Category Archives: Shauna James Ahern

GF: Dessert, thanks to Burt

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Sometimes the best things in life are the things we don’t often stop long enough to contemplate.

Take for example the rare sunshine (in the PNW) through my skylights in the living room. Both Max (our black lab) and I were lounging in the sunshine on Saturday for as long as it lasted. (I swear some part of me in solar-powered.)

Other examples?

  • Watching dragonflies hatch in the summer.
  • Listening to my love roll with laughter while he watches “Human Tetris” on YouTube (for which I absolutely MUST thank my student profusely for the introduction).
  • Early morning birds chirping.
  • Sun breaks in an otherwise cloudy day that spurs you on further.
  • And meeting new people.

Today I met Shauna (Gluten Free Girl) and her love, Danny. It was a lovely chance to meet another blogger face to face and chat about life. And it was refreshing to talk about the many things in life beyond what we eat. In fact, that was hardly a topic of conversation at all.

We talked about travels in Italy, blogging, wedding cakes, pregnancy and babies (adoption for us), and more. It was a lovely time and I left to enjoy the last rays of sunshine on my way home as she prepared for a cooking class they were going to be teaching.

I mention this meeting because she graciously signed a copy of her book for me to somehow (if I can figure this out) “auction off” to the highest bidder here in an attempt to help raise funds for our own bundle of joy. Adoption is an expensive option. Sadly for us, it’s the only one left. But that, that will have to wait until I figure out how to do it. (Any ideas? Feel free to drop me an email!)

So instead, in the sun, I thought back upon the reasons why children make you thrive.

I thought about the lifetime of love I have to share with my love and how maybe if we would have met earlier, things would be different? No. That’s really not it. We’re perfect as is – and I truly believe that there is always a greater plan in action. Things happen when the happen for a reason.

Uncle Burt & Aunt Betty

Take my Aunt Betty. She’s an amazing woman. At the age of 80+, she went on a canoe and camping trip through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota with her boys (in their 50s). She’s not slouch, either, let me tell you – she was carry heavy packs and all.

My Aunt’s husband, Burton, was a wise man. He knew what a wonder Betty is and his admiration and esteem for her was obvious when you saw them together. In fact, even though they had dated in high school, both Betty and Burton had married others and had kids. It was only after their spouses had passed that Betty and Burton reconnected.

At their wedding, several decades since they had been in high school, both of them had dance cards that they had saved from long, long ago with the other’s name on it. Neither of them knew that the other had saved the dance card until that day.

Things happen for a reason, don’t they?

Burton was an amazing person in his own right. I truly enjoyed all of my conversations with him and the sparkle in his eyes when he spoke and told jokes. And, Burton was an excellent cook. He made the most wonderful brisket I’d ever tasted. (No worries, I have the recipe!)

Better than the brisket though, was Burton’s ability to bring the simple flavors together for an amazing dessert. He brought muskmelon to the table and proceed to slice it up. On each plate he placed a slice of muskmelon, topped it with a small scoop of lemon sorbet and then squeezed a lime section over the top.

Oh. My.

It was all I could do to savor every bite as slowly as I could despite the melting sorbet. (It was July, after all, and even in Minnesota, for those of you who don’t believe me – it gets DANG hot!)

Oh it was wonderful.

So on Saturday, after absorbing as much sunshine as the clouds would let me have through the skylights, I ran my errands. I had to go to the store for some items for our potluck (with the Foreign Exchange kids) that evening. And of course, sun-inspired, I picked up some sorbet and melon too.

I modified Burton’s recipe mostly because I didn’t grab the right kind of sorbet (I grabbed raspberry, not lemon) and then the modifications just kept coming. Strawberries? Oh yea, those looked too good to pass up. Lime juice? Hmm… Why not try Limoncello liquor. Oh yea. That was a winner too!

A simple dessert with many, many thanks to my Uncle Burt.

Uncle Burton’s Simple Dessert
Ingredients
1 cantaloupe, sliced into long slices for serving on a plate topped with other ingredients or cut into pieces for serving in a glass or bowl
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1 small container of lemon or raspberry sorbet
1 lime or 1 Tablespoon Limoncello (per serving)
*mint leaves for garnish *optional

Directions:

  1. Cut and prepare fruits.
  2. Layer fruit (cantaloupe and then strawberries) into your serving dish.
  3. Top with one small scoop or 2-3 melon ball sized scoops of sorbet.
  4. Either squeeze fresh lime juice on top or pour 1 Tablespoon of Limoncello on top for each serving.
  5. Can be served with fresh mint leaves as garnish as well.

Ah. A little bit(e) of summer in the spring time.
Perfect.
Thanks, Burton.
-Kate

A shout out to Shauna

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So… I am still home sick. Apparently when I want to get sick, I’m going to do it well and get it ALL!!! Wahoo! (Not really though.) This morning I opened my work email only to discover 68 unread messages (OMG OMG OMG) and as I began to plow through them with as many responses as I could. Dang. Next week is going to be a busy one for me.

So I did the only thing a girl can do in this situation. I made some toast, poured a glass of OJ and finished reading Shauna’s new book, “Gluten Free Girl”. Rarely do I get a chance to actually read a whole non-work related novel during the school year (non-vacation days, anyway) and I love to read. It was fun to get Shauna’s book in the mail a while back when it came out and I’ve flipping through it on/off since it arrived.

A little shout out to Shauna – Well done, Gluten-Free Girl!

When I was first diagnosed, I read a book called “Against the Grain” by Jax Peters Lowell. I liked Jax’s book – but only because I needed to see some other example of survival without denial of life at the time. At the onset, I dragged my love to a poor example of a “support” group meeting where we were the only people within 25 years of our age set either direction. The people in attendance listened to a speaker talk about testing for Celiac (and he made many inaccurate statements). What made it worse was the attitude they exuded when they talked about food. It was all very Eeyore-like. We didn’t go back.

What I learned by reading Jax’s book (which was published 4 short years before my diagnosis in 1996) was how quickly our knowledge of food and gluten has evolved – let alone our knowledge of Celiac Sprue. Many of the statements in Jax’s book may have been accurate at the time of her writing, but they were no longer applicable. Just like many of the statements the medical professional made at the support meeting – inaccurate and no longer true, but still being given to people who wanted new information.

Take this tidbit from the medical guy: “All Celiac patients will have positive blood test results.” Um. No. We don’t. I was diagnosed with a biopsy and have never had a positive blood test result for Celiac. At my latest physical and blood work follow-up, my doctor assured me that I am not an anomaly, but that it is common. The only “gold standard” of diagnosis of Celiac Sprue is in fact a biopsy for many cases. Fortunately, not everyone has to undergo a biopsy and they can have blood tests done that indicate the disease as well. (Ah well… there goes my last hold out hope… LOL – KIDDING!)

Enter stage left, a new book with a personal story of going gluten-free. Shauna takes you for a ride as she revisits her foodie-beginnings. And believe me you, this girl is a foodie. After reading what she digested as a youth, I can see why she jumped in to the foodie world with both feet and a backpack. My god, my mom would be proud of me when I tell her I read this book and couldn’t relate to the foods devoured in Shauna’s home. In fact, I don’t think my mom ever bought a loaf of “Wonderbread” even if I would have begged for it. LOL

The beauty of Shauna’s book is, however, instead of a finite list of things one MUST do or NOT do, there is information about grains, oils, salts, etc. Shauna’s book is joining my cooking resources in the kitchen. Oh sure, she has some interesting and delectable recipes within (many with twists of things she’s posted on her blog and others are just new), but the reality of Shauna’s book is this:

SHE PLANTS HOPE and FEEDS IT WITH KNOWLEDGE.

Shauna gives a list of the grains that we enjoy and explore like Amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, etc. She gives us lists of shi-shi salts, oils, seasonings, etc that are worthy of exploration and entertainment. She has comfort recipes and recipes for easy entertainment. There’s something about her foodie-obsession that makes me realize what a huge benefit to our gluten-free community she is.

Think about this for a moment.

Living in Seattle – or any other metropolitan area, there is greater access to some basic food ideas and staples from all over the world. (I know I miss my Chicago groceries immensely!) I learned recently that my buddy Ginger was having a hard time finding spring roll wrapper sheets. This blew my mind. How can this be? Oh wait – totally different area of the country = totally different grocery access. It makes SOME sense, but it’s sad regardless.

Shauna has great access to a wide variety of foods, great experience and an easy writing style that will make people want to try the things she writes about. It will have you wondering just where you can buy a wide variety of high -quality olive oils in your town (I promise). And then the best part will happen – we will all start asking for these things to come to our towns.

Think of how radically your local grocer has changed since you were younger – the variety of produce, products, “ethnic” items, etc. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Why did it change? Because the populous and the consumers demanded it, craved it and thereby we created the change. Nothing is more evident to me than walking through the various grocery stores in Chicago – depending on the neighborhood and finding a drastic difference in what is available to purchase. All of the items are targeting the neighborhood population – which meant in some neighborhoods, I could find greens and in some, I couldn’t.

In my town, for example, we live practically in the middle of two Fred Meyer grocery stores. Each of these stores has a “Natural Foods” or “Gluten-free” section, but one store has a “gluten free section” that takes up nearly five sets of 8 shelves. The other, its sister store about 7 miles south, has a 5 shelf section for the same goods. What gives? Apparently one of these stores has a more active consumer group than the other – or so I imagine.

I’ve gotten more courageous now too. When I see the woman who stocks the “Natural Foods” (by the way, isn’t it CRAZY that a GROCERY store has to label some food as NATURAL?? Good lord, what the hell else are they selling? Oh yea. That’s a whole other topic too. LOL). Anyway, when I see her, I now stop and talk to her. The other day, she actually stopped me. Her brother had just been diagnosed with Celiac and she asked if I could help. You bet. I wrote down several places to start, books to read, foods to find, ingredients to have on hand at home, and websites to check. I think I’m going to have to start carrying some of this information around with me though. In the middle of my conversation with her, three more people stopped to tune in and ask similar questions.

I’m no expert. But how long have we been doing this? And how hard is that first year? Or couple years? Ok. I’ll help. I’ll start asking my grocers and food co-ops (who are really great, by the way) to get in items that are helpful and explore new ones. It’s worth it. We all benefit when the “Natural Food” aisles expand.

Funny, as I’m writing this my love called from work to check on me and ask me to call about our turkey. We ordered our turkey from a local butcher – a free-range, locally raised Turkey that they will brine for me tonight in kosher salt. Nothing else. No additives, nothing bizarre added to “maintain freshness”. It will be fabulous. I can’t wait. (Oh! I must be getting better – food is starting to sound good again!)

So, Shauna, thank you. Thank you for living out your glorious foodie ways in our gluten-free world. Thank you for sharing ideas, creative missives for the foodie in all of us, and your recipes. Thank you for sharing your love story with the Chef. And YES, Shauna, YES. Isn’t that what life is all about anyway?

As for the rest of us, may I just suggest that we continue to build the supportive communities that help us flourish, survive and dine on finger-licking (or fork-licking) good gluten-free delights. There are many things to be thankful of this holiday season. YES, there are.

Happy Gluten-Free Holidays to All –
Kate

By the way, Shauna has just posted an AWESOME round-up post of her own advice for a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving.  Check it out if you are working on your first one.  I will post your recipe round up pictures of your glorious Gluten-Free Holiday food here on the 30th.