January 31, 2012

School Lunch

I’ve recently started working at an elementary school’s after school program.  I am the 2nd and 3rd grade leader, in charge of 22 extremely rambunctious kids who have been sitting quietly for seven and a half straight hours and certainly aren’t about to be quiet for one minute more.  The job is challenging but rewarding even though some days I’m “the meanest person EVER!” referring back to the whole trying to stay somewhat quiet thing. 
Last week, I asked some of the kids what they had had for lunch that day.  The vote was split:  “Pizza!” “Nachos!” When I laughed and said that that must have been a pretty fun lunch, they just shrugged their shoulders.  “Nah, it wasn’t very good,” they replied.  Really?!  We’re serving them nachos and pizza, and it’s not even good by an 8-year-old’s standards?!  Now I would love to talk about the fact that Congress just decided to consider the tomato sauce on school pizza to count as a vegetable, but instead I’ll just tell you about what I used to eat at school:  Lucy lunches.
I think Lucy was my friend in preschool, although I couldn’t tell you for certain, because the only thing I remember about Lucy was that she had the best lunches.  Most kids took sandwiches in their lunch boxes, mainly peanut butter and jelly.  Lucy on the other hand never had sandwiches.  She always had a mix match of smaller items:  apples slices, tortilla chips, carrot sticks, string cheese.  I don’t know what about this was so exciting, but it is still to this day my favorite type of lunch.  Not only was it fun, but it was healthy!  And she and I both Loved our lunches, which is more than my kids could say about nachos and pizza. 

What I’ve Been Eating

Chinese New Year’s Dinner:  White rice with stir-fried bok choy, carrots, and spring onions and fried shrimp with spicy garlic honey glaze.  This was Amazing!

Sushi:  Veggie rolls made with cucumber, carrot, and avocado.

Breakfast Quinoa:  Bring ½ cup of quinoa, 1 cup of vanilla almond milk, a cardamom pod, and sprinkle of cinnamon to a boil.  Then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa is translucent.  Serve hot with a little brown sugar.  The perfect thing to fulfill that oatmeal craving!  (Celiac Fact:  Less than 2% of people with celiac disease react to oats, but with my track record, I’m not taking my chances!)

January 16, 2012

The Definition Is...

The FDA is still having a hard time determining what “gluten free” means, and while I normally wouldn’t side with such a ridiculous government organization, I have to say I can’t blame them.  This is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in the US. 
Every time we eat packaged foods, we are putting our well being in the hands of food companies, trusting that they are telling us everything we need to know about the product.  The Washington Post recently explained that many companies are not even testing whether or not their “gluten free” foods have gluten in them, while other companies are testing their products, confirming that gluten is present, and STILL labeling them gluten free!  Are you kidding?!  It’s time for the FDA to crack down on this.  In fact, the decision on defining gluten free was supposed to be completed in 2008, but here we are in 2012 still waiting for an answer. 
Currently 20 ppm or less of gluten is considered gluten free and GRAS (generally recognized as safe) for people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease.  Once the FDA starts enforcing strict testing for gluten free products, that is the standard they will have to meet.  Unfortunately, the severity of my celiac disease causes me to react to only 2 ppm.  So what’s the answer here?  Buy gluten free products produced in Canada.  They have much stricter regulations than we do and make some damn good muffins.

January 7, 2012

Down and Out

Recently while I was listening to Regina Spektor, one of my all time favorite singer/songwriters, I heard a line that I hadn’t noticed before:  “The genius next door was bussing tables.”  And I realized that’s where I am right now…except at least that genius has a job.  Ok, I’m not saying that I’m a genius, but I am quite smart.  I graduated with a great degree from a great university, and here I am sitting in my apartment, sick as a dog, jobless, and I’ll admit a little hopeless right now.
 My celiac symptoms aren’t getting better yet, and my compromised immune system is causing all kinds of other problems.  Today I had to wander outside to buy chicken broth for my cold, yogurt for my antibiotics, and ginger ale for the vomiting that my antibiotics are causing.  I bought all of this while hobbling around the grocery on my cane because my celiac induced vertigo is back.  Let me tell you, I looked like a mess!
But don’t feel bad for me (and trust me, you won’t once you finish this sentence) because I just got back from Fiji!  That’s right, Fiji, the tropical island on the other side of the world.  William’s all too generous aunt and uncle invited me to join them along with William and his two brothers for a week in tropical paradise.  The five of them spent most of their days scuba diving, while I sun bathed, went to the spa, and sipped alcoholic drinks from coconuts.  As it turns out, Fiji is the perfect place for people with celiac disease or dairy allergies seeing as the majority of their food consists of fruit and fish.  Everything I had there was delicious!
So now back in my apartment in cold, gray Boone, I’m looking at pictures from the trip, admiring my extra freckles in the middle of winter, and realizing that maybe all of this is going to work itself out after all.

What I've Been Cooking:

Chicken Broth:  combine various chicken pieces or a whole chicken to a stock pot along with carrots, celery, onions, garlic, peppercorns, parsley, thyme, and salt.  Cover with water and let simmer away until chicken is cooked through.  Strain and you're done.  I like to freeze mine in muffin tins so I can heat up an individual serving when I'm feeling sick or add some to sauces.