1/3 c vinegar

1/4 c corn starch

1/4 – 1/3 c sugar

2 T soy sauce

2 T sesame oil

2 T plus (or to taste really) siracha

4.  Put a cooling rack over a cookie sheet.  Deep fry the chicken at 375F.  Do it in small batches.  Fry until nice and golden brown.  When each batch is done, put it onto the cooling rack.  Letting it cool this way will let it maintain it’s crispiness better (this is a trick I learned from userealbutter, and it’s always worked great for us).

5.  While the chicken is frying, bring the sauce to a gentle boil and stir.  Simmer until thickened.

6.  We serve this one of two ways.  Either put chicken over rice and top with sauce.  Or just combine the chicken and sauce in a dish and serve.  We almost always have steamed broccoli as our veggie for this dish.

Now a misnomer

My head just feels full these days.  Like the idea of keeping an open mind will mean that things might start falling out.  Full with school (just how do I get that PCR to work?).  Full with thoughts of my cats (will putting Thor back on the duck/pea food re-cure his fur pulling?).  Full with personal projects (why do I actually feel that way about that person?).  Full with general to-do projects (just what does go into conditioner?).  But also full with thoughts of food.  

Around the time of my last post I was contemplating what it would take to finally get tested for celiac disease.  I’d already talked to my doctor, and she had placed the order for the tests.  But having been gluten free for almost 9 years, we were unsure of how much gluten I’d have to eat for how long to get an accurate test.  Unfortunately, the medical literature is pretty much lacking in that area.  The best I could find was that 10 grams a day (about two slices of bread) for three weeks was insufficient in one group of patients to significantly alter the various celiac blood tests.  So I knew I had to shoot for more than that and longer.

December 21st I took the plunge.  With an awesome donut from a local bakery.  Ok, so I had two.  And I’ve been eating gluten since then.  

Shockingly, my symptoms have not been nearly as bad as I thought they would be.  But boy, the one severe beer hangover I had a few weeks ago was SEVERE.  Not just the hangover, but the glutening symptoms that went along with it.  

But more oddly, the symptoms that I expected would come back with a vengeance, haven’t.  While I wouldn’t call my bowel movements normal for me, they are hardly anything that would be cause for concern.  I haven’t had a single migraine like I used to.  But I have had some acid reflux.  And it’s the occasional bad flare of acid reflux, where it’s so bad I can feel that tightening in the back of my throat, that concerns me a bit.  Nine years ago my throat was so bad I brought myself to the ER one night and learned the next morning from the ENT doctor that my gagging sensation was actually stomach acid burning the back of my throat.  But other than that, I’d almost wager to say I’ve been fine.  Other than the 15 pounds I’ve gained in the past two months.  Which all leaves me befuddled.

So the week before last I finally went in and got the tests done.  I figured two months of eating gluten pretty much every day, and a reasonable portion every day.  The doctor ordered a celiac panel: a general IgA test to make sure I’m not IgA deficient, and the tissue transglutaminase and anti-gliadin tests.  I also requested gluten and wheat allergy tests, both of which were IgE based, figuring that I was there, why not.

My results?  

All normal.  

And now I’m left completely confused.  And frustrated.  I no longer seem to know how to eat (which at least partly explains the 15 pound weight gain).  I no longer feel like I know who I am.  Being gluten free was a large part of my life and being told I’m (likely) not celiac, it feels like a huge part of my identity has been ripped from me.  Have the last 9 years been a waste?  All that time and money I poured into being gluten free.  All the heart ache.  And frustration.  For this?

But mostly I don’t know how to eat.  I don’t know how to eat like a normal person because the last time I did, I was in my very early 20’s, and not eating like a normal person any way.  I no longer seem able to say no to treats (which again, likely explains some of the 15 pound weight gain).  I’m quite cognizant that I could still be celiac, and the test just didn’t pick it up for whatever reason.  But for the time being, I’m not convinced that I need to return to being obsessively gluten free.  But I’m not sure what else to do.

Even most of my screen names revolve around the one I use here, gfpumpkins.  Gluten Free pumpkins.

I know this isn’t an issue I can solve tonight.  But I’ve been sitting with it for two weeks now and I still feel like I’m stuck in the same spot of utter confusion and disbelief.

Bailey’s Irish Cream – an update

Turns out my post from last year on Bailey’s Irish Cream is my top viewed post. So for the sake of my curiousity, I thought I’d revisit the topic to see if Bailey’s is/was still off limits.

Courtesy of their “Product and Company Information” page, we get this gem:

So for the time being, it looks like Bailey’s is currently gluten free.  However, I really wish our various food, beverage and alcohol groups/advisory boards/congressional groups would get with the program.  Make alcohol producers put ingredient labels on their products, just like for every other product we consume.  And I really wish companies would cut the shit out with the ‘consult a medical professional’ bullshit.  How the hell is my doctor going to know what is in your product when I don’t?  This line in particular galls me: “Your doctor can then contact us for a more detailed list of component ingredients if required.”  I should be able to hold a consumable product and know what is in it.  Neither I, nor my doctor, should have to contact anyone to know what is an a product that is meant for human consumption.

Gearing up for a gluten challenge

I know I haven’t been around much lately.  I haven’t had much I’ve felt like writing.  And I’m trying to get both some school and personal projects done (I’ve yet to be successful with those either).

But one thing I did discuss with my doctor the last time I saw her was the possibility of doing a gluten challenge so that I can finally get diagnosed with celiac disease.  It’s been hard to really work through why I really want a celiac diagnosis.  There is a little voice that lives in the back of my head that questions this whole gluten free thing.  Wonders if I really need to do it.  Wonders if a little wouldn’t hurt.  I’d like to attempt to quiet that voice.  Since my dad is diagnosed as celiac, and I fit two out of the five criteria for having celiac disease, I likely have it too.  Now to make it official.

The hard part however has been scheduling when to do this gluten challenge, as I’m sure it will impact my ability to function, and answering the question of just how much gluten I need to eat for how long to get an accurate diagnosis.  On this last one, the doctor and I didn’t agree.  She said to eat “some” every day for two weeks, and then come in for the blood work.  That set off warning bells in my head, so off I went in search of papers on the subject.

So far, there is only one paper that addresses this question specifically:

Pyle G. G., B. Paaso, B. E. Anderson, D. Allen, T. Marti, C. Khosla, and G. M. Gray. 2005. Low-dose gluten challenge in celiac sprue: malabsorptive and antibody responses. Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology 3:679-86.

pubmed link

The gist is that 8 diagnosed nonsymptomatic celiac patients ate gluten daily for 21 days.  Four of them had 5 g a day, the other four had 10 g a day.  While all the patients had an increase in symptoms and all the patients performed worse on a few of the malabsorptive tests (which aren’t incredibly accurate), NO ONEs antibody levels changed.

So I’m still left wondering how to handle this.  This paper was helpful in that I know 10 g a day for 21 days is insufficient.  But I don’t know if I’ll just need to eat more or longer, likely both.  And as 10 g is roughly equal to two slices a day, I’ll definitely be blowing that portion right out the water, as I plan on consuming gluten like a ‘normal’ person, at pretty much every damn meal.  Now the question is for how long will I need to suffer?  And hope that this will all be worth it in the end.

New to me ciders

Beer tour 2011, I mean, Family tour 2011, wrapped up last week and I came back with TEN new to me ciders to try.

While there are 11 bottles in this picture, I’ve had the Woodchuck special reserve before (all 12 bottles of it :) But of the others, I had never seen them. So into our bottle collection in the trunk they went.

So far, I’ve tried the Peach Hard Cider from Bean Blossom Hard Cider made by Oliver’s Winery in IN. The cider was incredibly light and fruity, more peach cider to me than apple cider with peaches. Would I buy it again? Unlikely. Am I glad I tried it? Certainly. And now I’ve got the funky bottle to show for it.

Look forward to a few more reviews. I’m not sure I’ll review them all, but hopefully I remember to post about the notable ones.

Peach Salsa

I went a salsa canning kick earlier this week. Unlike the 10 lbs of tomatoes I bought 2 weeks ago for $2.50, these 10 lbs (this time for $5) actually got almost all used BEFORE I had to cut off large chunks due to stupid fungus.

I’m going to make these recipes VERY bare bones. If you know how to can, these are all canning safe recipes. If you like fresh salsa, these all work fresh. If you’d like to learn to can, I suggest reading something like this pdf from the University of Wisconsin Extension office. Canning is doable, with patience and the right equipment, but you really need to be prepared. I don’t want anyone blaming me for a case of botulism because they tried canning these recipes and didn’t know what they were doing.

There are three recipes. I’ll post them in order of what I liked best. I also halved all the original recipes, as I wanted variety more than volume. If we weren’t leaving Tuesday, I’d contemplate getting more tomatoes to make of the first of these two salsas.

Peach Apple Salsa
This recipe is also from that pdf I linked above. It’s *almost* like Trader Joe’s peach salsa, which is by far my favorite store bought salsa.

1. You’ll want to make sure your apples and peaches don’t brown. You want to end up with
5 c peeled diced unripe peaches
1 c chopped granny smith apple
Into 8 cups of water, add 1500 mg of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). If you don’t have vitamin C tablets like I don’t, you might be able to find this in pure powder form at your local health foods store (Willy St Coop had it). In that case you’ll use about 1/2 tsp of the powder to the 8 cups of water. Wash and peel your apple(s) (1 large) and peaches (4 for me). Chop them in half and add to the vitamin C water. Soak for 10 minutes.

2. Combine in a large pan:
3 cups of peeled diced tomatoes (they suggest roma, that isn’t what I had)
1.25 c diced yellow onion
1 c chopped green bell pepper
2T pickling spice (tie into a reusable tea bag, mesh bag, cheese clothe, whatever works for you)
1.5t canning salt
2 t crushed red pepper flakes
1.875 c (so 1.5 c + 1/4 c + 1/8 c) packed light brown sugar
1 1/8 c cider vinegar (must be 5%)
5 c peeled diced unripe peaches (from step 1)
1 c chopped granny smith apple (from step 1)

3. Bring to a boil, stirring, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Remove spice bag.

5. At this point it is edible. But if you want to can it:
you’ll need to put the solids in first to 1.25 inch headspace, then stop with cooking liquid to 1/2 headspace. Do your canning clean up and process cans for 15 minutes at sea level.

If you really want to can this, and want all the more nitty gritty directions, read the pdf link. Seriously. But if you have experience canning, I don’t imagine this will be difficult at all for you. It’s quite tasty.

Chicken/pork rub

Oh look, two recipes in one day! (you might even see a third if I am up for it)

This recipe is by far the one I’ve used the most in the past two weeks. I got the base somewhere off allrecipes and then mangled it to be ours. And honestly, I haven’t made it the same way twice. Every time I use it, I change something. Every version has been stellar. All the spices here are dried.

Chicken/Pork rub
Combine in a small bowl:
1/8-1/4 c brown sugar (the original was 1/4, 1/8 works too, more is better if you have more meat)
1 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil

Mash around with a fork and then rub onto your meat of choice. Cook as desired.

More specifically how I’ve used it:
-Two large pork steaks, slathered on both sides, cooked under the broiler for 7 min a side (a bit too long in our opinion)
-4 chicken quarters, baked at 350-400F for 45 or so minutes, until the chicken was done, or with 6 quarters.
-I’ve also put rosemary in. And sage. I forget the cayenne last time. You could do the garlic and salt separate. The original had 1.5 tsp of basil.