Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Media Tuesday

Visit your local bookseller today for your personal copy of

The Vampire's Betrayal by Raven Hart

You'll be happy to know that my dear friend Raven has named a character after me in her book: Yes, look for Ginger, the local prostitute, in this fine book. It's OK. I've been in a prostitute in a couple of her books. Once a ho, always a ho.

Seriously, if you're a fan of gothic vampire romances, pick up ALL of Raven's books...this is the fourth in the series.

Check out her website, too: Raven Hart Books

Much love, and GET the book!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

10 things that improved my life this week (A Sunday Blessing)

I looked at my blog yesterday and realized I've been a WHOLE WEEK without a post. I'm sorry about that. I was on the road for a couple days (to Atlanta, to see my Dad), and it was the last week of classes.

But it was a GOOD week because I made some discoveries about gluten-free products and concepts that will help you, actually, whether you're gluten free or not.

1. Chick-fil-A Carrot/raisin salad. I know, I know, who goes to the Chick for that? Well, I do, and for their cole slaw too.
Both a freshly made in each store, both are gluten free (according to their GF menu), and they're both as good as what most folks can make at home. The carrot raisin is my fave -- with pineapple, a little sweetner (no HFCS) and lots and lots of carrots.
Good for your eyes! and your tummy.

2. San-J wheat-free tamari sauce. Thanks to Kate, I now have a new bottle and it is heads and shoulders above La Choy Soy Sauce. Deliciously flavored.

3. Enviro-kids Crispy Rice Bars. I was in Whole Foods, and I saw these on the shelves. I've read a lot about the, but I hadn't tried them. BUT if you're missing Rice Krispie Treats, these are your fix. I'm telling you, Snap, Krackle and Pop are green with envy (as these bars are organic, and not sweetened with corn syrup). YUM. I have been good -- I've only eaten one.

4. A Whole Foods pie GF pie crust. I love quiche, and I'm not a baker as you know. But I made one kick-butt quiche when I found a pie crust in the Whole Foods GF Bake Shop. They cost about $4.50 for two of them, but to me, as infrequently as I use them, they're worth having for me. I suggest you buy them now, stock up, in mid spring. They're awfully scarce between October and January. And no sorghum flour in it -- I can't do that flour.

5. Whole Foods GF Bake Shop Cherry Pie: They're little but they're mighty tasty. I actually bought one of them on Spring Break, and let me tell you, they are delish. One small pie will feed four people or feed you, four times. Heat it in the oven, covered with foil, for about half an hour the first time. No HFCS or Corn Syrup in it, either. A good thing.

6. Potato starch on the markdown rack. It's the end of Passover, and my local store has marked down the (few) Kosher for Passover items it has. I bought some potato starch MUCH cheaper than I can get it anywhere else. And you know it's not cross contaminated because, it's Kosher for Passover. A great deal -- a steal, even.

7. The Sweet Truth on Veria. I think the host of this show, Kelly Keough, is a little over the top, but she bakes naturally sweetened, gluten free food, and she's got some good ideas. Everything she does is GF. She's not Ina Garten, but folks, it's a dang start.

8. Kuzu. I heard about this on The Sweet Truth, and I haven't bought any yet, but I'm planning to buy some of this natural thickener. I plan to use it instead of Corn Starch as a thickener/binder. I'll report back.

9. Lifeway's ProBugs Organic Whole Milk Kefir, a probiotic. OK, I need probiotics every day to help me digest my food. This stuff comes in individual packages (they're for kids, really) and taste good. Organic ingredients, no HFCS (which I've seen in yogurt!) AND if you watch the organic section of your store, you might find it nicely marked down as I did. I can take them in my lunch and have one for breakfast.


10. Food for Life fruit sweetened Gluten and Wheat Free Raisin and Pecan Bread. I had contemplated this purchase before, but it makes great raisin toast. I even made a grilled cheese with it (I love grilled cheese on raisin bread). This is really one of the best packages breads I have enjoyed. I can't eat more than two slices at a time, though. High carb. But gooooooood,

I also found a bag or organic cashews at Big Lots. They're cheap -- $2.50 -- and toasted only with sea salt. No added oil. I would tell you the name, but I finished the bag and tossed it away.

Much love, and I have a couple of posts coming in a couple days...see you then.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Imagine (A Sunday Blessing)

Imagine: Walking into a luncheon of 150 people, and having set before your a complete gluten-free meal, bread included, dessert included, with no fear of cross contamination.

Imagine: Opening your mailbox twice in one week to find gifts from people who share gluten freedom with you. Their notes, warm and loving, say, "thank goodness we're all in this together."

Imagine: Walking into a covered-dish lunch with a room full of strangers, feeling safe and sound. Imaging tasting and sampling and joyfully eating from all the dishes with no fear of cross contamination or illness, no worry in the world.

Imagine: Walking down the cereal aisle -- the REAL cereal aisle -- and being able to pluck a box of cereal off the shelf, then take it home and eat it!

All of these wonderful dreams were reality for me this past week. They were dreams that I never dared dream a year ago this weekend.

This weekend, you see, is an anniversary of sorts. It is the one year anniversary of my discovery that I might have to give up gluten for life. Heck, a year ago, I didn't even know what that meant I'd be giving up. FOREVER.

One year ago this past Friday at our annual Senior Luncheon, I met Hetty White's father, who had Celiac Disease. We ordered him a GF lunch, and he raved about the fact that he had a REAL lunch and bread and dessert, too! He and his wife were amazed, and me, well, I had no idea I'd be in his place a year later. See, Mr. White had ordered a GF meal, and I didn't even know what that meant back a year ago. I thought, "oh, we'll just get him a vegetarian meal and he'll be fine."

But thank GOD I asked questions and ordered that meal. It began for me a road to recovery, to healing, and to gluten freedom.

Once I heard his story, I did research, and as some of my readers know, I realized that I had many of the same issues Mr. White had. I had been diagnosed a few years ago with fibromyalgia, and my doctor said she thought I might even have chronic fatigue syndrome. But I could relate to some other things he spoke of -- the lack of energy, the "not wanting to leave the house," the chronic pain in my joints and especially in my left heel. The chipped teeth. The foggy feeling. We shared the other nasty side of this, of course, the gastric problems. But these other things, could it be that I had this CD thing?

We may never know if I have Celiac Disease, as I chose (after much research and consultation with my doctors) to go on a strict GF diet and not have the testing. It's the only treatment. I wanted to be well. So it goes.

But as I near the anniversary of my true Gluten Freedom day, I find myself bolstered with hope. I feel like I AM healing from the damage to my intestines, and I no longer have a lot of the CD-like symptoms. I still struggle with the neuropathy caused by type II diabetes, which means I sitll have a lot of stomach probelms. But one parent at the Senior Luncheon last Friday told me I looked GREAT. She added I hadn't looked that good the last time she saw me, two years ago. She's right. I was sick. I'm not that sick any more.

So this weekend, I am counting my blessings.....

Thanks to my friend Carol (hey Carol! I know you're out there) and her colleagues Yasmine and Theresa, the Middle Georgia glutern intolerance/Celiac Sprue support group is growing and thriving and about to grow some more. I went to my first meeting yesterday, and I enjoyed the company and the food so much. I want to support this, if only for the fact that I can meet with people who know how I FEEL once a month or so. I told my sweet Randy, he couldn't understand how good it felt to be able to eat lunch and just not worry. To eat food prepared by people who go through what I do EVERY SINGLE MEAL. Heavenly.

And my dear blogger family Kate and Stevie, well, we three celebrated Gluten Freedom Day this past week (some of you joined us). But we all decided separately to send the others gifts to celebrate. Mine was pretty lame -- I just sent them Penzeys gift cards so they could spend time in one of my favorite places and celebrate our mutual love of cooking. But Stevie, he sent powdered honey and shallot salt, and Kate, she sent fruit sweetened fudge sauce (OMGOMGOMG I ate it on fresh pineapple), and some GF licorice (no HFCS) and some GF Hoisin sauce. AND wheat-free Tamari! But what I loved most of all were the sweet notes that came with the packages. When ever I'm down and out, I know I have kindred spirits out there who live at Gluten Free Steve and Gluten Free Gobsmacked. I never dreamed that would happen. I was sure I was out here alone. I am so happy I am not.

And as for the annual Senior Lunchon Friday, which was a delight as usual (shoutout to the Girls Gone Wild in PR). And me, I had my OWN GF meal this year. Looked like all the others, but it didn't make me sick. And I had bread. And dessert. Oh happy day...

Oh, and thank you, General Meals, for making gluten free Rice Chex. Can Corn Chex be far behind? They even have a web site full of GF chex mix recipes. I made a fool of myself on some with chocolate and peanut butter yesterday....again. I felt safer than I'd felt in close to a year.

Those of you who are GF, you know how special these feelings can be; those of you who aren't, you don't know how lucky you are.

OH! I forgot. What did I bring to the covered dish? Crock pot Shallot Green Beans. I ate the rest for dinner. They are a tribute to my friend GF Steve, who sent me one of the main ingredients -- shallot salt!

Crock Pot Shallot Green Beans

2 bags frozen Italian Style green beans (they're really pole beans)
four oz. pancetta, diced (or diced bacon if you don't have pancetta)
1 can diced potatoes (they hold up better than cutting up potatoes in this dish)
2 shallots, diced, or 1/4 cup Penzeys freeze dried shallots
1 T. shallot salt
1 cup beef stock (I use Rachel Ray GF brand from WalMart)

Combine all items in the Crock Pot before you go to bed and set on simmer low. Cook all night. YUM.
These are Southern-style soft beans, not al dente crisp beans. But you'll love the taste. And the shallot salt....

Much love, and imagine....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A vast wasteland

That's how former FCC Chairman Newton Minow described the potential of television in 1960.

Right now, it describes my BRAIN potential this week.

It's the end of the semester, and I'm swamped. Senior luncheon Friday, planned by my class. Auction last weekend, planned by same class. PR writing papers up to my eyeballs. Law notebooks coming in next Thursday.

I'll be on hiatus at least through the weekend so I can do my real job for a while.

In other words, don't look here for anything clever or inspiring. I got nothin.

Much love,

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why I blog (A Sunday Blessing)

One of my students, Whitney Fee, sent me a Facebook message yesterday. She's working on a project for her broadcast journalism class about blogs and bloggers. She asked me four questions that made me think. Why exactly DO I blog?

Simple answer to that, Whitney. Catharsis. I blog to make things better. For relief. When I first found out I was gluten intolerant, almost a year ago, I didn't quite know how to cope. What would I eat? How would I feel? How would I ever get through this? In July, after we came back from a cruise and I first tasted gluten-free bread, I knew there were things out there I didn't know about, and the learning curve was steep. I hit Google and began to read.

So after reading and being touched by two blogs specifically -- Gluten Free Girl and The Gluten Free Goddess -- I thought I'd start my own blog. After all, my former students Julie, Joy, and Jenn were all blogging about babies and married life. They were enjoying it, so I thought, what the heck. I decided to use the platform to make my own life easier. At the time, I didn't see any blogs converting southern recipes to gluten free, so that is how I started. Every time I converted a recipe I'd known and loved, I wrote about it here.

As time passed by, I got some readers. I think the first one was Karen Blue. Then, I read Fresh Ginger, where I discovered Ginger of the North. Soon after I found Gluten Free Steve, who has since become my adopted lil bro in Denver. After I joined the Delphi Celiac List, I found Kate at Gluten Free Gobsmacked. In September (was it?) I found Ginger Lemon Girl Carrie, who is also a southern girl, even if she does eat sugar in her cornbread. Then I met Cassandra at Delphi, who started a blog, and Melanie of The Gluti Girls. Then there's also Alex of Transformed by Words. She offers deep words of encouragement and spiritual growth. Not long ago I met the GF Crockpot Lady, Steph. I even got to "know" Gluten Free Girl Shauna. In fact, she told me in an email she was pregnant months before she announced it on her blog, and I kept her secret.

I know I've got friends I've yet to meet. New people sign on every day. I welcome them and visit their blogs in return, and the circle continues to grow.

The list of my most frequented GF blogs is to the right of this post. I also list blogs of other friends who have ventuerd out there on the blogosphere. Yes, Whitney, I am older than most of the other bloggers I know. As for their educational level, I think I mostly care about their gluten-free education. To me, they're all my teachers. I aspire to offer them something valid in return.

How has blogging helped me? Well, I can make bread now because of Steph. And I got through my cancer scare because I could use this blog as a platform. I was surrounded by prayer and love through this blog. I am convinced God reads blogs every day. Cassandra makes me smile with the antics of her beautiful boys Carter and Braden, and Carrie, she just makes me smile every time I see her lemons on her masthead. Melanie, the best cookie baker in the Midwest, showed me what hospitality is . And Alex, well, Alex loves my name. She tells me -- and her readers -- that all the time. The other day, she mentioned me and Jeffrey in a lovely post. I really am transformed by knowing her.

The best part? Some of these bloggers have transcended blogdom and have become good friends. Steve, Kate and I have become especially close, and I'm thankful and grateful to them. They have enriched my GF life and my personal life. We aspire to meet some day soon. It is with them today I that I celebrate Gluten Freedom Day. Steve came up with that, and right now, I think he, Kate and I are the only celebrants. But it's important to US. I can live a life without gluten, but I can't dream of a life without their love and friendship.

How has blogging changed your life? Whether you blog about babies, politics, public relations, or anything else, Whitney would like to hear from you.

If you'd lbe willing to help a bright college student, email and answer these questions for her, I told her I'd post this here and ask YOU what she asked me.

1. Why do you blog?
2. How did you get started?
3. Are most of your blogging friends younger and educated?
4. How has blogging helped you?

I urge you to share your knowledge with her. She's worth it.

Happy Gluten Freedom day, my friends,
and Much Love,

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A little kitchen fun!

I've had a tough day, so I'd like to hear from my friends for a while.

Here's a little funny meme (MeMe!) for all of you cooks out there, GF or not!

In the comment section, tell me

1. Three things you ALWAYS have in your refrigerator.

2. Your favorite seasoning. PICK ONE!


3. Your favorite Food Network cook/chef.

1. A bottle of liquor of some kind, Duke's mayo, and sliced jalepeno peppers. (This applies to both the Georgia Fridge and the Florida Fridge...)
2. Fine ground grey salt, purchased from Penzeys Spices.
3. Alton Brown.

Much love. I'm tired.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

two roasts, two different ways

You know, it's tricky posting recipes on a blog, as I've been learning today. Someone tried the recipe below for the bread, and while changing the method for her loaf, has seemed upset with me because her bread turned out dry. I have been trying to help her decipher what might have happened. I think she is angry with me. I feel quilty.

Yeah, it's been that kind of day....

Cooking -- especially baking -- is a science. I suck at science. That's why I bake so little. Oh Stevie, it was a false alarm. I don't have the baking gene. I just got lucky with two loaves of bread in the my Crock pot. (P.S. I stand by the recipe and the method. Thanks, Steph, Goddess of the Crock Pot. You created a monster. I still love ya!)

That bread did make a mighty tasty Spam and cheese sandwich, I'm just saying.

OK. Today's topic really is the venerable roast, or as Dr. Seuss would say, the Roast Beast. When I was growing up, we had two kinds of roast: Chuck roast (often a seven-bone kind) and rump roast. Both are weird cuts of meat. My Mama always cooked the chuck roast, and my Daddy had the recipe for the rump roast. Daddy would often put them in the oven on Sunday morning before we went to church. Instant lunch when we got home). Mama's was often a Sunday night kind of thing.

Just remember that old meat saying: the tougher the meat, the better the taste. In case you hadn't noticed, a filet mignon isn't especially tasty and always needs lots of saucing and seasoning.

Let me tell you about the rump roast recipe. It is a tough weird piece of the cow, a rump roast, but a good one will have about a half-inch thick layer of fat on the top. That is the key to the taste of the dish.

Take a three or four pound rump roast and put it in a heavy baking dish (I use my iron skillet). Fat side up, slash the fat, and season liberally with Mrs. Dash garlic and herb, salt and pepper. My Daddy always just used garlic salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put roast in for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Cook for about 2 hours. Use a meat thermometer and if you like it medium, it should be about 140 degrees. Take from oven and put on a plate -- let stand for 15 minutes. To make the jus (as in au jus, which means with juice in French) pour out the fat in the pan, add about a half cup of water, and scrape up the caramelization in the bottom of the pan. Let it simmer on the stove til warm. Don't add anything else to it -- this isn't a gravy dish kinda roast. Slice the meat thinly against the grain. And if you're a sinner like me, take the crispy rendered fat off and don't let anyone know how much of it you ate before you threw it in the trash! This MUST be served with rice. It just must. Makes a killer second day roast beef sandwich, too. Slice it all thin...soak in the jus. Put it on bread and warm in the micro the second day. YUM.

NOW, chuck roast in my house can go two ways. Crock pot (which I've done before, I think) and iron skillet. Sunday I did it the iron skillet sort of way. When you do it this way, you roast veggies in the pan, and the fat on the roast caramelizes and renders, making the meat almost sticky. YUM.

In your heavy iron skillet, put a well seasoned three pound or so chuck roast in the middle of the pan. I season all my roasts the same -- sorry, you'd think I had stock in Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb, but I love it. I might also add pepper (or some Tony Chachere's). Around the pepper add two onions, quartered, five or six small red potatoes, halved and flesh side to the pan, and a handful of chopped raw carrots. Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil -- but don't add water or anything to the pan! Cook on 300 degrees for about four hours, then remove the cover. Cook an additional half hour to brown the top of the roast. Remove roast to plate and let sit for 15 minutes. Put the veggies in a bowl. Degrease the pan and make the jus as above. Pour over veggies. I remember my Mama made this in a big old roaster that was the broiler pan from their first stove. It was something she made on New Year's Eve a lot of time, and often on New Year's Day (with the hoppin john, turnips and corn bread). My late ex-father in law loved this dish....I made it often when they'd come to dinner. (It was probably the only thing I ever did he liked.)

Now, you also know you can do a chuck roast like I did the Crock Pot Pork Tenders, right? Only it makes a gravy. Carry on.

Much love, and I'm going for leftover roast now...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

GF Sesame Flax Bread

I just made a variation of the GF Flax Bread that has been circulating on the Delphi Forums Celiac site, only I baked it in my Crock Pot. I have to say, I'm minutes away from tossing out my old bread machine. This is the second loaf of bread I've made in the Crock Pot, and I'm sold.

Here's what I did:
Dry ingredients:
2 cups GF flour mix (mine has two rice flours, tapioca, potato and cornstarch).
1/4 c. sesame seeds (I love sesame seeds)
1/4 c. ground flax meal (flax seeds). I keep mine in the fridge at all times.
1 package dry yeast
2 1/2 t. xanthan gum
1 t. salt

Wet ingredients:
Heat 1 cup milk to 120 degrees (microwave about 45 seconds), then beat in the following:
2 eggs
2 egg whites
2 t. molasses
2 t. cidar vinegar
(The milk mixture will be about 110 degrees, the perfect temp for dissolving yeast).

I mixed this together in a bowl with a hand mixer for three minutes.
I put it directly in a greased round six-quart Crock Pot, which I vented with a wooden spoon.

I let it bake for 3 hours on simmer high, then I flipped it over and baked for an additional 30 minutes on simmer low. I removed it from the Crock to a wire rack and let it set for 15 minutes before slicing.

It doubled in size, was crusty, and it tastes delicious -- very crunchy and crusty. In the Crock Pot, it makes a beautiful crusty artisanal loaf of bread. I would serve this to any dinner party.

Another great adaptation of this bread! Instead of buying another bread maching, I'm going to buy another CROCK POT!

And ok Stevie, you win. I have a LITTLE baking gene. But just a little...

Much love from Ging the Crock Pot baker

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Pick your poison

This has been a pretty good week. Even since Tuesday, when i declared I'd be "cleaning up my act," I've had good success.

You have to know, though -- it is painful to reduce sugar in a diet. There's a culprit out there working against all of us.

Now, I've had people ask me how I gave up gluten. Once they figure out what that TRULY means, they're horrified to think of a life without bread. I of course don't live without bread -- I live without WHEAT. Barley. Rye. Oats, A lot of milk products. etc.
But I eat a lot of other stuff, including Snickers, the naturally gluten-free candy bar.

But I need to live without added sugar. I'd been noticing, for instance, that I had a bit of gastric distress when I ate things with a lot of sugar in them. Not to mention the reaction of my blood sugar. BAD combination for me as a type II diabetic with food intolerances.

So this week, I've been closing watching my sugar, especially my consumption of one ingredient -- High Fructose Corn Syrup.

We all know there is sugar naturally occurring in many natural things, of course -- there are about 12 grams of sugar in a cup of milk (lactose is that sugar); and there's fruit sugar -- fructose. I can have a LOT of fruit and three sevings of milk a day, so I can get ample "good" sugar without adding any. There are four grams of sugar in a teaspoon of plain ol' table sugar -- glucose. Plain on glucose. It's actually not bad in small amounts. In some forms, like honey and molasses, it has nutritional value.

When I'm on an eating plan like The DASH diet, I look for low sugar and good sugar. I do eat small amounts of honey. I would eat molasses. I will eat grade b amber maple syrup. I eat fruit-sweetened items. No, when I'm being good (as I am now) I try to keep any given serving of food under about 12 grams of ADDED sugar. OR -- a tablespoon of honey, molasses, etc.

Higher math, I know. Makes sense, though. My blood sugar can handle that.

Right now, for instance, I'm eating a lovely bowl of 2 percent plain Greek yogurt (12 grams of lactose-based sugar) with some Trader Joe's gluten free tropical granola (six grams of sugar from dried fruit, mostly), with a tiny teaspoon of some delicious honey to amp up the yogurt nutriets. The probiotic effects of yogurt are increased significantly if you add a little honey to it, and Greek yogurt...oh my. I love the stuff. Total sugar: 30 grams of all healthy sugar. And yummy.

But did you know there's a poisonous side of sugar? A really horrible sugar? There is -- High Fructose Corn Syrup. It's sugar made from corn (thus the fructose, not the sucrose). Table sugar is made from cane or beets.

I have spent this week trying desperately to ELIMINATE the High fructose corn syrup, to be exact. I don't think there's a more pervasive filler food out there today. I have met MY enemy, and it is HFCS. ACK!

For me, HFCS also seems to cause a great deal of gastric distress. It took me this week on an elimination diet to figure that out, but I see it very clearly, It tears me up, and it breaks me down.

For instance, yesterday at lunch I went to Chick FIl A and had two char-grilled GF chicken breasts. Perfectly wonderful GF food. I made the mistake, though, out of habit, I guess, to pop open a package of honey mustard dipping sauce. Guess what? No honey -- but HFCS is the second ingredient. ACK. ALL DAY I craved sugar and food. I tried to assuage it all day, and last night found myself staring down a carefully hidden can of frosting (that has since gone up to Jeffrey's house to live). It was HORRIBLE! And the bloating and stomach pain (etc.) were immediate and painful.

Nope. I've suspected that I have another food sensitivity...HFCS. It is hard to escape in our processed food today. And for me -- I'm speaking only for me today -- it is horrible. If I can get it out of my system and replace it with GOOD sugars, my blood glucose will improve, my digestion will improve, and I will be healthier.

That, my friends, is easier said than done. I'm not talking about becoming an all-organic, only natural foods person. I'm talking about ingredients I've used in some good everyday stuff.

Take my recipe a few weeks back for Sloppy Ging. if I'm going to give up the HFCS, I'm going to have to make my own sloppy joe sauce. So I saw the Neelys making this on Food Network today, and they used bbq sauce. Guess what is in the BBQ sauce in the fridge. YEP. HFCS is in that. It's in catsup/ketchup. All you have to do is READ THE LABEL and there is it.

I've been thinking about this a lot since I had lunch last week with Randy's former student, Arleen (shoutout to Marley!). While he was elsewhere in the building, she and I had a great discussion about food additives. I told her about the documentary "King Corn," which spends a year looking at the life of an acre of corn. A lot of our corn goes to HFCS production. In "King Corn," for instance, the producers try to cook a completely HFCS-free Thanksgiving Dinner. Right: Some turkey brines have HFCS in it, and don't forget the pumpkin and pecan pies. Check out that cranberry sauce in a can...oops. Cheaper ones have HFCS in it. It's tough. Read that juice label...more often than not, HFCS costs MUCH LESS than plain old sugar. So it has become the sweetner of choice in the industry.

I've read a lot about the dangers of HFCS, and for me, as a type II diabetic, it is simply deadly. This website
explains it pretty well. It also explains why kids are fatter today than they were 20 years ago, and why there is a dramatic rise in type II diabetes in young people. And it makes sense to me now -- drink cheap juice with HFCS, drink lots of it, and your body will grow fatter. Add a sedentary, TV/computer-based lifestyle. Fat kids = diabetes. That simple.

Parents out there: READ those baby juice labels. Juice is good. Fruit is better. And consider what you're cooking with you use a product with high levels of HFCS. If it is in the first three ingredients, consider finding a replacement. Make sure that daycare, camp, or church nursery isn't using a cheap HFCS juice, ok? Don't get my babies started young.

You body will thank you for it. I'm convinced of that now.

Much love, and much natural sweetness to you all!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

National Autism Awareness Day

As most of my blog readers know, our lives have been significantly touched by autism. My only son, Jeffrey, was officially diagnosed as autistic in in 1999. We fought doctors for more than 17 years for a clear diagnosis, after being told by a psychiatrist at Emory University Hospital in 1990 that Jeffrey had "autistic like tendencies," and because he had only 8 or 9 of the 15 (at that time,) the doctor didn't want to label him autistic because he was afraid he would LIMIT Jeffrey's educational opportunities.

That is how much the autism community has changed in the last 18 years. Today, doctors can diagnose autism in an infant under the age of one.

Forgive me if I think wistfully of what my child's world might have been like had we had this diagnosis 24 years ago. His early childhood special education classes would have taught him to read in a manner more appropriate for a child with autism -- instead, Jeffrey would listen to the other children read and memorize the stories. When it was his turn, he would recite his part. To this day, he can memorize and recite hundreds -- maybe more -- movie segments, song lyric, and NASCAR statistics.

There were many, many early clues for Jeffrey, but no one could pinpoint autism -- not a gifted German doctor who took incredible care of Jeffrey in Wurzburg, Germany, not the world-renowned Psychologist at Georgia State who tested him in 1986, not the most thorough pediatrician in Atlanta who tested him for EVERYTHING from 1985 until 1992, when we moved to Louisiana. The puzzle pieces were there -- the just did not fit.

Today, Jeffrey is a healthy, happy man who towers above me at almost 6-feet tall. He has a beautiful girlfriend, a supportive work environment he loves, and a mother, father, step-father, grandfather, and all their extended families who love him dearly. He has never met a stranger, and he loved throughout Milledgeville.

But when I see Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete talk about how intervention has changed their children, I wonder, why not mine? Autistic people are regimented -- changing Jeffrey now would be like unringing a bell. It hurts me, frankly, to see the media lose focus on these "gap kids" with autism. Sure there's an autistic woman who can write books, and a young man who can make free throws and will show up on Larry King Live. But hey there Sanjay Gupta, you want to see what life is REALLY like with a young adult with autism? As Rosemary Clooney once sang, "Come-on a my house." I'll show you what it's like.

The unconditional love.
The incredible stress.
The occasional anger and, sadly, violence.
The heartbreaking innocence.
The coy cleverness.
But most of all...the love.
Always, there is love.

If you have the chance to support an autism awareness group like Autism Speaks, I encourage you to do so. I'd give more, but could I really?

And if you yourself have a loved one with autism, you have my heartfelt love and prayers, but only if you send them back to us!

Much love, from Jeffrey and me.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Crock Pot Pork Tenders

This past weekend, my mind knew what I would be doing today, so I cooked and ate with abandon on both Saturday and Sunday.

I did come up with a very tasty adaptation of an old favorite, though, for the Crock Pot. I also made a discovery.

Minute Rice will cook almost as quickly in a Crock Pot as it does on a stove top.

Now, I know this is silly, but I love Minute Rice. It was always the Rudeseal Rice of Choice. Oh sure, I can make the fancy rices (and I can make perfect rice the long-cooked way). But I love Minute Rice just the same.

What I discovered was a tasty rice dish with melt-in-your-mouth pork tenders, all easily done. Jeffrey liked it, too.

Try it: You'll like it. And yes, actually, it is reasonably low fat (pork tenderloins are). I COULD (and would) eat it on my new eating plan. I just don't have any left :-) I finished the rice last night.

Crock Pot Pork Tenders

2 pounds of pork tenderloins, whole (cook it whole for better texture) Sure, chicken tenders will work fine here!
1 half package fresh sliced mushrooms
1/2 chopped onion
I can of Progresso Cream of Mushroom Soup (if you use Campbell's, add a half can of water to it).
1 1/2 cups Minute Rice

Serves four - six easily.

Put onions, mushrooms, and pork in Crock Pot in that order. Season pork generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc. I used a generous sprinkle of Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb, as well as some red pepper flakes.
Top with a can of Progresso Cream of Mushroom Soup.


Cook on simmer LOW for the whole day (not high).
When you come home from work, take the pork out of the Crock Pot and set aside, then cut it into six serving pieces.
Pour Minute Rice into juice and stir. Cover with lid and let sit while you get the rest of dinner ready, or change the baby, or whatever -- about 20 minutes should do it.

Rice will absorb the liquid in the Crock Pot and soften. The longer you leave it the more it will thicken. 20 should do it, but 30 won't hurt.

Fluff rice (which now has mushrooms, etc. in it) and top with pork.

Much love, and I hope you you're had a day free of April Fools.


P.S. I fed my ad copywriting class a WHOLE BAG of mini Snickers today. I'm serious....cuz I'm serious.