Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to make kale chips

My goal for this week was to learn how to eat kale.

I know how to put kale in my mouth and chew it, but I've always found it really unappealing. It's so...leafy and bland and chewy. But I also know that kale is a "superfood" and good for me, so I wanted to try to find a way to make it palatable.

Enter kale chips.

As it turns out? Kale chips are awesome. And baking them doesn't nullify the healthy aspects of kale! (Unfortunately, dipping carrots in ranch nullifies carrots.) So I'm going to teach you how to make kale chips yourself, so that we can all enjoy some superfoods.

1. Buy a giant bunch of kale. I don't know why, but it's always sold in giant bunches.

in the bag

2. Wash the kale and then dry it a lot. Or, if you have to go to work, leave it to dry in your collander and hope no animals eat it while you're gone.

whole leaf

3. When it's all dry, tear it up into little pieces. Make them bitesize.

tear it up

4. Spread the pieces out on a baking sheet, and set your oven to 375.

on the sheet

5. Now comes the most important part: drizzle oil on the leaf-bites. Olive oil is preferable, but perhaps you only have canola oil on hand, like myself. It will still work.


And then salt it! Again, kosher salt is awesome but straight up Morton's table salt will do.


6. Now bake it for about 10 minutes. Check on it to make sure it doesn't get TOO brown, but let it brown a little around the edges.

post baking

These are possibly a little too brown.

7. Now you can share them with your vegan co-workers! Everybody likes kale chips.

vegans like them

And if you have some left over, your furry black vacuum cleaner will eat them.

terriers like them

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The new List

My best friend Jessica and I like to make lists.

Once we made a list of the 25 things we want in a man. That was a few years ago, and enough things have changed that I decided to make a new list. And... here it is.

Qualities I'm looking for in a male partner: 1. Very, very intelligent. 2. Self driven. 3. Self aware. 4. Well-educated. 5. Has his own life and is willing to let me have mine. 6. Comfortable at a field party AND a cocktail party. 7. Well muscled back and/or pretty shoulders. (this one isn't vital or anything. Just nice.) 8. Allows for my eccentricities. 9. Wants to have a small farm. With horses and sheep and chickens and a veggie garden. 10. Gets along with my family. 11. Has a future. (a career, a plan, something he's actively working on) 12, Cuddles while sleeping. 13. Loves Phineas. (I'll settle for tolerates Phineas.) 14. Gets along well with my friend group and includes me in his. 15. Athletic/outdoorsy. (Can build a fire, likes fishing, likes camping, etc.) 16. Has excellent style or lets me pick out his clothes. 17. Is a good driver and: a. Prefers to drive me around b. But occasionally lets me drive 18. Sexually attentive/open 19. Wants to/is able to have sex at least twice a day 20. Doesn't try to talk to me during Lost. 21. Doesn't mind bland food. 22. Enjoys taste-testing my cupcakes. 23. Likes to take on projects. 24. Takes care of me in little ways, like fixing things and killing spiders.

We're always accepting applications.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to make cake balls

Full disclosure: this recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman.

So you want to make cake balls. This is a big time in your life, and full of change. I've created a special guide to help you along.

First, make an apron with Toto's face on it. Then put it on.

Second, make a cake. I was feeling pretty lazy and the recipe said it was ok, so I used a box. Specifically, I used Betty Crocker's new gluten-free cake mix. God bless those Better Crocker people for making really good and readily accessable mixes for lazy Celiacs.

Third, cut a hole in the box.

No, wait, that's a different project.

Third, crumble up the cake using your fingers until you get tired of that and go get a pastry cutter.

Fourth, get that blackberry-creamcheese icing out of your fridge that you have left over from when you made cupcakes for your statistics class. Dump that random amount of icing in there and mix it all up with the pastry cutter, your new best friend.

Fifth, roll it up into balls. This part is really tedious. You should probably get someone who's a perfectionist to come over and do it for you. Seriously, this part is boring. The recipe makes millions of tiny little balls and they'd probably be cuter if they were all the same shape and size.

Sixth, use your engineering degree to make a structure that allows two trays of balls to be in the freezer at the same time. You want them to be really firm so that they don't fall apart during the next step. While they're doing that, get yourself caught up on Lost theories or watch Millionaire Matchmaker. You have some time to kill.

Seventh, melt the chocolate you got at Micheal's in the beautiful double boiler you inherited from your mom. You can cut it with a little shortening to make it even easier to spread. But remember: sell it like it's totally pure.

Eight is the tricky part. You have to get the balls evenly coated in chocolate without them falling apart and then get them to emerge from the chocolate while still looking reasonable. I used a spatula, a knife, a fork, cursing, and gravity. It's important to keep a terrier in your kitchen to lick up all the spilled and dripped chocolate, as well.

Eventually your balls will look like so:

I made white ones, red ones, and white ones drizzled in red. Cause I'm fancy.

Now here's the real secret to making beautiful cake balls: destroy any evidence of funny-looking ones. This can be tricky, but I'm sure you and your quality control guy will find a way.

Happy Cake Balling.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The exploding of the organs, part the second.

So the healing began.

As I mentioned previously, getting out of the bed was a complicated procedure. But they made me do it to take walks every day. Part of the walking was to get me up and moving, so that I didn't get bedsores or something, but part of it was to get my bowels working. Because they wouldn't let me leave until I pooped. And let me tell you - discussing your bowel movements with every person who comes in the room is really embarrassing. At first. You get used to it. Discussing them with your mom is also weird, even though she was around for the first ones you ever had.

All the walking was done in the triangular hallway. The first time, I made one lap and I was so exhausted I had to take a two hour nap. But gradually I built up my tolerance until I could go around for as many as five laps before I needed to rest. (I'm told twenty-one laps makes a mile.) I was shocked that I got tired so easily - whose body gets tired that easily? As I recover, I continue to be shocked by this. I'm used to running in the park and hustling past people on the sidewalk, and suddenly I'm tired out by a length of stairs?

But anyway. The best part about walking was the other walkers. We were all shuffling down the hallways in slow motion like zombies, with our IV poles clutched in one hand and our identical hospital gowns flowing around us. But being in the same situation built this weird instant comradery. We understood what the others were going through. We compared notes on how many laps we'd done, how much the NG (nose to stomach) tubes sucked, how fast or slow we were, when we were leaving. Once I was commiserating with this woman about NG tubes, and she said "well, at least I don't have cancer anymore!" and I was floored. Another time I opened my mouth to talk to a new guy, but his IV promptly burst out of his hand and he started bleeding everywhere. We were some unhealthy people.

The thing I wanted most, besides water, was to have my NG tube out. I wasn't allowed any food or water at this point, only ice chips - and then they took my ice chips away. It seems I was abusing them by eating too much, which meant they couldn't tell how much my tube was sucking out because it was busy sucking out water from the ice chips. So they forbade the ice chips and gave me - wait for it - A SPONGE ON A STICK. Yes. According to Katie, it was at this point that I was truly pathetic. I had a little sponge on a stick, a tiny bit of water in a cup, and that was all. (I kept a few of them, when I left. If anybody wants one, let me know. They really convey a sense of tragedy and pathos) But it worked, and finally a woman came and pulled the thing out. Pulling it out hurt almost as much as shoving it in, but it was worth it. Because they gave me an entire cup of water after that!

At this point, all I had was one IV, and a tube in my stomach! I was practically free. They even let me take a shower at this point - my first in a week. I had to keep one hand out of the water and have help with shampooing and soaping and all, but it was glorious none the less. I had grown a pretty impressive forest of leg and under-arm hair at this point, too.

And then they started giving me hospital food. I can usually tell when I'm actually sick because I'm not interested in food (very unusual for me) but I don't think anyone would have been interested in this food. Besides that, they kept sending me glutenous food. I'm totally tolerant when people unknowingly or accidentally try to give me food with gluten in it in normal life - it's my own problem to worry about, not theirs. But registered dieticians who have my chart which lists my gluten allergy on it? C'mon. So I ate the off-brand Jello and drank the juice and could not be persuaded to do more.

Let's fast forward a few days.

They finally decided to discharge me. They loaded up me, my flowers, and my stuffed animal in a giant wheel chair and rolled me through the hospital that I had never seen clearly before and all the way out to my dad's car. The drive home was bumpy and painful, but when we got there Jessica was there to meet us. I figured that Katie and my mom had done enough nursing to last them a while, so I called my favorite future doctor and got her to come stay with me for a few days.

We made the couch my new hospital bed, and for the next few days Jessica fed me smoothies, timed my pill doses, bandaged my wounds, and took care of my dog. She went with me to get the tube taken out of my stomach (surprisingly unpainful!) and told me it was probably unethical to ask out the doctor who removed it. When I was ready to go back to class, she drove me there and picked me up, so that I wouldn't have to walk too much. She was really wonderful and patient.

But eventually she went home. And I was left alone. And for the past couple of weeks I've been recovering slowly. I've been cutting down on pain pills, adding blocks to my walk, feeding myself, and getting back to my normal life. I've had a lot of support from everyone in my life, and I'm really grateful to you all. All the sweet notes on facebook, the cards, the rides home from school, etc. have really meant a lot to me. It's nice to know that when your organs explode, your friends are there for you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In which my internal organs explode

I think it's time to recap my latest adventure. I've been putting it off, but now seems to be as good a time as any.

My stomach started hurting on a Friday night. I'd had these kinds of pains before, and they usually resulted in me being in horrible pain for a couple of days and then it would pass. Sometimes the pain would get so bad that I would vomit, but usually staying completely still made it better. I even had pills to ease the pain, from the last time it happened.

I spent all of Saturday writhing and throwing up. My mom called and could tell I wasn't well and she made me call Katie. I told Katie that I couldn't get out of bed and needed her to come over and walk Phineas and bring me Sprite so that I would have something to actually throw up. When she came over, I think I scared her a little. I didn't know it until later, but she called my mother and they debated taking me to the hospital. Since I had had previous episodes like this, they decided not to.

Sunday was spent the same way as Saturday. In fact, the two blended together in my mind and I didn't know they were two separate days. Katie stayed on my couch and tried to convince me to eat things and drink things, but I wasn't having it. I was only interested in holding completely still and trying to use a heating pad.

By Monday I felt better. Not getting out of bed or eating better, but less like my insides were being ripped apart. I finally felt like getting out of the bed wouldn't kill me, but I knew that wasn't exactly a sign of wellness. Katie and I decided it was time to go to a walk-in clinic. She had to help me get dressed, which was a really odd experience. I don't know if you've ever had some one put on your underwear for you, but it's certainly humbling. We also cleverly re-registered me for my school's mandatory insurance mere moments before leaving for the clinic.

The drive over there was horrible and being in the clinic even worse. Katie quickly made them give us a room because I was only comfortable when laying on my side in the fetal position, and that's hard to do in your standard waiting room chair. The doctor came in and palpatated my abdomen, which was hellish, and then literally thumped on it, which was worse. I don't think I've ever begged someone to stop gently touching me before, but I couldn't take the thumping. They somehow decided I had a distended belly (shocker) and should treat it with more of the same medicine I had and Gas-X. Seriously. But Katie and I left there thinking those two things would work. She filled my prescriptions, I took them, and we hoped for the best.

That didn't work.

I waited until I thought Katie might be awake Tuesday morning to call her and tell her we needed to go to the hospital. Luckily she wakes up early. I think we made it there by 8:30am. Which, by the way, is the time you should go to the ER, if that should ever come up. You'll get treated much faster, because there's no one else there. We went to Emory because I had heard that if you wake up in an ambulance on the way to Grady, you should just go ahead and die, since they're going to kill you by the time you get there anyway.

At Emory they put me in a room and proceeded to thump on my stomach some more. They also took away my water, which was upsetting at the time, even though I didn't know then that they would not give me any more water for almost a week. The most horrible male nurse ever earned the endearing nickname "Stabby McGaugey" when he dug around in my hands for a vein for about an hour before decided on a spot that was good enough for an IV. Katie had called my parents sometime that morning and told them it was time to come meet us at the hospital, but she stayed with me in that horrible room for hours, trying to distract me while medical professionals prodded and poked.

Eventually someone decided I should have a CAT scan, so they brought me blue Powerade with bitter chemicals in it. At the time I was happy to have something to drink, but so help me god, I will never drink blue Powerade again in my life. They took me to the scan, I held really still for a while, and then they took me back to the ER.

This is where it starts to get fuzzy.

When I got back, my parents were there and Katie was gone. My stomach still ached terribly and I was exhausted, and nothing made any sense. At some point I started vomiting again - uncontrollably. Over the side of the bed, in my own lap, into a barf bag, on a nurse, whatever. They didn't like this, and decided the solution was to stick a giant tube DOWN MY NOSE and into my stomach. One nurse held my hand (bless her) while another shoved the tube where no tube should go and told me to swallow. Luckily I didn't know at the time (more foreshadowing!) that the tube wouldn't come out until Saturday.

The tube didn't stop me from vomiting. They couldn't figure out why, so they rolled me around in the halls while I sat up in the bed and threw up, they x-rayed me while I threw up, and eventually they put me in a new room of my own. It was then that a new doctor came in and announced "Hi, I'm Doctor Douglas Anderson". "No fucking way", I thought. But was really distracted with yelling at him that the tube didn't work, vomiting some more, and begging for water.

Douglas Anderson, you see, is the kid I sat behind in virtually every class from middle school through high school. And I knew he'd gone to med school, but I didn't know he was in Atlanta and I certainly didn't recognize him since I was a greasy little animal possessed with sickness. And I didn't have my glasses on.

Doug looked at my x-rays and figured out that there was FIVE INCHES of coiled tube in the bottom of my stomach, which was causing it to stick to my stomach lining, which was causing me to try to throw it up. So they fixed that.

And then doctors started coming in to tell me that they didn't know what was wrong with me. I think this started that night...it could have been the next day. I don't really know. Time is hard to gauge in a hospital because everything is on an endless loop. And that's assuming you're well enough to have some concept of time. I kept fading in and out of consciousness, waking up only to find someone injecting me with something or using needles to get something out me. They love needles around there. But anyway, they weren't sure what it was - gall bladder, intestinal something, Crone's, etc. The doctors kept calling in other doctors until they finally called in the highest level person they could find.

And he couldn't tell either. But he wanted to go in laproscopically and poke around a little. You know. See what's in there. He said if it was my appendix, he would just take it out, and if it was something else then I'd have a bigger surgery later in which they'd remove all kinds of organs.

So early Thursday morning they rolled me off, nose tube still in place. I should mention at this point that my mom had been sleeping in the fold-out chair in my room, and that they had refused to give me anything but ice chips for two days. I don't remember anything from that morning except that the anesthesiologist put in an IV like a champ, no hurting at all. I told her to give the other guy lessons. She suggested that men aren't as good at IVs as women.

When I came to, I was back in my room. I had received flowers from Matt and Suzanne, and apparently I pointed to them a lot and repeatedly told my mom about them. I also had several new tubes: a catheter, which was gross, and a morphine button, which was awesome. It turned out they had found what was left of my appendix, because it had already ruptured and then spewed bile upon all the other organs around it, which is why they couldn't read my scans. I had four new incisions and an intense amount of pain.

The next few days are blurry. I couldn't sleep, in part because of the morphine (it gave me weird dreams) and in part because I was in a hospital. Someone came to check my vitals every 8 hours, someone else came to inject me with Heparin every 12 hours, someone took my blood every night at midnight, and those were just the regular visits. Every time they flushed out my IVs (I had one in each hand at this point) or added a new antibiotic it stung. Eventually they took out my catheter and one of my IVs. This meant I could go to the bathroom, but to do this I needed a nurse. They would crank up my bed, pull of my stockings, organize my tubes, and pull me into a sitting position. Then I would get a little extra morphine so that I could stand up and shuffle 6 ft. My nose tube had to be unhooked and my IV pole had to come with me. It was a big production.

I spent most of the time watching really really early morning news, which is boring, and reading magazines. And by reading I mean looking at pictures, because I had no memory recall. Katie and Nick came to visit and were impressed by my morphine button. My poor mom stayed by my side the whole time, fetching cold wash cloths or my phone or my glasses. My cousin Abby came and brought me the most fantastic lavender pillow, which I kept in my bed with the stuffed dog Katie gave me.

One amazing experience was the morning a complete stranger bathed me. This big black woman came in, helped me stand up, and then told me it was bath time. Before I really understood what was happening she undressed me and handed me a warm washcloth. I hadn't taken a bath in ages, and it felt wonderful to be slightly cleaner than before, but being naked in front of a complete stranger was bizarre. I hadn't seen my body in a mirror in a long time, and there I was with scars and bruises and tubes coming out of me. The nurse was so gentle and so sweet and the whole thing was really calming while also being really odd.

I'm tired of writing and I think this post is getting too long. Tune in for future installments about walking the hallways, getting my ice chips taken away, the return of Doug Anderson, and the removal of the nose tube.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back to it

Lately I've been living my dog's life:

Wake up

And it's not a bad life - not at all. I got lots of rest, I stayed warm, and we got some good snuggling in. But my brain has been switched off, and I'm ready to turn it back on. It's not good for me, all this laying around. It's like so many other things: a little bit is fantastic, but too much makes me grumpy and sluggish.

So today it's back to work. I have my first statistics seminar today, and I'm already dreading it. I can tell from here that stats is going to kick my ass. Tomorrow, on the other hand, is the first day of the undergraduate sexuality seminar. I've been given my dream job this semester: teaching undergraduate sexuality. I won't be teaching the whole thing, really only about half of it, but I'm already giddy.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to my new phone. It's a Droid, and I'm pretty sure it's actively making my life better. It's easily the smartest phone I've ever had. And since it has a full touch-screen keyboard, I can text like the wind. Although I do have to mention that I've had to teach it my name and all my favorite swear words. I guess they don't come standard.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A toast to glutens past

I was diagnosed with Celiac a few weeks ago.

This means I can never have gluten again.

Gluten is in many of my favorite things: macaroni and cheese, pasta alfredo, beer, raisin bran, crunchy oat flake cereal, Twix, pizza, etc.

Actually... I can have those things, I'll just have diarrhea all my life, never absorb nutrients, have unhealthy bones and blood, and eventually die of stomach cancer. But I won't die IMMEDIATELY. Indeed, if I take my grandfather's route, I won't die of stomach cancer until well after my 85th birthday!

But I'm going to try to be gluten-free anyway. From what I understand, it will cure my neuropathy (I get really crazy itchy after showers or salt scrubs or shaving), my anemia, and some of my attention span problems. Plus my stomach will be really happy with me.

I've started grocery shopping as a gluten-free person, and it's a giant pain in the ass. But great strides have been made in food production and I can get bread and pasta and cereal at my local grocery stores, which is way better than those before me had it. Really, I can survive just fine at home - aside from baking.

Yes, there's the real problem.

I bake when I'm stressed out, and also when I'm feeling good. I'm often one or the other. I've gotten a few gluten-free baking cook books - the best one is from Babycakes, a bakery in NYC. But they call for bizarre ingredients, some of which I haven't been able to find. (Potato starch? Seriously? Even the people at Whole Foods don't know what that is.) Most of the breads I've tried so far have been for shit - it's like eating a loaf of sand mixed with cardboard that crumbles if you look at it wrong - so I'm going to start baking my own, and testing recipes. I've found two good cupcake recipes so far, and I'm going to try a new one (with pumpkin!) in the next few days.

Tonight I tried out chicken and dumplings, because I was craving it hardcore. The dumplings were fine, if a bit dense, but the broth was all wrong. I suspect the issue was how long I cooked the chicken, which is to say, not long enough. Not enough simmering. I know you're all shocked that I tried to hurry something along. Tomorrow I'm going to try chicken noodle soup.

Anyway - the real issue is eating out, or at parties, or at weddings. Gluten is in pretty much everything, and people have no idea. Not that I blame them at all - I had no idea. But recently I was at Sonic, and I was horrified to find that the only thing left on the menu for me to eat is tater tots. And that's only because I'm not so sensitive that I can't eat things that were fried in oil that also fried battered things. (some people would be sick for days, just from that) So it's all large tater tots and cherry Limeaids for me. Not that that's a particularly bleak future.

I'll update more as I learn more. I'm still phasing gluten out of my diet and out of my pantry.

Velveeta Mac and Cheese, I've always loved you. And I'm going to miss you terribly.
Same goes for you, dark German beer.

P.S. - there are other things going on in my life, too. I'll think them over and update more soon.