Fiction Friday: Flash Fiction Contest Entry, “Charlotte”

Charlotte walked into the kitchen, her Mary Janes making crisp noises on the bare hardwood floor.

“All ready, Mom!” she chirped. Mom smiled, though Charlotte noticed her mom’s mouth twitched a bit.

“Good job, baby. Let’s brush that pretty hair of yours; I think we have a few minutes before the bus comes.”

Mom took Charlotte’s hand and walked into their bedroom. Charlotte sat down on the chair in front of the vanity. She looked in the mirror and smiled. Mom picked up the good hairbrush and began stroking Charlotte’s hair. This was one of Charlotte’s favorite parts of the day, feeling her mother’s sure fingers teasing out the occasional knot, humming as she stroked.

Charlotte watched Mom’s reflection pull out a long, blonde hair from the brush.
“I swear, Charlotte, your hair just gets prettier every day!”

Charlotte beamed, then turned towards the window. The windows were much smaller in their new house, and it had been hard getting used to going to school every day instead of staying with Mom and reading and going out to run errands. But she was starting to like her new classmates.

“Well, I guess that’s our cue,” Mom sighed. “Come on, baby, let’s get you out the door. I can pick you up after work today. Maybe we’ll come home and bake something.”

Charlotte hugged her mom around the waist. “Yeah! Bye, Mom!”

Mom pecked her cheek. “Be good. Be sure to keep your ankles crossed.”

Charlotte huffed. “Moooom!”

“Young lady, have a good day at school. You know the rules.”

Charlotte looked up at her mom. “Yes, ma’am.”

The rest of the morning passed quickly. Finally, it was snack time. Charlotte ate her ring cookies and sipped her apple juice. She needed to go to the bathroom, so she walked to the corner of the classroom. They shared it with the younger kindergartners next door.

Charlotte knocked on the door, squirming a little bit. Since no one was there, she opened the door and let herself in.

The toilet was little and lower than the one they had at home, and easier to use. Charlotte sighed in relief and situated herself, making sure to lock the door. She yanked her panties down and hiked up her dress; she REALLY needed to go. Charlotte plopped down on the toilet seat.

The door popped open. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” said Marcy. She was sometimes the playground helper and she was the classroom aide for the little kids next door. “Please excuse me, Charlotte…uh…“ Marcy trailed off.

Charlotte froze. “Please…please leave? My mom said you should always knock.”

“I’ll be right back.”

Charlotte heard a muffled voice through the door.

“What do you mean she has a penis? Do you realize we could get sued? Are you sure there isn’t some kind of mistake?”

Marcy’s hushed voice couldn’t be made out. Snippets came through…something about child projected services?

Charlotte sniffed and pulled her panties up, then walked out the door of the restroom.

Her teacher was waiting for her. Her lips were pressed into a thin line.

“We’re giving your mom a call, and then you’re going to go to a special meeting.”

Charlotte didn’t go home that night. During the meeting, Charlotte didn’t understand why her mom started screaming and crying. Charlotte’s face crumpled up when a police officer came and walked away with her mother.

“Shh, shh, it’s ok baby. You’re my perfect little girl. They’ll understand and this will all be over soon. We’ll bake something, we’ll make chocolates…it will be a regular candy factory when you come home.”

Before she knew it, Charlotte was at Walmart. They bought her an ugly striped shirt and shorts. The lady had to show her how to put them on. The lady wanted Charlotte to put the new underwear on, but Charlotte started whimpering.

The next few weeks were a blur of meeting with new people. A doctor, more meeting with the lady, who was something called a “case worker.” A special doctor, who said he worked with children and showed her puppets. She kind of liked the doctor; he let her play with dolls.

The new people she lived with were named Stan and Janet. They’d shown her to a new bed the first night. Everything smelled funny, none of the good wood polish smell like at home. There were no dolls or stuffed animals, only toy trucks and make-believe tools.

“Charlie, supper’s ready,” called Stan. Charlotte did not budge. “Dammit, boy, I SAID supper’s ready.”

Janet shushed him. “Charles? Sweetie? Come one, we have brownies for dessert!” Charlotte knew she wasn’t supposed to hear the next thing, but she’d gotten really good at listening.

“Stan, it’s not his fault his mother’s crazy. Raising a perfectly normal boy as a girl…my god. We have to set a good example; be easier on him.”

Stan grunted. Charlotte heard the jingle of his car keys. “Janet, I’ll eat later. The boy’s coming with me. Charles! Come here.”

Charlotte knew better than to disobey. She shuffled towards the kitchen. Her new sneakers were too big.

“Let’s go in the truck.”

Stan helped Charlotte climb up onto the big seat. He buckled her in. They drove down the road. Stan pulled into a cluster of small shops. One of them had a big red and white striped pole.

“Alright, son,” said Stan. “You’re not going to like it, but it’s time we did something with that hair.”

“Oh, Mommy used to cut my hair,” said Charlotte.

They walked in.

“This little boy needs a haircut very badly,” said Stan.

The barber raised an eyebrow. “I’d say so. Come on, then, get in the chair.”

Charlotte winced as the man put her hair into a ponytail. She heard a snick and watched, disbelievingly, as the man came away with a long rope of hair in his hand.
Charlotte looked in the mirror, and screamed as a stranger looked back at her.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken

2014-08-05 06.01.42

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken thighs, skin on
salt to taste
white pepper
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
one curcumin tablet (available here)
1 teaspoon cinnamon extract
3 cups chicken broth
10 drops of liquid stevia
¼ cup raisins
Two servings of cooked white rice

Optional: roasted red pepper and dried mint for garnish

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper the brown well on both sides for at least 5-8 minute per side; transfer to a plate.

Add in onions; sauté for about 5 minutes. Open the curcumin capsule and add the contents to the dish. Then add garlic powder and cinnamon extract; cook stirring with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute.

Stir in broth and liquid stevia; stir to combine.

Then add in the browned chicken; simmer covered for about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes of cooking add in the raisins and continue to cook (uncovered) until the chicken is completely cooked through (about 15-20 minutes).

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Move the chicken to serving plates.

Add in the chickpeas and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with cooked rice.

Adapted from http://www.food.com/recipe/moroccan-chicken-thighs-with-chickpeas-and-raisins-154133

I have always adored Middle Eastern meals. However, I’ve noticed that they incorporate lots of spices I can’t tolerate as well anymore, such as cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric. If you are not watching your oxalates, I would use a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of cumin.

I have made some simple adaptations to this dish. You can buy curcumin supplements, which are very easy to remove from the gelatin capsule and sprinkle on your dish. They are much lower in oxalate than cumin. It gives the dish a good bit of color, and can be used to make yellow rice, too, if you’d like. Curcumin is also an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

I cut back on the amount of raisins in the original recipe and substituted liquid stevia for honey, so it’s a bit less sugary. And it’s pretty good, too!

Three Healing Teas

Before switching to a low oxalate diet, I used to be an avid tea drinker. I loved black tea and green tea in particular. While there are several lower oxalate green teas, I can’t really tolerate them anymore. But I still crave tea. The ICN food list recommended chamomile and peppermint tea, which I really enjoyed. And Wendy L. Cohan’s excellent book, The Better Bladder Book, turned me on to something I had never tried: nettle tea. All three of these herbal teas are worth trying. Even if they don’t benefit your symptoms, they are a welcome change from water and milk.

Chamomile tea: Chamomile is a mild tea. It is made from chamomile flowers (shocking, right?) Some brands of this have other additives, but I prefer to use ones made with just the flowers, as lemongrass or other acidic things may cancel out some of the benefits. This tea pairs well with desserts, or you can even cook with it (see my recipe for chamomile-poached tilapia). I also like to make chamomile tea and dunk a few animal crackers in it. It makes up for no longer being able to binge on British biscuits and sugary black tea (which, while delicious, was not exactly healthy).

Chamomile tea may have a relaxing effect; it makes some people outright sleepy. It can soothe the bladder simply by relaxing it. While this may sound alarming, it means you may void your bladder less often. As long as you know it won’t make you too sleepy, I suggest drinking some before a long trip; it may cut down on pit stops on the road.

In the summer, try putting a bag of tea in a glass of water and keeping it in the fridge for 4-6 hours (or longer if you don’t mind a stronger flavor). You can do this with virtually any tea, but it’s particularly nice before bed. Remove the bag before enjoying it.

Nettle tea: If you respond well to antihistamines, nettle tea is the tea for you. It has a somewhat grassy taste. Nettle tea is an anti-inflammatory, so it may naturally soothe your bladder. It is also a natural antihistamine, except it won’t make you sleepy like Benadryl. However, it is a tea best enjoyed at home, as it may make you need to pee more often, at least temporarily. If you have a bladder infection, nettle tea may be an especially good choice, since it can help flush bacteria from your system more quickly. It doesn’t seem to have much of a diuretic effect on me, but be forewarned.

I especially enjoy nettle tea during allergy season. I find a hot cup of it soothing for my throat when I have had a lot of sinus drainage. I haven’t had the heart to try it cold.

Peppermint tea: Peppermint tea may or may not have specific properties that help the bladder. It helps some people; I personally find it doesn’t help my symptoms. However, it can definitely help an upset stomach, and many people find it relaxing and refreshing. It is good hot or cold. Do not drink peppermint tea if you are prone to heartburn or GERD.

If you are still craving caffeine, you might want to try rooibos tea, which is a red African bush tea. Bear in mind any caffeine has the potential to irritate your bladder, but many people have reported no effect on their symptoms. Drink up and enjoy!

Blueberry Breakfast Oats

breakfast oats

1/2 cup regular or quick oats
1 tblsp coconut oil, melted
2-3 drops liquid stevia
one handful of blueberries
Optional: one tablespoon whey or hemp protein powder

Mix the oats and coconut oil together. Make sure the coconut oil is melted all the way (5-10 seconds in the microwave is more than adequate). Add the liquid stevia and mix it in. Sprinkle blueberries on top and enjoy.

Sugar note: If you want to use regular sugar, use up to a teaspoon.

Low oxalate/gluten free note: If you are very sensitive to gluten, you might want to use oats officially labeled gluten free. However, please note that you may have to use fewer oats! Quaker Oats have less oxalate in them, but may contain gluten.

A half cup of Quaker Oats has a medium amount of oxalate. For those following the low oxalate diet, The Low Oxalate Cookbook by The VP Foundation recommends eating up to three servings a day of medium foods, and eating low oxalate foods the rest of the time. Alternatively, you can eat one serving of a high oxalate food, such as a serving of pizza, and eat low oxalate foods for the rest of the day.

I told you this recipe was simple! I make these on my way out the door. It’s especially convenient in the summer when the coconut oil is already sitting at room temperature. A little sweetness, a little crunch, and the fat from the coconut oil keeps you satisfied. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

I can stomach oatmeal, but there’s something about the mushiness of it I find off putting. But darn it, it’s convenient and a good source of roughage. This recipe gives you the health benefits of oatmeal with very little of the mush. It is perfectly safe to eat raw oats.

You can really vary this up a lot of ways. Add less than an ounce of walnuts or another low oxalate nut to it. In the fall, mix in some freshly pureed pumpkin. Cinnamon extract would also really brighten the taste, or you could sprinkle a few sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds on top…or even white chocolate chips! Feel free to use regular chocolate chips if you are not following the IC diet.

Flaxseed Tea

Three tablespoons of raw flaxseed, ground
A cupful of hot water

Place the ground flaxseed in the bottom of a mug. It is best to use raw flaxseed and freshly grind it. Boil water in a tea kettle or on the stovetop. Pour the boiling water over the flaxseed and stir it many times, until the water becomes slightly filmy. Wait for the water to cool down and drink it slowly. If you want some extra omega 3’s, eat the flaxseed; otherwise, just sip the water.

This tea, or tisane, is very useful for flare-ups when your bladder hurts. Flaxseed is also very low oxalate and high in fiber. You can grind flaxseed ahead of time and put it in the freezer.

Since overindulging in some carbonated cider, I have been having a very annoying flare-up. Carbonation, in any form, seems to be a major trigger for me. This tea makes a nice change from chamomile tea. Flaxseed contains a lot of mucilage, soluble fiber. Supposedly, the fiber coats your intestines. Since your intestines are so close to your bladder, this may provide some relief. However, you really do need to stir the flaxseed in the hot water to release the fiber. It does look a bit slimy, but it tastes alright.

Sometimes, simple is good. Right now, I am trying to focus on each moment, each meal, to try and heal.

Coconut Flour Flaxseed Bread

1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted 1/2 cup flax seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt (or less)
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/8 cup water (or coconut milk for a moister bread)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or coconut water vinegar or lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a small loaf pan (7 3/4″ × 4 1/2″ × 3″ H). Mix all the dry ingredients together. Combine all the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat well. Batter will be thick. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing.

Source: http://paleofood.com/recipes/baked-cocoflaxbread.htm

Dinner roll variation: Make this recipe into herb dinner rolls by adding a teaspoon each of chopped fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary to the dough. Shape the dough into rolls and bake 30-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. The rolls can be used to make breadcrumbs.

Wow, sorry about the radio silence! We moved house here and things are a bit out of sorts still.

I love how adaptable this recipe is. I have shaped it into patties and used it as burger buns. I have made it into muffins, and you can make it into breadcrumbs. It is tasty, predictable, and travels well. I also like it because unlike many coconut bread recipes, it is both savory and has relatively few eggs.

Finding a gluten-free flour that is low oxalate AND tasty can be challenging. Like most gluten-free baking, this recipe combines two types of grain-like things. I still eat wheat, but this bread makes for a nice backup if I’ve overdone it. And I like that it has a nutty flavor and does not taste like coconut, even though coconut oil is one of the ingredients.

Coconut flour can be very temperamental. Some people keep it in the freezer to avoid effects from humidity. One tip to always remember: Be very, very careful with the measurements. Make sure to level off your measuring cup. Coconut flour is very thirsty, and too little liquid can result in a drier product than you might like. Also, be sure to not have too much of the final product; coconut flour is extremely rich in fiber, with [x] per serving. Remember, what irritates your colon is likely to irritate your bladder.

I want to experiment with making crackers out of this recipe by making the bread, slicing it up very thin, and putting it in the food dehydrator. What things do you want to make with coconut flour?

Breakfast Yogurt

½ cup plain nonfat yogurt
2-3 tablespoons of water or milk
½ scoop whey protein powder
1 tsp. cinnamon extract
(optional) fruit or nut topping

Makes One Serving

Measure ½ cup yogurt and place it in a bowl. Or save yourself a bit of time and put it in a big enough container to take with you. Pour the half scoop of protein powder over the yogurt; stir thoroughly, making sure to scrape the sides. Add 2-3 tablespoons of milk or water. This addition will thin out the yogurt a bit. Mix the cinnamon extract in.

Add your choice of topping. Enjoy!

As I was fumbling around, wondering how I could still enjoy yogurt while cutting down on the sugar, since sugar is a major bladder irritant, I figured something out. And it wasn’t that Jamie Lee Curtis was right about the magical girl yogurt that makes you poop. A weight lifter/body model friend of mine had enticed me into buying some whey protein. “Aha!” I thought. “If you can make protein powder cookies, why not protein yogurt?”

And thus, breakfast yogurt was born.

Take a bit of yogurt, milk or water, protein powder, and cinnamon extract and fruit, and you’ve added some anti-inflammatory goodness to your day. I like to top mine with toasted oats for crunch, but you could try granola, walnuts, or just say screw it and crush up some cookies.

Frozen fruit, like blueberries, can be added the morning you eat it or the night before—no peeling or chopping necessary!

Chamomile-Poached Tilapia with Roasted Red Peppers

tilapia

2 tilapia fillets
2 bags chamomile tea
2 bay leaves
fresh ginger
salt and white pepper to taste
roasted red peppers (optional)

Boil two cups of water. In a heat-safe container, pour the boiling water over the tea bags. Let the tea steep for five minutes. Press a spoon against the tea bags to get as much tea out as possible. Take approximately two inches of the fresh ginger and slice it thinly. Add the bay leaves to a 12-inch skillet. In the 12-inch skillet, bring the tea and ginger to a boil over high heat. Add fillets. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered 6 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.
Remove the fillets from the liquid. Salt and pepper to taste; if desired, garnish with the roasted red peppers.

What’s anti-inflammatory, low oxalate, interstitial cystitis friendly, and delicious? I’ll just come out and say it: this recipe. The flavor of the fish is definitely mild, but it is moist and tender. You get the benefits of the fish AND the soothing power of chamomile, along with a hint of ginger.

Best of all, it’s a very quick cooking method, perfect for a midweek dinner. Bon appétit!

Perfect Peach Dessert

Two peaches, washed and split in half, pits removed
Plain yogurt or yogurt sweetened with stevia, one cup
Molasses or other sweetener (brown sugar, for example), one tablespoon
Butter, coconut oil or olive oil, one tablespoon
Vanilla extract, one teaspoon
cinnamon extract, one teaspoon (see note about oxalates and substitutions below for alternatives)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place your peaches in an oven-safe container. Pour the molasses over each peach half and dot with the butter or olive oil. Pour the cinnamon extract over the peaches. Cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add the vanilla extract and stevia to your yogurt, or just measure it out plain for a tangier flavor. When the peaches are done cooking, put them in serving bowls and top with the yogurt. Serve immediately. This recipe makes two generous servings and is easily halved.

Recipe adapted from http://www.housebeautiful.com/kitchens/recipes/peach-dessert-recipes-sophie-dahl-0610

Oxalate note: If you are not following a low oxalate diet, simply use one teaspoon of cinnamon. Cinnamon is high in oxalate. If you do not have cinnamon extract, consider using ½ teaspoon of cardamom, which is medium oxalate and has a nice exotic flavor. If you are sensitive to spices, simply omit this ingredient.

Every year, I eagerly anticipate peach season. I’ll consume them raw, after they’ve ripened on the windowsill for days. I’ll eat them in pies, in ice cream, you get the idea. But sometimes, when I crave something that’s a bit different than plain peaches but a bit less sugary, I fix this dessert. It is creamy, juicy, and the butter and sweeteners caramelize just a little bit.

This recipe got me thinking about substitutes. I am sure there are many wonderful gluten free recipes for peach cobbler, fantastic creations made with coconut flour or oats used as a type of crumble topping. But I was amazed at how good the peaches were (almost) by themselves. If you are trying to adapt your diet in any kind of way, it can be so tempting to try and find a replacement. The fact is, the replacement is just never the same as the real deal. Sometimes we have to go out and find something even better, or something totally different, instead of picking sullenly at whatever concoction doesn’t really satisfy the craving.

This is especially true if you can’t eat the real deal any longer, whether it be from choice or from food sensitivities. I still eat gluten; I still eat a little processed sugar, but I find myself cutting out grains and processed sugars more and more. Desserts like this just transcend the need for a starchy component and let the flavors of the peach shine through.

Cinnamon Extract

cin_extract_whole

Cinnamon Extract

One stick of whole cinnamon, broken in half
Eight ounces of alcohol (can be vodka, brandy, or rum)

You will need a clean glass or plastic bottle. Take your cinnamon stick and put it in the bottle. Pour your alcohol of choice over the cinnamon stick. Seal the bottle and shake the mixture.

Wait one to three weeks and voila: you’ve made your very own cinnamon extract.

Seriously, it’s that easy! I found the cinnamon started to color the alcohol almost immediately. To get the full flavor, though, it is best to wait. You can also refill the extract; just make sure to use the same alcohol you started out with. You may want to periodically replace the cinnamon stick as well. I found whole cinnamon at F_resh Market; I found my first extract bottle online, but I used an old candy bottle from Lofty Pursuits for the cinnamon extract.

I plan to eventually make other extracts…maybe even chocolate extract. While you do have to buy the alcohol, it’s so easy to make and you know exactly what goes in it.