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Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Except no lemons here, this is IC (aka low acid) friendly. Not to mention raw foodie and vegan and gluten free too! Let’s all have a party and make some waitresses weep!

Recipe:

3 cups whole dates (yuck not those nasty rolled in flour things you got in school lunch. Real, whole medjool dates. Take out the pits though.

1 3/4 cup almonds

.5 cup carob chips, unsweetened. (trust me. Dig that bag you accidentally bought once out of the cupboard. I know, I hate them too. Usually) If you are lucky and can eat the real stuff, duh, use chocolate.

1 tbsp nut butter

1 tbsp coconut, shredded. (yeah that’s not in original snickers, but so what? Neither are dates)

Toss almonds and chips in the food processor. Throw the dates in if yours can handle it. Toss half the coconut in the bottom of a 9×9 pan. Press date mixture in. Sprinkle rest of coconut on top. Cut in squares. Enjoy. Snicker at people whose candy bars come from wrappers.

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This is all Iran’s fault.

You see, I read the news a lot and I also watch Downton Abbey a lot. I’m also bored a lot of the time since my boss thinks editing an Excel spread sheet is good for about 3 days worth of work to do and my classes tend to be a little, um, easy. Well, except this year I finally get around to taking Introduction to Epidemiology, and WTF it turns out to be “hard” and require “real work.” Are you sitting there thinking “aren’t you working on a thesis and trying to get published too or something?” And to that I say, “don’t remind me.”

The combination of these three things – News, Downton Abbey, and Boredom, have resulted in me becoming convinced that Iran and Israel are about to start World War III and I will be left to feed our family on bread made from home made grain and the milk that comes from our goat. We don’t have a goat, but in this scenario we do.

This weekend our toilet broke. Not “oh just plunge it” or “turn off the water and reconnect that little chain thing” broke, thankyouverymuch, but wouldn’t fill up with water and according to google needed a new part broke. Luckily we were house sitting this weekend for a couple who has four working toilets. Remember, we are pauper students who have one, a fact that the Res Life center was wholly unconcerned about and kept insisting it was a holiday weekend and there was absolutely no way to get a plumber to our apartment. Now I realize normal human beings only use a toilet once every 72 hours (at least according to Res Life), but me having a chronic bladder disorder and all, I do not like to be apart from one at all if I can help it. I understand, of course, I would hate to rip someone away from their family’s President’s Day celebration, singing carols about Jefferson and Monroe and what not. Oh wait, I think they only do that at William and Mary…

So we spent the weekend over at the house we were sitting. At which I became bored, and decided I should learn to make cottage cheese. Again, to you who say “don’t you have stuff to do?” I say “blasphemers! All of you!”

And so I headed over to the nearest grocery store to buy some milk. The grocery store, which I am sure you are all aware of as it was immortalized in the song, “Apology Song” by the Decemberists, is the Orange Street Food Farm.  And the Food Farm has one magic corner known as the “cheap shelf.” While most of the products in the store are pretty mundane, there are always incredibly odd and discounted foods on the cheap shelf, ranging from Halva, a sesame candy, to pear juice. This trip, people were congregating and talking in front of the cheap shelf, a mortal sin to most who live in this town. Etiquette is that three, perhaps four at most, stand silently in front of the shelf, searching for that One Great Deal, taking care to not another’s view.

Whilst trying to peer around the chatty woman and her food cart (double sin), I spied it.

If you ever fly Delta and choose “peanuts” or “pretzels,” excuse me, but you are an idiot. Because the Biscoff cookies are really the choice of champions. Buttery, crunchy, flavorful – I love them. And here was a spread made of that very same foodstuff. It was like Nutella for people who can’t eat chocolate or hazelnuts. It was magic; I had never even dreamed of such a concoction!

I turned over to look at the ingredients and was not deterred by two simple words that usually leave me dropping a food in horror and swearing at the world: citric acid.  See, citric acid is not the friend of someone on a low-acid diet. But I reasoned it away, and gladly spread a few spoonfuls onto a baguette.

By the way I made the cottage cheese, and it tasted and looked more like mozzarella. Oops. Domestic fail.

Fast forward to that evening. We reasoned that our toilet works, kinda sorta enough, if you don’t flush the toilet paper and fill up the back of the tank with water. So we went home, watched Downton Abbey, and attempted to fall asleep.

Let me tell you something. I went to the bathroom somewhere around twenty times that night.

You know how people say, “Oh gosh, I ran like a hundred miles” or “I read a million pages for class tomorrow,” and they don’t really mean what they say? I mean this. I went to the bathroom about twenty times that night. I stopped counting, granted. But when you go to the bathroom about five minutes after you lay down on the bed for somewhere around 3 to 4 hours, you’ve hit the 20 mark. Trust me. There have been times where I have contemplated sleeping on a toilet. (There was actually a time in JVC where I slept in the bathroom. I fainted off the toilet and wound up with an IV drip. Oops.)

Long story short, if there Iran does ever get the bomb, I’m screwed.

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Peanut Butter

If you’ve been one of the 14 roommates I’ve had in the last 6 years, you might have noticed that I tend to eat a lot of peanut butter.

I’m sure you’ve all dipped a spoon into peanut butter at some point in your life, perhaps sprinkled a few chocolate chips on top when you are feeling extra decadent, but I take this to new levels.

While this has been a habit of mine for a while, it started in earnest my second year of JVC. My house was incredibly dysfunctional and community dinners were solemn, awkward affair. Nothing can kill your appetite like stone cold silence.* I take that back, undercooked split peas can be pretty unappetizing as well. We were not fantastic cooks, probably mainly due to the fact that we begrudged every moment in the kitchen and just wanted to get the heck out of there. It was supplemented by our low budget and lack of group cooking experience.

So I left the table hungry most nights. I have the metabolism of a twelve year old boy (don’t hate me) and am usually hungry again within an hour of dinner. Which is a problem in JVC, because $14 a week doesn’t go very far if you start buying midnight snacks. Thus, the peanut butter spoon. A nice little protein shot right before bed and I could fall asleep like a baby. If not, my stomach would gurgle until I relented and fed it. I blame that on my college roommate who once commented on how she could never fall asleep while hungry. I haven’t been able to either since. Hope that doesn’t happen to you.

There is something about trying to go to bed that makes me hungry. My theory is that lying down makes my stomach stretch out and feel empty. But no matter what, virtually every night I get hungry around bed time and end up satiating my appetite with a peanut butter spoon.

This has been to the dismay of at least two out of those 14 roommates who have noted that peanut butter is not easy to get off of silverware. Especially when you don’t have one of those new fangled “dishwashers” I keep hearing so much about.

I love my peanut butter spoons. They are filling, probably incredibly bad for me, and I think trigger my brain to fall asleep. The funny thing is I don’t really eat peanut butter in many other forms (although PB in saltine sandwiches is heaven sent). Without jelly, a peanut butter sandwich is far from wonderful. But even so, we can go through a jar of peanut butter embarassingly quick.

So here’s to peanut butter. Wonderful peanut butter and the many sleep-filled nights because of it.

*Note to anyone considering JVC: usually it’s awesome. Or hard, but awesome. Our house will go down in the records of “worst house ever,” being beaten out by a house where someone moved into the unfinished basement and stopped talking to everyone and one where half the house changed the locks on the other house. If you’re still scared, I met my husband in my fist community. And that didn’t suck.

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Life with IC isn’t easy, and unfortunately the holidays don’t make it any easier. Although I’m still relatively new to the world of IC, I thought I’d share my tips of how to get through with minimal stress, and I’d love hearing from more seasoned veterans as well!

Travel

Go easy on yourself with the travel. If you’re driving, don’t worry if you need to stop what seems like every other exit. Either warn your traveling companions ahead of time, or subtly turn up Perry Como every time he gets to,

Gee, the traffic is terrific! Oh there’s no place like home…

If you’re flying, choose an aisle seat. While I miss looking out the window, aisle seats reduce my stress level dramatically. No need to worry about climbing over someone who has fallen asleep every twenty minutes. Otherwise you might end up sitting beside someone who tells you as soon as you tuck away your bag that she just had a hip replacement and can’t stand up easily. True story.

If you’re like me, I can barely sleep when I’m on the road. Being out of my routine means that every little noise I could sleep through in my own bed suddenly wakes me up. And of course every time I wake up, I have to go to the bathroom. Which can mean going 12+ times in one night. You know; you’ve been there. Recently I started taking a sleeping pill when I travel which has worked for me. For you it might mean packing earplugs and an eye mask, or making time for ten hours of “sleep” instead of eight.

Food

It’s natural to associate Christmas with food – cookies for Santa, the goose getting fat, visions of sugar plums, gingerbread houses all around. And so when suddenly you can no longer have your favorite Christmas snacks (peppermint bark for me – nearly impossible to find without the chocolate; cranberry is what I miss most at Thanksgiving), it’s natural to be frustrated and depressed. Can you even open Christmas presents without a warm cup of coffee in your hands?

The good news is that there are plenty of IC-friendly alternatives that won’t leave you feeling too shortchanged. Peppermint, almonds, and white chocolate are all pleasure-savors for me. Here’s a few recipes to get you through:

White Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes
Maple-Roasted Almonds (just follow the directions for roasting, skip the almond butter part)
Date Bread (substitute almonds for the pecans, and cut the amount of nuts in half. Beyond delicious)

I also highly recommend Safeway brand Hot (white) Chocolate. Definitely the best kind I’ve tried so far. Add a candy cane if you’re really feeling out there.

Make easy substitutions for your favorite recipes – chopped up dates instead of raisins, white chocolate instead of chocolate, almonds instead of pecans or walnuts, pears or apples instead of candied fruit,  a little extra cinnamon instead of cloves, garlic instead of cayenne.

In can be tough to eat when you are on the road or visiting friends and family. It can be exhausting to constantly ask for a run down of all ingredients of everything you put in your mouth. I usually try to bring my own food, which can be a problem when I fly home. Try packing some emergency granola bars and remember you can have your own feast when you get back.

Take it Easy

You won’t be able to do everything you used to. It’s a fact of life. While sitting through a two-hour mass maybe used to be the highlight of your year, you might find the hard pews torturous now. Walking around the neighborhood looking at lights might cause you shooting pains that you never had before. Getting up early with little ones on Christmas morning might be near impossible with your Elavil hangover. You might have to pass on the Yule log cake.  Life won’t be the same from here on out, and so Christmas won’t either. That doesn’t mean it has to be worse, but knowing that it will be a new experience will help ease disappointment.

Whatever this time of year means for you – end of the year reflection, family time, celebrating birth, lights, or long nights, take some time out to experience it. IC hurts – no one is denying that and no one is asking you to pretend like it doesn’t for a few weeks. Take some time to meditate, reflect, pray for yourself and others who are suffering.

Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what this time of year is all about? Not ignoring the hurt, but finding the little bit of light in the darkness.

How do you celebrate the holidays with or in spite of your IC? What are your favorite treats?

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The Hogsmeade

So, I like to knit. And there is this website that every good knitter knows – Ravelry. It’s this pretty amazing compendium of patterns, needles, books, yarns, everything you could ever need. I can take a book I have, look it up on Ravelry, see people who have knit the same projects in the book, and judge what colors or yarn I want to use and if I want to make any modifications.

A few weeks ago, I entered a cupcake contest on Ravelry (okay technically in the group “Hogwarts at Ravelry” – I’m a dork, I know).  I’ve yet to jump on the whole cupcake bandwagon; personally I would take a slice of cake any day, but I figured I would give it a go. And guess what? I won 3rd place. I think I win a free pattern or stitch markers or something like that.

So here you go, a wonderful fall, Harry Potter inspired, IC friendly cupcake invented by yours truly.

The Hogsmeade

Where do you go for a nice cold pint of butterbeer? Hogsmeade of course! These are pumpkin butterbeer inspired cupcakes. Personally I love how they look like a mini pint of butterbeer, with the butterscotch colored bottoms and the white, foamy tops!

Cupcakes

 

(pretend this is an artsy DSLR photo with the cupcake off to one side, only three quarters in the frame, with a blurry background, and not just a photo taken with my webcam).

Here’s the recipe (makes 24 regular sized cupcakes):

Cupcake batter:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed cooked or canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Beat sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla well. Sift together dry ingredients and add in slowly, alternating with milk. Mix in butterscotch chips. Fill lined (essential!) muffin cup tins three quarters full and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375.

Frosting:

1 stick butter, melted
2 cups confectionary sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk (or less or more!)

Melt butter and add in sugar. Add in vanilla, Slowly add in milk. Remember – you can always add in more milk, but if you add in too much, you have to put in more sugar which can quickly run into a problem when you run out of sugar. :-)

Butterscotch topping:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

In a heavy bottom pan, melt butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add in brown sugar and heavy cream and salt. Raise the temp until it the mixture boils for about 5-10 minutes. Take off heat and stir in vanilla. When it cools a bit, taste and adjust as necessary (add in a little more sugar or butter or vanilla!)

When cupcakes cool, frost and drizzle butterscotch topping on top. Enjoy!

  • I’m allergic to pumpkin pie spices like cloves and nutmeg, so I didn’t try using the traditional pumpkin pie spice. If you want a more pumpkin pie flavor, try adding in a tsp of a pumpkin pie spice mix! Personally, I like it this way – it lets the pumpkin and butterscotch come through

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In short: because hamburgers are the most delicious food ever invented.

In long:

We don’t eat a ton of meat at Chez Blueberries. Which might surprise you if you know us, because we’re big fans of the stuff. But the truth is, 3/4 of our dinners are probably vegetarian, and virtually all of our breakfasts and lunches. If you count fish (’cause you know, fish don’t have little animal souls so they don’t really count) it’s probably more like 1/2 of our dinners are truly vegetarian.

Growing up  Irish Catholic, we both would go exactly 8 days a year without eating meat (Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent). I’m assuming for John anyway, but I know for me, at least two meals a day would feature meat as the star of the plate. Fast forward to college when I began living with a vegetarian (well technically a pescatarian but no one walks around calling themselves a pescatarian), though having no real ideological basis for her vegetarian state, she had little interest in converting me to her veggie only ways. The experience of cooking for myself full time meant that meat was becoming less and less a part of my diet. It was definitely still an every day part but occasionally I would mix up a meatless spaghetti-and-jarred-sauce entree. I was quite the chef.

I think the transition to meat-less (to be distinguished from meatless) began with this cookbook:

The Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. To survive during my insanely busy college years (I swear, I think I hardly sat down besides to study before 10 most nights) I took to stirring up a pot of potage each week. Black bean soup, tortilla soup, Texas two bean soup, cucumber soup. Name a vegetable and I have probably pureed it into soup form. My JVC housemates in Spokane joked that whenever it was my turn to cook, it was soup. They were probably right. I think I made ziti once though.

The Moosewood cookbooks are incredible. People like to say “I don’t know how to cook vegetarian” to which I snarkily reply “Its easy, you leave out the meat in recipes.” And while that is how most of our JVC-induced vegetarian cooking went (when you have a budget of $14 a week per person for food, meat is not common), the Moosewood recipes are solid enough that you are halfway through the dish before you realize its veggie.

But I’m not a vegetarian. And even though this summer, with a CSA, an odd work schedule, and no air conditioning, our frying pans haven’t seen too much meat, I have no plans to become one. First off is the fact that I am on a strict low-acid diet, so cutting out a whole food group is a bad idea (and veganism would be beyond impossible so I won’t even go there).

But mainly, I have no qualms eating meat. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the country, but I am okay with the idea that some animals are dinner and some are pets. While I believe that animals are valuable creatures who contribute to the complexity of our eco-system and were put on this earth by God, I do not believe they have souls.

On the other hand, I do understand that vegetarianism is more sustainable, and if we truly want to feed all these people in the world, we need to think about how we are eating. Cows eat way more than we do, and thus take up a lot more land to feed one person than if you were just growing edible produce on that land. And so I believe that, if you eat meat, it should be done with consideration; it should be viewed as a luxury and not as a necessary part of your diet. To me that’s a far more convincing argument than animals have souls. ‘Cause you know, I’m a selfish person who believes human needs come first, and so if eating less meat is better for people (both health-wise and feeding-the-world-wise) then so be it.

But you know what? Besides this blog, I don’t go around talking about the fact that I don’t eat a lot of meat. I’m not going to label myself a “flexitarian” or create rules like “I only eat meat that I know where it comes from.” I’ll make a concerted effort to eat meat that is better for me, better for the earth, but that’s about it. Maybe I just don’t care enough and maybe one day I’ll care more, but for now I’m good. I’ll sink my teeth into a buffalo burger any day of the week. Well, unless it’s a Friday and during Lent.

I am at peace with this decision. I believe it’s honoring God’s creation without being legalistic. While I don’t miss meat at a meal without it, I certainly appreciate it when it’s there.

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Brides love details, don’t they?

I wasn’t that good at them. Like I’m sure I could’ve designed a bar out of old barrels and decorated the tent with cute bunting, but I just couldn’t figure out the logistics of it all. Who would set it up? Would I do it that morning? Can’t do it the night before in case it rains. Argh. My aunts were a lot of help setting things up before the reception, but I wasn’t that good at describing things so unfortunately the favors and guestbook ended up on the same table as the presents and so people didn’t see them, yada yada yada. So maybe it’s good things were pretty simple!

But our photographer did a great layout for our album that made my wedding look all planned and fancy and coordinated. I tried to replicate it, which was hard and took a long time. More power to you wedding photographers.

Tada! Pretty, eh? (Btw, if you want to steal that as an ‘inspiration board’ feel free but either link bank to me or my photographer please!) Now let me go through each one by one and explain the original vision to you and then what actually happened. Cause I’m like that.

Before we got engaged, John and I were talking about how favors were stupid at weddings. You know, unless we did something awesome. Like beer mugs. I’m pretty sure we thought they were more awesome than other people, but still. They are pretty “us” (well, they were in the days that I could drink beer!) You can’t really see it but the other side of the mug looks like a bar logo; it says “J&J Semmens Est. 2010.” We would’ve done blue, but there is this local festival that sells these type mugs every year. They misprinted a 1000 (!) of them and so donated them to the shelter I worked at. I thought that being surrounded by blue mugs on my wedding day would’ve given me PTSD. They are in a Longerberger basket my mom had laying around. So far 90% of people who we have visited have had these cups in their bathroom. They are for beer people, beer!

Pies! Did I mention we had pie at our wedding? We did because I told John that I really wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for our wedding. He said “No. It has to be white.” I said “it doesn’t have to be anything! It’s whatever we want!” (These were in the days I could eat chocolate and fruit!) His response “It’s a wedding! It has to be white!” I said, “well you know we could do something else, like pie.” His response? “YESSSSSSS”

You can’t really see it, but I epoxy glued glass vases from Goodwill on glass plates also from Goodwill to display the pies. They were all supposed to be displayed on their own table for the whole reception but…

Most just kind of ended up staying in the boxes. Which kept them fresh, but not as photogenic! By the way, all pies are from Our Daily Bread in Blacksburg, VA.

Notice we have a cake, too? Well, because we didn’t want to give my mom a heart attack at not doing a cake cutting, we asked my aunt who bakes cakes as a hobby to make us a little tasting cake. Turns out, she baked an entire wedding cake! And it was delicious. (Yes, I had both). Just plain vanilla and vanilla, but so fresh and so good. Best wedding cake I’ve ever had, hands down.

I made this sign, and I thought it was cute. It was supposed to go on one of those cake things but just ended up on the table. (I thought it’d be cute to have a sign that said pie on a cake plate….and box it’s on is supposed to look like the top of a mason jar. I tried to be creative, I did!)

Everyone loved the pies and the cake. As I think you can tell by the expression on my cousin’s face!

Okay, that’s enough for one day. I’ll finish up the detail posts in the future!

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