Sunday, February 25, 2007

In Which I Am Linked By The Estimable Pejman Yousefzadeh

I'll never wash my keyboard again!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Not, um, that I ever really washed it before...)

Recipe: Roasted Chickpeas

These are rapidly becoming the new popular snack at our house. I made a pound of chickpeas up and they disappeared quite rapidly, with the kids even asking for them to be packed in their school lunches. Fortunately a pound didn't quite disappear overnight, leaving just enough for each of them to have a small baggie. Their friends were curious and tried them, but said they didn't like them. Maybe it'll grow on them...

You can season these with just about anything. So far we've tried curry powder, Secret Salt*, and cinnamon sugar. I would imagine that lemon pepper or the same seasoning you use for Chex Mix would work too. And if Knuckles weren't allergic to dairy, I'd think parmesan cheese would make a good topping as well. Pretty much anything you'd put on a pretzel would work. I've actually been seriously thinking about making these to sell at the farmer's market, but I don't know if the people there will want to eat them.

Roasted Chickpeas

1 pound chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/4 c. oil
seasoning salt or cinnamon sugar

Combine chickpeas and water to double the height of the chickpeas in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat, and cover. Let sit two hours. Drain, cover with water again and boil chickpeas until soft, about 1 hour. Drain.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place oil in large roasting pan in oven to heat for a couple of minutes. Place chickpeas in roasting pan and toss to coat. Add seasoning salt or cinnamon sugar to taste, and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes, shaking pan every five minutes. Let cool.

* The recipe for Secret Salt is, well, a secret. It can only be disclosed to members of the family. If you're interested in the recipe, I have three unmarried brothers. They're quite good looking, too. ;)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tip Of The Day

Mixing something that almost tastes like root beer with something that almost tastes like vanilla ice cream does NOT produce something that almost tastes like a root beer float.

Gluten Free Cookies (Gingersnaps)

Today I tried to make some gluten-free cookies by adapting an existing recipe. I used a recipe for gingersnaps that I've made before, first because I like gingersnaps, but second because I knew what these were supposed to look and taste like.

I had to substitute Nucoa margarine (one of the few brands that doesn't have milk in it) because I could not find my shortening. I could have sworn I bought a can of shortening, but I couldn't find it anywhere. Nucoa is basically butter flavored shortening anyway, so I just used that. I substituted a GF flour mix (2 c. rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca starch, 1 Tbsp. xanthan gum) for the flour and used Ener-G Egg Replacer for the egg.

These gingersnaps usually go onto the sheet in balls and come out of the oven as flat round cookies. This time, though, the gingersnaps stayed pretty well domed and didn't "spread", so they were a little doughy in the middle. They also need something that I can't put my finger on-- more sugar? or maybe could do without the buttery flavor of the Nucoa? Still very toothsome, though, and certainly being the only cookies I can eat in the house at the moment makes them even tastier.

Happy Birthday Knuckles!

Knuckles turns 1 today. Hooray for my little yearling!

The cake, by the way, is the pathetic little cake I made for him and me. It was all right and at least it was definitely a cake (and it was CHOCOLATE!!!), but it was rather dense. In the future I think I'll add xanthan gum to that recipe, and maybe a little more leavening. Also the frosting needed a much finer grind of sugar than what I was able to produce with my second-best wheat grinder. Tip: if you are grinding sugar, for the love of God keep it away from any and all children. They thought grinding your own sugar was really supercool, and so they did it at every opportunity throughout the party. And they showed all their cousins and friends too.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

At Least He Got A Good Night's Sleep

We spent the holiday weekend at my parents' house in Logan. On Saturday we had a little party for Knuckles' first birthday. I made a vegan chocolate cake, substituting a rice/potato/tapioca mix for the flour. It was tasty, but it was really really dense. In the future I'll try it with a bit of xanthan gum to see if I can improve the texture. After the party we went to the temple. I hadn't been to the temple in a long time because of all the difficulties with the pregnancy and later the kids' medical problems, so it was a real treat.

Saturday night I was up all night long. I had some, um, gastrointestinal difficulties that kept me up all night. But I would have been up all night anyway. I neglected to tell Princess specifically to put her bottle of melatonin up where a small child could not get it, so she left it on the nightstand where Bagel got ahold of it and ate the entire contents. We don't know exactly how much he ate, but we estimate it at about 30-40 mg of melatonin. By the time we discovered this around midnight, he had been asleep for about 8 hours. I was able to rouse him and get him to answer questions about where the melatonin had gone, but he went right back to sleep. I figured he'd probably be all right, and he was, but I still checked on him every hour all night long until he woke up normally in the morning. He was none the worse for wear, although he was extremely hungry from having slept through dinner.

At any rate I finally got enough to eat at my parents' house, and I was able to go shopping too. Logan had plenty of good foods available in the markets, so I got lots of nice things to eat to hold me over till I can make and freeze a stock of my own homemade stuff.

I have a lot of work to do today so I won't be able to blog about much, but at least this will keep everyone somewhat up to date.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gluten Free Breads #4 and 5

I made the pumpkin bread again, but instead of milk I used rice milk, and instead of the egg I used applesauce. Also by mistake I put in twice the amount of potato starch, so I reduced the cornstarch accordingly. The resulting pumpkin bread was palatable, but the texture was kinda glossy and rubbery like some sort of ersatz bread. It also contains cornstarch, which is a problem. But I had to have something to eat, and corn was one of the more minor allergens. Also it was never going to be corn-free to begin with, since the baking powder has cornstarch. I'm going nuts on this diet. I thought I had it bad with the gestational diabetes; this is much, much worse. At least then I could eat the breads I liked, I just had to adjust the timing and quantity. Now, like Arthur Dent, I'm stuck in a parallel universe where all the foods available are almost, but not quite, unlike foods I know.

Gluten Free Bread #5 is from a bag of Candadi Yeast Free Rice Bread Mix which someone gave me. Reading the ingredients I guessed this would be like a soda bread. It is almost, but not quite, unlike soda bread. I used milled flax seed as an egg substitute since the recipe called for eggs. This bread is really hideous and if I weren't so hungry, I'd have thrown it out. It's chalky on the outside and rubbery on the inside. It feels like a brick, so if anyone tries to break into my house, I'll be sure to hit them over the head with it. I think the flax seeds are the only thing giving this bread any kind of flavor.

I'm going to lose a lot of weight in the next six months

This allergen-free diet is a great diet. Anytime I get hungry, I think about eating non-bread bread or non-cheese cheese, and then I lose my appetite! It's amazing!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Making My Own Baking Powder

We got Knuckles' allergy test results back in the mail, and discovered that they neglected to tell us that he's also allergic to corn.

Corn is one of the most difficult allergies to accommodate, since corn is in even more foods than wheat. Just about every commercial candy is sweetened with corn syrup. Anything with maltodextrin in it is out, since maltodextrin still contains corn proteins. Even baking powder has cornstarch in it.

I spent the entire weekend searching on the 'net and found three baking powders made without cornstarch. Two are single-acting baking powder and one is a double-acting baking powder.

For those of you for whom baking powder is a mysterious concoction, let me explain. Baking powder makes bubbles by mixing an acid with a base, just like your grade-school volcano project. Most baking powders use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) as the base and cream of tartar as an acid. Single acting baking powders use only one acid, usually cream of tartar, which reacts in the mixing bowl. Double acting baking powders use two acids, one which reacts in the mixing bowl and the other which reacts at a higher temperature in the oven, giving the baking powder more leavening oomph. Cornstarch serves as a filler and helps separate the acid and the base and keep them from reacting before they hit the mixing bowl.

It is insanely easy to make your own single acting baking powder and there are plenty of recipes for it out there on the internet. A typical recipe will be two parts cream of tartar, one part baking soda, and one part cornstarch. So it would be very straightforward to make my own single acting baking powder substituting, say, arrowroot for the cornstarch.

The problem comes when I want to make a double acting baking powder. Most double acting powders use sodium aluminum sulfate as the heat-activated acid. I don't know where to get sodium aluminum sulfate. Not only that, but I don't know what proportions to use. I can get somewhat of a guide from this page (which also explains why the proportion of cream of tartar to baking soda is 2:1) but I don't know if sodium aluminum sulfate is readily available. I was thinking of using dicalcium phosphate instead, especially since it appears to be cheap and available as a dietary supplement for pets. But again, what proportions?

Any chemists or chemical engineers out there who could help me figure it out?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Another Fun Day

I closed one of the compromised bank accounts on Monday, so I was surprised to discover today that it was $56.00 overdrawn. The bank fixed the problem (or at least they say they're going to fix it first thing tomorrow morning) by refunding the amount then closing the account. We'll just have to wait and see if that's really what they do. What I'm afraid will happen is that the refund for the $56.00 will come through, but not before another charge for being another day overdrawn comes through, so the account will continue to be overdrawn and will not close and I'll have to be on the phone again tomorrow doing the exact same thing I did today.

I also discovered that the other compromised bank account, which had some automatic debits that I didn't have time to stop, was not working the way the bank said it would. I gave the bank a list of transactions that I expected to come through, and I was assured that those transactions would be paid out of my other account, but apparently that's not the case. The leasing company from whom I lease my POS terminal has been calling me all day long. When they called the first time I straightened it out and gave them the new account info, but evidently I was on their list of people to call constantly all day long and taking care of business did not remove me from that list. Half the phone calls I got today were from the leasing company. When they picked up each time they just said, "Never mind." It's hard to "never mind" when you had to extricate yourself from underneath a couple of babies and find where they'd carried the phone off to in order to hear them say "never mind."

Sonshine's still home from school. The doctor doesn't want him to go to school until we get his asthma under control, but even if we do get it under control, I don't know if I want him to go back. The school has made it perfectly clear that they want his treatment plan to be a script of all possible scenarios and that any scenario that arises that isn't in the script will result in no treatment at all being given and me being called to pick him up and take him off their hands. Of course it's impossible to script every possible thing that might happen, and I get the distinct impression that they really don't want some stupid asthmatic skinbag making trouble around their nice neat piles of properly-signed papers and would gladly send him home on the slightest pretext ("It says do this if his lips turn blue, but his lips are more of a periwinkle, so come get him"). So I think it may be better for us just to homeschool Sonshine. That way he'll always be with someone who is actually willing to help him out when something goes wrong.

Finally, we got Knuckles' allergy test results back. He has Level 4 allergies (the worst) to eggs, peanuts, milk, and wheat, Level 3 allergy to soy, and Level 2 allergies to pork and gluten. We have to eliminate these seven things from his diet for six months, after which time we can give him soy, pork, and gluten in small quantities and no more often than once in four days. So I have a lot of fun ahead of me.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Seat Covers And Calculator Monkeys

I often think of clever, witty, rude things to call people, names of which my mom would not approve. So Mom, skip this post, OK?

Here are a few of them:
  • Calculator monkeys. These are students who were trained in which order to push the buttons on their calculator, but they understand neither the significance of the numbers they enter nor the mechanics of the operation they're performing. Also known as "calculator jockeys".
  • Seat covers. These are bureaucrats whose sole purpose in life seems to be to warm a chair.
  • Snow jobbers. Students who write a lot of letters and numbers down and then, miraculously at the bottom, x=2. Problem is that x=2 doesn't follow from ANY of their previous work, nor does any of their previous work make sense.
  • Sausage stuffers. Students who, when solving a word problem, choose two numbers at random from the problem and perform an arbitrary operation on them. Like sausage, their answer is made by indiscriminately taking parts of the problem and stuffing them in somewhere unnatural.
  • People who have their heads so far up their butts they need a colonoscopy to see the light. Speaks for itself.

Knuckles Has A Tooth

Knuckles' very first incisor has finished breaking through the gums! So he's now officially among the toothed.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Coming To Grips With Confusion

I was utterly astonished by what happened with the elementary school on Friday.

Last Friday (one week ago), Sonshine had an asthma attack at school. The school called me and said they could not give him his inhaler because it hadn't been four hours since the last administration of the inhaler. I ended up taking him to the ER, where they just gave him albuterol (which I could have done at home) and told me that it was OK to give him albuterol more often than once every four hours. I then remembered that the signed doctor's orders given to the school did originally say "every four hours as needed" and that the school nurse was confused by that and had called the doctor for clarification. But I remembered she'd asked him whether that meant "every four hours" or "only as needed", which he had clarified as meaning that he was to be given albuterol every four hours whether he needed it or not, but I don't think it was made clear to her that he was to have albuterol if he got into an asthma attack, whether it had been four hours since his last attack or not.

You would think it would be clear to a reasonable person that the doctor's orders could be interpreted as saying that a child having an asthma attack should have his inhaler. You would especially think that this would be clear to a person who's dealt with a group of 800 children, among whom there surely must be at least half a dozen asthmatics. You'd think someone like that would be reasonably aware that asthma attacks can be life-threatening and that timely treatment is the key to preventing it from becoming a huge problem.

Unfortunately the word "reasonable" applies to the People's RePublic Schools about as much as the word "tasty" applies to industrial petroleum byproducts.

On Wednesday I kept Sonshine home entirely because he was having asthma attacks all day and I didn't want to send him to school if they weren't going to give him his meds.

This past Friday, Sonshine had another asthma attack about two hours after his scheduled inhaler treatment, and again the school called me to come get him. But this time I couldn't get there right away. So I asked them to give him his inhaler until I could get there, and they said no. I asked if I could give permission for them to do that, and they said no. I pointed out that the orders did say "as needed" and they said they didn't, but they obviously weren't reading the orders. Fine; the world is full of legal crap. But then I asked them if the doctor were to call them and tell them it was OK to give him the inhaler, would they give it to him?

They said NO.

I was astonished. I asked who could call them up and give them permission, and they said they would accept permission in the form of another signed three-page set of doctor's orders... or I could come down to the school.

I'm sorry, but this is more bullcrap than is contained in ANY rural manure pile. My son is wheezing ten feet away from his medication, and they want a frickin' form signed in triplicate.

They put me on to talk to the principal. I insisted she get out an actual copy of the orders and actually read them, not just go by what she thinks she remembers about them. She did read the words "as needed" and I insisted that she had to give him his inhaler, and she said no. I asked why I was good enough to come down and give him his inhaler, but not good enough to ask them to do it for me. I finally got her to agree that if the doctor called and said it was OK, that they would give him the inhaler. But the doctor was at his other office location and it took a while to track him down, and by that time the attack had passed on its own. My son wheezed for nearly half an hour and they sat on their useless @$$es and did NOTHING because they are more devoted to their stupid lawyer-approved bureaucracy and paperwork than to the actual students in their school.

Someone suggested that maybe they wouldn't give the inhaler because they feared a lawsuit if they gave it and there were side effects. If this is the case, then they are phenomenally stupid risk managers, because if it were me, I'd be more concerned about a lawsuit if I didn't administer the medication and the kid died in the office as a result of his airway closing. Someone else suggested that they aren't qualified to make a medical judgement call. But I would argue that by refusing to administer the medication, that's precisely what they were doing: deciding that whatever negative consequence they attribute to administering the meds outweighs the risk that my son would have died or had a horrible outcome. If that isn't a judgment call, I don't know what is.

The only conclusion I can come to logically at this point is that either the office staff is all by some coincidence phenomenally, droolingly moronic; or that they are so devoted to being bureaucratic seat covers that they have lost their minds.

Just for fun

While searching for a lego chocolate mold, I came across this site where you can buy a kit to make a gelatin mold of your face. My favorite part is where it says "Edible gelatin molds can also be made from other body parts!" Now I know which "other" body parts you're thinking of (get your minds out of the gutter, all you elbow fetishists!) but I thought jello hands and feet might be funny for a Halloween party. It might also be funny to make a jello butt mold. Then you can moon the world without taking off your pants!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Princess Bargains With The Tooth Fairy

Princess lost a tooth today, so she'll be putting it under her pillow tonight for redemption by the tooth fairy. At our house, the going rate for a tooth is 25 cents. Being the inquisitive little kids that they are, I've had to do a lot of improvising to answer all their questions about the underground tooth economy, the industrial and decorative uses of baby teeth, and the tooth fairy's profit margin. So the whole tooth fairy backstory is quite evolved at our house. Teeth are either made into necklaces, or ground up and used as fairy roofing materials. Fairy teeth being obviously too small and scarce for these purposes, fairies turn to children as a ready source of extra teeth that children may be willing to sell trade for money. They then resell the teeth they collect, recovering the overhead of making all those house calls and making a tidy little profit.

Princess went down to write a note to the tooth fairy on the computer (being 9, she knows who the tooth fairy is). When she came up, she asked if I thought the tooth fairy would give her 50 cents for all the pain and suffering she went through to get the tooth out.

This is the note Princess wrote to enclose with her tooth:

Dear Tooth Fairy,
I lost a tooth. I was wiggling it at school when it got stuck. It hurt like mad. When I got home I showed mom how it was stuck. She pulled the tooth out and plop. Out it came. This tooth sort of has a hole in it so you don't have to drill a hole in it all the way to put it on your tooth necklace.

Yours truly,

P.S. This tooth is 50 cents.

She evidently thinks the tooth fairy will pay more for a jewelry-quality tooth, and that she deserves a higher price for her "pain and suffering". We'll have to wait and see if the tooth fairy accepts the doubling of the price. I wonder if the tooth fairy will buy the tooth at fair market price, leave a note with a counteroffer, or just cut her losses and not buy the tooth at all.