Grill EVERYTHING


I miss junk food. Fries, pop, chips… all of these take significant chunks of my time to make safely now and as a result, I’ve basically been forced into eating healthier. There are some upsides, like the fact that my weight is actually at a healthy point, and staying stable.

But recently, I have discovered my new favourite fast food. Grilled sandwiches! There is, however a slight catch. While I recently re-added cheese to my diet, it’s only ricotta, and I have to make it. Ricotta does not melt. I’ve tried. A lot. It still makes a decent grilled cheese sandwich. Good enough that I ate them all before even thinking to take a picture to share them with you. Mine. My sandwiches. My preciousssssss….

But then one day I was running low on ricotta cheese, and I had a grilled cheese craving… and I happened to have some puréed chickpeas (memories of hummus?). I made two grilled chickpea sandwiches… and they were AMAZING. My sister keeps commenting on how awesome it smells whenever I make them. Which has been frequently, because they’re SO easy! 

I’ve also been making grilled dessert sandwiches too; with mashed banana, or blueberry jam, plain ricotta, and chocolate chips. Any or all of those make for a pretty epic dessert sandwich.

Grilled sandwiches totally rock. *happy janice*

Pizza

I’ve had a few successes lately- one was PIZZA back in April; a fair bit of work, but it was well worth it after not having had pizza for a year. 

I ended up using purple corn flour as the base for my crust, and then my beet/sweet potato/rice vinegar “tomato” sauce. I made ricotta, and a sticky stretchy mess of a tapioca starch roux to make it more melty-cheese like. It was pretty awesome!

The Emergency Kit: How to survive unexpected (and long) trips to the ER

It didn’t take long last year for me to start making a list of things to bring with me EVERYWHERE and to remember to bring to the ER. My little ’emergency kit’ serves me really well for other reasons too, though, so I thought I’d share! The list isn’t long, but I’ll explain the items afterwards in case you want to know why…

On me: Medication Card, Epipen, Ventolin, Benadryl.

In my ’emergency kit’, my little red zip bag:

  1. Medication Card
  2. Regular Daily Meds
  3. Cell Phone, Brick & Charger cable
  4. Earplugs
  5. Microphone/headphones for phone
  6. Benadryl
  7. Bandaids
  8. Hair Elastics

On the checklist of things to be sure I have when I travel in an ambulance:

  • Wallet (health card!!! and fare for a taxi)
  • Dry Socks
  • Pillow/blanket?

1) The medication card

You know when you meet a new medical professional, and they give you an intake form to fill out, with the tiniest section ever to list allergies and medications? If you’re like me, you aren’t a fan.

Many years ago, though, I came up with my solution: a Medication card. It came about after I’d taken a number of first aid courses, and they mentioned how your secondary first aid (once patient is stable) includes getting medication information ready. I remember once calling an ambulance for my mom, and the paramedics had us hunting down all her medication bottles, to bring to the ER, because of course WE didn’t know her meds… and she was not well enough to know them either.

So I started using the little ‘medication summary sheet’ that pharmacies give you with ever prescription refill. I’d cross off the non-regular meds like antibiotics, and write in why I was taking the others in the space I could find. Then I put packing tape over the whole thing.

Now I’ve typed it into a handy chart. I have one column for the reasons I take medications- in order of importance. Allergies, Asthma, Chronic Back Pain, Etc… then the next column lists medications (both brand and generic names), and dosage. Next column is when I take it, and then I added a column for the prescription number or DIN so that it’s easy for me to refill my prescriptions even if I’m out of the house.

The other side of the paper has my picture, my name, the important medical conditions listed again, emergency contacts, and contacts for my doctors. I laminate two copies, keeping one in my wallet and the other in my epipen belt.

2) Daily meds:

One of the most frustrating things about allergies is that most of my medications now have to be specially compounded. So if I’m in the ER when I’m supposed to take my morning or evening meds… it’s not always possible that the ER will be able to easily have them on hand. Plus, it’s not ideal to have to get the nurse to hunt around for meds that aren’t immediately related to keeping me alive. So I always keep a mini ziplock with my morning meds, and one with my evening meds, in my emergency kit. I *ALWAYS* check with the nurse/doc before I take them, so that they are aware of what I’m taking and can avoid any drug interactions.

To be honest, though, I use these most when I’m at work and realize I forgot to take my morning meds.

3) Cellphone Charger, Brick (& Cell Phone)

It’s hard for me to imagine a time when I’d be less happy to be out of touch with my family & friends… than in an emergency. I have, however, learned not to text while a blood pressure cuff is inflating (OW- don’t even hold it then!!!). I don’t often have any company for the 3-6 hr mandatory “let’s see if this reaction returns” wait, so keeping at least my sister up-to-date is important. My phone has downloaded movies, music, books, games… not to mention the ERs in my city all have free wifi… but of course all of that is USELESS without a charger.

I found a retractable charger online, and a small brick. It’s neat, tidy, and is also the thing I pull out most frequently when I’m not in an ER. Be sure to get something as long as possible, since it’s really nice to be able to keep it plugged in while you hold it.

4) Earplugs

ERs are LOUD when you’re trying to sleep off an allergic reaction. Beeping monitors, the occasional patient next door moaning or screaming… so a few pairs of these are really helpful for overall sanity.

5) Headphones/microphone 

ERs are LOUD… and you don’t want to be contributing. Or bugging your neighbour while chatting on the phone (I do that very, very rarely) or watching a movie or listening to calming music. I’d like to find a pair that retracted or some way to cool them more neatly, though.

6) Benadryl 

If you have allergies, talk to your allergist about what emergency procedure you should be following. Because I have chronic hives AND anaphylaxis, I have been instructed not to use my epi at the first symptom, and thus I carry Benadryl (for the hives). Usually, though, if you have a history of severe reactions, and you start exhibiting symptoms… Call 911. Take the epi. Go to the ER by ambulance. As with many things in my life… I am an exception to what is normal.
The things I keep on me at all times are for really good reasons: without an epipen where I could reach it, I’ve had difficulty breathing… thankfully my brother-in-law intervened that time when he heard me coughing. Without ventolin on me, I’ve had to send colleagues running to get it from my locker as it felt like my lungs were on fire during an asthma attack… These are things I have learned to keep within reach, period. Usually in a belt around my waist, or a special pair of pants. Even when I sleep I can reach an epi. If I swim, I let the guard team know who I am & what the belt is at the side of the pool… When I have massage therapy or chiro appointments, they know where my belt is. It’s key.

7) Bandaids

I have first aid knowledge, but the most handy thing to have with me at all times? Bandaids. I keep cool “Planes” bandaids because they make me (and the patient) laugh.

8) Hair Elastics

If you have long hair like me… this one can really be helpful. In the ER you’re already tangled up in wires and cords, and getting your hair tangled too? Not cool. I usually keep two because i prefer to braid my hair into two braids when i’m not feeling well. Keeps my hair out of the way, but also doesn’t make a big bump on the back of my head when i’m trying to sleep.

The Other Stuff:

The last few items on the list are really just for comfort; my socks always manage to get wet somehow… probably from the paramedics tracking in snow and me walking beside them. And the pillow/blanket came from that one time the ER was out of pillows and heated blankets. It was not a fun night, but it’s pretty rare so sometimes I skip that option.

Hopefully you’ll never need to use these items, but… as I learned in girl guides many years ago, it’s always good to #beprepared!

Ask Allergies Out! 

Whether you’re just friends or looking for more romance in your life, allergies tend to complicate things. But have courage! People who’ve dealt with allergies are people who are resilient in the face of danger, and are incredible problem solvers. In my case, the worse the allergies… the better my cooking has gotten… and my general survival skills! We’re the people others come looking for in an emergency, and we’re usually prepared for most situations.

From my food allergy perspective, dating is quite daunting. How can I find a way to let someone new meet me… without being overshadowed by meeting my allergies? I recognize that I am not defined by what I can eat, but would a potential date? Would a guy understand why he can’t kiss me without eating my food for 24 hrs beforehand, since that’s really what the experts recommend? It seems such a strange concept to me, dating without food or kissing involved… so I thought I’d go over some things that I’ve learned thus far. In case you wanted to ask me out… or someone else with allergies!

1) It’s ok. 

It’s ok to ask questions. 

Knowledge is the best way to prevent a reaction, and I’m happy to answer any question you might have. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll tell you, and maybe we’ll bond over finding the answer together.

It’s ok to be afraid, to feel overwhelmed and unable to help

So… Gentlemen, I know you’re not likely to admit it, but I know that allergies are really hard to cope with. Especially because you *can’t* fix it. Well, you can avoid my allergens, but you’ll have to eat them sometimes! In any case I’m going to put this out there: please, please, tell your allergic date if you’re freaking out internally. I really value honesty and communication, and when it comes to allergies? TOTALLY OK to freak out. I’ve had professional allergy conscious chefs swear in sympathy with my list… it’s ok. It’s normal to be overwhelmed by this.

It is NOT OK to lie to me, tell me that you know more than you really do, to goof around with my food or to joke about my allergies. Be respectful to the fact that food produces an incredible amount of stress for people with allergies, and the paranoia we have around our food is actually healthy, and necessary. Recognize that trust around food is almost impossible. I keep poisoning myself- so if I can’t trust myself… how can I possibly trust someone else? As my friend, or as my date, I need you to be paranoid on my behalf when you’re dealing with my food.

Which brings us to how to balance that fear:

2) Be prepared

Living by the Girl Guide motto has served me well for allergies, and as it turns out astronauts live by it too. They plan, and practice what to do for every different emergency. The same can be true for dating someone with allergies!

Be prepared for a reaction: we all hope it won’t happen, but if it does… I need my date to be ready to help. Ready to call 911, to help me take the epipen if needed. Ready to ditch the date plans to chill in the ER instead. Food Allergy Canada has free online courses on how to recognize & deal with Anaphylaxis, and there are lots of smartphone apps for general first aid, too.

Be prepared for the date: If you invite me somewhere, I will need to know details in advance in order to plan allergy-wise. Are we leaving Ontario? What is the 911 response time where we are headed? What sort of airborne environmental things might I need to be prepared to deal with? Much more importantly… what should I wear??? A girl’s gotta know the dress code!

Be prepared for food: For most people with allergies, calling a restaurant a week ahead is more than enough time. In my case…I have thus far found one restaurant capable of feeding me, and they request a month’s notice. So, because of that, it’s much easier to go on a picnic or eat in. Please remember that food feels very much love/hate for those of us with allergies, and that the words “I want to learn to cook a meal we can both eat” are just about the most loving words I’ve ever heard. That said, I would probably not be comfortable cooking in my date’s kitchen right away… so… that brings us to:

3) Non-Food First Date Ideas

  • Museum
  • Bowling
  • Mini Golf
  • Urban Quest
  • Escape Room
  • Geocaching
  • Cycling
  • Skating
  • Fly kites
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Swing Dancing
  • Laser Quest
  • Painting
  • Croquet
  • Giant Sandcastle or Snow-Fort building
  • Winterlude ice slides (tubing!)
  • Board game night
  • Jigsaw puzzle night
  • Canoeing on Dow’s Lake

4) Non-Food Later Date Ideas

Once I get to know you, then these are great date ideas:

  • Watch fireworks together
  • Multi-player computer games (I have AoE3)
  • Hiking- Champlain’s Point, Hog’s Back Falls, behind Parliament
  • Roller coaster?
  • Little League Baseball Game?
  • Wash cars together
  • Tree planting
  • Sailing
  • Clean-up a park
  • Star-gazing evening
  • Making a meal together
  • Concert/ Movie
  • Theatre- eg. Shakespeare in the park!
  • Swimming
  • Archery tag
  • Play music together
  • Make a care package together for a friend
  • Taking a community centre class together to learn a new skill
  • Photography mission somewhere in the city
  • Quilt show!
  • Volunteering together
  • Water balloon fight!

 

And… that’s it. Good luck on your allergic date 🙂 Feel free to ask questions, or comment below with your favourite non-food date ideas!!!

Fabulous Failure

So lately I’ve been in an experimental mood with recipes… probably brought on by my discovering I really love watching 18th century cooking videos. I have to adapt all their recipes, but the ideas are often very old solutions to the problems I face in food preservation! 

Anyways, the other day they posted about Puff Paste, which is now known as puff pastry. I decided that since the butter has to stay cold… I would make it in the winter. Plus I was hungry. 
So I threw together a flour substitute (my wheat flour’s not allowed in the house, lest I poison my celiac sister & housemate), and calculated what I’d need so that I wouldn’t use a full pound of flour & a pound of butter… 

except that somewhere in there I screwed up. And thought it was 1:1 flour:butter in VOLUME. 

Fast forward to rolling out the dough. It seemed odd that it was SO thin the butter peeked through a lot. It wasn’t springing back like they said it would. But meh. Gluten free flours behave oddly, I thought. 

Then I cooked it. It took a lot longer than I expected, and to my surprise it looked like it was deep frying itself in the pie dish! The meat wrapped in pastry had the pastry spreading out all over. So I waited until it was all browned, and took it out. 


Not exactly *beautiful*… but OH. SO. GOOD. Good enough that I have decided not to try and salvage the leftover dough into new puff pastry that might get overworked in the salvage… but instead to make more of what I will call: Fried Pie. 

Behold, the blueberry fried pie that started it. I just filled the pie with frozen blueberries. Easy!!!

This week I made kiwi fried pie, with straight kiwi slices, and then done kiwi jam on top, and then coconut on top of that. 


Let me know if anyone wants the recipe for these failures! Lol. Otherwise I’ll post my adaptation on puff pastry once I get it to work!!!

COCOA

Well, this week has been a long wait. I “challenged” cocoa last year, but it contained milk and may have contained other random things. Throw that test out… 

This year I was chatting w my allergist, and since things are going so well on the hives front (I frequently have days without hives now!!!), he cleared me for trying the cocoa nibs I had found at the store. These are sulphite and nut and everything else I’m allergic to FREE. Note: he cleared me for doing this at home, as it’s highly unlikely to cause anaphylaxis for me. DON’T challenge things at home without your allergist’s approval!!!

So far… I spent a day doing a standard challenge. A weird feeling mouth, and some flushing, twice in the day after eating them… But nothing major and maybe my chronic hives acted up.

Tried some more again last night- again felt weird, but the hives only came later on and may have been related to something else.

I *will* keep trying these. Enjoy Life chocolate is also sulphite-free, though I’ve learned that they go ahead and label natural sources of sulphites as sulphite-free… so… many of their “sulphite-free” products are only under 10 PPM. Sigh. Thankfully… the chocolate is not one of them!!! YAY! 

In any case trying cocoa has been a delight, hives or not!!! The nibs taste like coffee beans in texture, but the smell is totally chocolate. Just smelling them is SO, SO nice!!!

I might try the *real* chocolate on valentine’s if I’m not super busy… seems like a good day to try chocolate! Wish me luck 🙂 

Gummies!!!

It’s amazing how, over a year, you can miss certain textures in your food. One of the ones that I really wanted to try for the holidays (but didn’t in the end) were gummy candies. But Valentine’s is just around the corner… so I’ve made these! 


I found the original recipe on YouTube, here https://youtu.be/YQ2DweIAGtk, but here it is again, in a smaller batch: 

Heat 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 can coconut milk together until the sugar dissolves. 

In another bowl, mix 1/4 of rice flour and 3/4 c tapioca starch (the original recipe insists you use the flour, but… they’re the same thing… so I dunno what he meant there). 

Add the coconut milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir well. Add about 1/4 c milk until the mix is thinned to the consistency of milk. If you want to do layers, split the mix in half (I used plastic bags) and colour one bag (I used blueberry juice). 


Start by pouring a thin layer in the bottom of your silicone mould. Steam it for 1-2 minutes. Add another thin layer, steam 1-2 minutes. Continue adding layers and steaming until you’re at the end. I steamed the last layer for 3 minutes just to be sure. 

Then put them in the fridge, and let it set for 10-30 minutes. 

Then pop them out of the moulds. And hide them from yourself; they’re addictive!!! Make sure it’s an air right container so they don’t dry out. I’m testing them now to see if it should be fridge or not… I’m thinking not…

Variations: I added a bit of coconut to the bottom of one of my moulds. Lovely!!! My next batch I plan on trying coconut flour instead of rice flour so that the flavour is more coconutty- these are relatively bland, all things considered. 

I also wonder if, since coconut milk is kinda like cream, if one could make this with cream instead and have it work the same way. I might try that for other flavourings. If I can ever try other flavourings…. anyways happy experimenting!