Thursday, 28 February 2013

Day Seven: Candy Bar Cookie Bars

Okay, confession time.

1) I did make another full batch of those candy bar cookie bars.

2) I completely forgot to take any pictures.

That is so like me. I'm really the worst at this whole blogging thing. I don't know how you're still reading this. I'll give you the recipe anyways, because I'm like that cool aunt that lets you like the possibly-salmonella-infected spatula. Oh groan... Am I ever tired today.

So beyond my baking this evening, today was really insignificant. Well, except that I bought gluten-free bread. At lunch I really really wanted a sandwich, so I hopped over to the health food store, where I saw the gluten-free bakery I've been hearing about. Everything looked really yummy, so I bought a little square of cheesecake. It was nummy. Anyways, I also bought my first loaf of gluten-free bread.

It was okay. Dry and hard and small and bright yellow. Okay once drenched in honey. Man, I am not good at this eating healthy crap, huh? Even on a strict diet I still suck. Anyways, I got through my sandwich at least. And I'm sure in time it'll all taste normal to me...

For dinner I made plain chicken breast and canned corn. That's how much energy I had today. I then whipped up another batch of delicious squares, and then watched Netflix until my hubby claimed the television for gaming. Seriously insignificat, huh? Nothing happened at all today, I swear.

I made a goal to make something happen every day. You know, if nothing happened at work, then I would go home and adventure with cooking or baking just to write something interesting. I did bake, but I didn't adventure. Nevertheless, you should probably make these squares too. They are to die for. Everyone who has had one has just exclaimed over how amazing they are.

A perfect blend of chewy oatmeal cookie, sweet, smooth chocolate, and salty crunchy peanuts. To die for.

Okay, so enough taunting, I guess... Here's the recipe, sans pictures, because I suck. I promise to get better at this.

1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup dark- or light-colored corn syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces
1 cup butterscotch-flavored pieces
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Line a 9x13-inch baking pan or baking dish with foil, extending foil over the edges of the pan or dish; set aside. Preheat over to 375°F. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup; cook and stir over medium-low heat until combined. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in the 1/4 cup peanut butter and the vanilla until smooth.

For crust, place rolled oats in a very large bowl. Pour brown sugar mixture over the oats, stirring gently until combined. Press the mixture evenly into prepared pan or dish. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in the same saucepan combine chocolate pieces and butterscotch pieces; cook and stir over low heat until melted. Stir in the 2/3 cup peanut butter until mixture is smooth. Slowly pour mixture over hot crust, spreading evenly, sprinkle with peanuts.

Cool in pan or dish on a wire rack for several hours or until chocolate layer is firm. (If necessary, chill until chocolate is set.) Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut bars out of the pan or dish. Cut into bars.

Now, the recipe claims to make 48 bars, but those seemed like awful small bars to me, so I made less, but bigger ones. Also, I stick it in the fridge once the pan is cool enough to touch. I'm far to impatient, and being chilled makes the chocolate a lot easier to cut.

Also, for a gluten-free version, buy gluten-free oats. And check the ingredients on the other things, or buy certified gluten-free versions, but everything I used was safe.

I hope you make these, and I hope your tongue dies and goes to sweet, blissful heaven.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Day Six: The Potluck

I am so sick of this rollercoaster of feeling better and worse.

Actually, it would be a pretty lame rollercoaster, because I usually wake up feeling okay, feel good by coffee, feel a tiny bit worse by lunch, and then about an hour after lunch I just start declining until five o'clock.

Then, I either pump myself up enough to be in a good mood for my husband, or am feeling so cruddy that I'm just plain grumpy and can't handle the idea of dinner. After dinner, I usually balance out at an average "not so great" until bed.

It seems related to eating. When I don't eat, I feel okay. But I'm not eating gluten. Well, maybe today I did... But that's just today! The last few days, I'm completely sure I didn't consume a tiny drop of it at all. I know that it's going to take some time to feel okay again, and my digestive system will take awhile to recover, but I just want to not be sick anymore.

So, the potluck at work was today. I really only signed up to go because I haven't met most of the people I work with. My job doesn't effect anyone else's (except one) and their jobs don't really effect me, so I only meet people outside of my specific office space intermittently. And I decided a department-wide potluck would be a great idea. Mind you, that was before I got "dx'ed". 

All morning, I just sat at my desk, with these peanut buttery oatmeal bar things just smelling amazing, and me worrying about lunch. I brought a little container of gluten-free crackers, and a rice cake, in case there was cracker food and/or there wasn't much I could eat.

At noon, I wandered downstairs with my pan of dessert looking for a room of people I didn't know. Sounds like a great idea, huh? Well, I followed my nose and found it. And sure enough, I didn't know anybody. Haha.

Overall, it was actually pretty fun. One person asked me if I worked in IT, and what my name was, and then the lady who organized it admitted to not having any idea who I was when I emailed her to tell her I was coming. I've worked there since last May.

Everyone loved my dish, and most asked for my recipe, which is a sure sign of a potluck hit.

I really should have cancelled, or poked my head in and left or something. I shouldn't have eaten there. I avoided all the dishes with noodles, bread crumbs, and croutons, or any obvious gluten, but you know how many things have secret gluten in them. So eating a bunch of homemade unknown dishes is really not a great idea.

I had some coleslaw, some salads, some shrimp dip, some of a cheese ball, a bit of ham, and some spicy little meatballs. Honestly though, any of them could have been bad.

So, the lesson learned today is potlucks are bad. Except maybe a "gluten-free potluck". Wouldn't that be fun? Anybody up to planning one? Then I could find yummy safe dishes. Hmm...

It makes me sad. I've always loved potlucks; I even have a cookbook meant for potluck dishes. Ah well, just one more sacrifice, right?

I actually haven't felt any worse today than yesterday, though. So maybe I was safe. I felt a little groggy this afternoon, and had a hard time focusing on my computer screen, but I might blame that on my job being so boring my mind is going numb. 

For dinner, my lovely husband made bacon-wrapped sausage and fried mini potatoes. So my second lesson from today is that just because I can't have gluten, doesn't mean I have to eat healthy. ;)

I planned on making my potluck dish again, and taking pictures this time, so I can give you the recipe, but I felt pretty wiped after dinner. So, when I get around to it / when my hubby begs me to make it, I will share it with you.

Unhealthy, and gluten-free. Mmmmm....

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Day Five: Rice Spaghetti

Okay, so today had two big hurdles for me:

A) Cook dinner. I've pretty well copped out so far, eating out two nights, getting my husband to cook tacos the next, and eating crackers last night. Tonight, I was determined to make something specifically gluten-free.

B) Bake something. I had kind of figured I would just avoid that whole baking department for awhile, despite the fact that I have always loved baking, but it's just easier that way. Until I remembered there's a potluck at work tomorrow, and (sigh) I signed up to bring a dessert.

So, I tackled dinner first. My other half had to get some blood tests done today that required fasting all day, so he was ravenous at 4 when they finally sucked out some of his blood. That meant he raced to a drive-through, and had already eaten by the time I got home. Ah well, I told him, I was making pasta anyways, and right away too, because I had to bake before bed.

So I pulled out the package of rice spaghetti we bought, and studied the instructions. I was worried it would all be different, but it's really quite the same. Started a pot of water boiling, and heated up a pan for ground beef. At least I can still eat meat and tomato sauce.

The odd foam on the rice pasta
My usual simultaneous cooking of pasta and meat sauce began, and all was normal until halfway through the pasta cook time. The pot had a fondness of boiling over, so I had to stir more than usual, and then an unusual foam built up. The hubs said that's normal for rice, it happens with normal rice if you don't rinse it, it was just weird.

Also, when I drained the pasta, a thick white liquid coated the bottom of my sink. I guess it's just the rice, and it wasn't off-putting as much as unusual. The kind of thing longtime gluten-free people don't tell you, because they're just so used to it.

The finished product was okay though. It looked a little whiter than normal pasta, and it was a little more al dente than I usually cook it, but other than that, once it was smothered it my meat sauce, it tasted just fine. My husband didn't eat much, but he blamed that on having already eaten. He insisted it tasted fine. Oh, and my dog quite liked it.

Rice Spaghetti With Tomato and Beef Sauce
Piper enjoying gluten-free pasta

The very next hurdle was baking. When I signed up for this potluck, I actually selected a specific dish, being of course unaware at the time that I would need to be gluten-free. So I pulled open that cookbook and checked the ingredients. The only possible offending ingredient was oats, so I ran out and bought gluten-free oats, and the butterscotch chips I needed.

It's really a simple recipe, and I didn't have to substitute anything, and I won't have to call it "gluten-free anything" tomorrow. It's just simple. So actually, this wasn't that big of a hurdle.

I'm going to have to tackle brownies or cookies soon, because I do have gluten-free flour, and the sooner I get over using it, the easier this will all be.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Day Four: Taco Chips and Chili

Today is Monday, which means work. First time at work since the diagnosis. Which really isn't really a big deal, but it seems like one. Every first will be a big deal for a little while. The first time I eat at someone else's house, the first time I work with gluten-free flour, the first time I handle a holiday, the first... Oh, I'm sure you get the idea. I decided that I should tell my supervisor at work, since he knew I had been sick, but I really wasn't sure how.

So at coffee break, when we all walked down the block to a coffee shop, I told him I got my test results back. I seriously deliberated for the longest time over when to bring it up and how, but that's how. So I told all the guys I work with about the diagnosis, and we talked about it for a bit, and then it turns out one of the guys has been gluten-free for a year and a half! And not only did I not know, but the two guys who actually spend time with him after work didn't know. That gave me hope, because he's not one of those obnoxious about gluten people, so why do I have to be?

It also made me feel better than now they know why I've missed work, and why I seem so bedraggled some mornings.

The next hurdle was lunch time. I decided on canned chili, but I prefer chili with a slice of buttered bread. So I looked in the cupboard and... Ba na na na [insert little Zelda tune here] I found Tostitos Scoops! Such a fantastic idea, and it tasted amazing. Seriously. Best idea so far. Think about it.

Anyways, the afternoon was really rough because I felt all bloaty and gassy. It takes some time to clean out all the gluten, and more time to heal up my damaged intestine, so I know I won't feel top shelf right away, I just wish I could stop feeling so goshdarn awful.

That all meant I was pretty grumpy when I got home, but we had to pick up a prescription for my husband and then stop by his parents' place and tell them. So I was even more grumpy when it came time to make dinner. And apparently, being grumpy means not cooking, because I had a premade salad and some gluten-free crackers and cheese. Oh, and the crackers tasted weird.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Day Three: Groceries!

I woke up today pretty sick. I am paying for that bread last night. I also woke up pretty hungry, and ate more applesauce. Seriously need groceries.

After my husband was awake and dressed enough, we went grocery shopping.

Let me just say, it was painful. I know it's going to get easier, but today was hard.

In some time I'll know the list of cereals I can't eat, or at least the ones I can, and I'll know the other things to avoid, and where to look, but right now I don't. We just looked for things we want, and then read the ingredients. Did you know both Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes have gluten in them? Like what is that? I bought off-brand gluten-free versions of each, but come on guys.

I discovered our taco kits are gluten-free, which was exciting, but only the hard shell ones, and I prefer the soft tacos. But hey, it's only one more sacrifice.

My grocery store moved the gluten-free aisle since I've been there last, which I might not have noticed, had I not needed to buy almost everything there.

I actually think this whole gluten-free thing will make both my husband and I eat a lot healthier. We bought a lot more fruit and vegetables than we usually do, and I just looked sadly at the entire aisle of cookies. (However, I found some gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and bought those... I'm still getting used to the texture thing, though.)

We're having a taco kit for dinner tonight, mostly because it's something familiar. There are going to be a lot of unfamiliar experiment meals in our future, so we're starting off with tacos.

And then later tonight, we're double dating at the bar to shoot some pool. That's something I'm not up on yet. I know certain alcohols have gluten, and I have to be really careful about drinking. I've never been much for drinking before, so I've decided that until I get most of this under control, I'm not drinking. It'll just be easier to not worry about one thing while I worry about everything else.

Day Two: A Feast

So... Here's the thing about my diagnosis yesterday. Today, I had a really big event to go to. I don't know if you've ever heard of the SCA, but it doesn't matter. I sometimes go to events, and they vary in what happens there. The one today, that I've been looking forward to for some time is a feast. There'll be stuff going on all day, a free-for-all lunch, and then a four-course feast for dinner.

And that, means a lot of gluten I'm not supposed to eat.

If I had been gluten-free for some time, I would have brought my own replacements for bread and crackers, or talked to the cooks and asked for something set aside. But I found out yesterday. I did ask the cooks what all was safe, but that didn't matter much when the lunch was meat, cheese and buns. I'm sorry, but chunks of roast beef with some cheddar is just plain sad. After nibbling on what I could, I got frustrated and asked my husband to take me somewhere.

However, I dressed up for the event today. Nothing weird, just a medieval-style dress, but enough that I didn't want to go to a grocery store in it, or even really leave the car. So we hit up a drive-through. Bad idea, I know. In some time, I'll get used to the fact that I really can't eat anything at any fast food restaurant ever.

I had a salad and a wrap, and just ate as little of the tortilla as possible. I know it's still bad, and I'll pay for it later, but this is day two! I haven't even gone grocery shopping yet.

I made it through the afternoon to dinner time, but by the time the feast began, I was starving.

Course number one was bread, cheese and flavoured butters. I can't just eat cream cheese and butter!!!! That's so dumb. So I had some bread. Bad Robynne. But it was soo good!

Course number two was meatballs, coleslaw, pasta and a sauce. Since I was served all of it, I did eat a little pasta, but after a few bites, I determined it wasn't worth it. Good Robynne.

Number three was roast beast stuffed with rice and a cooked root vegetables. Oh my gosh! I just shoved my face full here. Those root vegetables were so goshdarn good, and the meat and the rice! Wow. I was so happy. The cooks had already told me the meat and veggies were totally gluten-free, so there was no guilt attached. This was the best I felt all day long. Mmmmm... Mental note, remember root vegetables! Very filling, no gluten, and so good!

And then last, was dessert, which was a cottage cheese pie. I know it sounds weird, but it tasted like tapioca pudding in pie shell. So maybe I shouldn't have had any, but I maybe had a few pieces.. And maybe a few more than that. Bad Robynne.... But it was good.

By this point, I am pretty wiped. I'm still feeling rather unwell, having had gluten yesterday and a few times today. I felt better today than I have most of the last three months, but I'm still not up to par.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Day One: Diagnosis

This morning, I woke up late and raced out the door to work without bothering to grab breakfast. So at coffee time, I bought a bagel to go with my tea.

Then, just before my lunch break, I got a phone call and raced to the bathroom to take it privately. It was my doctor, calling me back about my test results. I haven't been feeling well for quite some time, and I finally convinced a doctor to send me for some blood tests. She said everything came back perfectly normal, except that it clearly shows I have Celiac disease.

I have a friend who was diagnosed with celiac some time ago, and my mom was gluten-free for several months, so this isn't a new concept to me, it had just never once crossed my mind that I might have a problem with gluten. Standing there, in the tiny ladies bathroom at work, I felt like I had just been given a death sentence. I was never expecting this, I didn't know how to handle this, I ate a bagel this morning! It was rather overwhelming. She referred me to a dietitian, and told me to start a gluten-free diet immediately  and then I called my husband and told him the news.

Not long later, we met at home for lunch. I ate applesauce and a frozen yogurt bar, because my classics were all out the window. No tuna sandwich, no ichiban noodles, no udon stir-fry. Perogies, potato wedges, leftover spaghetti, and virtually everything else in our cupboards was suddenly, unexpectedly uneatable.

I went back to work hungry, upset, and in pain. Thanks to my unwitting gluten consumption of a bagel, I had my usual stabbing stomach pains, and they weren't helped by my stressing out about all the things this would mean. More expensive groceries, say goodbye to all my favorite foods, never eating out again, never eating packaged food. I know I was exaggerating, and I know I can do most of those things, I just have to substitute, or read ingredients very carefully. I know thousands of people eat gluten-free every day, whether they have an allergy, a sensitivity, a disease, or just like to diet. I know it's doable, I've seen it done. It's just scary and overwhelming.

After work, I was starving from such a light lunch, and craving pasta. Going out to buy gluten-free pasta, and then cooking it would take forever, so we went to Boston Pizza, and I had their gluten-free pasta. The texture was all weird and sad, but it filled me up and made me happy again.

I'm still freaking out a lot, but I know I can do this. Day one is over, I just have to make it through the rest of my life.