My LAVH surgery (hysterectomy) last week was by all appearances a success: My uterus and cervix are no longer with me, but my ovaries are, which means that menopause will come at its own sweet pace. I'm not in a rush for that!
I learned that morphine gives me a wanging headache and nausea. I have learned that I am not alone with these side effects. Why, oh why haven't they come up with some different pain med to start with?
I also learned that distraction, meditation and sleep are darned effective pain management techniques themselves. Whew!
The day after surgery, I felt pretty lousy. Abdominal pain, headache, nausea. I knew I'd feel better at home. The requirements for getting released? 1) Walk; 2) Pee; 3) Eat solid food and keep it down. I figured I could handle #1 and #2, but #3 was going to be a challenge, both from a physical point of view and a logistics point of view. From my pre-hospitalization research, I knew that most of my friends and acquaintances with celiac advised that I not trust the hospital food service to not cross contaminate. I learned from the dietitian at the hospital that they (think they) have pre-packaged gluten-free breads, chips, and cookies, plus they could steam vegetables, etc, and that they would be willing to go to great lengths to bring me whatever would be suitable. That sounded promising, but I decided to not trust them anyway, and I brought a pureed pumpkin soup and a pureed squash soup from Trader Joe's and a microwave-safe bowl so that if I wanted it, my partner Jenn or a nurse or aide on the floor could nuke it for me. I still felt pretty queasy, but I thought I could manage the soup long enough to get out of the hospital. By this time I had been off the morphine for about 12 hours, and I was loaded with anti-nausea medication, so I figured I had a 50-50 shot at success. Unfortunately the nurse ruled that pureed soup didn't count as solid food and that I'd need something more.
Argh! Should have brought some gluten-free crackers! The hospital's food service machine was invoked to see what might be on hand. I was actually quite surprised that in less than half an hour a gluten-free vegetarian tray of solid food appeared. The broccoli and green beans were WAY overcooked, so I'm guessing that they didn't boil 'em up special for me, increasing the possibility of cross-contamination. They did bring packaged and clearly marked potato chips and cookies, which turned out to be my ticket home.
So, my advice to you for your next hospitalization: Like me, you may not be interested in food at all, but take something just in case. I had a gf clear broth that Jenn brought for my liquid diet day, and comforting sounding soups for my solid food day. I wish I had packed some mild gf crackers, since hospitals and nurses seem to understand that crackers = solid food. I think that hospital food service will get more responsive over time, but the distance between the room and the kitchen is a very wide gulf and there is no real way to reassure a gluten-intolerant patient that food handling procedures are safe. I'd actually suggest to any hospital listening that they do like the airlines and get hermetically sealed microwavable gluten-free meals to increase the consumer's confidence in the product.
My surgery +5 day postscript is that I am amazingly uninterested in food. I'm not hungry and nothing sounds good. Coffee is gross. Sleep, meditation, distraction and pain meds are very popular with me right now. I know this is temporary, so I'm trying to appreciate the gift of enforced rest and all of the warm wishes from family and friends.
They got the gluten-free message, but not the vegetarian thing. I sent the chicken broth away but eventually ate the frozen ice treat.
Chips and cookies were my ticket home
I had dinner at HipCityVeg
, 127 S. 18th in Center City Philadelphia. The place is tiny, maybe 4 small tables plus window seating - zoned for takeout only, so no bathroom. A hostess-type person was there to answer my questions. I think her primary role is to help keep things moving along when it's busy, but it was not crowded at 5 pm so she was able to talk me through the menu at length. By 5:30, there was a line out the door.
The hostess was VERY up on issues regarding cross-contamination, steering me away from fried items since they do not have a dedicated gluten-free fryer and accurately naming gluteny items that would need substitutions or omissions. They did not have a gf-dedicated menu, but there were probably 6 or more items either gluten-free as listed or easily modifiable.
I had the curry tofu not-wrap served on a bed of spinach with sprouts, tomato, cilantro-white bean purée & cucumber raita. Delicious. It was a big serving and a great value for $8.00. All of the packaging is compostable too. Bonus!
I will return! Maybe not at peak meal hours since the little place really filled up. But there is a lot of menu there left for me to explore.
Adding greens to smoothies is, as I'm sure you've heard already, a great way to increase your consumption of those health miracle greens. I drink a green smoothie just about every morning. One version I invented is savory and uses spicy V8 juice. I like berries immensely and they make a delicious and refreshing drink. I've done a bit of experimenting with random ingredients (not a big fan of raw beets or romaine lettuce in my blender breakfast, by the way.) In my opinion, to make a tasty smoothie, you need something frozen and something with a little fat in it to make it creamy. Avocado or nuts can be good creamy ingredient for savory shakes. Banana is great for sweet ones. Until yesterday, I had never used peaches. I'm so glad a bag of the frozen beauties snuck their way into my freezer! I'm happy to share this recipe with you.
This recipe comes with three warnings:
1) If you've never used kale in a smoothie, substitute spinach instead. Kale is very good for you, but I have to admit the first time I put it in a smoothie I likened the experience to glurping down grass clippings. Yes, glurping. No lie. Spinach is also quite healthy and it liquifies in the blender. Kale just gets littler and littler. I recommend easing into the green smoothie experience with spinach, a more blender-friendly green.
2) If you have never used protein powder before, don't start with this recipe. I mean, you can, but I'd hate for you to decide that my green smoothies have a gritty or chalky taste as a function of their greenness. I started using a protein powder about a year ago to boost my, well, protein. Duh, right? I read somewhere about balance between the macronutrients of protein, carbs and fats and decided as a nearly vegan vegetarian that I could use some more grams of protein. After trying probably half a dozen varieties, I have decided I like the unflavored Garden of Life Raw Protein powder. I prefer it because it does not have artificial sweeteners or added sugar (which means I can put it in sweet and savory smoothies), it doesn't contain dairy, it has 17 grams of protein per serving, and it is of course gluten-free. It's also loaded with other good stuff that I liken to taking a nutritional supplement. Those good points don't change the inherent nature that makes protein powder a rather distinctive and to many, unpleasant, beverage additive. I think the taste is tolerable and the health benefits trump my tastebuds. You can easily leave it out of this recipe.
3) I do not really measure my smoothie ingredients. I usually make them early in the morning. I throw ingredients at the blender and see what happens. Quantities below are estimates. Please don't get mad if it's a little off. Always adjust to your own tastes. Start with less greens if they make you nervous. Use more almond milk if you prefer a thinner beverage. Experimenting can be fun. Let me know what you came up with!
1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
1 cup frozen kale
1/2 cup frozen peaches
1 medium banana
1 teaspoon of toasted flaxseeds (the ones from Trader Joe's are delicious!)
1 scoop of protein powder
Pour the almond milk and kale into the blender. Pulse and blend on high until it's a liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients a little at a time, blending after each addition. Once everything is in the blender and moving, keep blending for a 90 seconds or 2 minutes (this will feel like forever, especially if you are blending in the pre-dawn hours and everyone else in your house is still sleeping.)
Pour the contents into a glass. Drink it through a straw. Feel very satisfied and secretly nutritionally morally superior to people eating Corn Chex. Take a picture and post it on Facebook.
We had a combined Meet-up of Gluten-free Delaware County
, Philadelphia Gluten-free Potlucks
, and Gluten-free Philadelphia
recently at Sazon
, 941 Spring Garden Street, 19123 in Philadelphia. Nearly a dozen of us met for Sunday brunch and the owners Robert and Judith were prepared for us and made additional adjustments to their already plentiful gluten-free options. The fare at Sazon is Venezuelan, and while one might (rightly) think steak, they also had many vegetarian options to choose from. My sandwich, pictured at the right, was the La Selva, a "Grilled Veggie Delight: portabella mushrooms, eggplant, green pepper, tomatoes, onion and spinach infused with cilantro pesto" for $9.00. It was a towering scupture of food, impossible to eat without dissassembly. I LOVE getting a lot of food for my order! The arepa, the corn "bun" that it was served on, was an excellent delivery vehicle for these freshly grilled veggies.
And of course I ordered flan. On the recommendation of the server, I got the coconut flan. Most fabulous! Smooth, creamy, caramelly. Loved it. I also ordered a churo with chocolate sauce to take home to Jenn, who was holding down the household while I went on my gluten-free excursion. The churro, a fried dough sort of affair sprinkied with cinnamon and powdered sugar, is also gluten-free, made from yucca flour. Doughnutty delicious! I don't eat chocolate, but Sazon is known for theirs, made from actual Venezuelan cocoa beans. It smelled heavenly. Jenn liked the chocolate WITH the churro, but frankly admits that it is best appreciated with just a spoon.
I highly recommend Sazon for safe and tasty gluten-free dining! Check 'em out.
Before I got the celiac diagnosis, Seven Stones
was one of those places I was pleased to have discovered and I introduced a number of friends and family to it. After diagnosis, I worried that I couldn't eat there, and frankly I didn't for more than a year. They don't appear in UrbanSpoon as gluten-free friendly, they aren't on the restaurant list of Gluten Free Philly, and so the only thing that gave me hope was their own blog/web post
about their gluten free spinach and cheese quiche with corn tortillas for a crust from December 2011. Intrigued, I called them up the day before I wanted to go. I didn't want to get there only to discover that it was a seasonal thing that they didn't have any more. On the contrary, the woman who answered the phone confirmed that they not only have the gf quiche, but they also have gf soups and can make any of their sandwiches on gf bagels or bread.
Eureka! I invited my friend Lori to join me for lunch/brunch the next day, a Sunday. The day was quite rainy and their albeit dining room was packed, though we did eventually get a table. I did my usual gf inquiry/interogation of the people behind the counter. Since they make the sandwiches in the back where I can't watch, I asked if they are familiar with techniques for avoiding cross-contamination. The counter person helping me seemed a little stumped, but a man who had been in the back overheard the question and confirmed that they do indeed keep and prepare the gf sandwich fixin's in a separate location. [The place looks fairly small back there, and my confidence wasn't that high regarding the segregation of gluten from non, so those of you who are extremely sensitive will want to evaluate it for yourself or steer clear until more canaries go down the mine.] I eventually decided to try the lentil soup for right then -- the weather that day totally called for soup -- and I ordered a piece of the quiche to go.
I was pleased with the soups (Lori graciously let me take he picture with food AND she let me try her veggie soup too) -- warm and comforting and filling and very much like soup I would make. Not amazing, but tasty nevertheless. I split the quiche from my partner later in the day (my half with salad pictured below). She knew it was gf but not that it was a corn tortilla. We both liked the quiche (and I liked that it came with a generous portion of green salad), and my only suggestion for modification would be to play up the tortilla thing and give it some Mexican spices and maybe throw in some pepper and tomatoes. Since I totally plan on trying the tortilla-as-quiche-crust thing, I know that's what I'll do.
So YAY! for an inexpensive, low-key, drop-in sort of place for gf fare in Media! I am happy to be able to reclaim it as one of my favorite places to go. Thanks Lori!
Last night's No Starch Stirfry
Cauliflower, broccoli, a red pepper past it prime, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, and a tablespoon of walnuts, sauteed in a tablespoon of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook it til you're bored. Include onions and add gf soy sauce and serve over rice for a more traditional stirfry. Personally, I'm working on minimizing grains, and the great taste is driven by the veggies. Make a lot and enjoy!
I was so taken with the attractiveness of my dinner last night that I snapped a picture of it and shared in on Twitter in a short conversation with @gfdougie (who also has a helpful blog: http://glutenfreetip.com/
). I was flattered when he asked for the recipe, because it is essentially just fresh vegetables cut up and and a tablespoon of chopped walnuts sauteed in a little olive oil in a non-stick pan with some Trader Joe's smoked sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, and sometimes (but not last night) I throw on some nutritional yeast. If you are thinking "I could never take the time to chop all those veggies," here are some tricks:
1) Buy them already cut up if possible. Produce Junction sells bags of broccoli florets. It's easy to find mushrooms already sliced. A nutritionist friend of mine suggested this to me a long time ago, and I felt strangely freed from the guilt of not doing all the chopping myself.
2) Since many fresh veggies are fine eaten raw, chop them big (which goes much faster) and cook them longer or shorter depending on your patience level. This won't work for folks who have trouble with raw veggies, but I find them most enjoyable when there is still some structure left to them. Not crunchy exactly, but that place between crunchy and soft. "Cook it til you're bored" is a common phrase in our house for recipes.
3) See my blog post on Beans and Greens
(another common go-to dinner in my house) for other ideas for seasonings to keep things interesting. Keep it easy!
Yes! Candle Cafe
was definitely the culinary highlight of Jenn's and my recent trip to New York. It's a vegan restaurant with a dedicated gf menu
and loads of stuff for the celiac and gluten intolerant crowd. It was an easy walk from the Met, casual enough that our travel-and-museum ensembles of jeans and mostly comfortable shoes were not out of place, but with enough ambiance to befit a date on Saturday night. We arrived at 7:45 pm and though the place was crowded, we lucked into getting a table right away (they don't take reservations.)
I had the Paradise Casserole: "Layers of sweet potato, black beans and millet over steamed greens with country gravy" for $16. With the gravy, it was moist and flavorful and greens were gently prepared and had loads of personality. Jenn ordered the Mediterranian wrap in a whole wheat pita for $14 followed by chocolate mousse pie. The serving sizes were generous, the prices reasonable, the service impecible, and the food was delicious! I highly recommend Candle Cafe East if you are in the vacinity of Central Park. And if you are on the Upper West Side, check out Candle Cafe West, the more swanky cousin of the original Candle Cafe. At least I think they are more swanky -- they take reservations.
I haven't talked much about my weight loss journey, but since it's the season of over-indulgence, I thought I'd share. I was always on the heavy side and decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to be thinner. It was a warm day in late April in 2009, my shorts from the year before were too tight, and my family had joined a neighborhood pool that was set to open in 6-weeks' time. I finally felt like I had had enough and I was ready to do the work to change things.
Like everyone, I had barriers to eating better and exercising more. I have been a vegetarian for a long time, but I was eating lots of cheese and milk and ice cream, so my main approach was to cut out full-fat dairy, cut out snacking, reduce portion size, and start walking. I decided that walking could be sustainable, and that I probably wouldn't be able to keep up with something strenuous or unpleasant. I work full-time, and the only time I had to walk was very early in the morning, while my partner and two kids were still asleep. After a few days of walking and dieting, I felt like I was starving and went on-line looking for motivation to stick with it. I found a great site called PEERtrainer
, which has a lot of great articles about changing one's approach to eating (not just about dieting). I got exposed to and began following the Eat to Live approach put forth by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
. Eat to Live is heavy into high nutrient foods, especially green leafies, and low in animal products and refined carbs like breads. There is no calorie counting; you can eat all the fruits and vegetables and legumes that you want. I also joined some small on-line groups and teams through PEERtrainer, began logging my meals and exercise, and generally found accountability and support. I lost 30 pounds in 6 months, getting down to my goal weight of 125.
Through one of my groups I learned about a website call "Couch to 5K
" and decided to give running a try, since I felt like the long walks early in the morning were taking too long, and maybe I could get the same or more benefit if I went faster. Lo and behold, I found I actually LIKED it! I'm still doing it, running 3.75 miles 5 days a week, sometimes longer or more often, so I guess it's pretty sustainable. I also joined a VERY inexpensive gym -- $10 a month -- so that when the weather is too cold or yucky, I can do a circuit workout or treadmill there. And my other other back-up for days that I can't run and can't get myself to the gym are workouts at home. We have the Wii, so I do Wii Fit Plus or EA Sports Active workouts OR I do workouts that are in the On Demand section of our cable subscription. Some days I do really hard ones, like Jillian Michaels. Other days I do much gentler ones, like the walking series by Leslie Sansone
. I try not to let myself off the exercise hook very often. It's so much easier for me to stick to the routine than to go day-by-day.
I got the celiac diagnosis a year ago and have gained back 12 pounds. Part of it is likely a function of a healed gut. The other part is that I'm eating more refined carbs. I think it's the psychology of deprivation. Since I can't eat most of the refined carbs in the world, when one crosses my path that I CAN eat, I have a hard time saying no. The good news is that Eat to Live is VERY compatible with a GF diet. I also slacked off on the frequency and intensity of my workouts. I just need to get refocused on why I want to be thinner and return to doing what works. In some ways it's a hard time of year, since there are so many temptations. But in some ways it's easier for me because I know the temptations are everywhere and I can have my healthy eating plan ready to implement when temptation crosses my path.
I hope you'll check out the links above for extra ideas and motivation. I couldn't have lost the original 30 without them, and groups like this one and the ones I mentioned will be key to my re-losing the 12. Oh, and none of them cost me any money. They all do seem to have something to sell, but I used nothing but free content at the websites and got books from the library. (I did buy the EA Sports active for wii, but my kids use it too!)
Like everybody in America, we are preparing for Thanksgiving. It will be my first gluten-free Tofurkey Day. Which means no Tofurkey for me. Of course, we didn't eat tofurkey for most of our Thanksgivings together, because we heard it was awful. In the intervening years, we ate stuffed squash, which was ymmy. It was acorn squash with a wild and brown rice stuffing that had tofu, dates, nuts and cheese. Then we heard tofurkey was good, so we tried it a few years ago. It was great! Turkey was my favorite food as a kid, so it was nice to have this very turkey-like food in my life. Squash took a back seat and we recreated our tradition around it and one of the best parts of that is that the boys like it. The squash is a tough sell. For me, the squash will make a reappearance, and I expect it won't be too angry that it lost its place of importance for awhile in our traditions.
The good news is I have an easy answer for people who ask what I will be eating for Thanksgiving. I will not to be a whiner or feel sorry for myself. I will not.
So as I cracked open the fourth egg in my little baking project yesterday, I admitted that i can't really call myself a vegan any more. I became a vegan for health reasons, though I could also get behind the ethical reasons also. And maybe I'll return to veganism again. For now though, while I figure out how to handle the GF diet, I'm conceding that eggs are part of my story for now.
So back to the eggs. I decided that the tapioca bread I took on the mini-vacation just wasn't good enough to continue to pretend to be bread. Plus, it has no fiber or any other redeeming nutritional value. I suspect that it instantly turns to sugar after being chewed. So what else was there to do but throw a bunch of sugar and eggs and vanilla soy milk on it, bake it, and call it bread pudding? What else SHOULD you do with bread made out of tapioca?
So, the end result was okay. I'd be very dissapointed if I ordered it in a restaurant -- too sweet -- so next time (and knowing my sweet tooth, there WILL be a next time) I'll cut the sugar or use regular almond milk.