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.

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BAS – big ass salad, the lunch of champions

About a month ago I switched to having salad for lunch every work day. A Big Ass Salad. Nothing low fat or low cal here, just lots of veggies and some healthy fats. I was interested to see how this worked out money wise so I took the time to collect all the prices I’ve been paying and how much I use of each thing. We usually do our food shopping Sunday night, and after we get home I spend about 30-45 minutes chopping everything up and divvying it out. If I was good and bought home all my containers from the previous week, I can simply divide everything by 5 and have my lunch set for the entire week.

My big salad mix always includes:
$0.29 1/2 lb carrots (5lb for $2.89)
$2.49 12 oz cherry tomatoes
$2.07 3 small red bell peppers
$2.25 1.25 heads of lettuce
$1.49 8oz mushrooms
$2.80-3.73 1/4c-1/3c pecans

So this puts me at $11.39-12.32 for the week, depending on how heavy handed I am with the pecans. For arguments sake, we’ll just say I spend $12 for all of my salad ingredients for the week. That puts it at $2.40 a day.

I’ve been making my usual dressing; a batch usually lasts me the week:
$0.72 1/2 c olive oil ($8.99 on sale for 50 oz)
$0.54 1/2 c balsamic vinegar ($4.49 for 34oz)
$0.17 1/4 c honey mustard ($0.99 for 12oz)
$0.50? 1/4 c honey (we don’t go through honey very fast, and I can’t find my last receipt for it, so this is a WAG).

So that’s $1.93 for dressing, for a total of $13.93 for the week, and $2.79 a day.

Now, even for me, this sometimes isn’t enough, or I want some additional flavors. I usually add in cheese of some sort. Sometimes sardines. Occasionally salmon.

I often buy feta, generally in 1/2 lb containers, though I don’t think I always use the full 1/2 lb for salads. That adds another $4.39 for the week, or $0.88 a day if I do indeed use the 1/2 lb up.

The last three cans of sardines I bought ranged from $1.69 to $3.59. And I usually use a full can on the salad since they are a pain to store once you’ve opened a can. At most I do this three times a week, but sometimes not at all. The last can of salmon I bought was $3.49 and I split it between 2 days worth of salad.

We don’t get the greatest avocados up here, but sometimes I buy one and put half on a salad. They’ve been running $1.29 each recently.

So while I can spend as little as $2.79 a day for lunch, if I have say, a chunk of feta, a half an avocado, and a can of sardines, it can run upwards of $6.50. Granted, that $6.50 fills me up and I can’t even always finish it, that still is quite a bit to spend for lunch in my opinion.

All in all I think eating lunch this way has had two positive effects. It’s been saving me money by not eating left overs, this is of course assuming that what we make for dinner is usually more per meal, which I think is safe to say with how we eat. It’s also been cutting down on waste. I know exactly how much to buy for the week and I’ve yet to waste any of it. By trying to coordinate leftovers for lunch, things were often getting pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten, or I wasn’t in the mood for whatever leftovers we had, so expensive leftovers were getting thrown out.

Overall, I hope this is something I will continue. I probably should mix up the dressing a bit, but otherwise I don’t feel myself getting tired of it. Another added benefit is that it gives me all my vegetables in one meal. We aren’t always the greatest at making sure to serve a veggie with dinner, and I’m not good at remembering to eat fruits and veggies the rest of the day. But since I’m more concerned with having a balanced DIET rather than balanced meals, getting all my veggies in one meal is perfectly okay with me. I’m also hoping that once green plants are back in season here in WI, some of these things will be a bit cheaper and I’ll be able to add a bit more variety. But for now, this suits me just fine.

Dinner for one

While I am making the Wine Braised Chuck Roast, it didn’t get in the oven until after 5, and there is no way I could wait until 8:30 to eat dinner. Since I never ate the second lamb arm shoulder chop from dinner last night, I figured that could become dinner, and the chuck roast will just be lunch and such for a few days.

Dinner was the left over broiled lamb shoulder chop with a pan wine sauce (adapted from Joy of Cooking, which I likely won’t write up, since it wasn’t really anything special or noteworthy), brussel sprouts, and left over curry sweet potato gratin. Quite tasty all around and I am left full and sated.

This evening I need to get down to do some worm bin maintenance and do some general cleaning around the apartment. Oh, and I’m making chocolate bark tonight to share with friends tomorrow.

Primal menu

Here’s what I’ve picked out to make this week.

Lamb with blueberry wine reduction sauce which I’ll serve with Curried Sweet Potato Gratin.

Wine braised chuck roast with sweet potato latkes.

Salmon Kabayaki. Not sure what to serve with this, so if you’ve got any suggestions, I’m open to them.

Lamb with Balsamic Sauce served with brussel sprouts.

Pumpkin fries and Bacon baby portobellos.

I’m also adding in Almond banana pancakes, likely for breakfast tomorrow. I’d also like to try Grain free savory country biscuits. I’d like to play around with a few more primal carb ‘replacement’ type foods, particularly something I could do or add to my usual breakfasts, but I haven’t decided on anything yet.

I do still need one more meal for myself. I should likely use the beef livers I bought, as I doubt the ManBeast will want to eat them, no matter how tasty I make them. I’ve also got everything to make Cherry thyme confit with pork chops, so that is also an option.

Off to the store to get rest of what I couldn’t get at the regular grocery store, plus putz around a bit.

What I’m eating

I thought for my own sanity, it might help to keep track of what I’m actually putting down my gullet while I’m trying to eat as close to 100% primal as I can.
So breakfast was an over hard egg and two sausages.
I just had a banana.
And I’m trying really hard to not eat the 88% dark chocolate in front of me. I want lunch, it’s only 10:47am, and the chocolate is in front of me on my desk. Maybe I should put it away.

EDIT: The chocolate was put away.
Lunch was salmon salad (think tuna salad, but with salmon). I’m sure the mayo wasn’t primal, but I knew I needed to eat before going grocery shopping. And now I’m snacking on dates and feta. Nommmm.

Eating perfect paleo/primal for a week?

The ManBeast leaves for a conference Saturday. I get almost an entire week all to myself. Cook as I see fit. Read as I see fit. Sleep taking up the whole bed. WEEEEEE!!!

As those of you who have been here a while will know, I’ve been toying with primal for a few months now, but for various reasons, haven’t fully jumped on board. I want to use the opportunity of the ManBeast being out of town to eat as primal/paleo as I can. 100% if I an do it. I know it isn’t long a long trial run, but it’s the best I can do right now without having to worry about anyone else. I need suggestions on what specifically to eat.

We already know I’m already gluten free, so cutting out gluten isn’t an issue. I’ve been working on cutting down on sugar, and I’d like to think I’m getting better (I’m down to less than a teaspoon of sugar in my coffee in the morning! And 80% dark chocolate now tastes too sweet! But please ignore the TWO chocolate sprinkled pecan bars I had yesterday). I am already a fan of whole milk dairy, use cream in my coffee, and buy whole milk plain yogurt. The thing I struggle with is cutting down/out potatoes, white rice and corn. We know I’m not afraid of vegetables and I love to cook. So I’m giving myself permission to spend whatever, as one weeks worth of eating is not going to destroy my budget. And since I’m a grad student, no one really cares when I show up to do my own research, and when I leave, so time isn’t an issue.

So what should I eat next week? Any specific meal suggestions? Any recipes that you just love but don’t always have time for? I want to use this week of not having someone else around relying on what I make to give primal eating the most wholehearted try I can.

How to coordinate a large meal

Around the holidays you always find articles about how to simplify making a large meal. What different foods to choose so that they can be made the day, or days, before. Or perhaps by choosing dishes that don’t need a lot of tending. But what if you do want to make that large meal that really can’t be made the day before, and does need some attention in the cooking process? To me, it’s like fitting pieces of a puzzle together. I’ll take you through how I pulled off making the base of a Thanksgiving meal for 9 adults and 3 kids this year.

At least a week before, sit down and decide what you’re going to make. I decided on roast turkey, creamed corn, sweet potato casserole, red quinoa with roasted butternut squash, gravy, and lemon french dressing. Once your menu is decided, take a sheet of paper and write down EVERY SINGLE ingredient for each recipe and the amount of it you’ll need. Nothing else. Now evaluate what you have at home and what you’ll need to buy. Now you have your shopping list; make sure quantities are listed on there too.

Next, you need to figure out what can and can’t be made ahead, or what needs to marinate. For the turkey recipe I use, it gets spiced up to two days ahead. Sweet potatoes can be roasted ahead of time, and dressing can be made a head of time. But really, for the rest of what I wanted to make, it would need to be made the day of. So here’s what I ended up with:
Sunday: do bulk of shopping. Still forget to pick up a few things.
Tuesday: pick up turkey and prep it with herbs and spices. Cover and stick in the fridge.
Wednesday: roast sweet potatoes, make dressing. Realize you need more butter.
Thursday:
The turkey needed to go in around 1:15, so I used that as the time point I needed to work around. In the morning, I prepped the sweet potato casserole base, and put it in the fridge. Next I work on the red quinoa with roasted butternut squash. I got the squash mixture in the oven about 1/2 hour before the turkey needed to go in. Once that came out, put the oven up to the turkey temperature and when the oven was ready (really around 1:30) put the turkey in. That needed to cook for a total of 1 hour and 45 min. During that time I finished up the quinoa dish. Did dishes so that I wouldn’t have a massive mess to clean up afterward. And realized we’d never bought corn because the supermarket was out of it on Sunday. Run to the store. Make creamed corn. Rested a bit. Close to the time the turkey was due to come out, I took the sweet potato casserole bases out of the fridge to warm the glass of the baking dishes a bit and prepped the topping. Once the turkey came out, I slide the sweet potato casseroles in. Conveniently enough, the turkey needs to rest for 30 min before carving and the casseroles take 30 min to bake. During this time I also made the easy gravy from ‘Joy of Cooking’.

At this point, everyone had arrived. All the dishes were ready and serving spoons had been doled out to the dishes that other people had bought. Really, it isn’t hard to do something like this, but it does take patience and planning. It also takes the ability of knowing how much you can make reasonably, and knowing what to cross off your menu. The only dish I added from last year was the quinoa dish for a vegan and vegetarian who celebrated with us. I know this is about the amount of food I’m capable of managing without burning something or forgetting something. Yes, I am capable of making mashed potatoes, but it isn’t something important to me, so I always ask someone else to bring it. Usually this works, but if you have a year like we did last year where the mashed potatoes person never showed up… well, life goes on. It’s only mashed potatoes, right?