Friday, March 27, 2009

Gluten Free Ravioli

Last night I made gluten free ravioli from scratch. After seeing the price for frozen GF ravioli in the store, I thought I would try to do my own.

I used a recipe from the book, "Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus" by Carol Fenster, Ph.D. The pasta recipe calls for 2 eggs, 1/4 cup water, 1 T canola oil, 1/2 cup each of brown rice or sorghum flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch, 1/4 cup potato starch, 4 tsp. xanthan gum, 1 tsp. gelatin powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt. You put the liquid in the the food processor, mix together, add the rest, process until it becomes a ball, break it up and process it again.

I bought a ravioli frame in the hopes that the gluten free pasta flour would hold together well enough for it to work. I have to say, the hardest part about this whole thing was rolling out the dough thinly. Not because, as with other gluten free doughs, it would crumble apart, but because there's so much xanthan gum in this recipe that the dough is very tough and doesn't want to stretch out! I will have to experiment with the amount of xanthan gum, and also the different kinds of flours. I'd like to try corn flour, maybe instead of the potato startch. I like some of the commercially available GF pasta that is made with corn flour.

Once you roll out the dough, you put it over the ravioli frame. There's a plastic piece that you press into the dough to indent it down into the circles. Then you fill the circles with your filling. I used ricotta, mozarella, and romano cheeses, with an egg yolk and italian spices mixed in. You mix an egg white with water and paint the edges of your ravioli, so that when you put the top layer on it will stick.

Then you roll out a second sheet to put on top
of the first. Press around the frames to seal, and
then use your rolling pin to cut the raviolis out.

It didn't say to do so in the recipe, but I let the raviolis sit and dry a bit on the counter. I know you do that with regular pasta, and I wanted to make sure the egg white seal got nice and dry before I popped these guys into water.

After they dried for about an hour, I decided to freeze some of them for later. I put them on a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet and popped them in the freezer until they were hard, then I transferred them to a zip loc bag.

I decided to use a shallow saucepan to boil the remaining ravioli. I wanted to get them to a gentle simmer, in the hopes that they wouldn't break apart. As with most gluten free doughs, I saw a few cracks as they were being pushed into shape. I wiped a bit of egg white liquid on the cracks.

The pasta recipe says to simmer for 5 minutes, but since these guys had some filling in them, and they are pretty large, I let them go for 8.

I didn't tell Daniel ahead of time that I was going to do this, just in case they fell apart & were a total failure. I cooked non gf ravioli for the other kids, and put everything out on the plates. When Daniel saw his plate, his eyes widened. "Are these really for me?" he asked. He started wolfing them down before testing his blood sugar! I made him stop and test.

"I didn't even realize how much I missed ravioli," he said. He ate 12 of these guys. I estimated that they were 8 carbs per ravioli. He absolutely loved them, and I'm so glad.

What would I do differently? First of all, I think I'm going to scour ebay for a hand crank pasta machine. I took a bite of the ravioli and think that it would benefit from dough that is rolled a bit thinner. But I couldn't get it any thinner by hand, it was just too hard to roll. Using a pasta machine would help.

Also, after the dough is processed and in a ball, I would break it into 6 or 7 pieces, wrap them, and put them aside. The dough that remained in the processor while the rest was being rolled dried out very quickly. I had to re-process with a bit of liquid to get it rollable again.

As I said before, I'll also experiment with different flour combinations. And different fillings! But on the whole, I was very pleased with this cooking experiment, and am glad that I don't have to spend the $8.00 on the very small bag of frozen ravioli!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Break

I'm on spring break this week, and even though it doesn't match my kids' spring break schedules, it came at the right time. Teaching is a great job, but it drains you and those little breaks, the one day holidays or snow days really help get me through. But the nice long spring break is just what I needed to recharge the old batteries.

Of course, I still have to wake up early each day to get the kids off to school. And Nora was home sick with me the first two days of my break. And I've jammed doctor/dentist appointments into this time. But still.

Today is the first day that I'm on my own, no appointments, no sick kids (spit through fingers to ward off the evil eye). When Nora was home I cleaned out the closet in the boys' room and rearranged things somewhat. Filled up a huge bag of clothes that don't fit to pass along to friends. Nora has pleaded with me not to go through her room, that she'll do it herself. Little does she know that we have a date Saturday morning with the trash bag and the vacuum! Today I cleaned out and organized the entry closet, rearranged furniture, and am planning the cubby system for the kids' school things. The Container Store is calling me. I'm also going to cook.

One of my goals for this break was to make a couple of gluten-free foods that I think are waaaay overpriced in the stores that carry these items. Of course, GF flour is ridiculously expensive. There's one mix I buy, the Nearly Normal brand, that I like a lot, but the 4 pound bag costs $21. I wish GF foods fell under the prescription medicine umbrella! I think I read somewhere that it is possible to take the cost of these foods off your taxes as a medical expense (don't quote me on it) but you have to do some serious receipt saving and record keeping, which I haven't done. But sometimes when I'm balancing the checkbook and I see what I've spent at the grocery store, I get stressed.

Anyway, back to the GF foods. The two that I'm going to make this week are GF ravioli, and vegetarian & meat stuffed grape leaves. I don't have a pasta maker, but I do have one of those grid-looking things that is a ravioli press, so we'll see if that works for the GF dough. If not, I'll just hand-shape it. A tiny bag of gf ravioli is 8 dollars in the store, and the recipe I'm looking at makes 30 ravioli for much less than that.

The stuffed grape leaves look pretty easy to make, just a bit time consuming, and time is a precious resource. But they are an easy-to-pack food, which makes them great for school lunches.

The other day I made chicken tikka masala. I found a spice pack by Arora Creations with the recipe on the back (note the GLUTEN FREE, DIABETIC SAFE), so I gave it a try. It was totally delicious, but a little too spicey for the kids' liking. Next time I will use my own spices and turn down the heat a bit.

First you heat up some olive oil in a pan, and saute 1 minced medium onion, 1/2 cup minced ginger (thank goodness for those easy to use jars of minced ginger!), 4 cloved garlic (I always use more garlic) until light brown.

Here it is, cooking nicely and smelling DELICIOUS.

Then you add the spice pack, which has ground
sunflower seeds, coriander, pepper, cumin, chiles, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, salt, lemon oil, turmeric. I think that when I do it myself, I'll use the same spices, some fresh lemon (added at the end), and perhaps grind up some flax seeds for the fiber & omega 3.

You stir that all around for a couple of minutes until it gets really fragrant.

Next you add an 8oz can of tomato sauce and let
that simmer for a couple of minutes. Then you add the chicken and cook, stirring, for 8 - 10 minutes.

Finally, you add 3/4 cup water, stir once, then
cover and cook for 8 - 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Serve over hot rice.

I was going to take a picture of it all pretty on the plate with the cilantro and rice, but it smelled so good and we were so hungry...

On another note, Daniel has been complaining of a low grade stomach ache this past week, sort of since he was glutened by the Milky Way candies. I also bought a bag of mini snickers (which he had at Halloween and he was fine) and mini Reeses peanut butter cups, which have been fine in the past. He wants to give it another week before I call the doctor and start with rounds of invasive tests. I also told him to write down absolutely everything he eats & drinks to see if we can find out what is going on.

Okay. Off to make pasta dough.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What a Pain!

Daniel told me that he was glutened at dinner, and I said, WHAT? We had leftovers for dinner. Everything he ate, I made from scratch.


He grabbed a couple of mini milky way midnights for dessert.

When I go to the grocery store, I read every freakin' label. Even things I've gotten before, because sometimes companies change their ingredients just for fun. I read the ingredients of Milky Way Midnights: Semisweet chocolate (sugar, chocolate processed with alkali, cocoa butter, milkfat, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavors), corn syrup, sugar, hydrogenated palm kernal oil and/or palm oil, skim milk, less than 2% milkfat, lactose, salt, egg whites, natural and artificial flavor. The allergy info says that it might contain peanuts.

There's no ingredient listed that is a gluten problem. So I bought the package. When Daniel complained of stomach pain tonight, I checked online to see if anyone else had any problems with these candies. It seems that regular milky way bars contain both wheat and barley malt, which make them a big NO NO for my kid. But the minis don't have any wheat or gluten ingredients listed. Other people asked what the deal was, because it's confusing!

Well, let me tell you -- if you are celiac, don't eat them! Trust Daniel's stomach and stay away from the pain.

And now I'm just hoping that whatever amount of gluten that he had was so small that he will be able to get through the evening without losing his dinner!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Thank you FeltFinland for nominating me for the Honest Scrap award! It was her first blog award and mine, too! The rules are: 1. Pick 7 or so blogs that make you happy. 2. Let them know and post their names on your blog. 3. List at least 10 honest things about yourself.

Wow. There's a list of blogs on the left side of my page that I read. I haven't had much time to read lately because work is a time vampire, but here's a short list, pretty much diabetes related: (although she's already been tagged!)

Among others. There are more having to do with family & yoga & celiac... but I guess since I started this blog to deal with the whole diabetes thing, that's what I'm tagging tonight.

Now... 10 honest things about myself. UGH.

1. I'm so scared I'm running out of time to do the things I've always wanted to do. Eww, nothing like starting with a yukky one.

2. I try to notice things on a daily basis. This practice started back in grad school, as I was trying to get ideas to write a few poems a week. When I simply couldn't think of anything to write, I would try to intently focus on the world around. The smallest things can turn into the biggest poems. I would write in my journal, "I noticed today _____"

3. I believe that positive thinking is powerful and try to practice it. Even though I may whine to you.

4. I may tell you that I don't want any chocolate, but secretly I do.

5. Where is that book? Oh, it's inside my head, waiting to get out. I need time and peace and quiet.

6. I want to live at the beach. I don't care about hurricanes.

7. Why is this so difficult to write tonight? I know I'm tired, however, I usually have a lot to say on the subject of me. Maybe #7 should be that teaching takes a lot out of me. It's at the same time quite simple, and incredibly draining.

8. When I was in high school I wore rainbow suspenders and carried around a feather pen. And Nora asks me if I got teased. HA!

9. When I went to college I decided that I could change me to match the me in my head rather than the high school image of me that everyone assumed me to be. It worked, and it was fun.

10. I started highlighting my hair. That's a nice way of saying that I'm going gray.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bomb Threats & Health Threats

When Daniel calls me in the middle of the school day I start to twitch before I even open the phone. Usually it's the typical teenage "can I go to J's house after school" type thing, but I still get nervous. He called a few minutes ago to let me know 2 things. #1, that he was stuck outside for an hour because the school had a bomb threat. #2, that the empandas in his lunch were bad (moldy?!?!) and he couldn't eat them and had already bolused for them.

I wasn't sure what to address first! After a couple of false starts, I was able to put together a sentence. "Are you back inside school?" Yes. Then, "GO TO THE NURSE!" I reminded him that he had extra snacks stashed there. Then he tells me, "No, I ate those a long time ago."

This I did not know. Daniel never said, "hey, you might want to refill my snacks at school." Nor did I get a phone call/email from the nurse's office. And I don't like to complain (OK, I do, but not about them) because they are really very good with Daniel and have helped us so much with his rights in school, tending to the Type 1, and everything associated with diabetes & school. But this is frustrating.

I told Daniel to go to the snack machine and get a snickers, or peanut M&Ms. There's not much he can get from the candy machine because of his celiac, but those would be okay.

He said that the candy machines don't operate until after school lets out.

Then get something from the nurse! They will have something in the teacher's lounge!

I called the nurse's office and found out that Daniel did stop by and got 27 carbs worth of juice. His empanadas were 34 carbs. Pretty close... and he has sugar tabs with him. He also promised to stop by the nurse's office between classes and test again just to make sure he's okay.

I guess I have to put a note on my calendar to remind myself every couple of months to call the nurse & make sure all supplies are there. And remind my son to tell me if he finishes something... but he has a teenage brain so that doesn't always work!

After I hung up with the nurse, and was satisfied that Daniel was well cared for, then I started thinking about the bomb threat. This news comes on the heels of the paper that arrived home in my elementary school child's backpack this week -- that they had a code blue at school because they were informed of police activity in the area.

I live in a lovely neighborhood, a nice part of town. Where the hell do I have to go in this world where my kids can be safe at school? I'm sad about the rising violence, the threats to the kids. It's enough we have to fight these damned diseases to keep our kids alive.


It's 3 for 3.... got a recorded message from the principal of my daughter's school this afternoon. There was police activity outside the school at dismissal time, were 3 older kids were arrested.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Just a Big Tease

Mother Nature can be cruel. The glorious 70 degree days have retreated, and we have a chance of snow/sleet tonight. I have a souvenir of the lovely weather, however. I did some yard cleanup work when it was balmy outside, and now I have streaks of poison ivy showing up on my arms. Gee, thanks.

Daniel's endo has sent some adjustments to his basaling & bolusing, so I hope that stops the slow creep-up of numbers we've seen lately. Daniel's also trying to control his teenage-boy eating (or should I say shoveling) routine. He gets hungry for a second dinner starting an hour after dinner. I truly don't know how one person can eat such a huge pile of mashed potatoes.

He comes by it honestly, though. Daniel's dad is one of 7 kids, and six in a row were boys. My mother in law says she remembers times when the boys were teenagers -- she would go to the grocery store to get food for the week. Two days later she'd open the refrigerator after coming home from work so she could prepare dinner, and it would be empty. Hollow legs, human vacuums, ever hungry, every one. It's incredible to watch.

In any case, it's hard to control blood sugar when you're eating every hour. So Daniel has promised to try to stop grazing. I'll just keep count of the containers in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Melt in your Mouth

I cooked up a big batch of blondies tonight. Daniel was out of cookies for school lunches, etc. I used the Namaste brand mix, which I had never tried before, and they turned out pretty good.

Today had been a busy, tough day, and I'm tired. So I jumped right into those blondies along with the kids, and had one hot, right out of the oven.

It's an amazing mood lifter. I've never experienced "runner's high." But "chocolate high" -- I know all about that. :)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

No Bugs

It's one of those wonderful days. Mother Nature turned up the heat, so it's in the 70's with a gentle breeze, party cloudy, and the bugs haven't woken up yet from their winter nap. I spent a couple of hours doing yard cleanup, taking advantage of the weather and saying hi to my neighbors who are all emerging from their houses with their dogs, their kids in strollers, their frisbees and balls. This weather makes everyone smile.

I chopped down some of the dead, tall decorative grasses in front of my house. Underneath there were daffodils, half bloomed. They have another couple of days of balmy weather before March decides to cool off again. But if the daffodils are here, then spring is not far behind!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spinning Straw Into Gold

It seems like the school year just gets more more intense and compact as we race headlong towards the finish. There are more activities, assemblies, and projects and June keeps getting closer and honestly I don't know its all going to get done. I try to remind myself to take one day at a time.

And so, with work so busy and the kids' schedules filled, I added one more responsibility into my life. I had been practicing the fine art of saying "NO" since I started working full time, but this is one thing I couldn't resist.

Last weekend I went to a training session to work with the JDRF to mentor newly diagnosed T1 families. Those first few weeks of diagnosis -- that crazy, intense time -- are still so clear in my mind. The fear, the tears, the sleeplessness, and cramming all that life or death info into an overtaxed brain! I was so lucky to have a friend to help in those first days, someone who had been through it with her own son, who held me up when I was collapsing, who went to the 504 plan meeting with me, who emailed me or called me daily until we got our minds wrapped around this enormous change in our family.

I received my first assignment today, and called M. to make sure he received his "Bag of Hope" from the JDRF, and to offer help, sympathy, a shoulder, an answer. M. was very thankful for the phone call. He's at the point where they are just starting to get the blood sugar numbers in range, and feeling like they might have a little control over the situation. M's child is independently testing blood sugars at a young age (what a hero!), and is starting to count carbs. They were still taking everything day by day, but sounded like they were doing well, all things considered. I promised to email links to all sorts of places that helped me when I was in crisis, and told M. to call or email me at any time with questions, concerns, or successes. It was a great conversation.

We probably talked for about 15 minutes. I don't know if M. will call me back, but he did seem happy to know that there were people out there willing to give their time to check in & help.

Oh yes, I am. Thank you, M., for being my first phone call. For helping me learn how to mentor. For sharing your story with me. I'm sad to welcome you to the world of diabetes, but so happy that we're both in a place with supportive, caring people.

Now let's fix the US health care system. :)