Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Okay, so I know it's been over a month since I last posted, but I've been so dang busy with school and moving back home. I can't wait for the semester to be over... Anyways, I figured I'd take a study break and do a super quick post relating to Thanksgiving. As you can imagine, this was an interesting one for me, but I think we made it work. My grandma asked me a couple weeks beforehand what Thanksgiving foods I can have, and I told her the turkey, gravy if I can get a little of the drippings and use my gluten-free flour to make some, mashed potatoes if she'll set some aside for me before adding milk and butter (which in the chaos of the day she forgot to do, but I didn't bring it up because I didn't want her to feel bad and honestly there was still so much food I could eat it wasn't a big deal), her rice and giblets dish (a family Thanksgiving recipe passed down from I think her grandmother), and the pickle and olive tray. But I told her I'd make some things that I could have.

I made my cornbread that I wrote about in the post before (still just as amazing as the first time); a grain-free stuffing (if you can call it stuffing, it was never stuffed into anything since there was real stuffing there too), which was really good, though we had to halve the recipe and it seemed to me it could have used an extra sweet potato; a vegan/paleo green bean casserole (my favorite Thanksgiving dish), which I have to admit was disappointing, and I think would have been better with coconut cream instead of parsnip as the base of the sauce, but it was worth a try anyways; and, of course, a crustless vegan pumpkin pie (I chose to go crustless for ease, to avoid that gluten-free taste that my family might not appreciate, and because honestly the crust is my least favorite part anyways). It was my second time making the pie, as Kirby and I had decided last minute to celebrate all the holidays he'd miss on deployment in our last 2 weeks together :)

I made enough to share (there were 12 of us), I didn't want it to be viewed as my food. Honestly, I was excited for people to try some of it, I think it's too easy to not realize that even with dietary restrictions you can still eat some tasty things! Sadly I was a bit disappointed in this regard. Aside from my dad, my brother, and my grandma, nobody really touched my food, like they just assumed it'd be crap. One of my cousins did try a scoop of the stuffing, but everyone else just ignored it, even though I made it clear I had made plenty and everyone was welcome to have it (and I avoided using the word "vegan", that seems to turn some people off). But actually, the whole thing kinda bugged me. My aunt, who had acted like she was excited to try the cornbread, never had any. My sister didn't touch any of my food, which hurt a bit more than extended family ignoring it all. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as I said, people tend to assume if it's made with substitutions it must not be as good. And a good bit of that part of my family isn't exactly known for eating healthy (though my sister and aunt try, I did expect them to at least taste something). Needless to say, we had a lot more leftovers than we can eat.

On a more positive note, a couple days after Thanksgiving my grandma had me take a few slices of pecan pie to my dad because it wasn't getting eaten at her house. Dishing it up I got to thinking how good pecan pie sounded, and I wondered what it would be like to squish some pecans into my pumpkin pie. I tried it when I got home and OH MY GOSH, it is SO GOOD!!! My brother also loved it. He's trying to watch what he eats and working out more to get into firefighter shape (he's at the local volunteer fire department and will be graduating in May, same day as me, with his degree in fire sciences), so the fact that this pie is supposed to have less calories in the whole pie than your average slice of pumpkin pie meant he and I have been enjoying it relatively guilt-free, and nuts are healthy so why not? Pecan-pumpkin pie is easily right up there with cornbread and brownie oatmeal as one of my favorite food discoveries since I started this whole thing :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Wonders of Cornbread

On Saturday I had planned to make cornbread to go with leftover chicken. It was also laundry day, and Kirby offered to make the cornbread while I sorted the laundry and started the first load. It was nice to not have to cook for a change :) Anyways, we were using a recipe I had found that doesn't call for flour, just lots of cornmeal. As I can't have wheat and have to rotate my other grains, I like the idea of as few grains in a recipe as possible, to give me more options for the next 3 days. We had to swap the sugar for stevia, but otherwise it was a Rexxie-friendly recipe :)

All I can say is holy cow, it was AMAZING! Kirby had potatoes and mushrooms as well, as it was part of the leftover chicken recipe, but as I can only have potatoes once a week I didn't, I just had extra cornbread. And by extra, I mean I may have gone slightly overboard... We finished that cornbread in a matter of 24 hours, and I easily had 2/3 of it. I think it had a bit to do with the fact that it was the first real bread I had eaten in over a month, and I just couldn't get enough! I mean, I got a loaf of paleo bread, made from coconut flour instead of grains, because it was the only bread we could find that I can have. I'm really not a fan of it though; it's so dense I feel like I need tons of water to wash it down, and even then I get that feeling like it all got stuck partway down my esophagus. And it has a flavor that just really doesn't go quite right with pbj (with unsweetened jelly of course), tuna salad, or eggs. Though I did have the idea yesterday to sprinkle it with cinnamon and stevia, cut it into pieces, bake it, and use it as a cereal (which would be the first cereal I'd have since I discovered last month that I can't do wheat; Shredded Wheat was the only cereal I had found that I could have). As it's so dense, I feel like soaking it in milk (nut milk that is) would do it some good. It's at least worth a try. I've also had some gluten-free pancakes now and then, but they don't even compare to the thick, crumbly amazingness of the corn bread.

I hadn't realized how much I've missed bread until I started eating the cornbread. So I have decided to try and discover a good bread recipe, and just make my own bread for sandwiches and stuff. Even more ideal would be to find 2 bread recipes using different grains but that still taste good, so I can have a sandwich every other day :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

My First Month Intolerance-Free (Warning: absurdly long post as I felt the need to introduce everything)

So I've been debating for awhile whether or not to go ahead and blog about my whole experience getting used to cutting out the foods I'm intolerant to. On the one hand, I know I find it helpful to read about other people going through similar things, and what they have discovered that does and doesn't work for them. So I like the idea that if someone out there is going through something similar, that maybe this could help them. Also I want a way to keep family and friends informed who are either also dealing with intolerances or just want to hear about how I'm getting on figuring it all out, without being that person who is constantly posting Facebook statuses related to food... I've done a few of them but usually restrain myself because I know most people don't care. But this way those who do care can read away, and those who aren't interested aren't bothered with it cluttering up their news feed. This second reason is why I decided to go ahead and start this blog, even though I really don't feel like I have time to post as often as I would like.

Anyways, this week officially marks the start of my second month without eating foods I'm intolerant to, so it seemed like a good time to start, and look back on my first month. I've learned a lot in that time and things have gotten much easier. And I feel so much better as well! To go back to the start, I took the ELISA food allergy/intolerance test because I was suffering from a relatively wide range of symptoms that could be caused by food issues (eczema, digestive issues, stomach pain, poor immune system, poor circulation, fatigue, headaches, runny nose, etc.). The test came back positive for several items (see top of page), and implied that, as I had expected, I was suffering from leaky gut syndrome(basically my intestines have tiny holes in them that are letting partially digested food particles and bacteria into my blood stream, which naturally my body attacks, causing food intolerances).  My doctor had me cut out all level II and up foods and start taking L-glutamine to help heal my gut, as well as a few other supplements.

For the most part this wasn't too bad. I don't really like coffee, I've always been more of a tea drinker. I've probably had lobster 2 or 3 times ever, crab once every year or two, and scallops once or twice a year, usually because someone else in my family wanted them (they're okay but never what I crave when I'm wanting seafood). So I am perfectly happy with those being the only seafood items I have to cut out (aside from shrimp, but that's short-term). If it weren't for cheese I'd be okay with the dairy free thing, I like coconut milk and nut milks. The hardest things for me to cut out are blueberries, almonds, and cheese, I do miss them. But I can have every other nut, other berries (except cranberries, which I also miss though didn't used to have as often), and vegan cheese is okay...not the same, but better than nothing. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, the sugar and yeast thing is hard only in the sense that it's in freaking everything! So I've been doing a lot of my own cooking (as in pretty much every meal I've had in the last month haha).

In addition to cutting out foods, I have to rotate all grains and proteins on a 4-day rotation so I don't develop new intolerances. This was the hardest thing to get used to (and the day I realized different kinds of rice, beans, etc. count as different items to rotate was a great day, because you can't always have rice with the same kind of protein...). It's one thing to suddenly have to cut out several food items and most processed foods, but to then have to take your now limited food selection and divide it by 4 so you can rotate your days, that was tough. It's gotten easier though; it was mostly just a matter of adjusting. I discovered Pepperplate, a website/phone app that involves a meal planner/calendar and where you can upload recipes manually or copy them from other sites to have your own recipe database, so when you look at the planner the items you entered in will have links to the recipe. This way you don't have to worry about finding the recipe in cookbooks/pinterest/wherever, it's just all right there. It made a HUGE difference in helping me with the rotation diet, partly because I could keep track of what I was eating and know when I could eat things again, and partly because saving lots of recipes to it helped me no longer feel like I only had a small handful of meal options to choose from (which is how my first week or two went).

The other nice thing about the rotation diet is it helps you discover foods you have issues with that the test missed or didn't test for. For me I tested level I on wheat, which is low enough that I wasn't told to cut it out, but apparently my body doesn't like it anyways, as I got a stomachache every time had it since I cut my intolerance foods out. That's the thing, before you cut things out all your symptoms run together, and it's hard to notice what could be causing it. Also, your body reacts a little more violently when you have something bad once you start cutting things out. It's like before your body was just trying to scrape through, and symptoms were very regular but bearable, but once you cut it out your body gets the chance to start healing, and it likes it, and if you have something bad it's like "Whoa there, what the heck!". Still, having no symptoms at all 99% of the time and bad symptoms 1% of the time is better than having medium-to-bad symptoms nearly all the time.

Most of my recipes are new to me, and tweaked for my food issues. For whatever reason it took me nearly 3 weeks to realize that for recipes that don't involve meat anyways, such as baked goods, it's easier to google "vegan ___" than try to get the search to understand that you're looking for recipes that are FREE FROM dairy, eggs, and whatever else (since I try to use my egg days on eating actual eggs, as opposed to wasting them in recipes where you don't taste them anyways). I've also discovered it's usually easier to do your own conversions to what you know you can have than to try and find a recipe that actually works for you entirely (which is another think I love about Pepperplate, I can manually edit the recipes to fit my restrictions instead of having to look up things such as sugar to stevia conversions every time I make stuff). I'm sure for many people these things seem like common sense, but when you're just getting used to all this it's a little overwhelming and you're focusing on so much that sometimes the obvious stuff escapes you for awhile.

My doctor said once 3 weeks had passed I could start reintroducing level II items, eating one 3 times in a day and then nothing new (including that food) for the next 4 days. That way I can tell if I am safe to start having it again (it can take up to 4 days for a reaction). I can't reintroduce sugar, yeast, or mushrooms yet though, as those feed bad bacteria and hinder the healing of my gut, and that's obviously priority for now. Anyways, my first reintroduced item was oats, as I had been missing steel cut oats, and as it would be very useful to have another breakfast food option to rotate through. I had it with berries for breakfast, grated pear for lunch, and after a light dinner, I made it with unsweetened cocoa powder, stevia, chopped walnuts, and some nut milk as a dessert. It was AMAZING! Basically brownie in a porridge form, which was really nice as I'd been craving brownies. And since it's whole grain oats, nuts, and cocoa sweetened with stevia instead of sugar, it's actually pretty healthy, so I've decided I can totally justify having it for breakfast on my oat days (as 4 days came and went and I had no reaction at all!). Next week I'll be reintroducing shrimp, hopefully that goes well too!

There are other recipes I've discovered I can make that are really good, and that always excites me. For example, I was really craving tuna casserole in my first week, before I realised I can't have wheat either. It's one of my favorite recipes my dad always made as I grew up, so it's very much a comfort food. Also, it means I'm a bit particular on my tuna casserole, people who bake it or add celery, it's just not right to me! But that's how some foods you grow up on go... so the challenge was to try and make tuna casserole without dairy or mushrooms, which of course is what cream of mushroom soup is. I decided to try it anyways though. For the sauce I used thick coconut milk mixed with minced garlic and onion, salt, and some herbs and spices. And then of course I mixed it into my noodles. It was actually really good, though it didn't taste much like tuna casserole; oddly enough, the sauce tasted like clam chowder, which I was fine with because I like clam chowder haha. I had my boyfriend (let's call him Kirby on here) try it the next day and didn't mention the clam chowder taste and he said the same thing, so it wasn't just me! And he doesn't even like tuna casserole much, but he liked this, so it was a great discovery! Unfortunately I've since discovered I can't do wheat, but I can do this with either rice noodles or just pour the sauce over quinoa or rice :)

Kirby is actually really great about this overall. He's supportive even though he doesn't fully understand it, and he's fine with eating my foods (which I hadn't expected). When I first made breaded chicken I used bread crumbs for him and made my own from Trader Joe's Quinoa & Black Bean Tortilla Chips (which I would highly recommend by the way, and is also excellent on pork chops, and I don't even like pork chops but they were amazing!). It wasn't hard to dip his chicken in a different kind of crumbs, and as I'm intolerant, not allergic, I was able to put both chicken breasts in the same baking pan. I had him try mine though, and he said it was really good and he totally doesn't mind me doing them the same in the future. He said he doesn't want me to worry about cooking things separate for him, he can eat what I eat. I really appreciate that he feels that way, as it makes things so much easier! But for certain foods I'll still make them separate. For example, it's easy enough to make enchiladas it 2 small trays instead of 1 big one, and that way I can use real cheese for him, which not only tastes better and melts better, but is also much cheaper. Free-from foods tend to cost more, so if it's not much more work I don't mind making some things separate. But it's also nice that most days I don't have to!

Anyways, I'm not going to go over every little food I've discovered that turned out well in the last month, as I've already written half a novel. But I felt like I needed a somewhat thorough intro to this page, so there you go. Future posts will be much shorter, don't worry :)