Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Mad Rush

It's hard to believe that December is knocking on the door. This year has gone by so fast! There are times I get caught up in life's stresses, and then I stop for a moment and see how quickly everything is passing. It's tough to live in the moment, but so necessary for the soul. This wild and precious thing that we have -- it's fleeting. It's wonderful.

I was very thankful this Thanksgiving for the love and closeness of family and friends. For people to share our food and our company. Yes, I was cooking like crazy, but was also able to sit back and enjoy the people around me, which was the spiritual renewal I needed.

Diabetes sat quietly in the background, thank goodness. It was tough to figure out all the carbs, especially when teenage boy-ness takes over in the presence of all that good food! Daniel's numbers stayed excellent all through the meal -- between 70 and 90 -- but were on the high side the next morning. All that high fat stuff kicking in, I suppose. We still haven't figured out that dual wave timing for high fat foods. I guess this will take years of practice!

Ah well, on to another week, and the crazy, jam-packed days of December. Speaking of high fat, it's time to gather the ingredients for cookies, toffee, and biscotti. Can I have a few more of these 5 day weekends?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gluten Free Turkey Gravy for Thanksgiving

The day before Thanksgiving is my major cooking day. I like to get a lot of things out of the way the day before so that Thanksgiving day is low key -- baste the turkey, cook some veggies, heat the rolls, stir up the gravy, and say thanks.

I made my gravy base the other day, and it is waiting for the drippings from the cooked turkey. Here is how you make it:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
4 large onions, thinly sliced (I use sweet onions)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and saute until deep brown, about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally so they don't stick. You are slowly carmelizing the onions. Add the rosemary and thyme, then the cornstarch, and stir for 1 minute. Add the vinegar and honey, simmer about 2 minutes. It will seem gloppy and smell quite sharply of the vinegar, but this is all good. I puree this mixture with an immersion blender, let it cool, and then put it in the fridge until Thanksgiving day.

Cook your turkey the way you usually do... I run my fingers between the skin & breast of the turkey and stuff some fresh herbs in there -- rosemary, basil, thyme -- whatever I have on hand. I still have parsley growing happily in the garden right now, so I'm going to put that in this year.

When you cook your turkey, baste it with chicken stock. I do 3/4 to 1 cup broth every 30 minutes or so. When the turkey is done cooking, strain the liquid into a large, heat proof measuring cup. Spoon the fat off the top. Take your refrigerated gravy base and heat it in a large saucepan. Whisk in 3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot starch, then 8 cups of juices from the turkey. Boil until the gravy is reduced to about 7 cups, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.

This is the most delicious turkey gravy recipe I've ever had.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Shopping, stuffing, Thanksgiving, gluten free!

I'm almost done shopping for this year's version of gluten-free thanksgiving. On the menu: turkey, cranberry sauce with oranges & red wine, wild rice & apricot stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, pumpkin pie, and chocolate cream pie. My mom is bringing the sweet potatoes.

I've only really made two major changes to the thanksgiving menu since making it gluten free. I don't do a bread stuffing anymore, and I had to de-gluten the pie crust recipe. I *could* do a bread stuffing with gluten-free bread. I really love the corn bread recipe in the Nearly Normal cookbook, and would happily make that into stuffing for the bird. Perhaps I will next year. But last year I tried out the recipe for the wild rice & apricot stuffing, and liked it so much that I want to repeat it. Here's how it goes:

In a large heavy saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add and cook for 3 - 5 minutes: 2 finely chopped onions, 2 stalks finely chopped celery, 5 cloves of minced garlic. When those ingredients have stirred around and gotten to know each other, add 16 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms and some chestnuts. How many chestnuts? I guess that depends on how much you like them. For years I got fresh chestnuts, roasted them, and wrestled the darned things out of their shells, cutting up my fingers in the process. Last year I bought a jar of peeled chestnuts. It was pricey, but it was my present to myself. I just did the same today, and my fingertips are already thanking me.

Anyway... stir all this stuff around for a few minutes, then add 2 1/2 cups chicken stock, and 2/3 cup orange juice. Bring to a boil. Stir in 2 cups long grain brown rice, 3/4 cup wild rice, and a teaspoon each of sage and thyme. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 35 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of chopped dried apricots and 1/4 cup craisins. Simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes more or until rice is tender. Add 3/4 cup pine nuts, slivered, toasted almonds, or pecan pieces, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, and a teaspoon of salt (to taste) and pepper (to taste).

You have to let this mixture cool completely before stuffing your turkey. When you baste the turkey while it is cooking, the juices flow through the wild rice stuffing, harmonizing all the flavors into happy eating for your family.

I make a carmelized onion gravy base for the turkey, and the great thing is that it can be made ahead of time. I'm off to do that now, along with other obligations, and have to stop typing. I will try to write about that later this weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's all about the numbers. And the grades.

The good news was that Daniel's A1c came down to 7.2, which means we're getting the hang of this pumping thing (after a year). The bad news was that we finally had one of those scares that the diabetes nurse warned us about -- high blood sugars plus ketones -- that comes from a pump mistake. Daniel woke up about 2 a.m. the other night with all the classic symptoms: a pounding headache, dry mouth, gotta pee, etc. His bg was about 470, and of course, he felt like crap. The pee stick showed large ketones. My husband had gotten up with him, and then woke me to check in and see if we should go to the ER.

I checked the good old diabetes manual for instructions. I think the people at Children's National Medical Center in DC give great take-home instructions for all their diabetes-related stuff. It is easy to follow, even at 2 a.m., and helped us get through the night without an ER trip.

There's really nothing you can do but keep checking blood sugar readings. Every 15 - 20 minutes, each time we checked, they were going down. I finally sent Daniel back to bed at 4 a.m. with a bg of 280, and told him I would wake him at 5:30 to check again. At that point he was back to normal.

Other than that blip, his numbers have been really great for some time now. Hope I'm not jinxing myself. But I'm happy with the insulin pump therapy. Now let's find a cure for this stinkin' disease!!!

On a totally unrelated subject, I started writing this blog tonight because I was mad, and I had to calm myself down. Writing about diabetes was a good distraction, and I think I'm pretty calm now. My youngest son Dominic takes Tae Kwon Do, and is a blue belt. He's taken classes at the same studio for several years now. Lately the studio has instituted a report card system. After every class, the child presents his report card for a grade on how he did in class.

Dominic recently wanted to quit Tae Kwon Do. It's in the evening, and he's been pretty tired, but we encouraged him to persevere. However, tonight I wanted to yank him out of that place. After he decided to NOT quit, he started giving his all. However, he is an 8 year old boy, and is subject to some moments of inattention. Tonight was NOT one of those nights. They were practicing their forms over and over. I noticed that at one point in the form, he kept turning the wrong direction. There were 2 teachers in the room, and 9 or 10 kids. One of the teachers went over the fact that some people were turning the wrong direction, but Dominic didn't get it. No one went up to him and corrected his form.

The teachers asked questions about what certain terms meant, and why you lifted your heel off the ground at one point, etc. etc. Dominic raised his hand and was called on a couple of times. He got the answers correct.

Then the teachers separated the blue belts from the rest of the class to do push ups, sit ups, and squats. There were 4 blue belts, including Dominic. One of them was asked to lead the push ups, and he kept fooling around, and they had to restart the push up count a couple of times. Then the teacher asked the kids to move to a different side of the room. Dominic did so by rolling across the floor. The teacher said to him, "Dominic!" That's all. Another kid crab-walked. The teacher said, "Can't you guys just walk?" Then they did their sit ups, and sat waiting for the other group to finish. They were talking to each other, but quietly. I motioned to Dominic to come talk to me, and I told him that when he was doing his form, he turned in the wrong direction at step three, and I was concerned that he would get that wrong when it came to testing time. He said, "Oh, okay!" And went back to sit and wait.

Then all the kids were called back to do their forms again. This time, Dominic turned in the correct direction.

It was almost the end of class. The owner of the studio came out and called out two of the kids -- the one who was messing around when he was supposed to do the push up count, and Dominic, telling them that they had to stop interrupting the class, pay attention, and quit fooling around. Dominic turned and looked at me with that WTF???? look -- because he had not done anything to cause problems! He was told that his testing paperwork was being held until he could learn to control himself. When it came time to get his report card, they gave him a C for the night.

In all the years he's been taking classes, when he would get the wiggles, or mess around in class, Dominic would get a lecture from me afterwards. I let him know that he needed to respect his teachers, to pay attention in class, and to do his best if he wanted to succeed. Tonight I saw that his form was solid, that he put energy into his punches and kicks. He didn't do a half-assed job, he was focused.

So I followed the teacher to the back room and asked why Dominic got a C. He said, "because he rolled across the floor." I told the teacher that I noticed that Dominic had worked hard all evening. He knew answers to the questions, his form has really improved. Did he not see that? The teacher said, "he rolled across the floor." Well I guess that negates everything else he did in the class. I told him that I respectfully disagreed with his opinion, and that one roll shouldn't take away from all his hard work. Mind you, this is the teacher who is the son of the studio's business manager. I have noticed, for a long time, that he has less patience with the kids than all the other teachers, and does not teach the forms, or kicks, or punches in a clear manner. Blah.

Then I went to the head of the studio, who basically agreed that Dominic has improved. But that he has to stop interrupting the class, and improve some more. That he understand that with his asthma that he can't always perform, but he can try to improve.

Okay -- my eyes were about to pop out of my head. Dominic does not have asthma. Who the hell was he talking about? I sit through all of these classes. Dominic does not interrupt the class. Again, who the hell was he talking about? I looked the head master in the eye when he said we all can improve, and said, "Yes, everyone can improve. EVERYONE." Including you, you idiot. And then he went on and on about kids in the after school program not working so hard, versus kids in the evening program really pushing themselves, and nothing he said made much sense. My kid IS in the evening program! He has been working his butt off. And he doesn't have asthma! It was weird, like he was talking about somebody else!

When we left the studio, I told Dominic how proud I was of his achievements. I told him that they didn't see his effort, but that I did, and that he shouldn't hang his head. I will not send him back to a place where they put him down in front of the whole class without justification. Yeah, that's a great way to get kids to want to achieve. The good old "make them feel like shit" method. And I'm paying for this? Not anymore.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Soup's On!

The weather is getting cool, the leaves are falling... it's soup time! We've started enjoying this comfort food with come gluten free cornbread or a salad on the side. Make's a great meal! I just made a sausage lentil soup, but this soup can easily be made without meat for my vegetarian friends.

Sausage Lentil Soup

1 pound mild sausage (I used mild Italian, but any will do)
1 cup brown lentils, picked over & rinsed
1 cup red lentils, picked over & rinsed
8 cups chicken stock
2 large carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 couple of ribs of celery, diced
2 T olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 T cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup red wine
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T lemon juice
2 T brown sugar

In a large pot or dutch oven, crumble the sausage and saute until brown in 1 T of the olive oil. Remove from pot and set aside. Add another tbsp. of oil, and saute the onion, carrots, celery, and salt until the onion is transparent. Add the lentils, chicken stock, pepper, cumin, garlic, and the cooked sausage, and bring to a boil. Simmer, cover, and cook for 1/2 hour. Add the diced tomatoes, wine, vinegar, lemon juice, and sugar. Simmer for another 15 minutes, or until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally.

When I serve this, I will often put a dollop of sour cream or tsasiki or plain yogurt on top. YUM!