Thursday, August 04, 2016

I've got what?? A chance to heal myself!

Once again I've been quiet for a while, over a year.  By the time I garden, knit, cook, work, take care of the dogs, oh and live, I just haven't had time to blog.  But now I have a new reason to share.  I've been diagnosed with Celiac disease. 

What is Celiac Disease?  It is an Autoimmune disorder where the body attacks itself, destroying the lining of the small intestine where all the important digestive activity happens, namely nutrient absorption.  But it is treatable!  Most autoimmune diseases are not. This autoimmune response is triggered by the ingestion of Gluten.  Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye.  There are variations of these ingredients in all sorts of places so you have to know what all the names are.  It's ok, there's an app for that!  This disease is only treatable by eliminating gluten from the diet.  There are no other miracle treatments.  As little as 1/8 of a teaspoon can trigger the response.  That is barely the tip of your pinky.   Once the autoimmune response is triggered the small intestine is damaged.  It will continue to get damaged or not heal until all gluten is eliminated.  How long it takes to heal depends on the person, I've read anywhere from 6 months to 2 years and some people never completely heal.

Celiac Disease.  Well that's a hard one for a foodie who has just once again started traveling internationally for work to take.  I wasn't deathly sick.  Surely my doctor was mistaken.  She showed me the bloodwork results.  Then after the 4th time she told me I had Celiac Disease she looked at me and asked "how are you feeling today?" and that's when it sunk in.  The last couple of months I hadn't been well.  I had been functioning but barely.  I had made excuses as to why I wasn't feeling great.  I had a couple of bouts of "a stomach bug" and my gut hadn't fully recovered.  I wasn't eating enough fiber.  I wasn't getting enough sleep.  Too much wine.  Mostly I just didn’t have a lot of faith that the medical community would find anything if I complained.  I am biased after 5 years of trying to get a diagnosis for what ended up being Lactose Intolerance.  I had mentioned in passing these episodes of "stomach bug" to my doctor while at an appointment to follow up on my severely low B12 level.  I was more concerned about the B12 level than anything else.  Luckily my doctor ordered some extra tests with the bloodwork I was already having to check my B12 level.  Luckily.

I spent the first weekend going through the stages of grief while also telling myself it could be worse.  My neighbor was going through a battle with lung cancer.  She had been through radiation and chemo.  I just had to give up gluten.  I mean really, time to suck it up buttercup!  But it's still it plays with your mind, at least to start.  My body was attacking itself.  It was a chronic condition.  I could never have fried clams and chips (I eat those once every 5 years, if that).  I could never go out for Chinese food again (something I haven't done in years and actually, yes I can).  How was I going to safely travel?  Never mind having to give up great bread in France and Germany and all that wonderful beer in Germany.  How was going to eat at all while on the road?!  I was going to have to give up my job even though I had finally found a great company to work for and a role I really liked.  I kept reminding myself it could be worse.  It was hard to stay in that space.

Thankfully I'm a very solutions oriented person.  I see a problem and I say to myself, "what can I do here?".  So the research began.  Knowledge is power.  It's also comfort and strength.  I knew what the Celiac diet needed to be from working with Celiac clients in my former life.  I've been an avid food label reader for years.  I just needed to know the hidden sources to scour labels for.  Easy.  Step 1 competed.  App downloaded.  I got rid of the items in my house that contained gluten; soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc. and replaced them with gluten free versions. I discovered I didn’t eat a lot of gluten during the week anyway.  Pasta once a week, the occasional wrap.  Easily replaced with gluten free or alternatives, quinoa instead of pasta, lettuce instead of flour wraps.  The weekends was when I was indulging in more gluten, breakfast sandwiches, toast which was why I felt worse on the weekends.  I see a breadmaker in my future!  But before I ran to the internet to order one, I'm still in the learning stage.  Let's see what further research reveals….

I can cook.  Anything I want I can make it myself.  I was doing that anyway.  I had been making my own salad dressing for a while simply because trying to keep a nice variety of bottled dressings was a challenge.  They always expired before I used them all!  A lot of things were already gluten free.  Even the snacks at work included a selection of gluten free items without anyone consciously buying gluten free. Cool Ranch Doritos are gluten free!  I had picked up some sausages in a can while in Germany before my diagnosis.  I can't find a decent translation of what kind of sausages they are but they have a gluten free label on them.  The foie gras pate I bought in France is also gluten free.  Ok this wasn’t going to be that hard….

I did a run through the Lindt store and I can't have the Lindt truffle balls (they have malt in them which comes from barley) but the bars were fine.  The Ghirardelli squares are also fine.  Apparently ingredients can change so labels must be read always.  Remember how I said as little as 1/8 of a teaspoon can trigger the autoimmune response?  Well cross contamination is a real thing.  Manufactured foods that share a line with gluten containing foods (like the Lindt truffle balls) need to be thoroughly cleaned or they run the risk of contaminating foods that otherwise wouldn’t have gluten.  A butter knife used to spread butter, peanut butter, jam on regular bread and then double dipped in the jar….. Nope.  Cutting board used to cut bread must go right in the dishwasher.  Surfaces must be clean.  Okay, again all this stuff is easy for me.  I did an advanced food safety course years ago.  I am all about avoiding cross contamination.  If you've ever seen me spatchcock a chicken, prep it for the oven and then clean down the area, you'd see really cross contamination avoidance in action! 

You might say, but really, 1/8 of a teaspoon, surely you would get that much from a cutting board?  The way I look at it is that there are always going to be minute bits missed but if I’m super careful about cross contamination risks then those little bits I'm missing won't exceed the 1/8 a teaspoon.  Plus they add up, a crumb here, a crumb there and boom trigger pulled!  I figure it is better to be vigilant for the stuff you do know and not think, oh it's only a smidge, it won't hurt because there is the risk there will be something hidden, missed or forgotten.

As I said, knowledge is power.  Well so is support.  I found an excellent resource called "The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free" by Jules E. Dowler Shepard.  It's really helped.  I highly recommend it.  I've also reached out to the local Celiac Association and am waiting to hear back about becoming a member.  I've subscribed to Gluten-Free Living magazine and ordered a few cookbooks.  Even though I feel well equipped to deal with this diet, I am still going to ask my doctor for a referral to a dietician just to be sure I’m not missing an important supplement or hidden source, etc.  It's hard to sort through the fad diet stuff versus the real "eating with Celiac Disease" stuff.  A lot of the fad diet stuff is a little too over the top for me.  I don't need to give up dairy or become a vegan.  I've got enough to deal with the gluten, thank you very much.  This needs to be sustainable, for life, not some passing fad! 


Today's lunch.  It's what I would normally have and it's gluten-free just by default!


Next week I'm attempting to bake and make my own granola.  Stay tuned!  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The green has arrived!

From this

To this!
With nothing but seed!  The dirt was hard and very clay-like.  Of course now I have grass popping up in all the places I don't want it but I guess you can't have it both ways...  

The garden is coming along slowly. However the containers of greens I started on the deck have already provided a steady supply of salads! 

Tomorrow's lunch consists of a pizza made on Naan bread with greens from the containers.  Tonight I made a Panzanella, an Italian bread salad using spinach from both my farm share (CSA) and my containers.  It was quite tasty.

I had some leftover sourdough kamut bread that I cut into cubes.  I sauteed some onions with one broken up sausage (I'd have used 2 slices of bacon if I didn't have sausage or if I had bacon on hand). Tossed in some onion and sprinkled on some olive oil.  Then I added the bread cubes and toasted them.  Right before I pulled it from the burner I added in the spinach to give it a little wilt.  I divided it between two plates and topped them with some diced pickled beets, 1/4 of a avocado diced (1/2 dived between the two plates) and some crumbled blue cheese.  I cheated and used bottled balsamic vinaigrette but I really should have made my own.  Less sugar that way.

Panzanella for 2:
1 sausage, casing removed and crumbled
1/2 of a large onion, diced
2 cups diced bread
4 cups spinach
2-3 pickled beets, diced
1/2 avocado, diced
2 tbsp crumbled blue cheese.
dressing of your choice.  


Easy peasy! 

An eggplant flower.  Even if I don't get a single eggplant, the flowers are really nice!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Coffin Bed and Wheatberries

So this weekend this happened:


I opened my last bottle of homemade red.  Yup, you are reading the label right, it's from 2013.  And it's finally really good.  And that was the last bottle.  

I finally finished my raised bed that resembles a coffin.  I took down 2 layers of boards cause I was getting damn tired of dragging wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt down to the back yard.  I did still manage to blow my Fitbit's daily expectations out of the water even with the reduction in workload (it was still a lot of work, tomorrow I expect to moan a lot).


Here's whats going on in my coffin bed.  Under the cloches are zucchini, eggplant, peas and peppers, two seedlings of each.  The tomato has the red plastic under it.  Supposedly the red under the tomato plant helps it grow.  It was too big to fit under the cloches so I'm really hoping the red mulch plastic works because I don't think it's really warm enough for the poor tomato plant.  Under the floating row is carrot, kohlrabi, kale and swiss chard seeds.  Mixed in all over the bed are onions, green onion (scallion) seeds and marigolds.  They are all suppose to help with managing pests.  I put a layer of newspaper fairly low in the bed and mixed coffee grinds in low and at the very top of the bed.  My soil is a mix of peat, compost and manure.  After I got everything in I remembered I had some sage I wanted to put in so it ended up in an odd spot.  Nothing is terribly neat or organized.  It's more higgledy piggledy.  I tried to leave space to sow more seeds over the summer for on-going harvest.  We'll see how that works out....

I prepped supper before heading out to the garden, knowing that I'd be too tired to do much after.  I deboned a very large chicken breast and stuffed it with sauteed spinach, garlic and feta.  I also cooked up some wheatberries.  They take an hour!  It worked out perfect as I let them simmer away while I enjoyed my morning coffee and brunch.  

I tossed the wheatberries with fresh basil, oregano and chives.  I toasted some pumpkin seeds.  Right before serving I add the pumpkin seeds and some feta.  That's it.  Simple and delicious.  It was a heavenly meal, well earned after a hard day in the garden.







Monday, May 18, 2015

A Jacob's Cattle Bean is Not a Chickpea

I made some veggie burgers with Jacob's Cattle Beans and some turnip tops (greens) in the food processor.  I added lots of herbs and spices.  I went for an Indian vibe.  It missed.  Tasted like cardboard.  Turns out you can't just swap out chickpeas and substitute Jacob's Cattle Bean.  In my defense, I was trying to use the local beans I had gotten in my farm share.

On the other hand, Jacob's Cattle Beans make awesome baked beans!

Everything has it's place.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Garden Update

Last Saturday I built my raised bed.  I did it mostly by myself.  Rulers?  They're for wimps!  My neighbor helped me force the 10 inch difference in sides into a lovely box.
My cousin thought it might be my mother's next home...  I didn't mean to make it look like a coffin.  I may take a layer or two off.  I just don't want Ollie to think its a giant dog bed.  Or be able to pee in it.  He has very long legs.  Another shot to give some perspective.
I learned a valuable lesson this week.  Instead of digging holes for the posts, it's better to sledgehammer them in.  It really does work and I just so happen to own my very own sledgehammer. Doesn't every girl?

I also added some more crushed stone to even out the patio.  My Fitbit was overjoyed by the end of the day.  I think I may experience a higher level of exhaustion based on what my Fitbit says I've done during the day.  It's the power of suggestion.  Sunday was rest day...

I'll place patio stones on them later this year or early next spring but for now it tidied up the space. I'm actually quite fond of the stone and it gives more "de-muddifying" space for the dogs to drop some of the dirt and mud before they get to the back door.

Not a lot more got done in the garden (or on the treadmill for that matter) this week due to Ollie.  He strolled a little too closely to death's door this week.  I can speak flippantly about it now but last Monday night I thought he was gone.  I was worried he had an abdominal tumour that was bleeding out.  It's called Hemagiosarcoma and I've lost 2 dogs to it.  He was ok and then he was in complete distress. Thankfully it was only an obstruction in his stomach that his own digestive juices eventually resolved.  So another lesson learned this past week - just because it says it's "dog bones" doesn't mean it really is suitable for dogs to eat.


Ollie will be 11 in July.  Old age is not his challenge... I am.  Bad mummy.  I'll stick to treats I know and trust from now on.

I finally have some eggplant seedlings!  And my Zucchini are coming along nicely.
Although I went to the market this weekend and the seedlings there put mine to shame.

I don't have a lot of space or warmth to get a lot of seedlings going so I had planned to supplement my garden with plants from other farmers/garden shops.  I did buy mostly seed that could be directly sown.  Those should be in the garden now but the seedlings can't go out until after May 24th due to frost threats.  So I'm only half as behind as I think I am.

I should have done more yesterday but it was so gorgeous I just wanted to sit on my deck after morning errands.  I did get my wall done.
Once the threat of frost passes, I'll put some herbs and flowers in these handing planters.  The bag on the bottom right is actually a planter too.  Tomatoes will soon call it home.  I'm going to grow tomatoes in 3 different spots around the yard to see if I can find the spot they'll do best.  Your yard is a micro-climate, you have to learn to understand it and embrace it!

Last night I had the first burgers of the grilling season.  There is nothing so wonderful as the smell of meat on the barbecue!  I stuffed cheddar cheese in the middle and served them with my mom's homemade zucchini relish (I promise I'll share the recipe when zucchini is overflowing in the garden and market).  I also did a tomato salad.  The greens from the farm have been scarce so I'm trying to compromise until I can get local greens.  I bought a huge pack of greenhouse cherry tomatoes, tossed them with some feta, olive oil, dried mint, dried oregano and a splash of balsamic vinegar.  My buckwheat greens (see last post) went in as well.  It was a nice little salad!