I put the coffee in my cereal bowl.
Then I spent awhile wondering why I didn’t have coffee.
I put the coffee in my cereal bowl.
Then I spent awhile wondering why I didn’t have coffee.
I confess. I occasionally get irked at friends who are trying out new diets. “Shred 10 is great!” one recently gushed. “I love it and I’ve done it several times!” “Nah, Ketogenic is the way to go,” someone else insisted.
For them, diets are pulled on enthusiastically and then discarded quickly, like summer camp t-shirts. They try to get me to come along to camp, and don’t understand why I don’t get on board, start singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and pull on a sparkly t-shirt too. But for me, well, diet is less summer camp and more a career in the Navy SEALS. Reading ingredient labels is life.
So I politely decline to join them on the trendy new diet. I secretly hope that these sorts of voluntary restrictions don’t adversely affect people who really have to avoid certain foods. And then I smile, and I tell them where I go to shop… because friends are friends, and people should be able to chose what they eat without excessive judgement, and SEALS do occasionally help summer campers.
Victory came in the form of a golden brown oblong. Bread. Real bread.
Tests results and a trial elimination diet showed that gluten wasn’t my problem. However, milk and eggs provoked all kinds of symptoms. I was told that food intolerances could wax and wane. I also found out that dairy and uncoooked egg whites could be triggers for histamine release. We decided it would be best for me to avoid dairy and eggs for several more months. The only bread I could find quickly while I was at school was Energ-G’s line of allergy-friendly breads. Tapioca bread quickly became a favorite, especially toasted with almond butter.
Problem: on vacation, there wasn’t any Ener-G bread in any of the grocery stores in my rather more country hometown.
In flew my mom in a super-hero apron cape dusted with flour. She whipped up a batch of French bread without eggs or milk.
The recipe below calls for 1 tablespoon of butter. But you can substitute in a safe oil/ fat. We did one a version with olive oil and double the whole wheat. It was a little denser and more chewy than your typical French bread, but very tasty. It bakes at a high temp and we also tried a version with all the butter, and thankfully it didn’t seem to trigger anything. This site has a lot of substitutions for baking that I’ve used before: https://delishably.com/dairy/Substitutes-for-Butter-in-Baking.
2 packages active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water (105°-115° F)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted*
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 egg white and 1 tablespoon cold water, for egg wash*
Instructions: Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixing bowl. Add salt, butter substitute, and flour. Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer, and mix/ knead on medium-low speed for about 3 minutes. Dough will be sticky.
Place dough in a greased bowl (olive oil or a non-dairy substitute like Earth-Balance is cool, just so it doesn’t stick). Turn to grease top. Cover. Let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, about 1 hour and/or until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll each half into a 12×15 inch rectangle. Roll dough tightly from longest side, tapering ends if you want. Place loaves on greased baking sheet that have been dusted with cornmeal (ditto greasing with a dairy substitute. I’m not allergic to corn but I imagine if it’s not a good idea for you but a slightly crunchy, gritty base is still desired, Cream of Rice cereal could work. We’ve run out of cornmeal and the bread came off the sheets just fine without anything but “butter.”)
Cover bread. Let rise in warm place with no drafts until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
With sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf.
Bake at 450° F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven. If doing egg wash – which we skipped – beat egg white and water together with form and brush over top of each loaf; bake for 5 minutes longer. Bread will make a nice hollow knocking sound when done.
Remove from baking sheets and cool on wire racks.
Should yield ~ 30 slices, give or take.
My vacation is a series of family celebrations strung together like colorful glass beads on a summer camp necklace. Each bead for me is both beautiful and breakable. You see, eating is a central element of most of my family’s celebrations, whether it is potlucks or dining out at restaurants or ad hoc affairs at breakfast around the worn kitchen table with close friends.
And I have food allergies and sensitivities.
Most of them are new. There are a lot of unknowns. Only 4 days before I left for vacation, I went into anaphylaxis for the first time. The day before I got on the plane I collected my first set of epi-pens — and I still don’t know what precisely triggered anaphylaxis the first time. In the past year and a half, food went from being a joyous, tasty celebration of life into a horrible, illness-inducing, possible cause of death. The upshot: I was going on vacation, armed with allergy pens, a hastily drawn up diet that my doctors hoped would work, and my wits. It wasn’t going to be a pretty battle.
I had my first food reaction only hours after getting off the plane.
I’ve learned a lot from the school of hard knocks and frantic research on a cell phone in the wee smas.
Happy vacationing, good luck, stay safe.
I’m working to become a better, more daring chef. On a graduate student budget, this can be a challenge. Throw in some food allergies, health problems, and an elimination diet (trying to help with the allergies) and my project to self-improve in the kitchen becomes the equivalent of a half-marathon mixed with a chemistry project and a decent amount of comedy theater.
I wanted to make tzatziki for a Greek food night. For the most part, Greek or Mediterranean food works all right with my food allergies and the elimination diet. Not always; I can’t do dairy at all, and I can only handle a small amount of citrus. I’m from a part of the world that has forests of orange trees, and I could never manage to eat an entire one without consequences. No matter. When orange trees bloom, I feel I can get drunk on citrus from the smell of those tiny white flowers alone.
So between being dairy-free and having to use limited lemon juice, tzatziki was going to be a challenge, to be sure. Never fear, the trustry replacer of all things dairy, coconut, was here! (This was slightly before, ever so slightly before, I found out I was allergic to coconut, too.) Vinegar can be a quick substitute for citrus juice, or so I’d heard.
I found two recipes and trialed them both. One used coconut cream. The other, unflavored, unsweetened coconut yogurt. Both recipes called for the traditional olive oil, dill, and garlic. I used some lemon juice and vinegar for the tartness. I don’t have a food processor. so I settled for as finely-diced on the cucumber as my patience would allow.
Here they both are, side by side – all seasoned up and ready to go. (Next to them is a tabbouleh that uses quinoa instead of the wheat bulgur, making it gluten-free and packed with protein.)
And here is the end result…(excuse the fuzziness, I was laughing too hard to keep it steady!)
The top is the coconut cream version. Try as I might, it was always extremely thick, a tad chunky, very coconut-y, and … utterly revolting. Hilariously bad, in fact! The directions called for chilling coconut milk and skimming the cream off the top to make the tzatziki. I had used coconut cream, so chilling only slightly had produce something apparently more the equivalent of coconut butter. Pound, mash, stir, blend — it didn’t matter, the resulting coconut butter never smoothed out into something even vaguely tzatziki-like.
The bottom version uses coconut yogurt and was very satisfying. The seasonings make the sweet notes of the coconut tame down a little, and I added red onion for a kick. I don’t have a food processor, so it’s always a thicker sauce, but no less marvelous of a combination for it. Letting it chill for a bit in the fridge helps the flavors blend and thickens the coconut yogurt some (it was a little more sauce-y than I was expecting; coconut yogurt is not quite as thick as Greek.)
Rice, hummus, tabbouleh, greek-ish honey lemon/vinegar chicken, and salad. And because I adore tzatsiki, it’s spread liberally over everything. 🙂
I called it “insta-food” on the shopping list. Those things that could be plunked in a microwave and nuked until they exploded, or boiled in a pot. Junk that could be made and devoured in something less than 20 minutes, to be honest. There are always those days when you just need something fast. One insta-food was spaghetti. Comforting, fragrant, hot, and mostly healthy, I could use canned sauce and noodles to make marinara quickly. If I threw in some veggies, I’d be feeling good about my skills in the kitchen because I had successfully washed and sliced mushrooms. 🙂 Add in some sausage that I’d thawed hurriedly under hot water in the sink, and maybe a package of salad, and I’d have something on the table that actually looked like a real meal. The elimination diet makes such insta-food harder… but not impossible!
First, noodles. This was the easiest problem to solve! I went with brown rice noodles from Meijer for the picture above, but I love spaghetti squash too. Other vegetables, like zucchini, can be spiraled into “noodles” as well. Brown rice noodles have about a 35 second window of tasty to gloop, despite what the packaging may promise. I’d recommend sampling often and pulling them off heat right when they’re almost but not quite to where you want them to be cooked. I covered the noodles in sea salt, garlic, and olive oil to keep them from sticking … and because it was oh-so-good to simply steal a few straight from the colander.
Second, sauce. I wanted the “I-can’t-cook!” type, found in a can. It is very difficult to find a canned sauce that doesn’t have soy, corn, wheat, or sugar added. Meijer came through with Classico Riserva pasta sauce. It’s not the cheapest sauce, but at least for the money the taste is fantastic.
Third, veggies. I added onions, mushrooms, slivered zucchini, and bell pepper. I’m a veggie fan. It also gave me another chance to dust the white powder and pink crystals of life, good ol’ NaCl, over everything… and here perhaps I should mention that I am on the exact opposite of a low-sodium diet. When I cook at home for my salt-sensitive family, I add a little Italian seasoning to the sauteing veggies and crank salt over my plate separately, and it seems to work for them. 🙂
Last, meat. This is perhaps the hardest. It is nearly impossible to find a chicken sausage without pork casing (why?!!?). Sugar is by far the most persistent additive I’ve found, with even Trader Joe’s Italian chicken sausage wiping out on this last hurdle. I can neither confirm not deny the rumors that Whole Foods has an Elimination Diet-friendly sausage, but online chatter seems to indicate this is a regional phenomena. (The fact that Whole Foods nickname is “Whole Paycheck” also means I tend to steer clear of the local store.) Fortunately I come from a family that has long believed in the cost-savings and health benefits of a good pound of ground turkey. 🙂 Brown ground turkey in oil (I usually use canola and/or olive), adding in garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to make a quick sausage substitute. I like to add extra basil and red pepper flakes for a spicy/sweet kick.
While the meat browns, add in your other veggies, then cover in sauce. Simmer. To me, it tastes like home.
Two important notes:
My childhood home was in a small valley floating in clouds of blossoms and wisps of sea fog, surrounded by spikes of spicy-sweet sage mountains. In the spring, fields of stock, sweet peas, and marigolds spread down towards the sea. It might have been ground zero for allergies, but I spent a lot of time rolling down windows to catch the scent of stalk on a cool morning breeze.
Several years later and most of a continent away, I went into the grocery store. And there were blackberries and bouquets of stalk. Small apartment, allergies, graduate student budget…. I managed to come up with three rounds of perfectly good reasons why not to walk off with arms loaded. The fourth time struggling past with my loaded cart, searching for that last certain something that always, at the end of every single grocery run, defies location, stopping each time I went past to breath in deeply the smell of sweet pastel memories… well, I couldn’t resist.
Coupled with the bliss of creamy rice cereal topped with agave and blackberries – a great and completely elimination-diet, allergy-friendly (for me!) combination – and the first strong morning sunlight in weeks, it was dreamy start to the day.
Every week when I was young, we would travel an hour down the coast to visit my grandparents. We’d burst into their quiet cul-de-sac and race through a front garden fragrant with roses, dahlias, poppies, and dozens of other flowers I couldn’t name. And then after hugs and kisses and the requisite sibling fight over the morning comics, we would demand “Grandma’s breakfast.”
I couldn’t eat all of it now. Looking back, it seems like there must have been enough food piled on that wooden table to feed Paul Bunyan. When she went all out – which was actually fairly often – there was scrambled eggs and pancakes and sausages and hash browns and bowls of fresh fruit and juice. There was every sort of topping you could put on pancakes, to my young imagination – fresh fruit, jam, sugar, “lalaberry” syrup even, from a type of blackberry. Then there was sometimes sauteed vegetables, toast, or bits of cheese, if you were still somehow hungry.
It wasn’t McDonald’s type of hash browns either, frozen into a cake and deep-fat fried. No. Anything that was frozen or canned had usually been painstakingly processed by my grandmother. The vegetables usually came from the garden. The oranges for juice had been picked by my grandfather that morning. Both my mom and my grandmother make their own bread, and slices were lopped off a loaf willy-nilly and smeared with homemade jam. I grew up eating (mostly!) healthy, and I never even knew it. All I knew was that it was delicious.
When I had to start the elimination diet, I realized I’d eaten turkey sausage growing up more often than I had eaten pork. I’d eaten it my grandmother’s kitchen table, cooked in one of those heavy pans that were aged well, fried in some sort of oil that was poured from hand-thrown pottery jars and usually had been redeemed from previous cooking. Ok, so I wouldn’t recreate all of the recipe. I would use canola and a graduate student’s warped Ikea frying pan instead.
Next problem was the pancakes. I’ve tried gluten-free pancakes a few times. The first batch tasted ok, if you like fried hummus with maple syrup for breakfast. I really didn’t, and besides it wasn’t processed-sugar free, so it wouldn’t work for an elimination diet. I wanted something that was fairly fast and easy too, which meant avoiding mixing special flours or waiting for the batter to set. I’ve modified a recipe from one on the Bob’s Red Mill site. It is for fluffy pancakes, but the amounts of baking powder and baking soda seemed a little excessive even for that. Fortunately, I was subbing out the eggs for a 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce. I was a little generous with that part. It still isn’t a sweet recipe, and the dough was thick. I added more milk, and I dare say it can stand more. I also added a swirl of honey, which helped mute the sort of aluminum tang I always get from backing soda/powder heavy recipes and improve the sweetness. The batter can be spooned out, and then formed in the pan into the right “pancake” shape. I flattened them a little in the pan too. They were moist, soft, and still rather fluffy – I think you can easily reduce the baking powder and / or add in some more liquid sweetener without harm, although I’m not an experienced enough baker to tell. In the same vein of “I’m awful at this but I would put laundry money on it” I think that this batter will hold up well to adding things like blueberries, lemon zest, spices, vanilla extract, etc.
I ate 4 before realizing that I didn’t need to finish the entire batch by myself in 5 minutes. It only makes about 7 pancakes, although I can personally attest to the fact that they are quite filling.
Take thawed (if using frozen) turkey meat and put into bowl. Add all ingredients. Using fork or hands, mix thoroughly. Form into even balls. (1/2 lb makes about 6 small patties.) Heat oil in frying pan. Smush balls with hand or, in a more safety-conscious method, simply flatten a bit with a spatula. Add patties to oil. Cook over medium heat until done.
(Side note: this will be a few minutes at most a side; I always thought that the almost charred exterior was “the good bit” growing up. Perhaps, like eating a lot of things that were good for me that I thought my older relatives loved (and so of course I imitated by loving too), but learned much later they hated, this was just good-natured manipulation by grandparents into eating what was in front of me regardless of whether it was nicely done or burnt to a cinder. It works.)
Combine all dry ingredients (and if adding cinnamon or other dry add-ins, I’d throw these in now as well) in a bowl. Mix well. In separate dish (I used the measuring cup I put the milk in) beat together the applesauce, almond milk, EVOO, and honey or other sweetener. Slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients, beating well. Dough will be thick.Spoon onto hot skillet and cook at medium or medium low heat. To make a slightly flatter pancake, gently flatten once before flipping (makes it easier to flip too, of course). Otherwise these will be nice tall foundations for mounds of “butter” and floods of syrup. Watch closely. These will be too thick to really “bubble” at the edges the way I think classic pancakes do, so it’s easy to overcook. Makes about 7 pancakes.
I hadn’t eaten much Cream of Rice cereal since I was very young. More precisely, I don’t remember having any since the times when I would taste-test of my younger siblings cereal before/during feeding them, back when they were adorable little tykes with big eyes and fat fingers. Now they are fiercely strong, intelligent, and charming adults, so you see it was a time-warping moment to find the little red Cream of Rice box on the shelf of the local store.
My version is far different from the milky mush I remember. I made a serving with the package amounts, using boiling water and a little extra sea salt. I topped with frozen raspberries (fresh would be better, but the ones in the store looked horrendous). The cereal is more than hot enough to melt the raspberries, and I like a bit of a cool blast when I’m impatiently devouring my boiling hot breakfast and searing my taste buds into oblivion. A quick drizzle of maple syrup, and it’s done. 5 minutes to a nice hot breakfast. I’m a fan! Especially since Cream of Rice holds heat well, and I get to play with capturing steam on camera. 🙂
One warning: Raspberries are high histamine.
Your standard loaded burger has all sorts of things not allowed on an elimination diet: beef, eggs, corn, gluten, soy, dairy… Fortunately, substitutions are available. And they’re delicious.
My burger was brought to you by Trader Joe’s, a mecca for cheap(er) healthy food options. I used turkey burgers instead of a beef patty, switched out the hamburger bun for the Food4Life Rice Bread (gluten-free alone usually still has eggs, dairy, and corn), and decided to skip the vegan cheese this time. Tomato is high-histamine, but I cracked – I adore tomato. However, instead of the sugar-loaded ketchup I have in my fridge, I used a mix of hummus and artichoke antipasto. Be careful buying hummus – some major brands like Sabra use soybean oil. Mine is pale red because I picked roasted red pepper; it worked well the other flavors and gave some needed moisture to the bread and turkey patty. Mustard is usually without allergens, and I could use the cheap stuff already in my fridge. Other than that, lettuce, onions and mushrooms cooked in EarthBalance Vegan butter, plenty of salt, pepper, and garlic, and hefty slices of pickle. I opted to have my burger open-face. It was all ready too large for my mouth!
Interestingly enough, Trader Joe’s potato chips are also completely elimination-diet friendly. Potatoes, sunflower oil, and salt. It might not work if grease is a trigger, because these chips are lovely crisp, greasy, salty flakes. I know this is starting to sound like an ad for Trader Joe’s, but it is rather marvelous to be able to walk in, pick up food, cook it, and stuff your face with junk food on a Friday night, just as if I wasn’t sick, wasn’t on a special diet, and wasn’t allergic to water. 🙂
I topped off my extravagant splurge of junk food with a banana watermelon smoothie. No, not my normal choice, but while hunting in the icy (and painfully tall) shelves of my freezer for the turkey burgers, some frozen watermelon fell out, along with most of my ice cubes. I had one dying banana to deal with before the weekend’s taking-out-o-the-trash and shopping run. I put an entire banana, about 1 1/2 cups of frozen watermelon, 4 lonely melting ice cubes, and about 2/3 of a cup of almond milk in the blender. Cool deliciousness.
Since this is mostly assembly work, it’s doable even for a questionable “chef” like myself. Hamburgers and chips are one of those basic meals that never make it onto a meal plan or list of recipes, but this is proof-positive that you can have unhealthy, enjoyable, and still allowable food on the Elimination Diet. As for my progress as a cook… well… the onions and mushrooms were only a little black on only one side. I am pleased to report this time, although it was still a tad overdone, I did not burn the turkey burger. As a matter of fact, it was all … delicious.
I feel positively spoiled. 🙂