Sunday, June 30, 2013

Elimination Diet for dealing with and discovering allergies

My allergist has placed me on an elimination diet in which we have eliminated all known allergens, and actually since I seem to be reacting to so many different things, even things I'm not allergic to, we have eliminated all but the things I react to. At first that left me with rice and pork. Currently I'm eating Rice, Pork, Beef, (once or twice a month max and only from places the cows were treated humanely up till becoming steaks)  salt, sugar, olive oil, and water. We're trying a new food in there every once in a while. This week I'm trying peaches. I'm not so sure how that's going. My body isn't very happy in general right now, even if I don't eat peaches. There was a fire nearby and the smoke brought allergens with it, plus it's a time of year where there are a lot of plants which I'm allergic to drying out and blowing around in the heat. It's not a good time to be in this body.

My allergist called it Oral Allergy Syndrome if memory serves. I'm on 3 types of antihystamine drugs. I've jokingly called it foodie hell because basically anything in the air cross reacts to a bunch of different foods. We have eliminated all those foods from my diet.

On the up note, I have been getting creative with those few ingredients left to me. And the rare occasions when we add other flavors are even more delicious and notable than they would have seemed previously. A peach is a wonderful thing even if I have to cook the heck out of it to safely try it. This week I am trying peaches but haven't been sure if they're causing my allergies to get worse or not. So there will be some days when I'll just do rice and pork, and other days where I'll include peaches this week, and I'll compare the reactions and decide if it's worth it. The allergist is also doing blood tests. You can follow  my health progress on where I occasionally post a health update. BACK to the food!

Here are some recipes we have concocted that I have really enjoyed. Hopefully you will too:

Sweetened Louisiana Pork Ribs:

1 rack Louisiana Style Pork Ribs
2 teaspoons Salt (separated)
1/4 cup Water
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

Remove membrane from back of ribs if it hasn't already been done at the store
Rub 1 teaspoon salt over ribs
Place pork ribs and 1/4 cup water in the crock pot on low for 8-10 hours (while you're at work perhaps)
Remove ribs and rub with 1 teaspoon salt and 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Place in broiler for 10-20 minutes allowing brown sugar and salt to create a nice coating

Allow to rest so sugar can cool and because meat is always best after it rests a bit.

I enjoyed this with a nice long grain rice medley (various types of rice cooked together, nice light nutty flavor)

And for desert see the recipe I posted over on Bare Simplicity
Brown Sugar and Olive Oil Cookies.
I wanted a slightly chewy cookie, and this is what I came up with

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup over Whole Wheat Pasta
We found about 2 pounds of organic asparagus on sale recently and I had no idea what to do with it until a friend posted the link to Raw Asparagus Soup:

Unfortunately (or perhaps I should say fortunately) the original recipe has dill which I don't like, and lemon which I'm allergic to, so I decided to alter the recipe a bit. Also, I did not have raw cashews around, but I did have raw almonds. You can make this in a blender other than blendtec, but it may be thicker. The first time I made asparagus soup it came out more the texture of a green smoothie but the taste of a savory soup. I served it over   whole wheat pasta so that the pasta and almonds made a complete protein, and it was pretty good. It was good enough that we finished it even tho the texture was a bit odd. I wanted to try making it again, but this time get the texture right, and cook it because I prefer warm soups, so here is the recipe I ended up with:

Ingredients For My Version of Asparagus Soup
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Pasta
1 pound Asparagus Spears
Juice and rind from 1 orange
1/2 cup soaked almonds
1/2 cup almond milk
2 cups filtered water
3 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Place 1 cup of almonds in 1 cup of water and allow to soak for at least 2 hours, preferably over night. I chose to soak all my raw almonds and made the rest into almond milk. I will write a blog about that experience some other time.  Soaking them overnight had better results for the soup as well. It is amazing how much water they soaked up!.

Pick tender tops off of asparagus spears and place in a small bowl.  I placed them in a dip bowl. Squeeze the juice of one orange over the asparagus tips and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. While they are marinating, cut the woody part of the asparagus stems off. Tip: Hold each end of spear and bend until lower part snaps off. Cut the tops in half and place in blender with 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup soaked almonds, and 2 cups filtered water. Blend on high until soupy.

Slice onion and 3 cloves garlic, cook on medium in 1 tablespoon of olive oil with 1 teaspoon parsley flakes, 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and the grated rind of 1 orange.

When onion becomes slightly browned, add to blender. Remove asparagus tips from the juice of 1 orange placing aside, and add juice to blender. Blend and then place in a soup pan and cook on simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over whole wheat pasta with marinated asparagus tips on top. I added the whole wheat pasta because I am working on getting complete proteins into my meat free meals and I believe the combination of whole wheat and almonds creates a complete protein. I will run the various combos I came up with by my dietitian at our next appointment to clarify.

The 2nd bowl of soup came out much more the texture I was looking for, and was very tasty! I saved the leftovers for Patch to try and will have some for lunch tomorrow. The original bowl of "soup" came out looking a bit like green glop. It was tasty, but an odd smoothie like texture. I am glad I tried again! Let me know if you try my version of the asparagus soup recipe and how you like it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Another Complete Protein

This little power house vegan meal I whipped up was yummilicious! Yummy and nutriticious that is if my dietitian is to be believed! Learning about complete proteins is new to me, so I have just been getting the hang of it. According to my dietitian, quinoa is a complete protein on it's own, and brown rice is a complete protein when combined with seeds, so this meal has 2 complete protein sources in it, no meat, no dairy, and is tasty to boot.

Here is the recipe. In one meal I ate it with a seeded roma tomato mixed in, but the tomato's texture was not to my liking so the next time I had it without  and enjoyed the nutty flavor even more.

1/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup quinoa
1 onion chopped into small bits
3 cloves of garlic chopped into fine pieces (minced)
1 teaspoon olive oil (or your favorite oil)

cook 1/4 cup brown rice and 1/4 cup quinoa in 1 cup water like you normally would cook rice. while it's cooking, chop 1 onion into small pieces, and chop 3 cloves of garlic finely. Cook onion and garlic in 1 teaspoon of olive oil (or your preferred oil) until they are see through. When rice is ready, stir in onion, garlic, and 1/8 cup sunflower seeds, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice bell pepper and use to scoop up the rice mixture and enjoy!

I suspect this would be good with other vegetables mixed in. I ate it with a green smoothie on the side to get a good mix of nutrients into my day, and was quite satisfied.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Complete Proteins

BBQ Veggie Pita Pizza
First Mondays of the month I participate in a  phone call with a dietitian paid for by my insurance. I would prefer in person nutrition classes and the like, but this is what my insurance pays for. It's a bit like having a life coach for health. At the end of each call she asks me to set goals. I said I should keep the same goals since I was not satisfied with my follow through from last month. But then I realized, I also want to focus on making sure that I am eating enough complete proteins. Since I am no longer eating beef and I have greatly reduced my cheese intake, she was concerned that I make sure I am getting enough protein. I think I have been, but it's possible that some of my recent fatigue and negative emotions have been related.

We discussed what a complete protein is. Many people have told me that I need to make sure I am getting enough protein, or complete proteins if I am reducing and/or removing meat and cheese from my dietary habits, but one friend explained it as such:

"Any combination of 2 or more of these food groups makes a complete protein:
seeds &  nuts
beans & legumes
whole grains
eggs & dairy"

My dietician basically confirmed, and added that of course it is easier to get complete protein by eating meat, eggs or dairy, but if I'm going to focus on vegetative matter to get my protein, the above list minus the eggs and dairy is right. She also mentioned that the only complete protein found yet in a non meat or dairy food is quinoa. Complete proteins apparently have to do with amino acid chains or some such. I tried to look it up on as she suggested but haven't found it yet. Still, complete proteins are not impossible or even that hard to attain without meat or dairy, so I can still continue my quest to see how I do on less meat (no beef) and at least 50% less cheese (which I think is much more than 50% less at this point) For example in today's breakfast I had both the protein that was available from the veggies and almond butter. I'm not sure if that's technically a complete protein, but it's definitely healthier than one or the other. If I had put the peanut butter on some whole wheat toast it would have met the dietitians requirements. It also would have doubled my carb intake for the day, so I chose to forgo the bread. Not sure if that was the best decision or not protein wise, but it was good for my blood sugar. I'll run things like that by the dietitian next time. I did however make sure to get complete proteins in my lunch by having both whole wheat in the pita, and cheese on it. Plus I had good fiber, added extra veggies, and if I had made the cheese vegan by making it out of nuts it would have been non dairy but still complete proteins.

 Update on cheese changes. I have been asking myself the question "Do I really need or want cheese with/on whatever I am eating?" as I planned, and that has greatly reduced my cheese intake. Plus, when I do eat cheese, I am starting to eat 1/2 as much. For example on today's pita pizza, I decided that since I do not have any vegan cheese around right now, I did indeed want cheese on my pizza. BUT I used 1/8 cup shredded cheese instead of 1/4 cup. Also, I added salad greens to my pita pizza for some added herbal flavor, and I really enjoyed it that way! The full recipe is below.

 BBQ Veggie Pita Pizza
1/3 Red Bell Pepper (I ate the rest on the side raw which was delicious)
 1/2 heritage tomato
 1 roasted serrano chili pepper
 1 cup of salad greens (I used a basil arugula mix)
1 tablespoon bbq tomato sauce (home made)
1 whole wheat pita

Cut roasted chili pepper into small bits and mix into bbq sauce spreading evenly over pita chop 1/3 bell pepper and 1/2 tomato into bite sized chunks and spread around pita. Sprinkle 1 cup of salad greens over all the rest sprinkle 1/8 cup shredded cheese of your choice on top cook at 250 for 10 minutes (for crispy crust cook the pita for 10 minutes before adding toppings)

Later I may combine chickpeas and sesame seeds to make a complete protein and eat a snack of veggies and hummus. And for dinner I will have quinoa with roasted veggies and a side salad. For desert I am asking Patch to bring home bananas which I can try eating since apparently bananas are only a mild food intolerance and not a complete allergy as I had thought. I have a recipe I have been wanting to try out for chocolate banana brownies. Meat Free Monday should be a success!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Health Update

It's been a while since I blogged about my health or food. Sorry about that! I know I'm pretty inconsistent about when I blog here. But I had a really good appointment at my Endocrinologist last week, and wanted to share here about what changes I've made and the results.

Changes to my diet:
I have quit eating beef, been eating at least 5 green smoothies a week, and am still enjoying Meat Free Mondays almost every week (sometimes I forget it's Monday and then I do meat free Tuesday or what have you) Some weeks  I eat meat free several days a week, and when doing so I try to remember to eat whole protein sources. The dietary changes I have made have sometimes been sudden, such as quitting eating all the foods that came up on allergy and intolerance blood tests, and some have been more gradual such as reducing meat fat from my diet, and learning about healthy ways to eat more vegetables. Eating fruit has never been a problem for me. I love fruit, and if anything, I have to be careful not to eat too much fruit. I keep a close eye on my blood sugar when trying new things. I quit eating beef almost 2 weeks ago. So far, so good. Sometimes I have almost slipped up because I was not thinking about it and a burger seemed easy and sounded delicious, but then I remembered that beef is on my  list of things not to eat at all for at least one month. I had previously reduced beef to only being eaten every once in a while if I'm out at a restaurant, so remembering not to order beef when out is my new challenge. This week I started asking myself before eating cheese, do I really want this right now or is there a healthier replacement I could eat instead. Especially when I reach for an apple and cheese which I was eating every day for a while. Now I often eat an apple and peanut butter instead. Increased intake of cinnamon and sunflower seeds at the recommendation of a Natural medicine doc.

Changes medically:
I am no longer taking Lopid as it did not seem to be working. I also no longer take Glyburide as it lowered my blood sugar dangerously and was not helping anything. All with my Endocrinologists support. I am however taking Simvastatin (or something like that) and for a while had me on a 2nd cholesterol med as well but recently took me off that. I still take Metformin for my diabetes. He says it has also been shown to prevent some kinds of cancer, and since I have lumps on my thyroid, it's not good to lower those doses. I have been trying to do yoga every other day and cardio the other days, with Sundays off. I've started not working on orders on Sundays and only making orders 5 days a week, also. This means that on Sundays I still make something creative, but it's more enjoyable. I'm trying to figure out the best schedule for my health mentally, emotionally and physically. Time will tell, but full time work is still too much for me, that much is clear.

A1C is down to 5.6
Fasting Blood Glucose is usually 90 to 110 these days tho sometimes creeps up to 118 if I haven't chosen a proper "healthy snack" before bed
Cholesterol was so much better my doctor practically did a dance of joy and he took me off one of my cholesterol medicines to see what happens. I am hoping since I have been eating so well it will still be good.
Down from 245 to 229 since my last appointment
Down from a size 54 to 42 pants
Down from a 3x to 2x and sometimes 1x shirt

People have asked me why I am changing what I eat, "is it for health reasons or conscience reasons?" Really it is for both. Primarily, it is for health which has been my long time answer, but I am also very aware of the toll we take on the world around us, and believe that "every drop raises the ocean" or in other words, every baby step counts. So I have some reasons of conscience as well.  For example, by not eating beef and choosing to eat meat which comes from reputable sources, I am taking less of a toll on the world around me. I also am increasing the amount of attention I give to what I put into my body, and to me, this is an important part of improving my health and mind. Beef has been known to increase inflammatory response, and my body has a lot of problems related to inflammation, so I decided to try eating no beef for a month or two and see how my body feels. I suspect I will keep it up, or maybe I will only eat beef when it is a special cut of meat from a healthy, well treated animal or something. We will see. If I see health benefits, it will be worth changing for sure.

I have been watching the 2nd Forks Over Knives movie which is a bunch of interviews of experts which are about the health reasons to go meat free and which did not make it into the original Forks Over Knives movie, and it helped me solidify my decision to quit drinking milk and also reduce my cheese and yogurt intake. I watched the first movie some time ago, and have been gradually moving towards a diet free of meats and dairy since, but for me it is a slow change, not overnight. The second movie also made it clear that only 10% of my diet needs to be protein all of which can be found in plant sources which was a relief since I have been trying to figure out how much is enough. I highly recommend the movie, and their website has some delicious looking recipes I am looking forward to trying as well:

I am really happy with the results of my choices so far. I will continue eating meat at this point, but may switch to being on only fish, fruits and vegetables in the not too distant future. Time will tell.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Green Smoothies are Not All Green in Color

I have found it harder to find things for breakfast that feel satisfying, healthy and are delicious until now. I noticed some of my Instagram friends were doing a 30 day green smoothie challenge by Simple Green Smoothies. In the past I have been frustrated that so many smoothies contain bananas and  afraid of the fruits in them spiking my blood sugar. So I spoke with a couple of nutritionists, and decided to test it out safely by testing my blood sugar before and after various types of smoothies (not all in the same day obviously)

In order to try it out and be safe, I decided to have one green smoothy every day for a week. I looked up various recipes, and tweaked them so that I did not have any allergens or too much sugar in them by my estimation, then set to it. I took my blood sugar before and 2 hours after each smoothie. Sometimes I also took my blood sugar 1/2 an hour after to see if there was any immediate spike and drop effect going on, because I was surprised at having 94's at the 2 hour mark, but I never did catch my blood sugar any higher in the middle then it was at the end. This is a good thing! Over all, my blood sugar has dropped since I started green smoothies. And my body seems to be able to tolerate sugar better, so that occasionally I can have a sweet dessert that someone serves. In part that is because I make sure to eat protein before I go out where they may be serving sweet desserts, and in part that is because of the increased greens in my diet, I'm sure. I do not recommend you do this without consulting a registered dietician and nutritionist if you have any health problems, because every one's body is different. But I am very happy with my results, and it has inspired me to get more creative! Most Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables in a day, so one added green smoothie a day would help most people regardless. But you do have to count the calories and carbs and make sure you get protein like you would with anything else. Again, consult a registered dietician. (I found some who were willing to barter or trade, which worked out great)

My previous blender is toast. It did not last. It was a nice gift, but the darn thing broke. So a neighbor gave me her old blender when she got a blend tec (some day...over the rainbow) and anyway, I have pushed this little old blender to it's limits, but it is still cranking along! But my next blender will be a Blend Tec because not only do I want to continue eating my green smoothies every day, but I also want to make my own flour, nut butter, and the like.

- You can bag and freeze your ingredients before hand. I do this when my fruits and veggies are on their last les and if I don't freeze them they'll go bad. That way they do not go bad, but I do have quick and easy smoothy ingredients on hand.
- Blend your greens in your liquid until it is juice like and there are no more chunks (about 30 seconds to a minute depending if you've pre frozen your greens
- If using the rind or skin of something like sweet potato, add it after the lettuce and before frozen fruit, till mixture shows no lumps.
- Sweet potato needs to be cooked and cooled before adding to smoothies

Here are some of my favorite green smoothies, and no, not all of them will be green:

Simple Green Smoothie (vibrant green, not shown)
1 Cup Baby Arugula
1 Cup Dark Leafy Romaine
1 cup water (or almond milk)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (in the smoothie)
1/2 apple
1/2 cup honeydew (frozen)
1 cup of ice

Green Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (shown at left of page)
1 cup dark leafy romaine
.5 cup steamed and cooled spinach
2 cup coconut milk (or flax milk, or whatever dairy substitute you desire)
1 cup of pumpkin puree (this is why it's great to cook up those jack o lanterns before they go bad and can them for later)
1 cup frozen honeydew (for sweetness)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon)
cinnamon on top

Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothies:
This can be any nut or seed butter of course and any type of "jelly" fruits. So this is a great one to explore with and get creative!
1.5 cup red leaf kale (remove stems and clean well)
2 cup unsweetened almond milk (substitute as necessary for allergies)
2 Tablespoons nut butter
1 cup frozen berries (actually I only used 1/2 a cup of berries and it was fine but most people use more)
imagination for the next time so you can create your own PB & J Smoothie sensation
(makes 2 servings)
1 tablespoon chia seeds (if you're using blackberries you don't even notice chia seeds because they have a similar consistancy when blended)

Some fun protein sources to put on top: chopped nuts, hemp hearts, and the like. Get creative and let me know what you come up with!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cheese - can you go without?

OK my Vegan friends, what is your favorite "cheese" or do you just go without? I have a LOVE of aged cheddar and Gouda cheese. You may have noticed that I often put cheese on meals as well. It is one of the the things (other than my meat eating partners) that make it hardest to avoid animal food products.  I'm fine replacing milk with coconut milk, almond milk, and the like, but I can't seem to find a cheese substitute (oh and I can't have soy)

Yes, I love cheese. Even on days that I go completely meat free, I often have cheese (please don't shoot me) and I have tried various vegan substitutes and none really taste right to me. I enjoyed the pumpkin chili with cashew "cheese" sauce at Aside of Heart, but it did not taste like "cheese" sauce at all to me, just cashew sauce on pumpkin chili. Which was delicious and fine with me... but not going to get me to quit having snacks with aged cheddar, and a piece of fruit. (Yes, guilty, my favorite mid day snack is an apple with a hunk of cheddar)

I was reading this blog that a Milo posted on FB: and it made me wonder, did I give up too early? Are there vegan cheese substitutes I could healthily add to my food plan now and then and further cut back on the animal fat products in my life?  If I could, maybe a fine cheese could become something I have on the rare occasion much like a fine wine.