Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I don't think I'm going to make any New Year's resolutions. Of course, it sounds like fun—who can resist the allure of planning for a better life?—but the problem I had last year is that my resolutions became obsolete before the year was up.

For example, it seemed like a terrific idea to do a year without sugar—until the moment in May when I was sitting in a five-star restaurant in Maui and was presented with a palate-cleansing bowl of fresh sorbet between courses. In other words, my future self had new information that my past self had not anticipated when making the resolution (the new information was "It's better to have a tiny bit of sugar than to be annoying in an extremely fancy restaurant"). Later on, I decided that avoiding sugar wasn't nearly as important to me as avoiding gluten, so I ditched that resolution altogether. I also "cheated" on my resolution to stay off the scale. Sometime in the summer, I felt like I was in absolutely terrific shape and perhaps close to an ideal weight, and I wanted to see what it was (it was 160) in order to have a reference point.

Anyway, my logic is that my future self will, by definition, know more than my present self, and I might as well just trust her to make good decisions on our behalf. My future self hates being bossed around by someone with incomplete data.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Another new Sneezy

I landed a new job recently (which I guess I will have to call Sneezy, since that's the only name available). It's going to be steady work and a biggish time commitment, so if things all work out as planned, I should be able to drastically reduce my work with or even resign from Grumpy in the near future, which makes me…Happy.

Time will tell. Right now I'm immersed in the most unbelievable pile of pre-employment paperwork I've ever encountered. Seriously, it's more like buying a house than securing a few-hours-a-day job, in terms of both the bureaucracy and the sheer effort involved. I think I've now followed almost all the steps and sub-steps and sub-sub-steps, and now all that remains is to have "a notary, employer, trusted friend, or colleague" verify that my driver's license and social security card are legit, have that person fill out a two-page form, scan and email the full 10-page form, scan and email the IDs, and then snail mail all the hard copies. That's one sub-step, in case you were wondering.

But I'm confident that this is going to be a good thing in the long run. In fact, I'm making this my goal for 2014: to find some balance with my career. For me that means making enough money but without sacrificing my flexibility and family time or overworking myself for weeks on end. (Being overworked for days on end is inevitable, but I can deal with that.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fixing the failcakes

I make Paleo pancakes for Mik all the time, but until recently I wasn't quite satisfied with the recipe. The main problem was that they tended to fall apart so easily. You had to make them really tiny, and if you weren't extremely careful when flipping them, you still ended up with a mess. Which is why Mik referred to them as "failcakes."

Since discovering the miracle of potato starch, though, I've tweaked the recipe and now think they're perfect enough to share. This is a pretty eggy pancake, but that's by design—my way of tricking the boy into eating eggs. Of course the next project will be perfecting the egg-free version for Dex and me.

Grain-free pancakes

¼ cup almond flour
2 T coconut flour
1 T potato starch
½ t baking soda
3 eggs
half a stick of butter, melted
¼ to ½ cup water (or milk)
1 t vanilla
1 T maple syrup
add a pinch of salt if you're using unsalted butter

Use more water for thinner pancakes (about eight of them) and less water for thick and fluffy ones (about six). Mix all the ingredients and let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile heat a griddle to 200 degrees (a low temperature because almond flour burns easily). When the batter and griddle are ready, pour your pancakes. Flip them when you begin to see bubbles—it takes maybe five minutes or so, so be patient and take a peek around the edges before flipping.

Serves one teenage swimmer if you supplement with bacon.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cheese and tea

Well, no gallbladder (or whatever it was) pain since I stopped eating dairy. Maybe it's a coincidence, but I guess I'll keep doing what works until it doesn't work anymore. It stinks, though. The cheese in my fridge is mocking me. I've read that cheese is even more physically addictive than sugar, and that certainly feels true.

I've also been continuing to drink peppermint tea, but I would have done that anyway. They make special blends with awesome names like "Christmas Eve" and "Merrymint" and "White Christmas," and I am well stocked for the season, believe me. My rule of thumb is fruity iced teas for the summer, minty hot teas for the winter. And jasmine all the time.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Galling. Ha ha ha

M.H. had to have his gallbladder removed a couple of years ago, so anytime I say my stomach hurts, he immediately assumes it's my gallbladder. After breakfast this morning, I had a dull but persistent pain, similar to what I've been attributing to eating dairy, but without actually having eaten any dairy.

Him: It's your gallbladder.
Me: But it has to do with something I ate.
Him: Eating is what triggers the pain.
Me: But it's really minor.
Him: That's how it started for me, too.
Me: But it hurts way up here.
Him: That's where your gallbladder is.

So maybe I've been having gallbladder pain. It certainly runs in my family. After accepting this possibility, my first plan of action was to decide to knock off the dairy. My second was to go to Dr. Google and hunt for natural ways to deal with gallstones. I came up with vinegar, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, magnesium, and peppermint tea. So I went downstairs and had vinegar, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, magnesium, and peppermint tea, and now I feel much better. Yay!

Controlled experimentation is nice and all, but when you're in pain you sometimes have to just throw everything you've got at the problem.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An analysis of "Sherlock" (and pizza crust)

We're getting excited over here about the new season of the BBC's Sherlock. M.H. and I have long thought that "Moriarty" must be a collection of villains, not just one person (this is alluded to in the first episode). We've been talking for a while about whether the letters in the name represent four people, MO, RI, AR, and TY, and we highly suspect that that too-innocent little Molly is MO. But M.H. just had the brilliant thought that Kitty Riley could be RI, and maybe Moriarty is actually a group of four women. So perfect, right? All of which would make Andrew Scott's character…actually an actor hired to portray Moriarty! Remember in the last episode? "That's what you do when you sell a big lie; you wrap it up in the truth to make it more palatable."

If you don't have chills right now, go watch all six episodes on Netflix immediately and get up to speed so you can appreciate my husband's genius.

Speaking of things that are awesome because I say so, that's why: With potato starch, white rice flour, and almond flour, I can make a tasty, cracker-thin, crispy pizza crust—which happens to be the best kind of pizza crust. I'm still playing around with the ingredients—and I want to see what happens when I add yeast to the mix—but I'm pretty confident I can make up a healthy pizza crust that's actually better than the wheat-based crust I used to make. Big talk, right? :)

Sadly, I don't think all this pizza experimentation is contributing to my well-being. I normally do eat white rice (the least-offensive grain I know of) and potatoes occasionally, but I don't want to have them every day. Also, the cheese I've been putting on my pizza experiments is upsetting my stomach. And I'm just now getting over the throat-centered crud caused by accidentally eating gluten. Bleah!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

They put the word "Cracker" in the name to warn you

My in-laws took us out to Cracker Barrel last night and then to a Christmas program at their church. I woke up feeling like death warmed over and can only conclude that something at Cracker Barrel that didn't seem like it should have gluten did have gluten. (It was either that or the jazzy rendition of "O Holy Night.")

For me the symptoms are a headache, a sore throat, and a raging thirst that's worse than (and the cause of) the other two combined. Mostly I'm bummed that I have to "start over" being gluten free and don't know how long it will take me to go back to feeling great again.

When I used to eat bread at every meal, I never got this, but of course I was also overweight and tired and got winded easily and on and on. (I was going to add "no ambition," which is sort of true but sounds insane when you consider that I did an Ironman back then. Maybe what I wanted to say is "less enthusiasm for life.") Anyway, this gluten hangover is awful, but I now consider it a poison-detection system and am grateful to have it. I don't consider "being used to poison" a useful state.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kitchen experiments with my new pet ingredient

My first potato starch experiment was making tortillas. I just took the flatbread recipe and added some water to make them even flatter. It worked like a charm, and it was lovely to see the family enjoying their soft tacos. The only complaint about the tortillas was that there weren't enough tortillas.

But that was yesterday. Today I tried making sopapillas. The batter tasted like it was made of honey and angel tears, and I had confidence that the potato starch would hold everything together when I fried them up. So I quickly plopped four balls of dough in the pan of oil…and they simultaneously disintegrated and caught on fire. Or something. I couldn't really see through the smoke. I had to take what was left of the batter and bake it in balls on a cookie sheet. What came out was an interesting cross between a cookie and a biscuit and a crepe, but frankly not something I care to ever eat again.

The problem is, every once in a while I arbitrarily throw ingredients together in a bowl and it comes out brilliantly, so I don't like to stop trying. It's like Facebook: 90% junk, but you hate to give it up and miss the 10% that brings joy to your life.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A new ingredient to experiment with

I just made a fascinating and wonderful discovery, if you're the type of person for whom the topic of gluten-free flours produces wonder and fascination.

Let me back up a little bit so you understand. I've mentioned the benefits of resistant starch before, but some reading I've been doing lately has gotten me interested in it again. Green bananas are a convenient source, but it's sometimes hard to find them, and of course they don't stay green for very long. The article I linked to above mentioned potato starch, and I had heard that it was also a nice binder for Paleo breads. That's really important to me, because the usual binder for Paleo breads is eggs, and Dex is allergic to them (and of course I also avoid them now). I've come up with several eggy, bread-like things that Mik likes, but I've had zero success in all this time trying to make bread or pancakes for Dex.

Anyway, I bought some potato starch in bulk today, and while I was messing around in the kitchen with something else (homemade ketchup!) Dex made a three-ingredient Paleo flatbread. It was amazing! Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and it held together far better than any gluten-free bread I've ever made. I could easily see turning this recipe into tortillas, pancakes, pizza crust—shoot, it reminded me so much of sopapillas that I think I'll try those first and see if I can make M.H.'s day. Potato starch might also be the secret ingredient I need to actually create an egg-free, grain-free sandwich bread (which is frankly the Holy Grail for me right now).

The only thing to temper all this enthusiasm is that, to get a decent amount of resistant starch, you really need to eat the potato starch raw, but I guess none of the above keeps me from tossing some into a smoothie once in a while.