A Ninja By Any Other Name

Greetings Ninjas in Training!

Names of things can be confusing.

Sometimes, for example, you don’t realize the Australian word for “cantaloupe” is “rockmelon.” After a thoroughly American search of the ancient predecessor of The List, you excitedly eat a slice of totally safe cantaloupe, only to be confounded when you start wheezing and your legs stop working and you need your 90 lb friend to half carry you back to your dorm.

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(This has happened to me multiple times with multiple 90 lb friends. I’m not sure what this says about me.)

“Look at me!” you cry, “I can’t walk across the room, all because I didn’t know the Australian word for cantaloupe.”

Sometimes, you can’t remember the name of the website that teaches important Ninja skills like “label reading” and “not dying,” because it’s ridiculously long and could be a variety of things. You need to look up a food, or share it with a friend, but… is it citricacidallergies? citricacidallergy? citricacidintolerance? citricacidisevil? No one knows.

(This has happened to me multiple times with multiple friends of a variety of sizes. I’m not sure what this says about me.)

I’ve been considering a name change for quite awhile, but it’s a complicated process so I don’t want to do it unless you, my Ninjas in Training, find it useful.

Based on the large number of searches for “Lemon Ninja” that result in hits for this website, it seems to me that LemonNinja.com (or LemonNinja.wordpress.com) is the most sensical change. Also, it just sounds awesome.

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The thing is, this name change is something that would cost money. I’ve had a surprising number of kind Ninjas (let’s be honest, more than zero would be surprising, so more than more than zero is kind of blowing my mind??) offer to support this website with a donation… I’ve always said no thank you, because I love sharing knowledge and helping people sharpen their mad ninja skillz.

But maybe, just maybe, it would be worth accepting donations in the name of a name change. A Ninja by any other name does smell as sweet, but quite frankly, I don’t want to smell any of you; I just want to make it easy for you to find information, and if a name change facilitates that, I’d be happy to oblige!

So now we turn to our handy dandy poll to sort this out. Please know you are more than welcome to vote for a name change even if you aren’t up for donating. I am absolutely not asking for donations from anyone – I’m simply accepting from those who have oh so kindly offered, and if you’re like, “Hey, I have a million dollars and I totally don’t mind supporting my most favoritest website,” that’s cool too 🙂 Regardless, this website will always be available to everyone who needs it.

Edit: don’t worry, the original URL will still work! Saved links and posts will not be broken thanks to the magic of redirects.

That’s all for now. Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!

The Lemon Ninja

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Saucy White Sauce

Greetings Ninjas in Training!

I hope you all are having a fabulous summer. It is ten million degrees where I live, which may or may not explain/excuse this post title. The sauce recipe I’m going to share is not particularly saucy – in fact, it’s a nice basic recipe that can be adapted for millions of different dishes.

Everything’s in the millions today, I guess.

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(I wish.)

(For you Orphan Black fans out there, you have no idea how hard it was for me to not use a gif of Alison and Donnie rolling in their soap money. I had to think of the children.)

Anyways, without further ado, a recipe for sauce!

Actually, just kidding. Quick announcement: I am working on restructuring the recipes page, so it may look derpy for a little while. I will be publishing all the recipes as individual posts, which should be much easier to use than a giant page.

Ok, NOW the recipe.

White Sauce
Courtesy of Lemon Ninja’s Mommy

White sauce is used in a variety of dishes and is the base for many sauces.   Here is our dairy free/citric acid free version for a basic medium white sauce, with adjustments for other thicknesses.

Ingredients:
Organic rice milk (read label for citric acid)
Spelt flour
Organic expeller pressed Canola oil or lard
Time Required: 15 minutes

Directions:

  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of canola or lard over medium low heat.
  2. Blend 2 tablespoons of spelt flour into the melted oil.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring, until it just begins to bubble.  You don’t want to overwork the spelt flour, its fragile gluten breaks down easily.
  4. Slowly add 1 cup of rice milk, stirring constantly.  I like to use a flat whisk to stir this.
  5. Continue cooking slowly until smooth and thickened.

Notes: For thin white sauce, follow instructions using 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon flour. Thin white sauce is often used for cream soups.  For thick white sauce, follow instructions using 3 tablespoons oil and 3 tablespoons flour. Thick white sauce is for things like soufflés.  For heavy white sauce, follow instructions using 4 tablespoons oil and 4 tablespoons flour. Heavy white sauce is used to make croquettes or croquetas.

That’s all for now, ninjalings. Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!

The Lemon Ninja

How to Succeed in College Without Really Dying

Greetings Ninjas in Training!

And most special greetings and congratulations to you recent graduate ninjas! I’m sure you all look adorable in your weird square hats.

ninja training graduation

That’s me at my high school graduation – a fledgling ninja, still blindly navigating the waters of exercise-induced anaphylaxis. I wouldn’t face full-blown ninjahood until my sophomore year of college, but I still understand the alarming reality that is trying to eat in college without dying of food allergies… while also learning to semi-adult, making new friends, deciding which non-graded assignments are worth it (answer: if it’s chem, all of them), and not sleeping ever.

Thus, behold: as requested by the young Ninja Rose, a guide to starting college on the right food-allergic foot.

Option 1: Talk to Your School Nutritionist

Make an appointment with your school’s nutritionist as soon as possible. Send an email introducing yourself, and explain that you have some unusual, but serious, allergies. Give them a basic idea: what foods can you not have? Do you need to look at labels on pre-made sauces and seasonings?

If your diet is extremely limited and your home is far from college, ask if they are willing to converse via Skype – the earlier your meeting, the easier it will be to deal with roadblocks.

Sometimes, talking with the nutritionist is all you need to do! Some schools have excellent allergy systems, and with a little adapting, they will be able to help you too. You may have early access to menus of the day, access to labels, or even the ability to request customized safe meals.

Then again, your school nutritionist might be insane.

While some can be persuaded out of initial denial (see also: “You can’t be allergic to that, you’ll die!), nutritionists who also tell your nut-allergic roommate that her allergies aren’t real… probably aren’t going to be much help.

Nope, I’m not kidding.

That’s a thing that happened.

Have a little science speech prepared for the sane but misinformed nutritionist. If you find yourself stuck with one who denies you assistance even after being educated, on to option 2!

Option 2: Make Friends with Food Services

This is important regardless of whether or not your nutritionist is bonkers. It’s not even really an option, but calling it otherwise would have thrown off my header theme. These people are responsible for your life – they are far more likely to take your safety seriously if they have a friendly face to keep in mind while chopping up those lemons.

If you have the nutritionist on your side, chances are there is already a good allergy program in place, and the workers are educated on the basics. Since ninjas are probably a little different from anything they’ve encountered, it’s a good idea to talk to whoever is in charge of the kitchen and teach them a little about your food allergies.

Bonus points for bringing the staff allergy-free treats: it’s a great way to make friends and show you care about them as much as they care about you. (Make sure to find out about their allergies before bringing anything… my Head Chef was allergic to nuts, and he was so excited that I asked first. It’s the little things!)

If you don’t have the nutritionist on your side, things will be trickier. You’ll have to sort out things like early access to menus and labels all on your own.

Initially I worked out a procedure which allowed me to email the head of Food Services the night before with my choice from the menu, and I could ask anything I needed to about the sauces and mystery ingredients.

Unfortunately, this proved to be too complicated for my particular situation. They weren’t always able to find the labels, and were worried about companies changing ingredients in their mixes without notice. My school didn’t have a good allergy safety program, so the disorganization with regard to ingredients didn’t work in my favor. Making friends in Food Services did though – more on that later!

Option 3: Independent Eating

If you’re not able to work out a good protocol for the dining halls, it’s time to turn to self-sufficiency. Get in touch with your Student Health Services and explain that you’re going to need a car on campus and a room with a kitchen.

Trust me, you want a car – if you’re going to be making alllllll of your food, you don’t want to be hauling all of your groceries 10 blocks and then riding the bus for an hour every darn week.

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You definitely want to invest in a vacuum sealer. These little miracles let you make big batches of food, then vacuum seal individual portions to eat later. You can keep them for actual months in the freezer. Read: you won’t have to cook during finals.

A kitchen will be nice for the actual making of food, but most likely you’ll *have* to eat in a dining hall for lunch – there won’t be time to go home and cook. You can keep some safe sandwich and wrap materials for when you need a portable lunch.

You may also want to invest in some collapsible food containers for more hearty, but still portable, dinners. College is about two things: learning and food. Meals are your social time, and you don’t want to spend them holed up in your kitchen cave!

Option 4: Independent Eating Redux

Sometimes, getting a kitchen and a car is not an option.

Maybe you’ve already been assigned a kitchenless underclass dorm, or maybe Student Health Services is just as useless as your nutritionist.

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Whatever the case, you’re going to need the following:
1) Adoring parents
2) A vacuum sealer in the abode with aforementioned parents
3) A mini freezer and fridge (not a mini fridge with one of those hand-sized “freezer” flappy things, that’s not gonna cut it – you need a separate actual freezer)
4) A giant bowl and an electric tea kettle OR a microwave
5) Optional: a rice cooker

I just spent way too much time searching through my college pictures looking for my freezer-fridge in the background. How it remains elusive in the millions of photos I took is a mystery.

Anyways, when I was a sophomore, I was in a kitchenless suite. My allergies had escalated disastrously over the summer, and by the time I realized school food wasn’t an option, changing rooms wasn’t an option either. Not that I would have wanted to leave anyways – my suite was the party suite.

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See what I mean? Man, we were wild.

Pretty sure that picture was taken from atop my elusive freezer-fridge, by the way.

And so, my brilliant mom came up with a solution: she cooked me large batches of food at home, vacuum sealed and froze them, and sent them to me by way of my dad, who happens to be a pilot and can hop on any plane for free.

I’d keep the food in my freezer, and heat it up either by microwave, or by letting the frozen food warm up in a bowl of hot water (courtesy of the electric tea kettle). I made rice a couple of times a week and kept leftovers in my fridge. It worked out splendidly.

I am of course, very lucky that my parents were both willing and able to do this for me. If they hadn’t, I would not have been able to stay at school out of state. Four for you, parents. You go, parents.

I do know of others with non-pilot parents who were able to make a similar procedure work sans free flights, so it’s still possible with other means of transport.

I’m also very lucky that I made friends with the Food Services people. Not only did they let me keep an overflow of my food in their industrial freezer (my tiny one could only hold so much), but they also let me heat up food in their kitchen when I wanted to eat dinner with my friends.

This was before I became sensitive to cross-contamination and airborne smells – once that came into play, I was restricted to heating and eating in my room. But for those who aren’t quite that sensitive, heating your own food up in the school’s kitchen is a great way to eat safe food with your friends, without having to figure out how to carry it or what to do with your empty containers if you’re going out after!

But what if my friends want to eat out, Lemon Ninja?

An excellent question – and a whole new topic. Check out some tips on how to survive college socializing (read: socializing that revolves around food) in this post.

So those are the basics – please feel welcome to ask questions in the comments section if you’d like to know more about how to succeed in college without really dying.

Hermione graduation

(Ok here’s the thing, I know nothing about How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, except that Harry Potter was in it. I could not find any pictures of Harry Potter graduating, so here’s a picture of Hermione instead.)

That’s all for now ninjalings.
Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!
The Lemon Ninja

Special thanks to my friend Judith for retouching me like a celebrity in a Vogue shoot. Don’t I look beautiful?

Easter Floof

Greetings Ninjas in Training,

Happy Easter!

Easter weekend in my house has always been filled with wonderful smells and tastes. Since I became a ninja, it’s become a little harder to have a friendly feast – literally all of our classics are now off the table (see what I did there?).

This year, I sit here writing this post as the smell of delicious turkey wafts my way. We got cooking a little later than planned thanks to the turkey’s stubborn refusal to reach room temperature, so we cheated and ate dessert first:

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“Lemon Ninja, why are you eating steak and potatoes for dessert??”

That would be a great question if I had a death wish, but potatoes are wayyyy above my tolerance level of zero.

Also, despite the fact that I actually know people who would eat them for dessert, I have me a sweet tooth: brownies and homemade marshmallows it is!

“Lemon Ninja, I guess I see the brownie now, but that does not look like a marshmallow…”

Yeah, well. It was our first time making them and we got a little excited. I promise they taste a million times better than they look.

So, happy Easter to those of you who celebrate. To those who don’t, I hope you have a happy day anyways, and I hope the recipe I’m about to share for homemade marshmallows helps make it even better 😀

Quick reminder: the label reading contest (the prize for which is a ninja-friendly adaptation of your favorite recipe!) ends on April 1st. Make me proud, ninjalings!

Maple Marshmallows

Courtesy of Lemon Ninja and her Mommy

Part 1

Ingredients
1/2 cup water, room temp
2 T orange label Great Lakes gelatin

Instructions
Mix together and let bloom. It will look sort of like applesauce at first. We did this in an 8 cup Pyrex pitcher, so we could add the hot sugar syrup later for mixing.

Part 2

Ingredients
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup organic maple syrup (grade A works best for the texture)

Instructions

  1. Line a brownie pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Add water, sugar, and syrup to a deep saucepan. Do not mix it!!!
  3. Bring to boil on med high.
  4. Heat to 240 degrees or hardball candy stage (use a candy thermometer).
  5. Pour heated mixture into the pitcher with the gelatin mixture.
  6. Start whisking right away!
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  7. Mix it all together with large balloon whisk for 10-15 min, until it has the texture of marshmallow creme – it should form soft, stretchy sheets and bubbles. Note: you can also use an electric mixer, but Mama Ninja and I did fine trading off with the whisk!imageGetting there…image

Almost…

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Done!!!

8.  Immediately spread the floof in the brownie pan, and let set at least 4 hours before cutting. Store at room temp in airtight container.

9.  Try not to eat them all at once??

10.  Never ask me what’s up with the formatting in this post, because I don’t know and it’s driving me insane. But that’s ok because I can just eat marshmallows and nothing matters 😀

UPDATE: Here are some pictures from our third (much prettier) batch of marshmallows.

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“Lemon Ninja, Easter was only a week and a half ago!!! This is your third batch??”

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Shhhh. Look at the marshmallows.

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Look at them.

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That’s all for now. Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!!!

The Lemon Ninja

No Good Read Goes Unpunished

Greetings Ninjas in Training,

Eleka nahmen nahmen ah tum ah tum eleka nahmen.

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No idea, Elphaba. But a lot of the time, that’s how I feel when I’m trying to read labels.

Buckle down, ninjalings. We’re gonna learn a few tricks to make it a little easier! This is long, but stick out the tutorial, it will help you in life and stuff, AND there’s a chance for a prize at the end!

Step One

The first rule of label reading is to always read the label.

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Ok, so I searched “label reading gif” and this is what came up. This is just my personal opinion, but I think it’s a bit too late for this person to be reading labels. Either they have serious gangrene, or it’s Elphaba, in which case I’m sorry.

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Anyways, I’m serious. Read it. Every time.

Ingredients for the same food item can vary from brand to brand, and ingredients in any product vary by region. That is, Oreos in California do not have the same ingredients as Oreos in Missouri; they are manufactured in different facilities, and the non-main ingredients they use are different. (Also, don’t eat Oreos, they are not safe for ninjas or anyone wishing to live past age 50.)

Furthermore, ingredients in any product can change without notice. For example, one of my favorite brands of “safe” chocolate added soy to their product, which means it is no longer “safe” and no longer my favorite because they took away my chocolate.

Step Two

Once you’ve got that label in hand, your next step is to look for the most conspicuous of perpetrators: citric acid or citrates.

In order to demonstrate, we will look at the stuff of my nightmares:

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I’m not kidding, I’ve had actual nightmares about Death by Doritos. You will see why very quickly.

Let’s take a look: any citric acid or citrates?

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Yep. So right there, you should put down the Deathritos and run. But since we have a few more steps to learn, we’re going to keep looking. Be brave, ninjalings.

Step Three

Look for foods that are above your tolerance level. Since I’m the one writing this tutorial, we are going to use my tolerance level, which is negative zero.

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Let’s take a look at each of these perpetrators in detail:

Corn – Contains about 0.2% citric acid, so #nope
Vegetable oil – Corn oil is one of three possibilities here, making this a #no
Cheddar cheese – Made with milk (0.2%) and additional citric acid, bringing it to 0.4% of #nope
Buttermilk – Again with the milk, plus it probably has other strange additives #no
Romano cheese – We don’t have a specific number for this cheese, but it’s cheese #nope
Onion powder – Onions can have 0.1-0.3% citric acid #nothanks
Corn flour – #nope
Tomato powder – Tomatoes are in the 0.4-0.5% range, but here’s the thing: this is percent by weight, and water adds a lot of weight to tomatoes. The CA content of powdered tomato (and any powdered thing, including the onions above and others below) are likely much higher than for the whole food. #nopenopenope
Spices – Vague enough for you? As a general rule, I assume leaf spices to be safe and root or other spices to be unsafe, since root vegetables etc. all contain citric acid. However, I don’t have any numbers to verify this, and even if I did, that would do nothing for determining the safety of the mystery spices in here #vague #nope
Garlic powder – 1.0% plus the rule of powdered things make this a #no
Red and green bell pepper powder – 0.2 and 0.1% respectively, plus powder rule #nope

Are you having nightmares yet?

Step Four

If you have very low tolerance like me, it’s time to check for ingredients derived from citric acid-containing things. I keep a running list of sneaky additives here, but said list is nowhere near complete. Please let me know if you discover new things to add to the Nope-dom.

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Sunflower or canola oil – These are safe when expeller expressed, but when this process is used, it almost always specifies this on the label. These oils are likely cold pressed, which is a chemical extraction process that often uses citric acid #nope
Maltodextrin – For once the label does the work for us! It says right there, “made from corn” #bye
Enzymes – What even? Why you gotta be so vague, Doritos? Enzymes can be derived from anything, oftentimes fruits or vegetables, so #nope
Whey – Extracted from milk #nope
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – Often made by doing strange things to beets #no
Enzymes again – #why #no
Whey protein concentrate – More whey? #excessive #no
Natural flavors – Citric acid is considered a “natural” flavor because it is made with corn and mold. You can’t make this stuff up. #ew #nOpe
Dextrose – Derived from corn in the U.S., but may be made from wheat elsewhere #redwhiteandnope
Lactose – Derived from milk #no
Lactic acid – Derived from milk #noagain
Sugar – Can be derived from either cane (safe) or beets (unsafe). “Healthy,” organic, less processed foods are more likely to use cane, but in a junk food like this, beet is a likely source #nope

Something to keep in mind while reading labels: things are listed in order from “most stuff in here” to “least stuff in here.” Someone with a moderate tolerance might be able to tolerate something with corn as a last ingredient, but not as a first ingredient. Figuring out what you can tolerate in what positions takes a little trial and error, so if you’re going to experiment, be safe and make sure you won’t be anywhere near your celebrity crush/Elphaba/other people you want to impress in the near future.

Ok, so using my -0 tolerance level, it looks like we’re left with…

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Cheese cultures (bacteria), salt, more cheese cultures, more salt, artificial color, and two weird chemical things.

Yum. #not

Step Five

You thought you were done?

Alas, ninjalings. I don’t know about other countries, but in America, we don’t tell people what’s in their food unless it’s 1% or more of the total weight.

If you are ridiculously sensitive, you might want to call the manufacturer to ask what else is in their food. They probably won’t tell you, but it’s worth a try for certain items, like unprocessed meat (which is often washed in citric acid for sanitation). I’ve been pretty consistently able to get responses from meat manufacturers, but not from manufacturers of processed foods.

Story time: once upon a time I found a cereal whose label indicated total safeness. I was thrilled, but called the manufacturer anyways to make sure there was no sneaky citric acid. They assured me there was not, so I ate it.

My body was not pleased. I called again, and asked them to please tell me all ingredients that were not on the label; they insisted they could not do so because it was “proprietary information” (my least favorite words). I tried it again. I got sick again. So I wrote to my doctor, who wrote to them with all the authority of his M.D.

Two months later, I got a letter stating that I would be sued for eternity and my doctor would lose his license if I shared the super secret information they were about to share with me. The cereal contained 0.12 ppb citric acid.

0.12. Parts. Per. Billion.

Moral of the story: trust no witch.

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Except Elphaba. She knows what’s up.

Alternate moral of the story: if you’re ridiculously sensitive and will die from eating 0.12 ppb citric acid, do your best to stay away from processed foods. However, for the vast majority of ninjas, this should not be a problem, so don’t worry about it!

The Contest

Ok ninjalings, now it’s YOUR turn to read a label!

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Using my tolerance level, please comment on this post with a list of ninja-unfriendly ingredients.

Whoever gets the closest by April 1st gets a special prize!

What is this prize, you ask? Well, I’ve gotten approximately 50 million emails as of late requesting more recipes.

So, recipes you shall have! Winner gets their favorite recipe modified into a ninja-friendly version. I will contact you by email and we’ll work together until it’s delicious. If more than one of you gets it right, I’ll be selecting a random winner.

Happy label reading!
Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!!!
The Lemon Ninja

We Wish You Molasses Cookies, and a Happy New Year

Greetings Ninjas in Training,

As the year 2015 draws to a close, bloggers everywhere are writing sentimental posts… summing up their super productive year, and sharing their hopes for a super productive-er 2016. I thought I’d share my thoughts too:

  1. You guys really need to try these molasses cookies
  2. I really need to write more on this blog
  3. Lists need three things

In order to address this list, I plan to do the following:

  1. Share the recipe for these freaking delicious cookies
  2. Ask you all to comment on this post with topic suggestions, questions, and marriage proposals for 2016
  3. Make both of these lists have three items even though I only had two things to say

So. First thing’s first:

Molasses Cookies!

Ingredients:

1/2 c white cane sugar, plus extra for just before baking
1/2 c brown cane sugar (NB: many brands of brown sugar are actually just white cane sugar sprayed with beet molasses. This is not ninja friendly! Read the label, always!)
3/4 c lard
3 egg yolks
3 1/2 Tbsp unsulfured blackstrap molasses (again, make sure it is cane, not beet!)
2 c spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt

Notes:

You may notice these cookies have no spices. I am currently not sure of the CA content of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, but they make me sick, so I don’t eat them. Ginger definitely contains CA, at 0.1% by weight when raw. It is likely that ginger as a spice has a much higher CA%, since water contributes a lot to the weight of raw ginger, but there is no water in the spice. Luckily, you don’t need spices to make delicious cookies! As for other modifications, you can use 1 whole egg, regular flour, and regular salt. Do not use shortening as a replacement for the lard, it’s made from vegetables of doom. I have not tested the recipe with any of those replacements, nor have I tested it with a gluten-free flour. Please leave a comment if you do and it tastes good! Or if it tastes bad, so others don’t suffer your fate 😀

Directions:

  1. In one bowl, set the lard out to soften.
  2. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Back to the first bowl! Add in the sugar, and cream together with the shortening.
  4. Add the egg to the sugar and shortening. Beat until light and fluffy.
  5. Stir in the molasses.
  6. Stir in the dry ingredients from the other bowl. It should form a nice big ball.
  7. Chill the dough for a few hours (overnight is fine too).
  8. Roll the chilled dough into 1″ balls. Then roll the balls in sugar!
  9. Place the balls of sugary dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 2″ apart.
  10. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes. Don’t let the cookies brown, or they won’t be chewy and delicious.
  11. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes after taking them out of the oven. Then put them on a cooling rack.
  12. Eat all of the cookies. Eat them NOW.
  13. No seriously. I dare you to stop eating these cookies.
nom nom nom

nom nom nom

Now that you’re full of cookies, I do hope to help you have a ninja-tastic new year, so please leave comments about what you’d like to see on this blog next year! All citric acid-related questions, from cooking to real world survival to treatments are fair game. My goal is one post per month: January will be (drumroll please) CHOCOLATE! Finally 🙂

Have a wonderful start to 2016, ninjalings.
Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!!!
The Lemon Ninja

Caramels and Computers and Cats (oh my!)

Greetings, Ninjas in Training!

Have you missed me?

(I’ve missed you too.)

I’m afraid I have no excuse for abandoning you, except that I’m a small bit healthier than I was when I last wrote, and now I’m doing super important things like sleeping more and finding new ways to keep you all from finding out that I’m not human.

Actually, I do have a better excuse: I have been busy making caramels and eating them.

As a peace offering, here is the recipe, along with a recipe for rice milk! I will add them to the recipe page soon…

Homemade Rice Milk

Ingredients:
1 cup cooked rice
4 cups water

  1. Throw it all in the blender.
  2. Turn on the blender.
  3. That’s it. Seriously.
  4. Actually you might want to stop the blender before you drink it.

Maple Caramels

Courtesy of Lemon Ninja and Ninja Mama

Ingredients:
1 cup rice milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (real stuff only – the fake stuff is ninja poison)
2 Tbs lard

  1. Go here.
  2. Read the entire thing before starting. Caramel happens fast, yo.
  3. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, familiarize yourself with the old-fashioned cold water testing. I cook phase 1 (just the sugar) to the soft crack stage, and phase 2 (everything) to the firm ball stage, but you can play with that a little if you want.
  4. Follow the article’s directions with my ingredients. The rice milk is in lieu of the heavy cream and the water, the lard is in lieu of the butter, and the maple syrup is in lieu of the corn syrup. Don’t worry about the vanilla (as you may recall, it “probably” has citric acid), and you can add salt if you want, but I think it’s excellent without!
  5. While the caramels are cooling, cut some individual wrappers out of parchment paper.
  6. Don’t cheat and try to eat the caramels before the 2 hour waiting period. It will crystalize and you will be sad.
  7. Eat the caramels all at once, because how can you not?

That’s all for now, ninjalings. Thank you for all of your wonderful messages, questions, and marriage proposals; I promise I will make that post about chocolate eventually. Until then, when life gives you lemons, RUN!

The Lemon Ninja

We’re Not Dead Yet (and this is why!)

Greetings Ninjas in Training!

We all get those people, don’t we?

“You need citric acid for the citric acid cycle, you should be devoid of energy, and dead!”

“You can’t react to citric acid, you have citric acid in your body! Why aren’t you dead?!”

Well my ninjas, now you can smack down these fools with your nunchucks of science.

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You might notice that I have this information here on the site. Good job!  Please pretend that you didn’t notice, and that this post is filled with entirely new, riveting content. Thanks to the awesome Shidoshi John for pointing me towards some actual numbers on how much citric acid is in your body, and where, because this gives us more fun things to learn. (And while learning is fun, being right is even MORE fun, so prepare yourselves for the hypothetical smackdown of the century!)

“But it’s part of the Citric Acid Cycle!  You’ll die without it!”

This argument is incorrect.  Take a look at the schematic below: the white part is outside the cell, the tan part is inside the cell, and the purple part is the mitochondrion — where the Citric Acid Cycle occurs.

If you look at what’s going into the cell, you’ll see not citric acid, but glucose!  Glucose (sugar) is the one thing our cells need from an external source (food) in order to make energy; the citrate in the Citric Acid Cycle is made from this glucose in the mitochondria.  Even someone on a 100% citric acid-free diet can make energy, because dietary citric acid is not used as part of Citric Acid Cycle.

“But there’s Citric Acid in your body!  Even if you don’t need to eat it, it’s still there in the Citric Acid Cycle. You can’t be allergic to yourself, you’ll die!”

Wrong again, masked stranger.  Take a look again at the schematic: the Citric Acid Cycle occurs inside the mitochondria, which is inside the cell. Reactions to foods and chemicals take place in extracellular spaces; the reaction mediators are outside our cells and never “see” the citrate that is formed in our mitochondria, therefore they cannot react to it.  Location, location, location!

“But there’s NO WAY there is absolutely zero citric acid in your body.  WHY AREN’T YOU DEAD?!!”

Well, okay… despite your inexplicably vehement desire to see me dead, I will give you  credit for that one.  There is, in fact, citric acid in everyone’s blood and urine, not to mention saliva, sweat, tears, and yes- even breast milk and semen.  My immune system can “see” all of that inside my body (uhm… well, most of it), so why am I not dead? The first — and most obvious — reason is that I’m a ninja.  However, there’s a more boring reason, which has to do with things like severity and tolerance; I shall explain it using two more pedestrian immune conditions: peanut allergies and lupus.

Well, sometimes it is lupus.  To grossly oversimplify, when someone has systemic lupus erythematosus, their immune system forms antibodies against the person’s own tissues (e.g. heart, lung, and kidney), so the immune system attacks the body.  If severe enough it can be fatal, but 80-90% of patients with lupus will survive as long as a healthy person.  Lupus is a type III hypersensitivity and, along with hundreds of other autoimmune conditions, exists for the sole purpose of proving my point: depending on the severity of the attack, one can survive one’s own immune system attacking things native to their bodies.

In addition to people’s remarkable ability to survive declaring war on themselves, people’s immune systems also have different thresholds at which these wars–and wars on foreign offenders–begin.  For example, both my brother and my college roommate have the classic type 1 hypersensitivity known as peanut allergies.  My brother is able to eat peanut butter toast, as long as he only has it once a week on a full stomach.  If he goes beyond his tolerance and has it a couple of days in a row, he will begin to suffer unpleasant GI symptoms.  My roommate’s tolerance is much lower: when we went on an adventure to see RENT in California, we had to book on a peanut-free airline, lest being trapped thousands of feet in the air with peanut dust lead her to take the show’s “live each moment as your last” theme a bit too literally.

People who react to citric acid also have different tolerance levels.  One food pretty much guaranteed to make a ninja flee the scene is lemons, which contain anywhere from 40,000-80,000ppm (parts per million) citric acid.  Some ninjas can eat blackberries (4,000ppm), some can only tolerate as high as pears (2,000ppm), and a few can’t even consume peas (200ppm).  Compare that to the 15ppm in blood, 4-25ppm in saliva, or 1-2ppm in sweat, and we’re talking orders of magnitude of difference: even those who react to the un-citrusy-est of vegetables are safe from the tears they’ll cry when they must choose between life and that blackberry pie they’re craving.

That ice cream is probably lethal, but at least her tears won’t burn her face off.

But what about things like urine (100-700ppm), breast milk (500-1250ppm) and semen (2000-4000ppm)?  It is here that we return to one of our earlier arguments: location, location, location!  Not all areas of our bodies are equally responsive to evil things, thanks to differences in their reaction mediator inhabitants.  As long as low-tolerance ninjas don’t put these things (this is life-or-death ninja science here, no laughing!) in their mouths or other sensitive areas, they’re probably going to stay not dead.  It’s worth mentioning that most ninjas with extremely low tolerance were born with a much higher, or even normal tolerance, and they were inducted to ninjahood later in life thanks to medications or illness.  However, some babies do react to breast milk for any number of reasons; perhaps infant ninjahood is one of those reasons.  Also worth mentioning: there are people who have allergic-like conditions involving the bladder, and semen allergy is an actual thing that has been medically documented in women.  These ninjas can get by thanks to their reaction severity, as we discussed earlier.

In sum: if there exists a human whose tolerance for citric acid is lower than the small amount circulating in the responsive areas of their body, and who has life-threateningly violent reactions to citric acid, that person is probably not alive, and probably not me. (I say probably because, although it is unlikely I can type from the beyond, you never know. I am a ninja, after all.)

TTFN, my ninjalings. Until we meet again, when life gives you lemons, RUN!

The Lemon Ninja

“P” is for Cookie (no it’s not)

Greetings, Ninjas in Training!

I was struggling for a title, so I was going to just fill in every word in this post that started with a “p.” However, that started to look just plain preposterous, so I pragmatically picked three. Then I became inspired by the great muse Cookie Monster, so you’re just going to have to deal with a great title that has nothing to do with this post.

We begin today’s broadcast with a really fun question. Ninja Susan writes:

“My physician wants me to get a Colonoscopy. The predrink you drink the nite before has Citric Acid in it, do you know a substitute? The last time I did this, I got so ill I could barely make it to the test and then was ill for almost a week later.”

An excellent question, Ninja Susan. While I can’t make a specific recommendation for colonoscopy prep, I can provide an answer for the more general theme of your question:

“What does one do when your doctor says, “Take the thing,” and you’re like, “But the thing will destroy me and probably the universe”?

…Actually, I was going to say to call a compounding pharmacy.

Compounding pharmacies are different from regular pharmacies in that they make medication specifically for you. For example, if you need to take Benadryl, but are allergic to the inactive ingredient polysorbate 80, they can make you your very own special Benadryl that will not force you to include “Death by Benadryl” in your obituary.

The same is true for citric acid. The great thing about citric acid is that it’s completely useless — okay, well, it’s not an active ingredient. It’s a preservative, which means that most medications can be made very easily without it. Hooray!

So, how do you find one of these magical pharmacies, you ask? Probably Google. Just type in your hometown, followed by “compounding pharmacy,” and you should be able to find something.

Now that you’ve found one, you need to talk to them! Please follow this step by step procedure to ensure a productive conversation:

  1. Write down the name of the medication you need, the prescription amount (if applicable), and your name (just in case you forget).
  2. Call the compounding pharmacy.
  3. Ask to talk to a pharmacist about helping you compound a mixture of (insert medicine here) that will be safe for your allergies.
  4. Explain said allergies.
  5. Pause for dramatic effect*.
  6. Chat it up with the super knowledgable pharmacist. They will probably ask you a number of questions about different things they need to add to the medication, including fillers, liquid solutions, preservatives, and capsules.
  7. For fillers, steer clear of corn starch and potato starch if those are not within your tolerance. Cellulose is ok; I personally have my medications filled with spelt flour, which I send the pharmacy and they keep just for me!
  8. For capsules, gelatin is the way to go.
  9. For preservatives, they may ask to use alcohol or lactose. If you are unable to tolerate either of those**, try asking if they will compound something preservative-free for you. It may take a bit of convincing, along with a special prescription from your doctor that specifically requests no preservatives.
  10. Arrive at an agreement, tell the pharmacist you love them***.
  11. Have your prescription sent to the pharmacy.

*Don’t do that.
**Lactose is safe for ninjas, but some people are lactose intolerant. Alcohol (ethanol) is ok for some ninjas, but may cause a reaction in extremely sensitive ninjas.
***Optional.

That’s all for now, my ninjalings. Until next time…
When life gives you lemons, RUN!
The Lemon Ninja