Thursday, April 26, 2007

I'm so excited and I just can't hide it! (thanks Pointer Sisters!)


Good afternoon. I know that I blogged two days ago but I just had to share an awesome experience with you. Last night, we went to my daughter's high school yearbook dinner. As a senior, she opted to bring her parents. Maggianos is the name of the Italian restaurant, with family style dining. We alerted the caterer of my situation so I'd have food to eat.

When I walked into the restaurant and was introduced to our waiter I was relieved. He was Johnny on the spot, ready to help. I ordered plain, grilled salmon and steamed broccoli. Everyone else ate pasta galore, breaded chicken, and chicken marsala AND it didn't bother me one bit. Toward the end of the meal I remembered (thanks to my gluten free diet) that someone told me they had gluten free pasta. I asked the waiter, and within 10 minutes, a steaming bowl of rotili shaped pasta with butter and parmesan was sitting in front of me. As you can imagine I was bursting with joy. It is absolutely the ONLY restaurant I've ever been in that provides gluten free pasta.

So, with that said, I'll keep this short and sweet! Maggianos are located all over the country. Click on the link and follow your nose to the nearest Maggianos. Ciao!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bag it!

This past Saturday was Earth Day! Most people read about it, hear about it, and do nothing to honor it, right? I watched Diane Sawyer on 20/20 last Friday night. She talked about the massive amounts of plastic garbage bags filling up our garbage dumps. Do you recycle your plastic bags? We do. Every time they accumulate we take them back to Publix (our grocery store) and place them in the recyclable container. We are the minority, you can bet! But now, my family and I are going to part of a different minority...reusable grocery bags!

After I watched the show it made me think about what I could do and what I could teach my two teenage daughters to do about helping to save our Earth. Global warming is the new buzz phrase. Finding ways to reduce global warming in a selfish, self-centered society is going to be a challenge. Recently, former Vice President Al Gore won an Academy Award for An Inconvenient Truth, a film documentary exposing the truth about global warming. I think it awoke many of us to why we have to take responsibility for global warming. It is no longer a political issue, but a moral challenge for us all.

Back to the plastic garbage bags....The most logical place for me is to start with replacing those plastic garbage bags with reusable ones. This morning, I searched online for them for hours. I found enviro-this and enviro-that....expensive ones with fancy graphics or those made of recycled cotton. Then, there were the less expensive ones. All in all, there were choices for everyone. You can spend a lot or a little TODAY, or future generations will pay a lot later.

I called Whole Foods, who was out of them yesterday. They received a huge shipment today. I was excited, really excited. The adrenaline flowed as I anticipated walking into Whole Foods and "grabbing" them up. Whole Foods bags are green, made of a sturdy mesh-like material. When I asked the cashier how they hold up after repeated uses, he told me that people use them over and over again. Whew! Good answer! I bought 7 to start...a few in my husband's car and a few in mine.

Honestly, I am so excited to start doing my share to keep our Earth clean. I'd like to invite you to join me as I set an example for those around me. It's a feel-good kind of thing that anyone can do! Join me, please?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Kissing Hand! by Audrey Penn

As a speech pathologist teaching Developmentally Delayed preschoolers I have to be very creative every day, all day. Routines pave the way for their future learning. We follow the same routine every day. I just change the letter of the alphabet, change the related activites, but the routine stays the same. Today, we finished working on Mr. R. I found a paper bag raccoon puppet pattern, had the kids color the black mask, cut out the eyes and glued it to a popsicle stick. Cute, huh? The routine stays the same. Works for them....for me, keeping things routine doesn't quite work. Yes, we all do daily things at approximately the same time but routine, NOT!

Every day, I take my creative mind, search the internet (mostly gf sites and blogs), and make dinner. I love trying new recipes and re-creating your masterpieces. Tonight, for example, I am going to make the gluten free buttermilk biscuits my sister Ellen made for my brother-in-law's birthday! Nothing routine about my dinners. I believe that's what keeps me compliant. I "change up" my menu every day. As Ellen says, take any cookbook at all, make some magical gf substitutions and VOILA, you have a creative masterpiece.

Back to my job....I searched on the internet for raccoon ideas to relate to the puppets we made. I came to The Kissing Hand, a book by Audrey Penn. I remembered reading the book last year to my class. If you have small children it's a great find! It's about a small raccoon who doesn't want to go to school and leave his mother. She kissed the palm of his hand, touched his hand to his cheek, and told him that the LOVE travels up the arm and to his heart. This way, he'll always have her with him. Enough to make me cry, especially when my mom is no longer with us.

I proceeded to kiss the palms of the children's hands, touch their cheeks, and smile. You should've seem the warmth in their eyes. What a great book to give for a baby shower!

ROUTINE...good for some, necessary for others. For all of us, in the gf world...change is good. Trying new recipes and new ideas is good. Keeps us optimistic. I'm not even sure if today's post makes any sense to you. Just a happy read I guess! Happy that I have all of you to help me get through the day, routine or not!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fuggetaboutit!!

Good morning! While my memory is fresh I wanted to talk about something very important - before I forget!

Celiac Disease is one of the autoimmune diseases that has many negative effects. The symptoms vary from person to person. There are lots ways we are affected by Celiac Disease but the result is the same for everyone. Poor health! We all know about the gastrointestinal efffects: the diarrhea, loose stools, glossy, shiny bowel movements, and last but not least, the stomach pain. When I was unintentionally "glutened" last week the pains were horrible. Not lower (below the navel) but upper stomach pain that made me bend over in pain. Have you ever had those pains that make you bend over and hold your breath? Yep, that kind of pain.

The anemia that plagued me for 20 years is the main reason my diagnosis came about. The hematologist couldn't understand why my hematacrit levels never moved in an upward direction. After 9-12 mos. of iron consumption but not absorption, he referred me to a gastroenterologist. A colonoscopy and endoscopy resulted in my eventual diagnosis.

So, we have gastrointestinal symptoms and anemia. Next on the list is osteopenia, the step just before osteoporosis. I had eaten and loved cottage cheese for 20 years. Can you imagine eating all of that calcium and not absorbing any of it? Two bone density scans have revealed the sad news that if my hips should weaken and I fall, it won't be a pretty site! Hip replacement at my early age - enough to keep me compliant!

The next effect and possibly the one I notice the most is neurological side effects. Fuggetaboutit? No, don't forget about it. Forgetfulness has haunted me for years. I thought it was pre-menopausal, then menopausal, and now post-menopausal. Nope! Well, maybe a little. But honestly, celiac disease zapped my memory. UNTIL NOW!

After approx. 8 weeks of being totally compliant, (two exceptions when I was unintentionally "glutened") I have noticed an improvement in my memory. I am remembering things better and more clearly than I have in ages. Isn't that terrific? We can count on the gastrointestinal effects improving but improving my memory is a gift. That's it! It's a gift.

Every day has to be a gift! To be healthy with a good memory (even after menopause) can make every day better. Don't you agree? Now, when I write notes to myself and hide them I remember where I hid them! Ya know, you've all done that! Write things down or put things in a safe place and "HUH?" You think, "Where did I put that piece of paper or that bill that has to be paid?" Been there done that, don't wanna go back!

So, if you can remember, please let me know about how you have been affected by Celiac, before and after diagnosis. Sharing with those who experience the same things is therapeutic. Now, don't forget!!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Don't go STIR CRAZY!

It's late and my pillow is calling me. So is Dancing With the Stars on Tivo...went back to work today, teacher's workday...no kids, lots accomplished. Then, went to a mall about 20 mins. from home to handle a return. I took my daughter with me and we shopped...what else is new?

Hungry for food and contemplating the task of explaining myself at the restaurant, my daughter convinced me to try. A restaurant called STIR CRAZY is located in the mall. As the name states, it's like a salad bar with fresh veggies. At the end of the bar are sauces and very, very hot woks (behind a glass). The men behind the glass take your bowl, toss and "stir," add noodles or rice with the sauce of our choice and voila, dinner is served!

Okay so here I go again..."I have a disease that causes me to get sick if I eat certain foods." blah, blah, blah! This time though, I was pleasantly surprised when the waiter, who was so cute and young (oh well), knew exactly what I was talking about. He stated that the chef made up a classic chinese or teriyaki gluten free sauce that he would bring to the end of that "salad bar-like" line when I got there. He must've been watching carefully because as soon as I got to the glass with the cooks he appeared with my gluten free teriyaki sauce. WOW! That's service and oh, was he cute!

With some edamame, brown rice, and a variety of veggies and chicken (unmarinated of course) I was in STIR CRAZY heaven. They are located in six states. I just had to share my find with you! Next time you have a YEN for asian stir fry, don't go STIR CRAZY, just look for one!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday, whatever you believe, GOOD FRIDAY!

Good morning, and Good Friday...to all who celebrate Easter, may you have a blessed weekend. For those of us celebrating Friday, TGIF! Actually, for me, it just means that Monday is closer and my Spring Break is almost over. I go back to work on Monday and start counting 7 long weeks until summer vacation. Don't misunderstand me...teaching developmentally delayed preschoolers is awesome. When people say, "It must be rewarding," I just shake my head (after hearing it 2,000,000 times in the past 26 years). It truly is rewarding. Seeing the language development that goes on in my classroom is amazing. The light bulb goes off in their heads all day long! But, summer vacation means 9 loooong weeks to cook, clean closets and drawers, and drink two, not one, but TWO cups of coffee while I read the newspaper. Yeah!

Last night I "whipped" up a quickie but a yummy dinner. My younger daughter has been craving Penne a la Vodka for weeks now. The list of ingredients is short:

Penne a la Vodka

1 bag of Tinkyada pasta (I used the rotini)
1/2 pint (1 cup) regular whipping cream
1 can Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (any brand will due)
GARLIC, LOTS OF IT -- I used 3 cloves
1 large onion, diced
s and p to taste
dash of crushed red pepper
VODKA, 1/4 cup
olive oil

1. Coat the bottom of a wok pan or pot with the olive oil.
2. Saute chopped garlic, 2-3 minutes
3. Add the onions
4. Saute until soft
5. Add tomatoes (PUREE THEM OR BUY PUREED IF YOU DON'T WANT THE CHUNKS OF TOMATOES)
6. Add whipping cream and vodka
7. Add salt and pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
8. Boil the pasta (remember to rinse well with cold water to stop the cooking of the pasta)
9. Drain pasta, add to sauce...ENJOY....

The whole thing from start to finish took me less than 30 minutes...helllo Rachel Ray, did you hear that?
I could've added garlic bread, gf of course and a salad but I was lazy!

You see, I spent the day at the spa...yes, last year, one of my parents from school (I worked in an affluent area)gave me a gift certificate to the Boca Raton Resort Spa. Close your eyes and let me take you with me as I relive yesterday...

They gave me a key, a locker, a robe, and slippers....went into an Inhalation room, with cucumbers on my eyes, an ice cold washcloth on my eyes, and eucylyptus (SP) sprayed into the air. I layed down on the bench and relaxed. "Okay," she said, "it's time to go to the bath," A ritual bath, they call it....soapy bath with a facial scrub and a wet washcloth to remove after ten minutes, a loofah scrub and exfoliating concoction, frozen grapefruit smoothie in a shot glass, and bath salts to sprinkle. Is this heaven? After what seemed to be forever, the woman escorted me to a shower, the car wash. Seemed like hundreds of jet spray hot water on your body until you tingle like pins and needles....then to another shower, where I climbed down three steps, put my face down, and three jets pounded, yes pounded my shoulders and back with water. STRESS becomes stress, becomes, yes! On a five minute timer, thank goodness, and into the jacuzzi I went. Ahhhh....orange and grapefruit slices, glasses of cold water...ahhhhh.

Over yet? No...dried off, went to the Great Room, and awaited my Albanian masseuse. His name was Vlatmir, I think...By that time, my brain cells were on mush! I got a back, shoulder and neck massage, lasting 30 minutes. He massaged my head too. Can I sleep here, I thought. No...it ended, and I had to leave! To the locker room, put on my swimsuit, out to the pool for two hours to read the book I just got from the library. Ice cold water to drink was just 10 steps away. Silence. Ahhhhh. I ordered a salad with feta, not blue cheese to be safe...ate it without dressing...put the rolls in my bag for my kids, and ahhhh.

At 2 p.m. I took a shower, using their mango-coconut products, dressed, and bid adieu my wonderful day of relaxation. I had used 7 bath towels and didn't need to launder them!

A well-deserved thank you note will be written to the family that gave me the gift of relaxation. Meanwhile, makes you think. We could all create our own day of relaxation. Some aromatherapy products, light some candles, fresh salad, and peace and quiet. I have seen those aromatherapy steam fountains at Whole Foods and was always tempted to buy one. Especially the one that changes colors.

Ahhhh. Wanna Join? We could all use more relaxation in our lives.

Take care, be well, and Happy Friday to all....

Monday, April 02, 2007

Chicken soup and matzo balls - OMGoodness!

OMG! I am in Passover heaven - two words that didn't really go together until about 15 minutes ago. You see, not eating "REAL" matzo balls can put you into depression mode, at least for me. Until now! I searched online for the perfect gluten free matzo ball, another phrase that doesn't sound like it should go together. Until now!

I made the chicken stock for the soup last night...froze it...this morning I scraped off the fat, added PACIFIC CHICKEN BROTH AND VOGUE chicken bouillon powder, some fresh dill, s and p to taste!

Then, after making REAL matzo balls for the rest of the family, I took a deep breath, prayed to the gluten free g-ds above, and began. As I searched online I eventually came to a recipe from the Gluten free pantry...

Gluten Free matzo balls

It says one serving but I got a lot of matzo balls...I edited a little also.

4 eggs
3 T chicken fat/margarine (I used butter)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. xantham gum
1 cup instant potato flakes
4 T chicken stock (I took it from the soup)

Beat the eggs and the fat (whichever you choose)
Mix potato flakes with xantham gum and salt
Add to egg and fat mixture
Add stock, mix well.
Chill for 20-30 minutes.

***At this point, I felt that the batter was not thick enough so I eyeballed about 1/2 cup more potato flakes. Use your judgement.

WET HANDS (A MUST), and form into balls.
I dropped mine into a pot of boiling water for 15-20 minutes COVERED.

It's always better when you let them sit in the soup for a while before eating. They take on the flavor of the soup.
Enjoy!

So, please try them, let me know what you think...I challenge you to tell me that they don't taste close to the REAL ones mom used to make. To me, they are the REAL ones now.