Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Holiday Hijinks...

Well, it’s getting to be that time of year again.  The leaves are falling; the temperature is falling.  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations are in the stores- I think I may have even spotted a few Valentine Hearts in Walmart today!  Not really, but you wouldn’t be surprised, would you?  We are a holiday-loving bunch here in the United States.  Think about it- we even make up holidays!  Did you know that today is “No Beard Day”?  Not too long ago, it was “World Egg Day” and “National Dessert Day.”  Saturday was “Sweetest Day” and Monday was “Boss’s Day.”  Yes, we love us some holidays!

Of course, not all holidays are celebrated as well as others.  I mean, you don’t see items out in Walmart four months early for “National Pickle Day.”  But we love Halloween, we love the days off and the shopping associated with Thanksgiving (Don’t get me started on that one!  I’m a Thanksgiving baby, and I used to get livid when I saw the Christmas trees out, but NO turkeys!  I’m kinda lukewarm about it now- I’ve mellowed in my age…)  and we most certainly love Christmas!  Holidays mean family and food.  And of course, that’s where my world goes sideways…

When I found out about my food allergies, I bounced from doctor to doctor to try to get things figured out.  I ended up at Integrative Health Specialists in Carmel.  They did a bunch of tests and determined that my whole system was so out of whack that I was reacting to something like 70 different foods.  This wasn’t a true allergic reaction, but it mimicked one because of the “Leaky Gut Syndrome” I had acquired.  Basically, my gut was so out of sorts that it was letting all sorts of stuff into my blood stream.  This would, in turn, cause my system to attack them- mimicking an allergic reaction.  The way to fix it was to avoid all the reactive foods for 6 months.  I got this news in October 2010.  Do the math and you realize that meant that I was avoiding the foods through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. 

I did not do very well with this.  I got very cranky.  VERY cranky.  But I followed through with it (for about 4 months- it was all I could take!) and I did feel better for doing it.  But it really pointed out to me how much we associate the ritual of food with holidays.  My in-laws traditionally have Caesar salad for Christmas Eve.  Real eggs, real cheese, really huge croutons.  Really off limits now.  My Grandma has had to switch her butter out with my vegan substitute, and no longer has a reason to make me pickled eggs.  My Mom’s sugar cream pie is non-existent to me now.  Now, I look forward to scrutinizing everything people make and asking for specific ingredients.  And I hate to do that, because if they think they have made it “Val-safe” but missed even one little ingredient, I can’t eat it.  I feel like I’m rejecting people and they feel like their efforts were for naught.  You don’t realize how personal cooking is to people until you have to repeatedly turn the items that they have slaved over down.   

But, you do what you have to do.  Some things, like my Mom’s aforementioned sugar CREAM pie, is forever dead to me.  But other things I have found ways around.  A great example of this is the Caesar salad.  I figured out that the dressing could be made without any ingredients that I can’t have and it is suitable.  Is it as good as the original?  No, no, no.  But I get to go through the ritual of eating it with everyone else- and that helps.  Another is my favorite- pumpkin pie.  I’ve found a few recipes that are workable, and I’m trying to figure out how to fix the issues that I have with the ones that I have found.  When I do, I’ll be sure to share.  Until then, here is a link to the recipe that I use now:  Gluten Free Goddess Vegan Pumpkin Pie  

The other thing that has made my holiday season is Soy Egg Nog!   It’s made by Silk, but doesn’t have the sliminess that I think their soy milk has.  It has no egg, no dairy and I think it tastes like true nog.  Ahhh, happiness in a glass! 

So, if I see you at the holiday table and I don’t eat your food, please don’t be hurt.  Trust me, I’d LOVE to eat it!  Instead, I’m happy to share my pie, or my nog with you.  I’m also just as happy to watch you eat the real thing.  I won’t be jealous much, I promise!  (Did you know it is National Cross Your Fingers When You Lie Day?  ;)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy Monday!

It’s a GREAT day!  Why you ask?  So many reasons!  Among them: 
1.  The sun is shining!
2.  My boy didn’t scream when I left him at preschool
3.  I got all of my shopping done when the same boy was at preschool
4.  I saved more than I spent at Meijer- I love coupons!
5. Oh, yeah…  I HAVE A NEW NEPHEW!!!!

The Ranger and the Mrs. had their baby early Friday morning.  Mom and baby are doing well- and that little boy has his Aunt Val wrapped around his little pudgy finger!  I can’t show you pictures because I used to work for the Department of Child Services and I am paranoid about kids on the internet.  (Which is why you only know my kids as C and T.  It’s possible that I am totally overprotective and slightly insane, but I’m willing to chance it! Anyway…)  But if I could show you a picture of him, you would agree with me that he is the most adorable baby  boy!  Perfectly round and pinchable cheeks, little dark eyes that stare into your soul.  Oh, I’m in love!!!!

Because the little man was born, all heck broke loose in my life for the last couple of days.  But it has been so much fun!  I got to see all of my nieces and nephews that live in the state over the weekend, and the new baby’s big sister stayed with Aunt Val for a night before she went to Grammy’s.  When Grammy (my mom) came to pick her up, I got to introduce her to my new favorite obsession- Puccini’s gluten free pizza!  Puccini’s is a local chain in Indiana, and they were my favorite pizza place before my body revolted against me.  They have some unusual pizzas, but they are faaaantastic!  And their buttermilk herb dressing is homemade and worth its weight in gold.  So, not too long ago when Puccini’s started selling GF pizzas, I was in heaven!  The first pizza I got, I didn’t even get around to sitting down before I inhaled the entire pizza.  I mean the ENTIRE pizza.  In one sitting, er, standing.  And I was so happy, I didn’t even care that everyone in the house was staring at me in horror…

So, when Mom came up to get my little Turtle girl, we ordered pizza.  I don’t think she was expecting it to be as good as it was.  She took one bite and her eyes got really big.  She finished chewing and said, “This tastes like real pizza! “  Oh, yum, don’t I know it!  But her reaction got me thinking.  Just because we can’t have the “real” thing, doesn’t mean that we should settle for something that just isn’t good enough.  And I guess I really don’t.  I am constantly trying new recipes and ideas and products to get the taste or texture that I am desperately craving.  Nature’s Pharm in Castleton has been a true lifesaver in this- introducing me to Organicville Ranch dressing, and even carrying items that I have requested- like Organicville mayonnaise.  If you have issues with eggs and dairy, Organicville is the closest thing to the real thing I have found.  I even dipped my Puccini’s pizza into the ranch, just like the old days!

I have noticed that my mood often follows the food that I have eaten. If I am somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of food that I can eat, I tend to get grumpy- I’m sure it’s a blood sugar issue… ;) And when I have had good food and have been well fed, I am a happy girl! Between the Puccini’s pizza on Friday, the smoked meat goodness at my in-law’s house on Saturday, the Pizza King nachos that I snuck yesterday and the meal tonight that I’m looking forward to making, I’m in a great mood! Now, I’m off to eat a piece of crustless Pumpkin pie. If you’re lucky, maybe I’ll share the recipe next time…  Happy Monday!