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Aloo Gobi Success June 4, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in cooking, food.
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I love it when a recipe finally works.

When I have the chance to eat Indian food, one of the things I always look for is Aloo Gobi – Cauliflower with potatoes. I’m pretty sure it’s one of those every-family-makes-this-a-little-bit-differently kind of recipes, much like the generic “spaghetti dinner” will be a little different depending at whose table you’re sitting. It can even vary from day to day when made by the same cook or the same restaurant. I think it’s one of those “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” type of recipes and will vary depending on how much of each ingredient the cook has on hand.

I’ve tried to follow a recipe with limited success. It was acceptable but not wonderful. Now that has changed because I tried a mix. I tend to avoid mixes and see them as cheating but someone gave me this one and I couldn’t waste it, right? Besides, I had a cauliflower in my fridge begging to be turned into Aloo Gobi. I had to buy a couple of potatoes and fresh tomatoes to fill out the recipe, although I suppose I could have used some canned tomatoes from my pantry. (There was a time I could never keep enough potatoes on hand to satisfy my family. Now that it’s just me at home, even the small bags of potatoes tend to go bad before I can eat them all.)

I call this success:

Aloo GobiThe color is good, the balance of spices is perfect, the heat was just right (I added a half of a Serrano pepper)… it was delicious! It could have used a little more potato so I suppose it wasn’t 100% successful, but I’d give it a 98%.

If you want to give this mix a whirl, the brand name is Arora Creations. I’m definitely looking for more of their mixes.


Why I Don’t Eat Wheat January 5, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Allergies, food, GF, Gluten Free, Wheat.
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Today is Saturday. On Monday I ate a fast food cheeseburger. It was delicious with a soft, fresh bun, just greasy enough to add flavor without detracting, nicely balanced with tomato, pickle and lettuce, individual condiments (mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard) rather than some sort of combined “secret sauce.” I enjoyed it immensely if a bit guiltily. I knew when I was eating it that I was making a mistake and this week has proved that I was right.

Two years ago I found out I was allergic to wheat. I’d been suffering with allergy problems for a long, long time — years and years, in fact — with no luck figuring them out. I couldn’t find a pattern with environmental exposure. Time of day or season of the year didn’t seem to have any impact. Over the counter allergy meds seemed to have no affect. I had constant post nasal drip causing constant coughing. And by constant, I really do mean constant. I was sucking on at least 10 cough drops a day and still both friends and strangers would ask if I was ok or if I needed help — a cough drop maybe, or a drink of water. At least twice a year I’d see the Doctor for a sinus infection and there were many more I was able to fend off before I needed antibiotics. A few times the sinus infection progressed on to bronchitis. If I went to Urgent Care and a new Doctor would look up my nose, they would always make a comment like “you definitely have some allergies going on here”. Overall, I was a mess.

Finally, at my annual physical, I told my Doctor I was tired of this and we needed to figure out just what was causing these problems. She ordered a blood test to look for allergies. Truthfully, I was expecting the results to show something environmental. Dust mites maybe, or cat dander. I figured once we identified the allergen, I would address it as I was able and also start taking a strong, focused anti-allergy medication. Let’s face it, I’m never going to get rid of dust in my house even if I was able to radically change my housecleaning habits. And I’m not giving away my cat (although at the time we were fostering a second cat and I definitely would have asked the owner to find a different home until she was able to take her back).

A few days later my Doctor called me, said my results were in and that I was allergic to wheat. Seriously? Wheat? I would need to stop eating wheat? But I like foods with wheat. No, honestly I love them. This was two weeks before Christmas, the most wheat filled season of the year. Cookies. Cardamom Rolls. Breads. More Cookies. Christmas is a wheat extravaganza. I had no idea that a food allergy could cause hay-fever like symptoms and I was not at all pleased with this news.

I coughed my way through Christmas and started eating Wheat Free January 1, 2011. Mostly I eat a very slightly relaxed Gluten Free diet. I can fudge the GF part in some areas — I seem to be able to tolerate barley, for instance, and that is not allowed on a strict GF diet. I’ve learned to read food labels before purchase, and again before eating. Some things surprised me. Soy Sauce for instance. I thought Soy Sauce was just soy. I had no idea wheat was an ingredient. And I had to learn the ways wheat can hide in foods — “modified food starch” is a big no-no for me, unless the label explicitly says it is made from corn. I cleaned up my diet (losing weight in the process!) and all those awful physical symptoms went away.

I slip once in a while. Sometimes it’s because I’m not paying attention and sometimes I’m fully aware of what I’m doing. I try not to cheat often but I’ve learned that if I pop a benadryl before ingesting wheat I can fend off some of the symptoms. Not all of them, and often it takes a few benadryl over a few days but it suppresses enough to make eating the “forbidden” food acceptable every once in a while. I still get the post nasal drip and annoying cough (and maybe the gut problems I describe below) but at least I don’t sound so bad that people edge away from me in the elevator, hoping to avoid whatever nasty germs I might carry.

In December I cheated a few times (hey, it was Christmas, the wheat extravaganza, it’s hard staying wheat free in December!), ending with the fast food cheeseburger on New Years Eve. Maybe it was a cumulative effect of a month’s worth of pushing the wheat envelope or maybe that cheeseburger was especially wheat-heavy but this week I’ve been pretty miserable. I decided to chronicle the effects on my body so when I’m tempted again I can remind myself that yes, it really is that bad to indulge.

Day 1: I was driving my son to Indiana and neither of us had eaten much before we started the trip. We were hungry and I was craving a cheeseburger. I was grumpy and tired enough to feel self-indulgent. When we stopped for food I popped a benadryl and didn’t even consider healthier options. Yes I did enjoy that burger, trying to eat slowly and savor the experience. I think I even closed my eyes with ecstasy at one point. I think I would have liked it more if we’d found a Wendy’s (how I loved their burgers) but it was delicious. Even with the benadryl, the post-nasal drip started down my throat by that afternoon, causing me to clear my throat and cough a bit. I took another benadryl before bed.

Day 2: New Years Day started with me congested and coughing and popping another benadryl. Throughout the day I also suffered a stomach-ache with cramps and loose bowels. Back before I was diagnosed with my wheat allergy, I didn’t pay much attention to my ‘gut issues.’ (This gets a little graphic, so you might want to skip on to Day 3.) I thought my frequently loose and occasionally explosive bowels was just how my body expelled waste. After all, I don’t know many adults who sit around and discuss their bowel habits so I didn’t have much to compare myself with. I never really had full-fledged diarrhea except when suffering from a true intestinal ailment, but for years and years, my bowels were loose and frequent. Once I eliminated wheat from my diet, my output was both more regular and solid. I can’t quite believe I’m putting that information out there for all to read but it’s all part of my wheat story. You now know more about me that you ever expected. Or wanted.

Day 3: The congestion is leading to sleep issues. I wake up coughing a few times each night and I’m breathing mostly through my mouth rather than my nose. I started my day with benadryl once again. I’m sure the cold weather added to my coughing — it was bad enough that one of my commuter buddies commented “I had that bug for two weeks without relief. You’d better take care of yourself.” I had to dig the bag of cough drops out of my desk drawer to stay socially acceptable at work and coughed my way through choir practice in the evening. Still suffering with mild cramping and bowel issues.

Day 4: In the office again fighting a horrid sinus headache. If I was at home, I would give in and sleep it off. Unfortunately, they aren’t so understanding about that at work so I took yet another benadryl and a couple ibuprofen. That knocked it out enough so I could function but didn’t quite get rid of it.

Day 5: Still slightly congested. My sinuses are “sticky” — you know how when you’re at the tail end of a cold and no longer constantly dripping but still dealing with ‘something’ up there. Your sinuses feel ‘thick’. Maybe it’s because there is still junk up there or maybe it’s because I’m still a bit swollen from the allergy attack. Whatever it is, it’s annoying and still affecting my sleep. I continue to breathe through my mouth more than my nose. My gut still doesn’t feel normal.

Day 6: Today. Saturday. I don’t think I’ve taken a benadryl since Thursday but maybe I forgot about one. I saw this lovely visage in the mirror this morning. Notice the still puffy eyes and dark circles. Ignore the lack of makeup. Before I eliminated wheat from my diet, my eyes always looked like this, or even worse. I think it’s safe to say this is from a combination of poor diet and poor sleep caused by that poor diet.

Open Eyes

So, was that burger worth how I’ve felt this past week? No, not really. I loved the burger but that enjoyment was not worth a week (or more) of feeling crappy. I’m not posting this for sympathy because honestly, eliminating wheat from my diet has brought so much good into my life. I am so much healthier than I was two years ago. Yes I have to make choices and sometimes those choices make me feel deprived. Boo hoo. Poor me. I’m posting this so I remember the next time I’m tempted. I don’t want to spend another week popping benadryl to survive. In fact, I don’t want to simply survive, I want to enjoy my life. It’s hard to enjoy life when one feels like crap all the time. Eating wheat free is my freedom from constantly feeling like crap. That’s why I don’t eat wheat.

Cooking Dinner September 21, 2007

Posted by phoenixhopes in cooking, food, Uncategorized.

Maybe if I did my grocery shopping Fridays on the way home from work, the week between paydays I would be more realistic. Those nights find me exhausted, mentally spent, brain dead, and cash poor. Timing shopping then might mean that I’d bring something home that would actually get cooked and eaten during the week instead of food that languishes in my fridge longing for attention.

Instead I tend to shop Saturday morning the day after payday. I’m feeling, well, not rich exactly, but maybe a little spendy. Creative. Ambitious. Hungry. I buy things that actually need cooking rather than heating up. I imagine that I’ll make muffins or banana bread or maybe even an apple pie. I picture real meals with a vegetable, starch and meat and a dessert even. I imagine that we’ll sit around the table, enjoying good food and great conversation. Of course the children will love everything I cook even if it includes mushrooms.

Then the week happens. Up too early and out the door for a too long day. Home 12 hours later and I try to remember what I had planned to do what that lovely food. Meatloaf? Marinated chicken breasts? Cauliflour? I can’t fathom any of it.

I make pancakes (a mix, just add water), eggs and toast, ramen (if I’m creative, maybe add a chicken breast), mac and cheese (I’m not sure there’s a way to make that adult friendly but I keep trying), tuna sandwiches, tacos. The only requirement seems to be how quickly I can get it on the table with the least amount of effort on my part.

I’d like to think that a day will come when I have the time and energy to remember how to cook. In the meantime, I hope the kids can taste the love.