Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What I Can Eat...

Okay, after focusing for all those words on what has been taken away from my plate, I really need to write the other side of it! It is chilly and breezy, and raining steadily outside, so sitting and writing seems especially appealing right now!

I can eat:

Some nuts: macadamia, cashew, pistachio, hazelnut
Beans: garbanzo, black, kidney, anasazi, navy, butter
Raw Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, chia, poppy
Veggies: green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, yam, bell peppers, squash, pumpkin,  potatoes, carrots, celery
Meats: beef, pork, chicken, fish
Fruits: blueberries, strawberries, honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, lemon, lime

That is a fairly short list, but it does leave me with many options.

For example, one of my main snack foods is homemade hummus. I can't have the garlic or sesame tahini in prepared hummus, so I make my own. I use garbanzo beans, some black beans for flavor, olive oil, lemon juice, a bit of lime juice, and sea salt. It is nutrient dense, a good source of protein, high in fiber, tasty, and easy. I eat it with corn chips (definitely not low-glycemic, but I think the protein balances that out) or with yam sticks (like carrot sticks, but cut from a yam. I don't tire of them nearly as fast as I do carrot sticks!)

I sometimes make a quick little bean salad with a can of butter beans, some olive oil and fresh lemon juice, salt, and some dried herb...like oregano, thyme, or Italian seasoning.

There's a quick soup I discovered, which has saved me from "starvation" or from eating what I shouldn't a number of times. When I've been out being busy and walk in really hungry, this is a good option. I use a can of butter beans, a can of pureed butternut squash (pumpkin would also work), dried onion bits, curry powder, cumin powder and salt. I stir that together and start heating it in a pan, then add about a cup of coconut milk. Without the coconut milk, it is rather nasty. The coconut milk brings it all together into creamy goodness.

Our family has eaten a lot of soup in the last year!

Potato Soup: I found a recipe for Irish potato soup that calls for no milk at all. Diced bacon-sauteed, dried onion bits, dried thyme, potatoes, salt and water. To make it creamy, I can puree raw cashews with water and add a bit of that to the soup.  (I have read that soaking the raw cashews overnight makes for a smoother puree)

Bean with Greens and Ham Soup: Cubed ham steak, dried onion bits, dried thyme, cans of several kinds of beans (kidney, black, butter), sugar-free garlic-free chicken stock, water, sea salt. Toward the end I add greens- Swiss chard and green kale, cut into small pieces.

Anasazi Bean & Green soup: I have found dried Anasazi beans and really like the flavor. I make a soup that is basically like the one above, but with no ham, and I start the night before with the dry Anasazi beans.

Red Lentil soup: diced carrots, olive or coconut oil, dried onion bits, dried thyme, red lentils, sugar-free garlic-free chicken stock, water, a splash of lemon juice. *I read that adding the salt too soon with legumes keeps them from getting soft. Wait till they're already fully cooked before adding salt. *I also read that if you bring your liquid to a boil before adding the lentils or beans, they'll be less gassy. I sometimes add small bits of kale to this soup. If the family is in a meaty mood, I'll saute bits of ring sausage that they can add, or cook up breakfast sausage links and cut them into bites, and stir them into the soup. The ring sausage has things I can't eat, but we found a breakfast link sausage that works for me.

Brown Lentil soup: basically the same as the red lentil, but it takes twice as long to cook.

Castle B: This is one of our family puns. I researched the French soup Cassoulet, and took its basic elements to make a soup of my own. The French original takes like two days and has things like duck sausage in it. Our is bites of chicken, white beans (I usually used Cannelinni), carrots, dried onion bits, dried thyme, maybe some dried parsley, chicken stock, a splash of white wine, and water. My husband would call it Castle B as a pun on Cassoulet (which sounds like Castle A), and the name stuck. If I'm tired of eating meat, I make a chicken free version and call it Castle Bean. :)

We have found that the Tinkyada brand Brown Rice pastas (spaghetti, fettucine, elbows) work well for us. I make pesto (can't have the garlic or Parmesan in prepared pesto) to put on it, or we have it with canned or smoked salmon. I make spaghetti sauce for the family, and just discovered a tomato-free alternative that I can make for myself (I wrote about this sauce a couple of blogs ago). Another pasta option is sauteed chicken bites, with thyme and broccoli. I add cashew cream so it feels kind of like my old favorite Chicken Broccoli Fettucine Alfredo. For lunch I'll sometimes cook up some brown rice pasta and have it with steamed broccoli and chia seeds.

We also eat my husband's delicious hamburgers (I skip the bun), grilled chicken (he always makes some for me that fits my needs), grilled pork chops, and steak.

With so many varied food needs, and people eating at many different times, we all just make our own breakfasts now. My breakfast usually consists of: brown rice cooked with coconut oil, raw walnuts, raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds, raw chia seeds, and unsweetened vanilla hempmilk. It's supercharged with nutrients and I feel all virtuous and healthy when I eat it.

This isn't every single thing that I eat, but covers a lot of it. And it's always good to remind myself that despite the limits of my food world, there is still plenty of good stuff for me to enjoy.

What I Can't Eat...

People often ask me about the limits of my food world, so thought I'd write about it on here. My whole health journey is quite a saga, so I'll not dive into that right now, but just explain how I figured out the food part.

The "Can't" part of my diet came about in several ways. First, back when our 1st son, who is now nineteen, was a year old, I figured out that dairy gives me severe congestion. I had a bad bronchial cough that had gone on for over two months. I stopped drinking milk and eating dairy, and the cough went away! When I have any dairy, I get sinus/throat congestion. Certain kinds (ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese) have a worse effect than others. The last time I ate a bowl of ice cream, I got 'allergic' bronchitis that lasted for two weeks. I dabble in dairy here and there, but avoid it in general.

Next, around the time I was pregnant with our youngest, who is now thirteen, I noticed that some foods, like chocolate and garlic, did dire things to my digestion. Garlic was fairly easy for me to give up, but I continue to struggle with the chocolate issue. As I've continued to dabble, I've learned that dark chocolate has a much more severe impact on me than milk chocolate does. Several well-meaning people have tried to convince me that I'm not reacting to the chocolate itself, but to the dairy in it. I can say, conclusively, that this isn't the case. Dairy gives me congestion. Chocolate does some rather serious things to my stomach and digestive tract. I gave their advice a try, and ate completely dairy-free, completely organic chocolate, and the results were just the same. It really is the chocolate in chocolate that bothers me.  I also noticed that tomato sauce seems to have a bad effect on my stomach, so I started avoiding that as well.

About a year and a half ago, prompted by other aspects of my health saga, I went to a naturopath. He ran a blood test called an Allergy Panel, and the results were surprising and helpful. I had been so frustrated. I would say to my husband, "I just want to eat and not feel sick!" I was eating a diet high in whole grains and vegetables, making egg-white vegetable scrambles for breakfast, eating raw almonds for snacks, and using soymilk and tofu as standard parts of our diet...but no matter what, after every meal I felt sick. The Allergy Panel shed light on this issue. The biggest reaction I got was from eggs, along with almonds and soy. Ah. Eggs. Almonds. Soy. Well, that covered about half my diet right there! No wonder every meal made me feel sick! I also got a moderate reaction on wheat, wheat gluten, and every wheat-like grain. Sugar also showed some reaction. And some random things, like cranberries, peanuts, pecans, asparagus and mushrooms. Since I absolutely cannot stand mushrooms, I was fine with that!

Curiously, the things I'd already figured out- the dairy, chocolate, garlic and tomato sauce- did not show a reaction on the test. So, while I found the results profoundly helpful, I don't think it's the answer to everything. It did give me information that I had not managed to figure out on my own. This test shows whether the response is immediate or delayed, and every single response I had was delayed. Because my whole system was inflamed and reactive, I showed some slight reaction to every single food on the list. The hope is that once my body recovers from its various problems, the inflammation with go away, and I will be less reactive.

Also, as part of the journey, my naturopath found that I'm insulin resistant. I think his method was absolutely brilliant. He drew a 'fasting' blood sample, then sent me out for pancakes! Instead of drinking a cup of glucose liquid, I got to eat the kind of breakfast I will probably never eat again! My sweet husband drove me around the city till we found a Shari's restaurant. I had pancakes with fruit topping and syrup, and hashbrowns, and a large glass of orange juice. There might have even been a cinnamon roll, but I don't remember for sure. By the time we got back for my second blood-draw, the sugar effect had hit me. I was extremely sleepy, could hardly sit up straight, and was staring to slur when I talked. It was like I had been drugged! My glucose levels rose, but my insulin level went through the roof. I'm so glad he had me do the test that way. It really showed me what the typical American sweet breakfast will do to me!

I had gotten all enthused about all the gluten-free options out there, and was making muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc left and right. Then I remembered the refined carbs thing. All of the gluten-free mixes I was using were made with extremely refined starches (white rice flour, tapioca starch). Now when I bake/cook gluten-free, I try for more complete ingredients, such as brown rice flour. I've also found that some gluten-free flours also bother me, especially sorghum. In the interest of limiting our overall intake of starches and sweets, I now only make a traditional breakfast (gluten-free egg-free blueberry muffins, or gluten-free egg-free dairy-free waffles with agave syrup- with breakfast meat to give us protein) about once a week.

As far as I know, there is not one commercially available salad dressing that I can really eat. Ranch was my lifelong favorite, but it's out now (dairy and garlic). I can do just plain oil and vinegar, but this is bland and not that appealing to me, and sometimes vinegar bothers me. I've experimented some, with an orange-balsamic dressing, and a berry-poppyseed vinaigrette. They were pretty good, but again the problem with vinegar. Also, sometimes lettuce seems to bother me. I am having a hard time getting enough vegetables in my diet, between the results of my allergy test, the things that just bother me, and the low-glycemic issue!


 So, I think that's about all of it. There are other foods of which I'm careful, having gotten a mild hit from them on the allergy panel (cabbage family), or because they're high on the glycemic index (potatoes, corn). With so many things on the 'can't' list, it is very hard to eat completely within my limits. I find it easiest and best to just cook all my meals myself. Almost nothing that is commercially prepared works for me. For example, almost everything out there has garlic in it! When eating out, I take the "What is the least damaging to me?" approach to food decisions. Almost nothing out there actually fits my limits: dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, oat-free, rye-free, barley-free, garlic-free, tomato-free, sorghum-free, low-glycemic, peanut-free, pecan-free, soy-free, almond-free.

Okay, it always depresses me to a certain degree to really think about how comprehensive my "You Can't Have It" list really is. It is time to think of something positive! I will now post this and write one about what I can have!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Everything-Free Spaghetti Sauce experiment

I have a problem with spaghetti sauce. I love it, but it does not love me. First I learned that garlic is not my friend. Then I realized that tomatoes and tomato sauce do not agree with me. But I really miss spaghetti, so I've made it from time to time and just suffered the consequences. Last night, I tried an alternative, based on something my dad tried years ago.

My dad and my middle sister are both inventive cooks. They like to take a basic food concept and tinker with it. For example, my sister took the idea of dishes like sweet-and-sour chicken, where you have fruit and meat with the sauce, and adapted it. She did sweet-and-sour lamb with strawberries; same idea, but different ingredients. And it turned out really well. Our dad does the same kind of thing with food concepts. Years ago, when I was probably in high school, Dad experimented with spaghetti sauce. It is based on a vegetable puree (tomato sauce) so he wondered how it would work to use a different vegetable. I remember that he made a sauce based on pureed cooked carrots. I'm so glad I remebered that!

**Last night, I wanted to make spaghetti for the family, but I'm a little tired of the price I pay for eating the tomato sauce. I made a regular meat sauce for them, cooking the ground beef (the healthy kind, from our local meat shop), then adding seasonings. Before I added the tomato sauce to the meat, I took out a bit of meat for my experiment. I cooked some diced carrots- just boiled them in water. Then I put the carrots in the blender with some of their cooking water, and blended it till I had a nice puree. I put the carrot puree back in the pan with the meat I'd saved out for myself, and heated it together for just a few minutes. I put my carrot sauce over my brown-rice (gluten-free) spaghetti, and had green beans on the side. It was a little different, but by the time I was finished eating I really liked it! And no consequences to suffer!

I think that if I simmered the sauce longer after adding the seasoned meat, and maybe also seasoned the carrots while they cooked beforehand, the flavor would be richer. I'm dairy free, so I don't know how well Parmesan cheese would go with this. Sometimes I sautee sliced black olives briefly (just till they're warm), in olive oil and Italian seasoning, as an addition to spaghetti. I think that would make a nice boost to my carrot-sauce flavor also. The flavor of the green beans went well with my experimental sauce. I imagine broccoli would, too.

I'm so happy to have found a workable alternative to put on pasta!

Currently Reading: about ADHD

"The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child"  by Thom Hartmann...This is a very interesting book. So much to process and absorb. I'm a little over halfway through, and have found it fascinating. I love the idea of seeing ADD/ADHD not as a disorder, but as a skill set that is right for specific situations and unsuited to others. I've been very interested in reading the thoughts on contributing factors to this type of brain function- genetic switches that get flipped, the effect of a stressful environment on the developing child-brain, dietary/nutritional factors, mineral deficiencies...all very intriguing. I'm reading a copy from our local library, but I think I may need to buy a copy so I can reread it and really absorb what it's saying. So far: good book!