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!

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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.