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Category Archives: Disaster

Allergies Giveth (Seldomly), and Allergies Taketh Away. Mostly They Just Taketh Away.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been doing another dietary test where I eliminate all potential allergens from what I eat and then slowly reintroduce them to see if I can pinpoint problematic foods. I decided to go through this again in September after feeling miserable for several weeks.

After nearly a month of relatively clean eating, however, I was still experiencing the itchy rashes that I’d hoped would go away after eating only meat and vegetables (I avoided fruit for a time too to cut my sugar intake as much as possible. Sugar can exacerbate allergy symptoms.).

Then, two things happened:

1) I forgot to buy celery one week at the farmer’s market.

2) I tried unpasteurized cider. Because fresh-pressed cider is just too tempting in the fall. At an orchard. On a hot day.

Here’s how the celery factors in. I’ve been making green smoothies almost every morning, using a variety of ingredients, but the core ones are kale, cucumber, parsley and celery, with some source of natural sweetness mixed in (up until recently, just local honey). I even started adding hemp protein powder to make a more substantial snack.

But then I accidentally left a bunch of celery behind at the market one day. I forged ahead that week and simply omitted celery from my smoothies. The following Saturday, I picked up a bunch of celery at the market and added it back in the next morning.

Boom. Skin reaction.

I didn’t want it to be true though. Certain friends and family members of mine will probably disown me after learning of this new allergy (read on to find out why). I hadn’t meant to test celery — maybe it was something else that spurred the reaction? I decided to do a more scientific trial. I studiously paid more attention to everything I was eating and especially  whether the items contained celery. Today I reintroduced a food with celery in it. Itchiness set in within minutes. Crap.

Come to find out, almost everything has celery in it. And it comes in many forms — whole celery, celery juice, celery seed and celery salt. Also? Fennel and anise are related to celery. Turns out whatever doesn’t have celery in it probably has fennel or anise instead.

That’s not really true, but fennel and anise are very useful herbs/ingredients and I’d hate to have to omit them too.

But back to plain ol’ celery. Nearly all stocks have celery in them. Okay, I can face having to make my own. Actually, I was pleased to find at least one brand doesn’t have celery in its aseptic container of chicken stock. I found that out this evening while purging my cabinets of everything else that has celery in it. The local food pantry’s about to receive a lot of chicken and veggie broth/stock.

Many natural sausages and bacon (gulp) are treated with celery juice instead of sodium nitrite as a preservative. Actually, sodium nitrite is naturally occurring in celery juice, which is why they add it in. Luckily, the local farm from whence most of my meat comes doesn’t use celery juice. Okay, bacon supply is still in tact.

Here’s where I’ll take the biggest hit though. Guess what popular seasoning blend (especially here on the Shore) has celery (salt) as its main ingredient?

Old Bay.

I put Old Bay on everything. Crabs (duh), any seafood really, potatoes, tuna salad (wait, that’s more seafood), I even used to put it on eggs before I realized I was allergic to eggs. Anyhow, the list goes on. I fear I may not be able to get steamed crabs at a restaurant again. I’ll have to steam them myself.

One friend pointed out that many restaurants make their own seasoning blends for crabs and there’s a chance they don’t all use celery salt. Fingers crossed, but I’m bracing myself for the worst in the meantime. I do plan to contrive a recipe for my own version of Old Bay without celery salt.

So that’s the bad news. The worst news, actually, that I’ve had in this whole allergy discovery process.

But let’s not end this post on a bad note. Remember that cider? That unpasteurized goodness I tried at a local orchard? Well, all that amounts to is mushed up fresh apples, right?

Right. And up until now, for the past 20 years, I haven’t been able to eat fresh apples, or pears, or peaches, or plums, or… you get the idea. Turns out there’s a protein in fresh tree-borne fruit that many people, especially those with tree allergies, are allergic to. The only consolation was that the protein cooks off.

But I really wanted to try that cider! So I had a few sips. And then the best thing happened.

Absolutely nothing happened! My lips didn’t go numb. My gums didn’t start to ache. The back of my throat didn’t itch.

I had bought several apples with which to cook (I could eat those tree-borne fruits once they were cooked, after all). I took a bite out of one. Nothing but pure bliss happened.

You can’t imagine how good a fresh apple tastes after not being able to eat one for 20 years.

Since then, I’ve been eating about 3 apples a day to make up for lost time. The cider goes into my smoothies.

It’s almost consolation for losing Old Bay (at least for the time being). After all, if my fresh fruit allergy could go away, maybe I’ll be able to enjoy Old Bay again.

Let’s hope.

Adventures in Smoothie Land

Well, I *tried* to make kale smoothie this morning. Actually, I did make a kale smoothie, it just wasn’t very good. I have a bumper crop of kale right now and had been wanting to try using some in a smoothie because that just seems so wholesome. I also had strawberries, vanilla yogurt, and of course, ice. Seemed like I was on the right track.

I also wanted to add in some ground flaxseed and possibly oatmeal too. I found an oatmeal smoothie recipe online and started to follow it, throwing in the kale too. I didn’t have the coconut water called for, so I poured in some cranberry juice instead. I didn’t have a banana. I also added some fresh basil, as that pairs well with strawberries.

The mixture had the right consistency, but was too tart and earthy. I tried adding some honey, which I’d forgotten to add in the first place. That helped a little, but not quite enough. The mixture also had a slightly unappetizing mud color, with specks of green and red from the strawberries and kale.

I then decided to look up kale smoothies online. I found a recipe that was very similar to what I had started with, except it also included a banana. I don’t typically buy bananas because they’re not local to here at all, but that flavor certainly would have balanced out the smoothie I made today. Hmmm…

I’ll probably try again, but without the basil, which was a little too strong — I might try adding mint though. Still not sure what I’ll use to try and provide more natural sweetness — any suggestions would be appreciated!

Prep for Hurricane Irene, Day 1 (aka, The Haul: Hurricane-Preparedness Edition)

This is Part 1 of a series of posts on my other blog, but I figured my food-minded followers might be interested to see how I stocked up for the storm. Feel free to follow along with the other posts too!

Wednesday, August 24

On the heels of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that was felt here on the Shore and in D.C., our area was warned to prepare for a major hurricane. Irene was to arrive over the weekend. Wednesday is sale day at my local organic/all-natural market, so I decided to stock up on the requisite 2-3 days worth of food they recommend that you have on hand for such emergencies.

Here’s what I bought:

A package of individual-size applesauces
2 cans of tuna (pull-tab lids)
1 box of crackers
1 carton of raspberry green tea in cans
1 carton of coconut milk
1 chocolate bar (almond-sea salt flavor)
1 box Clif Z bars (s’mores flavor)
toilet paper
paper towels

Normally, I don’t like to buy packaged food like this, but there’s really no other choice under such circumstances.

I saw gallon bottles of water there, but decided to wait. I wanted to buy those two-gallon jugs with spouts instead. Should have bought them while they were on sale… (to be continued)

The Haul: Hurricane Irene Edition

This was a two- or three-part haul, due to the hurricane bearing down on us. On Wednesday night, I stocked up on non-perishables in anticipation of lost power (more on that in a different post). Last night, I went to the Amish market after work, in case I needed to minimize my time out of the house this morning. When I woke up today, it was gloomy out, but not rainy or windy yet. I ventured down to the open-air market, where less than half the normal vendors had set up shop.

My plan before the hurricane became a reality was to stock up on still more tomatoes and corn this weekend, as their seasons are starting to wind down (and I still hadn’t bought any fresh corn this summer!). I decided only to get a couple of slicer tomatoes instead of a bunch of romas for freezing. The slicers will keep well at room temperature and it will be nice to have something fresh to eat if I have to dip into the packaged food stores should the power go out.

I mentioned to one of the vendors that I really wanted to buy a bunch of corn and freeze it, but I was afraid that would be a waste if the power went out. He said that the hurricane will most likely blow down the remaining corn on the stalks and so this was the last of the fresh corn. That sold me. I bought six ears (half what I had planned).

As soon as I got home, I shucked the ears and boiled them for five minutes. I reserved one ear to eat later with dinner and cut the rest of the kernels off the cobs, separating them into quart-size freezer bags (one or two ears per bag). I also bagged the cobs and threw it all in the freezer (with my fingers crossed). I’ll either boil the cobs some more in a stock or defrost them and throw them in the compost bin (currently dismantled and in my shed, locked up tight).

Here’s what else I bought over the past two days:

Yogurt
Pork bbq and sauce (there was an end-of-summer cookout at the Amish market yesterday — this is dinner tonight and tomorrow)
Hot dog buns (the only rolls left at the market; I figured they’d work just as well for bbq)
Coleslaw
Kettle corn (an important staple in emergencies like this)
Smoked salmon salad (lunch today — and hopefully tomorrow — to be served on some whole-grain Italian bread I pulled out of the freezer)
Red bell pepper (also keeps well at room temperature and good to snack on)

Purple Martini Nightmare

I just finished cleaning my kitchen after what will go down as the Blackberry Martini Disaster of 2011, which rivaled the Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Incident of 2007 and the Cornmeal Kerfuffle of 2008.

It started innocently enough. I tried two excellent blackberry martinis while dining out last weekend and with a surplus of the purply-black berries of my own this weekend, I thought I might try and make one myself. Big mistake.

I am firstly a beer drinker and then a wine drinker and only occasionally a cocktail drinker. Rarer still a cocktail maker (my sister is the one-time licensed bartender). This may explain what happened next.

I found a recipe online and while I was missing a couple of the suggested mixers, I had the basics: blackberries, lemon juice, sugar, water and vodka. So, I set about making the simple syrup and pureeing some blackberries.

After the simple syrup had a chance to chill in the fridge, I added the ice and the rest of the ingredients into one of my cocktail shakers. I pulled out a martini glass and shook the shaker vigorously for the prescribed 10 seconds.

That’s when things started to go wrong.

As I tried to pour the mixture into the waiting glass, only about an ounce came out of the shaker. The rest was stuck because the seeds in the blackberry puree had clogged the shaker’s strainer. I started to pry the strainer lid off of the shaker, but it wouldn’t budge. If I held the shaker over the glass and shook it though, more liquid seeped through.

But then the strainer lid popped off the shaker and landed in the 1/3-full martini glass sending half of the liquid in the glass onto the counter and what was left in the shaker in a spray across me and the kitchen floor.

There are two lucky things that happened though: 1) I was wearing a purple shirt (alas, my shorts were not purple); 2) the martini glass miraculously did not break.

So, I set about cleaning myself and the kitchen. After that was done, I tried to salvage what was left of the martini by pouring it into a handheld strainer over another martini glass. That didn’t end well either. The second strainer also clogged and the liquid ran down onto counter. I ended up with about half of a martini by the time all was said and done.

I cleaned up the secondary spill and then tried a sip.

It tasted like cough syrup. And not Dimetapp, which it resembled in color and which would have been fine as I was slightly addicted to that taste as an allergic adolescent. No, this was more reminiscent of Robitussin.

And so now, after washing the dishes, I am sipping a glass of white wine. I’ll leave the  martini-making to the pros next time.

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