Blank slate hummus (GF, vegan)

(Yes, that bruise on my thumb is taking its sweet time growing out.)

Hummus, how I have missed you.

I’m still waiting on my lab results, but in the meantime my nutritionist suggested I try homemade hummus so I could be sure it didn’t contain anything that might trigger me. This is that hummus. It’s quick and easy, bland enough for my stomach yet tasty enough that Kai and I wolf it down. (Anya says it needs salt.)

I still haven’t determined if I can handle even this hummus. I was okay the first day, but on subsequent days I became incredibly uncomfortable after eating it. I’m hoping I was simply combining it with the wrong foods, because this stuff is delicious. I will be very sad if I can’t have it anymore.

If you prefer hummus with more pizzazz, you could tweak this pretty much any way you choose — none of the flavors are so strong that they will overwhelm or even compete with whatever extras you add.

But first, the basics.


Blank slate hummus

1 can chickpeas, drained (rinsed well for low FODMAP)
4 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons cold water

Puree the chickpeas in a food processor until smooth. Add the tahini, cumin, paprika, and salt and process until well combined. Scrape down the bowl, then add the lemon juice and olive oil and process until smooth. Scrape down the bowl again, then add the water a little at a time, processing after each addition, until the mixture reaches your desired consistency.


There go my weekend plans

I just broke the cardinal rule of tummy bugs: I consumed food I would miss were I never able to eat it again.

Yep, my daughter barfed last night. A lot. My husband, upon picking up the bucket to empty it, said “Wow — that’s heavy.” (Sorry. TMI?) I sleep right next to her, so I’m now on watch for the next few days. And because I tend not to be able to eat anything I’ve ever vomited, the foods I eat this weekend are on the endangered list. But when you’re on a diet as limited as this elimination diet, what can you do?

Here’s hoping we get to stay friends, strawberry smoothie.

Speaking of the elimination diet, I’m entering the reintroduction phase now, on the advice of my nutritionist.


You read that right — I finally have a nutritionist. And soon, hopefully, some answers. I sent 4 vials of blood off for testing yesterday, and will go in for a fasting blood test (4 more vials) next week. My wallet is much lighter now.

I’ll have to wait for the test results for answers to my big question (What can I eat?), but she did give me some pointers in the meantime. I figured I’d be chided for the absolute lack of variety in my diet, but she understood that part. Where I’m falling short is (drumroll) I’m not eating enough fat. So I get to do fun things like put oil in my smoothies. Hey, if it means I can stop thinking about food 24/7 and that this headache will finally go away, I will happily goop up my fruit.

In the meantime, I am testing out foods. I tried chickpeas last night. Since I am already in a flare, I can’t say if they set me off or not — but at least they didn’t make me immediately, noticeably worse. I’m thinking I might try some homemade hummus this weekend. Next week: Avocados. I hope I get to reclaim avocados. I miss them so.


In other news, the print head on my printer died. Whether I killed it or it died of natural causes is unknown; I’m thinking these things simply have a specified life span to keep you buying new models. (I’ve had it nearly 7 years. That’s ancient in electronics years.) The new printer plus ink cost less than a new print head would have, and the new printer’s ink is less expensive than my current model’s, so I’ll take the hit. But damn, this was an expensive week.

As if I needed anything else to keep me inside this weekend, a) I had a quick freelance project come in and b) it’s freezing out there today. So I will stay home, sip hot beverages, earn a few Benjamins to throw at my newly burdened plastic (I just paid those off, damn it!), and hope I don’t puke.

Cross your fingers for me.

Ode to Super Target

Our local Super Target is closing, and my daughter is deep in mourning.

I get it. I do. There are several Targets we shop regularly, but Super Target has always been my favorite. Not for the same reasons my daughter favors it — she’s in it for the toys, and for the (admittedly superior) Dollar Spot. Coming so close on the heels of Toys R Us going under, this closing has her panicked. Where will the toys come from?

I prefer Super Target because it offers the best one-stop shop — for someone with small kids, that’s the Holy Grail of shopping. Some parts of the store are not as well stocked as regular Targets, true. But for our general needs, Super Target covered my bases well.

Super Target was a weekly outing. An event unto itself. Need clothes, groceries, toiletries, toys? Super Target. Need to get out of the house? Need steps? Need to take the kids somewhere indoors? Just need a treat? Super Target’s got you. It was my kids’ first Target. One of their first words. And the first logo either of them recognized. We loved the store, the employees, all of it.

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been to Super Target. The weather’s been icky and we’ve been sick and we just haven’t gotten out. But Mom and I shopped there last week. A lot of departments are all but empty. I stood there misting over in what had been the baby clothes section — so many of my kids’ outfits came from there! Yes, I felt ridiculous. But this store has been a constant in my life for the better part of two decades. It’s going to feel strange to shop without going there.

Part of me wants to keep Anya from seeing the store like this. But maybe it would provide her some measure of closure. Just as I needed to see it, one last time. The kids still have Christmas money they’ve not spent; perhaps I will take them to buy one last toy there.

It’s not goodbye forever. There are other Targets. And this is an important lesson for her, for Kai, for me: Nothing lasts forever, but just because something good ends doesn’t mean something good won’t take its place.

We’ll miss it, though. The store and everyone who worked there. It’s in many ways the end of an era.

We’re still talking about it because it still needs to be said

My ex-husband doxxed me, several years after our divorce.

Maybe doxxing isn’t the correct term. He didn’t have to search for my contact information; he knew it. Because he’d been my husband. It was his former address and phone number he gave out on his MySpace page, exhorting his readers to “do with it what you will.” For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call it doxxing.

I wouldn’t have ever known he’d done it, but as time passed after our divorce my anger toward him had softened. I had loved him once, after all. It was only natural that I wonder how he was doing. He’d moved away after our divorce, and we had no friends in common, so I had no idea what became of him.

A few seconds on Google led me to his MySpace. (This was before Facebook was a thing grown-ups used.) And his diatribes against me. Plus my full name, home address and phone number, and a challenge that, thankfully, his readers/friends did not take him up on.

I’d have felt better if someone had called him out on that post. But perhaps they did that privately. He had some pretty classy friends. I was sorry to lose them in the divorce.

I was sorry to lose him, too. At first. The failure of our marriage baffled and broke me. I went over and over everything in my mind. How had it all gone so very wrong?

The sour notes were few and far between in the early days of our relationship. He was sweet and loving and thoughtful, a little shy. Only occasionally an ass, so I brushed off those moments. A year later he proposed, and the mask began to crack. He spent so much of the six months between our engagement and marriage bashing me that I was flabbergasted to hear him say nice things about me during the premarital counseling sessions. I suspected he feared the minister would refuse to marry us if he told the truth.

Why did I still marry him? Well, I was young. Had less self-esteem than a potted plant. Wanted more than anything to be a wife and a mother. And I was really, really great at making excuses for him. Growing up, I had been told that no relationship was perfect. To expect little, forgive much. So I told myself he was stressed out about his new job, the wedding, the move. Things would get better. I could be better.

I tried to be better. But it was never enough.

The summer after we were married, I missed a period. He fumed and fretted until I took a pregnancy test. Then three more. Then had me call my doctor when I failed to start, so sure was he that I was pregnant. He wanted me to have an abortion. He didn’t want to deal with the hassle and expense of a baby.

I wasn’t pregnant, as it turned out. But my eyes had been opened to a side of him I could not unsee.

Ten months into the marriage, I reconnected with an old friend. While we were catching up on each other’s lives, he asked me how married life was. I told him it was an adjustment. Which is apparently what I’d said the last time he’d asked that question, shortly after the wedding. He asked me if I was happy. I finally admitted that I was not.

One final fight, at New Year’s. I ended up at my parents’. And I told them what was going on, after hiding it for the better part of two years. They were horrified. I’d hid well, it seems.

I went home the next day and told him I couldn’t go on like we had been. He said he would attend counseling, but he wasn’t going to help find the counselor, would not pay for counseling, and would not attend counseling sessions led by a member of any religious organization. He also told me he would not change, because “you knew what you were getting into when you married me.”

So I divorced him.

It’s only now, as I look back from outside it all, that I see how wrong the whole relationship was. How he gave me just enough affection to keep me from leaving and told me I was lucky to get it. How great he was at lying to everyone. Including, I imagine, himself.

I think back on the stories he told me of his ex. How he’d harped on how irritating she was, how fat, how stupid. How shocked he was when she left him.

Some time later, I watched a video of a guy gaslighting his girlfriend and saw in him my ex. Still, I’d never have thought he’d go so far as to dox me. I underestimated him.

Until you’ve been doxxed, you don’t realize how frightening it is. I was a young woman living alone, with no family or friends close by. He opened me up to all manner of violations, out of spite and pettiness, years after our split. In his MySpace posts, he talked about how he’d found love again and was so much happier than he’d been with me. Yet he tried to inflict harm on me, simply because he could.

It’s only now that I’ve moved and have a different phone number and name that I even feel brave enough to admit on a public forum what he did to me. Part of me is still nervous, to be honest. When someone who was so close to you violates your trust like that, it’s a little difficult to feel completely safe ever again.

I’ll likely never understand why my ex treated me the way he did. What it says about him as a person. But I would be willing to bet that he hates that Gillette commercial. Or that he gives it lip service but resents it privately. Because he’s the kind of guy who believes everything’s stacked against him. He thinks his failures are the result of external, rather than internal, factors. He sees himself as a victim, not a perpetrator.

Sound familiar?

My son is sitting on my lap as I type this. My sweet, loving boy, who still look at me like the sun rises and sets on my face. I consider it an important function of my job as his mother to make sure he doesn’t grow up to be the kind of guy who would be offended by the Gillette ad. I want him to be the kind of person who stands up against misogynists and bullies, even if those people are his friends. But I sincerely hope his friends don’t pull that crap, either. It’d be great if that sort of behavior were an embarrassing moment in history by the time my son is grown.

Let’s see what we can do about that, hm?

Potato soup (low-FODMAP, GF, vegan)

First blog posts, then a recipe? I know! Don’t get used to it, though. Work’s about to pick up shortly — more on that later.

But first, potato soup.

For reasons I will also discuss later, I made and then cancelled my dietitian appointment. At least for the foreseeable future, I am back to sorting this stuff out on my own. I keep flaring up, so I keep returning to the basics. Potatoes are safe. But I’m sick of baked potatoes, tbh. So I thought I’d see if I couldn’t make a palatable potato soup. And I did. My daughter, who is pretty much anti-soup, asked for seconds. And asked me to make it again the next night.

Of course, the next night she went to a birthday party and I misjudged the time she’d be getting back by about an hour, so this batch was a bit…smushy. Still tastes amazing, though. Potato soup is forgiving.

Potato soup (low-FODMAP, GF, vegan)

8 cups water
4 cubes (4 tablespoons) low FODMAP vegetable stock concentrate (see recipe at the end of this post)*
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons potato flour
1 cup white cooking wine
1 teaspoon dill weed (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed (or to taste)
1/2 to 1 cup grated Parmesan

Bring water to a boil; stir in stock cubes and return to a boil, stirring until well combined. Scoop out a small amount (1/2 to 3/4 cup) of the stock mixture and pour into a small saucepan; keep warm over low heat and add the potato flour a little at a time, whisking constantly, until smooth and thickened. Stir potato flour-broth mixture, dill, and celery seed into vegetable stock; heat to boiling. Add potato cubes to the boiling stock, then reduce to medium and cook until potatoes are tender, around 20 minutes. Stir in cooking wine and cook 5 minutes or until flavors have blended. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan a little at a time until desired consistency/flavor is achieved.

*This would also work with 8 cups of your favorite vegetable broth. I just have to jump through hoops to avoid onions and garlic these days.

Lies I’ve told my daughter

I’m allergic to cats. And dogs. Most anything with fur, really. Also birds. Not really a fan of lizards. Refuse to cohabitate with snakes, spiders, and the like. The only pets my animal-loving kids can really have, not counting Tamagotchis and the creepy animatronic toys that are all the rage these days, are fish.

Last year at the fair, Anya won her first pets. The first was a white goldfish she named Princess Cupcake. Followed by three more goldfish she dubbed Princess Doughnut, Connor, and Bubbles. (Okay, the last one was named by Daddy.)

Bubbles met an untimely end in the fish tank filter, before we sorted out the whole aquarium setup. Anya was sad, but it wasn’t “her” fish, so she wasn’t too broken up about it. But when I looked up from mixing my father’s birthday cake three months later and noticed that Princess Cupcake and Connor had suddenly passed away, I knew their deaths would not be met with such stoicism.

Fall hasn’t been a great time for my family, in Anya’s experience. Both my paternal grandparents passed around the time of my dad’s birthday, and while Anya was not close to either of them, their deaths did affect her deeply. Death thereafter became a frequent topic of discussion for her, particularly as the days grow shorter and the leaves start to turn. In matters of emotion, she rests firmly in the “go big or go home” camp — a matter of great discomfort for me, as I was raised to cover, bury, deny, suppress. I knew that, this time, the fish deaths would not be shrugged off; Chernobyl would look like a spilled Lego box next to her grief. I falter in the face of her emotions, because I simply don’t know how to handle them. I thus made one of the biggest decisions of her young life: I decided to lie to her about the fish.

I’m a rotten liar. But pulling off this ruse was shockingly simple. We were going out to eat that evening in celebration of Dad’s birthday, so we simply sent Anya home with my parents afterwards and stopped by the pet store to pick up replacement fish. We did hit a small snag in that they did not have a convincing replacement for Connor; however, Connor wasn’t the favorite fish, so we decided to take the hit and cop to his death. I was a bit taken aback by the price of Cupcake’s replacement (orange goldfish are cheap; white goldfish are not), but told myself it was worth it to avoid the emotional meltdown we’d face otherwise. Anya was sad to lose Connor. But she was easily distracted with cake and ice cream, and soon recovered. At least it wasn’t Princess Cupcake, she said. Thus was my lie justified.

Connor was later followed in death by our algae eater, Mr. Pickles. But we’d not had him too long, and we replaced him soon after with an angelfish (Princess Angelface), so his passing was but a blip in the radar.

This past Black Friday, Princess Cupcake died. And it was A Thing. Tears, wails, accusations of fish murder (Daddy had just cleaned the tank), pleas for a replacement fish…all the stages of grief, condensed into one exhausting day.

“My first fish!” she sobbed.

I knew, then, that I had to own up to what I’d done.

“Actually, sweetheart, that wasn’t really your first fish.” And I told her the story.

“You lied to me?” she exclaimed, indignant.

“I was trying to spare your feelings. But I see now that I was wrong to do so. It’s not my place to decide what you can handle, and I didn’t help by putting off the pain. I’m so sorry. Can you forgive me?”

She hugged me tight, and — though she occasionally throws it up in my face (“No more lying to babies, Mommy!”), she forgave me. We held a brief but touching funeral for Princess Cupcake in the back yard, and buried her beneath Anya’s apple tree. We’ve promised to buy Anya a new fish, and a bigger fish tank (the remaining fish are quite large), and life has gone on — a bit more somber, but still good. The distraction of putting up the Christmas tree helped.

I feel good about having come clean regarding the truth of Princess Cupcake II. And I plan to uphold my promise not to lie to Anya anymore; our relationship is stronger, better, for the honesty. And I am a few steps closer to the parent I want to be.

Granted, I haven’t quite worked out how Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy fit in to this total-honesty thing, but I refuse to strip her childhood of all magic. She needs that magic right now. Princess Angelface isn’t looking too hot today.

Anya will likely be angry when she learns the truth about Santa and the gang. I remember feeling hurt and indignant, and I distrusted my parents for quite a while after they came clean about all that. But now I am an adult and I know more about the world. How it can be cold, and cruel, and relentless. How it can take, and take, and take, for long weeks, months, years, without respite. I know that when you find some small speck of magic, you cup it in your hands and breathe gently on it to keep it alive as long as you can.

I hope she can forgive me for that, too.

Vegetarian pot pie (plus a GF vegan version)

I could have sworn I’d already posted this recipe, but when I went to look for it I came up empty handed. The photo is from the classic version. The GF version was gobbled up before I could snap a pic.

This recipe has been my go-to comfort food for most of my adult life, and the recipe most of the other people I’ve cooked for have been the most impressed with. My kids love it. And my daughter has said to me, in all seriousness, “I just don’t really like food.”

Pie is one of the losses I’ve been mourning since I started the elimination diet — pot pie doubly so, because it is chock full of things I’m not supposed to eat. So I decided to get bold and see what I could do to make it compatible with my stomach. Did I succeed? Somewhat. I was in a fair amount of pain the day after I made it, but that could just be that I had seconds.

Everyone had seconds. Even my daughter, the food hater.

And it was so worth it.

Below is the original recipe, plus the tweaks I made to render it compatible with my digestive system.


Vegetarian pot pie
(GF/vegan/low FODMAP modifications in parentheses)

Pie crust for an 8-inch pie*
2 cups all-purpose flour (GF 1:1 flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (adding 1-2 extra tablespoons to GF dough improves the texture)
4-5 tablespoons cold water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut the shortening into the flour and salt until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Add the water a tablespoon at a time and toss with a fork until the dough starts to come together; only add as much water as you need to get the dough to hold in a ball. Separate into two balls of nearly equal size. (GF dough: Place balls in the refrigerator until ready to shape. Skip the next paragraph and move straight on to the pie filling.)

Sprinkle flour on your rolling surface; I like to use a glass cutting board, chilled in hot/humid weather. Roll out the slightly larger dough ball into a circle 1 1/2 to 2 inches larger than your pie plate. Loosely roll the dough around your rolling pin, then transfer to the pie plate, making sure to leave an overhang for crimping. Roll out the second crust; roll around your rolling pin and set aside.

Pie filling
2 cans, drained well, or 3 cups mixed vegetables of your choice**
4 tablespoons butter (vegan butter)
4 tablespoons flour (GF 1:1 flour)
1 cup vegetable broth (low FODMAP concentrate recipe follows; I used 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon concentrate for this dish)
1 cup milk (vegan half and half)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon celery salt — use less if your broth is really salty
2 teaspoons dill weed
Black pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook until the mixture is bubbly and foamy. Stir in the celery salt and dill weed. Add the liquids a half a cup at a time, stirring well and allowing the mixture to thicken after each addition. Add black pepper to taste; keep in mind, though, that pepper gets hotter the longer it cooks, so you may want to skimp on it now and add more right before serving.

Stir in your vegetables; mix well and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes, until the sauce is thickened and all the vegetables well coated. If you are using fresh or frozen vegetables, you may need to modify your cooking time to ensure that all pieces cook through. Cut fresh vegetables into uniform pieces of one inch or smaller; if using fresh vegetables with a long cook time, such as potatoes, stick with pieces no larger than 1/2 inch. If using fresh vegetables, or large/dense frozen veggies such as broccoli, squash, or beans, simmer them in the sauce until softened before transferring to the pie shell.

To prepare the GF pie shell (skip this paragraph if using a regular pie shell): Remove half of the pie dough from the refrigerator, flatten it into a disk, and place it in the bottom of your pie plate. Using your knuckles, gently flatten the dough into the pie plate and up the sides, trying to make it as even and smooth as possible. Don’t worry about leaving an overhang for crimping; this isn’t that kind of pie. Shape the other half of the dough into a cylinder roughly 2 inches in diameter (cookie sized) and, using a sharp knife, slice into 1/4-inch slices. Pour the vegetable mixture into the shell, then top with the dough slices. (Skip the next paragraph.)

Pour the vegetable mixture into the prepared pie shell; place the second crust on top. Crimp the edges of the top and bottom crust using your fingertips or a fork. Cut slits in the top.

Place your pie pan on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes at 425 degrees or until the crust is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.

*My pie plate is 9 inches, so I usually add a couple extra tablespoons each of flour and shortening to compensate when making a traditional pie shell. Since the GF shell requires no crimping, I only added extra shortening, not extra flour.

**I usually use canned mixed vegetables in this, but it also works with fresh or frozen. Canned is just faster, and my family is impatient. I do recommend going with the low-sodium varieties if using canned vegetables, though.


Low FODMAP vegetable stock concentrate
(My recipe is based on this one, modified to accommodate my food allergies and the contents of my fridge. I think so long as you keep the proportions similar and pay attention to how the flavors combine, you can tweak this to suit your tastes.)

25 baby carrots (roughly 3 large whole carrots)
1 stalk celery
center of one leek stalk, white portion and leathery green leaves trimmed away
1/2 red bell pepper (you can use more, but I don’t like bell pepper that much)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley
3 tablespoons salt

Roughly chop all vegetables (except baby carrots, if using) and combine in the food processor bowl. Pulse the vegetables together until a paste is formed, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the herbs and pulse until well combined. Add the salt and pulse until well mixed. Scrape down the bowl and pulse a few seconds more, then transfer to a freezer-safe container. The salt keeps the mixture from freezing solid, so you could scoop out what you need. I store mine in a covered silicone ice cube tray for convenience.

To use: 1 tablespoon concentrate plus two cups hot water equal two cups broth.