Category Archives: Ramblings

Gobsmacked: Lessons in Living a Gluten Free Life #1

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GF Pancakes

How long have you been gluten free?

What prevents you from digging in and baking/cooking like you used to?

See those pancakes?  I’m proud of my weekend pancakes.  My chickadees love pancakes on the days we get to wake up in a lazy fashion (READ: 6:30AM instead of 5:15AM).   I used to be so stuck.  I would fuss over a recipe or dig one out and carefully measure, etc.  And guess what?  They didn’t care if the pancakes were perfectly fluffy or “exactly” like the ones I made last week.  They just wanted pancakes.  (In particular, pancakes cooked in olive oil that have a bit of a crunchy outside are perfect for dipping.  Or so I am told.)

Well before I was diagnosed and right before I went off to college, I sat down one afternoon with my brand spanking new typewriter (Take that, technology!) and my mom’s boxes of recipes.  Her recipe cards were from friends, family, and collected over the years from magazine clippings.  Most of the things she cooked for dinner were not on any recipe card in any box.  They were in her head.  But alas, foolish teenager that I was, I did not realize how much I would want to know about our dinners.  Instead, I focused on getting the cookies, breads, rolls, appetizers, etc from my youth onto recipe cards of my own. 

Yes, I typed them onto recipe cards.  For some reason, I didn’t think my handwriting would “last”.  I’m certain that impression came from watching the cards from grandmothers and great-grandmothers having been scribed in pencil smear and fade a bit with time – and more importantly – use!  Oh, I spent the entire afternoon typing up recipes at the kitchen table onto those cards and sliding them into sleeves within my own recipe book!  I was a GROWN-UP for sure, now!

Upon my diagnosis more than a decade later, I shoved those family recipes aside.   Once, I even “weeded through them” and threw many into the recycle bin.  I was angry.  I thought I would never need those recipes again.  After all, my doctor had told me that my future meant not a single crumb of bread, cookie, cake nor pasta would pass my lips.

 

After my first forays into the gluten free market, I became convinced that he was right.  Now only would I never bake again, but if I did happen to find a gluten free version in the store of whatever baked good I wanted, it would be disgusting.  It would be hard as a rock and as dense as a skyscraper.  (I know these weights to be accurate because my Love and I schlepped a giant amount of gluten free rolls purchased on the internet in 2000 with us on our honeymoon to Rome.  Trust me.  Dense + heavy + disgusting = doctor was right.)

 

Flash forward to this weekend.  As the girls began stirring from their sleep (hello 6AM… oh how I wish you were 8AM….LOL), my Love so graciously (HA!) offered to have “Mommy make some pancakes”.  Both girls popped up and out of bed in a flash.  Ah yes, the weekend has arrived if pancakes are on the menu and they know it.

 

Getting pancakes together absolutely no longer means even cracking open a recipe book.  Honestly.  I simply mix together ingredients as I go.  I have more memories of my grandmother and great-grandmother recipes noting ingredients in quantities of smidges, pinches, etc.  I totally get that now.  Save for the fact that mine would be measured in scoops from the flour bin, shakes of the baking soda container (always a tad more that what I think looks “right” just to be sure),  pinches of salt, couple spoons of honey or sugar and milk to the right consistency.  Everything is adjustable.  Make one practice pancake.  Taste test.  Adjust (if needed) and go!  Turn on the oven to warm and make pancakes.

 

If you had told me in October of 2000 that one-day I would again be back in the kitchen just preparing food rather than worrying about recipes for every little thing, I would not have ever believed you.

 

I still focus when baking bread.  That is something that the balance of ingredients must be “ON” for – or you will have a disaster of a loaf of bread on your hands.

 

I still write up recipes for breads, muffins, cupcakes, etc –but it feels good to be back in the kitchen and not so worried like I was before I started blogging in 2005.  I guess the best part about blogging for me has been forcing me to learn the recipes and the consistency of the doughs and mixes so I know what I am doing again.

 

So….. How long have you been gluten free?  If you are feeling like you will never get your kitchen mojo back, don’t worry:  it will come.

 

Promise.

A long winter

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Out and About

Eastern WA

We ran away this weekend.   It was very long overdue.  Winter is hard here for us with the very limited light (although I easily admit that since it has been “very dry” in Western Washington terms, I’ve enjoyed it more).  This winter has been worse.  

In December a colleague of mine – my age, married with three kids (6th grade and 3rd) – was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer just before Christmas Break.  It blew my mind.  As someone who is well-connected in our community through his coaching, teaching, university studies, growing up nearby, etc – the hundreds – and literally thousands of people who have come forward to offer support for he and his family is amazing.  There are little pieces we all contribute – mostly watching over the hundreds of students at school who have had – and are having – a very difficult time with this.  My friends at work – his coaching buddies for years through baseball and football – are complete wrecks.   

And then another colleague (my age) committed suicide on the last day of February.  

I have been speechless and riddled with anxiety, grief, tears, and funny memories of my very sassy friend who killed himself and well… speechless.  

He leaves behind two boys (one 6th grader, and the other in elementary school) who adored him.  He was an excellent father.  A hilarious, passionate colleague – and beyond that – a troubled soul who struggled his whole life with depression.

And then winter dragged on.  The rain came back.  The clocks all changed.  And the stress of the year began to eat at me.

Frequently, my little band of 3 and I find ourselves on day trips or weekend “adventures”.  In the winter, with work, these “adventures” can be as exciting as filling the freezer by stocking up at Costco.  Yes, we are that exciting.   This March, even the simple pleasures of watching a movie together could not ease the pains of loss.  We thought about traveling for a few days to get away to places we have enjoyed in the past… but you know what?

I just didn’t want to work that hard.

I didn’t want to have to research/look-up everything, call restaurants, plan our adventures by a map with not only gluten-free but kid-friendly options nearby.    I just didn’t.  I don’t mind that traveling may not only sometimes be a bit more costly (because swinging through the random coffee shop or sandwich shop will not always produce a gluten-free option at a low-cost).    That’s just the name of the game.

But this time around, I really just wanted to relax.  With my kids.  And no cell phones, televisions, pesky to-do lists, mail to sort, email to answer, etc  And I certainly didn’t want to spend my vacation time with my nose in my cell phone trying to find a gluten-free option for dinner as we strolled through our afternoon.  (Hey…it’s been known to happen when we just get in the car and go!)

 

God's Eyes

 

I remember this little mountain retreat place that I had been to 8 years ago.  It is a renovated mountain camp – much like one you may have been to as a kid – but with updated furnishings, towel warmers in the bathroom, trails between “cabins” (duplex cabin-esque units) and random Chihuly blown glass art sculptures.  Oh yes, and an outdoor bar with its own waterfall.  It definitely feels like someone who wanted to go “camping” but well… not really.  

DSC_0038

In other words, it sounded perfect.  We could unplug.  We could explore.  The kids could be outside.  And the weather was 68-72F during the day with sunshine and a 32F cold (perfect for sleeping) at night.  My kind of place. :D

The best part?  I didn’t have to even think about dinner nor brunch.  Once we made our reservations, I let them know that I had Celiac and would need a gluten-free meal option.

HA!  An option!  The restaurant (on site) was a gluten-free haven.  Oh – and the majority of the food served was locally grown.   It was great – for every meal (buffet style) we ate there, I could eat all entrée mains (except one each meal), they had fresh gluten-free bread options for the asking, gluten-free dessert options (gf chocolate cake, white chocolate creme brulee, etc), all gluten-free salad dressings, all gluten-free salad options separated from the non-gf items in the salad bar, etc.  Honestly.  There was too much food.  (Don’t worry, we survived that disappointment…LOL)

In fact, there was so much available to me that I couldn’t help but find myself mystified why the two entrees (two different meals) that I could NOT eat were NOT made gluten-free as well. It would have been so easy to do.  (For the record, it was a pork rack roast and the next day, a ham.)  I mean really.  Could they not use tamari?

AND FINALLY, my Love and I laughed.  

Seriously – how many times have we traveled together when the only safe option for me were some plain leafy greens or something less than joyful for a food-lover like me?  And here I was, in a buffet-style restaurant with so many gluten-free options that my brain focused on what I could NOT have?!

We began to discuss how often in life we condition ourselves to see that we are trained to see.  In work.  With kids.  With each other.  With my Celiac Disease.  Surrounded by the food that the servers/chefs could easily answer the gluten-free question for me and there I was, stuck on that stinking rack roast.  

And there I have been all March.  Stuck on the loss of my colleague and the impending loss of another.

Walk OnEveryday my little people and I sing loudly (and out of tune) together in the car.  They always request their favorites.  I rarely am one to quote song lyrics, but their latest song has caught my mind.  The song is called “Carry On” by the group FUN.  The lyrics (in part) say this:

…If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on…

I’m sure I will have my damn-it, it’s not-gluten-free moments again.

I know I will continue to grieve the loss of my friends.

And I also know that the sun will shine, my kids will keep laughing, and we will all carry on.  There are many worse things in this world that having to avoid gluten.  I have never thought it was the end of my world.  I guess I just forgot to look up at the path ahead of me sometimes to see those little feet marching on.  So please forgive my latest absence.  I’ve been busy bringing my soul back from the depths of grief and setting my eyes on those little feet in the picture.

May your Spring be bringing you out of a dark winter with Love as well – 

~Kate

 

 

Gluten free weeknight meals & budgeting

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So this blog post should really be a post of the numerous ways the month of September has come and is exiting before my head has been able to wrap itself around it all.  Surely I am not the only mom who finds herself witnessing myself both coming and going in the middle of the dark of night, right?

My new purse is even sporting some tag-along buddies.  I don’t think I go anywhere any more without things packed into my purse that aren’t really mine.  And despite the extra poundage, I wouldn’t really change the rest of it.

Now THIS is a MOM purse

Well, maybe I’d change my sleep schedule:  to bed late (or early) and it takes me forever to fall asleep and up no later than 5AM or we are ALL off late for the day already.  A change with these hours would be helpful, but I honestly don’t see that happening anytime soon.  Teaching doesn’t end with the kids leave… or even when my kids finally crash and go to bed.  (PS…they have been in bed for 45 minutes now… and the Chicklet just asked via the monitor “Hey Mom, what’s my cake going to look like?”  “Your cake?”  “Yes, for my birthday.”  “Babe….your birthday is in May.  It’s September. We have a while to think about it, okay?” = this is the kind of thing that never ends around here….LOL)  Evidence:  apple slices + goofy face photos…despite a few attempts we don’t have ONE photo for BOTH smiling nor BOTH making a goofy face at the same time.  Egad.

Apple slices + goofy faces

So I decided to share my working mom “Sanity Saver” meals.  I’ve been asking and posting here when I thought my world was careening off track, but seldom have I posted when I have done it right (finally) for a month.  I challenged myself this month to get the meals down and stick to them.

Next month, I am challenging myself to:

  • only go to the grocery store every 10 days to 2 weeks
  • STICK to my grocery budget – and SAVE every penny that I don’t spend in an account for a family trip
  • stick to my meal plan (come high water or sleep exhaustion)
  • stick to a reduced (extremely) budget for “eating out”

Seriously.  I’m starting at ZERO here people.  There is only room to grow, right?

Some of you are experts at all of the above (budgeting, time-management, meal-planning, saving (!), etc) but these are things I tend to stick to for a short time and then meander down some random thought-path-etc and I blow it.  We have had TWO four-day vacations/trips in the last EIGHT YEARS of our lives.  (My Love does NOT get time off from work.)  But we’ve had SO much fun on these rapid-paced trips to see family (my parents/his parents) that we want to do it more often.  And now the girls have seen an ad for Disney Land and CarsLand.

Yeap.  My budget better get in gear.  NOW.

Want to follow along on my endeavor?  Care to add your two cents/tips?  I’d love to hear them!

Okay… enough meandering.  Some of you are just here for the list of my weeknight go-to meals.  Take note:  the meals on this list HAD to be able to be prepared and ready to go in under an hour (or toddler + mom meltdown ensures).  Well, here it is:

  1. fajitas (chicken or flank steak)
  2. enchiladas
  3. taco salad
  4. one-pot rice dish (random meat/tofu, rice, veggies – a la jambalaya)
  5. tarragon chicken tenders
  6. Bo-jay-fan (Chinese one-pot chicken/rice/sausage/mushroom)
  7. pork chops and apples
  8. steamed fish + tofu
  9. split pea soup (thank you crock pot)
  10. jambalaya
  11. quinoa salad (a la fried rice/couscous – NOTE couscous is NOT gluten free!)
  12. pasta salad (schars or jovial)
  13. parfait (yogurt + granola)
  14. pancakes (corn ones here) or waffles (to save time, i’ve made “waffles” in a panini pan with pancake batter )
  15. chicken chili
  16. mongolian beef (marinate night before or immediately upon returning home for 45 min at least)
  17. spaghetti (schars, jovial or homemade on the weekend)
  18. lasagna (no boil/lazy method – make ahead, pop in oven)
  19. pot pie (make ahead OR make muffin-sized (lunch/dinner) OR make with crescent roll dough  for last minute)
  20. roasts (pork loin is our favorite as faster than whole chicken, etc)
  21. meatballs and mashed/roasted potatoes
  22. kebabs
  23. tortilla española (potatoes, eggs, onions, seasoning) – leftovers are great lunches too
  24. shrimp and grits
  25. chicken marsala
  26. risotto
  27. lettuce wraps
  28. migas
  29. corned beef (crock pot or reheat after cooking on Sunday), roasted cabbage
  30. curried chicken
  31. beef and broccoli
  32. spicy green beans and tofu
  33. arroz con pollo
  34. baharat chicken or lamb
  35. chowder (Chinese corn, OR salmon/fish, etc – whatever you got and put it in a pot!)
  36. arepa sandwiches
  37. jibaro sandwiches (plantains, flank steak, etc)
  38. burgers (bean or beef) (speedy buns – done in the oven while I grill/cook burger or pao-d-quejo buns – quick too!)
  39. beef stroganoff but served over rice, mashed potatoes, steamed cauliflower/broccoli in lieu of noodles
  40. teriyaki chicken (or whatever is on hand)
  41. quiche
  42. fried rice
  43. ….leftovers!  (the great list ender…I try to use up leftovers for lunch, but often there is a bit more)

I hope this list helps someone else pull a menu plan together.  My trusty purple spiral bound notebook and I roam the aisles of the grocer trying to make sure I have it all together.  Maybe that will be what I share next?  Ay!  Who knows!

Hopefully now that I am getting my feet under me at school the next blog post won’t be delayed as long as this one has been.  I’m sorry – and THANK YOU for sticking with me.

Happy GF Eating 
~Kate