Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spices, the Variety of Life

Yesterday, I purchased several spices at EarthFare. Normally, I'd wait until my next Wal-Mart visit (which won't be anytime soon), but they were selling 77g bottles for ~$1.25, so I went ahead and purchased some. The way I see it, I'll be using these through grad school anyway, so I may as well buy them now. I don't have space on my shelves for spices (too many books and hair products), so I've taken to lining spices and other condiments up on my windowsill. So far, I have:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Lemon juice
  • Ghee
  • Decaf instant coffee (cafe con leche!)
  • Ground clove
  • Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Mrs. Dash (regular and garlic blends)
  • Bay leaves
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Ground ginger
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Rosemary

The last six ones are brand new.

I tried to avoid purchasing these for as long as possible—I figured Mrs. Dash would work pretty well for anything that wouldn't be fine with just salt or garlic. But then I kept running into neat recipes that required various basic spices, especially bay, parsley, and basil. I realized that if I want to make a lot of good meals, I should go ahead and just get these. If anything, they'll last me well into grad school, no?

Anyway, I'm very excited about these! I just made some vegetable broth that tasted quite good, and allowed me to finally finish off the few very depressing celery stalks in my fridge that were no longer fit to be eaten raw. I am so excited—there are many recipes I can't wait to try!

Famous People with Celiac Disease

A quick post today, since I'm 1. busy 2. distracted 3. trying to avoid ranting about my school and how they are being so ridiculous about my meal plan.

A while back (as in, before this blog...which wasn't that long ago), I googled "celebrities with celiac disease." There aren't actually that many famous celiacs (that we know of). But there are a few interesting ones (as well as a few who are GF or wheat-free for other reasons):

  • John F. Kennedy (suspected--he was never actually diagnosed)
  • Victoria Beckham
  • Jim Carrey
  • Katherine, Duchess of Kent. She suffered for years before she finally received the right diagnosis. When asked by the Daily Mail in 1999 about her long history of illness, her reply was simply that "none of us goes through life unscathed".
  • Elizabeth Hasselbeck, of "Survivor" fame. She realized she was gluten-intolerant when, while on "Survivor," she lived mainly on rice and fish and felt much healthier.
  • Sarah Vowell (she is often on NPR and voiced Violet in "The Incredibles").
  • Emmy Rossum. The picture below is of her eating the frosting off of a cupcake that someone at MTV (who didn't wikipedia her, apparently) gave her.

Other famous people include Billy Bob Thornton, Susie Essman, Goldie Hawn, Jane Swift, and others that I found but don't know/care about at all.

Okay, so this is kind of a stupid post, but whatever :-)

This post is also proof that I barely remember HTML. Fail...

Monday, February 22, 2010


Today I'm sharing a link to one of my favorite blogs, by my sister Sofi. It's called Vagamunda, which is Spanish for "vagabond" or "wanderer." It's a pretty unique blog, with a whole slew of different topics. As the description says, her blog is "a chic combination of my passion for travel, fashion, writing, and a little bit of politics with the purpose of transmitting my love for the aforementioned with like-minded individuals."

Post titles have included "The Pashmina: God's Gift to Womankind," "Je Suis Fatigue!", "Comfort Food with History," and "Taxes=Blah and Boring." One of my favorite posts so far begins with:

"It's MLK day in post racism Georgia, so I'm enjoying a day off from school, relishing the result of white guilt and affirmative action."

I love my sister :-)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Slow Cooker Experiment #2: Weird Chicken

For my second experiment with Gretel, I decided to check out a recipe I'd seen online for pineapple chicken. However, I didn't have half the ingredients (and they didn't look so good anyway) so I found other recipes online, looked around at what I had in my room, and ended up throwing the following into the slow cooker:
  • Chicken (the precooked kind, from the foil-ey packages)
  • Pineapple (canned)
  • Mandarin oranges (canned)
  • Green bell pepper
  • Celery
  • Lemon juice
  • Agave
  • Spicy mustard
  • Onion
  • Black pepper
I have no idea what any of these amounts would be; I just completely eyeballed the whole thing. I also poured in a bit of the juice from the canned fruit. (FYI, the picture is from an experiment a few weeks ago, because I couldn't find a picture that matched the recipe...isn't the gel lovely?)

These all hung out in Gretel for about half an hour on high, until it was time for my ~5 hour lab. I had a nice-ish dinner to go to with some classmates and a teacher about an hour after lab, so my plan was to finish the Southern blot as fast as possible then eat and go to dinner.

There was a twenty-minute break in the lab around two hours before the dinner, so I ran over to my room to turn on Gretel. Oops...instead of turning her off before, I'd set her to low! I mean, everything was fine, just very soggy. At least it wasn't the toaster oven or rice cooker. I self-consciously turned off Gretel, then ran over to lab. When I got back (fyi, the Southern blot worked! Yay!), I poured it on some rice and tried it.

Wow, really, REALLY delicious! The flavors blended together WONDERFULLY. I scarfed it down and had a lovely time at the Honors Institute dinner.

Lessons learned:
  • Always double-check cooking appliances before leaving the dorm.
  • Mustard is a simple, delicious way to add flavor, even to a meal that isn't eaten with the hands.
  • If the plan is to make a dish entitled “________ Chicken” that is not a soup, one package of pre-cooked chicken is not enough to make a decent amount of food.
  • Do NOT leave a dish like this on for most of the day, since the chicken will be overcooked (though still very eatable).
Conclusion: I am DEFINITELY making this again. I will have to figure out how to do the chicken next time (cooked? raw? whole? breasts?). I'll find an actual name for this recipe that isn't something inane like “Pineapple Chicken.”


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Soup

Mmm…sweet potatoes. Filling, and a welcome break from the regular red potatoes I seem to be having all the time. I’ve been trying to find some way to eat them other than baking (not a huge fan). And while surfing the interweb, I found a recipe for sweet potato soup. I actually combined ingredients from a whole series of different recipes for this one, and ended up using:

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • about 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 diced carrot
  • about 8 oz chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup plain rice milk
  • about 2 Tbs ghee
  • Cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Agave

First, I peeled and diced the sweet potatoes (with one break halfway through—wow, they are hard to cut), then added garlic, chicken broth, milk, salt, and spices. Immediately, I noticed how weird the whole mixture smelled. I’m going to blame either the garlic or the combination of broth and rice milk.

I put the lid on, set Gretel on high for about 15 minutes to get the temperature up, then set her to low and went to bed. The next morning, the sweet potatoes and carrot were mushy and the whole thing smelled very spicy. A good fragrance, but still weird. I mushed the soup with a fork and spoon. I tried it; the taste was…debatable. I had a minor freakout—two sweet potatoes is a lot to waste if you don’t get to go food shopping very often!—and did my best to come up with a way to rescue this soup-thing before it got too mushy.

Hoping for the best, I added some ghee and agave, as well as more spices, waited for it to cool down, then spooned it into two tupperwares.

I just finished eating this sweet potato soup for lunch. Verdict? A win!

It’s smooth, but still has texture. The spices I keep finding myself using work really well with it, and it’s filling. Next time, I won’t use garlic or rice milk (maybe almond milk instead). I don’t know why I used carrots. It might just have been because they, like sweet potatoes, are orange.

Anyway, I’ll tuck this away for the next time I feel crumby and just want something easy and mild.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Since I had a few apples lying around, a brand new bottle of ground clove, and a neat recipe, I decided to try applesauce as my next foray into slow-cookery.

I found this recipe on

  • 3 apples, peeled and minced
  • Water
  • Cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg
  • Sugar

If you take the time to actually go to the page and check out the recipe, you'll see that I modified it slightly. Namely, I decided to use way less apples (I don't need 10-12 apples' worth of applesauce), added clove and nutmeg, and made no attempt to gauge the amounts of the other ingredients.

All I did was prepare the apples, pour them in, add the spices and sugar, pour in water (way too much, as I discovered later on), and set Gretel to “Low.” I finished this all at about 10:00 PM and turned Gretel off at about 8:00 AM.

It was pretty good. Sweet (the sugar probably wasn't necessary; I'm not sure why I included it in the first place), spicy, and cozy. Also, it made the room smell comfy and spicy, which was great. (The picture doesn't really capture the essence, as I'm sure you've deduced--the only camera I have is the webcam on my mac.)

I don't know that I'll make it again—I enjoyed it, but not enough to justify peeling three apples (easier said than done) and not being able to use Gretel for 8-10 hours. I might try this with another fruit, though; nothing comes to mind immediately, but I really like the idea of slow-cooking fruit for hours and hours with a bunch of spices.

Chocolate Oatmeal

Breakfast is one of the most important components of a successful day—without it, focusing in class is close to impossible. If you do put in the extra five minutes in the morning, you don't have to plan for a gargantuan lunch, and there's probably health benefits to it and all that. Whether you eat it while walking to class, during class, sitting in your room before class, or all three (like me), breakfast should be eaten. It's just something you should do.

Unfortunately, I often don't have my act together enough to actually make a decent breakfast, so I usually end up eating cereal or almonds out of a quart-sized plastic bag for the first hour and a half of my day. But at least once a week, I manage to make oatmeal, which I nuke, then stick in a foam cup with a plastic spoon and sprint off to class. I use the EarthFare brand Instant Oatmeal, which has yet to make me sick (because of contamination)!

The following usually end up in the oatmeal:

  • Almond or rice milk.
  • Agave syrup
  • Frozen blueberries (which have the most awful texture because my freezer doesn't actually freeze—I don't know why I put them in, since they taste terrible). Strawberries would probably be very good instead.

It's really very simple—microwave the milk for about a minute, mix in oatmeal until it looks like a good consistency (err on the side of too thin), microwave again, then pour in agave and a few squares of dark chocolate broken up into pieces (and fruit, if you wish). I put in craisins this morning, and they were quite good. I might try just cinnamon and extra milk sometime, when I'm NOT craving sugar like a madwoman.

Yes, there is probably something wrong with having chocolate for breakfast. But I have yet to find a real reason, so until then...

This combination is quite good. Easy, hot, filling, and sweet. Curbs the chocolate craving for at least a few hours. Highly recommended.

*Note: Be careful about oatmeal. Cross-contamination is often an issue--don't buy a huge container unless you know that the particular brand won't make you sick. I'd also be careful about having the flavored kind. If they contain "natural flavors," odds are they include soy.
**Note #2: The picture above is nothing like what I ate this morning. I just wanted a picture of oatmeal and picked the second one that popped up on Google Images...

[EDIT: I've been told repeatedly to stop eating oatmeal, since it is definitely way too contaminated, so as of March I've been staying away from this and sticking to other grains. But the general ideas in this post can apply to other breakfast cereals anyway :-)]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Slow Cooker Experiment #1: Chicken Soup

As a future scientist and overall lazy, hungry student, my instinct is to have fun playing around with things I know very little about. Here's my first experiment with Gretel (I name my appliances). (FYI, the picture below is of a slow cooker SIMILAR to Gretel; I couldn't find the same one online and I don't have a good camera around.)

At the urging of my mother and a fellow digestively-challenged friend, I got a slow cooker last Monday. So Wednesday afternoon, when I found myself bored and hungry, I decided to continue putting off homework and put my new gadget to use to make chicken soup.

Eschewing any official recipes (I mean, it's chicken soup...simple, right?), I chopped up 2 celery stalks, 4 carrots, two red potatoes, and about 1/3 of an onion. I stuck these ingredients, as well as some minced garlic, a package of cooked chicken, an undefined amount of rice, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), poured in three 8-oz boxes of organic chicken broth, and set Gretel to "High."

After about 2.5 hours, I peeked in. I probably shouldn't have put in the rice so early, since it had disintegrated into tiny flakes. "It's all right," I said to myself. "It's not like I can thicken it with flour anyway--this is actually serendipitous!" I added some spinach for good measure (and because I've had it in my fridge for over a week) and waited.

Two hours later, the vegetables didn't look like they were going to be softening all the way anytime soon. So I turned off Gretel and called it a night.

Thursday morning, I decided that I didn't have time to wait around and see if the carrots and potatoes were going to soften, so I poured about two cups of the now-gunky mixture into my rice cooker, added some water so that it wouldn't congeal, cooked it for about twenty minutes, then poured it into a disposable tupperware (releasing all sorts of toxins, of course) for lunch. I had this and apple sauce for lunch before my five-hour lab.

It was really good. The rice had completely mixed with the broth by now, giving the "soup" a creamy, soothing consistency. Later in the day, I added an egg to the soup while it was simmering in my rice cooker, both to add protein and to get rid of the eggs that might already be going bad in my fridge.

Anyway, I ended up eating this sludge up until Saturday morning, which was probably unhealthy since 1. repeating food for three days is not good 2. I didn't refrigerate it. But whatever, it's healthier than what I usually end up eating.

Lessons learned:

  • Add rice closer to the end unless the intent is to make something that is viscous enough to act as mortar.
  • Don't make enough "soup" to feed the cast of Lost.
  • Experimenting with food is fun, messy, and delicious (but I already knew this).

Conclusion: Gretel is pretty awesome, and I intend to use her pretty often, though I might think about following a real recipe next time.

Snaps for experimentation!

Having Celiac Disease in College Is...

...a real pain opportunity to learn more about the human body, rant about the food industry, and try neat recipes within the confines of my tiny dorm room.

Ever since the stress and bad food that comes along with college life activated my celiac genes, I've found that:
Tests + papers + friends + scholarship-related commitments + science major + type-A personality - sleep - ability to properly digest gluten, casein, and soy - prior ability to cook = extremely difficult.

For a while, I was in a pretty bad place. But now, in my sixth semester, I'm finally starting to figure out how to juggle everything.

I have yet to find a good blog about dealing with dietary issues in college, so I'm starting my own. Besides, it'll force me to really try and get creative with my food. My posts will mainly consist of recipes, links to cool articles, and the occasional rant. I've never been able to blog consistently, but let's see how this one goes...

Join me, my microwave, fridge, toaster oven, rice cooker, slow cooker, George Foreman grill, and "digestively challenged" body, on this epic journey towards health and sanity!