Saturday, September 4, 2010

Readapting and Alice Unraveled

Well, I am back to college, still getting used to it.
This year is different because I have to cook all my meals for myself in my dorm room. 
My micro-fridge and blender are my best friend. I spend a lot of time preparing food so that I have lunches ready during the week because I don't have much time between classes. I don't mind though, I love to cook and It's definitely pushing me to be creative with the food I have in my fridge.
Today was a clean up day. I had some leftover beans that needed to get eaten.
Here's what I made:

Tahini Beany Tacos!

Tahini Beany Spread:

-1/2 c Great Northern Beans 
-2 tsp Tahini
-2 T gluten free oats
-1 T water
-spices: chipotle powder, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper

Pulse the oats in a blender until they form a powder. Add in the beans, tahini, water and spices (to taste). Pulse until all the beans are ground up into a paste. (You may need to stop in between pulses to stir occasionally.)

Spread over two gluten free corn tortillas and top with some cooked spinach and homemade salsa!

It was really delicious! Beats school food that's for sure!

I've also been busy writing lots of music. When I'm at school I feel like my mind doesn't stop. I am constantly running to a sheet of paper to scribble down a lyric or phrase. My classes are really inspiring, especially my master class. I really like my professor and the other students in the class, they are all very talented.
This Thursday in master class I brought in the title song from the musical I wrote called "Alice Unraveled". The show is loosely based on Lewis Carrol's "Alice in Wonderland" but it is not a children's story. It depicts one young girls struggle to regain control in her life after a sexual assault. Through the course of the play she is thrust into a chaotic, disturbing world, much like a nightmare. It's a story about growing older, and moving forward through difficult times.
I am trying to arrange the music from the show now and wanted some ideas on instrumentation. The people in my master class gave me some really interesting advice that I can not wait to test out in the studios!
Here's a video of me singing the song "Alice Unraveled" with a few pictures from the show. 

I've fallen in love with writing for stage. There's a second musical in the works!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dutch Baby Soufflé and My Not-So-Baby Sister

We took my younger sister to college this weekend. Today is her first day of her freshman year. It's so weird seeing her all grown up and going off to school. It was pretty hard on me. It was hard on all of us. I went through almost all the tissues we had brought in the car on the way home...I'm not good at holding my emotions in.

I was glad I got to drive down and help her unload. Her room looks awesome! All her posters, pictures, pillows and sheets go so well together, but don't match in an obnoxious way. Everything just sort of flows and feels comfortably eclectic. She's always had her own sense of style. She insisted on dressing herself even in preschool. I'll never forget some of her crazy outfits! She used to wear these vertical striped rainbow pants with a horizontal striped rainbow sweater, it was so cute. Now of course her style has matured a lot and she's a way better dresser than me. Whenever I wear her clothes I get compliments. She's developed a really good eye for putting cool things together.

It's been two days now since we dropped her off and I miss her so much already but I know she's gonna have a great year. She's so talented, a really hard worker and she seems to be adjusting well already. I'm really proud of her.

I have a habit of looking at recipes when I'm nervous (I'm not condoning using food as therapy but sometimes it's the only thing that seems to help) and yesterday, because I was still feeling rattled from Saturday, I decided to look for a comforting dessert to make for my family. I stumbled upon this recipe for Dutch Babies with a Chunky Blueberry Maple Sauce by One Frugal Foodie. It looked so delicious I just had to give it a try!

Here's the recipe (with a few adaptations):

Dutch Babies (Gluten free, casein free, soy free and nut free!)
serves 4-8

-1 c gluten free flour blend (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free all-purpose baking flour)
-1/8 tsp salt
-1 c milk alternative
-1 T Maple syrup
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-4 medium eggs (brought to room temperature)
-1/2 T palm oil shortening

-Preheat the oven to 425* F

-Pour the flour and salt into a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the milk alternative, maple syrup and vanilla, stirring until well combined.

-Whisk in the eggs one at a time until incorporated

-Put the shortening in a 9" pie plate and place it in the oven for a few mins or until the shortening is melted and the plate is good and heated.

-Remove the pie plate from the oven and swirl the shortening to coat the bottom of the plate.

-Pour in the egg batter and bake for 25-30 mins.

(The batter should rise up like a soufflé in the oven but will deflate as it cools creating a lower section in the middle that is perfect for pouring the blueberry sauce over.)

Chunky Blueberry and Sour Cherry Maple Sauce (I added sour cherries because we had some leftover from my Sour Cherry Blueberry Pie with a Buckwheat Crust)

-1 c blueberries
-1 c sour cherries
-1 T lemon juice
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 c maple syrup
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp tapioca starch (or cornstarch)

-Add berries, maple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon to a small saucepan.

-Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for a few mins

-Sprinkle in the tapioca starch, whisking to combine and continue to simmer for a few mins more to thicken.

That's it! Pretty Simple right? And also on the healthy side for a dessert. There are only about 155 calories in a slice (if you divide the dutch baby into eight slices). The original recipe says it serves 2-4 people but I think it could serve up to 8 people, although I ate a quarter of the pie by myself, haha. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Mama!

Happy Birthday Mama!

Today is my Mom's birthday, so in honor of this special occasion we baked a sour cherry and blueberry pie. 

This was our first time making a gluten free, soy free, vegan pie so I was a little worried about how it would turn out.
It ended up tasting great! The buckwheat crust had a more rustic flavor that complimented the sweet and tangy berry filling.

Here's the recipe:

Gluten Free, Vegan, Soy free Buckwheat Crust 
* We made a double crust, if you don't want a top crust on your pie halve the recipe.

* 3 cups gluten free buckwheat flour
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup vegetable shortening (we used spectrum naturals non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening)
* 1/4 c plus 2 T (or so) cold water

* Mix flour and salt in a bowl
* Cut in shortening until mixture resembles course, mealy crumbs
* Add water and mix until it forms a dough (Add more water as necessary but be careful not to thin it out too much)

Sour Cherry, Blueberry Pie Filling

*  4 cups sour cherries
* 1 1/2 cups blueberries
* 1/4 cup tapioca pearls (or 3-3 1/2 T cornstarch)
* 1 T lemon juice
* 1 1/4 cup sugar (we used about 1 c of white sugar and 1/4 c of light brown sugar)

* Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425* F
* Combine the all ingredients in a large bowl and let stand for about 15 mins
* Place half the dough in between two layers of plastic wrap (so it doesn't fall apart) and roll it out into a 13-inch round, lay it into a 9 inch pie pan, and trim off the overhanging dough to 3/4 inch all around.
* Roll out the other half of the dough (in between plastic wrap) into a 12-inch round for the top crust and set aside.
* Pour Pie filling into the bottom crust
* Brush the overhanging edge of the bottom crust with cold water. Cover with top crust, then seal the edge, and trim.
* Cut a few steam vents into the top crust
* Bake the pie at 425* for 30 mins.
* When 3o mins have passed slip a baking sheet beneath the pie and reduce the oven temperature to 350* F. Bake until thick juices bubble through the vents on top of the pie. About 25-30 mins.
* Let cool completely on a rack before serving. Store at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Serves 8

Nutrition Facts: Calories- about 610 (per slice), not exactly diet food but I'm trying to gain weight and everyone deserves a treat now and then! Besides there are a lot of good nutrients in this pie.
Buckwheat is very healthy grain substitute. (I say "grain substitute" because it is actually not a grain it's a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel.) It is high in omega 3's, potassium, B vitamins and phosphorus and is higher in fiber and protein than wheat flour.
The palm oil shortening is better for you than regular vegetable shortening as well. It has no trans fat because it is non-hydrogenated and is a good source of healthy monounsaturated fat. It is also naturally cholesterol free!
Of course the blueberries and cherries add many valuable anti-oxidants, as well as vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene, magnesium, iron, potassium and folate.
Of course there is a lot of sugar in this pie but it is a dessert and sugar is good for your soul.
So eat up and feel good about what you're eating! :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Home again :)

Well, we're back from our vacation.
I had a really good time. I don't get to see my family that lives down South very often, so it's always nice to see how everyone is doing and to get a chance to spend a few days together.

In Hilton Head we went on a boat ride with some of my Grandparent's friends and saw a bunch of dolphins! A few of them swam so close to the boat that we could have reached out and touched them. It was pretty amazing. I have always loved sea creatures, when I was very little I wanted to grow up to be a marine biologist (until I realized that science and math were involved), so it was really incredible to get to see dolphins in their natural habitat.

In D.C. we went to the Hirschorn Museum of Art and sculpture garden which was really cool. I did a lot of painting in high school. I almost went to college for art instead of music, so I have always loved going to art galleries.  Here's a photo of me in front of my favorite Henry Moore sculpture "King and Queen".

I am glad to be back home now though. I still have a few weeks before I start college again and I'm determined to get some work done.

I wrote a full-length musical this year that was performed in my home town and I want to start revising it before I go back to school because I am thinking about putting it on at my college as my junior project. The show is called "Alice Unraveled". It loosely references "Alice in Wonderland" but deals with a girl suffering from post-traumatic stress after a sexual assault. I will be posting pictures, clips and music from the show as I work on the revision.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

We're Going on a Trip!

Tomorrow my family and I are venturing south for our annual family vacation.
This is my first time traveling with my new diet so we are bringing a lot of food for me in the car. Marinated chicken tenders, quinoa salad, cut veggies, granola bars and best of all MUFFINS! :)

I just baked up some delicious looking Maple Berry Muffins.

Here's the recipe:
(From The Flying Apron's Gluten Free Vegan Baking Book)

Maple Berry Muffins
Makes 12

-1 1/2 c brown rice flour
- 3/4 c garbanzo bean flour (sifted)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 c sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
- 1 c water
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 c maple syrup
- 1/2 c raspberries
-1/2 c blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 375* F
2. Combine brown rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
3. In a different large bowl combine olive oil, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Whisk to incorporate.
4. Continue to whisk and slowly add the flour mixture to the oil mixture until smooth. (The original recipe says to do this in the bowl of a standing mixer but since I do not own a standing mixer I whisked it by hand. It seems to have turned out fine.)
5. Divide the batter among 12 muffin tin cups lined with paper liners. Drop the berries on top and bake until the muffin tops are golden brown and slightly firm to touch, 20-25 minutes.

They just came out of the oven a few minutes ago and they smell amazing! I can not wait to try one out.

The Flying Apron's Gluten Free and Vegan Baking Book has definitely been a great purchase. All of the recipes are Gluten, Dairy, Egg and Soy free. There are a number of savory recipes in it in addition to all the sweet cookies, cakes, muffins and breakfast treats. Every recipe looks mouthwatering and so far every one we've made has been a big hit!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Soy is Suspect

Something has still been getting to me.

I have been feeling much better lately but every so often I relapse and couldn't figure out why.

Last week I was having a bowl of gazpacho and some herb flavored Mary's Gone Crackers and about 30 minutes into the meal my hands broke out in that familiar red rash. I was so confused because the crackers are gluten and casein free, I read the ingredients list over and over and couldn't think of what could be causing my breakout. It freaked me out a little bit.

Then a few days ago I was eating some Mint Chip Coconut based ice cream and about an hour later I was having stomach pain. Again I was baffled. What could be bothering me?

It was time to check my food log. I have been keeping a pretty detailed account of everything I've eaten this summer. I also write down if I feel I have had a reaction and the severity of the reaction. I skimmed through the log checking the ingredients of all the things that have been bothering me lately. They all contained Soy.

I did some research and found that a lot of gluten/casein intolerant people also have trouble with soy. I've decided to cut it out of my diet just for a month or so, see how I feel and then try to slowly introduce it back into my diet once I feel like my digestive system has had a chance to heal. Soy is a difficult food for the body to break down and since going gluten/casein free my diet has been pretty soy heavy, especially because I choose to stay away from red meat. I think I probably just over did it on the soy.

I've tried to be soy free today and feel pretty good so far. I hope this is the solution to my stomach troubles!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hooray for sesame seed paste!! :)

I've found a new love.


My sister is doing a dietary cleanse this week. Because of my recent dietary restrictions, I can definitely empathize with her. She has cut out all gluten, dairy, eggs, peanut butter, corn, soy, red meat, shellfish and refined sugars. She also has very severe allergies to all tree nuts, coconut, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds. So what's a girl to eat?

Well, being the wonderful sister that I am, I decided to experiment this morning to try and come up with a delicious, healthy, high-protein breakfast that would taste good enough to be a dessert and stay in line with the limitations of the cleanse.

Here's what I came up with:

Tasty Tahini "Ice Cream"

-1 banana (frozen in chunks)
-1 T tahini
-1/4 c water/ rice milk
-2 scoops protein powder of choice (optional)
-1 tsp raw blue agave nectar

Mix up all the ingredients in a blender until it reaches a smooth, creamy texture. Enjoy!

This really turned out great! The tahini adds a subtle rich, nuttiness that compliments the banana nicely. It is also a great source of omega 6 &9 fatty acids, calcium, B vitamins, and protein. I'm planning on eating it again tomorrow after my morning workout! :)

For more information on tahini and it's multiple health benefits check out these websites.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weight Loss and a Song

So I hadn’t really noticed how severe my weight loss was until my Dad showed me this video he took of me performing last summer.

My face is so much fuller in this footage, my arms look thicker and there is a glow in my eyes that I haven’t seen in a long time. I forgot I used to look like this.

I guess since it all happened so gradually I never even noticed my body changing. Sure, I knew I seemed a little thinner, my jeans were looser and my chest was smaller, but I never saw how drastically different I look now. I can see why my family was so concerned when they picked me up from college. The video really startled me. But it was a good reason to treat myself to a little coconut chocolate ice cream. Yum!

This song is called "October Snow". I wrote it my freshman year of college. The song was inspired by the custodian who cleaned my hallway. I'm an early riser, so I got to know the cleaning staff pretty well. I was always up when they were mopping the bathrooms. Our custodian was a very sweet woman who would always smile and say good morning to me but she had a deep sadness seeded in her face, a heavy tiredness. I wrote "October Snow" hoping to bring out what seemed to be her story, a story of loneliness and isolation. I think sometimes we overlook people, people who work hard, just because they are foreign. So many immigrants feel secluded because they are not always respected in the way that they should be. People are just people, we all go through hardship, and we all feel joy. We are all basically the same. I hope this song is a relatable, human narrative.

"October Snow" Lyrics:

The girl with the brown paper bag kicks the leaves on the ground
To watch them separate like the waves of Sinaloa
Her shoulders slouch and round and fold her body inside out
As October snow collects on her scalp
And weaves it’s frozen fingers through her hair
She wears her powdered sugar crown
A little less often now
A little less often now
Feeling two-dimensional she wraps her arms around herself
And tries to squeeze the noise out of her ears
Stuck in a Chinese finger trap the more she moves the more the world reacts
And tightens its grasp
She runs her frozen fingers through her hair
And stares into the sky
Stretching with her eyes, she wishes that her feet weren’t anchored down
And she sees angels dressed n ragged clothes
Hanging on a laundry line
Their flimsy angles frantically flip in the wind
Pinched by clothespins
And she says “even they aren’t free to fly when they please
Tethered to that twisting string
If I were an angel I would wear my wings like a shawl on these cold autumn days
Cause Mexico seems so far away
So far away”
The girl with the brown paper bag kicks the leaves on the ground
To watch them separate like the waves of Sinaloa
Her eyelids trace the ground
A refuge for her doubt
She wishes that her feet weren’t anchored down
And weaves her frozen fingers through her hair
She weaves her frozen fingers through her hair
She wears her powdered sugar crown
A little less often now
A little less often now

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I am so stupid.

My mom and I spent hours in the kitchen this afternoon. My best friend was coming over for dinner and I wanted to make her something special that we could all enjoy.  So I flipped through “The Flying Apron’s Gluten Free and Vegan Baking Book” to find the winning recipe: Italian Mushroom Apron Pockets. Delicious. We made our own gluten free, vegan dough; we sautéed onions, peppers, garlic, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, beans and spices in olive oil; we formed the dough into rounds filling each with marinara sauce and the vegetable mixture; we turned each round into a beautiful pockets and brushed the tops with oil and oregano; then my eyes caught a little green label on the back of the marinara sauce jar. Allergens: Contains Milk.

My heart sunk. How could I have missed this?
At first I denied that there was anything wrong. I can try and eat it right? It’s only a tiny bit of Parmesan. How bad could it be? But deep down I knew I shouldn’t test it. I have finally started feeling better. I would just make myself a leftover chicken taco.

I guess I should start at the beginning.
I have been sick all year. Since I started my sophomore year of college I have lost twenty pounds, dropping from 102 to 82 pounds in seven months. I was constantly nauseous, achy and short of breath and I developed an itchy red rash all over my body. I was depressed all the time and felt so sluggish, like I was walking into a windstorm. Everything seemed like a chore. The only thing I enjoyed was writing music and even that felt harder than usual. I just couldn’t concentrate on anything.

My parents said it was stress, probably related to my scoliosis (I got a back brace at the start of this year) but I knew my back couldn’t cause this. Something was wrong. I thought I was losing my mind.

Through trail and error I began to realize that my symptoms were food related. At first I thought I was lactose intolerant so I cut out all lactose from my diet, but after a reaction to some lactose free rice cheese that contained casein (a protein found in milk) I discovered that it must be casein intolerance. I stopped consuming anything that contained even trace amounts of casein and immediately started feeling better but was still not feeling one hundred percent. A few weeks later I had a reaction to soy sauce. At first I thought there might be milk in the caramel coloring but after a reaction to some Italian bread a few days later I suspected gluten. I have since removed all gluten from my diet and that has seemed to help a lot. My stomach symptoms have cleared up, my rash is gone and I finally have energy again. Of course there have been accidental cross contaminations but on the whole I am much better and have started gaining weight again.

I am still in the process of trying to get some sort of a diagnosis. I think I have celiac’s disease but so far all of the tests have come back negative. I’ve had 18 vials of blood drawn in the past month and still no definite results. After going on a two-week gluten challenge (I had to consume gluten again for the tests to be accurate) I had an upper endoscopy but that also showed nothing. It’s pretty frustrating sometimes but I am certain that gluten and casein are the problem; the doctors just haven’t found it yet.
I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as the diet is working. I am getting stronger and feeling better and that is all that matters. I don’t need to know what to call my problem as long as I can solve it.

I have started this blog to share my stories and thoughts as I go through the process of being diagnosed. I will also be posting allergy-friendly recipes, talking about general everyday life things and linking to my music. I am a music composition major in college and through all of this music has been the only thing that has always brought me peace and calmness. It is my stability, my love, my way of expressing myself and reaching out to other people. I hope this blog will inspire people who are struggling to keep holding onto their passion through hard times. Things will get better, they are already starting to.