Cookery

Trying my hand at this recipe for Low fat gingerbread biscotti today.  Slightly modified because I can’t do whole wheat flour.  Hm….we’ll see how they turn out.  Pictures if they’re good!

popovers and pelvic instability

Yesterday was a work at home but take the kitten to the vet in the middle of it day.

I got very little work done.  Some of this was due to the kitten, and some was due to the fact that I’ve been putting off routine housework, cooking, and self care for work.  Or for work related energy.  The work I did do involved massive shoulder pain (this is what happens when my staff is cut, too much for me to do alone) so I decided to call it and take care of house stuff.

I managed to get through sweeping and vacuuming ok – different shoulder motion than typing and mousing and the pain is very much an over-use injury attached to keyboard work.  Then I moved on to making my pumpkin pudding that I didn’t have time to cook over the weekend.  I didn’t have time because I was just exhausted.

Then I got ambitious and decided to do MORE dishes.  It was the dishes that did it.  I turned to put something away, with my feet and legs fixed forward rather than repositioned to be at the same angle as the rest of me, and “pop” went something on the lower left side of my pelvis.  Crap.  Laid down with the ice pack, now ice on the pelvis and heat on the shoulder.  But I really wanted to try making pumpkin popovers.  I had made plain ones a few weeks ago and they were ok but I thought I could do better.  I took this recipe for low fat popovers and modified it.

  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • Heaping tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • Dash ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup lowfat milk
  • 3 and 1/2 tbsp pumpkin purée
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Heat oven to 450ºF. Spray 6-cup popover pan or six 6-ounce custard cups with cooking spray. (I used nonstick cups very lightly greased with butter.) Place all ingredients in blender in order listed. Cover and blend on medium speed about 15 seconds, stopping blender to scrape sides if necessary, just until smooth. Fill cups about 1/2 full.

Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF. Bake about 20 minutes longer or until deep golden brown. Immediately remove from cups. Serve hot.

Notes:

  • As usual, I didn’t think to measure and record my modified ingredients carefully, just eyeballed them and hoped for the best. So pumpkin, spices, & sugar amounts are estimates.
  • Use room temperature ingredients and preheat popover/ muffin tins for more “pop”.
  • You can use regular muffin tins. Just less pop.

Even in my ill-tempered oven, they came out pretty good.  photo of cooked pumpkin popover
Not heavily pumpkiny, but I think more pumpkin would weigh them down.  Next time, I’m using more spice too.  A nice treat for sitting on the couch in my now clean living room with ice and heating pads and kitties.

guts for garters

That is one of those phrases that is, if you stop and think about it, quite awful.  It is also one that pops into my head when my guts start spasming.  As they are now.  What prompted today’s trick?  It could be that I ate breakfast (how dare I?!).  Apparently that is still forbidden, eating before 11:00 AM.  It could be work stress.  I just was put on notice yesterday that the departmental staff appreciation dinner is in June (a very ill timed day in June) and that we are ALL expected to go.

Go and do what?  Go and watch other people eat while my window of being able to eat anything trickles away?  Go and stay out and up late on a Monday, the start of a week and a particular Monday that happens to be the day before a conference I have to go to half-way across the state?  Go and not drink but watch other people drink and get drunk, and socialize with each other but not with me  because I’ve been judged to be not a team player?

Golly.  Why not.

So my guts are in an uproar.  And so a work at home day has turned into a day on the couch.  I refuse to feel bad about this.  As soon as I finish this post (while I wait for my yummy magnesium powder drink to cool off enough to gulp down), I’m changing into my jammies, rounding up my kitties, and flopping on the couch with a heating pad and some netflix.  There’s my employee appreciation.  And they can have my guts for garters, for all the good it’ll do them.

pumpkin and mushroom risotto

Made a new food I can eat the other day.  Again, pumpkin is prominently featured.  This is because it’s one of the few vitamin-rich vegetables I can eat, and a fiber I can tolerate.  And I like it.  So why not?

As usually, I did not write down any of this while cooking.  I just made it up as I went.  So assume the quantities and times below are approximations.  Ah, and I didn’t use fancy arborio rice, just plain old long grain white rice.

  • scant 1 tsp of butter or oil, divided (as in 1/2 teaspoon, then another 1/2 teaspoon…not a single 1 teaspoon sized pat).
  • A pint of white mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped.
  • 1 and 1/2 cups white rice
  • 5 to 6 cups of chicken stock
  • about 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • seasoning to taste (I used salt, ground black pepper, ground rosemary, sage, and thyme)

In a large saucepan, bring broth plus one clove of garlic and seasoning to a simmer.  While that’s brewing, add 1/2 teaspoon of butter or oil to a large non-stick dutch oven or deep skillet, sautee mushrooms and second clove of garlic until the mushrooms are tender.  Add seasoning as you sautee.  Remove mushrooms, add second 1/2 teaspoon of butter or oil to pain, and sautee rice.  I never really know when it’s done, but I tend to go with “until it starts to smell nutty”.  Decrease heat on rice, turn off simmering broth, and slowly (and carefully) add about a cup and a half of the broth to the rice.  Return to a medium/high heat and stir until the liquid is absorbed.  Add in mushrooms and continue adding broth, about a halfcup at a time*.  With the last cup, stir pumpkin puree into the rice mix.  Cook (stirring constantly) until liquid is absorbed.

* Ok, so here’s where the EDS takes over.  With real risotto, you just keep adding and stirring, adding and stirring a little at a time, you know, until all the liquid is gone or you pass out.  Unless you’ve got a really kick ass kitchen set up with stools and stuff, this standing at the stove and non-stop stirring is hell on people with orthostatic intolerance and arthralgia.  So, after about 2 rounds, I stop with the “add and stir” crap.  At that point, I just add in ALL of the rest of the broth and the pumpkin (gotta stir that in good), stir, and turn way down, cover, and leave it alone for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking to see if the liquid has absorbed and the rice is tender.  This is one big advantage of using regular rice…it’s not as starchy so it’s less likely to stick and burn at the bottom of the pan if it is neglected a little.

It was super yummy, that with a rotisserie chicken from the local “fancy” store = 3 days of dinner.  If you want to lower the fat more, use less butter/oil and a low(er) fat broth.

slightly sleepier

Well, I’ve been doing “screen avoidance” for at least an hour before bed for a little more than a week and I think it is helping.  A little.  My bladder’s still waking me up, and I still have at least one drenched in a cold sweat episode a night, but at least I am not feeling like I am just napping instead of sleeping.  So hooray for paper books.

I’ve also added molasses into my diet this week.  I forgot how much molasses makes everything taste like gingerbready christmas.  I added a little bit to the pumpkin pudding recipe and a lot to what I’m calling “gingerbread bread pudding”.  Apparently it’s a decent source of iron, which is good since I cannot take iron supplements without them wreaking havoc with my stomach and gut.  So far, no havoc.  It’s got magnesium too, which I could also use since mine has clocked in low before.

So this week I have tasty christmas-y gingerbready goodness and some sleep, which sure is a welcome change.  I’m up to a pretty stable 125 lbs too, also excellent, and so far this diet isn’t worsening the gastroparesis symptoms.

Got my eye appointment today.  I called yesterday and asked if they had the forms electronically because I have such a hard time writing them out with no time and a cramped hand.  I truly have dysgraphia, always have – the nuns were beside themselves with my handwriting in 1st grade and my second grade teacher made me put my pinkie finger in between every word on the page to keep them from running into each other.  It’s actually gotten much worse as I’ve aged.  Not sure if it’s a neuro thing or what, but it hurts like hell to fill those damned forms out in the office where you gotta write write write and no time to take a break and massage your hand.  By the time I get to the bottom of the first page, it’s turned into totally illegible scribble with missing letters, swapped letters, and totally deformed letters everywhere.  I remember having to soak my hand after exams in college and grad school because it hurt so much from trying to force well formed letters onto the pages of the blue books.  If the doc isn’t a dick, I’m going to mention to him that I think they should have electronic forms.  It’s a frikking eye clinic at a frikkin eye B.A.T.H..  If anyone was gonna have electronic forms, you’d think they would!  The guy I talked to about it yesterday was like “duh? disability wha?”  I’ll call him a Jude, the boy equivalent of a Judy.  He was definitely a Jude.  So wish me luck at the eye doc, hoping he’s not a dick!

season of sleep-lessness

This past week has not been a banner one for sleep.  I am sleepy.  For the most part, I fall asleep.  Sort of.  And there’s the problem.  I fall into this light napping sort of state that is certainly not awake enough to get me out of bed and onto the couch with a book but not slumbering enough to keep me out.  And when I wake like this, it is inevitable that my bladder, now apparently a misfiring thimble, tells me that hey hey hey hey I’m full time to get up and pee!

The past two nights, I’ve had both stomach pain and nausea as well as intermittent shooting pains in my hips and legs.  And electric shock-like feelings in my arms.  While all of the above suck, the shock feelings in my arms are a new sensation, a new trick.  I know what it is, I know it’s a nerve thing.  I don’t know what’s causing it, something mechanical – i.e. a joint that’s slipped and is pinching (I’ve been having a lot of neck pain during the day while I’m up, so this isn’t an unlikely cause) – or a progression of whatever’s up with my nervous system.  Hoping for the former.  Whatever the cause, I’m definitely in a bad sleep phase right now.

The time change is not going to help.  On the plus side, when the clock says 10:00 PM, it’ll feel like 11:00 to me and hopefully that’ll mean I’ll get sleepy earlier.  On the down side, it means when I wake up wide awake at what my body thinks is 5:00 AM, it’s going to actually be 4:00, and it’s a long day that starts at 4:00 AM when you don’t get home from work until after 7:00 PM most days.

I tried getting out and about, thinking that maybe the daylight would help to put me on a normal rhythm.  Got some nice pictures out of it, but not so much with the sleeping.

color photo close up of a tree branch full of red to yellow shaded autumn leaves

This is the time of year when I should be getting BETTER sleep, with the temperatures falling.  That might be a clue.  While the temperatures fell, and we had some lovely crisp autumn days, they have also been yo-yoing a bit over the last week and a half.  We started out with lovely 50 degree days and then shot back up into the 70s, and now back down to the low 60s.  I know from bitter experience that this does not treat my body well.  E.g. the shooting stabbing joint pains at night are a direct consequence of this.A stone wall in autumn woods at sunset

Went for a short walk yesterday, took some nice pictures of the fall color before the rain came in today.  It’ll probably knock all the leaves down that the windy Halloween night didn’t take out.

Some of this, the stomach stuff, maybe could be helped by eating earlier.  Easier said than done when you have to eat two dinners that don’t start until 7:30 PM though.  I have managed to gain back some weight with the two dinner approach and I really don’t want to abandon it.

But I’m not giving up, just need to think creatively here.  I can start bringing two “lunches” to work and eating one late, before I leave for the day.  More weight for the bag, but that’s what my husband bought me an awesome rolling bag for.  It’s not fashionable, but it’s roomy, lightweight, and water resistant.

Another thing I can do is cut down on the phone screen time before bed.  It hasn’t changed recently, but it may not be helping if I’m already in a light sleep phase.  Well, that’s what a good old fashioned paper book is for.  I’ve got Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.  She had me at “classics department” (in a past life, I was a classics minor at a snooty private liberal arts school in the northeast US).

party

One of the things that marks my current job as different from my last is the preponderance of administratively condoned (enforced) social events.  They are, thankfully, on site.  I’ve attended them, even though they usually require hauling myself around a hilly and pedestrian congested part of my city.  I haven’t attended all of them, but many.  I’ve attended even when I couldn’t eat anything there, since these are work parties and the only way to mark a party at work from a meeting or other gathering is to add festive food.

We had one such event yesterday.  Thankfully, it was a Friday.  This is a good thing since for me, the parties are often physically difficult.  Even when they don’t require walking a distance that is a “nice walk” to everyone else but a death march to me, they involve doing physically taxing things like standing for a long time in a crowded and not well temperature controlled room.  I often feel unwell during and after.  Yesterday’s was a very short walk, just down the hall.  Of course I’ll go!  A chance to show my face and get counted as prosocial without having to worry about getting hurt just getting there is not something to pass up.

The invite announced that this would be a halloween themed event, including snacks, games, and pumpkin painting.  Well, at least I can do the pumpkin painting, so that’s nice, I thought.

I get there and I’m immediately greeted by two women who I know and am very distantly friendly with.  This distance is not my choice, it’s just there.  I’d like ways to move through it to more friendly, it’s nice to have friends at work.  But this is not happening.  We don’t work together much at all, and when we do it’s at quite big events where there isn’t much space or time for interacting.  So we’re politely friendly work people, not friends.  “Hey, Dyspatient wore something festive!” they announce, seeing my rust/orange sweater that I wore yesterday.  I made some remark that I intended to be nice, then pointed out that other people (including them) were wearing black…the sentiment was that not enough were.  Ok.  Then they moved off to more exciting and fun people who they were actually friends with.  I said hi to the few people I did have a history of chatting with, a very small set.  I stood on the edges of several conversations and tried to jump in…now please keep in mind that while I can be socially awkward, I am not generally. I’m funny, empathetic, a good listener, and more or less outgoing.  I’m not the life of the party,  but certainly not the death of it either.  I am, however, often not feeling well these days and standing and chatting boisterously as I used to is not an option.  I can do it for a few minutes but then I have to sit down and quiet down a bit.  Probably with a strange look on my face on account of the pain, dizziness, or nausea.   I think this is starting to come across to my coworkers as anti-social.  I mention the strange look on my face because I think that my countenance often betrays my not feeling well.  I have what I call the opposite of a poker face.  I’ve had friends and acquaintances remark that my general state of mind if not actual emotions are quite apparent on my face.  I try to keep this under wraps but it is just the way I am.  Big eyes.  I think that’s the key part of it.  If eyes are the window of the soul, then mine are bay windows offering a panoramic view of pain more often than not these days.  That makes people uncomfortable, even if they interpret it correctly…which I think few of them do.

So, now what?  I thought.  Now, under normal circumstances, I’d go browse the food table, maybe strike up a conversation with some unattached person who is over looking at the same food I am.  Except browsing the food is an exercise in futility for me.  Games?  The game was “pin the nose on the jack o’lantern”, and to be honest, not very popular.  I watched a person get blindfolded and spun around and though “oh hell no”.  Ah, pumpkin painting.  There, I can do that.  No one else is though.  Well, I’ll break ground on it.  Sure, what the hell.  One of the two remotely friendly coworkers saw me making my way to the pumpkins…. “Yeah!  Paint a pumpkin!” she called encouragingly.  Why not.

I’ll tell you why not.  Because I was the only person painting mother flipping pumpkins.

I’m referring to it as “awkward pumpkin painting”.  I was chatty with people who came by, suggesting that they also paint one.  One young intern either came over or was dispatched to the pumpkin painting station.  She was clearly a bit uncomfortable, I could tell because she’s a blusher.  We chatted while she painted herself a minimalist jack o’lantern themed pumpkin, then she was gone and it was back to just me.  A woman who is my boss’s boss’s boss (and the boss of everyone there) came by and said “Ah, you’re artistic….I can’t even draw”.  I said “Oh no, I can’t either.  The trick is you just have to not care.”  No pumpkin painting for her.

Well, I have two nicely painted pumpkins out of the deal.  I can’t shake the feeling that these events are becoming more and more of a chore though.  I’m inclined to bring a book to the next one, I mean since we’re reliving scenes from junior high school, I may as well fully embrace the part and return to being that friendly but quiet kid in the corner with her nose in a book.

 

we apologize for the inconvenience…

As I continue to work with a chronic illness, I am developing a real phobia of the term “inconvenience”.  On the subway, “inconvenience” means impassable obstacles such as a steep mountain of stairs between you and the street.  At work, it translates into no food, pain, migraines, fatigue.

I was thinking last week about what I would paint or draw if I could paint or draw.  It would be a series of dyadic scenes, one side is “what you see” and the other is “what I see”.  Keyboard and desk on one side; torture device on the other.  Rambling path through a hilly, sunlit park with people on bicycles, babies in carriages, and children on roller skates on one side; scorched, Escheresque hellscape crawling with demons on the other.

I’m thinking about this today because we have a standing meeting that was rescheduled from its usual standing time of my work start time to a half hour earlier.  It is also on the other side of a steep, cobblestoned hill (the short path involving slippery marble steps…the long path involving hordes of clueless undergrads, perpetual sidewalk construction, and other “inconveniences”).  Our receptionist also scheduled me for a back to back, so I have a meeting at my office (on the other side of the hill) set for exactly when the prior meeting ends.  Not ok, since the prior meeting always goes long and it takes me twice as long as my colleagues to walk back to our building after.  And if I want lunch today, I will have to drag that with me all the way, hoping that it is not getting too warm for the hour and a half or more that it’s not refrigerated (remember, my soft food/liquid diet = soups and puddings).  So I guess it’s to be pain and fasting for me today.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

Day 3

It’s Saturday.  Three days in to my 5 day weekend.  A little sad that it’s half over.  Mr. Patient is out getting groceries and I’m turning some of my pumpkin angel food cupcakes into bread pudding.  The cakeyness of the cupcakes is questionable.  They are tasty, but they have more of a quickbread/muffin quality than cake one, so they seemed suitable for conversion.

I don’t have recipe yet, since it’s still cooking and filling the house with the most amazing cinnamon and nutmeg smells, by the way.  I threw some of the apples and apple “syrup” into it to, skipping sugar (ok, a few crumbles of brown sugar on top but not the cup and half or whatever of white sugar that my old bread pudding recipe called for).  Also, no half cup of butter.  Not if I want this food to empty out of my stomach.   I used a scant teaspoon of butter to grease the casserole pan that I’m cooking in, a must or the “bread” will weld to the sides.  So that’s about 4 grams of fat just from the wee bit of butter.  Meaning this is not something I can eat large amounts of at once.  I try to keep the fat content low since higher fat foods tend to slow gastric emptying.

Such a tragedy that I’m lactose intolerant and now fat intolerant.  I used to LOVE butter.  I am told that when I was a child, we’re talking highchair level kid, my mom once left a stick of butter within my reach and when she went to use it, discovered that I had grabbed it and was eating it like it was a candy bar.  Yes, my slow break up with butter has been painful, but I will survive.

Here’s what the “bread” pudding looks like in the oven.  Probably could use a bit more milk and egg, but we’ll see.

small casserole dish of bread pudding in oven

5 days

I’m on day two of a mini vacation I’m taking this week.  I took two days off in advance of the long weekend, giving me a nice extra long weekend.

Yesterday, Mr. Patient and I went to even older historic towne up north of ye olde historic northeastern city.  Hint: it being October, this was a very seasonal time to visit said historic towne.  I packed a cooler with low fat lactaid milk, crackers, and low fat ground chicken chicken salad.  I also found a shop that made amazing soy chai lattes.  And some research ahead of time turned up a seafood place where I was able to at least eat some grilled tuna (minus the vegetables and the overdone roasted potatoes…Mr. Patient ate that).  I had a bit of heartburn last night, but it wasn’t terrible.  I think it was more chai induced than fish.

We planned a short trip, so there was no big disappointment when I didn’t last a whole day.  We took the walking very slowly, just ambled around like the old couple I hope we get to turn into.  Rested on benches a lot.  Got my cards read, nothing remarkable although he did say “you’re having a hard time keeping weight on, aren’t you?” although my wardrobe probably gives that away.  Bought some catnip that is apparently catcrack, according to my cat’s reaction to it.  It’s going to have to be kept in a tightly closed drawer unless we want her to have herself a little kitty bacchanal right here on the living room carpet.

It was really nice to get out and about.  I planned it carefully, including the timing.  I knew I’d probably be a little sore and tired the day after, so we did it on day one to give me plenty of resting time after.

And today, I am.  Tired.  I think my Fall allergies are kicking up a bit because I’m feeling a bit dizzy, although who knows.  Could be blood pressure or migraine too.  So many reasons to be dizzy.  And so I’m sticking close to home today.  I decided to do a little baking.  I had read some recipes for “two ingredient pumpkin cake” (e.g. this recipe, or this other recipe), and thought I’d give it a try, with angel food cake of course due to the low fat requirement of my stomach.

I Just did a set as cupcakes and boy are they good.  I already ate one and they’ve only been out of the oven for 15 minutes.  Here’s my version of the recipe.

Pumpkin Angel Food Cake with Apple “Compote”

Low fat!

Cake

1 box angel food cake mix

Pumpkin pie spice to taste:

1 & ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

A dash ground clove (because I like clove…most pumpkin pie recipes do not include this in the spice set)

1 can of pureed pumpkin

Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 350°F. In extra-large glass or metal bowl, beat cake ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 1 minute. Spoon into ungreased cupcake tins, fill about ½ way.  I used extra large cupcake tins and could’ve gotten 10 full sized cupcakes out of it if I hadn’t tried to fill an 11th cup (d’oh!).

Bake about 25 minutes or until crust is dark golden brown and cracks are dry. If you use cupcake liners, you can skip this next bit:  Immediately turn pan upside down onto upside-down metal measuring cups in a large casserole pan. Let hang about 2 hours or until cake is completely cool. Loosen cake from side of cups with knife.

No Cook Apple Compote:
1 – 3 apples (I used 1 granny smith/green apple and two gala apples)

1 medium fresh lemon

¼ cup of brown sugar

Ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to taste (least on the nutmeg)

Wash, peel, and core apples.  Chop coarsely and place in a medium sized non-metal mixing bowl.  Seed and juice lemon, add to apples tossing with a wooden or plastic spoon or spatula.  Add spices and sugar, and coat apples by mixing gently with spoon or spatula.  Refrigerate.  Use quickly for drier compote, the longer the apples sit in the sugar/lemon juice mixture, the more liquid they will release.  You can cook the mixture too if you want to break down the apples a little more but you’ll get something that is more syrupy and mushy.

Result?  I realized after I made them and took pictures that the apple bits, if cut up carefully in advance, could be arranged to make jack o’lantern faces on top of the cupcakes.  Ah, well, this is why Martha Stewart is Martha and I’m not.  Next time.  And there will be a next time.

Photo of pumpkin angelfood cupcake with apples on top

Next time, I’m putting more apple on!

I took a picture of the inside too, so you can see the crumb texture. I may try this again with a bit of flour added to see if it makes for a finer crumb. Even without that addition, it is quite good.

Photo of inside of pumpkin angel food cupcake

A rather coarse crumb to this version.