Answers to My Personal Medical Mystery

I’ve not updated in a very long time, but I am today because I was going through this site and realized that you guys never did find out what was *actually* wrong with me.  On December 2, 2012, I landed in the ER with jaundice, severe nausea, excruciating pain and more of the same.  The ultrasound technician found several large nodules on my liver of an unknown cause.  After exhaustive testing, it was determined that I was suffering from a Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction that was causing digestive enzymes to back up into my pancreas and liver.  The pressure was causing the pain and eating low residue foods (like many of the things included in the GF diet) had kept it from spilling over more quickly.  After many corrective surgeries, I went back for an MRI on my liver in October 2013.  The nodules were completely gone, as well as the impregnation of the tissues that had originally been identified as fatty liver disease.

Although I am still slowly working toward permanently correcting the severe malnutrition I’ve suffered from being such an unthrifty digester for so many years, I am improving.  The nerve pain and lack of motor control is improving every day (I was also suffering from a severe calcium, potassium and magnesium deficiency and wildly uncontrolled diabetes from digesting my own pancreas) and my blood sugars are normalizing.  I haven’t had chronic diarrhea for months.  There may still be some digestive issues under it all, but the heart of the thing… the root of it, was that Sphincter of Oddi.

I am absolutely the farthest thing from a doctor, but I also know how frustrating and horrible it can be to be sick forever with no hope or end in sight.  If your Celiac disease is only suspected and not confirmed by a positive blood test and biopsy, I urge you to have someone who understands the hepatic system to look at your bile duct.  I got *so* lucky, but I know many of you haven’t hit the medical lottery yet.  My best to you all.  ~Kristi

Updates and a lack thereof

Hi. Sorry for the lack of updates, but I may very well no longer upkeep this blog (though I know it is useful for you guys, so I won’t delete it). I’ve recently gotten some very … well, bad isn’t the word, but it’s not good… news about my health and am still sorting through it all. I’ve had an incident that has caused a dis-coordination between my left side and my right side that I am working to correct, but it makes cooking especially difficult because Lefty keeps breaking things and messing things up!

Blog on, my friends, blog on.

Gluten Free Cooking Rut

Boys and girls, friends and neighbors, I am officially in a GF rut. :P  I’ve been spending so much time in my garden and fiddling with chickens that I have really not been leaving any time for recipe development.  For that, I apologize.

If you’d like to see what I HAVE been doing, check out my garden blog at Clicky  I’ve also been struggling with the Cold From Hell, but that’s not mentioned anywhere in there. ;P

~Kristi

6 Week “Clean Out The Pantry” Challenge

Hello, girls and boys!  I’ve noticed that I’m picking up a bad habit of… er… picking up extra things at the grocery store.  You know, a can of tomatoes here, a bag of noodles there… and now I have so much it won’t fit in the pantry!  The only solution is a moratorium on grocery acquisition (except milk and eggs).

So, today, I declare that I will not buy another grocery item (except milk and eggs) until April 1, 2009.  AND I promise to post anything I happen to cobble together that is remotely interesting. :)

Ta Ta for now!

Gluten Free Diet Confusion Revisited

Today I got a really strange comment to my blog.  And, yes, I deleted it, because I wanted to be able to comment on what I feel is an incredibly dangerous opinion in response to my GF Diet Confusion post.  Here it is and below are my feelings on this post.

“These are true assumptions about gluten. But I am not going to be strictly GF simply because I CANNOT live without eating something. I am a human being. I need food. I need different kinds of food, especially those that are rich in vitamins. Bread might have bad gluten, but hey – I am unsure that I am celiac also!
Besides, I plan to stick to the best organic dark brown (or is it called black) bread that I can afford. Fortunately it has no yeast or sugar etc.
I would also like to comment on your blog about the right to share information. On my blog I have written a few articles about gluten as well as casein and candida infections. I am not a physician. In fact I am only 22. What I do is share my knowledge of the world. This is not bad in any way. I have also clearly stated that my posts reflect what I know about the world, and not what is truth actually.
People are clever – they might stumble upon my blog and learn something new. Then they read I cannot rule out grains… because I am simple and poor. I prefer to learn more about my body and its sophisticated needs. That way I can find out the truth about my own personal constitution. It is so clear – people will kinda know me as a person.
I hope you got my idea!
Namaste!”

- First of all, I’m hoping this is a native speaker of a language other than English, and perhaps that will help with some of my immediate alarm.

-Secondly, if you are CELIAC, gluten will ultimately kill you in slow and degrading ways.

-Third, gluten intolerance is currently thought to be autoimmune as well, so there’s not a good reason to risk it when there’s so much rice in the world.

I’d like to say to this person that I’ve been sick most of my life; there is not a single day that I wouldn’t give anything to have back, knowing what I know now.  I’m chronically anaemic, I suffer from debilitating pain and have problems with practically every part of my digestive system because (I believe) of a diagnosis that took entirely too long.  I’ve run up TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars in medical bills (most of which I cannot ever dream of repaying); endured painful and ultimately unnecessary surgeries, treatments and degrading testing; and been treated like a loon by more medical professionals than I care to recount.  I would never have had to endure a bit of it had someone known to test me for Celiac when I was much, much younger (my mother thinks around age 8… almost 21 years ago — it apparently came up, but my childhood doctor couldn’t get the testing supplies).

I’ve been denied the ability to make a decent living, I cannot get affordable medical insurance that’s worth having (I currently have a $15,000 deductable), my dreams have been destroyed by the fear that at any moment a complication could rear its ugly head.  I am studying to teach Online so that I can continue to work and not be forced to live off of the meager safety nets that America has in place (but it is highly unlikely I will ever be able to hold a full time job because dealing with my complications is pretty much a full time job).  I am isolated because of my embarrassment that I might have to explain my disease to someone new.

If you have a problem with gluten that is autoimmune in nature, if you’re aware of it and you choose to ignore it, you’re sentencing yourself to a life of pain, loneliness and frustration.  Welcome to my world; it’s not a pretty one and not one I would wish on anyone else.  I will continue to do what I can to improve the lives of Celiacs and to further the migration of verified and proven information as long as I live… with any luck, the generations of Celiacs that come after me will be diagnosed more quickly and suffer fewer of the effects of long-term exposure to gluten.

Recipe: Mutter Paneer

Mmmm... Mutter Paneer on a bed of lovely rice.

Mmmm... Mutter Paneer on a bed of lovely rice.

This is based on a recipe I found in a cookbook called “Vegetarian” by Fiona Biggs.  Of course, as true to form, I made some changes to make it more to my liking.  Enjoy!  Word on the street is that you can buy Paneer already made in a package, but I’ve never seen it so I just make my own.

Paneer
Ingredients:
10 cups full fat milk
5 tblsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Directions:
1.  Put milk in a large container, non-stick would be best.  Slowly bring it to a roiling boil, stirring occassionally to keep milk bits from sticking (and they will, oh God, they will).

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Milk and lemon juice (I only made a half recipe of Mutter Paneer)

2.  When milk boils, immediately add lemon juice and remove from heat.  Stir a few times until the curds and whey magically seperate.  If this doesn’t happen, add more lemon juice until it does.

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MAGIC!

3.  Let your curds and whey stand a few minutes to cool (or risk scalding burns) and then pour through a cheesecloth.  I like to put mine in a small strainer and sit it inside a collander for support, but use what you’ve got, plus the cheesecloth.

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Small strainer in a collander. Put your cheesecloth inside the strainer.

4.  When cheese is fully drained (this will depend on many factors, just keep an eye on it), move it to a piece of wax paper that’s too big.  Fold the sides over the cheese and place a weight bigger than the cheese mass on top.  Allow weight to work for at least a half hour, more is better.

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This is what dry cheese should look like.

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Cheese wad pressed between wax paper.

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5.  When cheese is cool, cut into cubes and fry in a non-stick pan.  Don’t burn it!  No more than 5 minutes, tops… we’re looking for brown, not black.  Flip with tongs and get the other side, too.  I don’t usually do the short sides, this steps is really just to keep the cheese from falling apart (and it carmelizes the cheese nicely, too).

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Delicious fried cheese!! (This is pretty good all by itself, btw)

6.  Remove cheese from fry pan and let cool until further notice.
Mutter Paneer
Ingredients:
4 tblsp vegetable oil
2 onions, quartered and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed (or minced)
1 inch piece of gingerroot, minced
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. ground tumeric
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 cups frozen peas
8 oz. chopped tomatoes (canned are ok)
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Paneer from above

Directions:
1.)  Heat your oil in the pan.  Add onions, cook for about a minute and then add garlic.  Cook these for 2 minutes or so, don’t let the garlic burn.  Add your spices and garlic and let them fry for about a minute.  Stir them into the onion, garlic and oil mixture until they are mixed well.

2.)  Add stock and tomatoes and allow to cook until tomatoes start to darken (for fresh tomatoes).  Add peas, mix well and cook until peas are warm.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3.)  Add paneer, stir well.  Cook until paneer is warm.  Add cilantro and serve!

Method: Gluten Free Sushi Rolls

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Yum! YUM YUM YUM. This picture makes me hungry. ;)

Sushi has got to be one of my favorite things to stick in my face, and one of the riskiest in my area due to a pretty major language barrier.  When we’ve gone out for sushi, it seems like the sushi chefs always like to substitute something when you ask to leave something else out (and it almost always has got gluten!).  So, I only have sushi at home now… and man, it’s a money saver!!!!!!!

I read this sushi book by Kimiko Barber and Hiroki Takemura and it influenced me a great deal.  I also learned a lot from watching people at sushi bars make sushi… so my methods aren’t really what you would call “authentic” but they are certainly tasty! :)

Sushi rice is the first thing you have to do, always.  Here’s my sushi rice recipe, it will make about 6 rolls:

Ingredients (Part 1):
1 1/2 cups sushi rice (this is a short grain sticky rice, so make sure you get the real deal)
2 cups hot water
salt, to taste
4 tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sweet rice cooking wine
1/4 cup unflavored rice vinegar

Directions (Part 1):
1)  In your rice cooker, add rice and hot water and some salt.  Let it cook your rice while you do the next step.  If you don’t have a rice cooker, well, you’re on your own. ;)  We eat so much rice here that we have a rice cooker to simplify things… if you’re Celiac, it would be a good idea to invest in a decent one.  Mine has fuzzy logic, so even if I do something stupid, the rice generally comes out good.

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Only use real sushi rice... it will make your life easier!

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My friend, the rice cooker.

2)  In a small saucepan, combine  last four ingredients.  Cook over medium heat until the liquid turns clear.  DON’T LET IT BOIL!  Remove from heat and let cool while you wait for your rice.

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Be sure to stir this to dissolve the particles.

3)  Here’s where we depart largely from tradition.  Find a large metal bowl and dump your rice in it (once it’s cooked).  Be careful, that bowl is getting ready to get HOT!  Using a rice paddle, mix in the vinegar mix that you made and cooled on the stove (remember it?).  Allow the mixture to sit on the counter for a half hour or so, then give it another good stir.

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Cooked, but unseasoned sushi rice in a metal bowl. That white thing is a rice paddle, it helps a lot!

You should notice that the rice is sucking up the excess liquid.  Let the rice cool a total of about 90 minutes, stirring every 15-30 minutes until the liquid is incorporated and rice is cool enough to handle.  The metal bowl will speed cooling, making the traditional fanning unnecessary, in my opinion.  This is the lazy way, it cools whether or not I’m even in the house.

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Finished sushi rice, all shiny and sticky.

Ingredients (Part 2):
Nori
Rice Vinegar
Water
Sushi Rice from Part 1
Gari (pink pickled ginger)
Wasabi (optional, but delicious)
Assorted veggies, cheese and meat

Directions: (Part 2):

Ok , this is where we start to get technical.  It’s sort of hard to explain how to do this, but once you’ve done it a few times, it will make more sense.

1)  While your sushi rice is cooling is a great time to lob up whatever veggies, cheese or meat you intend to use in your rolls.  My top three favorites are avacado, cream cheese and smoked salmon.  Other great sushi fodder includes celery, green onion, dill pickles, carrots, radish, daikon, fried tofu… really anything you can chop into long skinny pieces.  You can do this same day or the day before… just be sure to practice safe food storage.  I don’t recommend raw fish, though we’ve done it before.  I’ve had sushi with fried chicken, which was delicious (but I’ve not done at home).

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My sushi cut veggies. I always keep them seperate from meats and cheeses.

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Meat and cheese plate. Cream cheese on the left, smoked salmon on the right. This is only safe because the fish is cooked.

2)  Next, set  up your sushi stations.  You will need a rolling area where all your ingredients are within easy reach (veggies, cheese, meat, rice and any condiments you want to put in the roll, like sriracha or wasabi mayo and your nori).  It should also have your bamboo mat and a bowl of warm water with vinegar big enough to put your hand in.  Your other area should have a cutting surface (large cutting board is good), a long, thin, sharp knife, pickled ginger, wasabi and your plates.

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This is my rolling area. The rice (not shown) is on the right hand side, along with the vinegar bowl (not shown)..

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This is my finishing area. Knife is not pictured, but you'll see it. The blue bowl is just there to get it off of the counter.

3)  In your rolling area, lay out your bamboo mat, shiny side up (you absolutely need this device, it’s like ten bucks at an Asian grocery).  Place an uncut sheet of nori shiny side down on the bamboo mat.  Dip your hands in the vinegar water and grab and large handful of rice.  Spread it thinly over about 1/3 of the nori sheet, leaving a half inch or so on one side (see photo).

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Nori on bamboo mat. I use it shiny side down so that the rice can grab at the bumpier texture on the top side. It makes sense to me this way.

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Spread your rice on 1/3 to 1/2 of the Nori sheet, don't get too crazy, though, or it won't roll well.

4)  Add your fillings and any condiments you want inside the roll.  I usually try to limit myself to 3 fillings, it makes rolling easier.

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Make sure to keep your fillings in the middle of your rice. It will roll easier and look better. :)

5)  Now here’s where it gets tricky.  Wet both ends of the exposed nori sheet.  With the fillings on the side closest to you, fold the bamboo mat and ingredients over on themselves, pulling the mat toward you as you do.  If a little squishes out the short sides of the roll, it’s ok; you shouldn’t have any squish out the long sides, though.  When you’ve pulled the roll as tight as you think it will go (only practice will help you judge that), use the mat to maintain pressure and finish rolling the roll.  Press the wet strip of the nori against the roll to seal.

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I always turn my mat so that my ingredients are closest to me before I start to roll.

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Hopefully this illustrates the rolling method. Be sure to keep steady pressure as you roll or you'll have to do it again.

6)  Move your roll to the finishing area and place it sean-side down on the cutting board.  Start by cutting your roll in half, then cut each half into half and so on, until you have made bite size pieces (I usually go for about 3/4 inch slices).  The ends will always be odd sized and not evenly filled… even at sushi bars I’ve gotten them this way.  Plate your sushi, add some gari and wasabi and a little dish for soy sauce.  If you want to be really fancy, a drop of condiment on the top of each slice is a nice touch.  If you keep your knife blade clean and warm (warm water rinse), your cuts will tend to be better.  Use one hand to stabilize the roll.  Try a gentle sawing motion intead of a straight slice and use an unserrated knife with a long, sharp, thin blade (I use a utility/filet knife).

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Don't be discouraged if yours don't come out this nice the first time, I've been making sushi for years and I still make a mess of it half the time. :)

Above all else, have fun.  Don’t forget that even though this is a traditional food from a land steeped in tradition, there is always room for innovation and just making it the way you like it.  The best cooking is all about keeping the best parts of tradition and mixing them with the best parts of innovation.

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