Monday, October 8, 2012

Gluten-Free Dreaming, Part III: The lucid dream

I often have dreams that go like this:

ME: Mmmmm, this cracker is delicious.
ME: nom nom nom
ME: Holy Crap! I'm eating gluten! spit it out! spit it out! ptew ptew*

or this:

ME: Oh my god this cake is amazing . . .
ME: nom nom nom
ME: NOOOOOOO! I can't believe I'm eating gluten again!! ptew ptew**

So I was pleasantly surprised to wake up one morning from a dream that went like this:

ME: Man, this is the best cinnamon bun ever. . .
ME: nom nom nom . . .
ME: Dang-nammit!! This is gluten! get it out get it out!
ME: Wait a second. . .
ME: But I'm always so careful . . . .
ME: The only time I ever eat gluten is in my dreams . . .  I must be dreaming . . .
ME: OH EM GEEBS I'm dreaming! I can eat the gluten! I CAN EAT ALL THE GLUTEN!
*Donuts, cake, french bread, cookies, and more cinnamon buns appear in a giant pile in front of me*
ME: nom nom nom Nom Nom Nom!
*hands are moving so fast they are no longer visible, like Garfield eating a lasagne*

Let me just say, it was a glorious dream. I can still taste the gluten.

*Yes, my dream spits sound like photon torpedos
**No seriously, they do.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

An Anniversary Bike Ride

Two years ago, my dad and I made a plan to go on a bike ride. The fact that he was in Minneapolis and I was in Boston did not stop us - nope, he was just going to throw his road bike in the back of our old clunker of a mini-van and drive it half-way across the country, and what's so hard about that? I should say that this was not just any bike ride, but a big group ride - the Boston Hub on Wheels, the annual 50 mile group ride that attracts an average of 5000 riders - and if there is one thing my father likes, it is group bike rides. Seriously, I don't remember the last time I saw him in a T-shirt that wasn't from a big group bike ride - the Saint Paul Classic, the Watermelon ride, the Tour of Saints, the Mankato River Ramble, various Iron Mans - if it's a group ride in Minnesota, I guarantee my dad has done it, and has the t-shirt to prove it!

We never got to ride the Hub on Wheels that year. A month beforehand, I came down with a mysterious illness that had me confined to home and bed, and as the ride approached, I only seemed to get sicker. A week beforehand, my dad called, sounding sad. He couldn't risk missing two weeks of work on a bike ride that I was probably too sick to attend - it would have to wait until next year. We couldn't get a refund on our registration, but at least we got to keep our matching T-shirts.

A week later, almost two years ago to this day, I received a note from my doctor: "Kara, your tests are actually POSITIVE for celiacs disease." The mystery illness turned out to be an incurable autoimmune disease, and what's worse, one that would forever forbid the consumption of cake! And oh boy do I love cake! Suffice to say, the last couple of years have been a mighty challenge - nine months of leave from school, living with my parents, numerous dietary overhauls, more doctors that I can count, and generally feeling pretty awful - but, on the two year anniversary of that fateful e-mail, I have a little something to celebrate:

My dad an I went on a bike ride!

Yep, two years later it finally happened. My dad toted his van and his bike 1400 miles across the country, and on September 23rd we gathered in city hall plaza with thousands of other bikers to, literally, take over the streets of Boston.

Car-free Storrow drive during the Hub on Wheels - Mwahahaha.
We made it a total of 45 miles, and at the end of the ride, my dad bought not one but TWO t-shirts for himself. Plus one for me, so we could match.

I have learned, if you can't celebrate a bittersweet anniversary with cake, a good bike ride will always do the trick.

My dad and I at the first rest stop

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Recipes for a Gluten-Free Indian meal

Finally, some of the recipes from my Facebook photos are getting blogged!

My approach to learning how to cook has basically been "Oh my lord I'm craving (random dish I ate at a restaurant)! Woe is me, for I can no longer eat at restaurants . . . But wait a second, maybe there is a recipe!" And for the most part, this strategy has worked. The recipes here are all super-simple and quite similar - once you've made one you've basically made them all.

For anyone curious, I am currently following a "strict gluten-free" diet, which means I must ensure that not a single crumb or molecule of gluten enters my body. This means keeping my dishes separate from those of my gluten-eating family, inspecting all surfaces for signs of crumbs or flour, and checking each and every ingredient in my to make sure that it has no gluten ingredients or contamination. For anyone reading this who is also on a strict-GF diet, I include details about the brands I use which I believe are fairly safe.

And, without further ado, my GF take on a vegetarian Indian meal: spiced basmati rice with peas, black bean dahl, and brocolli-chickpea curry!

Indian Style Basmati Rice


  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
  • 2 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas  

  1. Place the rice in a large bowl and add enough water to cover. Stir the rice, pour off the water, and repeat until the water runs clear.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the spices (cinnamon, cloves, and cumin seeds) and cook for about one minute. Add the onion and half of the salt and cook until it starts to brown. Add the rice cook for about a minute, until the rice is lightly toasted. Add the water or vegetable stock and the peas and bring the mix to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Black Bean Dahl

  • 1 can (15 oz) organic black beans, drained
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock

  1. Heat the olive oil in a thick-bottomed frying pan or wok. Add the cumin seeds and stir for about a minute. Add the onion and garlic and saute until they start to brown. Add the black beans, turmeric, ginger, and cilantro. Let the mixture simmer, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, adding small amounts of water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock to retain moisture, until it is fully heated and the flavors blended. Serve with rice and enjoy!
Chickpea-Broccoli Curry

  • 4 cups broccoli or cauliflowerets (or a mix)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons shredded fresh gingerroot
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock

  1. Heat the olive oil in a thick-bottomed frying pan or wok. Add the cumin seeds and cloves and stir for about a minute. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and saute until they start to become tender. Add the chickpeas, peas, brocolli, and water/stock. Lower flame to low, cover, and let the mixture simmer, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the brocolli is tender. Serve with rice and enjoy! 
Strict-GF Ingredients*
  • Lundberg brand rice (I also heard Thai Kitchen is very safe)
  • McCormick spices (they will always disclose gluten ingredients, which is not always true of spices, especially mixes)
  • Bird's Eye green peas
  • Eden Organic black beans (I read that they DO process in a facility that also contains wheat, but they also perform periodic testing to prevent contamination - if anyone knows a better brand, let me know!)
  • Imagine brand stock (I heard that Swanson's is GFCO certified)
* I obviously can't guarantee that any of these are completely safe from gluten, but after doing some research I found these to be the best options.

      Thursday, July 7, 2011

      Gluten-Free Dreaming, Part II: The Baguette

      (see gluten-free dreaming, part I)

      In a dream I visited and old house, filled with secret nooks and passageways. The girl who inhabited this house was a warm host with a comforting nature, and had filled all of it's spare corners with freshly baked bread.

      While descending a swirly flight of stairs I found, tucked into the wall beside a stained glass window, a small cubby filled with baguettes. Each of the baguettes had been cleanly sliced in half, and a slight steam grew from their puffy innards. Staring at that faint fog, I, forgetting for a moment who I was, took a hearty piece of baguette in my hands and bit off a piece of the soft, crispy dough.

      Next thing I knew I was in the bathroom, rinsing the offending crumbs from my mouth.

      Thursday, June 30, 2011

      Say Yes to the Bike

      "You know Dad, shopping for a bike is a lot like shopping for a wedding dress."

      "What!?" my Dad asked. He was not particularly thrilled with the comparison.

      I will admit it. Like most women, I secretly enjoy watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” The ridiculous dresses, the ridiculous budgets, and, most importantly, the moment when a bride puts on “the perfect dress” and starts to cry; whether you cry along with her (in the case of cancer survivors or heroic military officers) or laugh hysterically that she has decided to drop $20,000 on what amounts to a white hooker outfit.

      Dad has been talking about getting me a new road bike for a couple of years now, but it wasn't until my medical leave that we actually got around to picking one out. And yes, it is true: bicycle shopping is very similar to wedding dress shopping - at least to the extent that "Say Yes to the Dress" is a true representation of reality. You walk into a bike shop, chat with a sales associate about what you are looking for (entry level endurance road bike), he performs a bunch of arcane and somewhat awkward measurements on your body (including sticking a wooden dowel near your crotch to measure your inseam), makes somewhat interesting yet largely irrelevant remarks on the geometry of your body ("you have a long torso and broad shoulders for a girl") and then scampers off to find some bikes.

      And then, you get to ride them. What could possibly be better than riding out the door of a bike shop on a shiny new road bike with no reason to ever come back - except the prospect of testing another? Trying on wedding dresses, you say? Certainly not!

      Despite my not-so-secret enthusiasm for the "Say Yes to the Dress", I have always been skeptical of the climatic moment of the show. How could anyone be sure that, out of the thousands of wedding dresses out there, this particular dress was “the one”?

      That is, until I met the perfect bike:

      The Surly Pacer
      The Surly Pacer

      Isn't this just the sexiest bike you have ever seen? The solid dark green frame. The drop handle bars. The CroMoyl steel frame. It's hipster without being too hipster, the nerdy dedication to speed of a road bike mixed with some city sleek. I love this bike! I love how the steel frame makes the ride feel smooth as gliding through the water on a canoe. I love how the position of the handlebars actually helps my shoulders relax.

      And to drive the point home, here is a fun little shot the Surly taken with my new Holga 135:

      New Bike!
      Surly Pacer, Holga-fied
      Artemis will still be my commuter/grocery bike, but I am thrilled to have a real road bike for weekend riding and fun trips. And, lame as it is, looking forward to getting out on my new bike has been one of the bright points of the difficult last few months.

      That's right: I said Yes to the Bike, and it was awesome.

      P.S. Still thinking of names! The current front-runner is Apollo, twin brother to Artemis. Any other ideas?

      Addendum: For those interested (based on Madeline's comment below), it is a 50 cm frame and fits me *perfectly*. The stand-over height is just right and I feel no strain in my shoulders or back when I'm on it, despite the road bike geometry. The steel makes it a little heavy but incredibly comfortable and smooth - I feel just as stable on it as on Artemis. Perfect for long weekend rides on the crappy roads out in Boston, which is it's primary purpose!

      Monday, June 20, 2011

      My new slogan

      Kara Jean . . .

                          . . . falling asleep with books on her head since 1987.

      Sunday, June 19, 2011

      I know where all the lost socks go

      See, I have this odd little habit of removing my socks while I sleep - especially those little ankle ones that go so well with converse and sneakers. I was first made aware of this a few years ago on a trip home to visit my parents: "You're only wearing one sock!" my mom said one morning while I stared at the gurgling coffee maker. "Is that some kind of fashion statement?"

      "I have no idea" I replied.

      I imagined myself at night, sitting bolt upright in the middle of a dream and, zombielike, ripping one sock off in a fit of panic and flinging it across the room.

      The reality, I've found, is a little less interesting. It seems I am a bit of a nighttime thrasher, and the action of my feet rubbing against the sheets often pulls my little ankle socks right off.

      Now what does my silly sock removal story have to do with the universal anomaly of disappearing socks?

      Foreseeing some degree of sock hemorrhage, I packed every single sock I could find for my stay at home. However, once I arrived in Minneapolis, they started disappearing at an alarming rate. My 10 pair population of ankle socks dwindled to 8 pairs, then 5 pairs and two unmatched, then 3 pairs and 4 unmatched, until finally I found myself with one maroon sock, one black sock, one dark green sock, one light green sock, and one faded yellow sock. An uneven number of socks, all in clashing colors.

      "You're wearing two different colored socks!" my mom said as I made lunch one afternoon, "is that some kind of fashion statement?"

      It was not.

      I went to Target and bought some new socks, all the while wondering why a mere two months at home was enough to ravage my dwindling sock population.

      In a frenzy of cleaning following the Great Centipede Invastion of 2011 (oh yeah, it was bad) I found the answer. While vacuuming under the bed, I started to hear a strange noise coming from the nozzle. Pulling it out, what do I find but a maroon sock - the maroon sock I hadn't seen in over two months. Peering under the bed, there they all are, a little cornucopia of socks, all lined up on the floor between my bed frame and my bookshelf.

      And here is the answer to the question of the lost socks, at least for me. It is not the dryer, or an sneaky sock elf.

      It is an under-bed black hole.

      After the socks fall off in my sleep, they migrate to the foot of the bed (a commutation also encouraged by my nighttime thrashing), and are caught in the pull of the under-bed black hole, sensitive only to the particular quantum signatures of unmatched socks. There they are sucked past the event horizon between the bookshelf and the bed frame, never to be seen again.

      Until, of course, I vacuum. But we all know that only happens only once every eon or so.