Monday, January 31, 2011

Party food hangover

Not so sure about this...

I think I'm getting the hang of this present thing

Yesterday was Ophelia's 1st birthday party and I went a little overboard with the desserts, regular food not so much. There are local grocery stores who give a free cake for a child's 1st birthday, I wasn't huge on letting her smash and eat the cakes but said I would get her picture with it and if it happened well fine. Not knowing the outcome I decided to make backup cake: almond pound cake with homemade whipped cream which got great reviews. On top of that I had to take care of my sweet tooth and make GF peanut butter cookies and mini pumpkin cheesecakes. I also had a massive cookie fail with GF oatmeal caramel apple cookies that were way too chewy to serve, yikes those need work. I hope my coworkers are hungry tomorrow because I need to get these desserts out of my house!

Ophelia had a blast and really didn't care about the cake, she touched the frosting ate a little and signed "all done" and then instead ate 3 of the pumpkin cheesecakes and would have kept going had I not stopped giving them to her. I guess she developed a love of pumpkin from all I ate during my pregnancy! Presents were another success, she loved ripping the paper and was just a thrilled with the cards. The food theme continued as she received a kitchen set from my parents and a tea set from my sister in law. Soon after the gifts were opened Ophelia let us all know she was done with the party. She went to her room got her pacifier and bear and signed "sleep". I guess she matured and has finally decided naps are good, at least I can hope!

Updated Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups natural peanut butter (I used half creamy and half crunchy)
2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract
1 cup peanuts

Preheat oven to 325°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Beat together eggs, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and vanilla in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment or with a hand-held mixer. Beat in the peanut butter. Stir in peanuts.
Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, pressing lightly with hand. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly set. Let cool a few minutes on pan to set and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Makes 4-6 dozen depending on cookie size

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cheesecake (crustless)
1 15oz can pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
8 oz light cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons gluten free vanilla
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons agave nectar
4 tablespoons kahlua (can use rum)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour the batter into greased 9 inch pie plate and bake 45 minutes or until the cheesecake is set and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Serve with Whipped Cream
1/2 pint heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (can substitute white sugar, coconut sugar etc)

In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Pumpkin Seed!

I can't believe that 1 year ago today my baby girl was born and I officially became a mother. She acquired the nickname Pumpkin Seed this Fall when she was wearing her "Little Pumpkin" pajamas and we decided that she was too small to be a pumpkin. What an educational and exciting year we've had.

Today I was thinking about how our lives have changed and I remembered this post and all the changes we had been told to expect. Well I don't think any of those things occurred: I do not own a minivan, we still travel, run, go out to dinner, sleep and haven't quit grad school. I still care about how I look, just a little less some days and all the pregnancy weight is long gone. We've just learned to incorporate a baby into these things, BOB is my best friend some days and the treadmill is a close second this Winter. Ophelia has a passport and so far she's been to California, Alabama, and Mexico. My advice (and some people may think this is wrong) make time for yourself. If I stopped running, traveling, sleeping, etc I wouldn't be a very good mother. It is true that some days nothing will go as you want, but you adapt and accept that there are days when the you won't shower, the house will be a mess and dinner will come from the freezer, but who cares. I've learned to get the important things done as early as possible in the day.

Ophelia has become such a great little girl with a huge personality. She is so inquisitive and loves to explore and socialize. She is also a climber and I am just waiting for the day when we need to make our first ER visit. She will eat just about anything as long as it has flavor: curry, chili, lentil tacos, anything Indian, lasagna, I could keep going! Just like her mom she doesn't like to sit and is constantly moving except to watch cooking shows or look through a cooking magazine, I might have a future chef on my hands! Happy Birthday Pumpkin Seed, mommy loves you and can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Making it up as I go

When I trained for TCM this Fall I started off following a plan, but that quickly turned into a "make it up as I go" schedule. It worked, I ran a PR, but this time I said I would stick to a plan and hopefully get even better results. I made it maybe 2 weeks in and I'm back to making things up as I go. How do I manage to train others and have them stick to a plan when I can't even do it?

Today I spent another morning on the treadmill running 10 miles while Ophelia napped, I am thankful for this option but really missing outside runs. The combination of cold weather and unclear paths has prevented me from get out with the BOB during the week and then weekends have been bringing brutal cold. Where is the January heatwave we always get? The treadmill may or may not be a good thing for my training, I get bored really easily and have a tendency to increase my speed to get done quicker. I guess I'll have plenty of speedwork for Boston, now hills on the other hand those get tough with the treadmill, I have gotten better at increasing the incline to 4 for multiple short periods during my run. 

I have a habit of watching cooking shows while I run and today as I watched a show all about baking french bread my mind wandered and I was coming up with a good sweet snack to make. So I came up with a plan and headed to the store. Even with the plan I made up the recipe as I went.

Peanut Date Balls
1 cup pitted dates
1/2  cup peanut flour + 1 tbsp
1 tbsp agave nectar

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup Rice Chex: crushed

Put dates in food processor and process until a paste forms, add 1/2 cup peanut flour and agave nectar. Once a "dough" forms add almonds and coconut just until mixed. Add more peanut flour if too gooey or a little water if too dry. Form balls (about 1 tsp) and roll in mix of crushed Chex and remaining peanut flour mixed. Place balls on parchment paper lined cookie sheet and put in freezer 1 hour to set.

Makes 24. Substitute sugar, coconut, other crushed cookies/cereal etc for the Chex.

Now for the next run I need to figure out the menu, okay the desserts, for Ophelia's birthday party this weekend.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I am a caffeine addict

Wow, I guess I have a lot to say lately! Today I am doing more testing that the last docotr ordered and this requires me to avoid a list of foods and medications the worst being caffeine. The timing is awful as I have now gotten the sickness that has struck at our house the past week and my head is about to explode from the pressure. On top of this I also need to avoid Tylenol, good thing I found an old bottle of ibuprofen in my drawer at work to combat this combined sinus/caffeine headache. Yes there are foods I need to avoid too but most of those are easy, except bananas which I eat everyday and pineapple which is nicely cut and sitting in the fridge. I am over 24 hours into this and will be done when I wake up tomorrow morning, so for now I sit here drinking my decaf (yes I know it still has a small amount of caffeine) in attempts to trick my body.

I just hope all this is worth it and I have some concrete answers soon, if not then we move on to yet another doctor. Right now the theories have moved on to an adrenal issue such as Addison's. After some research the symptoms do fit, but we'll see what the labs say. So far they aren't matching since my cortisol is actually elevated along with my albumin (although this can be related to the cortisol). Luckily I have access to reliable sources for my medical information and don't have to rely on dr. google to provide me with answers and tell me I have some incurable disease that needs some experimental treatment. Don't get me wrong I love the internet for research but information from unreliable sources in the wrong hands can be brutal to the general public and us in healthcare.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Still on the topic of food: Black bean soup

Another gluten free vegetarian recipe that Matt will eat. It was great served with gaucamole. This batch made dinner and enough for 2 bowls of leftovers.

Black Bean Soup
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed
1 cup corn
1 can diced green chilis
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cumin
Squeeze of lime juice

Saute the onions and minced garlic in oil. Once the onions have become translucent add remaining ingredients. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Taste-test the soup after 20 minutes and remove from heat once the beans are cooked to your liking.
Top with cheese and gaucamole and serve.

Next up: Tonight's Dinner will be Peanut Sauce with tofu and veggies over rice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Still experimenting with food

After the food issues on vacation I needed to get back to closely watching what I ate and actually planned out meals for the week and beyond. Ophelia has been sick this week and napping a lot meaning I had plenty of time to cook.

Peanut butter (actually any nut butter) and cereal are two of my addictions so this new recipe for granola looked perfect. It is a variation on This Cinnamon Raisin Granola 
GF Raisin Coconut Granola
4 cups gluten-free rolled oats (NOT quick cook)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I don't measure)
2 pinches finely ground sea salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup apple juice concentrate 
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup agave nectar (can use honey, brown rice syrup, or maple syrup)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325ยบ F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Mix together oats, salt, cinnamon, almonds and coconut in a large bowl and set aside. Mix together apple juice, almond butter, agave nectar and coconut oil in a small saucepan. Heat over low flame, stir constantly to mix. Once is starts to thicken slightly, remove from heat, pour over dry ingredients and stir. Spread mixture evenly onto a baking sheet(s) no more than 1/2-inch thick.
Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove from oven and let cool completely, then stir in raisins and store in a well-sealed jar or container. If kept well-sealed, this will keep fresh for 2 weeks (pretty sure it won't last that long).
Pretty good, but just like my past attempts not the clusters you get at the store. Now to just figure out the secret to clumpy granola.
Tonight's meal was inspired from a box of quinoa and Costco stuffed peppers
Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar (or more if you want)
1 cup salsa or 1 can of diced tomatoes
4 bell peppers

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned. Add cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Add corn and black beans. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid absorbed. Add in 1/2 salsa. Remove from heat and add about 1/2 cheese.
The quinoa is good on its own.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Slice peppers in half or remove stem/seeds from top and removed ribs/seeds. Fill peppers with quinoa and place in baking dish, top with remaining salsa and cheese. Cover with tinfoil and bake 25-35 minutes.

I really need to work on the food photographs, what's the secret? Besides being a runner my other love is cooking, secret's out. I love experimenting and making new recipes which is why I have issues with measuring and just throw in what I feel like so most of the recipes I post aren't exact, I change the non crucial ingredients, seasonings etc depending on what I have and am in the mood for. I actually considered switching careers and attending culinary school a few years back, now it's just something I do for fun. With all this cooking it's a good thing I'm a runner!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Finally back outside (at least for a short time)

Little beach baby!
We just spent a week in Cozumel hoping for a week of sun and relaxation but instead we got a mix of sun, rain, clouds, and illness. The vacation started in typical me fashion with a flight delay and a mad dash through O'Hare to catch our connecting flight, but in the end we actually arrived in Cozumel early. The week was relaxing and time away, no internet or email to deal with and I even read a book.

Weatherwise the first few days were great: sunny and warm. Ophelia loved the beach and managed to keep most of the sand out of her mouth. She even made a few friends and made sure everyone talked to her, not sure where she got this outgoing personality since it wasn't from Matt or myself. Then the week turned and it was cloudy and rainy the rest of the week, we even woke to a leaking roof one night. It is just wrong that I spend half my time in pants and a sweatshirt!

The cold days!

It was great to get outside for a few runs last week. We found the road in front of our hotel to be pretty safe and low traffic and headed out for a few runs in the heat and sun. It seemed that every morning we'd get sun while we ran and then it disappeared just when we thought that day might actually turn nice. On other days I managed longer treadmill runs only to discover the treadmills were programmed to shut off at 1 hour, literally going from 7mm to nothing  in seconds, good thing I was prepared the second day but then I wasn't prepared for the power outage that occurred in the gym that morning during my run. Needless to say it was interesting, but I managed 5 days of running, 1 day on the elliptical and 2 days of weights plus a lot of morning walks around the resort with Ophelia before breakfast, so no complaints on the exercise.

I had fun watching others in the gym, this is who was in there with me: woman in high heel sandals walking on the treadmill while her barefoot child was running/jumping on the next one; guy who pounded so hard when he ran I thought he'd break the platform; guy who increased his speed every time I did and only lasted 15 minutes (I confess it was kind of fun watching him so I kept speeding up); couple who lifted weights while drinking coffee.

I found these at the airport (gluten free and peanut) yum!
We stayed at an all inclusive which I booked last Summer prior to all my issues, I figured gluten free in Mexico wouldn't be so tough, I was wrong and suffered much of the week (and still am). I quickly learned some safe foods: yogurt, fruit, grilled veggies, grilled fish, salad with guacamole/pico, rice, potatoes. Even with this I'm not so sure what else got into the foods or drinks. Traveling will take some work if this is the diet I need to stay with. I had another doctor appointment this week and she has a few more theories, mainly adrenal problems, which I will be tested for when I make it to work early enough and have fasted (this second part is tough). I also need to do some testing that involves avoiding certain foods for 48 hours, the dig ones being bananas (I eat one every morning for breakfast) and caffeine (this is the problem) on top of that no acetaminophen to combat the caffeine withdrawal headache those 2 days either.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Human again and a possible answer

I am still lacking an official answer, but through elimination and trial it seems I have gluten intolerance (can't call it celiac since the often false negative bloodwork was negative). I have decided against the biopsy at this point and probably for good since it would require me to go back on gluten. I still have one more doctor to see regarding this, but don't expect anything to change. She is a newer endocrinologist focusing on metabolism and malabsorption so with my history of hypothyroidism my primary thought it would be a good direction.

It has been 1 month since I started the gluten free diet and what a difference. I have energy, the abdominal pain is gone, the weakness is gone, no more fatigue or headaches. I have even gained a few pounds and am back up to the low end of my training weight. I am a functioning human again. I've actually been really good at following the diet and have realized it really isn't too difficult with a little planning. GF food is getting better and we've found some pretty good options and some not so good ones, but you learn as you go. I've cheated twice, once on purpose: dang pumpkin pie and once on accident: duh breaded shrimp has gluten. Both times I suffered for it which tells me this really is my problem.

Over the last month I have taken to reading GF blogs and searching for recipes, it is quite interesting to me that a lot of these blogs are both GF and vegetarian/vegan. One of the surgeons I work with joked that there was a connection between vegetarianism and celiac since there is another surgeon we work with who is celiac and also a vegetarian. I'm also having fun experimenting and have found some good options. The hardest part has been quick foods since so many prepackaged things are gluten, in a way this is good as it prevents me from grabbing the cookies/desserts that are always sitting out at work. I do miss an occasional beer (still haven't tried GF beer) and have yet to find a good cereal to replace the Kashi I lived on.

Now my biggest worry is if this is something that has been passed to Ophelia. She is growing, but slowly and no matter how much I feed her she acts like she is starving. I'll discuss with her ped in a few weeks, but not worrying too much since she is getting much of her diet GF too now.