Friday, April 24, 2009

Onion Pepper Confetti Basmati Pilaf

Today, I was out in my driveway cleaning up a new (used) dresser with some Murphy Oil Soap, and my neighbor friend stopped by with some vino!  Yay!

We got a chance to visit, I asked her if she'd eaten--she said no--so I said, "Stay for dinner!"  

I have a giant bag (10 lbs., I think it was originally) of Basmati rice from the Indian grocery store, purchased on 7/14/07.  I know that because I dated the bag, to track how long it takes to eat it all (just for fun).  When I finish it some day (a long time from now?), I think I'll have a party.  

Anyway, what would I make for dinner?  I had one red and one orange pepper in the to shrivel up (whoops, didn't cut up for hummus soon enough!) this is what I was able to come up with:  Onion Pepper Confetti Basmati Pilaf, in my large stock pot. 

The simple ingredients:
  • two peppers (I like red, orange or yellow)
  • one medium onion
  • a couple Tbsps. Olive Oil or Butter
  • 2/3 box of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I like Pacific Foods or Trader Joe's)
  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • water
  • parsley flakes
  • 1-1/2 tsp. celery salt

Invite friends into kitchen and talk with them.  Simultaneously:  chop peppers and onions. Share stories about bad dates (optional).  Saute onions and peppers in oil or butter.  When onions are clear, add the broth, rice, parsley and celery salt.  Add maybe about a cup of water.  Bring to boil.  Simmer on low until rice is cooked.  Taste the broth.  If it is bland, add a little more celery salt.  

Stir the rice occasionally.  If all the water cooks off before the rice is fully cooked, add some more.  (I'm sorry I don't measure exactly.  You can do it.  Be courageous.)

This makes a large pot that you can keep in the fridge for the next couple days.  I served with a fresh salad with chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinegrette, and some vino.  Then an orange for dessert?


Part of the wonderful conversation I had with this friend of mine was about how we remember our mid-western grandmothers made very simple foods with very few ingredients.  No MSG, modified food starch, high-fructose corn syrup, or anything.  Just 3 or 4 ingredients!  

We also were talking about how many of our mothers and grandmothers never used recipes, they just cooked "by ear."  Whatever you've got on hand, put something together, and make it work. can BE CREATIVE.  (I just love it when people tell me that).

Many of us are feeling a little stressed about money these days, but I think if we get psyched about being creative cooks, and enjoying the experimentation that we can come up with new recipes and even enjoy the journey of trying them out.  

This recipe cost:

2 peppers:  $2 from a 6-pack from Costco ($6)
3 cups Basmati:  maybe $0.72 from my $5 10-lb bag?
1 onion: maybe $0.37 from my 3-lb yellow onion bag that cost $2.49
1 box low-sodium chicken broth (70mg per cup): $2.29 at Trader Joe's
parsley flakes: 1 Tbsp from a package, maybe $0.12's worth?
celery salt: maybe $0.15's worth?

I didn't calculate the exact numbers...but isn't it about $6 for several days worth?  You can serve this as a main dish, or just a fancy side.  


So you might want to try it.  I can't upload photos for the time being, so you'll have to use your imagination (I'll try to add them later).  But I promise you will enjoy this.  It tastes even better if you share, so invite that neighbor or friend over.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hey Blue Cross, You're Welcome!

So there's been a little stir since my post Let's Do Free Lunch. The question I meant to raise was this: "If there are so many drug reps constantly encouraging MD's to prescribe their products to their patients, why aren't we making a clamour ourselves, educating and encouraging the medical community to consider symptoms as possibly indicating Celiac Disease (DH, or gluten sensitivity, et. al.)?"

My foremost thought when composing that short piece was that MD's could really be more aware of the wide spectrum of associated symptoms w/CD because so often people are misdiagnosed (and treated with unnecessary drug therapies).

I was undiagnosed probably about 12-15 years (prob. since middle school). Over all those years I was told:
  • "Here, take these Iron pills"
  • "You should work out more"
  • "I don't want to diagnose you with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome because it's not a real illness"
  • "Let's try Prozac."
  • "You have 9 cavities."
  • "Here's an extra antibiotic for your next (chronic) sinus infection"
The list goes on, but that gives you an idea. So I just accepted the fact that I was unable to stay awake an entire day, I could never feel energetic and happy, I was always sick all winter, I destroyed my teeth because I'm a jerk, I'm lazy and that's why I don't work out more, and so on. But I forged on, graduated from college with honors, and just worked as hard as I possibly could in life, trying to ignore how terrible I felt. Lots of caffeine consumption!

When I was in grad school, my mom mentioned offhand that a 2nd cousin of ours had received a Celiac Disease diagnosis after being very ill for many years. My response? Ok, whatever, mom, that's nice.

To back up a little bit, my mother had ovarian cancer in the early 1990's, and thankfully survived. After she had a year of chemotherapy, she saw a holistic MD, who prescribed that she follow a yeast-free, gluten-free diet. For many years (I think 5-7), she religiously stuck to this diet. We all thought she was crazy.

One day in 2005, I was at a Borders or B & N, and found a "Gluten Free Recipes" book on the sale table and picked it up for my mom, thinking it had to do with her crazy diet. Next time I was on the phone with her, I told her about it. She said, "Oh, that's what our one cousin has."


What is this "Celiac Disease"? (No doctor had ever told me!)

So because my life was boring, I started reading. And reading. And asking my mom about her problems, other problems in our family. (BTW, it's our Dutch lineage). Anyway, I made lists of my symptoms, her symptoms, autoimmune diseases that were rampant in our family (all thyroid, goiter, Hashimoto's, Sjogren's, Lupus, Cancer, skin rashes, chronic fatigue, depression, etc. etc.)

I'd try anything to stop being so tired.

I made an appointment w/the university clinic to get a lab test. They had no idea what I was talking about. I was prepared--had my lists and some printed literature. I was excited. It could be an answer, I'm not just a lazy jerk!

A few days beforehand I'd piled up on the gluten. Birthday cake (had the test a few days after my birthday), Lofthouse cookies, crepes.

I convinced the practitioner to give me the test. I had it drawn that day. She said, "this is amazing. Wow, I never really knew about this. Of course I can order this for you."

Right after the test, I immediately stopped eating gluten, but had to wait over a week for the result. By the 4th day, I felt better than I'd felt my whole life. So I made a batch of wheat flour crepes. To see if it was all in my mind, or what.

Wretched misery! I felt absolutely terrible--I couldn't think, I got all hot and feverish feeling, started scratching all over my body, and had to lay down I was so exhausted.

The result you know already: POS.

Gluten was killing me! I felt so betrayed.

That's my story. I'm pretty sure my insurance is aware of my diagnosis.

But I've needed fewer office visits, drugs, and I've been much healthier overall. And it's possible (or probable) that I'm going to avoid the mid-life cancers that many folks in my family have faced. Compared to cancer surgery, chemotherapy and all that, eating some GF pita bread is way cheap!


I told you all that to tell you this. My Let's do Free Lunch post started much discussion (by accident--but an important discussion nonetheless) about whether or not you ought to be diagnosed. And there is a problem that insurance companies consider this a liability, a "Pre-Existing" condition.

To that, I say, we must spread the word--our stories and the research. (I don't feel like it needs to be political in any way, just sharing the information...)

Check out this article:

The insurance companies could save big by encouraging diagnosis of this condition. The classification of this CD, DH (Dermatitis Herpetiformis), and gluten sensitivity as "Pre-Existing" conditions is just plain nonsense. We who are diagnosed want to be healthy, and strive to maintain our own wellness (the act of even finding out our diagnosis in the first place is a testament to that).

I think the best thing we can do is keep talking. Keep discussing. Share our stories. Get the word out. Help others live better lives.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mexican Rice

I said I had some recipes up my sleeve.  You will love this.  When I make this recipe, I usually double it (approximately), and never freeze any.  That's because I can count on myself eating it all up right away.  Pretty much, I just use large portions as meals, often with sides of plain frozen veggies (broccoli, mixed vegs, peas, green beans, etc).

Mexican Rice
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 cup broth (usually chicken)
  • 1 cup tomatoes--chopped, diced, whole, whatever, & juice (canned or fresh)
  • chopped onion (1/3 cup or more, about 1 medium onion)
  • oil--3Tbsps?
Heat oil in skillet or saucepan.
Add rice and stir until white (be careful not to burn--keep stirring).
Add onion, broth and tomatoes.
Bring to a boil. 
Turn heat down to simmer.
Cover and don't lift lid for 1/2 hour.


This recipe is from my Aunt Loretta, who got it from her friend of Mexican heritage.  It's so simple, yet so good.  I hope you like it as much as I do.  

Underground tip:  I usually go heavy on the onions.  MMMM, flavor!

Let's Do Free Lunch

Tonight there are going to be Zpizza samples at the Greater North Raleigh Celiac Support Group.  That's pretty cool; I do believe I will stop by.

However, I've had Zpizza a few times since I originally tried it, which you can read about here.  Mostly it's been at the place where I work (my day job!), a physician's office.  Maybe you've heard about this?  Every single day, drug reps bring lunch to every single doctor in America, it seems.  Each lunch is a presentation, in which the drug (SALES) rep goes over the selling points of each drug, clinical trial data, etc.

I have been very flattered that many times these very nice people remember I am celiac and bring me gluten free lunch items, including Zpizza and Whole Foods baked goods.  This is so cool.  But then I keep having this thought:


I was absolutely appalled when at her Raleigh presentation Jules Shepard said medical providers she'd spoken with had told their patients "you don't want to be diagnosed if you're celiac."  So why aren't we taking them our best GF items, so they will have the courage and frequent reminders to screen our undiagnosed brothers and sisters?  

Which of our awareness organizations might want to get a program started, do you think? Does anyone know of people doing this or any current programs in place?  Please comment or email me thoughts on this.  I just hate it that people are suffering unnecessarily.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

News brief from The Underground

Hello there!

What's happening at The Underground?  

I have a bunch of posts saved up w/pics to add here, which I should be able to accomplish in the next few days, so please stop back.  Mexican Rice, a recipe for stellar Mexican Chicken, beans and rice salad, Z pizza, and more.  

Yesterday I went to Rosie's Plate in Raleigh, and got some Fresh Cheese Ravioli.  It was pretty good!  I also ordered some Pita Bread for later.

I realized they are next door to Marsh Woodwinds, one of the coolest music shops ever.  Be sure to stop by there if you are stopping by Rosie's!

Off to work, just wanted to post something here so you know I'm still alive and thinking about ya!  Happy Tax Day!  

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easy, good things

Busy times here.

So, some quick and easy things:
  • Amy's Rice Mac N' Cheese! Quite good. Maybe a little high in sodium/fat. But it's not like we'd eat it every day. It's pretty rich, reminds me of Stouffers.

  • Pamela's Lemon Shortbread cookies! These are a little hard to find (I find them at Kroger). Apparently chocolate chunk is a much more popular flavor... These are OK room temperature, and AMAZING when frozen.
  • Individual packs of hummus (Tribe brand, comes in a box of 16 packs at Costco, for about 5 bucks). Mix with a bag of baby carrots, or other treats (corn chips, peppers, etc.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bahama Rice Burgers

I picked up a box of these the other day at my local Earth Fare. I chose the "Jerkin' Spicy" variety. I haven't had a veggie burger for probably about 3 years.

These are great!! Two of my friends came over last night to carpool with me to go watch a concert, and I asked them if they'd eaten--NO. So I said, you guys want a Bahama rice burger? Some veggies? Quesadilla?

I had 2 takers on the Bahama Burgers, so that was 3 including me.

Both of these friends were meat-eatin, wheat-eatin guys. And they both said they like the burgers (served on Trader Joe's Gluten Free French Rolls) very much! One asked me for directions to Earth Fare, so he could go get some. So 3 taste testers agree. And even though I cooked these on the stove inside, it tasted like a cookout at Emily's.

I also cut up a few red/yellow pepper slices. It was a great night, and we attended a very good concert afterward!