two months from today

two months from today I will be marrying my sweetheart. Could life be any grander?

“The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.”
-Rumi

 

[note: this is note my dress (that one will be a surprise, of course). but it’s beautiful, nevertheless]

Cashew Chili with Jalapeño Corn Bread

I admitted over coffee the other morning that this adjustment period has been somewhat depressing. Being someone who sniffs out stinky cheeses and salivates over a crunchy baguette, trying to adopt a diet that is gluten, dairy, and egg free is sort of maddening. I realize I’m being ridiculous; First of all, some of these things can make a reappearance one day (I hope) and more importantly, I am incredibly fortunate to be as healthy as I am and also to have the resources to accommodate this new way of eating.  Also important to note is the fact that I feel really really good. It’s pretty amazing what a medicine food can be.

The warmer  weather brings inspiration that lacks at the tail-end of the winter months. I find myself reserving all sorts of cook books and then methodically working my way through and marking my favorites with ripped pieces of scrap-paper. I am counting down the days until the first of spring produce shows itself at the weekly farmer’s market in our neighborhood. Till then, we stick with our freezer stockpile.

This cashew chili is gluten free, vegan, and insanely delicious. It’s a tweaked version of the chili I wrote about years ago, with the spices adjusted and updated ratios. It is one of my favorite dishes in my arsenal. The jalapeno corn bread is a vegan and gluten-free newbie to our house. While not as moist as I would like, it’s perfect for dipping and the jalapeno peppers are just right to round everything out.

I love doubling the chili and keeping it in the cooking receptacle for easy dispensing for lunch and dinner during the week.

Cashew Chili
Serves 6
Ingredients:
2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. celery, diced
5 c. peppers (combination of red, green and yellow), roughly chopped
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/3 c. cashews
2 c. kidney beans
3 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. water (optional)

Heat olive oil over medium heat and add garlic and let cook, being careful not to let it burn. Add celery, peppers and spices and toss to coat in oil. Add tomatoes and cashews, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer then cover halfway. Let simmer for 15 minutes then add kidney beans and water if you wish to thin it out a bit. Cook for 5-10 minutes more or until cashews are soft. Adjust seasonings as necessary and enjoy!

Vegan and Gluten-Free Corn Muffins 
Slightly adapted from Food Republic
Note: The biggest change I made was using buckwheat flour instead of regular. If you go this route, know that the color ends up much more brown than yellow.
Serves 12

Ingredients
1 c. almond milk
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 c. buckwheat flour
1 c.  cornmeal
2 T  sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. coconut oil, melted ( + more to grease tins)
2 T. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. corn kernels
1 jalapeño pepper sliced and de-seeded as you wish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease muffin tins with coconut oil and drop jalapeño slices on the bottom.
Measure out the milk and add the apple cider vinegar to it, then set aside to curdle.
Mix together buckwheat flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix  milk, oil and pumpkin. Add to the dry ingredients and combine, being careful not to over-mix. Fold in the corn kernels.
Fill each muffin tin most of the way with batter. Bake for about 20 minutes or until done.
Remove from oven and let cool.

 

Try both and report back. Lastly, there are a lot of really amazing things happening lately that I must recognize here: 1: My best friend is having a BABY in 2 weeks!!!! 2: I am getting MARRIED in just about 2 months! 3: Our cousins are having a BABY in 2.5 Months! Happiness abounds! And exclamation points! 

x

Surviving (and Thriving on) an Elimination Diet: Part 2


This is the part that you really don’t want to mess up and that is really easy to do. As a bit of background, after three weeks of living dairy, soy, peanut, egg and gluten-free, you introduce each back to your diet, one by one. For each food item the goal is to incorporate it into two meals a day for two days. Then, you wait and see the results.

This was challenging for me for several reasons. First of all, it’s difficult to find a food that is purely that food and nothing else. Second, you want food items that are particularly rich in the allergen being tested, so thought needs to go into that as well. Third, reacting to the food is awful, plain and simple; It’s emotional, uncomfortable, and confusing. Not only that, it prolongs this phase as you have to wait a day to get your system back on track/at baseline. Fourth, it’s hard to figure out if it’s that specific food you’re reacting to and not something else.

As far as foods for testing purposes went, here’s what we used:

Dairy:
Milk
Feta Cheese (includes a higher concentration of the protein we’re testing for)
Yogurt

Soy:
Tofu

Gluten:
Baguette
Pasta

Peanuts and Eggs: Self Explanatory

Monitoring reactions requires a lot of knowledge of your body and it was quite difficult for me. You’re not only looking for digestive symptoms, but emotional and other physical symptoms as well. An allergy is typically more than just digestive symptoms; that is typically an intolerance.  The book we used outlined possible reactions to look for, so that helped.

Challenges:

Reacting to everything. And then some.

Tracking the responses was difficult. I would recommend writing it down (I didn’t) or at the very least discussing it with a friend or spouse.

Typically our social outings revolve around food, so this was hard. Whether going out to dinner or heading to a friend’s for a meal, it is next to impossible to know what is in everything.

Results:
I found that I had the most severe reaction to gluten and moderate reactions to eggs and dairy and corn (not originally included but later realized). Since then I’ve found myself over-analyzing each and protesting well, maybe it could have been X that caused Y…not the gluten! It’s tough and emotional, but my god how lucky am I to be healthy overall?

This “diet” made me feel better than I have felt in a very long time…perhaps ever? This was wonderful and terrible at the same time; wonderful because I felt amazing, terrible because I anything I ate that included what I’ll call unnaturally occurring oils or preservatives or something otherwise heavily processed prompted painful reactions.

What Now?
Now I heal my gut. I am adopting a diet free of the aforementioned foods until further notice, and several different supplements to support the cause. 

I’ve been searching for new blogs and paging through my cookbooks to find new inspiration instead of mourning over the foods I can’t have for now. It takes a little effort, but it also opens a whole new community of resources and ideas that I never knew existed.

My best friend tells me to see the positive in the situation; I am a skilled cook who can likely help other people who are struggling to accommodate the same needs through recipes and my blog. I like that. And I hope so too.

Something to Note:
To cover my bum, I must tell you that in no way am I a professional whose advice should be followed. That’s what doctors are for. I am just sharing my story in hopes that it might help others, meanwhile helping me get through it.

Part I

Surviving (and Thriving on) an Elimination Diet: Part 1

Lentil tacos with tomato radish salsa.

Source

As I type this we are on the last two days of our elimination “diet”. Today and tomorrow we re-introduce soy and wait for reactions. I’ve had my dinner planned for weeks: fried tofu spring rolls and a hunk of chocolate (indeed contains soy) for dessert.

You see, I have a bad gut. A very bad gut, as I’ve had awful, sometimes debilitating responses to meals (especially those out) since I can remember. As a kid, I just knew to expect it. As I got older, I played it “safe” with salads and basic foods that I thought wouldn’t have an effect on me. Many often still did. It wasn’t until recently when we he discovered that these responses could very well be immune responses that were compromising my system as a whole, that we decided to do something about it.

So, the elimination diet. An Elimination Diet consists of 2 parts: Part 1 includes three weeks of cutting the most common major allergens out (in our case, we tested gluten, dairy, eggs, peanut butter and soy) and Part 2 is when you reintroduce the foods, one by one, for 2 meals per day for 2 days, and note any symptoms you have (if any). If there is a reaction, you go back to the “elimination” phase for a day or two to reset. Truthfully, Part 1 in far easier than Part 2.

Part 1

For 2 days I was ravenously hungry and about to give up. Honestly, if you can get your spouse or even family on board while you do this it will be that much easier. You need support. That may sound a bit dramatic, but it is true. Especially if you have strong reactions to the foods later.

The big question is well what the hell do I eat then?  I won’t lie, finding meals that are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free is a tall order. But after a couple of days we found ourselves thriving on this new regime.

Here are a few ideas to get you started. If your current diet is much different than this, it’s essential that you really plan out and shop for what you are going to eat. Do not let yourself be hungry. That’s what handfuls of pecans are for.

Breakfast This was the hardest one for me as for years I’ve had oatmeal for breakfast and oatmeal has gluten. I’m still working on more options.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes: mashed sweet potato topped with coconut oil, frozen cherries (defrosted), pecans, and a little bit of honey.
Rice “Pudding”- white rice mixed with almond milk, a bit of cinnamon, raisins, and your nut of choice (cashews are divine)
Quinoa Hot Cereal- Quinoa mixed with coconut oil, cinnamon, vanilla, and a variety of dried fruits and almonds
Banana Pancakes- These are the best! A weekend meal to be sure, but a wonderful treat for your hard work. I used buckwheat flour.

Lunch Lunch is typically an extension of dinner the night before (i.e.: leftovers). Armed with lots of vegetables and a box of lettuce, we’re able to create the following each day as well.
Huge Salad- Filled container of greens followed by a starch (potatoes or rice most commonly), a protein (salmon, chicken, beef), fruits and vegetables (varied) and FAT (essential- olive oil and lots of nuts).

Dinner
 This was easier for us as we’d been eating meals that mostly complied to begin with. The one thing we found with this program is we relied a lot more on meat than we’d like.  These are the most common meals
Fried Rice- The lone vegetarian option, we made this according to this recipe, omitting eggs, butter, and soy sauce.
Meatballs over Rice- Actually ground meat with spices molded into balls and simmered in tomatoes, but who wants to know?
Roasted Chicken- I use the Zuni recipe, with a couple of modifications that I’ll communicate at a later date. It’s divine, and we use the carcass for stock and giblets for crazy good gravy.
Rice Noodle Soup- Using the stock from the chicken, I add cooked rice noodles, lots of vegetables, and top with some kimchi and cilantro.
Duck Fat Potatoes-My favorite thing on Earth served with everything at anytime (red or yellow potatoes sliced into half moons and roasted in a heated dish with a scoop of duck fat on the bottom. Rosemary takes it to another level)
Fajitas- 
Corn tortillas, meat of choice, pico de gallo, avocado, lime…the best.
Baked Salmon- Drizzled with olive oil, topped with salt and pepper and popped in a 400F oven until done.

Snacks  Ah, snacks. My days are long so these are essential. I’ve relied way to heavily on fruit and nuts, but I’m trying!
Trail Mix
Banana Sundae-Banana sliced in half lengthwise, topped with almond butter, raisins and honey
Carrots with Olive Oil- Sliced carrots coated in olive oil and topped with salt
Hummus- Homemade by simply blending beans, garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon together.

Next up, how to navigate the “re-introduction” phase.

For the curious, here is the book we read and followed for  the most part.

the minimalist’s guide to valentine’s day

Source

Valentine’s Day is quite possibly my favorite day of the year. I love the excuse (though who needs one really?) to indulge in a glass of bubbly and spoil my sweetie with steak frites and a flourless chocolate torte.

The gift-giving, though, gets a little out of hand. While you know I adore flowers and aforementioned chocolate, there is a better gift to be had: Tell your partner, your best friend, or anyone you care about why you love them so muchThere you have it! The most frugal, minimalist advice for making this day the most indulgent yet. Whether it be scribbling on a piece of paper, selecting a  poem that does the work for you, or just a few words that typically go unsaid, the message will be the same: I love you and here’s why.

Last month we selected an officiant for our little ceremony this Spring. From our first exchange (and his countless positive reviews) I knew  he was it. After a few exchanges about our vision for the day and his approach, he gave us a simple assignment: I want each of you to write down three words that describe the otherThree words?! My first response was to treat it like a academic assignment wherein I had something to prove: creativity, wit, intelligence…But wait a minute, what the hell was I doing? This is my love, my reflection on a few words that could sum up the indescribable person I am marrying. Not a reflection on what I think our relationship is supposed to be.

So we took a little while (2 weeks actually) to come up with these words. At first I wondered if they were meant to keep secret, to reveal at the ceremony… But we decided to share and you know what? This little exercise was a perfect platform to stop, breathe and express our appreciation for one another and how we see the other, during a time that is far too hurried.

Challenge yourself to give the gift of love and transparency during these harsh Winter months. I’ll speak for myself in saying that’s the only gift I want from anyone anyway.

xx