Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Butternut Squash Tostadas and Long Story You Probably Aren't Interested In

Have you ever gone through the holidays and not felt even once like it was in fact, the holidays?  Yeah, that's a good way to explain how it felt to me this year.  It's amazing how right when you start feeling confident about life, karma kicks your trash to the curb.  You guys, my trash, hath been kicked.  I've been trying to decided what and how much to tell here on this little blog of ours.  I mean, you know, there's that line you try not to cross (I can actually hear you all laughing).  But if for no other reason, I have to write this so that next time I have a Christmas season that I think sucks, I can read this and realize that it most likely does not suck as bad as I think it does.  I have to imagine that the depths of this years Christmas suckiness will probably hold the winning title for quite some time.

Right after Thanksgiving, I took my 11 year old son to the doctor for a stomach ache that had persisted for about 8 days.  He had also lost a lot of weight which is never a good thing for a kid who's a lanky bean pole to begin with.  I wasn't worried though.  The trip to the doctor, in my mind, was to rule out strep (my kids tend to get weird stomach aches with strep). Not surprisingly, it wasn't strep.  The dr. we saw, who wasn't our normal ped., did the regular work up, and while listening to my son's heart, lingered there just long enough for me to start squirming a little.  After several minutes of silence, he said that he could hear what's called an abdominal bruit.  Highly unusual cardiac symptom to find in a child.  It's usually associated with an aortic aneurysm.  Sweet.  He wanted to send us up to the cardiology department at Primary Children's Hospital but I declined because I wanted a second opinion before we ran clear across town for what was most likely nothing.  Specifically, I wanted the opinion of our regular pediatrician before we did anything.  He (the Dr. we saw) also sent us to the local hospital for a blood draw to hopefully rule out several things related to the stomach ache.  Said hospital is only a minute away from our house, so I figured we could just get it done on our way home.  

SO, to make a long story short, I took him to get his blood test done while still feeling slightly uneasy about the decision I made to not take him to Primary's to rule out an aortic aneurysm.  Bad idea.  Because immediately after his blood was drawn my son pulled a total Marie Osmond.  He passed out cold.  And I LOST IT (remember, I'm thinking his aorta just exploded)!!!  Would have been nice if the phlebotomist hadn't freaked the hell out though.  That sometimes helps nervous moms keep their crap together.  You know, when the medical professionals make a point to NOT panic.  An hour and a half later, we made it home.  Anyway, please enjoy this picture I took directly following the drama.  Boy looks good with a rag on his face. 
Okay.  I'm going to fast forward and consolidate here.  Later on, the results of his blood work came in.  Positive for celiac disease.  I gotta tell you, I did NOT see this one coming, although I should have considering he has several relatives with the disease.  Some of them first cousins.  The next step was to get a biopsy done via endoscopy (an easy procedure - I've had it done, it's no biggie).  Sounds easy enough, right?  Not when they can't fit you in for 12 weeks.  We were actually supposed to wait around twiddling our thumbs for 3 months before we could find out how much damage has already been done to his small intestine.  THREE MONTHS.  So the dilemma became, do we keep him eating gluten and feeling miserable for three more months so we can do the biopsy?  Or do we just ditch the gluten now, and pass on the biopsy (you have to have been on a regular gluten diet for about 6 months for the results to be accurate)?  You know you can't sit around and do nothing when your kid looks like this ALL.THE.TIME.
After several long frustrating days, we decided to put him on a gluten-free diet and hope for the best.  At this point, I actually think he's improving.  It's a slow process, but it's getting better.  

Not that this will surprise any of you, but I have to tell you that the day we found out he had celiac, Jenny was over at my house within minutes to give the boy a pep-talk (and a bag of gluten-free oats, naturally).  He was still an emotional wreck from finding out the results of his blood test and realizing what the future would be like for him, so being an 11 year old child, all he could really do was cry.  Sweet Jenny knows him so well and loves him so much that of course, she couldn't help but cry with him.  It's amazing to see people love your children the same way you do.  Sometimes there are those moments when it's so blatantly obvious that the people in your life were put directly in your path for a reason.  This was one of them.  Oh how I love that girl.

Going gluten-free has been surprisingly easy thanks to all our loved ones who have already walked this path.  We are surrounded by so many friends and family members who have gone above and beyond to help educate me and my son.  We've been absolutely blown away with the things people have done to help us with the transition to this new lifestyle.  We are so very fortunate.     

But, we weren't in the clear yet.  We were still in limbo with the heart thing.  A few days after the celiac fiasco, our ped. called and said that he was indeed worried about the abdominal bruit (an abnormal sound in the aorta) they had discovered, so he sent us up to the children's hospital for testing.  I didn't know much about abnormal aortic sounds, but I did know that you really don't want your kid to have to deal with heart problems.  For the first time since it all started, I was worried.  Again, long story short, nothing significant was found in the first round of testing so of course they recommended we get started on round two.  And would you believe it if I told you that my two amazing friends had dinner waiting for us when we got home from the hospital?  I speak the truth folks.  In the end, we decided to wait until after Christmas to go ahead with the second round of tests.  Round one proved to be more than a little traumatic for my son and we figured he'd be better off with a some time to actually enjoy the holiday season.  This decision was made the same day that my little brother had a tumor in his armpit biopsied.  Mostly just as a precaution.  They thought it was probably a lipoma (a harmless fatty tumor). 

My little brother Sam (the "bear", I like to call him) had been working hard to lose weight over the past 4 months or so.  The more weight he lost the more he began to notice a weird, soft, tumor-thing under his arm.  They did an ultrasound, which led to a biopsy, which then led to surgery to remove said tumor.  That was about 2 weeks ago.  Unfortunately we found out the day after Christmas that it is cancerous.  Hodgkin's lymphoma.  Sometimes life can be so unfair.  But if anyone can wrangle and hogtie cancer, it's my brother Sam.   

My two little brothers and their, um...matching plaids.  They're both single.  And straight.  I swear.
Tomorrow we find out the course of action his doctors want to take.  I fully intend on doing my part by stuffing him with alkaline foods for the next 6 months.  He can't wait.  He loves having a health food kook for a sister.       

Dealing with health problems is always sobering.  I keep telling my brother that unless you have a few things go wrong, you can't fully appreciate your body.  The human body is amazing and complex and often times very resilient.  The next few months might be difficult for Sam, but we have every reason to believe that he's eventually going to be completely fine.  

So yeah, the holidays kind of sucker punched us this year.  But you know what they say, upward and onward.  

In honor of my little bro. who is always kind enough to eat my weird concoctions, allow me to share with you my latest favorite.  I stole the concept and photo from this website.  Because in addition to all the holiday fun I've been telling you about, the hard drive on my computer crashed.  Like, totally kicked the bucket.  6 years of photographs, GONE.  Dear gracious I'm so glad Christmas is over.  Here's to hoping 2013 is a little more merciful than 2012.
Butternut Squash Tostada  

For the Tostada Shells:
6 blue corn tortillas (I used brown rice tortillas)
Cooking spray (orgainc olive oil if possible)
Salt or mexican spice
For the Butternut Squash:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (or better yet, just snag   some of that pre-cut butternut squash they sell at Costco)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon lime juice
Salt and black pepper, to taste
For the Creamy Avocado Dressing:
2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
1/2 cup coconut milk or almond milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/2 small jalapeño pepper, chopped and seeds removed
2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice plus a little zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Tostada Toppings:
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed, drained, and heated
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 cup pepitas
Chopped Lettuce

1. To make the baked tostada shells, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray each side of the corn tortillas with cooking spray. Season with salt. Place tortillas on a large baking sheet and bake until tostadas are lightly browned and crisp on one side, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and flip the tortillas. Place back in the oven and cook until lightly browned and crisp on the other side, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, add the butternut squash, olive oil, cumin, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Toss until squash is well coated. Spread the squash out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Place in the 400 degree F oven and roast until the squash is tender and starts to caramelize on the edges, about 30-35 minutes.
3. While the squash is roasting, make the creamy avocado dressing. Combine the avocados, buttermilk, garlic, cilantro, green onion, jalapeño, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

4. To assemble the tostadas, top a crispy corn tortilla with butternut squash, black beans, red onion, lettuce, and pepitas. Drizzle the creamy avocado dressing on top. Serve immediately.

I also served it with salsa and avocado slices.  My ENTIRE family ate this.  A minor miracle at our house.



Sonie said...

Holy crap, Annie! I'm so sorry!! Please give all the girls an update as soon as you have info on Sam and Griffin. I'm sending good thoughts your way!

Elizabeth said...

love you, love griffin, love the tostada. i'm making mine with sweet potatoes.

Jenny said...

Ugh...In addition to all that, your hard-drive crashed? What am I going to do with you, Annie. At this point, if I were in your shoes, I would've just crumbled to the floor and given up. Seriously. You seem to roll with the punches way better than I do. Hang in there.

Annie said...

Thank you my friends. I love you all so much. I forgot to mention that I actually make this with sweet potatoes instead of squash more often than not. Liz, I think that's how I did it when I gave you some. Thanks for reminding me.

Heather J. said...

We just ate this for the 2nd night in a row--so yummy and it was the 6 year old who requested it a second night. :) That's a winner in my book. Sorry about all of your news.

JenB said...

Hey Annie - Pam's been keeping us informed as to what's been going on (well not EVERYTHING, as I read in the post above, with your son and Celiacs, which also runs in my family ... Dad, brother, sister). I saw you Lymph-Home-A blog (before you went private, I wouldn't mind following it if I could get an invite) and saw some of your other blogs. Your mom said you were a talented writer and I have to agree! Good luck with all going on with you!