Choco Love

In the latest update in my allergy saga, the nutritionist has now informed me that I am very allergic to corn and pretty allergic to wheat and dairy.  I’m not however, allergic to gluten which has opened up a few doors in the food world because now I can eat spelt, barley etc.

Even though my nutritionist said these non-wheat grains would be okay, I’m still a bit wary, so I’ve tried to limit them in my diet.   Also, because I’m not supposed to be eating lots of starchy carbohydrates anyways, I’m still banning the thought of baked goods from entering my mind.

Instead for dessert, I found a recipe for chocolate mousse made from Silk tofu; unsweetened chocolate; agave nectar, honey and/or maple syrup; and coconut or soymilk.  This recipe is great because there are lots of different options in terms of sweeteners, milk substitutes and coco (you could use coco powder if you prefer) so it works around many different allergies/dietary needs.  Try it chilled and topped with slivered almonds or coconut shreds.

Here’s the recipe:

1 box Mori Nu Silk tofu (It’s in a box in the Asian food aisle.  Also, get the soft kind not firm.)

½ bar 100% cacao baking bars

2 tbs agave nectar or honey

½ tbs melted butter

1-2 tbs coconut or soymilk

2 tbs maple syrup

Pinch salt

1 tsp almond or vanilla extract

1. Put the tofu in a pan with about ¼ inch of boiling water, put the lid on and let steam for about 7 minutes

2. When the tofu is almost done, melt chocolate with milk, butter and honey in a saucepan just until creamy

3.  Strain tofu and put in food processor

4.  Add chocolate mixture, then add almond/vanilla extract, salt and syrup

5.  Blend mixture in food processor and serve warm or chilled

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Cold weather means meatloaf

I’m not usually a meatloaf person–it’s too dense, too meaty and frankly too “butch” for me.  However as the weather gets colder and colder, I’m looking for any excuse I can to turn on the oven and warm up our kitchen a bit.  With a new diet that focuses on more meat I have also come to the realization that I’m going to have to come at meat with more of an open mind.  Turkey Sage Meatloaf with Cranberry Mustard Glaze, a recipe my mother, Boulder’s self-proclaimed Vegetable Queen, gave me, then seemed like the ticket a few nights ago as I looked out the window to clouded skies and the threat of snow.  This was also a perfect way to use up the half-empty jar of plum-cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving.  I used hamburger for the recipe instead of turkey (I was a little tired of poultry) and loved the mellow frutier flavor that the plum-cranberry sauce added to the top of the meatloaf.  Next time, I think I’m actually going to make more sauce.

I was a little burnt out on being in the kitchen after I finished the meatloaf so I just sauteed some chard, garlic and red peppers as a side dish for the meatloaf.  With chard, I’ve learned that you can saute the stems as well.  Just cut them off, wash them and throw them in the pan with the peppers to cook for a few minutes before adding the chard leaves.

Here’s the meatloaf recipe:

2 medium eggs

1/2 medium onion

2 tsp. rubbed (not ground) sage

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats

1/8 to 1/4 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1 lb. ground turkey (both white and dark meat) or lean hamburger

1/2 cup canned whole cranberry sauce

2 tbs. stone ground or grainy mustard

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a large (5″ x 8″) loaf pan with olive oil.

2.  Crack eggs into pan and beat lightly with a large fork.  Add diced onion, sage, oats, salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Break turkey or hamburger into small pieces, add to egg mixture and knead everything together with your hands.

3. Spread mixture across pan in an even thickness, then create a small trough at either end of loaf where excess grease can drain.

4.  Place on top rack of preheated oven and bake 30 to 45 minutes (I would start checking it at 25 or 30 minutes–I think I overcooked my loaf a bit)

5.  While meatloaf cooks, combine cranberry sauce, mustard and cardamom in a small mixing bowl and whisk together with a fork.  About 10 to 15 minutes before meatloaf is done baking, spread about half of sauce over the top of meatloaf, then continue baking as directed above.

6. Serve cooked meatloaf with remaining cranberry sauce on the side.

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Track change

After almost three months of putting myself through the dieting wringer, and not really seeing much improvement, I decided to seek the opinion of yet another doctor.  After seeing a very traditional western-medicine oriented MD and two nutritionists, I went to more of a holistic practitioner to see if she could crack my complicated health case.   JoHannah Reilly, is an ND and a licensed acupuncturist and takes a very dynamic approach to health.  In our three hour appointment she studied my hands, my feet, my tongue, my personality, my habits, my health history and my genealogy.  After an allergy test that seemed too easy to actually work, (she put different allergens on my stomach as I was lying down and measured the the ability of outstretched arm to withstand downward pressure to determine which foods my body reacted to), JoHannah concluded that I was allergic to corn, and possibly wheat and dairy.

I have lived with allergies for so long that I was hardly surprised at this first diagnosis.  What did surprise me was her second conclusion: I didn’t have candida.  Wait….what!?!?!?!?!  JoHannah said that my rash may have started out as Candida-related but she was pretty sure it was now related to something else, probably corn.  The diagnosis was interesting because in my dieting adventure I had also cut out all carbs (corn, rice, potatoes, squash, beans) in the hopes that this would completely kill the yeast.  This should have meant that my rash would be improving, but it hadn’t.  What did convince me though, was one experience about a week ago.  It was one night that I was completely starving after a meal of a salad and ate a few corn chips at a restaurant.  The day after I saw a visible worsening of the rash.  It seemed like the strongest connection I have found between food and skin, so I’ve decided to go with it.

JoHannah didn’t stop with corn though.  She also said that I need to heal my digestive system by eating only cooked foods (raw foods are hard to digest and introduce cooling energy into the body which, apparently I don’t need) and no soy.  I also need to continue with a diet very low in carbs and high in veggies and protein, especially animal protein and eggs.  Any sort of sugary food, refined carb and even large quantities of fruit are not in my near future because they spike my energy too much, making me vulnerable to frequent energy crashes.  The diet she recommends is one based on my body type–thyroid.  The basis and basic guidelines for much of JoHannah’s advice can be found in the book Dr. Abravanel’s Body Type Diet and Lifetime Nutrition Plan.

Walking out of her office, I felt like I had much more direction in my health plan than I’ve had in a long time.  The fact that I have been following a Candida diet without actually having Candida is a bit frustrating.  But honestly, this experience has made me (and continues to make me) realize the unnecessary amount of sugar, bread and pasta that my diet was based upon.  I have to get used to a diet based more on vegetables and healthy proteins and give up my go-to snacking options like granola bars, corn chips and soy yogurt.  I have already felt my energy level become more level and balanced and haven’t experienced that bloated, heavy feeling after eating too many carbs in a long time.

I’ll continue to keep blogging about recipes that fit with my diet (and, almost always, the candida diet as well) because sometimes it seems like creative ideas within such dietary restrictions are hard to come up with (tomorrow I’m making meatloaf with a side of sauteed chard, onions and garlic). I would also recommend seeing a holistic practitioner who can usually give a better analysis and better advice for long term health issues.  It is worth the time and the cost to know with certainty the best foods and lifestyle for your body.

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Food on the go

Along this Candida journey, I have come to realize that keeping up with the diet is pretty time consuming.  I feel like I’ve doubled the amount of time I spend in the kitchen as I  wash, dice, steam, roast or sautee every vegetable I can get my hands on.  While Candida is not really conducive to grabbing something as you head out the door, here are a few  quick snacks that I’ve come up with.

1.  Avocado and red pepper wrapped in turkey slices (make sure to get natural turkey that doesn’t contain any preservatives)

2. Plain, unsweetened yogurt  with almonds/nuts and an optional few drops of stevia liquid

3.  Hot chocolate made with coconut milk, 100% cocoa powder and stevia

4.  Artichoke and roasted red pepper bruschetta (made without cheese of course) spread on flax seed crackers

5.  Dark chocolate with grated coconut and almonds

6.  Celery with almond butter

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Candida-free and even vegan

Our kitchen table is essentially a junk collector.  Mail, magazines, coupons, newspapers, boxes, clothes, dishes–the poor table collects it all.  Amazingly, buried under the useless papers were two gems–Eating Well and Delicious Living–that somehow found their way into our dining room.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been pouring over their pages as I eat my eggs and oatmeal in the morning and found two recipes that look like they are wheat/dairy/processed food free AND they’re vegan.  So here we go: recipes that I can almost guarantee everyone within the allergy and special diet spectrum can enjoy.

The first recipe comes from Delicious Living.   I did intern for the magazine this past summer, but from my most objective standpoint, the magazine produces some great recipes that are very adaptive to different diets.  The following recipe came from a collection of gluten and dairy-free recipes featured in October’s issue titled “No gluten, no dairy, no problem.”

Here’s the recipe.  Click here to see it on Delicious Living’s website.

3  6-inch corn tortillas

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 small yellow onion

3 cups fresh or frozen and thawed corn kernels

2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 small red bell pepper, diced

1 small avocado, diced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Stack tortillas and cut into 1/4 inch strips.  In a medium bowl, toss together with 1 tablespoon olive oil and cumin.  Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.  Bake, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

2.  While tortillas are cooking, in a medium pot, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook onion over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.  Add corn kernels and 2 cups of broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until corn is just done.  Using a blender, food processor, or hand-held immersion blender, puree about half of the soup, in batches, until smooth.  Add up to 1/2 cup of remaining broth to achieve desired consistency.  Stir in bell pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, until just crisp-tender.

3. To serve, divide tortilla strips, avocado, and cilantro between four serving bowls, layering on bottom.  Ladle soup over ingredients; serve hot.

The soup turned out great, but I think next time I would cook the tortilla strips less because they were a bit too crispy after the 12 minutes that I left them in the oven.  I’m also a big fan of the fresh tortillas so I also might try not even toasting the tortillas at all (this would also save the hassle and energy of turning on the oven, which could be a plus).   Frozen corn worked absolutely fine for me, making the recipe go a lot faster.  Roasted red peppers instead of fresh could also be a fun substitution to try for more flavor, while lots of cilantro and some fresh lime juice finished off the soup nicely.

Since we were turning on the oven this time, I decided to go with a side dish of  Chili-Roasted Carrots to keep with our latin/tex-mex theme.  I found this recipe in the pages of Eating Well, another great magazine with a wide variety of very easy and understandable recipes.   For us sweet-deprived dieters, roasting vegetables is a way to add a nice caramelized crunch to our meals and also enjoy the warm crispiness of food coming right out of the oven.  Eating Well just published an easy guide to roastable veggies and the times it takes them to cook–a pretty useful tool.

Here’s the carrot recipe:

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 pounds carrots (10-12 medium), cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

 

1. Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450 degrees.

2.  Combine oil, chili powder, cumin and salt in a medium bowl.  Add carrots and toss well to coat.  Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast the carrots, stirring once, until tender and golden, 20-25 minutes.

3.  Toss the carrots with cilantro and lime juice.  Serve immediately.

The steps were simple, but somehow my friend still got them mixed up, putting the cilantro and lime juice on before we roasted the carrots instead of after.  Thankfully, the recipe is so simple that nothing drastic happened to the final product.  The result was an unexpected crispiness on the outside of the carrots, unfortunately at the expense of the fresh cilantro flavor which we remedied by adding a bit more fresh cilantro on top.  I also forgot to put the timer on the carrots but just tasting them often after about 20 minutes it was easy to tell when they were done.

On a note about roasting, I have also been trying my hand at roasting frozen whole chickens in order to get more protein into my life and also reap the benefits of the chicken juices flavoring the roasting vegetables underneath.  Unfortunately, I’m having difficulty getting the breast and thigh meat to cook evenly because these chickens are so lean (they are some of the few that were actually raised in an outside environment where they got to run around and search for their own food).  I’ve tried cutting the breast out of the raw chicken and sauteing it, while roasting the dark meat left on the bird.  This worked pretty well, except I didn’t realize all of the chicken juices were pooling up in the rib cage until a bit too late.  The meat got a little bit overcooked as I turned the chicken over and waited for the juices to turn clear.  I am also going to try basting and keep up a search for a dutch oven so that I can try covering the chicken, hopefully keeping it moister.  I’ll post updates about the chicken saga as I continue to try new strategies.

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Baking inside the Candida box

I received some kind of depressing news a few days ago.  Last weekend, a best friend’s visit, my roommate’s birthday and CU actually winning a football game culminated in a weekend full of crazy, unexpected festivities.  Somewhere along the way though, I conveniently forgot/stopped caring that alcohol was very much on my list of Candida diet no-no’s.  Well, I figured that since my rash has been improving so much that a few drinks wouldn’t kill me…right?

Not so much.  I found myself on Sunday night with more redness and itchiness on my legs than I had experienced in a couple of weeks.  My stomach started to sink as I realized that my weekend of fun had come at a price.   After talking to my mom and reviewing the information I received from the doctor and nutritionist, the fact was staring me in the face: I would have to renew my dieting efforts and medication efforts with full force, no slacking or slipping.  After two weeks of improvement my world was again looking pretty dismal.

Well once again, my mother came to my rescue and saved me from what I was most dreading: another two weeks at least without warm, soft baked goods and the supreme joy and comfort that they bring to my life.  In this recipe for pumpkin biscuits, she took a basic biscuit recipe and substituted a mix of cornmeal, tapioca flour, potato starch and quick oatmeal for the wheat flour.  Because these flours don’t have gluten, they are acceptable in small amounts on most Candida diets because they aren’t as quickly converted into sugars by the body.   She also used soymilk and stevia instead of buttermilk and sugar for me.

Watching the steam sneak out as I broke open one of the biscuits fresh out of the oven was what I would call a perfect food moment.  The combination of flours instead of wheat made the biscuits a bit more crumbly but also gave them a much more complex flavor.  They had more substance and weren’t as “doughey” as those made with regular flour.

The biscuits did take awhile to make, but they were well worth it.  It was a treat in itself to find myself baking within the  walls of what sometimes feels like a very small culinary box with the Candida diet.

The recipe for wheat-free pumkin biscuits Here’s the recipe, copied from my mom’s handwritten recipe cards.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Biscuits

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

5/8 cup sorghum flour

5/8 cup oat flour

3 tablespoons each of: cornmeal, tapioca flour, potato starch, quick oatmeal

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoons stevia powder

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder (to make up for the lack of buttermilk)

2.Stir above ingredients together in a medium sized bowl

1/2 cup mashed pumpkin (from a baked pumpkin or from a can)

1/2 cup soy milk or unsweetened almond milk

2 tablespoons canola oil

3. Combine wet ingredients in a separate medium bowl

1/4 cup cold or freezing butter, cut into pieces

4. Cut butter into flour mixture until mealy

5.  Make wells in flour mixture and then pour in milk mixture.  Mix quickly and lightly with a fork.  Form into nine patties, place in a greased 8×8 baking pan.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown, break open with a fork to test for doneness.

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Richard’s Red Peppers

A view of Longs Peak through the corn stocks on the Stevens' farm

A view of Longs Peak through the corn stocks on the Stevens' farm

A few days ago, Colorado was blessed with one of those perfectly gorgeous autumn days.  The trees and fields around Boulder were a brilliant shade of gold under the cloudless blue sky and the sun’s rays seemed to cast a shimmery light over everything.

Coincidentally, my mom (the farmer’s market queen–remember?) had arranged with one of her favorite farmers to go out to his farm that day to get some end-of-season produce before he sold out.  I decided to tag along for fun–“You have to meet these people,” my mom told me.

Richard Stevens and his wife Betty are one of the gems of the Boulder County Farmers’ Market.   Both in their late 70’s (78 I’m guessing), the couple singlehandedly run their acre farm.  They grow everything from raspberries to squash to red peppers on that little plot of land, and somehow earn enough money to live a simple, yet comfortable life.  Unfortunately after more than 30 years of farming, old age has taken its toll on both of them and this fall will be their last season selling at the farmers market.

Richard Stevens on his farm

Richard Stevens on his farm

Driving down the dirt road toward the Stevens’ farm was like going into a wonderland.  We passed under huge cottonwoods that filtered golden light down onto us and arrived just as the sun was starting its slow drop down the sky, lengthening shadows and serving as a poignant reminder that we were nearing the last harvest of the season.

Richard and Betty were, of course, out working in the dirt when we arrived, picking out the last leaves of chard.  Pushing a wheelbarrow in front of him, Richard came over and greeted us as we pulled in and showed us downstairs where he kept his treasures: fiery red sweet peppers, creamy beige butternut squash and the last pickings of his famously perfect-tasting tomatoes.

After gathering our spoils, my mom and I lingered awhile longer, talking to Richard and Betty and taking some photos of their beautiful farm.  It turns out that Richard doesn’t believe in the whole organic farming movement–too many rules and silly regulations.  Instead, Richard says that he follows a biodynamic style of farming.  While true biodynamic cultivation includes farming processes guided by the moon cycle and crazy herbal concoctions, Richard calls his style of farming biodynamic (for more information about biodynamic click here)  in the sense that he uses only products from the land to make his crops healthy.   While he can only advertise that his produce is “naturally grown,” its easy to see that his farm is actually leaps and bounds beyond even “organic.”

Driving away, it felt like we were leaving a different world, one that had been skipped by the hustle and bustle and modernization of the 21st century.

The next night, as I looked back at the pictures from the day before, all I could think about was how to make a meal that would pay homage to Richard’s gorgeous red peppers.  My mom suggested stuffed red peppers–a cozy meal now that the weather is turning cooler.  Looking at various recipes, one on WholeFoods.com sounded particularly delicious and (with minor modifications) diet appropriate.  The curry filling for the peppers sounded like it would complement my the sweetness of my red bells perfectly.

Richard's gorgeous bell peppers

Richard's gorgeous bell peppers

Blanching the peppers was a good idea, but anyone pressed for time could probably skip this step and just have some crunchier peppers.  We used apple chicken sausage because I couldn’t find turkey sausage, which, I know is a small slip in the diet but turned out to add a kick of sweetness to the curry.   We also added some cumin powder which paired nicely with the curry and skipped the currants.   Unsweetened almond milk was perfect to make the sauce, something that I have never done on stuffed peppers but will absolutely do again because it made the pepper filling really nice and moist. The only addition I may make next time is to add some rice to the filling to give it a bit more substance–it would also make the recipe stretch farther if you just added a touch more of the spices.

Eating the peppers as leftovers on the second day was also a treat.  Richard’s peppers are long and narrow, kind of like chilies so after they had chilled in the fridge overnight, I could pick up the stuffed pepper with my hands.  It was a curried chicken sausage and pepper burrito…brilliant.

Our finished product

Our finished product

Here’s the recipe from Whole Foods

4 large bell peppers (any color), tops removed, peppers cored and seeded
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound ground turkey or mild or spicy turkey sausage, casings removed
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium zucchini, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup dried currants
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup plain rice, soy, or almond milk
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups cooked millet or quinoa, hot
1 lemon, cut into wedges (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add peppers and cook for 3 minutes. Drain peppers and run under cold water until completely cool; set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add turkey or turkey sausage and garlic and cook, breaking up turkey with a wooden spoon, until evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini, cilantro, currants and lemon juice. Cover and simmer over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove skillet from heat & set aside.

Arrange peppers in a shallow baking dish, hollow-side up, so that they are touching. Using a slotted spoon, divide turkey mixture between peppers, using all of the stuffing and reserving liquid remaining in skillet. Bring reserved liquid in skillet to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, then whisk in rice, soy, or almond milk, curry powder, salt and pepper. Simmer, whisking constantly, until curry powder has completely dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon sauce evenly over each stuffed pepper. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until peppers are tender.

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